Often times in the midst of your draft, you’ll find yourself deciding between a couple players at the same position. With Player Showdowns, we take two players who are closely ranked by Average Draft Position (ADP) and/or Rotoworld’s 2014 season projections and have writers take a side and debate who should be selected first. Whose side will you be on?
This is mostly about me being down on Kinsler than anything else. While I still think Kinsler will be valuable in mixed leagues, we're talking about someone who is a .242/.312/.399 career hitter away from Texas. He has already shown a decline in power (coinciding with a drop in his fly ball rate) over the past two seasons and I'm expecting that trend to continue now that he'll play half of his games in a less hitter-friendly ballpark with the Tigers. The 31-year-old is also just 36-for-56 in stolen base attempts (64 percent success rate) over the past two seasons, so his recent declaration about trying to run more often this season might not necessarily be a good thing. Simply put, his days as one of the top fantasy second baseman could very well be over. Carpenter obviously doesn't possess as much power/speed upside as Kinsler, but his high contact/line drive approach provides optimism about his chances of hitting for a high batting average again and his patience is perfectly suited for the top of the Cardinals' lineup. It would be no surprise if he's near the top of the league in runs scored once again in 2014. Given that Kinsler will cost more on draft day, I'd rather just wait and go for Carpenter. - D.J. Short (@djshort)
Carpenter was one of the breakout stars of the 2013 baseball season, leading the major leagues in hits (199), doubles (55), and runs scored (126) alongside an outstanding .318/.392/.481 slash line. He earned a spot on the National League All-Star team, won the Silver Slugger Award for second base, and finished fourth in the National League MVP voting. But can he keep it up? Is this former 13th-round pick -- who turned 28 years old over the winter -- really going to establish himself as a perennial MVP candidate? I have my doubts, and they center around Carpenter's lack of a substantial track record. Kinsler didn’t hit nearly as well as Carpenter did last season and the Tigers’ new second baseman also had a relatively poor showing in 2012, but the much larger sample size -- and the fact that Kinsler is only 31 years old -- suggests that a bounceback campaign could be coming. I’m betting on regression for Carpenter in 2014 and a big time rebound for Kinsler in his first year in Detroit. – Drew Silva (@drewsilv)
Murphy has generally been a fantasy afterthought, but the second baseman turned heads with his performance in 2013. Murphy posted a .286/.319/.415 line to go with 13 home runs, 23 stolen bases, 78 RBI and 92 runs scored. Suddenly, the average-only hitter became a five-category contributor for fantasy owners. Was it a mirage? Possibly, especially with regard to the stolen bases, but it's the second straight season the 28-year-old has put up essentially the same line -- in 2012, he hit .291/.332/.403 in 85 fewer at-bats. And while the spike in runs scored is notable relative to the rest of his career, it's no coincidence that he set the career high while receiving 511 plate appearances in the No. 2 spot in the lineup; in his previous three years combined he received just 595 plate appearances there. That shouldn't change this year, and with David Wright and Curtis Granderson batting behind him it should be a prime spot for runs once again. Even if he gives back some of those stolen bases, Murphy is one of only four second basemen we have projected to hit at least .280 with double-digit steals and home runs. Utley's upside may be higher, but Murphy's floor makes him the better bet in 2014. – Nathan Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)
Utley left no doubt last season that he's still one of the game's best second basemen, with the obvious caveat that his 131 games played was his highest total since 2009. Expecting him to top that figure in 2014 is a bad idea, but then, Murphy remains one of the biggest injury risks around, too, even after back-to-back healthy seasons. Utley has big power advantages over Murphy, so Murphy's chances of beating him out for value this year could hinge on him swiping 20 bases again. Since he's not going to take pitchers and catchers by surprise again, he'll likely fall short. While Utley can't be counted on to provide six months of production and perhaps not even five, he should be a top-six second baseman when healthy. – Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot)
I’m choosing Zobrist here because I believe he has the more stable skill set. Phillips posted his first career 100-RBI season in 2013, which looks nice, but it masks the fact that he had the lowest average (.261) and on-base percentage (.310) and easily the lowest slugging percentage (.396) in his career for a full season. The second baseman’s downward trend in stolen bases also continued last year, as he swiped just five bags. And, with an expected move from the cleanup spot up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup, Phillips’ gaudy RBI total will certainly drop. Phillips is still just 32, so I don’t see his production falling off the cliff, but I think we’re seeing the beginning of his decline. Meanwhile, Zobrist had the lowest strikeout percentage (13%) of his career last season while maintaining a nice walk percentage (10.3%). The 32-year-old also had over twice as many steals as Phillips last season (11) and has out-homered him two of the last three years. To top it all off, Zobrist offers fantasy owners versatility with his eligibility at shortstop and the outfield, as well. Phillips is the flashier name, but Zobrist is the safer fantasy selection. – Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)
I'm hardly a huge Phillips believer now that he's 33 years old, so this is as much about choosing him as it is thinking that Zobrist's fantasy upside simply isn't particularly impressive. In real life a ton of Zobrist's value comes from defensive positional versatility and drawing walks, neither of which are as valuable in most fantasy circumstances, and as someone likely to hit around .275 with 15-20 homers and 10-15 steals the ceiling just isn't high enough. Plus, he's the same age as Phillips. Phillips, meanwhile, has similar power and speed projections and also gets a nice boost by likely hitting behind on-base machine Joey Votto in the Reds' lineup once again. He won't drive in another 100-plus runs because Phillips' numbers with runners in scoring position will come back down to earth, but whether he hits behind Votto or in front of Votto I like his run production potential more than Zobrist's. In real life I'd take Zobrist every time, but in fantasy I'd still learn toward Phillips for at least one more season. – Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman)