I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...
Photo Credit: Keith Allison
Second base has its appeal. The soft, bag of sand-like feel. The expression on her face when you move in unannounced on her unmentionables and proceed to pounce on her like a raccoon on a rotting pork shoulder… wait, we’re talking fantasy baseball?
Oh, in that case, second base really isn’t that great. Sure it isn’t as shallow as shortstop, but it’s a position that is usually a weakness for most fantasy owners. That makes this particular edition of “Tiers, Not Fears” a must-read for those of you looking for an edge. We have 45 players on tap, so unbutton those top two buttons, because you are about to go to second base with your boy Kid Clutch.
More after the jump:
The “King Kong” Krew
1. Robinson Cano
2. Dustin Pedroia
Because King Kong ain’t got shit on ‘em … In what some called a “down year,” Cano still hit .302, socked 28 HRs, and totaled 118 RBIs and 104 Rs. He’s now posted over 100 Rs and RBIs in back-to-back seasons and registered a career-high 17.0 HR/FB last year. Still in his prime at age 29 and capable of hitting .330, Cano has earned the top spot among all 2Bs … Pedroia may be balding and an annoying shit talker (easiest comeback to use on that douche if he pops off at the mouth: “At least my brother’s not a pedophile”), but you can’t knock his hustle in fantasy. A career .305 hitter, Pedroia went 20/20 last year. That may not happen again as his career .158 ISO makes him more of a mid-to-high teens HR guy than a 20-plus slugger. Regardless, Pedroia is a counting stats beast thanks to his ideal spot in the lineup behind Jacoby Ellsbury (hello RBIs) and in front of Adrian Gonzalez (runs galore).
The “Step Below” Squadron
3. Ian Kinsler
4. Brandon Phillips
These players aren’t as enticing as Cano and Pedroia, but it’s conceivable to see either of them finishing as the top 2B in fantasy … Kinsler racked up his second 30/30 campaign of his career in 2011 while posting career-best marks in BB% (12.3), K% (9.8), HRs (32), Rs (121), and Contact% (91.4). Talent-wise, he should be the top fantasy baller at second. Unfortunately, a lengthy injury-history does him in. Last year was the first time Kinsler played over 150 games, so drafting him comes with a lot of risk. In fact, the entire Rangers offense is loaded with injury-prone players, so even if Kinsler stays healthy, his numbers could suffer if the potent lineup around him falls apart … It’s very possible that Phillips will be one of my most-owned players in fantasy leagues this year. Forget the fact that he hit .300 last year and has averaged 21 HRs, 82 RBIs, 92 Rs, and 22 SBs since his breakout campaign in 2007. Actually, don’t forget that. Those are pretty damn good numbers on their own. What you should do instead is expect those numbers to improve in 2012. Why? Two reasons: he’s in a contract year and is hitting leadoff. Now I normally do not invest too much into the contract year theory, but in cases like this one I make exceptions. Phillips has been publicly talking about not giving the Reds a hometown discount for the last year-and-a-half. Translation: pay me sucka. Dude clearly wants his money, and he should ball out this year if he ends up playing for a new deal. Even if the Reds extend him prior to the season, Phillips should still turn in great numbers thanks to his role as the leadoff hitter in Cincy. Phillips’ overall season numbers in 2011 actually slumped a bit from previous seasons, but if you look at his stats when he hit first in the lineup, he was a whole new man. In 38 games as a leadoff hitter to end the season, Phillips hit .350 with 7 HRs (.223 ISO), 19 RBIs, 29 Rs, and 7 SBs. He simply thrived in the role. Dusty Baker has already said Phillips will be his leadoff hitter in 2012 and the price tag on Phillips is pretty reasonable considering the potential.
