2014 Pod’s Picks: 2nd Base

I think second base stinks this year. It gets boring real quick and there is a serious lack of speed. In the past, we use to rely on our middle infielders for significant stolen base production, but the second base crop for the most part can no longer be counted on.

The second base edition of Pod’s Picks may help you find value or learn who to avoid at their current going rates. The bullish section will only include players from my top 20, while the bearish group will only include those whose RotoGraphs consensus is in the top 20.

Bullish

Jed Lowrie

My Rank: 16 | Consensus: 20

A shocker. I would have guessed that if anything, I was more pessimistic on Lowrie’s fantasy outlook this year than the market. Or maybe the three amigos are just more pessimistic than everyone else. I am projecting a somewhat similar performance to his 2013 season, but with a decline in batting average. Looking at the rest of the projection systems, it appears likely that I am projecting more plate appearances than everyone else. Given his injury history, this is understandable that caution would be warranted.

Ben Zobrist

My Rank: 8 | Consensus: 11

Zobrist is coming off a disappointing year as both his power waned and speed declined. I am projecting his HR/FB rate to partially rebound to halfway between his 2012 and 2013 rate, which seems fair. I am also projecting only a slight bounce back in steals, so I see the power returning more so than the speed. Given that both skills dropped last year, it’s possible that the other three rankers are less optimistic that either are going to bounce back all that much.

Brandon Phillips

My Rank: 11 | Consensus: 14

Yet another surprise. Though his speed has gone missing and his batting average has declined, he has otherwise been rather consistent, as he’s hit exactly 18 home runs for four straight years now. I figure that Phillips moves into the two hole this year which will cause his RBI total to collapse, but his other numbers to remain constant, with a couple of extra steals.

Bearish

Anthony Rendon

My Rank: 20 | Consensus: 15

Real glad he showed up here. I don’t get it. He’s getting some sleeper love, and frankly it makes little sense to me. He’s slated to hit eighth, which is the worst possible spot to hit in if you’re a National Leaguer and he has seemingly little chance of moving up much given the names ahead of him. He has no speed and shouldn’t be expected to be a major positive contributor to your batting average.

So, you’re really hoping he enjoys a power breakout. Heck, he must do so to deliver any value whatsoever, since his runs scored and batted in totals are going to be underwhelming out of that eighth slot. His batted ball distance last year was just about league average, as was his xHR/FB rate. The good news is that suggests a nice spike from what he posted last year. The bad news is that even if he doubles his home run output, or gets into the high teens, that still makes him close to replacement level in mixed leagues.

Matt Carpenter

My Rank: 10 | Consensus: 6

With his strong walk rate and massive doubles total, Carpenter is much more valuable offensively in real baseball than fantasy. But with limited speed and little power, you’re hoping for another inflated BABIP and a Cardinals offense that rakes with runners on again. While he could hit about .300 again, there’s almost zero chance he comes anywhere close to those 126 runs scored. In fact, I’m not even projecting him to breach the 100 mark. He still feels like an overvalued version of peak year Placido Polanco to me, and that’s just not all that valuable.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

40 Responses to “2014 Pod’s Picks: 2nd Base”

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  1. Big Al says:

    If you ignore average/OBP, how close does that make Lawrie and Zobrist? Is Lawrie likely a 15 HR, 13 Sb guy, while Zobrist is more of a 14-10 guy? Zobrist probably good for 5-10 more runs and rbis though? Is Lawrie more likely to go 20-15 though? If Lawrie costs a 24th rounder (then 22nd, then 20th, etc.) and Zobrist a 16th — how close do they come in value? Worth rolling the dice on a healthy Lawrie season and betting on Zobrist declining this or next year?

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  2. gribo says:

    You are dead wrong on Rendon. Yeah, he may be hitting eighth and have zero speed along with poor health. But he was a high draft pick and as far as I am concerned, that is all that matters. He was awesome as a freshman at Rice!

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  3. cavebird says:

    Is it really wise to be that concerned with a hitter’s place in the lineup at the start of the season? Lineups never stay consistent, somebody always gets hurt, and guys who are hitting well tend to migrate up the order. That being said, Rendon himself never stays healthy, so that will keep him out of the eighth slot, but not help his fantasy owners.

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    • stuck in a slump says:

      I factor it in when looking at hitters, mostly when the lineup is strong though. In this case, not only is the lineup strong, meaning that he’ll have to perform better than his projections in order to move up, but he’ll have to outperform his teammates in the lineup as well.

