The second base position is definitely the deeper of the two middle infield positions, having solid options even if you miss out on the elite players. So if you wait on the position there are many options. You have solid players like Neil Walker, steady veterans like Howie Kendrick, and guys who are high-risk, high-reward like Kolton Wong and Jedd Gyroko all outside the top 10. Still I’d try to get one of these guys in the top 10.
- Robinson Cano. This didn’t take much work, as he’s been the number one option for five years or so now and that probably won’t change this year. He’s the only first-round option at second base and provides you with great value at the position. He didn’t miss a beat in his first season in Seattle either. He couldn’t really control his RBIs going down, but this year he will have better protection in Seager and Cruz and better guys to get on in front of him like Austin Jackson. His power was expected to dip in SAFECO, but a small rebound to 20 homers doesn’t seem unreasonable. Cano is easily the best hitter at the position and you know you’ll get a solid year from him. He’s 32 so no decline is really expected and if you’re in an OBP league, he’s even more valuable
- Jose Altuve. Altuve has always had doubts with his size, but size doesn’t matter when you can smack the ball like he does. He’s a legitimate second rounder because of his stolen bases. He’s a great hitter so I would expect another .300 season, but if you’re expecting .340 again, don’t bank on that. He’s going to hit close to 10 homers thanks to playing his games in Houston, but you aren’t drafting him for his power. He’s a top of the order hitter so you can bet that he’ll get you runs and average and steal around 40 bases for you. He could do even more than that too, but I’m not guaranteeing a batting and stolen base title repeat. He’s only 25 and his team’s getting better, so those are even more positives. Also his wOBA was an insane .383 last year, so there’s really no questioning that he can sustain decent success. He’s a low-risk option in the second round and you know exactly what you’re getting.
- Ian Kinsler. Traded for Prince Fielder last year, many didn’t know exactly what to expect from Ian as he was coming off an injury-riddled 2013 and leaving the only home park he knew, which favored hitters, to a more neutral Comerica. He proceeded to hit 17 homers with 92 RBI and 15 stolen bases. His second-half slump brought his average down to .275 and the fact that his walks took a deep decline last year is bit concerning, but Kinsler has talent, and even at 33 he will provide you with a solid all-around season at third. Since fantasy baseball is mostly counting stats, Kinsler benefits from playing in arguably the best AL line-up. His runs and RBI should stay inflated. The Tigers are attempting many steals thus far in spring and he’s not the 30-30 Kinsler from four years ago, but it looks as if 10-15 steals isn’t out of the question. The red flags are a low OBP and low wOBA on top of his age. He might decline a bit in 2015, but he also could take a few more walks and hit .285 and be back to normal. Even if he declines he’s the clear cut number three at second and a solid pick in the third/fourth round of deeper league.
- Ben Zobrist. Zobrist was traded from Tampa to Oakland this offseason, but that shouldn’t affect his numbers a ton. Obviously with Zobrist you’re getting a good player and a guy you can put almost anywhere in your line-up and get solid production even though he’s declined some in the past few seasons. He’s sustained solid indicators and despite being 34, I’m willing to bet he will have another solid season. The numbers won’t be flashy, probably 15 homers, 10 steals and .275 average, but you’d be surprised at the value of just being above average and being able to play pretty much every position. It helps you in real life and in fantasy baseball. If he’s still sticking around in the fifth round, he’s worth the pick.
- Dustin Pedroia. The former 2007 AL ROY and 2008 AL MVP fell on tough times in 2014. You can look at the stats, but they aren’t telling you that he played through a wrist injury that was messing with his swing. He’s going to benefit from hitting around better hitters and full health in 2015, and at 31 there’s no reason why he can’t return to being a top 5 fantasy second baseman. In a way he’s kind of like Altuve, only slower and with more power. The comparison is easy to make because we are talking about two really small guys that are great hitters. He will hit for a lower average and steal less than a fourth of the bases Altuve does though. He’s probably going to score a little more and hit a few more dingers and get more RBIs. So he’s not as good as Altuve at this point, but he could fill in just fine if you miss out on him. He could be a steal if he’s picked too late, but also don’t pick Pedroia in the first few rounds.
- Dee Gordon. I’m going to borrow Marshawn Lynch’s now-famous quote and modify it for Gordon: “You know why Dee’s here.” Because he steals bases. After the Dodgers rushed him probably too quickly to the majors, he made some adjustments before 2014 and became a dream leadoff hitter last year having a .326 OBP and stealing 64 bases to get on second for Gonzalez, Kemp, and Puig. The Dodgers don’t think he’s ever going to do as well as that again and basically traded him for Howie Kendrick and a few extra pieces (and to dump Dan Haren and his salary). I agree with LA: Gordon definitely found his swing and is a good hitter, but he slowed down after a fast start and he’s probably more of a .270 hitter. Still, as long as you get on a decent amount, the steals will pile up and now the best power hitter in baseball will be waiting to drive him in. 50 steals is reachable hitting .270 and drawing walks, and that gives you a huge advantage in an important 5×5 category.
- Chase Utley. When I started playing fantasy baseball, Utley was the top second baseman and a top 5 pick. Now he’s declining and 36 years old. Still Utley plays in Philadelphia and he could challenge 20 homers. He’s still an above average hitter and his indicators, such as a .339 OBP and .325 wOBA suggest he’s still above average and got some left in the tank. ZIPS projection system has Utley declining to only 12 homers and a .259 batting average in 2015, and though I think he can do better than that, you have to be careful drafting a 36-year-old with an injury history. Utley is a solid option still but make sure you’re drafting someone decent behind him and not over-drafting him.
- Brian Dozier. Dozier had a solid 2013 and surprised everyone by showing some power. In 2014, he started off hot and ended with 23 homers. He has some of the best power at the second base position and could be a 20-20 again, but don’t expect a repeat of 112 runs or an average above .250. If he could hit better, he’d be a top-5 second baseman very easily. He has a solid OBP and wOBA too but he looks due for a bit of regression in 2015. Still a solid option if you missed out on the top two tiers.
- Javier Baez. Baez is a guy that you could write a long article about arguing why he’s going to be good and then arguing why he’s going to flop. Let’s start with two things we know: 1. Baez has a great ability and if he can reach his potential he’s going to be very, very good; and 2. Even if he plays horribly in 2015, he’s not going to be a bust. His 2014 basically showed what he is right now. At times, he showed flashes of greatness with his majestic homers and great games, but most of the time he had a hole in his swing and struck out and ended below the Mendoza line. This year I’d expect a guy who will be learning on the job, which means you’ll probably be getting a streaky hitter. He swung and missed at a high rate, so the Cubs will be helping him make adjustments and there’s no doubt that when he’s hot, he will go off, but at times I expect him to struggle. In 2015 he’s risky, but he could have a very bright future if he figures it all out. I’d expect a .230 average and 25 to 30 homers in 2015 and the math agrees as ZIPS projects him at .233 with 30 home runs
- Jason Kipnis. He’s confusing to figure out. A .284 season is followed up .240 seasons. I think he’s somewhere in between. His BABIP was kind of low last season, but his wOBA doesn’t do him any favors. He’s a solid option still though even at .260 because he has power and will probably steal 25 bases. You could even get rewarded by him if he repeats his 2013 success.
Post-Hype Sleeper: Nick Franklin
Bust: Brandon Phillips
Overvalued: Joe Panik
Top Hitter: Cano
Top Power: Baez
Top Stolen Base Threat: Gordon (Altuve is close though; led AL in steals in 2014)
Breakout Threat: Baez, Kolten Wong
Top Prospects: Jose Peraza, Devon Travis, Rob Refsnyder