Second base is one of the more scarce positions in fantasy baseball. There is some good top end talent with Atluve and Dee Gorden in addition to Robinson Cano who will look to prove his second half was not a mirage. There isn’t much power available with Brian Dozier looking like the only one who will crack 25 home runs. Ian Kinsler and Ben Zobrist are two veterans that don’t look like they’ve slowed down much. From Addison Russell to Kolten Wong, youth at second could provide ample value. This list uses some advanced statistics to provide evidence. For those that do not know these stats, I recommend you head over to the FanGraphs Glossary. You can also comment; I will be happy to explain the stats in general. Personally, I prefer tiers to rankings because between a certain range (it could be 1-3, or 1-10), players are relatively similar and equal in value. At the same time, I also added rankings based on tiers if you prefer that. Due to time restraints, I will be only gping over the top 20 in depth.
- Jose Altuve: Altuve followed up his great 2014 season with a strong 2015 showcasing power potential many didn’t think he possessed. Altuve looks to have made a concerted effort to hit more home runs as his pull % increased for the second consecutive season. This doesn’t help his average as he doesn’t spray the ball around as much. Altuve’s strikeout percentage went up slightly as he missed the ball outside the zone. Unfortunately, with regression to his ISO and HR/FB%, Altuve will likely hit between 7-12 home runs and I believe his power has peaked. Altuve provides lots of stolen bases and a strong average will lead to many runs. Altuve is the best second basemen and a consensus top 20 pick.
- Dee Gordon: Dee Gordon is arguably the second best base stealer in baseball and will provide plenty in the increasingly rare stolen base category. His BABIP at .383 will be coming down but Gordon should still be able to hit around .290 – .300. Gordon is almost a lock for 50 stolen bases as long as he plays the full year. The runs will come. With bouncebacks from Marcell Ozuna and Yelich hopefully being more consistent throughout the year, 100 runs is more possible than ever although he likely finishes ten shy of that mark. Gordon will excel in three categories, making him a top second baseman.
- 3. Robinson Cano: Robbie Cano had a poor first half as he battled a stomach illness but his second half was one of the best in the league as he finished the year batting .287 with 21 home runs, The move to Safeco Field in addition to being older has stifled some of his power. Cano’s second half ISO was somewhat higher than his career and slightly higher than his final season with the Yankees. With the generation of more groundballs than the average hitter, Cano’s not likely to hit 25 or more home runs. Cano’s average flyball distance returned to the 290 range after being 278 feet in 2014. This suggests a return to his strength and ability to hit doubles and home runs. This is also evident in his hard hit percentage rising to his career average from last season. Cano had his lowest batting average since 2008. This is likely due to a few different factors. The injury he battled in the first half may have hampered his ability to hit the ball as well as he would have liked. The BABIP was slightly below career average. He struck out more during the first half but the second half strikeout rate was still way above his career average. This could be due to a change in approach or some more signs of decline as he made contact on balls outside the zone at the lowest rate of his career. Cano has shown positive signs with the home run totals returning but also negative signs as he struck out more. The lineup around him will be better and should be able to put up a good season, but there are some warning signs.
- Brian Dozier: Dozier has been consistent the past two seasons. His pull heavy approach has helped him reach 20+ home runs for the past two seasons. Batting atop the Twins lineup, Dozier has amassed 100 + runs the previous two years. With the addition of Byung Ho-Park and Miguel Sano entering the year from the start, Dozier very well could score 100 runs (although expecting 90 is a safer bet). Dozier is a better player in OBP leagues. His heavy pull approach results in him ending up with a lot of easy outs leading to an average around .240. His second half slump will scare some. Part of this was due to a higher strikeout rate and a lower BABIP but he also hit more groundballs than his career average. Dozier is a solid option at second providing a good power + speed combo. His will likely once again steal just over ten bases while providing 20 home runs.
- Ian Kinsler: Ian Michael Kinsler looks to be a safer pick at second. Really, you could put him as high as three on this list. He provides production in each of the five main categories. He strikes out well below league average evidenced by his career 11.7% strikeout rate. His ISO the past three years has been fairly consistent and he is a lock for 10-15 homers. The line drive rate soared last year to 25% and increased his BABIP to its highest mark since 2008. This inevitably led to his highest batting average since 2008. With regression here, Kinsler should be able to hit .275 and with a stronger Tigers lineup, he stands a good chance to obtain 90 runs. It will be important to see if Kinsler can improve upon his walk rate. 2014 was a career low, and 2015 showed some improvement. Kinsler is top five second baseman.
