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Fantasy Baseball 2014: Ranking the Top 25 Second Basemen

Jason CataniaMLB Lead WriterFebruary 21, 2014

Fantasy Baseball 2014: Ranking the Top 25 Second Basemen

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    Jason Kipnis helps fantasy owners with more than just his bat.
    Jason Kipnis helps fantasy owners with more than just his bat.jim mone/Associated Press

    With the top 150 fantasy baseball players all ordered and ranked on the inaugural Big Board, it's time to get into the individual position rankings.

    After providing some sequencing to the first basemen last time out, next up is second base, which consists of a few answers followed by a whole lot of questions. There are three top options owners will have to pay handsomely to acquire, including Robinson Cano, Jason Kipnis (pictured) and Dustin Pedroia.

    After that, thoughwell, good luck. After the top three, there are the aging, past-their-prime vets (Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips and Chase Utley), the promising-but-still-inexperienced youngsters (Jedd Gyorko and Jurickson Profar), the one-category helpers (Jose Altuve) and the always-leave-you-needing-mores (Howie Kendrick and Neil Walker).

    Because so few of those inspire confidence, let's run down the top-25 fantasy second basemen and a few others you should watch.

     

    These rankings consider three factors:

    First, everything is based on 10- or 12-team mixed leagues with standard five-by-five rotisserie scoring (BA, R, HR, RBI, SB for hitters; W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV for pitchers).

    Second, lineup construction accounts for 22 active roster positions consisting of: one each for catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, corner infield, middle infield and utility; along with five outfielders and nine pitchers.

    And third, to be eligible at a particular position, players either must have played at least 20 games there in 2013 or be in line to start there in 2014. Additionally, players are listed in the rankings at the position where their fantasy utility would be most useful.

     

    Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

The Second Base "Watch List"

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Marcus Semien, 2B/3B, White Sox (pictured)

    One of Chicago's better and more big-league ready prospects, the 23-year-old got a brief look last September after hitting 19 homers and posting a .401 OBP in the high minors. Semien has a shot to make the 25-man roster as a utility type, and there is a chance he could overtake Gordon Beckham by midseason.

     

    Nick Franklin, 2B, Mariners

    For now, Franklin, 22, is blocked by Robinson Cano at second and is battling fellow second-year infielder Brad Miller at shortstop. Expect him to gain useful 2B/SS eligibility, which makes him one to watch in case Cano gets hurt or Miller struggles. The average will be low, but there's 15-15 potential here if he is given regular playing time.

     

    Josh Rutledge, 2B, Rockies

    Somebody has to play second for Colorado, and while that might be DJ LeMahieu (.280 BA, 18 SB in 2013), Rutledge at least bears watching. Like Franklin, this 24-year-old profiles to hit for a low average but could approach 15 in both homers and steals over 500 at-bats.

     

    Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Orioles

    The O's top positional prospect, Schoop is in the mix for the second-base gig, along with Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla, meaning there's not much in his way. Still, after missing plenty of 2013 with a back injury, he's likely to start back at Triple-A this season. FYI: his last name is pronounced like the mouthwash.

     

    Tommy La Stella, 2B, Braves

    At 25 and having battled injuries throughout his pro career, La Stella is a fringy prospect—but one who could surprise, nonetheless. He owns a career minor-league slash line of .327/.412/.496, with more walks than whiffs, so if Dan Uggla doesn't get his act together pronto, La Stella could get a look.

Nos. 25-21

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    No. 25: Kelly Johnson, 2B/3B/OF, Yankees

    Johnson gets the nod over Rickie Weeks for this final spot, primarily on the strength of his three-position eligibility, better chance to play every day and better durability. The 31-year-old also is likely to surpass double digits in homers and steals, even if it comes with a .230 average.

     

    No. 24: Gordon Beckham, 2B, White Sox

    This season might very well be the former first-rounder's last opportunity to prove his worth to the White Sox. At 27 and coming off an injury-riddled 2013, during which he hit just .267—his highest average since his rookie year in 2009—there isn't much hope.

     

    No. 23: Scooter Gennett, 2B, Brewers (pictured)

    At 5'10", 180 pounds, Gennett always was a prospect who needed to prove himself. Well, the 23-year-old did show he could play a bit in the majors, hitting .324 with an .834 OPS in 230 plate appearances after a midseason debut in 2013. He won't repeat that output this season, though, and he doesn't have a particular tool to rely on for fantasy. 