The “You Could Do A Lot Worse” Movement
5. Ben Zobrist
6. Michael Young
Because after these guys, shit starts to go downhill … The pros with Zobrist is that his power bounced back nicely in 2011 (20 HRs and .200 ISO) and he’s averaged over 20 SBs the last three years. The cons? Well, his strikeout and ground ball rates reached new lows and these come-from-nowhere stories can have abrupt endings (see: Casey McGehee). I truly believe there is more good than bad when discussing the merits of Zobrist, but he isn’t a lock by any means … In a lot of ways, Young had his best season in 2011 by posting career-best marks in K% (11.3), BA (.338), and LD% (26.2). That said, his power has continued to fall (.136 ISO and 11 HRs last year) and he is 35 years old. The fact that he hits in an explosive Texas offense is critical to his value. Just keep in mind that you are pinning your hopes on his counting stats and BA, which are very unpredictable to predict year-to-year.
The “Well, I Guess They’re OK” Conglomerate
7. Dan Uggla
8. Danny Espinosa
9. Rickie Weeks
10. Michael Cuddyer
This is the portion of the rankings where optimism starts to wane. The players in this tier could very well prove to be quality fantasy options, but the warts are hard to ignore … No one can dismiss Uggla’s power at second. He’s averaged 32 HRs, 98 Rs, and 91 RBIs for his career. The problem has always been his BA and it could be headed for even shakier territory. Keep in mind that Uggla hit just .233 last year despite a 33-game hit streak. He also made the weakest contact of his career by posting a new low in LD% (15.2) and a new high in GB% (41.2). Couple in the fact that he struggled more than ever to hit major league fastballs, and you have legitimate reasons to believe Uggla could be the next Adam Dunn … 21 HRs and 17 SBs are nothing to sneeze at, but Danny Espinosa has some major flaws in his game. He struggles to make contact (75.2 Contact% last year) and if he isn’t hitting HRs, he’s not doing much at the plate as his 16.9 LD%, 44.2 GB%, and 14.8 IFFB% (Infield Fly Ball Percentage) can attest. There is obviously some upside here, but odds are good that he’ll just be a solid (if flawed) fantasy 2B … Weeks will get a lot of love on draft day, but it will be unwarranted. People forget that he has been a flaky fantasy option for most of his career. Weeks will be moved into the middle of the order to compensate for Milwaukee’s loss of offense and while he does have some power (at least .190 ISO each of last three seasons), he struggled to make consistent contact in 2011 (74.3 Contact%). He only stole nine bases last year, and you can’t expect that figure to improve now that he’ll be counted on to drive in runs. Like Sticky Fingaz once said, “B-B-B-But wait it gets worse!” Weeks is injury-prone. He played in just 118 games last year and has topped 130 games once in his career. He’s even said that his injured ankle still isn’t 100-percent. There are just too many negatives for me to put him any higher than ninth on this list, although I’m sure plenty of fantasy owners will spend way more than they should to secure his services … Cuddyer has 2B eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues and his power should get a boost in Colorado. He’s also averaged 22 HRs, 94 RBIs, and 95 Rs per 162 games over the last six years. That all being said, he’s turning 33 in March and has had some injury issues in the past. While he’s had a very solid career, he isn’t someone who will all of a sudden develop into a savior for your fantasy team. Keep in mind that despite playing with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau during their hey-days, he’s managed to post just three 20 HR and 100 RBI campaigns and has topped 90 RBIs twice. I’m pretty damn bullish on Cuddyer, but the supporting cast in Colorado doesn’t make me believe that he’s about to post career-best numbers. That said, I have to admit that this may be his most valuable fantasy season simply because of the 2B eligibility.
The “Risky Business” Renegades
11. Aaron Hill
12. Howie Kendrick
You can make an argument that these players will all exceed their draft day value, but you’d have to be a damn fool to not see the red flags … Hill killed it in Arizona after being traded from Toronto (.315/.386/.492, 2 HRs, 16 RBIs, 23 Rs, 5 SBs) but that was a mere 142 PAs. 20 or more HRs is possible and the 21 SBs last year were encouraging, but let’s keep things in perspective. He looked absolutely atrocious last season and really only has one very good year under his belt … The appeal of hitting in front of Albert Pujols will have people overvaluing Howie Kendrick like whoa. The guy consistently puts over 50-percent of the balls he hits into the ground and has been injury-prone throughout his career. Everyone will be jacked up over his numbers during the last 48 games of the 2011 season (10 HRs and 32 RBIs), but one hot streak doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods. The potential for a breakout is there, but the price tag means you’ll be paying close to his ceiling.
