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Jason Kipnis: #1 Fantasy Second Baseman?

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been on a tear recently, and is making a case for being the top fantasy second baseman heading into 2014.

Jason Miller

Note: I am taking a break from the Roto Roundup for a day, as there were only 7-8 games on Thursday. Instead, I am going to take a look at Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis.

Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano has been the hands down #1 fantasy second baseman over the past 3-4 years. Cano is good for 25-30 home runs, 100+ riuns, 90-100 RBI and a .300 batting average. But this season, through June 26h, he is hitting .276-.357-.490 with 16 home runs, 41 runs, 46 RBI and 5 stolen bases through 77 games this season. He is on pace for 33 home runs, 85 runs, 96 RBI and 10 stolen bases, based on projections from ESPN. The home run total would tie his career high, the RBI total is what we would expect from him, but the runs, batting average, and slugging percentage would be his worst since 2008. Oh, the stolen base total would be a career high too.

I think one of the reasons why his performance is down a bit this season is the fact that the Yankees lineup has been decimated with injuries this season. They have been without Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson for the majority of the season. When a team like the Yankees, or any team, runs out the likes of Jayson Nix, Zoilo Almonte, Lyle Overbay, and David Adams, among others, your production will suffer.

Is it possible we could see a change at the top of the fantasy second base rankings heading into the 2014 season? Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is making me think there could be.

Through 68 games this season, Kipnis is once again having a very good first half of the season. We have seen this movie before, as he started off the 2012 season in a similar manner, but fell off considerably in the second half of his first full season.

Let's compare his 2012 first half stats to his 2013 first half stats:

2012: .277-.345-.419, 11 HRs, 53 runs, 49 RBI, 20 stolen bases, 57-33 K-BB, 329 ABs, 83 games

2013: .288-.370-.512, 11 HRs, 38 runs, 45 RBI, 17 stolen bases, 69-34 K-BB, 260 ABs, 68 games

And here is how his full season stats for 2012 vs ESPN's "on pace" projection for this season:

2012: .257-.335-.379, 14 HRs, 86 runs, 76 RBI, 31 stolen bases, 109-67 K-BB, 591 ABs, 152 games

2013 "on pace": .288-.368-.508, 23 HRs, 79 runs, 95 RBI, 37 stolen bases, 147-71 K-BB, 548 ABs, 143 games

Let's see where Kipnis ranks amongst his brethren at the keystone this season, courtesy of FanGraphs:

BA: 8th

OBP: 5th

SLG: 1st

HRs: tied for 3rd

Runs: tied for 7th

RBI: tied for 3rd, only one RBI behind Cano

SBs: tied for 1st with Jose Altuve

So, needless to say, he is having a terrific season at the plate in his second full season in the big leagues. While his strikeout rate is up (23% vs. 16%), his walk rate is up (11% vs 10%), as is his power (.512 SLG vs .379 SLG), making the bump in the whiff rate a bit more palatable. Last season, he had 40 extra base hits in 591 at bats, and this season, he has almost equalled that total (33 extra base hits) in half as many at bats. His HR/FB rate is up as well, so more of his fly balls are leaving the ball park this season, as well.

We don't know if he can maintain the pace that he is on for the rest of the season, but a second baseman who can hit .288 with 20+ home runs and 37 stolen bases will certainly get you in the conversation as the top fantasy second baseman. We already know that he can steal 30+ bases, as he accomplished that feat last year. What we don't know, but have an idea that he can, is whether he has 20+ home runs in his bat. I have a feeling he does.

If he does, we could be seeing a different guy atop fantasy second base rankings in 2014.

And apparently Jason Lukehart from Let's Go Tribe, in this piece, agrees with me. But, he beat me to it.