January 24, 2017
Fantasy Tiered Rankings
To read the previous editions in this series, follow the links below:
Today, our positional tiered rankings series continues with a look at second base.
Five-star players are the studs at their position. In general, they are the players who will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and will fetch mixed-league auction bids over $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late-round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year's values but rather offer insight into what we expect will happen in 2017.
Positional eligibility for the series is determined by 20 games or more at a position in the majors, with priority determined using the following order: catcher, shortstop, second base, third base, outfield, and first base, and designated hitter. Designated hitters are ranked with first basemen. Players who played fewer than 20 games at a position in the majors are ranked at the position they played most frequently. Players who did not play in the majors in 2016 are ranked at the position they played most in the minors. Although Jean Segura played 142 games at second base in 2016, he also played 23 games at shortstop and will appear in that section of this series.
Dollar values come from last year's PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players' dollar values.
Players whose game revolves around speed and batting average historically don’t get the respect they deserve in fantasy, and for years Altuve has been no exception. In 2016, he added an additional dimension of power to his repertoire, and is now a true five-category player. He is a fantasy baseball unicorn: the first-round pick who might be slightly undervalued. His current ADP ties Altuve for third overall, but he has a legitimate chance to be the best player at the end of 2017. At his position, he stands head and shoulders above the pack. Second base is thicker than it has been in years, but talent trumps positional theory with Altuve. Draft him with confidence.
Five-Star Value Pick: Jose Altuve
You must go all the way back to 1929 to find three second basemen who qualified for the batting title and hit .338 or higher. Although AVG is perennially undervalued, the other side of this coin is that fantasy teams want to be careful not to overpay for a one-year anomaly. Murphy bested his previous high in batting average by 27 points, so while he has always been a positive contributor in the category (his career AVG is .296) it is asking a great deal to anticipate a repeat performance. Murphy’s recurring lower body injuries (he has missed time three of the last four seasons with gluteus, calf, and hamstring ailments) will limit his steals and do make him a moderate injury risk. Something no one can question is his newfound ability to hit for power. The adjustments Kevin Long made when Murphy was a Met stuck, and the power is legitimate.
Gordon’s numbers were down in part because of an 80-game PED suspension but primarily because his batting average fell off a cliff. As awesome as his 60-steal potential is in any format, Gordon will be a marginal player in standard mixed leagues if he can’t resuscitate that batting average. It is impossible to know what impact if any PEDs were having on Gordon’s performance, but his soft contact rate was much higher last year. Turner is the other known unknown in the four-star tier, but in a much more fun way. If Turner can maintain even 80 percent of his 2016 pace he’ll easily join Altuve in the five-star tier. He has the potential to be a fantasy monster, and even if the batting average drops considerably, there is enough power in Turner’s profile that he will still have plenty of value.
After two seasons in Seattle where his home runs dropped, Cano went back to hitting like he did with the Yankees, topping his career high in home runs and finishing with the second highest ISO of his career. Cano’s durability gives him four-star value even if the power drops off somewhat or if he starts showing his age (34), as he has missed a grand total of 26 games in the last 10 years. Even though he doesn’t steal bases anymore, Cano could push his way into the five-star tier if he can get his batting average up to .310 or higher again.
Four-Star Value Pick: DJ LeMahieu
Kinsler and Kipnis put up similar stat lines in 2016 except for runs, where Kinsler trounced Kipnis. Kinsler is one of those odd players whose stat line fluctuates a good deal from year to year, so while his 28 home runs were great it is difficult to count on the same power production from a hitter who hadn’t cleared 20 home runs since 2011. After back-to-back years with diminished power, Kipnis finally put together a campaign where he stayed healthy and provided both power and speed. Kipnis is in his prime and likely to maintain this level of performance, but an additional spike in power based on his batted-ball profile probably isn’t in the cards.
Three Star Value Pick: Dustin Pedroia
Most of the players in this tier are solid, but all of them are deficient in at least one area of their game. There isn’t a breakout candidate in the two-star tier; the younger players project out as solid performers, not superstars. Schoop and Hernandez have emerged as reliable mainstays, but there isn’t a 20-home run performance lurking in Hernandez nor a 20-steal season hidden within Schoop. These players are who they are.
The power spike that has impacted all of baseball is prominently on display at second in this tier. 2015 saw several 10-15 home run options in the three-star tier. In 2016, the two-star tier is littered with players who can deliver 20 or more home runs. Walker could hit 30 home runs in a full season, but back injuries do tend to linger so it is judicious to keep him in this tier.
If you’re looking for players who could exceed their 2016 earnings, Travis is intriguing. He has .300 AVG, 15 home run, 10 steal potential but hasn’t been able to stay on the field for a full season. Six hundred plate appearances from Travis could go a long way for his fantasy teams. Zobrist might lose some at bats to Javier Baez, but it is more likely that Zo shifts to the other positions on the diamond and makes up the playing time elsewhere. Castro’s power boost was primarily a product of Yankee Stadium, but it’s not like he or the Yankees are moving, so another 20 home run season is possible. Forsythe isn’t highly regarded by many fantasy analysts, but all he has done the last two seasons is hit.
Two Star Value Pick: Brett Lawrie
Because players who are eligible at short and second are included at shortstop in this series, the very bottom of the second base pool is thin. This is particularly true in AL-only, where the options at the very end of your auctions will be close to non-existent. We briefly discussed including Derek Dietrich in the one-star tier. If you are in a mixed league, he is a better reserve flier than either Mondesi or Lowrie. Even more than Dietrich, Albies is the guy to get in standard mixed leagues. Even if Albies never sees the light of day in 2016, you can probably find a two-star player in your free agent pool in 10 or 12-team mixed.
Wong is penciled in as part of a platoon as second base with Jhonny Peralta, but after another subpar season Won runs the risk of either riding the pine or being demoted to Triple-A. The stolen base potential still makes Wong someone to watch in fantasy, and he is young enough that a resurgence is not out of the question. Another possibility is that Aledmys Diaz slips, Peralta moves back to short and Wong finds his way back into regular at bats.
Of the boring options in the one-star tier, give me Josh Harrison. He narrowly missed 20 steals last year, isn’t that far removed from his 2014 breakout campaign, and isn’t even 30 yet. This is all damning with the faintest of praise, but hey, it’s the one-star tier! I’m dying here! I’ve run out of things to say about Josh Harrison but I get paid by the word and by the exclamation point! (Editor’s Note: no he does not)
One-Star Value Pick: Joe Panik