The “Fresh Meat” Frontier
13. Jemile Weeks
14. Dustin Ackley
15. Jason Kipnis
They’re young, dumb, and full of aplomb … Jemile Weeks doesn’t offer much power (.118 ISO last year and would be lucky to hit double-digit HRs), but he’s a high contact hitter who can bat .300 and swipe 30 bags. Even though Oakland’s offense is pretty wack, a leadoff hitter on a professional baseball team can still find their way to 90 runs … An advanced hitter with excellent plate patience for a youngster (10.6 BB% last year), Ackley is a good bet for a favorable BA. That’s about all you can count on. Ackley has modest power (.144 ISO in 2011) and speed (six SBs in 90 games last year), but he hit third most nights towards the end of last season. If he sticks in the middle of the lineup, he should put up respectable counting stats for a middle infielder … Fantasy owners are already starting to throw their sleeper support behind Kipnis, but he’ll probably be a little overvalued on draft day. While his 36 game performance in the bigs last year was impressive, it’s a very small sample size. Before we go extrapolating his five steals from last season into a 20-plus SB campaign, let’s keep in mind that he had just 24 swiped bags in 254 minor league games. As for the power, he did post a .200 ISO between AA and AAA in 2011, but ended up with just 12 HRs in 400 PAs. Kipnis has 20/20 upside, but don’t feel the need to reach.
The “So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance?” Society
16. Kelly Johnson
17. Jose Altuve
Both of these players are actually interesting and relatively cheap 2B options. Of course, there is a reason their price is low … Johnson racked up a career-high .191 ISO last year and finished with 21 HRs and 16 SBs. Johnson had never recorded 15 steals prior to last season, so don’t expect an improvement (or even a repeat) in the SB department. While 20-plus HRs are in play, the batting average will again be an issue. Johnson’s K% jumped to 26.6 percent and his Contact% fell to 71.8 percent (almost seven points lower than his career mark). If his contact issues continue in 2012, Johnson’s BA will lay in the gutter. That said, the middle-infield power likely means that the price it will cost to snag Johnson will not be in vain. He probably won’t net a huge profit on his ADP, but he won’t perform below his market value either (health permitting) … A good contact hitter with 20-plus SB potential, Altuve posted a .202 ISO between A and AA last year. He flew up the ranks, bypassing AAA for the majors. While his power may not be much with the stiff competition of big league pitchers (.081 ISO last year), Altuve could be a cheaper version of Jemile Weeks. Of course, the 22-year-old could just fall on his face and require some AAA seasoning.
The “Shit, I’m Stuck Having to Choose From One of These Guys” Mob
18. Chase Utley
20. Ryan Roberts
20. Neil Walker
21. Daniel Murphy
22. Gordon Beckham
23. Marco Scutaro
24. Mike Aviles
It’s not that these guys are total bums. It’s just that you can’t really be all that excited about their upside … Chase Utley has played under 120 games in the last two years and things are not looking all that rosy for 2012. He may not be ready by Opening Day thanks to his troublesome knees. In October, Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro offered up this assessment: “Is he going to be a 30 HR, 110 RBI guy and hit .300? I don’t know that. I hope he is.” Sounds encouraging. Even if Utley stays healthy, he’s not the player he used to be. He’s fallen below the .170 ISO mark the last two seasons and posted a meek 12.7 LD% last year. Charlie Manuel helps his value a lot by sticking with him in the middle of the order regardless of how he’s playing ... You have to be concerned about a 31-year-old who comes out of nowhere to hit 19 HRs and swipe 18 bases. The 11.9 BB% and 24.3 LD% show that his 2011 was not a fluke, but one has to wonder how he’ll adapt as pitchers make adjustments. His numbers fell off in the second half and is the most likely player to suffer from “McGehee Syndrome” in 2012. It’s also worth noting that his minor league track record suggests he’s more of a 13-15 HR guy … Though 76 runs and 83 RBIs aren’t too shabby for a player on the Pirates, Neil Walker’s 12 HRs and nine SBs are... well, too shabby. An optimist can look at the improvements in 2011 to his BB% (8.2), K% (16.9), and Contact% (85.6) and portend