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2014 Second Base Tier Rankings: April

It’s Opening Day for the vast majority of teams, which means it’s also the day in which fantasy leagues begin in earnest. Let’s run down the tiered rankings for the second base position, with the kind reminder that not every player with second base eligibility will be named in this space and that rankings will certainly shift throughout the season. This captures a moment in time and serves as my rough rankings coming into the season.


Robinson Cano
Jason Kipnis

Cano may not flirt with 30 home runs in his new pitcher-friendly ballpark — as Yankee Stadium was one of the best power parks for lefties and Safeco is below-average — but his fantasy demise has been slightly overblown. He’s still hit over .300 in seven of the past eight seasons. People are also placing too much weight on Cano’s switching to a “lesser” offense. The Yankees weren’t exactly a juggernaut in 2013. Cano compiled 100+ RBI for a team that only scored 26 more runs than the Seattle Mariners. Admittedly, he likely shouldn’t be expected to log 100+ runs and 100+ RBI this year; however, the 31-year-old didn’t do that in 2013 and was still the number-one second baseman at the end of the season.

Kipnis could very well be the top fantasy second baseman in 2014, but that’s more because I’m high on Kipnis, not necessarily because I believe Cano’s production will fall off a cliff in Seattle.

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Too Many Words About Tigers Shortstops

The baseball blogosphere received a late Christmas present this morning when the Detroit Tigers traded Steve Lombardozzi to Baltimore in return for veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Yeah, that’s the same Alex Gonzalez who limped to a .194 wOBA with the Milwaukee Brewers before getting released mid-season with a -1.1 WAR. Amongst non-pitchers with at least 100 plate appearances, Gonzalez compiled the third-worst wOBA in Major League Baseball, ahead of only Casper Wells and Luis Cruz. Tremendous company.

Of course, the Tigers are attempting to replace the injured Jose Iglesias without signing Stephen Drew, which would cost the organization a draft pick, or trading for Nick Franklin, which would involve sacrificing prospects from an already-thin farm system. It appears the organization has opted to compile a handful of fringe internal candidates, hoping one or two sticks enough to bring competent production to the shortstop position.

For fantasy purposes, though, should owners even bother paying attention to this battle?

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Quick Thoughts on Iwakuma and Smith

We’re in the midst of the preseason in which the vast majority of fantasy leagues will be hosting their fantasy drafts, and fantasy owners everywhere are looking for tips and tricks to give them a strategic edge over the competition. Luckily, not everyone in your league is smart enough to read RotoGraphs on a regular basis. While I’m not certain it’s the equivalent of fantasy baseball PEDs, it seems damn close.

Since we’ve now established the apparent correlation between RotoGraphs and fantasy steroids, here are a few thoughts to stuff in your back pocket on a pair of pitchers, one concerning a guy who should be drafted in every league and one who will be lucky to have a 5% ownership rate on Opening Day:

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J.P. Breen’s 10 Bold Predictions For 2014

In last year’s Bold Predictions, I strongly advocated Jean Segura and Jarrod Parker, while steering people away from Starlin Castro. Those surely helped fantasy owners to various extents. However, we’ll ignore the fact that I predicted Brett Anderson to be a top-30 starter. Sorry about that.

Let’s get to the bold predictions for 2014.

(1) Chris Carter will hit at least 40 home runs and be a top-25 outfielder.

Earlier this offseason, I noted how Chris Carter’s hitting profile compared favorably to that of Chris Davis from a year ago, leading one to believe the power spike could be possible. Carter has also hit 39 homers in a single season before in the minors, so it’s not as if we’re worried about the requisite power being present. Furthermore, the 27-year-old slugger didn’t do the one thing everyone thought he would do last season: mash the baseball in Minute Maid Park.

Home 285 .164 .277 .328 .164 10
Away 300 .279 .360 .565 .286 19

Minute Maid Park is extremely friendly to right-handed hitters, largely due to the Crawford Boxes, and Carter did little damage there. If his numbers bounce back at home and he’s able to continue his power-hitting ways on the road, we could be looking at one of the biggest power breakout seasons of the year. Considering he’s currently going 193 overall in drafts — behind the likes of Jed Lowrie, Kendrys Morales, and Alejandro De Aza — I’m buying hard on Chris Carter as we head into the 2014 regular season.

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Breaking Down Part I of My TDGX Keeper Draft

You’ve perhaps seen it mentioned on Twitter, but I’m representing FanGraphs in The Dynasty Guru Experts League and we’ve been participating in a slow draft over the past five days. Check out the specifics here. The highlights: 20 teams, 40 players, major-league and minor-league players, standard snake draft, and owners will keep 35 players of their choosing from year-to-year with no contract or time restrictions.


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Fantasy Storylines To Watch: Carlos Martinez

Each spring, a handful of storylines grab fantasy owners’ attention due to the vast difference in potential value on draft day. The stories could revolve around a spring position battle or the potential of a top prospect to steal a roster spot with a big spring camp. Sometimes its a rehabbing player who isn’t certain to be ready for opening day.

