The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty League Second Baseman, Nos. 1-20
It’s the time of the year where we offer congratulations to those of you brave dynasty league owners that survived the offseason. The greatness that 2016 will surely offer is upon us and that means we’ll be spending the next six weeks moving our way through the positional landscape, offering thoughts on the respective values of roughly 700 players throughout the process.
We sincerely hope that you enjoy the countless hours of hard work that went into these rankings and continue to support The Dynasty Guru by showing your appreciation through this link or via the splendid ‘donate’ button located on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.
Players are ranked where they played 20 or more games at during the 2015 season at their highest position on the defensive spectrum, e.g. Chris Davis played 30 games in the outfield, meaning he’s an outfielder for our purposes. We can’t assume that a player will have eligibility at a position in the future (so no Hanley Ramirez at 1b for these rankings) or that a player will lose eligibility at a position in the future. This should clear things up for all non-Javier Baez/Jurickson Profar players, and we’ll do our best to explain where those players are ranked when the time comes. All DH types, such as Evan Gattis and David Ortiz, appear on the 1B rankings, as we will not be doing a UTIL rankings list.
As we move to the second base portion of our rankings, we start with a player whose height has opened the door for a new measurement system to be implemented throughout the world:
1) Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 3)
Newly minted in our top spot among second basemen is the staggeringly consistent Altuve. Over his four full-seasons as a starter, Altuve has hit for a .308 average, eight home runs, 54 runs batted in, and 40 stolen bases per season, while chipping in 79 runs scored per year. His last two seasons have been his best and even at his diminutive size he has been able to stave off any injuries. Altuve posted his best isolated power mark of his career in 2015, on his way to a career-high 15 home runs and did so while maintaining a strikeout rate under ten percent. There are no signs hinting towards a decline any time soon, as Altuve should continue to thrive while hitting atop a prolific Astros lineup for years to come.
2) Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 9)
Gordon gets no respect. Many people thought that what he did in 2014 was nice, but not necessarily something he could sustain–let alone improve upon. Fast forward one year, and here he is sitting pretty coming off another stellar season, this one arguably better than his last. Over the last two seasons, the Marlins speedster has played in 145 games or more while batting .311 and averaging 90 runs scored and 61 stolen bases. Gordon could not ask for a better situation than the Marlins organization–which traded for him with full belief in his abilities to wreak havoc as a lead-off man. Helped by an 88 percent contact rate in 2015, Gordon hit a robust .333 while getting on-base at a .359 clip, both exceeding his previous career-high marks by a wide margin. Rumors of his reliance on contact and speed alone have been greatly exaggerated about this special fantasy property.
3) Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 1)
Following up a season where you are worth 6.5 fWAR and receive consideration for the MVP award is tough enough without injuries, but therein lies the rub with Rendon. Rendon was healthy enough to amass just over half of the plate appearances he had in 2014, on his way to a truly forgettable 2015 season for both he and his World Series favorite Nationals. The storyline of Rendon’s talent level being through the roof and his durability being compared to that of the Yugo has the makings of a Shakespearean tragedy. The 2016 campaign will be the fourth season of his young career and how he performs will shape the future of the Nationals season and that of your fantasy team. The potential is here to receive an MVP-caliber player entering what should be his prime and is marked at a rare discount, but be prepared to have a capable backup if injuries strike once again.
4) Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 2)
Entering his age-33 season in 2016, Cano is no longer spoken about with the fantasy reverence that he once was during his prime. Often when people bring him up it’s with a joke about how bad his 10-year, $240 million contract is for the Mariners. This is great. This is opportunity. As the public perception of Cano is degraded, his value drops. During his “down seasons” with the Mariners, Cano ranked in the top-three among all qualified second baseman in batting average, home runs and runs batted in, while ranking sixth in runs scored. After a rough start to his 2015 season, Cano regained some of his lost home run power and he remains as durable as ever, giving hope that his skillset will age gracefully. If someone is willing to sell low on him, do not hesitate to reach for the opportunity–or in other words, don’t listen to Andy Van Slyke.
5) Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 4)
The combination of batting in the leadoff spot, and posting a career high contact rate of 83.9 percent, was enough to help Kipnis to a wRC+ of 126, which was the second highest mark of his career, and he did so while performing below his career best marks in both home runs and stolen bases. Usually, his counting stats–rather than his batting average and run totals–are what carry him towards the top of the position. In 2015, we saw him expand his skillset on his way to a .303/.372/.451 line. If Kipnis can maintain his improved contact rate, and add more of his trademark power and speed, we could have a bona fide monster on our hands here.
6) Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 8)
With one of the more unique approaches at the position, Dozier has inched his way up our dynasty ranks each of the last two seasons. While he doesn’t dazzle with high batting averages, Dozier is as reliable a source of power as there is at the position. Since 2014, Dozier has led all second baseman in runs and home runs–outpacing the competition by a sizable gap. In 2015, we did see a dip in his contact rate, dropping from a stable, three-year mark of 84 percent to just shy of 80 percent. This drop came in conjunction with a drop in his walk rate to just under four percent. The 2016 season will go a long way towards telling what type of player we can expect in the future. Will his power continue to rise and his contact rate continue to dip? If so, he becomes more of an all-or-nothing player. However, if he is able to get on base at a higher clip, he could cement himself as a top three option at the position.
7) Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 15)
It’s hard enough to play in your second full season in the big leagues at 21 years old, but Odor made it look easy upon his return to the majors after his demotion in early May. Odor hit 16 home runs during his age-21 season, which sounds good doesn’t it? What if I told you that it was second best total for a 21-year-old second baseman of all-time? It is. There is still a lot of work to do for Odor, but his potential could make him one of the best at the position across the board, eventually. He should be a plus in every major fantasy category–aside from stolen bases–and could have the upside to become a Robinson Cano-lite.
8) Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 5)
While he is no longer the fantasy MVP-type player he was in 2009 and 2011, Kinsler remains a solid contributor in all five categories. Even while hitting the ball with less authority than he did in his prime, Kinsler leads the position in RBI over the last two seasons. Not to be misleading, the overall skills are not as strong as they once were, but Kinsler will be back in a prolific Detroit lineup, most likely batting second with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton driving him in. Like Cano, his advanced age may scare some folks away, but Kinsler should provide solid, reliable, value over the next couple of years at a minimum.
9) Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 7)
With a little bit more consistency, the potential and skill is there for Wong to become a top-five fantasy option at the position. Two things that are surely on Wong’s side in his quest to climb up our ranks are youth, and the fact that he plays baseball for the perennially-good Cardinals. Wong’s steady approach and pretty left-handed swing carried him to a solid 2015 season–but not a spectacular one. Wong’s batting average in the first-half of 2015 was .280, while also hitting nine home runs. He scuffled severely in the second-half, adding just two more homers, and batting for just a .238 average. Wong will take some time to mature and adjust, but he has the skills to be a 15-15 guy every year. If he can earn a good lineup slot in the future, that should help a player that played 20 or more games at four different spots in the batting order score more runs in 2016 and beyond. Wong will also have to make the adjustments necessary against left-handed pitching to avoid being platooned in the future.
10) Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 6)
A lot of good things happened for Pedroia in 2015, but none was more important than the power he showed in hitting 12 home runs in just 93 games. The bad news was the increasingly injury-prone Pedroia only played in 93 games, severely limiting his fantasy ceiling. Many feared that the wrist injuries suffered over the two seasons prior would sap him of his power long-term, but his .150 isolated power mark posted during the 2015 season should help put that issue to rest. Pedroia still has speed, power, and the ability to hit for average–but the biggest question about his future remains his health. It is possible that he could surpass nearly all of the players above him on this list in fantasy value if he can stay healthy, as the skills are still largely intact. The health concerns have led to a reduced price to acquire Pedroia, and if you’re willing to roll the dice, this former second round fantasy selection could still return top value.
11) Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 9, SS)
Baez’s Jekyll and Hyde story leaves him as the 11th player in our second base rankings. He’s wowed his owners with both his biblical bat speed, and his Vlad Guerrero-ian plate discipline. His second brief stint in the majors displayed the ability to crush baseballs and an obvious change in approach and two strike mechanics. The ability to master the mental side of the game is crucial for Baez to unlock his immense talent because presently his ceiling remains that of a Gary Sheffield-type that could earn eligibility in multiple infield positions–but his floor could also be Mike Zunino. Baez arguably has the highest power potential of anybody on this list, as 30 or more home runs are well within reach. Although Baez played mostly shortstop at Triple-A in 2015, he appeared in 17 games at second base in the majors–his most at any position–earning him a placement here.
12) Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 16, SS)
Zobrist is the antithesis of Baez, creating value with polish: working walks, striking out sparingly, spraying the ball to all fields, and showing off an overall skill set where the whole is greater than the sum of his parts. Zobrist is in the decline stage of both his career and his fantasy usefulness, and if you own him at this point you’re better off riding him into the sunset than trying to deal him for someone else, as his move to a quality Cubs lineup should help soften the decline.
