There’s Robinson Cano and then everyone else.
When we last met, we dug into the incredibly deep first base position, where there are seemingly infinite options to choose from. The second base position, meanwhile, is a complete and utter crapshoot.
Crapshoot, I tell you.
It’s nowhere near as exciting as the other positions in fantasy, but alas, it needs to be addressed. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if there are no good options at your disposal, but let’s be honest, folks. It ain’t pretty. However, the show must go on, and where else can you start other than the brand new member of the Seattle Mariners.
Going from New York Stadium to Safeco isn’t the greatest thing in the world, but Robinson Cano remains the cream of the crop among fantasy second basemen. Sure, he has belted 16 more home runs at home than on the road over the past five seasons, and New York’s ballpark has seen 1.4 more runs per game than Safeco during that same span, but the fact remains that this is an elite ball player. The last time Cano batted lower than .300, it was 2009. During that span, he’s belted 118 home runs and so much consistency. For instance…
-180 hits or more in five straight years.
-25 homers in five straight years.
-600 at bats or more in five straight years.
-85 RBI or more in five straight years.
Then, there’s the durability. You’d be hard-pressed to find a safer, more healthy player in baseball than Cano, who has played the second-most games out of anyone in baseball over the last five seasons, and has suited up for at least 150 games in seven (!) consecutive years.
Many worry about the potential power outage in pitcher-friendly Safeco, but I think they are a bit overhyped. The guy is seemingly a lock for 24-27 home runs, a .300 batting average, and although the Mariners lineup is rather ugly (22nd and 27th in runs last 2 years), look at what Cano did last year with a depleted, unproven Yankees lineup. At the head of a weak second baseman class, Cano is worthy of a first round pick.
The Very Good
We are all Kipnises…
My favorite second baseman in fantasy has to be Jason Kipnis of the Indians. Kipnis arrived in 2013, hitting 17 home runs, 84 RBI, batted .284, scored 86 runs and, importantly, swiped 30 bags, something Cano doesn’t seem to do. It was the second consecutive season in which Kipnis stole at least 30 bags, while Cano, on the other hand, has stolen 38 throughout his entire career. The guy does strikeout, however, as he swung and missed 143 times in 2013, while watching his strikeout rate jump from 16 to 22 percent. His walk rate did improve, too and at age 26, that oh so magical year, I think there’s plenty of room for improvement. He swung at three percent less pitches landing outside of the strike zone last year, and despite not hitting 20 long balls in a seasons yet, there is some untapped potential to do so. The guy hit a healthy 36 doubles last season, sporting a BABIP of .345. He’s streaky, but at the second base position, you won’t care. A year after finishing 18th overall on ESPN’s Player Rater, Kipnis should be primed to do it again in 2014.
Number third on my list is Dustin Pedroia, who lacks the upside of the prior two players, but he’s still pretty darn good. In 2013, he played a career-high 160 games, despite battling a torn ligament in his thumb. In points leagues, you love some Pedroia, as he finished inside the top-10 in the AL in walks (73), sported a strong on-base percentage of .372 and has posted a contact rate of pitches inside the strike zone of at least 90 percent in every season of his career. He’s also batted .300 or better in two of the last three seasons.
Finally, and often overlooked, is Brandon Phillips. After a winter full of trade rumors, Phillips returned to Great American Ballpark, which bodes well for his fantasy value. The Reds ballpark has seen the 2nd-most home runs per game in each of the last two seasons, and get this. According to ESPN, 95 of Phillips’ 160 career home runs have come in Great American, which shows how important his home venue is for his power numbers. The guy should see his numbers tail off a bit, seeing as he is 33, but Phillips is very safe, very consistent and plays in a very strong lineup, one which will see Phillips in the middle of. ESPN also compiled the fact that Phillips is one of only 15 players over the last five seasons to hit at least 75 home runs and steal 75 bases. I’m not giving up on Phillips.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.