It’s Opening Day for the vast majority of teams, which means it’s also the day in which fantasy leagues begin in earnest. Let’s run down the tiered rankings for the second base position, with the kind reminder that not every player with second base eligibility will be named in this space and that rankings will certainly shift throughout the season. This captures a moment in time and serves as my rough rankings coming into the season.
Cano may not flirt with 30 home runs in his new pitcher-friendly ballpark — as Yankee Stadium was one of the best power parks for lefties and Safeco is below-average — but his fantasy demise has been slightly overblown. He’s still hit over .300 in seven of the past eight seasons. People are also placing too much weight on Cano’s switching to a “lesser” offense. The Yankees weren’t exactly a juggernaut in 2013. Cano compiled 100+ RBI for a team that only scored 26 more runs than the Seattle Mariners. Admittedly, he likely shouldn’t be expected to log 100+ runs and 100+ RBI this year; however, the 31-year-old didn’t do that in 2013 and was still the number-one second baseman at the end of the season.
Kipnis could very well be the top fantasy second baseman in 2014, but that’s more because I’m high on Kipnis, not necessarily because I believe Cano’s production will fall off a cliff in Seattle.
Pedroia didn’t necessarily implode last season, but he certainly underperformed his preseason draft ranking. He failed to reach double-digit homers for the first time since 2007 and ranked lower than Daniel Murphy at the end of the year. Perhaps many of his struggles should be attributed to his thumb injury. However, Pedroia must reverse a strong increase in his ground-ball rate from a year ago. If his ground-ball rate hovers around the 50.4% mark yet again — which was above the league’s 44.5% average — he’ll have a difficult time providing 15+ homers. And 10 second basemen launched at least 15 long balls in 2013. If he fails to reach that mark, he needs to dominate the other categories to remain in the top two tiers. Fortunately, he should have no problem doing that.
Hey now. Effectively ranking Jedd Gyorko inside the Top 10 despite being the 18th-best second baseman a year ago and scuffling to a .226/.271/.449 slash line in the second half? What gives?
I firmly buy into Gyorko’s power, and I believe his batting average should be more palatable this year. His power is obvious. He hit 25 homers between High-A and Double-A in 2011, 30 homers between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, and 23 homers in the majors in 2013. The power is legit, and Oliver is projecting the 24-year-old to launch 25 long balls. In addition, his overall numbers may have dipped in the second half due to line-drive and BABIP issues; however, the ISO numbers increased from .169 to .222. If his BABIP doesn’t fall off a cliff for an extended period as it did in 2013, he could hit 20+ homers with a .270ish batting average. That’s a little better than what Kyle Seager did a year ago, and Seager was the eighth-ranked second baseman in 2013. So, yeah, I like Gyorko as a top-ten fantasy second baseman this year.
Daniel Murphy was the fourth-best fantasy second baseman last year, according to ESPN and our own Zach Sanders. However, I’m expecting a step backward this season because I don’t believe we should expect him to replicate his power or stolen base numbers. His .129 ISO from 2013 wasn’t significantly different than his previous two seasons, yet he more than doubled his home run output. The culprit? His fly-ball rate increased, which gave him more opportunities to hit home runs. His HR/FB numbers hovered around his career average and his ISO didn’t dramatically increase. He simply put the baseball in the air more often, and his home run numbers reflected that fact. I’m not certain we should expect that to continue, considering he had a two-year trend of significant ground-ball increases in 2011 and 2012.
And if the home runs decrease, the stolen bases must remain to bolster his fantasy value. Perhaps it’s a little simplistic, but I’m not ready to pencil a guy in for 20+ steals when his previous career high was 14 stolen bases, which was in Double-A during the 2008 season.
I remain a fan of Jurickson Profar in dynasty leagues. In 2014, however, his stock isn’t exactly trending upward. His injury only makes things worse. Earlier this month, I opined that Anthony Rendon would be a more-valuable second baseman than Profar, and that was before the shoulder problems. Needless to say, I’m sticking with that projection more forcefully at this point.
If Dee Gordon legitimately sees 400+ plate appearances for the Dodgers this season, he’ll probably outperform this ranking. The ZiPS projection system has him hitting .251 with 41 stolen bases, and if he bats leadoff for the Dodgers, he should score plenty of runs. Granted, it’s not a given that Gordon can hit enough to keep Alexander Guerrero away from the starting role throughout the entire season. If he sees the majority of the plate appearances, though, he could prove a tremendous source of stolen bases and could also provide some runs.
Spring training statistics shouldn’t necessarily be considered a harbinger for things to come, but it’s difficult to ignore Dustin Ackley’s production in the Cactus League. He hit .382/.408/.603 with a stolen base. More importantly, he compiled ten extra-base hits. Again, spring training statistics shouldn’t be taken as gospel. Still, the biggest fantasy concern surrounding Ackley has been his lack of pop. That was present this spring. Keep an eye on his April and don’t be afraid to grab him off the waiver wire if he produces to start the season, as he’ll also possess the added benefit of positional flexibility.