Fantasy baseball 2014 draft preview: Second base primer
The middle infield is always like the vegetables of your fantasy meal. Second basemen and shortstops can either provide a good batting average, runs scored and stolen bases to complement your team, like how carrots and sweet potatoes taste great and are good for you. Or middle infielders can provide none of the above, while also offering just 45 RBIs. The latter guys are like turnips and kale in fantasy baseball.
Then there are guys/veggies that sound like a healthy thing, but end up being really bad for you -- like corn chips and Dan Uggla!
Either way, you have to get some second baseman on your team, so you might as well get ones that are good for you.
Last season, there were 19 second basemen that scored over 300 fantasy head-to-head points, with 10 of them scoring over 400. Those numbers are down from recent seasons, which tells you to make a move earlier rather than later in your drafts. You don't want to get stuck on the bottom end of this middle-infield position.
You don't have to draft a Cano or Kipnis -- or even an Ian Kinsler or Aaron Hill. But do your best to get a top-10 second baseman, or else you'll have to plug your nose while you suffer through whatever you're left with.
There's definitely a debate. Michael Beller and I argued whether Robinson Cano or Jason Kipnis is the No. 1 second baseman.
My abbreviated take on the situation is that a lot of people are discounting Cano as the top fantasy second baseman because he left the Bronx for the Great Northwest. The pitcher-friendly Safeco Field will limit his power numbers, is what his detractors are arguing.
The most concise answer I can give to the "power in Safeco" question is this: every home run he hit in 2013 would have ended up going out in Safeco Field anyway. Actually, 17 of his 27 homers went beyond 400 feet, and the farthest spot at Safeco Field is 405 feet, in center field.
Just a handful of games into the 2013 season, Aaron Hill broke his hand -- and the hearts of everyone that drafted him in Round 6 or so of their Rotisserie drafts. He finally returned in June -- and put up decent numbers -- but it was too little too late for most of his fans. If you extrapolate his numbers (.290-45-11-41-1) out to a full season (or 156 games like he played in 2012), he would have had a line like this: .290-80-20-73-2. Those stats would rank him in the top five again among fantasy second baseman.
Sometimes, the best sleepers and breakouts come from sophomores that didn't light the world on fire as rookies. Profar is the poster boy for the sophomore on the rise, after he played in 85 games with the Rangers -- and hit just .234 with 26 RBIs. Now, with all those who paid big for him a little sour, he should drop in drafts a bit. We like him more this season because he'll be 21 years old and won't be splitting two positions with two other players. He's the Rangers' starting second baseman, and they'll start the switch-hitter in the back of the lineup for now. But his ADP of Round 15 is obscene -- so grab him a couple rounds earlier. Also, for leagues that have lax position eligibility requirements, he played 18 games at shortstop, 10 games at third base and even four games in the outfield.
Do you like home runs? Do you like RBIs? Then J-E-to-the-Double-D Gyorko is the man for you! Unless, of course, you are like me, and you are a little concerned about the fact he strikes out about once per game. Or you're worried that his .301 on-base percentage in his rookie year says a little more than the power display. (Actually, his OBP in the minors was much better, but he'll have to bring it up considerably to earn his current ADP in Round 8.)
While I should list him under the "Top Prospect" heading, the Cuban defector seems like a better "sleeper" pick, if only because we haven't been hearing about him for years like most prospects. Guerrero, 27, should step right in to start at second base for the Dodgers, but he'll be buried in the lineup early on. The book on him is that he has lots of power, but hits a lot of air when he swings. How do you say "Jedd Gyorko" in Spanish? The big difference -- you can wait until the late rounds to take Guerrero in mixed leagues.
If drafting Kolten is Wong, I don't want to be wight. (Let's pretend that didn't just happen.) Most of Wong's fantasy value will be determined by the lineup spot he earns out of spring training. If the Cardinals end up hitting him second in the lineup, he could end up having a very good season, much like Matt Carpenter had hitting high in the lineup last season. He's good for 20 steals on your team, and he won't beat you up too much in the other categories.
Our rankings only look at players who play second base as their primary position, or played at least 20 games there in their more recent season in the major leagues. Some other players of note with different eligibility requirements are below:
• 10 games: Jake Elmore (12), Justin Turner (12), Joaquin Arias (13), Adam Rosales (15), Brandon Inge (13).
• Five games: Brett Lawrie (6), Brendan Harris (6), Yuniesky Betancourt (5), Sean Rodriguez (5).
• One game: Eric Young (4), Jose Iglesias (3), Dee Gordon (3), Chris Owings (3), Will Middlebrooks (2), Mark Reynolds (2), Nick Green (2), Francisco Cervelli (1), Yonder Alonso (1), Jeff Baker (1), Jack Hannahan (1), Vernon Wells (1).
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy leagues. You can also follow/mock him @davidgonos on Twitter.