Those are my personal second base rankings. I'm now going to step through each player briefly to give you an idea of why I put them where I did.
Altuve and Gordon are pretty close in value. Gordon actually finished first on ESPN's player rater last year among second basemen by a decent margin. I'm sticking with Altuve at number one for two reasons: Gordon's 0.383 BABIP was extremely high, even for someone as fast as he is, and Altuve has a fantastic track record. Altuve has had more than 30 steals for four straight seasons, hit higher than 0.300 in two straight, has two straight years of 80+ runs, and four consecutive years of 630 PAs or more. His power has increased each year for three years now. I expect a drop from his career-high 15 HR last year, but only down to 10-12 or so.
I just covered why he isn't first. Speed is his main asset and that will still be there, but the batting average surge he experienced last season was mostly due to a jump in BABIP from his career average of 0.346 up to 0.383. If his BABIP falls back to his average, he would basically match his 2014 season, where he hit 0.289. He's still a lock for 50 steals and the average will still be very beneficial to your team, but he won't be leading the league in batting again.
Like Altuve, I'm going with track record here. Cano has shown that he can consistently hit for average and his power started to return last season. If you can get a guy with a high floor like this and a very likely 20+ HR and a 0.300 average, that is very valuable. He may not be young anymore, but he is still reliable and a good value. There are very few second basemen that hit in the #3 spot in the lineup to rack up the runs and RBI and he is at the top of the list.
Speaking of consistency, how about Dozier? Once you get past the fact that his batting average will always be about 0.240, he has proven to be the best power/speed combo at this position for three straight seasons. You can count on more than 20 homers and 10-20 steals. He is pretty good at getting on base, which helps him in OBP leagues, and he bats near the top of the order, which leads to his 100+ run totals. He's still just 28, so don't expect much decline yet.
Well, we can throw consistency out the window with this one. He has the potential to finish in the top 2 or 3 at this position because he showed us in 2014. The downside is his big injury risk, as we saw last year. Once he came back from his injury, he didn't look like the same player we saw in 2014. I put him here as a balance between his big upside and injury risk. He is just too risky to put above the guys ahead of him on this list that have all been very healthy in their careers.
I guess I just value consistency and a high floor, because here's another one. Kinsler is at an age where he isn't going to rack up many steals like he used to, but he's still good enough to hit 10+ HR and 10+ steals with a good average hitting near the top of a very good lineup. He's almost always healthy and should rack up runs. Carpenter could easily be in this spot, but his rough 2014 is still fresh in my mind and is just enough concern to bump him down a spot.
How about the power surge from this guy in 2015? He hit a career-high 28 homers in 2015, besting his previous career high of 11. That's right, 11. That was in 717 PA, so it wasn't just a short season issue. If he hadn't hit just 7 HR in a full season in 2014, I would have a little more confidence. He did make a deliberate change in approach to hit more fly balls and pull the ball more to increase his power, so it isn't a complete fluke. However, the uncertainty about how much of his power gains he will maintain keeps him in the 7 spot for me.
Here's the first really young player with big upside and very little data to work with on this list. He's really tough to rank because we only have two partial seasons to evaluate him with. He hit 16 HR with 6 steals last year, so there is certainly reason to be excited. Steamer loves him and projects him for 17 homers and 12 steals in 2016, which would probably bump him up to at least the #6 position. Once I factored in the questions about related to his inexperience and relatively short history, I had to keep him in this spot. He could certainly make me look foolish.
Is it just me or is this position filled with power/speed combo guys? Here's another one. He's shown he is very capable of 10-15 HR and 15-20 steals in a season, but has been wildly inconsistent from year to year. His power can just disappear and his batting average has gone like this: 0.257, 0.284, 0.240, 0.303. Which one is the real Kipnis? If he hits 0.300 again with 10 HR and 15 steals, he's basically like the Kinsler from a few years ago and a potential top five option. I'm just not willing to bet on all that happening. There's kind of a tier of options here where Kinsler, Carpenter, Odor, and Kipnis are all very close in value and could easily end up moving around on this list. The top 5 to me are clearly ahead of this group and there is a clear drop after Kipnis to the next tier.
Just for kicks, here are my 2B tiers, more formally:
Tier 1: Gordon/Altuve
Tier 2: Cano
Tier 3: Dozier
Tier 4: Kinsler, Carpenter, Odor, Kipnis
Tier 5: Pedroia, Wong, Murphy
Tier 6: Harrison, Russell, Panik
He looked healthier last year when he was on the field, after struggling through nagging thumb injuries previously. His power bounced back and his average and slugging joined it. The Red Sox have already said they want to get him more days off in 2016, so we can't expect 700 PA, more like 550. I think a 0.290 average with 12 HR and 6 steals is a reasonable projection. The counting stats should be pretty good given his spot in a good lineup. The playing time reduction, injury issues, and drop in steals from his glory days are the reasons he sits behind Kipnis and Odor.
Like Odor, here is another inexperienced young gun with some upside for improvement. Unlike Odor, he will have to share his position with another player. Jedd Gyorko will likely take most of the at-bats against lefties, reducing Wong's fantasy value. You could make a good case for having him above Pedroia, it just depends on what you are looking for. Wong is likely to hit around 0.260, with 12 HR and 15-20 steals, but with the limited playing time it might be more like 10 HR and 13 steals. He and Pedey are close with Pedroia having more power (at least in slugging), Wong having more speed, and Pedroia having a clear edge in average.
Don't be fooled by the postseason heroics, he's not that good. If he reproduces last season's numbers, that makes him very close in value to Pedroia. He's still just a low double-digit home run guy and his speed is in decline. He and Pedroia have a lot in common in terms of fantasy value and that's why they are in the same tier of basically interchangeable guys.
Will the real Josh Harrison please stand up? The 2014 edition was a top five second baseman, while last year's version was #20. That's how he ends up at #13 here. I think 2014 was his peak, but I do expect improvement over last year. Plus, he will have second base all to himself with the departure of Neil Walker, giving him full-time at bats. If we could trust his track record more like Pedroia or Murphy, I might put him higher, but the uncertainty keeps him down here.
Uncertainty, huh? How about some more. Russell didn't set the league on fire like his fellow top SS prospects, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa. However, I still believe in his scouting reports, which gave him above average grades on his hit, speed, and power tools. He's still very young and developing, so there is definite upside. I would probably take him higher than this on upside alone if it weren't for Joe Maddon's maddening (see what I did there?) approach to lineup construction, where Russell often bats 9th in the order. That keeps down his counting stats. Hopefully we see some development this season and he might be much higher on this list next season.
Ah, good 'ol Joe Panik. He's pretty boring and is easy to overlook, but he hits high in a decent lineup and is great at putting the ball in play. His power is a step below all the other guys on this list (except maybe Harrison), but if you need a great batting average and lots of runs, you could definitely do worse. His low power and speed keep him down here, but he is better than the depth players you run into beyond this list.
I hope at least some of this was useful to you as you evaluate the second base options out there. As always, Tschus!