future success. A realist, however, knows that he is no better than an MI option in mixed formats … Murphy’s high contact rate makes him a potential .300 hitter, and the dearth of offensive talent on the Mets means he’ll be given plenty of ABs. Unfortunately, he doesn’t steal any bases and offers little power (.128 ISO last year; .149 career) … Since a promising 2009 rookie season, Beckham’s walk rate, strikeout rate, BA, ISO, and HR/FB have all trended negatively. He’s admitted to lacking confidence at the plate and is a bum on the base baths (16 SBs in 29 career attempts). The White Sox are sticking with him, so he gets points for having no real threats to his PAs. That said, if you hear the words “post-hype sleeper” and “Gordon Beckham” in the same sentence, just tune that shit out. His performance the last two years is a much better indicator of his future MLB performance than some scouting reports from three years ago. Yeah 2009 was solid, but it wasn’t that good … Scutaro brings a veteran presence to the Rockies’ offense and is slated to hit second in front of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. Great place to be right? Well, it ain’t better than the lineup he was a part of in Boston and aside from 92 runs in 2010, he didn’t put up all that great numbers during his time in Beantown. No reason to think his production will spike in Colorado ... Eligible at 2B, SS, and 3B, Aviles is a pretty interesting sleeper (assuming you are playing him at SS). Boston manager Bobby Valentine believes that Aviles has the "DNA" of an everyday shortstop. Considering that the team’s other options at SS are Jose Iglesias (all glove/no bat) or Nick Punto (all scrub/no love), that’s good enough to coax an endorsement out of Big Poppa Pockets. Aviles is eligible at 2B, SS, 3B and even if he somehow doesn’t win the starting SS gig, the Red Sox have brittle players in their infield whose injuries would open up playing time for Aviles. While he doesn’t offer much power (career .131 ISO), he could still hit 10-15 HRs and swipe 15-20 bases while generating favorable counting stats in a loaded Boston lineup.
The “You Could Just As Well Take a Piss and Have Your Team Auto-Draft” Committee
25. Omar Infante
26. Darwin Barney
27. Robert Andino
28. Ryan Raburn
29. Juan Uribe
30. Jamey Carroll
The one common positive trait these players share is that they are starting players on a professional baseball team … Infante no longer possesses the multi-position eligibility of years past and offers nothing in the power or speed categories. Perhaps the enhanced offense of Miami will give his counting stats a boost. Then again, he will likely hit in the lower portion of the order and thus reap none of the benefits … Another player lacking power or speed is Darwin Barney. I suppose you can view his 90.6 Contact% from last year as an indication that he can post a good BA (.276 last year). Me? I see a middling player on a middling offense. But hey, he’s starting, so you have to own him in deeper MI leagues … Let’s face reality: Brian Roberts has probably played his last major league game (more on this later). Robert Andino will take over as the everyday 2B and he’s the likely leadoff man in an underrated Orioles lineup. That said, he’s a career .245 hitter with no power to speak of (career .086 ISO). Yeah he’ll register double-digit steals, but that’s about all you can count on from Andino … Raburn actually has some interesting power potential as he had a .223 ISO in the minors and owns a .187 mark in the bigs. He gets lumped in with this crew of coals by entering the season in a platoon with Ramon Santiago. Even if he shakes Santiago and earns everyday ABs, he’s not likely to break out. He strikes out often (27.3 K% and .256 BA last year) and is not much of an on-base guy (6.7 BB% in 2011) … Because he posted impressive ISOs in 2009 (.206) and 2010 (.192) with the Giants, Uribe is able to sneak into this tier. Unfortunately, he has a hard time staying healthy, is turning 33 in March, and offers nothing in the way of stolen bases. His power even fell off the map in 2011 (.089 ISO) … Carroll was signed to be Minnesota’s starting shortstop and healthy seasons from the Mauer/ Morneau combo (cue laughter) would provide a boost to his value. Of course, counting stats are what Carroll’s value will hinge on. He has minimal power potential (.089 ISO last year) and doesn’t steal bases.
