I find myself quite a bit closer to the consensus at second base this year than I am at any other position. For starters, I agree that there is a big three; right now, we have Robinson Cano going 15th, Jose Altuve 17th and Anthony Rendon 20th in Yahoo leagues. The difference is that I have them flipped, placing Rendon 10th, Altuve 12th and Cano 15th in my top 300.
I really didn’t expect to be quite that high on Altuve, but he was in my top 20 in my initial projections and then moved up a bit more after the Dexter Fowler trade slotted him back into the leadoff spot, giving him a few more plate appearances and runs scored. I have Altuve’s average dropping from .341 to .302 and his steal total falling from 56 to 36, but between his huge number of plate appearances and the modest improvement in Houston’s offense, he figures to remain extremely valuable anyway.
As for Rendon, I do worry a bit about the injury possibility, but he’s a better bet to stay healthy at third than he was at second. From an OPS standpoint, he and Cano tower over the field, with Rendon’s extra 6-8 steals accounting for the difference in their rankings. He’s a legitimate first-round pick in mixed leagues, and he should go as high as third or fourth in NL-only leagues.
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Dee Gordon (Marlins): Gordon is getting taken off the board as the fourth or fifth second baseman in Yahoo leagues, but I think he’s a lot closer to the top three than he’s getting credit for; his ADP in Yahoo leagues is 62, while I have him 23rd. Besides the poor second half, part of the drop can be explained by many viewing him as a one-category player. Still, what a category it is; Gordon swiped 64 bases last year, and the Marlins certainly didn’t acquire him with the intention of having him do less running this season. I’m not expecting Gordon to hit; he has the lowest projected OPS of any of my top 29 second basemen. But I do suspect he’ll do just enough to remain a fixture in the leadoff spot for the Marlins all year long, allowing him to rack up another 60 steals and 85-90 runs scored.
Kolten Wong (Cardinals): Even though there’s a great chance he’s going to be stuck hitting eighth in the Cardinals lineup initially, Wong is one of my very favorite picks this year. Including the postseason, Wong hit 15 homers and stole 21 bases (in 25 tries) in 431 at-bats as a rookie. He didn’t hit for average -- just .249 in the regular season and .241 in October -- but his strikeout rate was about 15 percent better than the league average and he was a .312 hitter in 125 games in Triple-A over the last two years. I trust that the average will come this year, and if he can somehow convince the Cardinals to bat him second, I think he could match the big three when it comes to value. Even as is, I have him providing fourth-round value, and he’s going in the 11th round in Yahoo leagues.
Howie Kendrick (Dodgers): I’m not understanding the complete lack of love for Kendrick. He was fantasy baseball’s No. 7 second baseman last year without hitting any better than he usually does (it helped that he played in 157 games, but this makes four times in five years than he’s topped 140). Now he’s going from a ballpark that punishes right-handed power to one that rewards it in Dodger Stadium. One concern is that I’m not quite sure where he’ll bat yet; sticking him fifth behind Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez makes the most sense to me, but Don Mattingly rarely does things that make sense to me. Regardless, I’m expecting a few more homers this year, and I’m penciling him as the No. 7 second baseball again. In Yahoo, he’s somewhere between 13th and 16th in ADP.
Ian Kinsler (Tigers): This is coming from someone who has owned Kinsler in more leagues through the years than he can count; it’s time to let someone else draft him. Kinsler turns 33 in June, and he’d be far from the first second baseman to hit a wall around that age. He slumped to .245/.272/.358 over the final three months of last season, with his walk rate flat-out collapsing along the way. Also, the Tigers don’t seem committed to stacking the top of the lineup this year, so we could see Jose Iglesias hitting behind Kinsler in the two hole or Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose leading off ahead of him if he’s batting second. I think pretty much all of his numbers are going to tumble.
Chase Utley (Phillies): Sorry, Chase. The way I see it, Kinsler is the only truly overrated second baseman in mixed leagues this year, forcing me to either stop this category with him or move on to a couple of borderline guys. This is me moving on to a borderline guy. I just don’t think Utley still has the upside to justify more than an end-game pick in mixed leagues, particularly not when he’s going to be surrounded by mediocrity in Philadelphia. In the real world, he was still a pretty terrific player last season, but it came with the worst home run rate of his career. He’s not going to excel in any category, and it’s highly unlikely that he’ll play in 155 games again. I have him 228th in the top 300, which is about 60 spots lower than his Yahoo ADP.
