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Second Baseman Profile: Daniel Murphy

The Mets second baseman had his best year in 2013, including a big jump in steals. Can he maintain it?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

I was writing my opening sentence for this piece, and I told myself over and over and over, "Don't get his first name wrong it's Daniel not Donnie not David call him Daniel because everyone gets his name wrong and it's dumb because your first name is Daniel for crying out loud come on don't screw it up."

And I - ever the Rangers fan - wrote David Murphy. I really did it, and I hate myself for that.

Anyway, Daniel Murphy is the topic here. The second baseman. The Met. That guy.

If I were starting a Major League Baseball team, and I were picking a second baseman, Murphy would come in somewhere in the teens. Heck, if I were picking a designated hitter just from current second basemen, he wouldn't go that much higher. Dude's bad at defense, and he's only a so-so overall offensive player.

But if I'm picking a fantasy second baseman, Murphy shoots up the list.

In a standard 5x5 league, Murphy does the right things. For example, in 2013, he finished sixth among second basemen in batting average, dropping to 11th in on-base percentage and ninth in slugging. He was fourth at the position in steals (23), setting a career-high in the process. And he was second in runs (92) and sixth in RBI (78), despite having a whole lot of Omar Quintanilla and .285-OBP John Buck there with him. This year, he gets more David Wright, plus Chris Young and Curtis Granderson added in to the mix.

It might be easy to write Murphy's successful season off as a 28-year-old's spike. After all, he put up ... wait, almost the exact same rate stats in 2012. He was significantly better in 2011. Last year, Murphy's walk percentage, strikeout percentage, and BABIP all got worse from the year before, while his ISO, wOBA, and wRC+ were worse than his career average (thanks, FanGraphs!). All of those things were close, but still, worse.

Basically, Murphy did the same sort of stuff at the plate he's done for his career. He added a few home runs in 2013, putting up 13 after six each in 2011 and 2012, but (a) it was a new career high in plate appearances, and (b) he put up 12 in 2009; dude has double-digit homer power regardless.

The one big jump in Murphy's production in 2013 was his steals; after 19 steals and 11 caught stealings in his four total MLB seasons (10 and 2 in 2012), Murphy shot up to 23 steals in 26 tries. A Murphy that equals 2013 with eight or nine steals drops his value significantly. But what reason do we have to expect him to run less? Dude led the league in success rate, and has upped his attempts every year in his career. You wanna say 23 was his high-water mark, sure. But 15, 16? There's literally no reason to think he'll fall below that number, so long as he's healthy.

Murphy comes in 14th in our consensus second-base rankings, tucked right in between Anthony Rendon and Jurickson Profar. Me? I had him seventh, ahead of (among others) Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips, and Chase Utley. Normally, when I make that sort of claim, I follow it up with an argument that "Sure, Guy A might beat Guy B in runs, but Guy B will beat him in X, Y, and X." But here's the thing with Murphy - it is right within his wheelhouse to beat all those guys in all the fantasy stats, with the possible exception of home runs; he was first of those four in batting average, runs, and steals in 2013 and trailed only Phillips in RBI.

Along with Zack, I'm the highest on Murphy for 2014, with fellow rankers having him as low as 19th. If you want to know why someone might be down on him, I'm not the one to ask.

To recap: Player turns 28, keeps rate stats in line with career numbers, sees a few more balls go over the fence, gets a little bit more aggressive on the basepaths. Player turns 29, still young enough to be peak-ish.

And player's name is Daniel.