Early Trends To Watch At Second Base

A week into the regular season, fantasy baseball owners already have much to analyze and discuss. From the unexpected struggles of R.A. Dickey to the scorching-hot start of Chris Davis, early performances often leave lasting impressions. Early-season struggles can poison the well and cause owners to overlook quality midseason production, and vice versa.

With that said, owners should certainly monitor early-season trends to help determine if they should buy low or sell high on various players. Here are some performances this week that stood out at second base:

ANSWERING QUESTIONS

Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers (100% owned)

A horrendous start ultimately doomed his 2012 campaign — hitting .230/.328/.400 and ranking as only the 13th-best second baseman — but he did compile a .260/.344/.445 slash line from June 1 to the end of the season. The first two months appeared to be an aberration. Owners still wondered, though, would Weeks severely struggle for the first couple months of the 2013 season, much like he did a year ago?

After posting a .406 wOBA with a home run and a double in the first week of the season, it seems Weeks will avoid another crippling April/May. Owners can now take a deep breath and feel confident they’ll receive production from Weeks circa 2009-2011, rather than what Weeks’ owners endured in 2012.

Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies (100% owned)

At age 34 and coming off yet another injury-plagued season, owners were understandably skeptical of Utley on draft day. On average, he was selected behind guys like Jose Altuve and Neil Walker, but over the first week of the season, Chase Utley is showing that he’s not yet ready to throw in the towel. He went 2-for-5 on Sunday with an RBI and a run scored, and he’s currently hitting .391 with a pair of doubles, a triple and a home run.

Even though he’s failed to register 500 plate appearances in each of the last two seasons, his production has still been there when he’s on the field. That trend has continued to start the 2013 campaign. I would continue to keep a capable backup on the bench for when Utley inevitably lands on the disabled list, but while he’s playing everyday, owners should enjoy the production.

Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (63.0% owned)

Though he’s still working his way to second-base eligibility, Carpenter is illustrating that his surprising 2012 season wasn’t a fluke. He owns a .320/.414/.480 slash line through the first week and has four doubles, seven runs scored and four RBI. Though owners shouldn’t expect that level of production to last throughout the entire season, the 27-year-old is showing he will provide significant value in most fantasy formats. He should hit for average and also put up solid counting stats due to his hitting high in the Cardinals’ batting order. Not to mention his positional flexibility is just icing on the cake.

RAISING QUESTIONS

Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners (18.3% owned)

There was significant hope surrounding Dustin Ackley in 2012. He showed real promise in his rookie season, posting a .337 wOBA and flashing the ability to be a high-average, double-digit power/steal guy at second base. Unfortunately, he took a huge step back last season. His batting average plummeted to .226, and despite having 12 home runs and 13 stolen bases, his peripheral power numbers also dropped dramatically. That lack of power became even more worrisome when he only connected with three extra-base hits (no home runs) in spring training.

His first week hasn’t inspired too much confidence. He managed only one hit, a single, in his first six starts. His mechanics appear out-of-whack at the plate, and he looks nothing like the second-overall pick of the 2009 Draft.

As noted above, only 18.3% owners in ESPN leagues have Ackley on their roster, so most owners clearly understand he offers minuscule value at this point. I’m interested to see the adjustments he makes as the season progresses. I’m just not planning to own him in any leagues and wouldn’t advocate it until some glimmer of hope emerges for him at the plate.

Josh Rutledge, Colorado Rockies (81.7% owned)

Rutledge was a trendy late-round pick for many owners because he’s expected to gain second base eligibility in the coming weeks and because he enjoyed significant success in his major-league debut late last season. He posted a .332 wOBA with eight home runs and seven stolen bases in just 291 plate appearances after making the considerable jump from Double-A. Many owners (including myself in one league) drafted Rutledge with the hopes that he would build upon his debut — especially considering he had hit north of .300 in his first two full minor-league seasons.

It’s obviously early and owners shouldn’t consider dumping him at this point, but Rutledge has really spun his wheels during the first week of the season. He’s hitting .227/.217/.227 with no extra-base hits and only one stolen base. The Colorado Rockies have been the best offense in baseball over the first week, and Josh Rutledge has essentially contributed nothing.

Again, don’t drop Rutledge at this point. He has the potential to provide nice value — especially in that lineup — but owners should certainly monitor his early-season performance because he could get sent down to Triple-A for additional seasoning if he doesn’t pick it up in the coming weeks.




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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).


22 Responses to “Early Trends To Watch At Second Base”

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  1. Justin says:

    Also important to note that with the Brewer’s injuries, Weeks is hitting clean-up.

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    • senrad says:

      Ivebeen hearings lot about how where in the lineup a player hits doesn’t have an effect on his production, but I haven’t seen any data supporting this. I’ve heard it used as a clearly defined statement of fact, but again without documentation.

      It seems counterintuitive because off the top of my head a player batting lead off will have more at bats and therefore have more opportunities to accrue counting stats and a player batting 8th in the NL will be pitched around often reducing his at bats.

      Does anybody know where I can read about this further?

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  2. Tom B says:

    When do the “unexpected” troubles start for Dickey?

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  3. Baroque6 says:

    And how about Ian Kinsler’s fantastic start, eh?

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  4. dirck says:

    The SSS panicers are too much . I was partners on a couple of teams with a guy for several years who wanted to get rid of every player who had back-to-back 0 for 4′s or pitcher who lost 2 in a row . He nearly drove me crazy .

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  5. Benzedrine says:

    Is Reid Brignac worth a pickup in deep leagues, if Ruetledge falters more? I’ve seen some opposite field XBHs from Brignac this season.

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    • J.P. Breen says:

      I don’t think so. I cannot bring myself to advocate using a roster spot on a guy who could only hit .231 in Triple-A last year. Anything can happen at Coors, I suppose, but I just don’t see it.

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  6. DJ says:

    Someone to watch: Jason Kipnis

    I can easily see him sitting more and more agianst LHP.

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    • Cliff says:

      in favor of who exactly? Mike Aviles? i find this claim to be highly unlikely. doubt the tribe are going to just give up on one of their core young players. oh and all 3 of his hits this season have come off lefties. SSS, i know, but thought it was kinda funny.

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    • J.P. Breen says:

      I’m not too concerned about Kipnis. He only hit .215/.298/.282 against lefties last season, but his BB% and K% were identical to his percentages against righties and much of his low batting average can be attributed to his .251 BABIP. It’s not like his GB/FB profile changed against lefties, after all.

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  7. kdm628496 says:

    time to panic on neil walker?

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    • Eric Palmer says:

      I’d say it’s a little too early to really start panicking on anyone that isn’t injured.

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      • mark_mccluskey says:

        I’d say it’s a little too early to start saying he isn’t injured. I have a sneaking suspicion something is bothering him, but not sufficiently to have him out of the Pirates lineup. Does not speak much of their MI depth.

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  8. Edgardo Carrero says:

    Fine and all, but Jed Lowrie warranted mention.

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  9. centerfield ballhawk says:

    I own all of these guys in one format or another, including Weeks in multiple leagues. Carpenter is a great plug and play kind of guy, and Ackley is indeed looking like a lost cause. I’m hoping to shop him around but not too optimistic about a return.

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  10. senrad says:

    “Owners can now take a deep breath and feel confident they’ll receive production from Weeks circa 2009-2011…”

    2009 weeks played 37 games.

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  11. Mario Mendoza says:

    …or can we?

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  12. Nick says:

    “After posting a .406 wOBA with a home run and a double in the first week of the season, it seems Weeks will avoid another crippling April/May.” You spoke way too soon.

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