Things start to get a little better after this one, I promise. It wasn’t too long ago that 2B was a position that you could get real offense at. Now it’s reduced itself to a mud-slinging battle with SS as to which is the weakest non-catcher position in the game. It’s not like we’re talking about 10 or 15 years ago, either. In 2009, seven 2B hit 25 or more HR. In 2012, it was two. In 2009, there were eight 2B with more than 80 RBI. In 2012, there were two.
So fine, you’re probably thinking maybe there’s just less power and the rest of the rotisserie categories will swing in the other direction. Not true. There were six 2B with 100+ runs scored in 2009 and there were two in 2012. There were eleven 2B in 2009 who hit .285 or higher and there were seven in 2012. Expand that to guys who hit .300 and it’s six to three. Even in stolen bases, there were seven 20 SB seasons in 2009 and only five in 2012.
It’s a rough position and there’s really very little coming in the minors. The top four prospects at the position are comprised of two legit 2B, one who’s a big base stealing threat (DeShields) and one who’s a high floor, low ceiling guy (Wong). The other two are Eddie Rosario and Jedd Gyorko, who are more likely to end up at their natural positions (OF for Rosario, 3B for Gyorko) in time than stay at 2B. On top of that, even the SS prospects who may not stay at THAT position (Bogaerts, Baez, etc) are more likely ticketed for 3B because they have the arms for it. The best the second base position can hope for is that Jurickson Profar (who I ranked as a SS) sticks at 2B and Alen Hanson has to move over for defensive reasons. Then it might have some potential studs on its hands. But as is, it’s bad and getting worse as the Canos, Kinslers and Pedroias of the world age.
And now your top 50 dynasty league second basemen, with commentary:
#1 – Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
#2 – Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
#3 – Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
Cano is the class of the position, but the biggest drop-off in tiers at any position comes after these three. I’ve often made the argument that if you can’t grab one of the big three, just wait and grab the cheapest option out there and try to make it up at another position. And while they are still playing at a high level now, both Cano and Kinsler are already 30, while Pedroia will join them before the end of the 2013 season. As they make their way through their 30’s, they will put the old adage that second basemen do not age well to the test. After all, that adage has already claimed a former member of this elite group.
#4 – Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Kipnis, but I really don’t have much of a choice other than to rank him in the #4 spot. I think we saw pretty close to his peak in 2012, and I expect him to be around a .270 average with 12-15 HR and 18-22 SB going forward. But at 25 years old (he’ll be 26 right around Opening Day), he’s one of the few major league players on this list approaching their prime. In a better landscape, he’d be in the back-end of the top-10, but this is the landscape we’re stuck with.
#5 – Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks
#6 – Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
And now we’re back to 30 year old second basemen (Phillips is actually 31). Hill found resurgence in Arizona, but he’s done this before and then fallen off the face of the Earth. If you already own him, you’re holding onto him and hoping he keeps it up for at least another season or two. If not, don’t go chasing his 2012 numbers. Phillips is solid as always, but as he transitions from a yearly 20-20 threat to a 15-15 one, he falls further down this list. His saving grace is that his batting average skills have improved over the last couple of years as his strikeout rate has decreased.
#7 – Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
#8 – Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners
The only two under-25 second basemen who have seen the majors on this entire list occupy back-to-back spots right here. Altuve enjoyed a breakout season in 2012, hitting .280 with 80 runs scored and 33 steals – and, although I think he’s more of a 25 SB guy going forward, there’s no reason he can’t put up these numbers for a while. As far as Ackley goes, there’s no question he’s been a disappointment so far, but a lingering ankle injury held him back during 2012. He may never be the potential batting title contender that the Mariners envisioned when they took him 2nd overall in the 2009 draft, but he could carve out a fantasy career similar to another failed batting title contender: Howie Kendrick. Think .280 average, 15 HR and 15 SB with upside, if he ever lives up to his potential.
#9 – Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Yes, Utley has only played in 186 games over the last two years and it’s due to a degenerative condition which will never truly improve; however, the man can still play. Even if he only plays 100-120 games until his career winds down, he’s valuable enough in that playing time to warrant this spot. However, in order to roster him in a dynasty league, you’re going to have a half-decent backup to spell you when he misses time.
#10 – Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates
Walker may never finish in the top-5 among 2B in a given year, but the value with him is that you’ll rarely see him finish outside the top-15. You might say that the argument for Walker is similar to the one against Freddie Freeman; however, it’s the difference between the 1B and 2B positions that makes a world of difference here. Walker is especially valuable in deeper leagues, as this position really bottoms out after another handful of guys.
#11 – Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers
As a player who’s never quite lived up to his potential, Weeks is one of those guys that seems younger than he actually is. In reality, he’s a 30 year old who is coming off one of the best years of his career. The risk with Weeks is that he stops running and he has to move off the position (which he’s never been very good at), but I’m willing to cede that he may have another season or two like 2012 in him.
#12 – Delino DeShields Jr, Houston Astros
#13 – Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels
In many ways, Kendrick has become Neil Walker with greater injury risk. He was supposed to be a great hitter who would compete for batting titles, but he just couldn’t stay healthy. Now he’s staying more healthy, but hasn’t hit .300 since 2008.
#14 – Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves
As you can probably tell by this ranking, I’m off the Uggla train. The most consistent, and for a while, only 30 HR second baseman, Uggla put up a measly 19 last year. Now, I think he’ll hit more HR in 2013, but this is right about the point when things get ugly for players of Uggla’s skill set. So, while he may bounce back for another year or two, there’s a very real possibility his days as a fantasy asset are gone.
