Looking for last month’s tiers? Check them out right here. (Author’s note: This post does not include statistics from Wednesday’s games.)
Two months into the 2016 season, I’m seeing a bit more clarity in the delineations between tiers at second base. That’s why this month has eight tiers, as opposed to last month’s six. Let’s get right to it:
Baseball’s best second baseman just keeps on churning out the numbers. Altuve followed up a blazing hot April with a not-quite-as-hot — but still mighty impressive — month of May. The 26-year-old slashed .345/.406/.500, with nearly twice as many walks (14) as strikeouts (8). He’s now 15-for-16 on stolen-base attempts (no other 2B has more than eight SB), and has nine homers on the season.
Rather incredibly — even by his standards — Altuve is currently a top-five contributor at the position in all five standard categories: No. 1 SB, No. 2 R, No. 4 HR, No. 5 AVG, No. 5 RBI.
I swapped the order of the players in this tier several times, before deciding on this: They’re all pretty much even in my eyes.
Kinsler is enjoying a remarkably consistent season. He’s scored more runs (44) than anyone in baseball not named Mookie Betts (49), adding 11 homers, six steals and a healthy .315 AVG. As for Cano, his 15 HR and 45 RBI are easily the top marks at the position, and he’s also flirting with a .300 AVG.
Zobrist was nothing short of ridiculous in May, hitting .406/.483/.653 with six homers. He was a top-five contributor in runs, RBI and AVG in May among all players, regardless of position. While there’s no question the 35-year-old is blazing hot, he doesn’t steal bases anymore, and he showed little power in April, before exploding this month. He also hasn’t hit more than 13 HR in a season since 2012, so I wonder how legit the power spike is. Like I said, it’s basically a dead heat between these three, but those were the (admittedly minor) deciding factors for placing Zobrist at the end of the tier.
Pedroia seemed firmly on the decline back in 2014. That year, we saw the end of “Dustin Pedroia, consistent stealer of bases.” Following his career-best 26 swipes in 2011, he stole 20 in 2012, 17 in 2013, and completely bottomed out with a 6-for-12 SB season in 2014. That part of Pedroia’s game was indeed gone for good, as he’s collected just four SB since.
2014 was also Pedroia’s second consecutive single-digit home-run season — with a career-low seven bombs — after a string of five years with at least 12 dingers. (Also, that 12-HR season was in his 75-game 2010. When healthy, he hit between 15-21 HR per year from 2008-2012.) Pedroia reliably recorded a .160-ish isolated power for years, but now found his ISO hovering below .100. For the first time in his career — aside from his 31-game rookie sample back in 2006 — he was a below-average offensive player, with a 98 wRC+.
Last year, he missed about ten weeks total by aggravating and then reaggravating his hamstring. Despite the injury, he showed flashes of vintage Pedroia with the bat. While he’s never going to be an above-average baserunner again, the power showed signs of returning after two years away. In his 93 games last season, Pedroia hit 12 homers, with a .150 ISO.
In 2016, he’s in the midst of a full-on career renaissance. He’s already got seven homers, 14 doubles and a triple, with a .179 ISO that currently stands as his best mark since that injury-shortened 2010 year — even higher than the .167 ISO in his 21-homer 2011. He hit for a .300+ AVG in April, then did it again in May. He’s also showing a bit of life on the basepaths, going 2-for-2 in SB attempts this month, after successfully swiping just one measly base in the previous calendar year.
With his prime position in the No. 2 spot in one of baseball’s most dangerous lineups, Pedroia’s outlook is better than it’s been in years. Keep in mind that he’s still only 32, so it’s not unreasonable to buy into this return to form as fully legitimate.
Murphy just keeps annihilating the ball, and is now hitting nearly .400, with nine bombs. I keep expecting him to cool down, but instead he keeps heating up more and more. His 39.3% hard-hit rate is impressive enough, but his 11.0% soft-hit rate is even better — the sixth-lowest in baseball. Murphy is basically not making weak contact, ever.
Yes, the combination of a .400+ BABIP and a 0.64 groundball-to-flyball rate is awfully strange — which you would think eventually leads to regression — but at this point, I’m willing to accept that Murph might simply be having one of those inexplicably awesome seasons that pop up in this sport from time to time. He obviously can’t keep this up forever, but even when he inevitably cools down, he’ll still be a strong starting 2B option in standard leagues.
