Early-Season Risers: Second Base by Scott Strandberg April 20, 2015 Just two weeks into the season, it’s still mighty important to not overreact to any small samples. Still, we can draw some conclusions based on things like playing time and batting order position — and perhaps a little bit on performance — to identify players who will be on the rise in next month’s second base tier rankings. Below are three 2B-eligible players who were buried in my April rankings, but await healthy upward promotions. Devon Travis (53% Yahoo, 80.4% ESPN, 83% CBS) For this month’s tier rankings, I included the following note regarding Travis: “If he can hold down the starting job, he’ll likely jump up a tier next month.” The 24-year-old is tearing the cover off the ball, to the tune of a .356/.408/.644 slash, with three homers. There’s no way he’s losing his job to the likes of Steve Tolleson and Ryan Goins, and Maicer Izturis’ eventual return from a groin strain doesn’t seem like a threat to Travis’ job either. Another positive sign is that — with Jose Reyes nursing a fractured rib — the Jays have been using Travis in the leadoff spot. It remains to be seen whether Reyes will need a stint on the disabled list, but the fact that Travis has led off all three games Reyes has missed is a wonderful sign regarding how manager John Gibbons views Travis’ skill set. (Travis himself left Sunday’s game after being hit by a pitch, but x-rays were negative, and there are no indications that the injury is serious.) Seeing as he hit just 29 home runs in 257 minor-league games, don’t expect Travis to keep cranking out the homers at such a torrid rate. Regardless, he should be able to maintain a solid batting average, sprinkling in enough homers and steals to prevent that average from lacking substance. Luis Valbuena (7% Yahoo, 1.8% ESPN, 20% CBS) Valbuena sat on top of my fifth tier last month. I have long been encouraged by his line-drive power, but leery enough of his career .229 AVG to not rank him too highly. So far, the 29-year-old’s numbers aren’t terribly surprising. The power is definitely there, as he’s followed up last year’s 16-homer output with three early bombs. On the other hand, he’s hitting .211. First off, if you’re in an OBP league, Valbuena is plenty valuable already. He sports a career walk rate of 10.3%, which helps offset his poor AVG considerably. Still, even in standard leagues, if you can stomach his low batting average, Valbuena has the potential to be a solid contributor in homers, runs and RBI. The most promising sign for Valbuena’s rest-of-season fantasy value lies in the fact that he’s playing pretty much every day, and batting anywhere from second to sixth in the order. On Sunday, he hit second, with Jose Altuve in front of him and George Springer behind him. Not a bad place to be. If manager A.J. Hinch sticks with his recent trend of batting Springer in the three-hole — with Jed Lowrie bumped down to fifth — Valbuena has a good chance at sticking as the Astros’ No. 2 hitter. He could really rack up the counting stats, and he’s virtually unowned. (His dual-position 2B/3B eligibility is icing on the cake.) Logan Forsythe (2% Yahoo, 2.3% ESPN, 10% CBS) With Nick Franklin sidelined indefinitely with a severe oblique strain, Forsythe has been a fixture in the Tampa lineup. The 28-year-old has taken full advantage of the opportunity, hitting a robust .262/.340/.476, with a pair of homers and a steal. So far, he’s been filling a utility role not unlike the Ben Zobrist role of Rays teams from years past. When he’s not playing second base, Forsythe has played first base in eight games (two starts), along with four appearances (one start) at third. He’s only eligible at second base right now, but he’s clearly capable of playing elsewhere, and could gain additional positional eligibility. Forsythe is largely in the spot he’s in due to injury, but Franklin doesn’t appear to be returning anytime soon. As it stands, Forsythe is the No. 8 second baseman in fantasy, and he should continue to receive regular playing time for the foreseeable future. He’s a seriously overlooked commodity in AL-only leagues.