“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Ben Franklin
When I started this preview, I made a preliminary list to work off of and then started doing statistical research within that framework. My list has changed drastically since that initial one, and our collective view of the second base position should do the same. This year there is talent at the top, but if you aren’t lucky enough to grab one of those top studs, there are chances you are going to be forced to take. A couple of people on the following lists may need 20 games to gain eligibility, but may be worth it because of their potential upside. Following up the 1B article, I will include a list in parentheses if a player would have been on a list to avoid listing them twice.
My Top 12
1. Robinson Cano – New York Yankees – In his contract year, if you buy into that sort of thing, he had a spike in his HR/FB% from 17% to 24%, but it regressed in the second half to 21%. If it stays at around that rate, he should get to about 28 home runs but not above the 30 mark as he did last season. That slight power loss in combination with his struggles against lefties will bring him closer to the pack this year. Cano is rock solidly consistent, but I’m not sure I would be reaching for him in the first round come draft day.
2. Dustin Pedroia – Boston Red Sox – I was torn between Pedroia and Kinsler for this spot, as both have had health issues but I trust Dustin more. His 2nd half rebound to a 12% HR/FB rate, a new manager and his internal drive separates the two for me. A 20/20 season with a .300+ average in the round after Cano is a better bargain.
3. Ian Kinsler – Texas Rangers – We all love the 5 category guys, but Kinsler’s xBA (expected batting average) dropped almost 20 points in 2012, and for his career, the second basemen has hit .239 on the road. We have seen how Texas handled the Michael Young situation, shifting him all around the diamond, and with Jurickson Profar looming I am bit nervous about Kinsler this year with an injury considering Profar could get hot and possibly ‘Wally Pipp’ him as his replacement.
4. Aaron Hill – Arizona Diamondbacks – As I researched, I one of my biggest realizations was how freakin’ good and how underappreciated Aaron Hill was last season. His HR/FB rate and contact %’s were consistent with his 2010 rate, and both are sustainable. If those do hold true, his numbers last year of 26 homers, 85 RBIs, 93 Runs, 14 steals and a .302 average all look attainable, perhaps with a little drop in average and runs. I was tempted to put him ahead of Kinsler as well.
5. Ben Zobrist – Tampa Bay Rays – He just keeps putting up solid stats. His second half of 10 homers, 42 RBIs and 7 steals with a .285 average would be a great full-season pace, and for where you can get hi in drafts Zobrist is great value.
6. Jason Kipnis – Cleveland Indians – He seems to be climbing everyone’s lists and his ability to hit home runs and steal bases peaks our collective interest. As we look a little deeper at his numbers we have to notice his splits in the two halves last season, on the surface his first half appearing great and second half appearing awful. However, His Contact Rate and Hit Percentages remained the same throughout both halves thankfully and we all hope he can put two halves together this year with less variance and keep moving up the rankings.
7. Brandon Phillips – Cincinnati Reds – He’s not really as exciting as he once was, and is 32 now. But, his Stolen Base success rate actually rose last year and his HR/FB % has stayed consistent. So if you can live with a 15 homer/ 75 RBI/ 15 steal season at 2B, then Brandon is your guy. Sometimes predictability is underrated….
8. Jose Altuve – Houston Astros – As someone who is also vertically challenged, I am a big fan of Jose. Both years in his career so far, he has outperformed his xBA by an average of 15 points so a little regression in average is possible, but his speed is legit and if he can maintain his 75% success rate on the base paths for a team that will need to manufacture runs, he may get 40 this year.
9. Rickie Weeks – Milwaukee Brewers – This I think says it all about second base, we are in the top 10 and Weeks coming off a very disappointing campaign in 2012 is still here. Rickie did rebound nicely in the second half and posted 15-41-10 with a .269 average and we would take him here and wish for that season times 2 in 2013, but he is not the healthiest guy in the league. but one can hope for a repeat of 2010 and 2011 for this year.
10. Neil Walker – Pittsburgh Pirates –He’s quite consistent, and in the second half he had a solid power increase. If that can be maintained this year, the home runs could increase to near the 20 range, which would be a good return on a small investment for Walker on draft day.
11. Chase Utley – Philadelphia Phillies – Once a legitimate stud, it hurts to put Utley this low. At this point we are hoping for a return to a solid and healthy year like 2010 with around 425 AB’s and a line of 15ish homers and 15ish steals. At least there is the glimmer of the possibility of one more run to glory. The good news is, his knee has to be feeling at least a little bit better, considering his 92% stolen base rate last season.
12. Howie Kendrick – Los Angeles Angels – I really wrestled with this spot and was thinking about inserting a younger more intriguing flavor, but none have the same job security or consistency as Kendrick. He only put up 8 homers last year after 18 HR’s the year before as his Power Index dropped from 123 (23% above average) to 81 (19% below average). It is probably fair to expect a pX around 90 or so from Kendrick, and he can return to double digits in home runs. The disappointment with Kendrick is all based on the batting average hype we heard aboutwhich will never materialize and he outperformed his xBA in both halves last year hitting .287.
