Warning: These tiers might be the most misleading for any position.
I wrestled with them longer than anyone should wrestle with something that's based mostly on gut feeling, and even now I'm not sure they accurately represent the distribution of talent at second base.
It's short on top-tier players, no doubt, but it's so abounding in middle-of-the-road .280-hitting, 15-homer types that virtually everyone in a 12-team mixed league figures to walk away happy.
And yet those all-too-similar players are distributed between three tiers, exaggerating the difference between them and making it so second base doesn't really stand out as the one infield position where you can afford to wait.
The Elite: Jose Altuve, Dee Gordon
The Near-Elite: Brian Dozier, Rougned Odor
The Next-Best Things: Anthony Rendon, Robinson Cano, Jason Kipnis, Ben Zobrist, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia
The Fallback Options: Joe Panik, Logan Forsythe, Addison Russell, Kolten Wong
The Last Resorts: Daniel Murphy, Devon Travis, DJ LeMahieu, Howie Kendrick, Neil Walker, Brandon Phillips, Jonathan Schoop, Starlin Castro
The Leftovers: Josh Harrison, Brett Lawrie, Javier Baez, Trea Turner, Jedd Gyorko, Cory Spangenberg, Jose Peraza
The players in question are the The Near-Elite, The Next-Best Things and The Fallback Options. So why not just lump them all into one big tier, you ask? I've asked myself the same only a couple dozen times.
The problem is that while the gap between a Dozier and a Rendon and a Rendon and a Kinsler may not be significant, it adds up over the course of 12 players. The gap between Dozier and, say, Forsythe is significant, and so I don't think advising anyone to wait around for Forsythe when Dozier is ripe for the taking in Round 6 is particularly helpful. And that's the point of tiering a position: to reveal how long you can wait before the next big drop-off.
So why not combine two tiers into one? That could work, except it would mean eliminating a tier completely. But are Dozier and Odor really two tiers worse than Altuve and Gordon? Are Panik and Forsythe two tiers worse than Zobrist and Pedroia? The idea is to present these players as being closer in value, not further apart.
My point in deliberating so openly isn't to shake your confidence in the process. It's to remind you that tiering a position is a mostly subjective exercise that works best with some personal input. Frankly, I'm in favor of everyone making their own tiers to represent their own preferences, but these particular tiers at this particular position are especially open to interpretation. If you want to move Rendon, Cano and Kipnis up a tier, leaving behind Zobrist, Kinsler and Pedroia, hey, you're not necessarily wrong. I considered that arrangement myself but ultimately opted against it because it would reduce my chances of drafting Odor, my favorite breakout candidate for 2016. So, yeah ... personal preference.
I'll be honest: If I don't pick in the right spot to land Altuve or Gordon in Round 2 and I don't get Odor at what I deem an appropriate value (say, Round 6 or 7), I'll probably wait to draft Panik or Forsythe as my starting second baseman. The upcharge for one of The Next-Best Things just isn't worth it to me. Then again, maybe one falls to me a good three rounds after the other five go off the board. It never hurts to keep your options open, and you'll have an easier time identifying value when you know the full landscape at a position.
The truth is there isn't need for an upcharge at second base this year, not even in a deeper format than 12-team mixed. This isn't your daddy's second base. Any of The Last Resorts could emerge as must-start options. Murphy, Phillips and perhaps even LeMahieu already were last year. Travis likely would have been if he hadn't hurt his shoulder. Walker tied Dozier for the home run lead at the position two years ago, and Schoop and Castro are two of my sleeper picks for this year. Unless your league uses a middle infield spot, it's fair to say your draft will end before all the second basemen I like are off the board.