     

    No. 22: Dustin Ackley, 2B/OF, Mariners

    Most everything written about Beckham applies to Ackley. The difference? The 25-year-old Ackley has a slightly longer leash in 2014, his first full season as an outfielder. Upon returning to Seattle after a midseason demotion, Ackley did hit .304/.374/.435 over the second half in 2013. Is he a poor man's Martin Prado?

     

    No. 21: Omar Infante, 2B, Royals

    Don't go overrating Infante based on his .318 average last year. He's a perfectly fine middle-infield option in deeper mixed formats, but he's not worth drafting as a starter at second base, even on his new team. He's more of a won't-hurt-you-anywhere type for fantasy. 

     

Nos. 20-16

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    No. 20: Dan Uggla, 2B, Braves

    Seriously? The guy who hit .179 last year and struck out in 31.8 percent of his trips to the dish actually gets a ranking? Yes, because, frankly, the 33-year-old cannot be worse than he was in the batting average department, and he still hit 22 homers, drove in 55 runs and scored 60 times. He's a huge risk, but then again, you won't be drafting him to be anything more than a backup—one who still could start as a middle infielder.

     

    No. 19: Alexander Guerrero, 2B, Dodgers

    This was the toughest player to rank at this position, simply because so much is unknown about the Cuban import who got $28 million from the Dodgers this offseason with the hope that the 27-year-old can be the team's everyday second baseman right away. Indications are that his bat is capable but his defense might be shaky, so let's see how he looks in spring games.

     

    No. 18: Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals

    Wong's indoctrination into the majors didn't go well, as he managed just nine hits in his first 59 at-bats (.153). However, that's a teeny sample size for arguably the game's top second-base prospect, one who is coming off a strong year at Triple-A (.303 BA, 10 HR, 20 SB) and is only 23. Being a Cardinal doesn't hurt, either. He should be a late pick as a potentially solid middle infielder who could help cover at least three categories.

     

    No. 17: Brian Dozier, 2B, Twins

    Dozier has become a semi-popular sleeper on the strength of his surprising 2013 performance; aside from that .244 average, he registered 18 homers, 14 steals, 66 RBI and 72 runs—quality digits from a guy in just his second season who most owners had never heard of. Alas, that's as good as it'll get for Dozier, as he's already 26, has topped 16 steals just once and has never reached double digits in homers in his four minor-league seasons.

     

    No. 16: Anthony Rendon, 2B, Nationals (pictured)

    Rendon, the No. 6 pick in the 2011 draft after a fantastic-if-injury-prone collegiate career at Rice, was nothing special in his first year in D.C., posting a .265/.329/.396 slash line with seven homers, 35 RBI and 40 runs in little more than a half-season. But as long as the 23-year-old can beat out Danny Espinosa this spring and hang onto the starting job plus stay healthy—the latter being a bigger "if" than the former—he has the approach and the bat to rise up the ranks this season.

No. 15: Neil Walker, 2B, Pirates

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .251 BA, 62 R, 16 HR, 53 RBI, 1 SB (551 PA)

     

    One gets the feeling that if Neil Walker could only play 150 games, he might put up quite the fantasy season, particularly in the power production categories—you know, for a second baseman.

    Trouble is, the 28-year-old has managed only 133 and 129 outings the past two years, respectively, due to various maladies. Hence, he's stuck in that fantasy netherworld between what is and what could be.

    If granted a full slate of games (or thereabouts), the switch-hitting Walker has the oomph to reach 20 home runs and 30 doubles, which likely would put him among the leaders at the keystone in RBI and perhaps even runs scored, too.

    Oh, and it actually might help if he were to stop trying to hit from the right side, as he hasn't hit one out from that batter's box since 2011.

No. 14: Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .297 BA, 55 R, 13 HR, 54 RBI, 6 SB (513 PA)

     

    For many a fantasy owner, Howie Kendrick feels like the ultimate fool-me-47-times player.

    Now 30, Kendrick has essentially been the player the above stats show over the past five years, and yet, there are those who will treat him like he's more than what he is. To wit, from 2009-2013, Kendrick has averaged the following: .287 BA, 65 R, 12 HR, 64 RBI and 12 SB. Some years, he does a little more; others, a little less.

