Check the Position: Second Base

Over the offseason we’ll take a look at each position on the diamond and see how the past season affected the positional rankings and where there might be some potential bounceback value picks going into next year’s drafts. (See shortstops and catchers.)

Rankings are the height of subjectivity, of course. Drafts are the expression of the subjective opinions of the different draftees, though, so lets see what we can learn by putting these players in their (subjective, fantasy-oriented) place.

secondbasemen

Chase Utley is in a tier of his own. No other second baseman has been able to combine the power and speed and batting average year-in and year-out like the pomade Phillie infielder. Ian Kinsler and Brandon Phillips are missing the batting average and the health, Dustin Pedroia and Brian Roberts are missing the power. That said, these top five second basemen are all reasonably stable players that boast good speed along with varying degrees of power. They just don’t all have the total package like Utley.

The next tier should be the controversial one. While Aaron Hill‘s season was one for the ages, there are understandably some doubts about his ability to repeat. He more than doubled his previous career-high HR/FB percentage without really showing a corresponding change in his approach. The most likely scenario is that Hill settles in with similar power to fellow tier-member Robinson Cano. Cano would be higher but since he’s shown that his batting average seems so tied to his BABIP, there’s some rightful nervousness about his ability to repeat his own career year. Dan Uggla and Jose Lopez have similar power and similar batting average issues. Pick the right player during a good BABIP year, and you’ll have a great second baseman with a decent batting average and lots of power. Get the guy in a bad year, and you’ve seen what can happen.

The last tier holds the most risk, as it should be. There are many Asdrubal Cabrera fans, and his double eligibility will get him drafted at one of the keystone positions. The problem is that the speed is somewhat borderline (21/29 in 1000+ at bats) and the power is negligible. Clint Barmes may not succeed on a good percentage of his attempts, and he’s a much more flawed real-life player, but he’s reached heights in power and speed that Cabrera may never. Adam Kennedy had a great year and ended up right around where he was five years ago, a second basemen that can hit double-digit home runs, steal about 20 bags, and hit close to .300. It’s not the same upside as the rest of the guys in the tier, but it seems repeatable. Howie Kendrick and Rickie Weeks probably have the most upside of the tier, but they are quickly running out chances in the minds of fantasy managers. Both made strides in their limited time last year and make for good bench plays in mixed league drafts for managers that got a third- or fourth-tier second baseman as their starter.

Overall, the position seems pretty deep, with empty-batting-average guys numbering #15-18 as backup plans. Once Utley goes, managers might be best served waiting for a second baseman to drop, knowing that they can probably take a shot on a young guy with some upside once the top 12 are gone.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


32 Responses to “Check the Position: Second Base”

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  1. Hanson is the man,son says:

    Where is Ben Zobrist?

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    • R M says:

      Good call….he is a second baseman next year. I would probably put him upper 3rd tier or lower 2nd tier with the potential to solidify himself as a top option at the position.

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  2. Eric Cioe says:

    Placido Polanco?

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  3. Eno Sarris says:

    Zobrist was ranked with the shortstops and I had him right under cano before I realized.. Polanco was erased when I realized he was sanchez without a job.

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  4. coreyjro says:

    Zobrist will lose his SS eligibility in many fantasy leagues because he had less than 20 games there.

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  5. Benji says:

    If/when Uggla gets traded, does Coghlan move to 2B? His production at OF is rather pedestrian, but as a 2B….

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  6. Jimbo says:

    I agree Zobrist should be on this list more than SS. I also think he should be in the 2nd tier. Part of the joy to this silly hobby (for me at least) is staying one step ahead. That means identifying who is for real and who isn’t–particularly when they come from seemingly nowhere.

    The easy thing to do is write off a 28 year old breakout guy. But this was the first time he’s had a starting job for a full year. His ISO was the same as last year, his average swung toward positive with a better BABIP, his walks and k’s look pretty good (better than Mark Reynolds eh?). And there’s at least some plausible explanation for his improvement (see Jaime Cevallos).

    I’m willing to bet he’s available after the 4th round of my 11 team 5×5 league. Certainly will go after Pedroia, Phillips, Roberts, Kinsler–based on name recognition alone. Even if he doesn’t improve, but can reach .290/25hr/15sb…that’s 3rd tier price for 2nd tier production. Fantasy gold IMO. Although, I thought that about Stephen Drew, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Ianetta this year.

