It’s been over two months since the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, ending the 2016 baseball season. But if you’re like most fantasy baseball owners, those two months probably feel like two years. Considering it’s still another month until Spring Training even starts, late January has to be the worst time to be a baseball fan. It’s too late to reflect on last year, but next season is too far ahead to look forward to. Luckily, with a little help from The Dynasty Guru, the next month is survivable, as we’ll be ranking and commenting on a whole lot of players over the next six weeks.
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With that, it’s time to look at our top dynasty second basemen, starting with a 5’5″ dynamo.
1) Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 1)
Our clear dynasty #1 second baseman is Jose Altuve for a second consecutive year. Altuve’s now hit over .310 for three seasons in a row while also seeing his home run total and slugging percentage increase for a fourth straight season. He also posted career-highs in runs, RBI, and hard hit rates. While it seems ridiculous to say that a 5’5″ player’s 24 home runs could actually be sustainable, Altuve’s strong batted ball profile suggests any regression wouldn’t be steep. While he may be slowing a bit, the 27-year-old is still a good bet to swipe 30 or so bags, and there’s no reason to panic. So, if you own Altuve, enjoy, as there’s not sign of imminent failure in 2017.
2) Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 6)
Dozier blasted his way up the ranks by setting the AL second base record for home runs. Every season of his career Dozier has increased his home run output, along with a fairly obvious increase in slugging percentage. Dozier supplements the power with solid speed, and, despite playing on a poor team, is shockingly good at scoring runs. For the third straight season he had over 100 runs scored, and over the past 3 seasons only Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson have scored more. Still, while Dozier had an amazing season, and this ranking reflects that, there are warts. His batting average will have a hard time staying at last year’s .268 mark given his pull-happy profile and career .246 average, and the 30-year-old’s hard hit rate was only 9th best at the position. If Dozier keeps launching homers like last season, keep him around, but the safety of Dozier is not what you’d likely expect from a player ranked #2.
3) Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 4)
Old reliable did what guys I call old reliable do…he was reliable. Since 2009, Cano has produced a wRC+ over 116 (for perspective, Kipnis was a 117 wRC+ player this year). A machine who manhandled pitching yet again, Cano somehow posted a career-high in home runs at Safeco Field by slugging 39 bombs. We can safely write off Cano’s poor 2015 as a injury-spurred fluke, and Cano is back to crushing MLB starters bones to make his bread. His age and lack of en vogue stolen base production is the only thing depressing his price, but it’s hard to argue with the dependability and incredible offense Cano provides.
4) Trea Turner, Washington Nationals (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 13th at SS)
2016 showed us that the hype machine should probably be renamed the Trea Turner machine. We expected Turner to be a good source of batting average and steals, and he blew away expectations by hitting .342 with 33 steals in half a season of work. Trea also threw in a surprising 13 home runs for good measure. This ranking sets the bar incredibly high, and we’ve seen other small sample size magical prospects fail before, but the tools, production, and upside are impossible to ignore here. That’s not to say there aren’t red flags, most notably his .388 BABIP (though as a speedster, he can probably maintain a fairly high mark) and middling plate discipline. Turner chases balls more than you’d like to see and doesn’t make as much contact as one would expect from a .342 hitter. If his strikeout rate is quadruple his walk rate in 2017, like it was last year, Turner could disappoint, though minor league numbers do indicate some more free passes coming next year. Regardless, while Turner probably won’t keep up his 2016 pace, the loud average, power, and steals trifecta are enough to place him awfully high on this list.
5) Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 13)
With risk comes reward, and my god does Moncada exemplify that. The Pros are clear:
- He vaporizes baseballs upon contact
- He runs like a deer as is made evident by his 94 steals in 109 tries over the past two seasons
- His body was sculpted to the exact proportions of Michaelangelo’s David, and then he slapped about 30 more pounds of muscle on for good measure.
- He’s plenty good enough at second to remain there indefinitely
- He’s good enough to headline a trade for Chris Sale
But the Cons
- He had a lot of trouble making contact in AA and the MLB.
So, you know baseball basically hinges on a hitter’s ability to make contact. The good guys do it either a lot or really hard, the great guys do both of those things. Moncada while exhibiting a strong eye in the minors, whiffed too much. As the king of his fan club, I think this problem goes away, making Moncada a potential fantasy MVP and a cornerstone to build around. Still, it would be foolish for me to brush the contact issues under the rug.
6) Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 7)
One reason for my Moncada optimism is Odor’s season. Rougned, not to be confused with his other brother Rougned, just had the worst strikeout to walk rate in the MLB, and still managed a 106 wRC+. His 33 bombs and 14 steals paved the way for him to overcome an atrocious eye. Also, the Rangers really hit, an MO of theirs for quite a while, and Odor used that to his advantage by pitching in plenty of runs and RBI. While he’s going up there hacking, he’s also going Whammy! Like his name is Champ Kind, and when you put that in Texas, it might just work out fine.
7) Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 15)
Daniel Murphy has made well-above-average contact for years now, consistently sitting in the 90% range. But last year, Murphy let the power vail be pulled from his eyes. Murphy pulled the ball more, hit more fly balls than ground balls for the first time, and had a career high hard hit rate. That, folks, is how you spruce your slugging percentage up 150 points. Insane contact makes a lot of things easier in baseball, just ask Ichiro and Dee Gordon, but to maintain that kind of contact while also driving balls over the fences is unique talent at work. It’s annoying to dynasty owners to see this happen at 32, since he’s likely floated around your league in years prior, but there is reason to believe he can keep this production up.
8) Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 5)
It took me a few years, but I think I’ve figured it out. Jason Kipnis is pretty solid. He’s not the 17HR, 30 SB star from 2013, and he’s not the 6 homer, 22 SB dud from 2014. He’s between that, giving you solid second base power and solid second base steals, along with a solid average. As I said before, he’s solid. Kipnis also has a great lineup and home park to hit in, only making the fantasy profile more enticing. While the upside here won’t knock your socks off, Kipnis is a good bet for all around production for the next several years, making him a very…solid option to have on your fantasy roster.
9) Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 2)
In 2015, Dee Gordon was awesome and we ranked him second. In 2016, we found out Dee Gordon uses PEDs, and he missed half a season as a result. When he returned, Dee was good, but not 2015-good. This puts us, the rankers, in an awkward place, trying to figure out whether Gordon will be strong enough to turn on baseballs and get hits without chemical help. The guy is a gazelle, but he’ll need to get to first base to make things happen, and there’s no guarantee of that after Gordon just barely crossed the .300 mark in on-base percentage last season. Given the complete lack of power from Gordon, fantasy owners will be taking on some risk by drafting the former Dodger. So, Dee, if you care about your owners at all, you better be slaving naturally in the gym this offseason to help keep up the production we expect.
10) Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 9th at 3B)
Matt Carpenter is the working man’s second baseman. He shows up, he hits his 20 homers, he takes his walks, and limits his strikeouts. He’s slow, and that isn’t changing, and neither is his solid production, since he’s a Cardinal and those guys simply don’t age. If girl swooned over good plate discipline numbers, Matt Carpenter would officially be Antoine from Deuce Bigalow. If the man was younger, he’d move up, but woe is the aging dynasty asset. Enjoy Carp while you have him, as another solid year seems imminent.
11) Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 8)
The spike in the hard contact rate paired with a slight deterioration of his plate discipline suggests that Kinsler walked to the plate with bad intentions this past season. It was a welcomed adjustment, as the new approach produced Kinsler’s third highest home run total of his career without significantly impacting his batting average. Entering his age-34 season, it remains to be seen whether he can continue to have success with this approach as his physical tools begin their slow decline, but for the time being, Kinsler offers a nice combination of power, speed, and average at the second base position.
12) DJ LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 21)
LeMahieu is a mover and a shaker, improving his ranking on this list by 28 spots in the last two seasons. He has always possessed excellent contact skills, but this year he took another step forward, joining the ranks of Robinson Cano and Daniel Murphy in zone contact. He also improved his hard hit and fly ball rates, and the most optimistic of all of us can hope for a power breakout with a few more pulled balls in Coors Field. He’s all but assured to retain his position atop the Rockies lineup moving into the 2017 season, making him a potential contributor in all five categories. LeMahieu isn’t higher because we don’t expect the .348 batting average to be repeated, but a (still) great average with double digit home runs and steals is plenty enticing.
13) Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 10)
After struggling with injuries for the last few years, we saw the return of vintage Pedroia in 2016, minus the steals. He did a better job of squaring the ball, turning some of his pop-ups into line drives, which helped fuel a .339 BABIP. He’s not the most durable guy around, but he regularly plays through injuries. While it sometimes affects Pedroia’s performance, there’s something to be said for a player who will accumulate plate appearances even when he’s not completely healthy. The Red Sox lineup should continue to be one of the best in the majors this year, even with the departure of David Ortiz, so Pedroia should be in line for plenty of scoring opportunities.
14) Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 12)
Another year, another .270/.350/.450-ish triple slash line. When you roster Ben Zobrist, you can set it and forget it. But wait, there’s more. Buy now, and you can enjoy not five, not 10, but 20 additional runs courtesy of the amazing Chicago Cubs lineup, absolutely free. Dynasty league owners are standing by, so don’t miss out on this incredible offer. But call now and act fast, because this 36-year-old deal may run out soon.
15) Neil Walker, New York Mets (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 14)
At first glance, Walker’s final line for the 2016 season didn’t look significantly different from his career average. However, he achieved his 23 home runs in the fewest plate appearances since his rookie season. The power spike can easily be explained by gains in his underlying skills, including a career-best hard contact and fly ball rate. He was able to sustain a relatively healthy average with plenty of line drives, which only improves his outlook as he begins to enter the latter stages of his career. He’ll likely cost you less than some of the players ranked ahead of him, which presents dynasty league owners with a strong buying opportunity.
16) Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 22)
Seemingly the beneficiary of the Camden Yards magic, Schoop posted 25 home runs in 2016. A deeper dive into the numbers reveals a rather pedestrian skillset, as his hard contact and fly ball rates were both career-worsts. His plate discipline numbers offer few signs of hope, as he continues to swing at just about anything that’s thrown towards home plate. Still, a 25-year-old with this line and home park certainly deserves attention in dynasty league formats, though it will likely take a few years and a significant change in approach for Schoop to fully capitalize on his talent.
17) Starlin Castro, New York Yankees (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 15th at SS)
It took a move to Yankee Stadium to unlock the power that dynasty owners had been anticipating for years, but Castro finally eclipsed the 20 home run plateau in 2016. His underlying numbers were well within an expected variance, so there doesn’t seem to be much of an explanation for the career best .197 ISO at home except for the venue. There is a group of middle infielders moving their way through the Yankees’ far system as we speak, though, so Castro may soon be in for a move to third base or another team altogether. Despite this imminent risk, Castro is a solid fantasy asset, even if it’s probably not the heights that dynasty owners had envisioned for him five years ago.
18) Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 25)
For the second season in a row, Travis missed a chunk of the year with a shoulder injury, but batted .300 while on the field. He accumulated roughly a season’s worth of plate appearances over that time, and if you combine his counting stats the resulting line is pretty impressive: a .301/.342/.469 line with 19 home runs and seven stolen bases. Keep in mind that Travis has run historically high BABIPs dating back to his minor league days, likely a result of his all-fields hitting approach, so don’t let last year’s .358 mark throw you off his trail too much. Travis should be a solid source of power and speed while also chipping in an excellent batting average for next season, as long as he can stay healthy.
19) Logan Forsythe, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 20)
Prior to the 2016 homerun bonanza in major league baseball, Forsythe’s contributions from a middle infield position were very valuable. The .280 average with 17 homers and nine steals made him a cheaper alternative to Ian Kinsler. However, in 2016, he saw his batting average regress to only slightly better than league-average, and the marginal increase in power output did not counterbalance the overall loss in productivity. He did hit more line drives this year, and struck the ball with greater authority, so Forsythe has the foundation to once again become a batting average asset. Given a prime spot in the Dodgers’ lineup after being traded from the light-hitting Rays, the 29-year-old could also provide some help in the runs and RBI department. However, Forsythe will need to bump his average back up next season to remain interesting in fantasy, and if he doesn’t show any improvement in the area, he’ll end up closer to Freddy Galvis than Ian Kinsler.
20) Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs (Age: 22, Previous Rank: N/A)
Happ got his first taste of Double-A this year, slashing .262/.318/.415 with eight homers and six steals across 65 games. The switch-hitting infielder combines an excellent approach with average to above-average power and speed, producing a profile that looks eerily similar to the man currently occupying second base in Chicago. While Happ may be blocked until Ben Zobrist’s contract is up after 2019, he’ll be big league ready before then and may force the Cubs to find a place in the lineup for his bat.
Commentary by Jack Cecil and Eric Erhardt