Jason Kipnis: The New Premier Fantasy 2nd Basemen?

Second base has long been one of the weakest positions in fantasy baseball. We’ve seen Dan Uggla fall off dramatically, Ian Kinsler have on and off again monster fantasy campaigns and we’ve lost a few guys to retirement of just ineptitude. Second might not be quite as bad as it looks though and I’m beginning to wonder if Jason Kipnis might not be the number 1 option at 2nd within the next calendar year.

Kipnis's .419 average in June was tops in the AL.

Kipnis’s .419 average in June was tops in the AL.

Robinson Cano is still the safest bet you can imagine with 2B eligibility, but he’s getting older. He will turn 31 in October and it is well documented at how poorly middle infielders age. Cano should still be a very good player for years to come, but his reign over the top 2B title might be over soon. We’ll know more about Cano’s future in the offseason. If he leaves Yankee stadium for, say, Dodger Stadium it would be easy to expect his power to drop off a little. I’m betting on Jason Kipnis to be the new king of the hill.

Kipnis had a pretty successful season in 2012, but he faded very badly towards the end. The late season swoon caused many people to wonder if he would be able to adjust to the league since it had made adjustments to him. He’s answered critics with defiance in 2013. Currently his slash line sits at: .301/.383/.514. He’s been impressive in every aspect of the game, but his power is what has really taken him to the next level. After posting an ISO of .122 in 2012 he’s posted an ISO of .213 so far in 2013. Kipnis is only one extra base hit from matching his total of 40 last year.

How’s He Doing It?

Kipnis has seen his strikeout rate increase 6% this season; while that might not be the best thing his walk rate has also increased 2% to 12%. The uptick in strikeouts is somewhat concerning, but the tradeoff for more power is more than working adequately right now. I would even go as far to say that the K rate might even be a little fluky.

KipNasty

Kipnis has chased pitches out of the zone less and less with every year of experience he gets. The declining swing% combined with the declining chase rates show us where the improved walk rate is coming from. I believe the increase in K’s is coming from his decrease in contact on pitches he chases out of the zone. This doesn’t bother me as much, because usually contact on a pitch out of the zone results in weak contact. He is making less contact when he chases, but he’s also chasing less so I’m thinking the K rate should come down a little if the approach stays the same.

Kipnis is also a very efficient base stealer. In 2012 he was 31 for 38 and this season he is 21 for 26. He’s seen his speed score increase to 6.6 from 6.2 last season. The power/speed combo is playing nice for Kipnis at the moment and at 26 his speed shouldn’t decline dramatically anytime soon.

Fantasy Value

I didn’t think I would see the day where I would consider Jason Kipnis in the same class as Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, and Ian Kinsler. That day has arrived. Jason Kipnis has turned himself into one of the best fantast infielders in the game. Pedroia has been very good this season, but the power isn’t even close to Kipnis at this point. Ian Kinsler has had some trouble staying on the field and is running less when he is present. If Kipnis is able to finish this season without a hitting a second half slump I can see an argument for him being the number one second baseman coming into 2014. A 20/40 threat in the middle infield? Sign me up.

Landon Jones is a contributor to RotoAnalysis. Follow him on Twitter @JonesLandon and look for his work all season long on RotoAnalysis.com! 

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Photo Credit: http://sports.cbsimg.net/images/visual/whatshot/jason-kipnis-71513.jpg

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