    But for one reason or another—first his top-prospect pedigree, then his prime years and, most recently, the big-name additions to the Angels lineup—Kendrick is often a target of owners with high hopes, which never quite come to fruition.

    You know, unless it happens this season.

     

No. 13: Jurickson Profar, 2B

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    Jim Cowsert/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .234 BA, 30 R, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 2 SB (324 PA)

     

    If you owned Jurickson Profar in 2013—the consensus No. 1-overall minor-league prospect heading into the seasonthere's a good chance you won't own him in 2014.

    That's how rough a go it was as a rookie for this Ranger, who hurt fantasy teams more than he helped, even when he did make it into the lineup, which was only sporadically. The recent news that shoulder tendinitis could limit Profar well into spring training, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, doesn't do him any favors, either.

    And yet, there's still way more than a little to like here. After all, the switch-hitting Profar did actually produce while he was blazing his way to the bigs, showing solid batting averages around .280 as well as 15-homer pop and 20-steal speed.

    Also, Profar just turned 21 this week, and with Ian Kinsler out of the way, he'll be the everyday second-sacker for a very formidable offense in a very hitter-friendly ballpark. Don't be that owner who was a year early.

     

No. 12: Aaron Hill, 2B, Diamondbacks

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .291 BA, 45 R, 11 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB (362 PA)

     

    Hey, remember the time that Aaron Hill hit .302 with 93 runs, 26 homers, 85 RBI and 14 steals? That was awesome. It was also only two seasons ago, yet it feels like, oh, at least three or four.

    A fractured left hand caused by an HBP in mid-April more or less wrecked Hill's 2013 season, as he subsequently missed 63 games and didn't make it back until June 25. When he did return, the soon-to-be 32-year-old wasn't himself until he started to get his swing and strength back in August, after which he hit .302 with six homers in 202 plate appearances.

    That makes him tough to evaluate heading into 2014, but there's considerable upside here, even for a guy who also posted a .660 OPS across 2010 and 2011 just before his career year in 2012.

No. 11: Daniel Murphy, 2B, Mets

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    H. RUMPH JR/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .286 BA, 92 R, 13 HR, 78 RBI, 23 SB (697 PA)

     

    Just when owners thought they had Daniel Murphy pegged, he went and turned his profile as a hollow high-average hitter on its head.

    The 28-year-old batted a solid .286 last year, which wasn't out of character. His double-digit homer total, whopping 92 runs and out-of-nowhere 23 steals, though, were all surprises. Of course, it helped a lot that Murphy was able to reach a new career high in plate appearances, which helped him compile some of those numbers.

    On one hand, the Mets lineup should be improved in 2014, which could help Murphy. On the other hand, it's easy enough to see him falling back some in runs scored and, especially, stolen bases. He finished—get this—second and third in those categories, respectively, at the position last year.

    Any noticeable drop-off in either area could turn Murphy right back into a middle infield option rather than a starter-worthy second baseman.

No. 10: Jedd Gyorko, 2B, Padres

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .249 BA, 62 R, 23 HR, 63 RBI, 1 SB (525 PA)

     

    Who hit the second-most home runs among second basemen last year? Yep, that'd be this guy, Jedd Gyorko, who did so at age 24 and in his very first exposure to the majors. Oh, and he missed 30 games due to injury smack dab in the middle of the season, too.

    In other words, if you're searching for a mid-round power option at 2B or MI, here's your man.

    Gyorko offers no speed, and his batting average wasn't pretty in 2013, but then again, he was a career .321-hitter in the minors who also showed pretty good contact skills and plate discipline.

    The Padres lineup is still middle-of-the-road, at best, and Petco Park won't help either. As a result, Gyorko's runs and RBI totals might be depressed a bit this year. But, hey, at least we know he can drive himself in quite a bit.

No. 9: Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros

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    Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .283 BA, 64 R, 5 HR, 52 RBI, 35 SB (672 PA)

     

    Jose Altuve—all 65 inches of him—has come up rather large by comparison in fantasy.

    What the diminutive second baseman lacks in power, he makes up for in speed. Only 23 years old, Altuve has played two full seasons in the majors, and after swiping 33 bases in 2012, he pilfered another 35 last year. If you'll forgive the irony, that's money in the bank in the form of thievery.