This is another tier in which I don’t see a whole lot separating these players from each other. Is there that big of a value differential between Harrison and Segura, or Pearce and Rendon? Not in my eyes. These six players all have the upside to move into higher tiers with an extended hot streak, but I would rather own Kipnis than any of them — and there’s no one in the next tier down I’d trade them for — so this grouping feels just about right to me.
Walker cooled off for a bit in May, but heated back up recently. His sudden ability to mash left-handed pitching remains intriguing. Coming into this season, the 30-year-old had a grand total of six homers in 758 PA against southpaws. In 2016, he’s already hit five bombs off lefties in just 44 PA.
Rendon finally looked fully healthy over the last month or so, for the first time since 2014. I’m not a huge fan of the 26-year-old as a fantasy commodity, but he hit .269/.368/.463 in May, with four homers and five steals. Still, his putrid April was only 31 days ago, and his legs could fall off at any time.
Until his 4/4, 4 R, HR, 2 RBI performance yesterday in the Rockies’ 17-run outburst, LeMahieu was the No. 24 fantasy 2B in May. That one game pushed him all the way up to 12th for the month, which illustrates both A) the Coors effect and B) the volatility of one-month samples.
The 27-year-old offers little power (three HR in 192 PA), and he’s doing a pretty good job of proving that his 23-for-26 season on the basepaths last year was a fluke. He’s now 5-for-8 through two months of 2016, which is more in line with what he did prior to 2015 (29-for-48 in 1,281 PA).
However, LeMahieu recently moved up to the No. 2 spot in the Rockies’ lineup, and it appears that he’s sticking there, at least for now. If he keeps hitting for a high AVG, he’ll be an elite source of runs, thus transforming a one-category contributor into a two-category contributor.
Panik spent May serving as a shining example of what happens when a player without much power or speed hits a rough patch with his batting average. He hit .213/.293/.315 last month, and provided fantasy owners with essentially zero value.
Dozier is just depressing at this point, and in that way, he is a microcosm of the nearly unwatchable product that is 2016 Minnesota Twins baseball. At this point, it’s not fair to refer to Dozier as “slumping,” because he’s been playing terribly for five full months:
- July ’15 – .206/.282/.433
- August ’15 – .216/.275/.387
- September ’15 – .197/.270/.295
- April ’16 – .191/.276/.340
- May ’16 – .215/.315/.316
It’s gotten so bad that the only way I’d let Dozier within a country mile of my fantasy lineup in any format is against a lefty, and I’d still hesitate if he was playing at home.
Oh yeah, that’s the other thing. He’s hitting .173/.239/.247 at Target Field this season. To place those numbers in context based on wRC+, there are just three position players in the league — Jose Iglesias (5 wRC+), J.T. Realmuto (10 wRC+) and Alexei Ramirez (25 wRC+) — who are hurting their teams at home more than Dozier (31 wRC+) is this year.
Dietrich’s a tough nut to crack this year. Handed an everyday job with Dee Gordon serving his suspension, Dietrich’s fantasy contributions have amounted to a weirdly empty batting average, which is about the last thing I’d expect from the 26-year-old slugger. His .318/.406/.508 slash is excellent in real life, as is his .189 ISO.
In traditional fantasy formats, his ten doubles and three triples don’t do much to make up for the fact that he’s only sent three balls over the fence. Likewise, all those walks and HBP aren’t giving you much. Throw in the fact that he doesn’t steal bases, and was recently demoted back down to the bottom third of the Marlins’ batting order, and you end up with a player whose real-life value isn’t currently translating to fantasy value.
Solarte is somewhat interesting because he’s been batting cleanup lately. Unfortunately, he’s batting cleanup for the Padres. Still, especially given his positional flexibility, he’s a useful bench piece or MI option in deeper leagues.
Hill is currently playing his best baseball in years, but there’s obvious questions regarding how sustainable his production is. Also, with top prospect Orlando Arcia likely to get the call to the majors at some point in the relatively near future, the playing-time picture in the Brewers infield gets dicey.
This tier includes fantasy-irrelevant players who receive at least semi-regular at-bats. Baez got a bit more playing time in May than in April, but didn’t really do anything with it. Johnson and Beckham are great options for those of you in Braves-only leagues. Everyone in this tier is either boring or bad, or both. Mostly both.
This tier includes more fantasy-irrelevant players, but these guys receive only occasional at-bats, and would not likely do much for your fantasy team in a regular role either.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.