- Anthony Rendon: The key for Rendon will be to stay healthy. I can understand staying away as he, well, is almost never healthy. But when he is, you are getting a good player. He’s high risk, high reward. In limited time, his BABIP was a career high but he hit only .264. This may be due to more balls in play that were groundballs. His ISO also fell. With some regression here, Rendon likely tops out at 15 home runs. He struck out more but he walked more as well. Rendon really is a mixed bag. There are positive signs, yet there are also some negative signs. He still makes good enough contact that he can carry an average closer to .290 than .260. If he bats in front of Bryce Harper, he could end up with a lot of runs. Really, this is a high risk-high reward type of scenario. I’m banking on him staying healthy for the majority of the season, and I can’t fault anyone who is staying away. I think he can bat .285, with 15 home runs, with a bunch of runs. As for the steals, the 17 look to be an anomaly. He may have the highest ceiling of any second baseman.
- Rougned Odor: It’s too bad his hype has gotten to the point where he is no longer considered a sleeper. At only 22 years of age, Odor has the potential to be a top 3 second baseman as he combines a nice blend of power and speed with a league average batting. In the minors, he has shown he can hit well. In AA and AAA, Odor showed strong batting skills. He also showed some decent power potential with his ISO in AA being .197.5. Odor hit 16 home runs in 120 games as he crushed the ball in the second half. His .273 average wasn’t propelled by a high BABIP either. He hit more flyballs and pulled the ball leading to more home runs. There’s a lot to like about Rougned. His league average strikeout rate at 22 years old is special. He has had a depressed line drive rate at 15% thus far in his career. League average line drive rate is around 21%. He is a good bet to hit .270 and contribute 15 home runs. He has some decent speed (5-10 SB), and will be in a positon to gather ample runs and a decent number of RBIs. It’s too bad everyone knows about him.
- DJ LeMahieu: LeMahieu had a career year in 2015. Don’t expect a repeat but in my opinion, he should have another good year. His .301 average represented a career high. This was fueled by a career high .362 BABIP. His career average BABIP is a .340 so the BABIP isn’t really a big anomaly except that in his two full seasons, the BABIP averages .325. Regression should be expected and that will plummet LeMahieu’s average closer to .290. Line drive rate tends to fluctuate year to year. A line drive rate of 27%, 20.5%, and 26% are LeMahieu’s line drive rate since 2013. Due to him being above average in this category, this is a positive indicator for LeMahieu sustaining success and an above average BABIP. He also sprays the ball all over the field. Over the past two seasons, no qualified batter has hit the ball to the opposite part of the field as much as LeMahieu. He’s 27th in contact percentage over this time and having an above average groundball rate helps him maintain a high average. Moreover, only Howie Kendrick and Christian Yelich have a lower popup rate than DJ. LeMahieu stole a career high 23 bases. His stolen base success percentage was 88%. Excluding 2015, his career stolen base success percentage is 76%, very close to league average. LeMahieu looks to be good for 15-20 stolen bases and any more is just icing on the cake. LeMahieu hit a career high six home runs and saw his average flyball distance jump to 290 feet from 275 the year before. With a low flyball rate, don’t expect anything more than five home runs. For the third consecutive season, we saw DJ’s walk rate improve as he hasn’t been swinging outside of the zone as he did earlier in his career. The beauty of DJ lies in where he will be hitting: COORS! That right there is a reason to be intrigued. For the record though, DJ actually hit better away from Coors this past season when going by wRC+. In addition, there isn’t a better candidate to bat atop the Rockies lineup. The batters hitting after him include Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, and Gerardo Parra. This means there will be lots of run scoring opportunities for DJ. The Rockies second baseman combines a strong bat eye to hit above average and has good speed. There are enough aspects of his game to like that he could very well finish amongst the top ten second baseman in 2016.