      Factor in the fact that the 2B job was up for grabs and he could lose playing time if he begins to slump to Espinoza. All of this adds up to me thinking that anything short of a breakout will keep him down in the order. There’s just too many options on that team to bat 2nd even with injuries, which is the only other place that I really see him fitting in with the way that the team is currently built.

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      • stuck in a slump says:

        Oh, and I never even mentioned his own injury history. Too many red flags holding back his upside IMO.

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      • Peter 2 says:

        I think it bears pointing out here that it took Rendon all of *one day* to be moved up in the Nationals’ lineup.

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  4. dscott says:

    Really glad you had Carpenter on the overrated list. I am bringing him up early in the auction draft to get some money off the board, and want no part of him.

    To build on that, I am also completely avoiding Allen Craig and his Runners in Scoring position average of last year. NO way he repeats.

    –Sincerely Miserable Cubs Fan

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  5. Bill says:

    Rendon is a sleeper because a) he was a high draft pick and could always hit and b) he shows very good plate discipline for a young player. A contact % of 87.5% and O-swing of 20.5% are pretty good, and that line drive rate should stay in the 20-22% range. I think the avg estimates are too low for him and he should manage a .330 BABIP, thus a .290 avg? With that BB% and patience he makes an ideal top of the order hitter. Yes, right now he’s penciled in for lower in the order, but the Nats really only have Span at the top of the order. 3-4-5 are probably harper, zimmerman, Werth, then Desmond, Laroche and Ramos. You could move one of those (harper, werth? Desmond? to #2, but all Rendon has to do is hit and it’s a real possibility he’s moved up to top of the order. Probably still not a top 10 or 12 2b this year, but he’s got upside.

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    • centerfield_ballhawk says:

      Empty batting average… doesn’t put up enough counting stats. You could certainly do worse in the teen rounds of your draft.

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  6. Erik says:

    Hmm thanks for this. Didnt realize Rendon was hitting so low in the order. Was bumping him up a little due to upside but I think I’ll drop him back where I had him originally.

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  7. Roger says:

    The fan projections on Rendon’s avg (.283) are the one significant difference between fan expectations and computer projections (all .262).

    There are obvious sample size issues, but he is a career .269/.408/.531 hitter in the minors with a high draft pedigree, and several of his larger milb samples (though still small) saw him hit avgs of .319 or more. Is it reasonable to expect him to do those things this year? No. But at 15th among 2B, vs 20th? Absolutely the best upside available in that area, with a floor similar to the others available (assuming he sees the field regularly).

    He also qualifies at 3B in many leagues.

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  8. David says:

    I’m not sure why you’re so certain Rendon will bat 8. Matt Williams has specifically said he could bat 2. He also mentioned him as a leadoff candidate when Span needs a day off.

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    • stuck in a slump says:

      To me, it would make more sense to have Werth or Harper bat 2nd, though MLBdepthcharts.com shows Zimmerman batting in that spot. But as far as the Harper/Werth argument goes, they both get on base, they both have speed and they both make solid contact with a decent amount of pop. Rendon could fit there, IMO, that’s the only other spot in the lineup that would suit him, but there are better options out there. Even in the event of a Werth/Harper injury, it would seem to me that McLouth would make more sense there than Rendon, unless Rendon is in the middle of a breakout season.

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      • David says:

        McLouth isn’t a starter.

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      • stuck in a slump says:

        I never said that he was, I said: “Even in the event of a Werth/Harper injury, it would seem to me that McLouth would make more sense there than Rendon…”

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  9. WilsonC says:

    Putting Rendon in perspective, as a prospect, he was generally considered a potential .300+ hitter with an advanced approach at the plate and at least moderate power potential. A year later with his rookie season under his belt, he was basically an average hitter in his first MLB season without anything that jumps out as particularly lucky, while learning a new position, with only 79 minor league games under his belt. He’s obviously a risk since his value is based on the hope that he breaks out, but between his pedigree and the speed at which he moved through the minors and found success at the majors, it’s easy to see why he’s getting some sleeper love.

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  10. the hottest stove says:

    Certainly the runs from Carpenter might dip some due to his high number of PAs. However, 100-110 seems to be a lock based on what I’ve seen. Carpenter has a very high OBP and was one of the best base runners in the major leagues. And for everyone screaming regression, no one mentions that he didn’t hit leadoff until early May which might counteract some of the dropoff.

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    • stuck in a slump says:

      I think that one of the biggest issues is that the Cards can’t maintain their team batting average with RISP, so if the K% increases, or the LD% drops you’re probably looking at a .280-.290 AVG with ceiling around 80-90 runs and ~60 RBI with about 10 HR’s. It’s not bad, but a .285 85-10-65-5 line isn’t going to set the world on fire either. You could easily get similar value much later than Carpenter is going.