31. Ruben Tejada
32. Mark Ellis
33. Orlando Hudson
34. Sean Rodriguez
35. Johnny Giavotella
36. Alexi Casilla
Like the Brooklyn Brawlers of the world, these bums are just happy to have a job … Tejada doesn’t strike out often, can get on base, and should have a pretty solid BA (.284 last year). That’s where the positives end. He has no power (.052 ISO last year), provides little speed (just five SBs in 2011), and is part of a weak Mets offense … The 35-year-old Ellis is a shell of his former self. The power seems to be gone (sub-.100 ISOs last two years) and though he recorded 14 steals last year, it marked just the third time in his career he’s notched double-digit SBs. Ellis’ BB% also dipped to 4.2 percent last year and he’s prone to injuries … Orlando “O-Dawg” Hudson stole a career-high 19 bases last year, but it’s clear he’s in a decline. He’s 34 years old and posted career-worst marks in K% (18.5), BA (.246), runs (54), LD% (15.2), and GB% (58.2) last year. You have to hope his SB total stay near 20 for him to have even a modicum of fantasy value … When you are in a position battle with Reid Brignac, things just aren’t going so great on the field. Such is the case with Sean Rodriguez. While he showed impressive power in his minor league career, it has yet to show up in the bigs (career .138 ISO). His struggles with whiffs and looks like a platoon player thanks to his problems facing right-handed pitching (career .212 BA). There’s a reason he has yet to accumulate 450 PAs in a season during his major league career … Giavotella is the likely second baseman for the Royals this year, but he lacks power and speed. Sure he might reach double-digit steals and hit for a decent average (.305 BA in minors), but his upside is lower than a fat girl’s self-esteem … Tsuyoshi Nishioka doesn’t appear to be a threat to Alexi Casilla’s second base gig. That said, Alexi Casilla is a threat to your fantasy roster’s title hopes. It’s possible that he’ll hit near the top of Minnesota’s lineup, but the upside-lacking middle-infielder has reached 400 PAs once during his career and is nothing special.
The “Dollar Menu-aire”
37. Jared Goedert
This guy will literally cost you nothing, but I had to get that “Dollar Menu-aire” joke in anyway. His most obvious path to regular playing time seemed to be 1B, but with the team adding Casy Kotchman and Russ Canzler, Goedert will essentially be hoping for injuries to open up an opportunity for some ABs. If the playing time comes, however, keep an eye on him. He’s shown well above-average power in the minors the last two seasons (.222 ISO in AAA last year).
The “Table Scraps” Triumvirate
38. Tyler Greene/Daniel Descalso
39. Freddy Sanchez
These three? Well, they could be starters, but good luck finding much value here … Descalso and Greene will battle for the second base gig in St. Louis, but neither player is all that interesting. Descalso would be lucky to register double-digit marks in either HRs or SBs with regular playing time. Greene? He’s shown decent power in AAA, but that was in the PCL league. Green’s power wasn’t that great at any other levels of the minors and the fact that he’s turning 29 in August shows he’s not some up-and-coming prospect. Whoever wins this position battle is in for bottom of the lineup duties and has to deal with the loser of the competition (and Skip Schumaker) breathing down their neck … Though he’ll start whenever he’s healthy, Freddy Sanchez is barely a blip on the fantasy radar. He’s played in less than 115 games in each of the last three years, has little power or speed, and is 33 years old. The Giants are not even sure Sanchez will be ready to play by Spring Training and they added Ryan Theriot as insurance.