- Jason Kipnis: Let’s get it out of the way: Jason Kipnis is the safe DJ LeMahieu. Or is LeMahieu the risky Kipnis. Anyway, Kipnis didn’t have to deal with injuries in 2015 and played pretty well. The first thing that jumps out is the BABIP. He had a high BABIP in 2013 and his career batting average on balls in play is .320. His line drive rate was once again above league average and this is a trend he has had during his career. It was a career high this season and he distributed the ball more evenly across the diamond. So while there are encouraging signs, his average did drop in the second half due to a regression in BABIP amongst other factors. Kipnis will likely see his average drop and it will likely range between .275-.290. Kipnis saw his ISO return to career numbers making it likely he could hit 10-15 home runs this season. He also cut down his strikeout rate to 2012 levels which is another positive sign. As for the steals, Kipnis had a 60% stolen base success percentage. Excluding 2015, his success percentage is 84%. His speed score was fairly similar to his previous three seasons. With some better baserunning or some luck, Kipnis can steal 15-20 bases. He will bat atop the Indians lineup and will score plenty runs.
- Dustin Pedroia: Dustin Pedroia failed to amass 400 at bats for the first time since 2010. In his 93 games, Pedroia looked pretty good hit .291 with 12 home runs and 2 stolen bases. Now at 32, it isn’t realistic to expect Pedroia to steal bases in the double digits. Over the full course of the season, around 5 is fairly realistic as he stole 6 in 2014 and was on pace for 4 last year. As I mentioned earlir, Pedroia hit 12 home runs. His HR/FB% was four percentage points above his career mark and five percentage points higher than his 2012-2014 average. After three seasons of a decreasing ISO, Pedroia managed an ISO slightly above his career mark. I believe 2015 was somewhat of anomaly and Pedroia will regress here. Over the course of a full season, 10-15 home runs are realistic. Pedroia is a top ten option at second base. While he doesn’t have the speed of his youth, he still makes enough contact to be an impact bat at second.
- Matt Carpenter: Carpenter changed his approach leading to a career high 28 home runs (his previous career high was 11), batting .272 and racking up a lot of counting stats. I believe 2016 will be similar but with a fewer home runs. Carpenter saw his strikeout rate rise immensely and he traded groundballs for flyballs. This led Carpenter to flirt with the 30 home run mark. His ISO at .233 was 64 points higher than his previous career high. Carpenter will likely keep these gains due to his new found approach. He’s likely to hit around 20 home runs. Batting atop the Cardinals lineup will yield plenty of runs and he will have a fair amount of RBI opportunities. The most intriguing aspect of Carpenter is whether he can combine his new found lust for power with his penchant for contact hitting that he is known for. If he can, he can enter the realm of elite second baseman. I’m betting he can’t.
- Daniel Murphy: Daniel Murphy provides consistency. He will likely bat in front of Bryce Harper and other slugging Nationals batters and could be in for an 80+ run scoring year. Murphy hasn’t hit below .280 since 2009. Last seasons’ .281 mark was pretty good. Except he had a .278 BABIP while his career mark is .314. Murphy could very well hit .300 next season. Murphy pulled the ball at a career high rate. This likely led to a lower BABIP but it also increased his power potential as he hit double digit home runs for the third time, and a career high 14 home runs in 2015. Murphy looks good to bat around .290 with lots of runs and chipping in 7-12 home runs. He’s an elite contact hitter as only six hitters have a higher zone contact % over the past three years with Murphy leading that category this year. With only four stolen base attempts last year, it doesn’t look like Murphy will be stealing many bases this year.
- Josh Harrison: After a career best 2014 season, Harrison was a disappointment in 2015. Is there reason for optimism that he could find middle ground? Well his ISO power was at a career low and his HR/FB% was half of his 2014 season. Harrison could hit between 5-15 home runs. The spread is this large due to his pull % dropping and his hard hit percentage having the same fate. His average flyball distance was consistent however. In the batting average department, .285-.300 seems fair. Harrison has good speed and he sprays the ball all over the diamond. He has had a line drive rate of 24% furthering his cause. At 28, Harrison stands a decent chance to once again eclipse double digit steals. With Josh Harrison, its tough to know what to expect. Are you getting five home runs with a .290 average, or 15 home runs with a .280 average? Harrison could end up being a strong value pick at second if he can put the two together.
- Kolten Wong: Wong may end up platooning second with Jedd Gyorko because he can’t hit southpaws. On the other side of the coin, if Wong proves he can hit lefties, Wong will end up a top ten second baseman if not higher. Wong has amassed 35 steals over the past two seasons. In the minors, Wong hit for a higher batting average. If he can figure out left handed pitchers, Wong will have a strong season. He upped his walk rate from last season but he did collect more swinging strikes. Heading into 2016, Wong’s floor of batting .260 with 10 HR and 15 steals is acceptable in 12 team leagues. His ceiling: .290 with 15 HR and 20 steals. He’s unlikely to put it all together in 2016 and he may not every, but a decent floor with lots of upside is what Wong will provide.