    The big risk with Altuve, though, is that the Astros lineup is so bad at producing runs that it's even hard for the guy who spends most of his time batting first or second in the order to cross home plate with as much frequency as would otherwise be expected. To wit, Altuve managed a solid 80 runs in 2012 but followed that up with a mere 64 last season.

    As long as the average and steals remain steadyand they shouldAltuve is a fantasy starter at second.

No. 8: Martin Prado, 2B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .282 BA, 70 R, 14 HR, 82 RBI, 3 SB (664 PA)

     

    In the first half of his first season in the desert, Martin Prado's production was as dry as the air.

    The 30-year-old eight-year vet, who was part of the package that was traded for Justin Upton, hit just .253 with a .668 OPS prior to the break.

    After? Well, that was a different story: he produced a .324/.374/.490 slash line—that's an .864 OPS—as well as nearly as many runs (33 to 36) and way more RBI (48 to 34) in more than 100 fewer plate appearances.

    Prado's offensive profile is more good than great for fantasy, but he's a very helpful hitter who not only compiles stats because he makes lots of contact, but also because he possesses pop.

    Oh, and his versatility makes him eligible at three spots, which enhances his value. He's like an interchangeable screwdriver for your roster.

No. 7: Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .284 BA, 73 R, 18 HR, 69 RBI, 8 SB (531 PA)

     

    After years of knee injuries, Chase Utley played 131 games in 2013, his most since he was still in his prime back in 2009.

    Now 35, Utley's production is a far cry from what it was then, but he's still among the best fantasy second basemen when he does play. His upside this coming season is probably a repeat of last year's effort, which means at this stage of his career, the upside is limited and his owners would be wise to snag a backup to plug in for his inevitable DL stint.

    It's hard to ignore a hitter who will help, or at least pitch in, in all five categories, and that's what Utley will do—even now.

No. 6: Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds

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    John Sommers II/Getty Images

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .261 BA, 80 R, 18 HR, 103 RBI, 5 SB (666 PA)

     

    Look, it's no secret that Brandon Phillips has his flaws as a hitterhis aggressive approach chief among them, as his .310 OBP last year proves.

    But in the fantasy realm, Phillips is still pretty darn dependable, having played at least 140 games in each of the past eight seasons and consistently knocking 18-20 homers and scoring 80-plus runs.

    Last season's career-high 103 RBI—which ranked second at the position—is going to come down without Shin-Soo Choo hitting atop the Reds lineup. Plus, the 32-year-old's stolen base totals have been trending the wrong way for four straight seasons now, down to a career-low five in 2013. Phillips' days as a 20-20 stud are over.

    Still, even with the flaws and the decline, Phillips remains a fantasy starter and borderline top-five option at a weak position.

No. 5: Ian Kinsler, 2B, Tigers

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .277 BA, 85 R, 13 HR, 72 RBI, 15 SB (614 PA)

     

    Like the two keystoners who precede him in these ranks, Ian Kinsler is closer to the cliff than his peak. But just as Utley and Phillips remain functioning fantasy starters, so does this 31-year-old Kinsler.

    A stress fracture to his rib cage cost Kinsler 25 games from mid-May to mid-June and then hindered him throughout. He did, though, recover enough to do a little something in all five categories, showing he should be able to do as much again in 2014.

    There may be a little more risk here than in the past, given that Kinsler is starting over with a new squad and in a less hitter-friendly park, but it's not as if he left the Texas Rangers for the Minnesota Twins. The Detroit Tigers lineup is strong, and Kinsler could very well see some time at the leadoff spot, which would pump up his run total, and perhaps even his steal total as well.

    Again, this isn't the Kinsler who used to be a second-round get in fantasy, but there are plenty of reasons to expect yet another quality campaign from a guy who contributes in every aspect of the game and is younger than both Utley and Phillips.

No. 4: Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B, Cardinals

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .318 BA, 126 R, 11 HR, 78 RBI, 3 SB (717 PA)

     

    For a moment, just stop, check out those first two stats and appreciate them for what they were in 2013—the ninth-highest batting average in baseball and the highest runs scored total in the game.

    Have you finished your moment of appreciation? Good, because this is all about 2014, and it's all but guaranteed that Carpenter won't be that outstanding in both areas all over again.

