It’s hard to believe this is my fourth season writing these monthly tiered rankings for second base. As the old adage goes, time flies when you’re forming position-specific tiers of real baseball players for fake baseball purposes.
A clear trend that formed over the last three years of writing this column is that second base keeps getting deeper and deeper. While there are elite options at the position, the list of players that I would be okay with rostering is plenty long.
With this in mind, I decided to implement a new feature to my tiers this year, motivated by a piece I wrote on Yahoo’s average auction prices a couple weeks ago. By including this data, I hope to help you identify where hidden value lies at the position. Whether your league does an auction or a traditional draft, understanding how your fellow owners value players is vital to any preseason preparation.
Without further ado, here are your preseason second-base tiers for 2017. As always, if you disagree with my rankings — or if I missed anyone who should be ranked — feel free to sound off in the comments section. (For reference, I’m using Yahoo’s position eligibility requirements).
Average auction price on Yahoo (2016 end-of-season value)
Pretty much every fantasy analyst has Altuve and Turner as the clear-cut top options at the position, and for good reason. Altuve hit .338/.396/.531 last year, with 24 homers, 30 steals and 204 R+RBI. Turner slashed .342/.370/.567, with 13 bombs, 33 swipes and 93 R+RBI in just 324 plate appearances. Both of these players are legitimate five-category studs.
The issue is whether you’re comfortable paying these kinds of prices, when there’s so many solid options at 2B. Top-shelf players usually cost a bit more than they’re “worth” in auctions, but fifty bucks for Altuve is too rich for my blood. As for Turner, I don’t see him matching last year’s power or speed numbers over the course of a full-season sample, which means he’d essentially need to win a batting title to pay off this price tag.
Don’t get me wrong, these two are still in a tier of their own for a reason. If you’ve got money to spend, there are certainly worse ways to do so.
- Robinson Cano – $28.0 ($26.2)
- Jonathan Villar – $26.3 ($26.4)
- Brian Dozier – $26.1 ($27.0)
- Daniel Murphy – $25.2 ($25.4)
- Matt Carpenter – $16.3 ($7.2)
This is probably the most intriguing group for me. The first four all had career years in one way or another in 2016 (we’ll get to Carpenter in a moment), and these prices indicate that owners expect them to repeat those feats.
Dozier shattered his previous personal best for homers with 42, and Cano also hit a career-best 39. Villar stole 62 bases and launched 19 bombs in 679 PA, after totaling 42 steals and ten homers in his first 658 PA in the majors. Murphy hit .347 and also hit 25 homers. His previous bests were a .320 AVG in 2011 and 14 home runs in 2015.
Then, we have the somehow-forgotten Carpenter. I wrote about him last week, but to summarize that piece, if I can get him at this price, he’s my favorite 2B for this season. Before suffering an oblique injury in July that derailed his second half, Carpenter was one of the best hitters in baseball:
- 4/3/16-7/6/16 (351 PA): .298/.420/.568, 14 HR, 109 R+RBI, .270 ISO, 16.5% BB, 17.4% K
Carpenter hit poorly after returning from a month off, but if he can come within striking distance of his production from the first three months of 2016, he’s an absolute steal at just over $16.
- Ian Kinsler – $17.7 ($23.7)
- Dee Gordon – $17.1 (-$4.0)
- Jean Segura – $16.8 ($24.9)
- DJ LeMahieu – $10.4 ($19.9)
- Rougned Odor – $24.9 ($19.3)
This is where I started to question where the delineations between tiers should be. In an earlier draft of these tiers, I had Kinsler, Gordon and Segura in Tier Two, with LeMahieu leading off the third tier. A matter of reliability drove my decision to place the cutoff between Carpenter and these five players.
Kinsler was great last year, but the 28 homers equaled his total from the previous two seasons (11 in ’15, 17 in ’14), and he’ll turn 35 this year. Gordon still has the ability to lead the league in steals, but he’s a near-zero in the HR and RBI categories. He’ll need a big boost to last year’s .268 AVG if he’s going to jump up a tier.
I was finally turning into a Segura believer, but I’m concerned that the move to Seattle might make his 20-homer 2016 look like even more of an outlier than it already is. Odor’s lacking plate discipline worries me, even in leagues that don’t directly account for walks and strikeouts. I also wonder if his poor stolen-base success rate makes the Rangers put the red light on more often. Finally, he costs way too much for me.
That leaves us with the one sure thing in this group, the perennially underrated LeMahieu. Is he merely a product of Coors Field? Sure, to a rather large extent, but for fantasy purposes, who cares? Furthermore, while he didn’t come close to replicating his .391/.473/.591 home slash on the road last year, his .303/.353/.395 was at least good enough to keep him in your lineup for away games.
LeMahieu has a lower fantasy ceiling than anyone else in this tier for 2017, but he also might have the highest floor. Also, as you can see, he’s dirt-cheap by comparison. If you’re getting upside elsewhere and just need a steady hand at 2B, a ten-dollar LeMahieu sounds like a perfectly good option to me.
- Dustin Pedroia – $8.9 ($18.4)
- Jason Kipnis – $15.9 ($16.4)
- Jose Peraza – $5.5 (-$5.5)
- Logan Forsythe – $1.2 ($4.7)
- Ben Zobrist – $3.5 ($11.2)
- Jonathan Schoop – $3.0 ($10.4)
- Neil Walker – $1.2 ($4.1)
- Devon Travis – $1.3 ($1.0)
It came purely by a happy accident that my first three tiers included exactly twelve players, but it is convenient nonetheless. This tier is where I start getting uncomfortable about committing to a player to be my everyday 2B in a standard 12-team mixed league.
That said, I feel like people aren’t paying enough attention to the fact that Pedroia is likely batting leadoff. It might not seem like that big of a jump from batting second as he did for most of last year, but that one extra (potential) out opens the door for many more runs scored. He probably won’t exceed 20 HR+SB, but he gets on base at such a high clip that I feel like he’s going to score runs with great consistency. I considered moving him up a tier, but Odor’s upside is unquestionably more valuable than Pedroia’s consistency.
These days, I view Kipnis as an even less predictable version of Kinsler. Seeing as Kipnis is about to turn 30, we can (finally) stop talking about his upside and discuss what he actually is as a player. The answer? An even less predictable version of Kinsler. I’m letting someone else overpay for his fluky 23-homer season.
I wasn’t high on Peraza before Brandon Phillips headed to Atlanta, but I’m feeling good about Peraza at this price. I still have questions about his base-stealing efficiency and his on-base skills — which obviously tie together into doubts over his SB upside — but with his playing time locked down, I’m willing to spend up a bit on him. I assume that $5.5 price tag includes some pre-Phillips-trade noise, so let’s hypothetically set his average auction price around $8-10. Why not.
I’m absolutely intrigued by Forsythe’s nothing price tag, especially given his recent power production. Leading off for the Dodgers could pay big dividends. Think of him as a cheaper take on Pedroia, but if you can actually get Forsythe for $1-2, I think that’s the choice over Pedroia. I do project Pedroia over Forsythe, but the $7-8 savings is enough to make me reconsider. Now that I think about it, these statements largely apply to Walker as well. Just trade his No. 5 spot and the associated RBI for Forsythe’s leadoff runs.
I still love Zobrist in OBP leagues, but he just doesn’t hit for a high enough average to make him a great choice in standard leagues, especially now that he doesn’t steal bases. Schoop’s plate discipline is disgusting. He could replicate those 25 homers, but I’d take the under on him hitting .263 (the average of Steamer and ZiPS projections).
I’m not high on Travis, but he’s probably going to bat in front of Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista, so he gets an automatic bump up for the run potential. He doesn’t steal bases, and 15 homers is likely close to his ceiling. He can help your AVG and R without killing your other categories, so he’s still a viable option.
- Javier Baez
- Starlin Castro
- Ryan Schimpf
- Yangervis Solarte
- Brandon Phillips
- Jedd Gyorko
- Brandon Drury
- Josh Harrison
- Cesar Hernandez
I stopped including the auction prices and 2016 values because they both get repetitively low at this point. These guys are all borderline options in mixed leagues with middle-infield slots, or maybe as a bench piece. Otherwise, they’re all relegated to NL- or AL-only status.
There’s something to like about everyone in this tier. Baez has upside, Schimpf has power, Phillips has sneaky old-man value, Harrison and Hernandez will probably lead off, etc. The problem is that none of them have much else to like as a fantasy asset.
How deep is your league? If the answer is “extremely,” here’s some more options. These aren’t even terrible players, it’s just that second base is so deep that it’s hard to imagine a format where these guys are all that valuable.
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.