    Can’t wait to see where his ADP projects. Depending on the league I could see anything from 3rd round to 8th round…

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  7. Eno Sarris says:

    I agree that Zobrist should be here… the 20-game rule was the reason I erased Coghlan from this list. The cat was out of the bag once I ranked him with the shortstops, though, and I didn’t really want to double-post people. I had Zobrist behind Hill and ahead of Cano, but I see all of them as threats for high 20s home runs, so perhaps Zobrist should be the top of that tier with his added steals.

    I just don’t know if I can vault them into the second tier, which is full of guys that have done it year-in and year-out.

    However, I was considering moving Uggla and Lopez into a tier of their own and creating the volatile 3rd tier of upwardly mobile second basemen that could easily replace some of the veterans in the second tier with one more good year. In any case, I’ll certainly be looking for the third-tier guy that drops (Hill, Zobrist, Cano) and I doubt it will be Cano because of his national exposure.

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  8. Jimmy Key says:

    I think that we’ll see Hill is closer to Phillips than Cano in 2010 and beyond. While he may not match his ’09 numbers on an annual basis, I expect him to put up a .300/25+/85+ line. Hill has drawn many (albeit, complimentary) comparisons to Paul Molitor.

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  9. Jimbo says:

    Anyone else have a sense about Phillips next year? I see a considerable improvement in K% and better discipline in O-swing%. IF that is a result of him maturing as a hitter, could 2010 considerable show improvement?

    Just not sure what is a fluke stat and what is a true positive indicator…

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  10. Eno Sarris says:

    I think if you look at his line drive rate (constant and subpar) and his flyball rates (constant and not power-friendly), you can see that most of his game stayed the same and only his strikeout rate really changed much because his reach rate only marginally bettered. At 28, I think you can depend on him to put up what he’s been putting up, but the power might decline first if he’s not hitting them that hard or not hitting them in the air much.

    3,000 plate appearances in, I wouldn’t expect his batting average to suddenly improve unless he has a lucky BABIP year (and despite his speed his career BABIP is low, too (.288) – must be the lack of line drives).

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  11. Fod says:

    What about Callaspo? He showed more pop than expected in ’09 and has always had an above average contact rate. Typically not stand out numbers, but we are talking about 2B.

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  12. Eno Sarris says:

    I struggled with Callaspo, but I think him vs Getz is an article for for the future. The winner could easily belong in the last tier, but the loser of that battle may not have any value at all.

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  13. gnomez says:

    How exactly did Schumaker drop off?

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  14. Eno Sarris says:

    Eh, it’s not perfect nomenclature. It should probably be put differently. Just off? Not quite? It’s supposed to show a general ranking of players not really relevant to the average mixed fantasy league with 12 teams. Then I pick some guys in the “Just off” or “Dropping off” list to talk about in my Deep League Value posts. like this one:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/deep-league-value-second-base

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  15. Kevin says:

    Where would you put Gordon Beckham if Kenny Williams follows through and puts him permanently at second base?

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  16. JK says:

    What are the criteria for these rankings? 4×4? 5×5?

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  17. FalloftheForgotten says:

    If Gordon Beckham shifts to 2B, where would he go?

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  18. Eno Sarris says:

    I went by the assumption that these would be for 5×5 roto leagues.

    I would put Beckham ahead of Cano but behind Hill. I’m not sure he’ll hit more home runs than Hill (he could), he seemed streakier than Hill (at least in BA), but he’ll steal more bags than Cano.

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  19. JK says:

    These ratings are weighted too heavily on steals. I don’t even like Cano, but he should be much higher, like 2nd . His HR/RBI/Runs numbers are all comparable if not better than the guys above him, and his .320 avg is more valuable than 20 steals. And he just turned 27 and thus is at the proper age to maximize his skills. The “tiers” are not accurate in any event, but to put him below the second one is just error.

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  20. Eno Sarris says:

    I don’t believe that’s the case with Cano. You write like it’s a guarantee that he will hit .320 next year. He’s a high-contact hitter whose batting average fluctuates with his BABIP from year to year, just look at his past. He’s just as likely to hit .280 with 20 homers next year as he is to hit .325 with 25. You have to penalize him some for his oscillation from year to year.

    As for overvaluing steals, they are a big part of the fantasy game. They are rarer than home runs, and getting steals along with your home runs allows you to ignore the Wily Taveras’ of the world.

    In any case, say you were just going to add steals and homers into one ‘counting stat’ category. You’ll find that the guys in the second tier have more of this ‘counting stat’ than the guys in the third tier. In the cases where that is not true, it’s because the third tier guy recently broke out and is not guaranteed to repeat his performance.