The “Bench” Bullies
40. Trevor Plouffe
41. Ryan Theriot
42. Matt Downs
43. Maicer Izturis
44. Eric Young Jr.
Sure these guys are starting off the season on the bench, but they all have the ability to be useful if they force their way into an everyday role … Plouffe is a former first-round pick who started showing his power potential in 2010. Last year, he rocked a heavy .319 ISO in AAA (albeit in just 220 PAs). A player with that kind of pop is always interesting, but he’s not without his flaws. The former shortstop is such a butcher in the field that the team announced that he will be only used as an OF and DH going forward. He also struggles to make consistent contact and is a .258 hitter in the minors … Theriot should get a decent number of ABs early in the season as Sanchez may not even be ready to play in the spring. Although Theriot has 20 SB upside and has scored at least 80 runs thrice, he isn’t someone who will have much value even with regular playing time. He owns a career .072 ISO and even saw his SBs dip dramatically in 2011 (just four steals in 483 PAs) … Downs is eligible at 1B, 2B, and 3B. While the multi-position eligibility is nice, it isn’t the chief reason he is on this list. His .241 ISO in 222 PAs last year while filling in around the infield makes Downs a person fantasy owners should know. Granted, he’s 28 and will need an injury to have a shot at being a productive fantasy option. Yet with the Astros in complete rebuilding mode, it makes sense for them to give a player like Downs a shot just to see what they have in him … Though Izturis ended up with 494 PAs last year, he’ll need a catastrophic rash of injuries to the Angels’ infield to even come close to that mark. The team has way too many infielders on the roster. It’s possible that Izturis will get traded at some point, but even if he does, there isn’t much upside here. He has a career .114 ISO and stole just nine bases last year (with six caught stealing’s) … EY2 has always possessed elite speed, but he owns just a .246 BA and has squandered away his opportunities for regular playing time in the past. It’s worth noting, however, that he really doesn’t strike out all that often (16.6 K% last year) and has a knack for getting on base (11.4 BB% in 2011). That kind of plate patience is encouraging and while he still needs a lot of things to break right in 2012 in order for a true breakout to go down, it’s certainly plausible.
The “Don’t Even Think About It” Dunce
45. Brian Roberts
I’m not saying Roberts is necessarily “dumb” by calling him a dunce, but he can’t be the sharpest knife in the utensils drawer with the way his concussion issues have been raping him. The guy couldn’t even make it to Baltimore’s Fan Fest this winter due to the matter, which is pretty disconcerting considering all he’s doing is standing and talking to people. If simple socializing is difficult for Roberts, how the hell can anyone expect this guy to ever make it on a baseball field again? The worse part about his concussion is that it affected his vestibular systems, which run how the mind controls body motions. Roberts was already an injury red flag due to his degenerative back condition, but this concussion issue makes him officially impossible to draft. The only reason he makes this list is so that I can issue this public announcement: stay the fuck away from Brian Roberts.
*Last updated March 19th, 2012.
Thanks for showing some love (pause).
I plan on doing an Advanced Stats Primer to help out readers still new to some of these statistics. Quick rundown on some you may have trouble identifying:
ISO (Isolated Power): Good indicator of a hitter's raw power. Anything below .150 is pretty wack. .170-.180 range could get you high-teens, 20 HRs. .200-range is above average and could net you 25 or more. .230 or more is among the better power hitters. Jose Bautista led all players with an astounding .306 mark last year (second time over .300)
GB%: Ground ball percentage. Good for noticing trends. I.e.- hit more of these in last year or two and you are making worse contact and thus aren't as likely to bounce back.
LD%: Line drive percentage. How many frozen ropes you are hitting. Anything above 20 percent is good. 22 or above is great. Mid-teens or lower is pretty bad, especially if there is a trend.
Any other ones that caught your eye that you'd like to know about?
Another excellent edition. I love me some Cano and/or Phillips if given the choice and in respect to draft position.
Great work, I can't really dispute anything here... Especially since I don't even know what like half the stats even mean.
@Starbonell Those are pretty good. The main one was ISO to be honest. What about for pitchers?
@Starbonell Don't worry, no homo.
And also, thanks for the above. That is very helpful. Look forward to the primer as well!
@CollegeWolf For pitchers, these are my faves:
SwStr%: Swinging Strike percentage. Literally the percentage of pitches a pitcher hurls that induce a swinging strike. A much better indicator of K potential than just K/9
BB/9: Walks per nine innings. Below 3 is where you wanna be. Anything 3.5 or above is entering dangerous WHIP territory.
LD% and GB%: Helps you see what kind of contact a pitcher is giving up. Obviously a high LD% shows that a pitcher is getting laced and could make them a good sell-high candidate
Those are the most key to know for now when researching players. Hope this helps!
@Starbonell Granted, you haven't done pitchers yet... but was just thinking in advance.
@Starbonell Thanks, very helpful! The only one of those I had known already was BB/9.