We’ve already gone through our Top 20 Catchers and Top 20 First Basemen, and now it’s time to shift our focus to middle infielders and their inability to excite people. Similarly to First Basemen, I’m aiming to have my second basemen grabbed before the end of the second tier, though I will most likely pass on the top two options simply because all-around mega production is only available in the early rounds, and Altuve/Gordon are not a part of that fun group. It’s too bad, they hold the best parties. Anyway, let’s get to today’s rankings with the Top 20 Second Basemen For 2016.
TIER 1: The Kinda Small Bear and the Hare
1. Jose Altuve (Houston Astros) – Believe it or not, the difference between Gordon and Altuve is smaller than you think. Gordon will swipe more bases, but Altuve will give you double-digit HRS, thus a sizeable amount more RBI. Either way, they are prime producers in a thin position and I don’t blame anyone going for them in the early rounds to get stable elite production. There are a few guys I’m eyeing a little deeper for more value, but the high floor of these two separate them into their own tier.
2. Dee Gordon (Miami Marlins) – Well this is awkward. Not much left to say after that Altuve blurb…what about his .383 BABIP? That ole thing? It will probably come down a little but not to a level that will make his average dip under elite. He’s a skilled slaps hitter ala Ichiro and it’s going to stick. So…yeah, let’s just move along.
TIER 2: The Babes (aka That’ll Do)
4. Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners) – Quick note, Carp would be here and probably in the higher tier, but his eligibility is only at 3rd these days. Anyway, many were down and out on Cano after a slow first half, but the $240 Million man surged to a monstrous second half, slugging 15 HRs and slashing .331/.387/.540 in his final 70 games. You can thank a 25.9% HR/FB rate that helped balance a poor 8.1% in the first half. Obviously I don’t see a full season of elite production, though a 15-20 HR year with a near .300 average seems likely, making Cano an excellent option given the dearth of talent at second base.
3. Brian Dozier (Minnesota Twins) – I can’t say I’ve been a mega fan of Dozier, but it’s hard to deny his ability to swipe bags and smack dingers. He disappointed a bit in 2015, stealing only 12 bases and dropping his average to .236, though he made up for it with 28 longballs and scoring over 100 Runs. The steals could climb back over 15, though I think a dip to single digits is more likely. The average is going to hurt, however if you mix him with a high average outfielder, you could be getting great all around value at a lower cost.
5. Anthony Rendon (Washington Nationals) – Man, I really liked Rendon entering 2015 as he looked like a Dozier type that could actually have great average. Unfortunately, injuries got the better of him, turning his season into an unproductive mess. It’s tough to expect a full bounce back for the new year, however a healthy lower body will increase Rendon’s confidence to run the basepaths, and he limited soft contact to just 12.7% indicating that an average above .270 is very doable. He’ll need to reduce his Ks a little while picking up his paltry 6.2% HR/FB, and both numbers should rise without ailing injuries.
6. Rognued Odor (Texas Rangers) – Odor is the target of many fantasy owners this season after following a 2015 that featured a .204 ISO across 120 games, indicating that a 20+ HR year could be ahead, with the hint of adding in double-digit stolen bases. His HR/FB and FB rates were not outrageous and look very repeatable in 2016, but the biggest wart was his 20.9% soft contact rate, which will lower his ability to sustain a good average. Nevertheless, Odor shouldn’t stink it up, and if he secures a spot at the top of the Rangers order, you could be looking at a Top tier 2B.
7. Ian Kinsler (Texas Rangers) – Here’s a guy who you will rarely get excited about as you check your lineup on a given night, but he’ll most likely go 10+/10+ with a beneficial average. The Tigers have improved their lineup with Justin Upton, giving Kinsler the chance to eclipse 100+ Runs again, making Kinsler a safe way to make you not think about 2B for the entire season. The huge upside is long gone, but I understand if you want a stress-free 2B year.
8. Jonathan Schoop (Baltimore Orioles) – Is anyone else as disappointed as me that Schoop is pronounced like a mouthwash instead of like this poppin’ hit from the 90s? The 24-year-old quietly slugged 15 HRs across just 86 games last year, which would tally near 28 blasts across a full season. Now that’s some luscious upside. Keep in mind, Runs will be a little short since he walks under 3.0% of the time, but his much improved average should hang out above .260 as he vastly improved his hard contact rate to 34.5% despite striking out near a 25% clip. He’s an upside play, and when you’re trying to fill out your 2B deeper in the draft, give me the guy that can make a big impact over the boring guy who I can most likely find on the waiver wire through the year.
