First is the worst. Second is the ... best?
It felt like it at times in 2014. Well, not that part about first being the worst. That's never true. But on Draft Day and for much of the first half, second base seemed like it had overtaken first base as the deepest position in Fantasy.
But then Brian Dozier stopped homering at a Richie Sexson-like rate, and Ian Kinsler and Chase Utley began showing their age. Factor in Matt Carpenter and Josh Harrison not getting the 20 games necessary to retain eligibility at the position in 2015, second base is shaping up to be ... well, it's still deep, technically speaking. But stuck in a transitional state where most everyone at the position is either too old or too young to trust, it just doesn't have as much to get excited about.
Look at these rankings and tell me I'm wrong:
Top 10 second basemen for 2015:
1. Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners
2. Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
3. Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Nationals
4. Brian Dozier, 2B, Twins
5. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Tigers
6. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
7. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox
8. Dee Gordon, 2B, Dodgers
9. Daniel Murphy, 2B, Mets
10. Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF, Rays
I will say that Altuve and Rendon are the exceptions to the rule. They're right in that sweet spot of having broken out but not broken down. Altuve might even be deserving of first-round consideration given that he averaged more Head-to-Head points per game than Miguel Cabrera. Granted, that was with a league-leading batting average, which might be tough to replicate even with .300 being the expectation for him going forward, but with an improving lineup around him and some still-untapped power potential at age 24, I refuse to play the naysayer. Rendon's simultaneous eligibility at the weaker third base makes it a close call between the two.
Dozier, too, is in the discussion, but I'm not as convinced we know who he is yet. A .240 hitter, sure, but that's not anybody's idea of a good time. The power I trust for the most part since it ultimately regressed to what he showed last year, but why were the walks so high? If he loses something there, he'll be horribly miscast as a top-five option.
So why not drop him out of the top five? Show me a person who's excited to draft any of the next eight, and I'll show you a person who just arrived in a time machine from 2011 and is completely dumbfounded to learn he can get Pedroia after Round 2.
I know how that feels, but unfortunately, it was just this spring, not 2011. I was convinced given how well he performed with a torn ligament in his thumb last year that he'd have no trouble bouncing back with the numbers we're used to seeing from him. But apparently not. At 31, it's not outside the realm of possibility for him to do so next year, but I'm no longer banking on it.
(Now watch him say his wrist was what held him back when he's accepting his second AL MVP trophy next year. So guessy, this whole thing.)
I'm not freaking out about Kipnis' identity crisis and still consider him among the safer options at the position, but I'm having a hard time reconciling his value with Kinsler's. The latter vowed to steal more bases this year but didn't, and his percentages suggested he continued to regress at age 32. Yet somehow, he was still a monster in Fantasy, probably owing much of it to his supporting cast. When will the bottom fall out? I'd rather not be the one to find out, but I can't overlook he was far and away better than both Kipnis and Pedroia this year.
And then there's Gordon, who maybe our time-traveling friend (or acquaintance ... or lover) wouldn't be so eager to draft, and I'm kind of with him there. If you could guarantee me he plays enough to steal another 60-70 bases, I'd probably move him ahead of Kinsler, but considering he has no on-base ability or power to speak of, a new sabermetrically inclined front office to answer to and Alex Guerrero trying to break in behind him, I have my doubts. And since he won't be eligible at shortstop anymore, unless it's to meet a specific need in a Rotisserie league, why chance it?
Zobrist, by the way, will still be eligible at shortstop. Too bad he's 100 years old.
Next 10 second basemen for 2015:
11. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies
12. Neil Walker, 2B, Pirates
13. Javier Baez, 2B/SS, Cubs
14. Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals
15. Jedd Gyorko, 2B, Padres
16. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/OF, Cubs
17. Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels
18. Scooter Gennett, 2B, Brewers
19. Brett Lawrie, 2B/3B, Blue Jays
20. Rougned Odor, 2B, Rangers
Utley and Walker round out what I'm calling the "unappealing eight." Talk about boring. I guess Walker's stock is technically on the rise since he only now qualifies for the group, but his gains were slight enough to suggest his career year was more a product of statistical fluctuation than real progression. Either way, it's probably the full extent of his potential, and at least in points leagues, it amounts to what a regressing Ben Zobrist can offer. And to all you Utley apologists, I'll have you know he hit .244 with a .667 OPS after June 1. Oh, and he turns 36 this offseason. You got away with it this year, but how long do you want to push your luck?
Of course, boring isn't necessarily a bad thing. The players who compose the position's upper crust (or first two layers, anyway) may not stand out from one another, but there's 12 of them -- just enough to go around in a standard Fantasy league. Nobody really has to go reaching for the Baez, Wong and Gyorko types.
But undoubtedly, some will, if only for the upside. That's especially true for Baez, who played enough games at shortstop with Starlin Castro sidelined to retain eligibility there. It's not every day you find a middle infielder with the capacity to hit 40 home runs.
Of course, it's not every day you find any player who strikes out as much as he does. Just ask Gyorko owners how that has gone for them this year. Granted, his numbers weren't as exaggerated in either department last year, but he's of the same phenotype. Too early to give up on him, though, especially since he also hit for average over his minor-league career.
Now, before you stop reading and start shaming on your forum of choice -- be it Twitter, Facebook, some message board or chat room -- with your acronym of choice -- be it LOL, ROFL, LMAO, SMH or LANDROMEDA (laughing about nothing dangerous, religious or medical escapes denunciation abroad ... which is more of a public service announcement than a state of being, but I digress) -- understand I'm not condemning Baez to a sophomore season as bad as Gyorko's. He's a prospect with tremendous gifts and a bright future. But anyone who drafts him as his starting second baseman could risk being a step behind everyone else in the league given the depth at the position. Shortstop, of course, is a different story.
As with first base, the few rounding out the top 20 at second may create the most controversy. Kendrick has always been a Fantasy darling for reasons I don't understand, but his .397 slugging percentage simply won't work for a non-speedster. If I could trust the Brewers to play Gennett against both righties and lefties, I might rank him a spot higher, hyping him as the next Walker (boring, but in a good way) given where his slugging percentage has leveled off in the big leagues, but that's a big if. His .103 (4 for 39) batting average against lefties this year certainly didn't help.
Lawrie and Odor are two of the safer pray-for-rain types at the position in that you at least know they'll give you something, but alas, that something could be on the level of an Omar Infante. Just missing was Jurickson Profar, who has lingering questions about both his health and role with Odor now established at the big-league level. In terms of upside, he ranks up there with Baez (though not quite as power-focused), so assuming he gets his shoulder straightened out this offseason, I have a feeling I'll be hyping him as a sleeper again.
Aaron Hill is an interesting case given his up-and-down history, but considering he's older than Kendrick and the Diamondbacks shied away from playing him every day down the stretch, I doubt he'll find many takers next year. And Brandon Phillips is just toast. Who didn't see his regression coming?