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State of the Position - Second Base

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Brian Creagh kicks off Second Base week with the current state of the position

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The second-base position is in an awkward state, inverted from the rest of it's infield positional brethren. At the top of the hierarchy, sit speed-dominant options with AVG and enough counting stats to put them head and shoulders above the competition (Altuve and Gordon). In the middle tier are a handful of steady veterans with solidified playing time but enough concerns to prevent you from reaching for any of them (Daniel Murphy, Jason Kipnis, Ian Kinsler, etc). And in the bottom tier is a group of intriguing rookies with power potential, and big-league experience, but a lack of track record or playing time security keep their stock depressed (Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Jon Schoop, Wilmer Flores, etc). This set-up runs counter-intuitive to every other position, where the power plays sit at the top of the rankings, the high-upside rookies are priced at a premium, and value can be had in the steady hands of the veterans.

I'm not arguing that the entire position is incorrectly valued, because the early ADPs align very closely with how I value each player. Instead I'm trying to point out how different the drafting strategy will be for this position and how the composition of second-base can be leveraged to find different stats in varying points of the draft. Let's take a look at each of the general tiers of the position and see how each player from that group will affect our draft/auction strategy.

Elite Options

I would argue that Jose Altuve is in a class by himself, but Altuve and Dee Gordon are largely considered to be in the same tier for the position. They're both high SB/AVG players and taking them in Rounds 1 or 2 will greatly alter the approach to the rest of your draft. No other players projected in the first 20 picks are being projected for fewer than 20 HRs. Altuve should safely high low-double digits and Gordon would be lucky to crack 10 HRs by season's end. They still provide as much value as other going in the same area of the draft; however, you'll now be chasing statistics in HR/RBI which are evaporating quickly. I would find it difficult to compete on a regular basis if a pick of Altuve/Gordon wasn't immediately followed by 2 or 3 power-heavy selections.

I do have my concerns regarding the sustainability of Dee Gordon's .333 AVG. It came on the back of a career-high .383 BABIP. His walk-rate is trending in the wrong direction and hit a miniscule 3.8% last year. Currently going in the Top 25, your paying for Gordon's 2015 output while the reality is that was likely the best offensive performance of his career. The pro-Gordon argument is that SB numbers are dropping drastically over the past 3 seasons, and at a rate much greater than HRs. As the image below shows, HRs even made a big rally in 2015, while steals continued to plummet.

hrvssb

Middle Tier

The next  group of players is chock-full of veteran names who have limited upside due to inconsistent output or a glaring deficiency in their profile. Jason Kipnis, Ian Kinsler, Brian Dozier, Robinson Cano, and Matt Carpenter are all guys in this range. There's nothing overwhelmingly sexy about any of them, but they are all brand names in the fantasy community that you recognize and can trust. You may buy into a Cano rebound, a healthy season from Kinsler or a power/speed combo return for Kipnis, and I wouldn't fault you for any of it. Each of these players have had big seasons, but I'm also willing to bet we've all been burned by one of these players a time or two. You will have a preference amongst this group, but don't let it force you to reach. There's enough upside/consistency with each of these players that you can't go wrong if you take what falls to you.

Two new names to this tier that I want to point out are Rougned Odor and Addison Russell. Both players offer legit 15+ HR potential and enough stats elsewhere to not kill you. What stands out in these two is the potential for 20+ HR power and .270ish AVG. Those numbers may not happen this year, but each player took a huge step forward in 2015 and should continue to build on it next season. Also keep an eye on Anthony Rendon. He was everyone's darling at the position last year. I'm not confident in his ability to stay healthy, but his price has dropped considerably and could be one of the best values in 2016.

The Rest

The rest of the 2B options are more specialized fantasy options who can help in one category and hopefully not kill you in the rest. Some of the names I like in this range going later in drafts include Joe Panik, Neil Walker, Dustin Pedroia. Options like Kolten Wong, Ben Zobrist, and Brandon Phillips are a little too risky for me given their age, or their ineffectiveness at times. These players, and Zobrist especially, offer more to their MLB clubs then to fantasy owners and their draft price should take that into account.

Some more names here to consider are Starlin Castro, Logan Forsythe, and Wilmer Flores. These aren't flashy players, but they have shown enough upside to gamble on them later in drafts. I like Castro's move to Yankee stadium, and despite the Mets acquisition of middle-infield talent, I still think Flores will emerge as an everyday player at an infield position.

Sleepers

We'll wrap up with a list of a few sleepers either myself or the industry seem to be keying on. Jon Schoop is my favorite sleeper at any position this year. The AVG may not be pretty but there's a realistic chance he leads the position in HRs in 2016. Brett Lawrie is another name getting some buzz after his move to Chicago. We've seen enough of Lawrie at this point for me not to buy into the hype, but if there was a time for him to breakout this would appear to be it. Chris Owings and Scooter Gennett are two other sleepers to keep an eye on. They haven't put it all together yet, but there's upside for 10 HR/10 SB and a solid AVG. They won't even cost a draft pick in most leagues but keep them on your watch lists.