13) Yoan Moncada, Boston Red Sox (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NA)
Shaking off the rust is the perfect way to describe Moncada’s first month of professional baseball, because after that he was a well oiled machine. If you get rid of his first month of games, you have a player who hit seven home runs and swiped 45 bases in 58 games, hitting .299 in the process while maintaining a strong walk rate of 12.6 percent. If you google “Randy Marsh Ghost,” you’ll know what it feels like to own him. In conclusion, this is not a drill–get him while you can still afford him–as Moncada has all the makings of a fantasy monster.
14) Neil Walker, New York Mets (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 10)
Walker is nobody’s dream dynasty second baseman, but he’s also nobody’s nightmare. With his new club, he will likely do typical Walker things: play 130 or more games, score 60 or more runs and drive in 60 or more runs. He also will likely add around 15 homers and toss in a few steals. When you own Walker, you are constantly offering people trades in hope of an “upgrade” even though he doesn’t hurt your team. At #14, we have officially reached the “stop gap” portion of the second base rankings.
15) Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 11)
What’s interesting is that while Murphy became world famous by slugging bombs off nearly every ace he saw in the postseason, fewer are aware of what his true talent is–extreme contact. Only Michael Brantley had a higher contact rate than Murphy in 2015. Contact rates are one of the best tools to consider when it comes to aging, making Murphy safer than the average 31-year-old at the keystone. Pair that with the likelihood of Murphy hitting between Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper over the next few seasons and you have yourself a solid–but likely not spectacular– bat for a few more seasons.
16) Howie Kendrick, Free Agent (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 12)
Kendrick is the third piece of low-hanging, low-upside dynasty fruit in a row. The former Angel turned Dodger is a line drive machine who has made a career out of banging hits all over the field. Unfortunately, his ceiling at this point is likely 10 homers and 10 steals with a close to .300 average, but he should continue to be a productive player regardless of where he lands this offseason.
17) Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 13)
Profar is the most enigmatic player on this list. In 2012, he was the top overall prospect on MLB.com, and was the number-one ranked prospect according to Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus in 2013. While Profar’s knack for hitting, his raw power, or his speed won’t knock your socks off on their own, combined they are an incredibly rare skill set, and having an offensive player with his talents in the middle infield makes him a prospect that dynasty owners dream about. Sadly, all of 2014 and most of 2015 were lost because of a labrum tear in his throwing shoulder. He returned and played 32 games at the tail end of the 2015, managing an .805 OPS in the Arizona Fall League, while not playing in the field. The potential remains very high for the 22-year-old, but there are a very wide range of outcomes for a player who has essentially lost two years of development time. Reports are that Profar could play shortstop if his shoulder proves healthy enough to do so in 2016, but he was most recently a second baseman, so he is placed here for our purposes.
18) Brett Lawrie, Chicago White Sox (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 15)
Lawrie managed to play in a career high 149 games in 2015, bopped a career high 16 dingers, and swiped five bags. With more time on the field, his ratios took a turn for the worse, as he struck out more and walked less than he ever had before. A change in his approach over the second-half of the 2015 season may be the key to unlocking his power going forward–just as he moves to a friendly home park that should better suit his power. If you are in the business of taking a gamble, Lawrie has the raw power to lead the position in home runs, but be aware that he’s equally capable of missing time because of injuries, one of his patented helmet spikes, or due to an “errant” fastball in the ribs from any number of Kansas City Royals.
19) Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 28)
Panik looks very reminiscent of a younger Daniel Murphy. He makes tremendous contact just like Murphy, and they have almost identical career line drive rates. Panik doesn’t steal bags like Murphy used to, but if you are looking for an empty batting average and a 60 run, 60 RBI type, Panik and his career .309 mark is a good place to start. However, it’s probably not a good idea to expect a huge step forward in the power department, as his keystone-mate Brandon Crawford experienced in 2015.
20) Logan Forsythe, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NA)
Forsythe seemingly came out of nowhere last season, and now he finds himself as a top-20 overall dynasty second sacker. His 17 homers were one short of matching his career total prior, and he managed to acquire an above average walk rate and an above average strikeout rate. Pair that with him becoming better in the second-half, and he may indeed be a late-blooming second baseman with some extra pop. With so much unknown, he’s a risky investment–but also an intriguing one.
Commentary by Jake Devereaux and Jack Cecil