Thrift Shop – My sleepers
Josh Rutledge – Colorado Rockies – He slugged 8 homers and 37 RBIs with 7 steals in 277 at bats while Tulowitzki was out last year. He has a 12% HR/FB rate in Colorado and if he wins the job in spring training he has the upside to give you late round double digit numbers in both home runs and steals without killing your batting average
Logan Forsythe – San Diego Padres – The youngester had 6 Homers 28 RBIs and 8 Steals with a .273 average in 315 at bats in his debut. He carries an Expected Power Index (xPX) of 107 and stole bases with an 83% success rate last season. Add in the moved in fences at Petco with the job if he can hold off Gyorko and another double double sleeper looms.
Scott Sizemore – Oakland A’s – In 2011, he was able to produce a stat line of 13 homers, 68 RBIs and 8 steals while hitting .254. Unfortunately his xBA was .239 so his average may be a gamble, but if his knee is healthy and he can beat out the light hitting Jemile Weeks, he may be a good waiver wire add or AL only sleeper.
Omar Infante – Detroit Tigers – He’s not a popular name or stylish sleeper but he did produce 12 homers and 17 steals last season while hitting a respectable .274. He moved to a better offense this season in Detroit. If Leyland lets him run and the 85% success rate on the base paths Infante, could reach 20 steals this year.
Emilio Bonifacio – Toronto Blue Jays – He will not have eligibility here unless he wins the position for the Blue Jays but I am more interested in his ability to make contact (up to 82%) in the second half before his injury and his speed. In AL only leagues or as a late flyer in mixed leagues, Bonifacio is a great guy to store on the bench until he is eligible.
Risk and Reward? – the rest of the 2B’s
Dan Uggla – Atlanta Braves – Does he provide power? Yes. Do we know his name? Yes. But if you look deeper at the numbers, will the home runs really be worth the enormous drain on your roster’s batting average? No. Uggla not only has seen a decrease in his contact % from 74% to 68% last season, but his Power Index also dropped 20 points. The warning signs are present that Uggla may drop off a cliff, and I’ll leave him for someone else to possibly drop in June.\
Donovan Solano – Miami Marlins – He did post a respectable 2 HR-28 RBI-10 SB with a .295 average in his debut last year. But do you know he was hitting .209 in AA before his call up? His highest hit % in the minor leagues was 27% and for Miami he was the beneficiary of a 34% hit rate. The second half in which he hit .286 came with an xBA of .247 and his history of stealing bases in the minors did not mirror this either. This will be a determining year for him, I am not sure I will be finding out if he is worth the late round flyer.
Danny Espinosa – Washington Nationals – The ultimate risk and reward this year, and you will need a strong stomach to start the young National. The second half last year was great on the surface as he posted a .267 average, but his xBA was .243 so this could drop. But a possible 20/20 season with a 250 average is possible but he did outperform his PX and his contact % did drop from 2011. If he can return to that level and maintain the average, he will be a steal. But if the valleys outnumber the peaks, he could be on the bench or waiver wire.
Marco Scutaro – San Francisco Giants – Just because the Giants committed to him for 3 years does not mean you have to. There is safety in his batting average numbers but I have a hard time putting a regular season of 7 home runs and 9 steals in the top 12 of this list. If he keeps driving in runs like the second half he will have value and his xPX of 93 last year shows he may be able to get to double-digit home runs but I think he may be overvalued this year.
Daniel Murphy – New York Mets – I keep waiting for the 2008 numbers and hoping. Another player who will provide batting average but the counting stats may not be enough. Unlike Scutaro, he outperformed his PX last year by 24 points and only had 6 home runs. The steals were a nice surprise coming off of an MCL procedure so the upside could be 10-10 this year, he is a low risk low reward candidate.
Gordon Beckham – Chicago White Sox – I am not sure who dwells on 2009 more, fantasy owners or the White Sox. Yes he did provide 16 home runs last year and 5 steals but the 234 batting average and the 245 xBA doesn’t provide much hope for a rebound. He is still 26 and his contact % did return to the same number as 2009 but unless the PX rebounds or his OPS comes back this may just be who he is.
Dustin Ackley – Seattle Mariners – Took a step back in 2012 but did produce 12 home runs and 13 steals, but he lost 30 points on his batting average. So if he can get back to the 250 range with an improved hit % and add to the counting stats, he could surprise this year. I would rather take a chance on a player like Ackley who is 25 than a Murphy above.
Going Deeper – Minor Leagues
Jonathon Schoop – Baltimore Orioles – I am adding his profile because right now the Orioles are penciling in Brian Roberts and his backup is Ryan Flaherty. They pulled the trigger on Machado last year, so by July why not Schoop? He may struggle with average initially but he did put up 14 home runs and 5 steals in the minors last year.
Christian Colon – Kansas City Royals – If the Royals grow tired of the Getz/Giavotella platoon they may turn to Colon, he hit 289 in the minors last year with 6 home runs and 13 steals and boasts a 90% contact rate.
Nick Franklin – Seattle Mariners – He’s just, but 22 he may get a look this year and he put up a double-double in the minors last year while hitting .280
Kolten Wong – St. Louis Cardinals – He may be ready by mid season and someone to monitor during spring training. Hit 287 with 9 home runs and 21 steals and carries a 87% contact rate.
Grant Green – Oakland A’s – If Sizemore isn’t ready or Green can beat him out, they have moved him from the outfield to the infield. Last year he hit 296 with 15 home runs and 13 steals last year in the minors.
Greg Jewett is a new contributor to RotoAnalysis. Look for his work all season long on RotoAnalysis.com and follow him on Twitter @GJewett9!
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