Joe Panik (Giants): Because Panik hit .305 as a rookie and drew rave reviews in the postseason, some are looking him as a late-game MI option in mixed leagues. His game, though, isn’t going to translate very well for fantasy purposes. Panik hit a total of six homers between Triple-A and the majors last year and four in the minors in 2013. He didn’t so much as attempt a stolen base in 90 games (including the postseason) following his callup. In Triple-A, he went 3-for-5. It’s nice that he’s hitting second for the Giants, putting him in a position to score a bunch of runs, but he still won’t contribute in mixed leagues while topping out at a half-dozen homers and steals.
Arismendy Alcantara (Cubs): While the Fowler trade probably helped Altuve ever so slightly, it eliminated much of Alcantara’s margin for error this spring. Still, even if he doesn’t have a starting job all to himself initially, manager Joe Maddon’s juggling act could serve him well. Alcantara offers great pop for a middle infielder, and he’d be penciled in at second base in many organizations. The Cubs could still use him there if Javier Baez fails, but they could also play him at third until Kris Bryant comes up. The best-case scenario for the team is that Baez hits, Bryant comes up on May 1 and Alcantara is handed the keys to center field, with Fowler moving to left. If Alcantara gets 500 at-bats, I expect 15 homers and 20-25 steals. Because of his upside, he’s my favorite MI pick in mixed leagues.
Rougned Odor (Rangers): Rapidly gaining on Alcantara is Odor, who jumped from 18th to 15th in my second base rankings with the news that Jurickson Profar would require shoulder surgery. Odor was expected to be the starter anyway, but he’s a safer pick now, or at least as safe as any 21-year-old infielder can be. Odor more than held his own as a rookie, hitting .259 with nine homers in 386 at-bats after being called up from Double-A. He’s probably not going to be much of an OBP guy for the short-term, which is why the Rangers will likely start him off hitting ninth. That holds down his upside some, but he has the talent to do a little bit of everything for fantasy teams. Plus, if Elvis Andrus doesn’t hit, it might not long before Odor gets a look in the two hole.
Hector Olivera (free agent): From 2007-11, Olivera was one of the five best hitters in Cuba, all while playing an adequate second base. Unfortunately, he missed the 2012-13 season and then spent 2013-14 as a designated hitter, leaving his current position as a question mark. Third base might be the best-case scenario. If he needs to play first or DH, he could still be a modest asset, though probably not a star. It sounds like he will sign with a team in the coming weeks, though depending on when the deal gets done, he could start off in the minors. In the right situation, he’d certainly be worth trying as a mixed-league middle infielder. He might not have the 25-homer power he once did, but he’d still be a middle-of-the-order threat.
Christian Colon (Royals): It was just a year ago that the Royals gave Omar Infante a four-year, $30.2 million contract, but that doesn’t mean they should stay committed to him as a regular if Colon continues to look like the superior player. The 2010 first-round pick hit .311/.366/.433 with eight homers and 15 steals in 344 at-bats in Triple-A last season, and he went 15-for-45 in the majors, striking out just four times in the process. Overall, he fanned 33 times in 437 plate appearances on the season (he also walked 33 times). He’s a quality basestealer and the Royals love to run, so he’s a nice end-game pick in AL-only leagues. If things break right, he could get a chance to start.
Devon Travis (Blue Jays): I’m not at all driving the Travis bandwagon, but given the competition in Toronto -- Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, Munenori Kawasaki, Ramon Santiago and Steve Tolleson are all set to battle for playing time this spring -- the ideal for the Blue Jays has Travis excelling in Triple-A for two months and claiming the second-base job on June 1. Travis, who was acquired from the Tigers for Gose, hit .298/.358/.460 in Double-A last year. I don’t think he’ll be ready to hit for average in the majors this year, but he has enough power and speed to stand apart from the Jays’ other options.