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  21. JK says:

    I agree with your general assessment of Cano, but I definitely don’t agree that he’s just as likely to hit .280 as .325. You seem to be assuming that his .320 avg last year was not supported but instead was based upon a high babip. However, his babip last year was his career norm. Instead, what happened was his power went up, which then drove his avg up. This is consistent with his career trend (where 08 is the outlier, not 09).

    In fact, if you decrease the value of 08 as a predictor, his babip for his career would actually be higher than this year, so one could argue that Cano actually could expect a better babip going forward, which would drive his avg up even further. (I don’t want to dissect 08, but he had a bad first half, and his second half hit rate was 33%).

    Cano did not just recently break out, if that’s what you’re saying in the last paragraph. He’s batted .340 in the past. He’s 27 now, in his peak years, and has trended upward overall in the last 4 years.

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  22. Eno Sarris says:

    I’ll give you a main point in your argument – I may have exaggerated his likelihood of hitting a lower batting average last year. I just ran his career stats through HBT’s xBABIP calculator… and got… .324. His career BABIP is .324. Checking his career numbers, when he hits that BABIP, he’s just as likely to hit .306 as to hit .320. So next year, so he should be good at hits, runs, and RBI and hit between those two numbers in batting average. That’s valuable.

    However, he hits only 30% of his hits for flyballs. With a line drive rate that goes between pretty good and good, and that low of a flyball rate I don’t see him hitting more home runs than he did last year, in possibly his peak year.

    So if you have a .300-hitting, 20-HR popping second baseman… who are you putting that ahead of? You’re putting that ahead of a guy that hit 36 homers last year? I suppose you are looking at Brian Roberts, who I think is the most likely to drop off the second tier. But still, you’d take a guy that will hit 20 homers and steals five bases over a guy that will probably hit for an average about ten points lower, hit 5-8 fewer home runs, and steal 30 bags? I’m not, especially given the relative scarcity of the two main stats.

    Phillips and Kinsler will hit as many home runs and steal bags to boot, you just have to pay a little in batting average. Pedroia offers all that Cano offers, plus steals.

    I still like where Cano is. Maybe the tiers could be switched up – Hill and Cano enter tier two and Uggla and Lopez are all alone in their high-powered, low-batting average tier. I had that as a version at one point, and I get that feeling.

    I see your point about batting average. I don’t think he’s going to add much power and without the steals I just don’t see him heading up the list much. Perhaps others will fall below him, but until they do….

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  23. LA says:

    I agree with JK on Cano but in addition to “…what happened was his power went up, which then drove his avg up,” the new Yankee Stadium is homer heaven, especially to right field. Every hitter looked like Barry Bonds (without the Mars Attacks lookin’ cranium), Cano being one of ‘em.

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  24. B-Chad says:

    Question for you Eno: Is it completely out there to believe Brian Roberts may actually post his best fantasy season to date next year? I see his ISO trending upwards, and his HR/FB improving, as well as more FB’s being put in play, I see the makings of a career year in HR’s. Couple that with say 30-35 SB’s, his already top notch run totals, and a BA around .290, and I don’t see that as being out of the question. His LD rate is still awesome, so I think .290 seems reasonable. My biggest cause for concern is that his BB rate and K rate are not as good as two years ago, though I’d expect a slightly worse K rate with improved power, it’s the lesser BB rate that bothers me more I guess. Anyways, curious for what you think. Thanks.

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    • Joey says:

      Eno, why don’t you believe in Roberts in 2010?

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        Well, the upwards trending ISO is interesting, and fits career patterns for players as they get older. But he’s not a real slugger, so I’d assume that most of those doubles will remain doubles. He could have a career power year for sure.

        But that drop in his speed score seems to suggest that his wheels are slowing down. Now he’s got a back problem, too. Could he be a .300 20/20 2B down the line? Maybe. Is that third round talent? Seems borderline.

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  25. James Morgan says:

    Was Kelly Johnson initially a mirage?

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  26. Tyler says:

    Why is there no mention anywhere of Gordon Beckham as a 2nd baseman? I drafted him to play 2nd base, with Prado filling in in the mean time.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      We discussed players based on where they appeared the most last year, so Becks is in the 3B discussions. Check his player page, though, and you’ll see he’s a favorite. Just scan upwards in these comments and you’ll see where we discuss his possible place in the 2B rankings.

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