Equivalent Fantasy Average: Second Basemen

Mike Ehrmann

The super-top guys at second base might not be as super-top as they've been in the past.

In a lot of ways, this year might be a crossroads for fantasy second basemen, especially as it relates to Equivalent Fantasy Average. Brandon Phillips is on the way down; Jurickson Profar is on the way up. For years, Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler have been top-three options; this year, Pedroia is clinging to the No. 3 spot, but Kinsler has plummeted all the way to tenth.

And at the top, things really are starting to change.

Cano led all second basemen in EFA in 2013, putting up a .311 that bested Jason Kipnis' .307; the two were the only ones at the position to go over .300. The year before, his .302 was easily the position's best. In 2011, he sat at .301, barely behind Pedroia's .303 and Kinsler's .302.

Basically, Cano has unequivocally been fantasy's best second baseman for some time now.

So why is Jason Kipnis trying to horn in on that action?

Maybe it's the fact that Cano has moved to Seattle, and has the park and the inferior surroundings. Or maybe it's the fact that Cano is 31, while Kipnis turns 27 April 3. But for whatever reason, our fantasy projections from Rotobanter projects identical EFAs for Cano and Kipnis in 2014. And what's more, those identical EFAs sit at only .289.

Basically, Kipnis is a traditionally high-end second baseman who might regress slightly in run production, but should be elite, while Cano is a traditionally super-elite performer who is almost certainly beyond his peak.

That's the first takeaway from the peak EFAs. But there's a second, hidden takeaway: Depth. With Cano, Pedroia, et al, no longer the position dominators they have been, and the bottom of the group rising to meet them, there isn't as much high-to-low gap at second base as there has been in years past.

Maybe that means you hold off on Cano, knowing you can take Matt Carpenter, Ben Zobrist, Jose Altuve. Or maybe you are the last one to take a second baseman, and you still end up with the base-stealing abilities of Eric Young Jr. or the sneaky power of Neil Walker. The twentieth first baseman is going to outperform the twentieth second baseman, but as a percentage of the performance put up by the elite, the second basemen just aren't as easily distinguishable.

NOTE: On last week's EFA piece on first basemen, a commenter named Mathlete pointed out a possible (likely? definite?) flaw in the EFA. Basically, while I've been using position-specific numbers for both the positional mean and standard deviation, Mathlete pointed out that I should be doing so for only the mean, as a uniform standard deviation would assure that I'm not crediting (for example) a first baseman's stolen base significantly more than a shortstop's. These arguments make sense to me (it's also helpful that it came from someone named "Mathlete"), though I haven't yet had the chance to re-run my numbers and see what changes. For now, I'm sticking with the EFA as I have been calculating it, but I will apprise any and all readers of anything I learn going forward.

Anyway, this is a look at the projected EFAs among second basemen for 2014:

Rank Second Baseman Team Projected 2014 EFA
1 Robinson Cano SEA .289
2 Jason Kipnis CLE .289
3 Dustin Pedroia BOS .285
4 Matt Carpenter SLC .284
5 Jedd Gyorko SDP .283
6 Ben Zobrist TBR .278
7 Aaron Hill ARI .277
8 Brandon Phillips CIN .277
9 Jose Altuve HOU .276
10 Ian Kinsler DET .275
11 Daniel Murphy NYM .275
12 Martin Prado ARI .275
13 Brian Dozier MIN .273
14 Howie Kendrick LAA .273
15 Jed Lowrie OAK .273
16 Eric Young Jr. NYM .270
17 Neil Walker PIT .269
18 Jurickson Profar TEX .268
19 Omar Infante KCR .267
20 Chase Utley PHI .267
21 Anthony Rendon WAS .266
22 DJ LeMahieu COL .262
23 Kolten Wong SLC .260
24 Kelly Johnson NYY .257
25 Marco Scutaro SFG .255
26 Gordon Beckham CWS .254
27 Alberto Callaspo OAK .254
28 Scooter Gennett MIL .253
29 Dustin Ackley SEA .251
30 Dan Uggla ATL .251

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