    That's not to say he won't be a valuable fantasy presence in your lineup—and hey, eligibility at two infield positions always helps—but the 28-year-old is more steady than sexy. When the average and, especially, the runs dip, there isn't as much to fall back on here, as Carpenter is more of an into-the-gaps hitter than an over-the-wall one, and he possesses next to no speed.

    Hitting leadoff for the Cardinals, which Carpenter should do again, will help keep him firmly in starter territory, as he'll get plenty of chances to compile counting stats.

No. 3: Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .301 BA, 91 R, 9 HR, 84 RBI, 17 SB (724 PA)

     

    That Dustin Pedroia led the AL in plate appearances speaks to his ability to persevere; he did so despite tearing a ligament in his left thumb on Opening Day last year, an injury that eventually required offseason surgery.

    No wonder Pedroia's numbers, particularly in the power department, tailed off in the second half, as he hit .279 with a .721 OPS after the break, compared to .316 and .832 before. The 30-year-old also tacked on 16 more games last October as the Red Sox went on to win the World Series.

    Now three months into his recovery, Pedroia says he's feeling back to normal, per Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. That's good to hear, and owners eyeing Laser Show would do well to check in on him once games begin, just to make sure.

    Assuming a full return to health, Pedroia is one of the elites at this position.

No. 2: Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians

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    David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .284 BA, R, 17 HR, 84 RBI, 30 SB (658 PA)

     

    If fantasy owners are lucky, Jason Kipnis' third full season will be a lot like his second, which was—funny enough—uncannily similar to his first.

    Compared to 2013, the 26-year-old scored exactly the same number of runs, hit just three fewer homers, drove in only eight fewer runs and actually swiped one more base in 2012. The biggest year-over-year difference was in the batting average, which spiked nearly 30 points.

    A lot of that was due to a BABIP that jumped from .291 to .345, which may or may not be repeatable for Kipnis. He is a speedy runner who should be able to maintain fairly high averages when he puts the ball in play.

    Aside from that, there are two other things to watch with Kipnis. First, for whatever reason, he's proven to be a significantly better first-half performer in each of his two full years. And second, he smushed a whole heck of a lot of his production last season into just two months; across May and June, he hit .333 with a 1.039 OPS as well as 11 of his 17 homers and also compiled 14 of his 30 steals.

    In the other four months, Kipnis' OPS never topped .761, and he combined for just six home runs and 16 swipes.

    That's a lot of parsing, but it points out that he tends to be streaky rather than consistent. In the end, though, the numbers should be there to make him a worthwhile second- or third-round selection in a 10- or 12-team league.

No. 1: Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    2013 Fantasy Stats: .314 BA, 81 R, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 7 SB (681 PA)

     

    Some folks are down on Robinson Cano now that he's up and left the New York Yankees and gone off to the less offensively inclined Seattle Mariners in the Pacific Northwest. Could be their loss.

    Look, anyone who claims there are no concerns with Cano in his new digs and amid his new teammates would be kidding themselves. Safeco Field is tough on hitters, and the M's offense over the past handful of years has been, well, offensive—and not in the good way.

    Still, Safeco masks right-handed power more than left-handed, per StatCorner, so the lefty-swinging Cano at least has that. Plus, even if his four-baggers fall by a few, the 31-year-old has always been a doubles machine, smacking an average—yes, average—of 42 per season over his nine-year career.

    Will Cano be facing expected drops in his run and RBI totals due to a subdued Mariners lineup? Yes, but then again, the 2013 Yankeeswith all their injuries resulting in a MASH-unit batting orderweren't exactly much better than the M's in terms of runs (650 versus 624) and actually sported a lower team OPS (.683 to .695).

    Don't go expecting some massive downturn in Cano's output just because he's now in Seattle. He's got the goods to maintain his spot as the No. 1 fantasy second baseman, and the dude plays every day; he's averaged—get this—160 games per since 2007.

    The bigger issue is whether he's still worthy of a first-round pick. That question, though, depends on how any individual owner prefers to start building a roster. Taking Cano, who offers consistent production, durability and an elite, power-based skill set that is unique to his position isn't a bad way to go.

     

    Here are the fantasy rankings at other positions:

    Catchers

    First Basemen

     

    To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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