We released our consensus rankings earlier this month, but we enjoy going the extra mile and we place players into various tiers. It helps contextualize an individual player by grouping them with players of similar fantasy value. My personal rankings varied slightly from the consensus rankings, so they won’t be perfectly aligned. The differences shouldn’t be too dramatic, though.
Without further ado, here are the tiers:
Cano is obviously the cream of the crop and the only second baseman worthy of a first-round selection, but Pedroia isn’t far behind. While the 29-year-old may not clobber 30+ home runs, he annually offers 15-20 home runs and 20+ stolen bases with the same high batting average when healthy. Some may point to the massive drop in wOBA from .375 to .344 from 2011 to 2012 as reason to shy away from Pedroia, but it’s important to remember he struggled with a thumb injury in the first half. He still torched the league in the second half with a .375 wOBA and 14 stolen bases.
If I wanted to get cute with the rankings, I would more accurately place Cano in Tier 1A and Pedroia in Tier 1B. They’re still the two best second basemen in the league, though, and the tiered rankings should reflect that.
When missing on the elite players at a position, the overall attention shifts to value. Kinsler is almost universally considered the third-best second base option in standard fantasy formats, but the Steamer projections show owners may be able to obtain similar numbers later in the draft.
Any owner drafting Kipnis over Kinsler would be sacrificing a little power and a handful of runs, but the overall skill set remains the same. Approximately four rounds later, on average, too.
It’s also worth noting Jose Altuve is the only second baseman not named Everth Cabrera who’s projected to swipe more than 20 bases this season. Martin Prado may also see his power numbers increase, as he’s hit double-digit homers in four-consecutive seasons with the Braves and now moves to the more hitter-friendly Chase Field in Phoenix.
Aaron Hill enjoyed a tremendous season with the Diamondbacks last year, but I’m hesitant to bump him into Tier Two after only one good campaign after back-to-back dreadful (read: sub-.300 wOBA) seasons. The power is certainly legit. It’s the fear his batting average could plummet once more that has him leading the Tier Three pack.
Seager and Rutledge are the ADP sleepers of the bunch, but owners shouldn’t overlook Weeks on draft day. His putrid beginning to the season depressed his overall numbers. Here are his numbers from mid-June last year to the end of the regular season compared to his historical production:
He was the same guy. The first two months of the 2012 season should be considered a fluke, rather than a sign of his decline. And with Ron Roenicke managing the Brewers, he could even see 15+ stolen bases this year.
Once moving past Tier Three, we start to find guys with significant holes in their fantasy value. Most second basemen in this tier suffer from a lack of power, but that’s not universal. Chase Utley hit 11 home runs in only 362 plate appearances last season. Injuries have become the real issue for Utley, though, as he’s only logged more than 500 plate appearances once in the last three years. The production comes when he can be in the lineup, but that has become much more rare now that he’s entering his mid-30s.
Espinosa is the intriguing play in this tier. He offers the same power/speed combination as Kipnis and Zobrist, but owners would essentially punt the batting average category. A career .239 hitter, Espinosa struggles with strikeouts due to poor plate discipline. He swung at 40.5% of pitches outside the zone in 2012 and posted a 15.2% swinging-strike rate. That overly-aggressive, swing-and-miss mentality will likely keep his average depressed yet again this season, keeping him from jumping up fantasy lists.
Matt Carpenter with the Cardinals could potentially be added to this tier, but he doesn’t quite have second base eligibility as of yet.
This tier consists of backup second base options or MI starters in deeper leagues. These players are largely one-trick ponies — such as high-average guys with no power or stolen base potential (Scutaro, Infante, Keppinger), power guys with low averages and no speed (Uggla), or speed guys with no power and a low average (Cabrera, Bonifacio). Gyorko is the sleeper of Tier Five, but he will be a rookie in difficult Petco Park. It’s hard to be too confident in immediate production from him in that environment.
If you’re still searching for a second baseman at this point, my apologies. Jurickson Profar certainly catches the eye, but he will begin the season in Triple-A and has no clear timeline to join the Rangers in an everyday capacity. Otherwise, this tier represents little of value. Perhaps take a flier on Donovan Solano and hope he re-creates his .295 batting average from last season, but he offers no power and the occasional stolen base. Not to mention his career minor-league numbers don’t suggest another season with a .295 average is very likely.