9. DJ LeMahieu (Colorado Rockies) – DJ has the luxury of playing half of his games in Colorado, which means his high .362 BABIP isn’t as inflated as you’d think. Additionally, DJ made much better work of his opportunities on the basepaths, going 23-for-26 – a major improvement from his 10-for-20 effort in 2015. The power isn’t going to be there as he doesn’t hit enough flyballs to suddenly have a boom in HRs, though a 20+ SB season with a hefty amount of runs and a productive average is very much a possibility.
10. Jason Kipnis (Cleveland Indians) – I’m not all that sure what people are hoping to get from Kipnis. He’s been a disappointment for two straight seasons, failing to hit double-digit HRs and even swiped 10 fewer bags in 2015. His sparkling .303 average was inflated by a monstrous .356 BABIP, and there is little indication his HR/FB rate will return to double digits. I think he’s going higher in drafts simply because people are familiar with him, though you don’t see me drafting Tim Lincecum this year.
TIER 3: Off-And-On Relationships
11. Logan Forsythe (Tampa Bay Rays) – The guys below here will be scattered around the waiver wire through the season as owners work their hardest to find the hottest of hands. Forsythe came out of nowhere to crush 17 HRs last season, though there isn’t all too much else to get excited for. He’ll be batting second in the Rays’ lineup with Evan Longoria and Corey Dickerson often behind him, which should give a rise to his Run production as well as a chance to give owners double-digit steals. However, don’t expect a return to his .281 average.
12. Kolten Wong (St. Louis Cardinals) – Wong has the skill set akin to many guys in the higher tier, and a 15/15 season could be in the young infielder’s future. A high average is out of his reach, however, as he’s struggling to consistently square up the ball, as indicated by a poor 21.4% soft contact rate in 2015. The biggest knock on the 25-year-old is his spot at the bottom of the St. Louis lineup, which will reduce his chances at making a major dent in counting stats.
13. Neil Walker (New York Mets) – Walker’s skill set is close to Forsythe’s, just with a higher HR floor and minimal SB upside. I wouldn’t expect major things from the Mets’ Murphy replacement, though expect a rise in his counting stats as he hits higher in lineup.
14. Daniel Murphy (Washington Nationals) – After easily hitting double-digit steals for years, Murphy suddenly stopped running, attempting just four steals and succeeded only half the time. A shift to Washington may hurt his upside further as he’ll be batting deeper in the lineup. He’s a boring but somewhat safe asset, just don’t be surprised if you’re sounding like Matthew McConaughey in May. MURPH!!! DON’T DO IT MURPH!!!
15. Starlin Castro (New York Yankees) – You may have forgotten that Castro will be just 26-years-old as he starts a new chapter of his career in the NYC. He could return to his 20+ SB years while taking advantage of the Pinestripes’ short porch. He presents intriguing upside once all of the bigger names are off the board, and considering you’re hoping to strike gold this deep in the draft, Castro is your best value bet to lift you from the depths.
16. Brett Lawrie (Chicago White Sox) – Lawrie is a guy that has never quite lived up to the hype surrounding him, but don’t let that blind you. He still clubbed 16 HRs last season, and now is in a stronger lineup and much better hitter’s park. There are still many issues with Brett – A rising K rate that sat at 23.9% last season, a history of injuries, and a significant drop in SB – but HR/FB could return to career rates, which could result in a 20 HR season at a thin position.
17. Addison Russell (Chicago Cubs) – It’s pretty simple with Russell. He has some pop that should develop further in 2016 and he could hint at 20 HRs in his sophomore season. The biggest problem are his strikeouts as he was punched out a whopping 28.5% of the time. It should come down this season, though it take a little longer than we’d like for him to get his proper footing.
18. Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox) – He’s not the Pedroia of old…or is he? Probably not, even though he did nearly match his career high HR/FB rate with a solid 11.3% mark last season, allowing him to slug 12 HRs in fewer than 100 games. I don’t expect it to hang around this year, sadly, and when mixed with a reluctance to steal run on the basepaths (just four attempts in 2015), Pedroia may be a big disappointment.
19. Cory Spangenberg (San Diego Padres) – It’s getting a bit cold in the basement of 2B rankings, but if you’re looking for some SB upside, Spangenberg could be a decent option. He could top 20 bags in 2016 as he gets full playing time in San Diego, while racking up counting stats atop the Padres lineup. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to make a punny team name based on Spangenberg?
20. Ben Zobrist (Chicago Cubs) – He’s just soooo boring, but he’ll be serviceable as Benny Z will rack up Runs in a great Cubs lineup, accumulate 10-15 dingers and not kill your average. You’ll be salivating looking at the wire at times with Zobrist on your squad, and feel free to play the game of hot potato, just remember that Zobrist finds a way to accumulate the stats every season.