Second base tiers for Draft Day 2014
The second base position will once again challenge owners on Draft Day. Our Scott White lays out his strategies and tiers for the position for 2014.
What a difference a year makes, huh?
Naturally, when I establish my tiers each season, I review what I wrote the previous season. And you know what I said about second base last year?
Tiers are designed to deliver the most efficient draft possible by
using player rankings to reveal the distribution of talent at each
position. A new tier begins whenever the next player down in the
rankings has a vastly different projected outcome from the one
preceding him. Reducing a position to five or six tiers instead of
30 or more individuals gives you a blueprint to follow as your
league's draft unfolds. Naturally, the position to target is the one
whose active tier is closest to completion. -- SW
"Most of the selection is about as disappointing as you'll find at any position."
Ha! Ha-ha, even!
If there's one position where I'm inclined to wait on Draft Day this year, it's second base. OK, so it's actually catcher, with second base a close second, but the two are similar as historically shallow positions that have suddenly become front-loaded. Maybe not every big-league team can claim an offensive standout at the position, but in a 12-team Head-to-Head points league, where nobody has a middle infield spot to fill, there's more than enough to go around.
And that's not even counting proverbial lottery tickets Anthony Rendon and, eventually, Jurickson Profar. It's not counting Kolten Wong or Scooter Gennett, who could emerge as viable starters in their first year on the job. It's not even counting perennial disappointment Howie Kendrick.
Here's the breakdown ...
The Elite: Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis, Matt Carpenter
The Near-Elite: Ian Kinsler, Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist
The Next-Best Things: Jedd Gyorko, Jose Altuve, Aaron Hill, Chase Utley, Brandon Phillips, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier
The Fallback Options: Jed Lowrie, Anthony Rendon, Kolten Wong
The Last Resorts: Howie Kendrick, Neil Walker, Jurickson Profar, Dustin Ackley, Omar Infante, Dan Uggla, Kelly Johnson
The Leftovers: Rickie Weeks, Nick Franklin, Scooter Gennett, Emilio Bonifacio, Marco Scutaro, Brian Roberts, Gordon Beckham, Jonathan Schoop, DJ Lemahieu, Alberto Callaspo, Jordy Mercer
First, a quick word on Cano just in case some weirdo who keeps closer track of these things than I do remembers I gave him a tier to himself last year. The first round -- particularly the first half of the first round -- is so choreographed that you really don't need the tiers to figure out what to do. At the appropriate time to take Cano, you take him, regardless of what remains at second base. Tiering him separately would overstate his value, putting him on a level with Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout where he just doesn't belong, both because second base is deeper than it used to be and because the move from New York to Seattle could have an adverse effect on his numbers. He's more in the Paul Goldschmidt-Andrew McCutchen class of early first-rounders.
Playing the tiers at second base really begins after Cano, usually in the middle of the second round with either Pedroia and Kipnis in a Rotisserie league or Pedroia and Carpenter in Head-to-Head. At that point, though, I'm more focused on grabbing whatever remains of The Elite at first base since it'll be closer to completion at that point or filling in third base since its tiers won't be as extensive later in the draft. It's not that I'm opposed to selecting any of Pedroia, Kipnis and Carpenter. It's just that the draft unfolds in such a way that, with all my other priorities, the window to select them is fairly small. And that ginormous list of names in The Next-Best Things makes passing on them pretty easy to justify.
Tiering those seven that low might even be overly cautious. Altuve just needs better lineup support to get the most of his 35 steals. Hill just needs to stay healthy to put up numbers on par with Kipnis. Murphy proved himself last year by ranking fifth at the position in Head-to-Head leagues, averaging 2.93 Fantasy points per game. Dozier averaged even more than that from July 1 on. Gyorko, with the power he showed as a rookie, gives the position at least another Uggla, back when Uggla was actually good, and some people think he could hit for average as well. Of The Next-Best Things, Utley and Phillips concern me the most, but as mainstays at the position, they'll likely be two of the earlier ones drafted.
I'll admit I like some from that tier more than others, but the beauty of the tiers approach is that it doesn't ask you to play favorites. If those eight really are capable of similar production, just take the last one available. Quite often I've found it's Dozier, and I'm fine with that.
Another advantage to waiting at second base is that it keeps you in the mix for Rendon and Wong late in the draft. Both have strong pedigrees -- Rendon likely would have been the first pick in the 2011 draft if not for a shoulder injury late in his college career -- but fell short of expectations as rookies last year. Drafting one as your top second baseman is risky, but drafting one to fill your middle infield spot in a Rotisserie league could result in early-round production from a late-round pick. And even in those leagues where you have to go deeper than Rendon and Wong at second base, the risk of waiting too long is minimal. Players like Kendrick, Walker and Infante should at least keep you afloat.
You may have noticed I skipped over The Near-Elite. Yeah ... I don't like them so much. Kinsler and Zobrist deserve to go off the board before The Next-Best Things, and if they fell far enough, I'd take them. But as a general rule, I don't trust middle infielders showing signs of decline in their early 30s. That cliff is usually a steep one. From that tier, it's basically Prado or bust, and given how third base thins out in the middle rounds, I'll more likely draft him to fill that position.
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