Nearing the All-Star Break, fantasy owners are primed to make moves to prepare themselves for a second-half push. This tiered list should serve as a quick-reference guide as owners evaluate trades and ruminate on potential waiver-wire pickups. Some minor shake-ups have occurred in the second-base rankings, but the overall landscape remains intact.
(Note: This tiered rankings list may not include every single player who’s eligible at second base in every league. It’s primarily geared toward the ESPN positional eligibility guidelines.)
In the preseason rankings, I mentioned that Jason Kipnis offered significant value later in drafts, as he had the potential to offer top three-or-four production (similar to Ian Kinsler) without needing to be selected in the first few rounds. Many expected the 26-year-old second baseman to provide above-average power/speed numbers. The overall offensive profile, however, has proven elite.
Kipnis has been the top second baseman in fantasy baseball this season. He struggled in April, but he’s hitting a robust .333/.421/.618 with 19 doubles, three triples and 11 home runs since the beginning of May. He’s also stolen 14 bases in that stretch and has only been caught three times. Best of all, the Indians’ offense has been one of the best in the league, so his run and RBI totals have also been stellar.
Since 2000, only four second basemen have hit at least 20 home runs and stolen 30 bases in a season. Kipnis has an opportunity to accomplish that feat — both ZiPS and Steamer project him to eclipse those marks by the end of the year.
Kinsler has bounced between Tier One and Tier Two this season. He tumbled to the top of Tier Two because his intercostal strain has raised concern about his rest-of-season production. Perhaps it’s a bit of an overreaction to 15 games, but he’s only collected one extra-base hit since coming off the disabled list a couple weeks ago. His low batting average is almost certainly BABIP related. However, the extreme power outage after experiencing issues with his intercostal muscles should be something of which owners should remain cognizant.
Speaking of an unexpected absence of power, Zobrist continues to confound owners. He enjoyed his best month at the plate in June — posting a .367 wOBA with a .314/.393/.441 slash line — but he only connected with two home runs and only had one more extra-base hit than in April or May. It’s difficult to believe the power is suddenly gone. He’s only had an ISO below .200 once in the last five seasons. As he begins to re-discover his stroke at the plate, though, one has to believe the power will eventually follow.
The power needs to return, too. His stolen base numbers have declined in each of the last two seasons, and he’s on pace to make it a third-consecutive year. Not only that, but his sheer number of attempts have also dramatically declined.
He’s only an average fantasy second baseman if he hits 13 home runs and steals 11 bases, as Steamer projects him to do this season. At least, his on-base percentage is elite — for those who play in OBP leagues — and the run/RBI statistics should remain solid.
Utley remains the same deal for me. If you’re willing to take a chance on the health, he’s the best option in Tier Three. Simply ensure your roster has a capable replacement in case Utley needs to return to the disabled list or his knees give him trouble down the stretch.
At first glance, Jose Altuve appears to stick out like a sore thumb. He doesn’t hit for power, knock in any runs, and his run totals are not anything special. Despite that, Altuve has still been the sixth-best fantasy second baseman this season because his stolen base numbers and batting average remain elite. I’m a slightly worried that his O-Swing% and swinging-strike rates have risen this year, but he’s still displaying an ability to produce with a less-refined approach.
Fantasy owners should feel very comfortable with Altuve at second base — though be sure to compensate for the lack of power and RBI totals elsewhere on the roster.
Many owners have been scared away from Rickie Weeks at this point in his career. His first two months of the season were brutal, as he failed to eclipse the Mendoza Line in either month. In June, though, he finally gained some traction at the plate. He hit .355/.429/.677 in June with a .323 ISO and .469 wOBA — including three doubles, a triple and five home runs.
This is reminiscent of last year, in which Weeks struggled until mid-June and was a highly-productive fantasy second baseman throughout the final three months of the season. From the beginning of June last year to the end of the season, he hit .260/.344/.445 with 16 home runs and 14 stolen bases. If he can replicate that production, owners would have a tremendous buy-low opportunity with Weeks.
A large concern, though, centers around his stolen base totals. He hasn’t attempted a stolen base since May 7. For a guy who stole 16 bases last year and has Runnin’ Ron Roenicke as his manager, that’s a pretty astounding statistic.
There has been a slight increase in the ownership of Ryan Flaherty in recent weeks. He’s been solid throughout the month of June, hitting .297/.333/.486 with four home runs and a stolen base. Owners should already know to be skeptical of such a stretch from Flaherty based on his career .272 wOBA. Furthermore, his slight power spike appears completely unsustainable due to a 28.6% HR/FB rate. His batting average and power numbers are above career norms, but his 56.9% ground ball rate in June suggests it was nothing more than a fluke.
Tier Six remains the danger zone for second basemen, but owners should keep an eye on Johnny Giavotella of the Kansas City Royals. He received a call-up to the big leagues over the weekend and was hitting .289/.376/.425 with seven home runs and seven stolen bases in Triple-A Omaha. While he doesn’t project to save anyone’s season at second base, he could offer a solid batting average with a handful of homers and 5-10 stolen bases throughout the remainder of the season. That’s obviously nothing to get overly excited about nor is it guaranteed — which is why he remains in Tier Six — but of the names mentioned, he may be one of the only ones to consider for your roster.
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