With less than a week before Opening Day in San Diego between the Padres and Dodgers, we release our second basemen rankings and projections. In the coming days, there will be rankings and projections for third, shortstop, outfield, starting and relief pitching. Check back here throughout the week for those. Here are the rankings for second base. [Note: Jurickson Profar has been struck out due to a 2-3 month stint on the DL].
Ever since Chase Utley fell out of the top five second basemen two years ago, this list hasn’t dramatically changed very much. But just because this list is more stagnant than an African pond infested with malaria carrying mosquitos, doesn’t mean we aren’t going to go in for a dip.
The top five in this position are staple guys. They’ve been at or near the top for years now. You can pretty much look at what they did the year before and expect similar, if not identical production. Robinson Cano is a perfect example of this. Over the past three years Cano has reached 100 R, 28 HR, and nearly 100 RBI (last season he dipped in this department). Dustin Pedroia, who does come with his fair share of risk due to injury, is easily the number two second basemen when healthy because of his speed and power. But the most consistent source of HR and SB is Brandon Phillips, who has produced exactly 18 HR in each of the past three seasons to go with SB totals of 16, 14, and 15.
Last year I incorrectly had Dustin Ackley above Jason Kipnis in my rankings. While Ackley was a more consistent player (consistently poor, in fact), Kipnis produced the better end of season numbers, by far. Neither of these two players are slam dunks, but both have immense upside if they ever produce what they’ve been expected to do.
Elite Starting Pitchers Struggling
This is something Ryan Butler is going to touch on in an article later this week, but it’s something worth noting here. After two turns through pitching rotations, six starting pitchers ranked in the top 100 by Yahoo! have an ERA over 6.00 (Tim Lincecum, 12.91; C.C. Sabathia, 6.75; Zack Greinke, 6.75; Dan Haren, 6.97; Adam Wainwright, 11.42; and Daniel Hudson, 8.71). Yu Darvish, the Chosen One, has eight walks in two starts and his WHIP (2.21) weighs more than he does. Mat Latos has the same amount of walks as strikeouts (five).
Conversely, pitchers like Chad Billingsley, Edwin Jackson, Barry Zito, and Jonathon Niese are all pitchers who went largely undrafted in many leagues, but are ranked among the top starters through two weeks.
We’re not saying you should hit the panic button yet, but it’s a reminder that there’s always pitching to be had.
Once again, the two baggers are top heavy. But the new trend in this position is the amount of deployable, affordable lower tier players. Let’s take a gander, shall we?
The cream of this year’s crop: Robbie Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, and Dan Uggla. In standard ten-team leagues, these four are rare species outside of the first three rounds. They are well documented and well followed and well liked by all who document and follow them. They are head and shoulders above the rest, but the usability of the rest is what is worth talking about. So to make this quick, Robbie: stud; Dustin: stud #2; Ian: troll boy; Dan: the man. Moving on…
What you’ll notice about the projections for the rest is the numbers look pretty similar to each other. Brandon Phillips looks like Chase Utley. Utley looks like Dustin Ackley. Ackley looks like Neil Walker. If you’re willing to take a player who isn’t a household name, you’re probably going to be better off with the lower tiered guys. If you’re really looking for a lunch ticket, you’ll wait super late and draft Jason Kipnis, who, surprisingly, looks like Ackley.
For the better part of the 2000s, second base has been a fantasy wasteland. There have been one or two viable options that you could plug into that 2B slot and, as Italians say, “fuggeddaboutit.” We’re mostly talking about Chase Ultey. The runner up has been a revolving door. One year Ian Kinsler is kicking down doors and taking everyone hostage. The next, Dustin Pedroia is making fantasy players do the Jersey Fist Pump. Brandon Phillips will sneak into that argument now and again, but it’s hard to get excited about a guy who plays 81 games in a shoebox and can only manage about 19 homers a year. And truth be told, these guys aren’t 100% reliable. Kinsler has yet to play a full season, Pedroia is coming of an injury-plagued season, and Phillips isn’t a guy who excels in any one stat, but provides decent numbers across the board.
We might be in the middle of a second base renaissance, however. Take a look at the eleven players in the second and third tier. Potentially 7 to 9 of those guys will end up in the top-100 players when the year is over. If this group can stay healthy all season (and that’s a big if), you’ll get a great return on your investment.