#15 – Jedd Gyorko, San Diego Padres
#16 – Eddie Rosario, Minnesota Twins
#17 – Kolten Wong, St Louis Cardinals
#18 – Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox
#19 – Jemile Weeks, Oakland Athletics
I still have some faith in both of these 26-year olds. Beckham is back on the right path, as his 2012 saw similar underlying numbers to his rookie season of 2009 (including a 15.3% K-rate, compared to 18.5% and 19.9% for the previous two seasons). He can still be a .260-.270 hitter with 15-20 HR annually. As for Weeks, no one with his speed and batted ball profile should be able to put up a .256 BABIP (in fact, his xBABIP was .300). Plus, do you see anyone on this list (DeShields excluded) who could steal 40 bases? Because I don’t.
#20 – Omar Infante, Detroit Tigers
Infante and Murphy (a few spots later) are the first of the end of the line guys – and there’s a bunch of them. Unfortunately because 2B is so shallow, there will be a number of teams employing these types of players. There’s nothing fun about owning one of these guys, but at least you aren’t hoping Brian Roberts will come back.
#21 – Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariners
#22 – Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles
#23 – Daniel Murphy, New York Mets
Usually as hitters build towards their age-27 season, they see their power increase. Unfortunately, Murphy is moving in the opposite direction – his HR/FB rate has been declining since he debuted in 2008 (7.7%, 6.6%, 5.5%, 4.9%). If he can reverse the trend and hit 12 HR again (like he did in 2009), he could be a legit 2B option.
#24 – Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
#25 – Kelly Johnson, Free Agent
KJ has become so undervalued this off-season, he actually becomes an interesting target – mostly because he’s the last guy left on this list who really has any upside whatsoever. If he continues to strike out at a 27% clip, he’s probably done, but that is a more recent development. Of course it’s all a moot point if he doesn’t sign anywhere.
#26 – Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox
Keppinger is Marco Scutaro without the playoff heroics and with a DL stint a year. And like Scutaro, he’s helped by multi-eligibility.
#27 – Angelo Gumbs, New York Yankees
Watch out for this guy. With plus-plus bat speed and plus foot speed, Gumbs is a threat to shoot up prospect lists by this time next year. In fact, it would not surprise me at all if he’s the #3 2B prospect on the 2014 version of this list, behind DeShields and Rosario.
#28 – Johnny Giavotella, Kansas City Royals
I still hold out hope for Giavotella, who has raked against Triple-A pitching to the tune of .331/.397/.477 with 19 HR, 16 SB and a 97-86 K/BB rate in 815 AB. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s still optimistic, as the ZiPS projection system (which is notoriously conservative for offensive players) has him at a .266/.316/.368 line with 8 HR and 11 SB for 2013 – and that would make him a pretty solid AL-only play.
#29 – Ryan Roberts, Tampa Bay Rays
#30 – Mark Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers
As you can tell, there’s going to be a lot of yawning going on towards the bottom of this list. I liked Roberts as a sleeper before the Rays traded for Yunel Escobar and he lost his job.
#31 – Ronny Rodriguez, Cleveland Indians
#32 – Cory Spangenberg, San Diego Padres
#33 – Alexi Amarista, San Diego Padres
#34 – Carlos Sanchez, Chicago White Sox
Sanchez might hit .300 in the majors one day, but even if he doesn’t, he’s unlikely to contribute anywhere else. He has three career minor league HR and even though he’s stolen 42 bases in 275 games, he’s got average speed at best and has only been successful 60% of the time.
#35 – Taylor Lindsey, Los Angeles Angels
David Dahl as an 18 year old in the Pioneer League (2012): .379/.423/.625 with 9 HR, 12 SB and won league MVP.
Taylor Lindsey as a 19 year old in the Pioneer League (2011): .362/.394/.593 with 9 HR, 10 SB and won league MVP.
#36 – Scott Sizemore, Oakland Athletics
A very interesting deep sleeper, Sizemore is returning from an ACL tear and has just the enigmatic Jemile Weeks ahead of him for playing time. Once upon a time, Sizemore was considered a real prospect, though he’s 28 years old now.
#37 – Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs
Barney is a poor man’s Marco Scutaro that doesn’t walk. We’re clearly right in the heart of the appetizing portion of this list.
#38 – Donovan Solano, Miami Marlins
My favorite thing about Solano is that he had a 28.3% line drive rate in 285 AB during 2012. I’ll take the under on that next year.
#39 – Ryan Brett, Tampa Bay Rays
The pros: Brett hit .285 with 48 steals in 100 games for Low-A Bowling Green this past season. The cons: he’s already 21 years old and he will start the 2013 finishing out a 50-game suspension for a banned substance (Adderall in this case)
#40 – Scooter Gennett, Milwaukee Brewers
#41 – Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles
I’m not holding my breath.
#42 – Robert Andino, Baltimore Orioles
#43 – Grant Green, Oakland Athletics
#44 – Christian Colon, Kansas City Royals
It’s depressing how much better both of these guys were supposed to be coming out of college.
#45 – Daniel Descalso, St Louis Cardinals
#46 – Ryan Raburn, Detroit Tigers
#47 – Gioskar Amaya, Chicago Cubs
An interesting sleeper, Amaya is a long ways away. And he may actually be able to hit, which is a real plus.
#48 – Ryan Flaherty, Baltimore Orioles
#49 – D.J. LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies
#50 – Alexi Casilla, Minnesota Twins
Is it over yet? Please tell me it’s over. Oh ok, it’s over.
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