2B Keeper Rankings: 1st Tier

My 2012 2B keeper rankings begin today. The top tier players were the top 2Bs in 2011 and project to have the top fantasy talent looking forward (I will be using the talent rankings to create the 2B tiers). These 3 are good, so I will be looking deep for any troubling trends.

Dustin Pedroia (28 years old) – Dustin is one of the best players that contributes to all 5 standard fantasy stats. After having an injured left foot in 2010 that cost him half the season, he bounced back nicely in 2011.

I had to really look to find any real blemishes. The one trait that I have noticed is that his contact skills are on a bit of a decline (93% in 2009 to 87% in 2011). His strikeout rate has increased over that same time frame from 6.3% to 11.6%.

His walk rate though is also at an all time high (12%). It looks like he is being a more particular at the plate.

The change in discipline can also be seen with his FB%. It has gone from 41% to 33%, but his HR/FB has gone from 6% to 11%. In 2011, he hit less fly balls, but more of them left the yard for a career high 21 HRs. Generally, he is just showing signs of a maturing player with more walks, strikeouts and home runs.

He will be hitting at the top of a good lineup, so there will be plenty of Run and RBI opportunities. There is no reason to believe that Dustin will see any decline in 2012.

Ian Kinsler (29 years old) – Ian had a great season with 32 HRs and 30 SB. His value would have been much higher if his AVG had been better (0.255). Going into 2012, I could see him being the best 2B if he can combine both power and AVG at the plate.

The main drag for his value in 2011 was his AVG. His average was not down because of his K%, which was a career low (10%). It was down because of his 0.243 BABIP. Historically, Ian’s BABIP, raises and lowers opposite of his FB% and HRs. Here is a chart of BABIP, HR and FB% ordered by BABIP:

2009 54% 31 0.241
2011 47% 32 0.243
2007 46% 20 0.279
2006 44% 14 0.304
2010 42% 9 0.313
2008 43% 18 0.344

In the seasons he tries for more HRs (increase FBs), his AVG suffers (lower BABIP) and vise versa.

Ian is easily one of the top 2B in the league. The one knock I have is figuring out which Ian shows up. The one that hits 30 HRs with a 0.250 AVG or the one with 18 HRs and a 0.290 AVG. Maybe, it will be the magical season with 30 HRs and a 0.300 AVG.

Robinson Cano (28 year old): Robinson was himself in 2011. It was almost a mirror of his 2010 season.

The main trait dragging his fantasy value down, compared to the Kinsler and Pedroia, is his lack of speed. In 2011, he put up a respectable 8 SBs, which was 3 more than any of his previous seasons. If he is the top rated 2B in 2012, the ranking will hing on him putting up SBs in the 6 to 10 range vice the 3 he stole in 2010. It may not seem like that many SB, but these 3 2B are just that close in value.

Another key for Cano is where he bats in the Yankee lineup. In 2009, he batted equally in the 5th – 6th – 7th spots. In 2010 and 2011, he was normally in the 4th or 5th spots. It can be seen that his RBIs jumped from ~90 per year to ~110 per year. If he keeps this lineup position and A-Rod, Tex and the best of the Yankees continue to hit as in the past, he will be a great source of RBIs. If he is moved down in lineup (I don’t see much of a reason for a move) or those in front of him decline in talent (good chance), he may see his numbers decline.

Robinson is a top tier 2B, but normally in the past he had a near void in SBs. In 2011, he filled that void and his value increased. If he has some SBs in 2012, he will be an elite fantasy talent.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

6 Responses to “2B Keeper Rankings: 1st Tier”

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  1. phoenix2042 says:

    since many leagues have OBP as a category, you should also point out that, while dustin and ian walk at an above average rate (at the least), cano barely walks at all. since you mentioned walk rate for the other two, i thought that was relevant, even for a runs scored category if he bats third (like in the postseason) with the power bats behind him.

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  2. Jeff Zimmerman says:

    Only 7% of all leagues use OBP vice over 50% for AVG.

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    • fcs says:

      I think 100% of curt and dismissive responses to valid questions are toolish. And a substantial percentage of fantasy baseball leagues are NOT reading Fangraphs. And those leagues universally use average.

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      • Jimmy says:

        Do you realize the irony of your response? (Hint: you’re being curt and dismissive)

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      • cs3 says:

        “I think 100% of curt and dismissive responses to valid questions are toolish”
        what the hell? he was being neither curt, dismissive, nor toolish.
        He was merely stating a fact in a clear and concise manner.
        Not sure what your problem is though, fcs.

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  3. Colin says:

    Shouldn’t Kinsler’s health issues affect his overall ranking? I agree that if he puts forth a full season of PAs, his power and potential batting average, as well as his excellent K/BB rate and speed, should make him the most valuable 2B, I just worry that it’s more likely that he’ll have a 120 game season than a 160 game season. If that were the case, wouldn’t he be just the 3rd best 2B among these 3 players, and maybe even slide down into the 2nd tier?

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