Here is a look at the value of second basemen over the past season in OPS fantasy leagues. This is not meant to be a ranking so much as adding a lens to illustrate their relative value with OPS as a component. They are listed from highest to lowest OPS. Note that I only included players with at least 300 plate appearances in 2012. For reference, here’s my review of catchers and first basemen.
Robinson Cano – Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson. Fantasy owners love you more than you will know… especially because the second base position is really weak. Consider that his OPS was nearly fifty points higher than the next best player at his position and nearly 200 points higher than the majority of other second basemen, who top .750 if you’re lucky. Cano produced an incredible .313/.379/.550 line and I see very little reason to expect him to be anything but elite next year. In 2012, he produced career-highs in his walk rate and line drive rate, which I love to see. He also had a career-high HR/FB rate, but I am not overly concerned about regression because the distance of his home runs was greater than it has been in past years, suggesting that they may not have been as lucky as it would appear. For next season, I expect him to do what he’s done the past few years and approach a .900 OPS. Normally I think position scarcity can be a bit overrated, but I understand seeing Cano as a first rounder when he can produce numbers similar to other first rounder players, despite being at a weak position. He’s probably the only second baseman that I would look to draft in the first two rounds in OPS leagues next year because there is quite a drop after him.
Aaron Hill – Simply put, I don’t trust him to repeat his 2012 numbers next year. Let’s take a quick look at his OPS over the last five years: .685 in 2008, .829 in 2009, .665 in 2010, .655 in 2011, and .882 in 2012. Some might argue that he demonstrated in 2009 that he was capable of doing what he did this year, but I’m generally skeptical of players who have the best season of their career at 30 years old. To be fair, he will still hit a good number of home runs and I think he’s a better player than his 2011 numbers indicate, but I see him having the upside for an .800 OPS next year instead of the .882 he posted this year.
Ben Zobrist – He’s one of the guys I value higher in OPS leagues compared to standard leagues. He is fairly consistent and is one of those players with limited upside, but also limited downside and a floor around an .800 OPS. That’s definitely valuable as a second baseman. He’s kind of like a poor man’s Dustin Pedroia…
Dustin Pedroia – Usually he has an OPS around .850, but this year was a bit of an off year. His .290/.347/.449 line is nothing to complain about from a second baseman, but you expected more from him. Whether it was because he was playing through injuries (when isn’t he playing injured?) or not, I’m torn between expecting a rebound or more of the same from him next year. He walked significantly less than he usually does, which is a potential cause for concern. I believe he’ll rebound some, but maybe not fully back to where he has been. After all, the injuries have got to take a cumulative toll at some point, right? Still, an .825 OPS should be attainable.
Chase Utley – When I covered him earlier in the year, I noted that last year, for the first time since 2004, he posted an OPS below .800. I believed that he could post an .800 OPS, a mark that he nearly achieved. I expect more of the same from him next year, with the production still being solid from a second baseman, although his playing time could continue to be sporadic due to extra days off to prevent additional injuries.
Neil Walker – I just yawned when I saw his name, which I think says it all. He’s a solid second baseman, but isn’t all that exciting to own. There doesn’t appear to be much upside here, but next year is his “magical” age 27 season, so there’s that. Otherwise, I expect him to be pretty much the same yawn-inducing player.
Marco Scutaro – Speaking of boring players… seven home runs and nine stolen bases in 683 plate appearances says it all. Sadly, he seems to only have room for downside since he recently turned 37 years old. How did he post the seventh highest OPS among second basemen?
Brandon Phillips – His .281/.321/.429 line was nearly identical to his career line and I expect him to do roughly the same next year. Sometimes being predictable has value.
Ian Kinsler – Really? You were worse than Scutaro? Somehow he managed to undo nearly all of the plate discipline gains he made last year. For example, his walk rate plummeted, his strikeouts rose, he hit infield fly balls at the highest rate of his career, his contact rate dropped, and so on. I’m inclined to think he shows some improvement next year, but not much. A .775 OPS sounds reasonable.
Jose Altuve – FINALLY SOME UPSIDE! No, he’s not going to be Cano anytime soon, but I expect him to improve on his .290/.340/.399 line next year. Dude’s only going to be 23 in 2013 and he’s already a decent second baseman in fantasy leagues. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a .300/.350/.425 line from him with double digit home runs and 30+ steals. Let’s just hope he sees Mike Trout in the offseason and lives to tell about it.
Dan Uggla – His .220/.348/.384 line seemed worse than it already was. His OBP was fine, but his slugging was non-existent. I’d like to think that he could regain form, but I’m leery of trusting him because his contact rate was a career-low and his strikeout rate was much higher than it’s been in years. He’s now had two relatively down years in a row, so I’m starting to think that his baseline may be .750 OPS instead of the .825 OPS that it had been previously.
Rickie Weeks – He just plain sucked the first half of 2012 and then was back to his usual self in the second half. Now that his performance is a question on top of his injuries, I’m likely staying away from him next year unless his price drops substantially.
Jason Kipnis – He pulled a reverse Weeks: solid first half, horrible second half. Unlike Weeks, he has age on his side but, similar to Weeks, I’m probably only going to take a chance if the price falls enough.
Kelly Johnson – Following his fantastic 2010 season, he’s produced two mediocre years. Like Uggla, his strikeout and contact issues have finally caught up to him. I’d have a difficult time drafting him in any round next year.