- Brett Lawrie: I surprised myself ranking Lawrie this high. He hit 16 home runs last season and he could hit 20 as he will be playing at US Cellular Field. The ISO and HR/FB% are consistent with his career. His BABIP was pretty high and he only managed a .260 average. With regression, he likely hits around .250. His strikeout percentage shot up, and he hit less flyballs. These aren’t recipes for success. Still, Lawrie will be in a good White Sox lineup, in a strong stadium for batters, and potential to hit 20 home runs. He’s a risk, but the Canadian might just provide good value.
- Ben Zobrist: The versatile Zobrist ended up a Chicago Cub and joins one of the deepest lineups in baseball. This is important because if he bats near the top, he will score a lot of runs. Aside from cutting down his strikeout rate and making more contact in the zone, things look consistent for Zobrist. His multi-position eligibility makes him even more appealing. I can’t fault anyone for going with Zobrist, he’s just consistent.
- Neil Walker: Speaking of consistency, Neil Walker has been at least a league average hitter in each of his full seasons. Last year Walker saw his home runs return to familiar territory into the mid-teens where they should be. Like Zobrist, his BABIP is consistent with his career. Expect last years numbers with the batting average + or – 5.
- Starlin Castro: Let me say this first: I’m a huge fan of his name. It’s no Coco Crisp, but it does roll of the tongue well. Castro hasn’t hit double digit steals since 2012. He’s remained consistent in home runs obtaining 10-14 since 11. His BABIP shows no consistency year to year. I’m inclined to believe he could hit anywhere between .260-.285. He hit more groundballs and had a walk rate of 3%. Castro isn’t someone I will be targeting, but his move to New York might just bring out the best in him.
- Howie Kendrick: Three straight years with an average in the .290s is the type of consistency you want from well any player. At 32, he won’t be stealing more than ten bases. His groundball heavy approach lends itself well to Kendrick’s usage of the entire field. Fun fact about Howie: Over the past two seasons, Kendrick has not popped out. In his career, he only has 14. 14! That’s incredible and just goes to show you the type of hitting prowess Kendrick has. Kendrick may be hitting near the bottom of the lineup in LA and that definitely hurts his overall value. LA also fields a deep lineup so he could end up having a few more off days than a regular second baseman. With that said, I expect a strong average and 5-10 home runs and steals.
- Joe Panik: Panik is pretty boring. He will hit .300, he will barely crack 10 home runs, he will be lucky to steal five bases, and his run count is dependent on whether he bats second. That’s pretty much it. You’re getting a solid average, maybe 80 + runs, and then a whole lotta meh.
Others To Consider
- Addison Russell: Russell will need to cut down on his strikeout rate and continue to make better contact in addition to keeping his power. He very well could breakout, however it is unlikely. Another season of growing pains for Russell looks to be upon the horizon.
- Jonathan Schoop: Schoop has some good power evidenced by his 32 home runs in 774 at bats over his short career. His strikeout rate is abysmal and he can’t take a walk just like teammate Adam Jones. If you’re desperate for home runs, be willing to live with the consequences.
- Logan Forsythe: The career high BABIP is gonna come crashing down leading to a below league mean batting average. His ISO was also a career high. Regression will not be kind to Logan. He’s best used as a potential platoon piece against lefties.
- Brad Miller: I was surprised Miller did not make my top twenty. He very well could end up as a top 12 second baseman. Miller will provide double digit home runs as well as steals both ranging from 10-15. His positional versatility makes him more valuable.
- Brandon Phillips: Phillips enjoyed a solid year in which he hit .294 largely on the back of a .315 BABIP, much higher than his career .294. He managed to cut down on his strikeout rate. He will be in the Reds bad offence so there isn’t much counting stats upside here.
This concludes my second base rankings for 2016. Brian Dozier was a tough one to rank. My gut kept telling me he isn’t gonna do well but my brain said to trust the numbers. I believe I may be higher on DJ LeMahieu than most others. I didn’t think I would like Kipnis as much as I ended up; he’s another solid player. Josh Harrison and Kolten Wong might just end up as steals. Anthony Rendon is a good player but injuries will always haunt him until he can prove otherwise. Draft him with a decent backup in mind. Second base is a scarce positions in fantasy baseball; good luck!