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    • It’s very, very difficult to score 100-110 with only 10 homers and not a whole lot of speed.

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      • TB says:

        I haven’t looked closely at the stats, but my sense is that Carpenter is, and will be, a lot more valuable offensive player than Polanco. I am sure some type of historic batted ball data exists, but in just watching the two players over the years, it strikes me that Polanco spent his career flaring balls into right field – no power, not much in the way of on-base skills. Carpenter hits left-handed, appears to drive the ball to the gaps better than Polanco, sees a lot more pitches, takes more walks. Carpenter is a bit of a late bloomer, but he strikes me as a much more valuable offensive player than PP. I’d hunch over his career Carpenter could produce .290/.370/.440, which I think would be a lot more valuable than PP’s .300/.340/.400.

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      • the hottest stove says:

        “Not a whole lot of speed” based on the stolen base totals I guess. Carpenter had a higher SPD score last year than Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler and Ben Zobrist when Pedroia stole 17, Kinsler stole 15 and Zobrist stole 11. Obviously someone who led all second basemen with 7 triples could steal a few more bases if the team needed him to.

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      • the hottest stove says:

        Not to drive the point into the ground, but Carpenter’s SPD score was only 0.2 less than Altuve’s…who stole 35.

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  11. pualy says:

    so Pod, what’s your strategy? If you don’t land a top 3 are you waiting late for guys like Prado, Utley, Phillips or targeting a guy like HIll or Altuve in that next tier?

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  12. SKob says:

    The general comments about Carpenter are pretty sound and I agree with most of what you said. My biggest issue is that the argument here is no so much what Carpenter won’t do, but why there is love for the guys ranked 6-9 on your list. Aaron Hill, the guy has been a yo-yo lately, but ok, I can see solid stats… I can also see ZIPS 14 HR, 7SB, and .274 being it for him. Jedd Gyorko as #7? Plenty of power, but still in San Diego and I don’t see the same value as Carpenter will give, but if you need power, sure. Hard to say Zobrist is not in significant decline, but you are assuming he bounces back a good amount and Carpenter declines… that’s 1 hell of a curve to grade on! And Daniel Murphy? How a guy scores 92 with a .319 OBP is beyond me. Huge runs dropoff, bad team, worse average than Carpenter… must be a huge SB fan, but even those will drop off from last year. I’m not seeing that one at all.

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  13. Goose. says:

    Rendon sorta looks the same as Carpenter looked at this time last year…

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  14. Peter 2 says:

    I’m sorry, but simply calling a guy’s high BABIP “inflated” by simple virtue of it being high, and therefore predicting steep regression just feels very 2010 to me. You see back then everyone was trying to convince themselves that BABIP was an entirely random statistic and were holding their breaths for Joey Votto and Mark Teixeira’s BABIPs to converge. And as people are wont to do, when reality didn’t fit the model, they blamed reality and doubled down. Nevermind that Teixeira hit into the teeth of more and more precisely-honed defensive shifts for years and consistently hit 10 times as many pop-ups (operationalized as IFFB%) than Joey Votto.

    Carpenter’s career IFFB% is 1.5%, his 2013 BABIP was in line with his 2012 BABIP, he is not slow, and his spray chart is representative of a good pure hitter (a virtual photocopy of Votto’s). If you want to bet on a marked decline in his BABIP, I will take that bet.

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    • His BABIP last year was .359. I’ll take the under.

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      • Peter 2 says:

        I expected a shallow rebuttal and you did not disappoint. Obviously a BABIP of .358 wouldn’t put you in the winner’s circle here.

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      • Yeah, well it was probably poor word choice on my part by going with “inflated”. It inferred that Carpenter was lucky to post a .359 BABIP. Given his batted ball profile and some speed, he probably wasn’t. But still, it’s a very high number and you can’t really project anyone for it.

        I’m actually projecting a .340 BABIP for him, higher than every projection system. Yet it’s still not enough to rank him better than 10th.

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      • Peter 2 says:

        If he has a .340 BABIP and maintains a reasonably similar K rate, that more or less implies a .300 average. Add that to a good spot in a good lineup and a good BB rate, and that’s a lot of runs too. He’s maybe not going to steal a ton of bases or hit a ton of dingers, but I just don’t see how this sums up to a bearish case compared to Ben Zobrist, who is no 30/30 threat himself.

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  15. Peter 2 says:

    I’m sorry that was a little snippy on my part. As it turns out, you wrote one of the first articles I read on here that looked at BABIP with a little nuance. http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/hitter-babip-laggards/
    Don’t turn back now.

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