Jedd Gyorko of the San Diego Padres and Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets both had productive seasons in 2013, and fantasy baseball owners were able to find two more suitable options at second base as a result. Gyorko finished sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, and finished second among second baseman in home runs (23) along with 63 RBI and 62 runs scored over 125 games (525 plate appearances). Murphy did not hit as many home runs as Gyorko (13), but his across the board production (.286 batting average, 92 runs scored, 78 RBI and 23 stolen bases) rivaled that of any second baseman this side of Dustin Pedroia.
In this edition of fantasy baseball “Face-Off” pitting Gyorko against Murphy, I’m going to try a slightly different format. Instead of making a case for each player and then offering final analysis, I will target some notable fantasy categories, determine which player has the advantage in that category and then offer a conclusion over who will be the better fantasy option in 2014.
Murphy’s .286 batting average is line with his career mark, and his contact rate (85.6 percent in 2013) and BABIP (.315 last season) have been stable over the last few years. A slight downward trend in average (.320 in 2011, .291 in 2012) is a bit of a concern, but there’s nothing that serves as a red flag for a significant drop-off.
Gyorko hit just .249 last year, but a below average BABIP (.287) and a mediocre contact rate (74.7 percent) are to blame for that. He hit over .300 in all three of this full minor league seasons, so a little better luck this year should bring improvement.
Gyorko had just eight home runs and 26 RBI through the end of July last year, but 15 home runs over 204 at-bats in August and September gave him his final production and left him behind only Robinson Cano in home runs by a second baseman. Gyorko hit 13 of his 23 home runs at home, so Petco Park did not diminish his power and that can only be a good thing.
Murphy’s 13 home runs in 2013 were a career-high, which was not a surprise since he hit a lot more fly balls (36.3 percent; 24.9 percent in 2012) and had a few more clear the fence with a home run/fly ball rate of 6.3 percent (4.9 percent in 2012).
Murphy’s RBI total last season was a career-high, which was spurred partially by 141 at-bats with runners in scoring position, 60 RBI in those situations and a career-high in at-bats (658). All three of those numbers may go down in 2014.
Gyorko hit just .184 with runners in scoring position last year, and his BABIP in those situations (.191) backs up that dismal average. Better luck almost has to come this year, so more RBI than last season’s 63 is an absolutely realistic expectation.
Gyorko went 1-for-2 on steal attempts in 2013, and his minor league track record (19 stolen bases) suggests he will not suddenly become a speed demon.
Murphy also set a career-high in stolen bases last year with 23, with more attempts (26) than he had in the previous two seasons combined (22).
It sounds like a broken record by now, but Murphy had a career-best 92 runs scored in 2013. A repeat has to be considered unlikely in 2014, but the addition of Curtis Granderson to the middle of the Mets’ lineup makes a complete drop-off unlikely as well.
Gyorko’s runs scored total will be held down a bit by a dismal lineup around him, as the Padres scored the fourth-fewest runs in the National League last year (3.81 per game), but overall it won’t be a huge drag on his fantasy value.
Murphy only played seven games at first base last season, so he may lose multi-position eligibility all together in most fantasy leagues this year. Gyorko offers some position flexibility to fantasy owners in 2014, with 13 games played at third base last season, but looking forward his greatest long-term value will be as a second baseman.
It’s often a good move for fantasy owners to shoot for upside when choosing middle infielders, so that makes Gyorko my choice here. Murphy will still offer solid across the board production this year, but a repeat of his 2013 season should not be expected. Gyorko, on the other hand, has room to improve and offers power production that is rare at second base.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.