Perhaps an under-reported fantasy storyline is unfolding in St. Louis, and it doesn’t involve top prospect Oscar Taveras. The Cardinals suffered a blow to their starting rotation when left-hander Jaime Garcia experienced a setback with his surgically-repaired shoulder. He’s currently seeking a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, according to ESPN.

The story isn’t really that Garcia re-injured his shoulder. Given his unfortunate injury history, the news was not shocking. It’s the repercussions of the injury that are interesting for fantasy owners. Right-handers Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez now find themselves locked in a battle for the fifth starter role. And for the latter, the fireballing Carlos Martinez, such a transition to the starting rotation could significantly increase his fantasy value for the 2014 season.

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Baltimore Orioles Rotation: Nothing But Question Marks

It had been a relatively quiet offseason for the Baltimore Orioles, but they’ve recently turned up the heat by signing Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz and right-hander Suk-min Yoon over the past week. It’s been a flurry of moves that has personnel ramifications throughout the roster. However, perhaps the most significant addition comes in the starting rotation with former All-Star hurler Jimenez.

The rotation has proven to be an  a problem for the Orioles in recent years. No team has trotted out a worse collection of starting pitchers than the O’s over the last half-decade. Their 4.87 ERA and 4.82 FIP are the highest in Major League Baseball over that time frame. They’ve accumulated the highest home-run rate, the lowest ground-ball rate (which makes sense, considering the home-run rate) and the second-lowest strikeout rate. In short, it hasn’t been pretty and Orioles fans deserve a medal of some sort for coping with such dreadful pitching.

The organization is hoping to turn it around in 2014, though. The addition of Ubaldo Jimenez, the improvement of Chris Tillman, and the maturation of Kevin Gausman are all supposed to help right the ship. Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris all simply need to not take on water, and the rotation has a decent chance at being league-average. Considering the potent lineup that now adds Nelson Cruz to the mix, the Orioles only need their starters to be average to compete for a postseason berth.

Of course, that’s not something on which I’m comfortable betting as draft day rolls around this spring.

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Blue Jays Infield: Appreciating Encarnacion and Reyes

Between unforeseen injuries and under-performances, the Blue Jays slogged through a season below expectations. The team won only 74 games after being a popular postseason selection in most preseason projections. Jose Reyes only played a half-season due to injury, while guys like R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle were unable to post ERAs under 4.00. In many ways, it was a season-long nightmare that wasn’t supposed to happen.

Heading into the 2014 season, Toronto could be flying under the radar due to their disappointing performance a year ago. The top half of the everyday lineup appears to be plenty potent, and if the organization can land either Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, their starting rotation has a shot to be roughly league-average (assuming some bounce-back for Dickey and Buehrle). Such a combination could allow them to threaten for one of the two Wild Card slots if their bullpen performs well.

The fantasy outlook for the infield, on the other hand, is a bit of a mixed bag. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes should be high on fantasy owners’ draft boards, while players such as Ryan Goins and Dioner Navarro probably aren’t ownable in standard leagues.

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Braves Rotation: Lacking Studs, Boasting Depth

For many in my generation, when one thinks of starting pitching, the focus immediately turns to Atlanta. It’s been an overwhelming constant for the Braves, whether we’re talking Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tim Hudson or (at least last year) Mike Minor. In fact, since The Strike, the Atlanta Braves have enjoyed the best starting pitching in Major League Baseball. Their cumulative 3.73 ERA is well-ahead of the pack, with the Los Angeles Dodgers being the only other team with a sub-4.00 ERA from their starters since the 1995 season.

Thus, it’s not surprising the Braves trotted out yet another effective rotation last year. Even without the injured Brandon Beachy, their rotation featured three top-30 fantasy starters in Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen. The trio are poised to headline the rotation once again in 2014, so in terms of a fantasy outlook, there’s plenty to like.

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Tigers Infield: I’m Not Very Excited

For a team that’s consistently had a postseason presence in recent years, the Tigers will unveil a dramatically different infield this upcoming season. The organization authored perhaps the biggest trade of the offseason, sending slugger Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Futhermore, Miguel Cabrera should transition back to first base, while the door opens for top prospect Nick Castellanos to man the hot corner.

Significant changes, but the unwavering piece of the Tigers’ infield, at least in terms of fantasy production, will be Miguel Cabrera. He’s the best hitter on the planet and is probably the consensus number-two fantasy option behind Mike Trout. He may have captured the Triple Crown in 2012, but his 2013 season was unquestionably better. The 30-year-old superstar hit .348/.442/.636 with 44 home runs, and his 192 wRC+ was the highest of his career by a healthy margin.

There’s not much to offer in terms of fantasy analysis on Miguel Cabrera. He’s amazing. He will provide elite production in all major categories, aside from stolen bases. The other thing to love about Miggy is that he’s accumulated at least 600 plate appearances in 10-consecutive seasons. He’s as close to a sure thing as one can get in fantasy baseball.

Around the remainder of the infield, though, we have some things to discuss. And in general, I’m not excited about what the Tigers’ infield offers for fantasy owners in terms of production and value.

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