2016 Fantasy Baseball Second Basemen Rankings

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The second base position appears to be getting deeper with usable fantasy players, and in that sense it is probably the next deepest infield position behind first base. However, just because the player pool at the position is deep, that doesn’t mean that there’s a slew of elite talent there. To reference How I Met Your Mother, this is like the “cheerleader effect” when looking at second basemen. As a collective group, this pool of players may look pretty attractive 17 players or so down the list when you see the guys with the name value like Ian Kinsler, Ben Zobrist, and Dustin Pedroia, but when looking at them individually you see that most of them have their own sticking point, and there are really only a few studly looking gentlemen that you actually want to get to second base with. See what I did there?

Below are THE BACKWARDS K 2016 FANTASY BASEBALL SECOND BASEMEN RANKINGS. Included for each player is “The Backwards K Quick Take” and a self-produced player projection for 2016.

***Please note the following:

  • The player’s names are color coded to signal different tiers at the position.
  • The rankings reflect standard 5×5 roto scoring settings (AVG/HR/RBI/R/SB) with position eligibility requirements as 10 total games played at a position in 2015, or 5 total games started at a position in 2015 (i.e. Yahoo! settings).
  • The numerical order is not necessarily a suggested order to draft them in, but it is the order that is calculated based on each player’s listed projections, unless noted otherwise.
  • Noted in some players’ “Quick Takes” is if they gain or lose notable value in points leagues that factor penalize hitter strikeouts and reward hitter walks.

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Mining for Cole in Texas (and other notes from 7/29/15)

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The next big name on the move as the trade deadline nears is set to be Cole Hamels who will be heading to the Texas Rangers along with reliever Jake Diekman in exchange for starting pitcher Matt Harrison and a barrage of prospects that includes Jorge AlfaroAlec AsherJerad EickhoffNick Williams, and Jake Thompson.

The Philadelphia Phillies were in a good position to land a package that they wanted because Hamels is not just a 2-3 month rental for the remainder of this season. Instead, he is under contract through 2018 with a vesting option for 2019, so that meant that even non-contending teams could make a run for the 31-year old lefty and that’s exactly what happened with the 3rd place Rangers landing him. However, the Rangers are just 4 games back of the second AL Wildcard spot, so perhaps they even think that they could potentially contend for a post-season berth.

Hamels moves from the hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park to another hitter friendly stadium at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. So there’s no real win or loss with the home park switch, but switching leagues from the National League to the American League should be perceived as a negative impact for Hamels’ fantasy value. His ERA, WHIP, and strikeout rate should all be expected to move in wrong directions, but that doesn’t mean that he still won’t be valuable. And there are some occasions where the NL pitcher moving to the AL doesn’t really see his stats suffer all that much, if at all.

The Rangers have had to endure a lot of injuries to their pitching staff this season, which kind of had them doomed from the get go once it was determined that their ace Yu Darvish needed to undergo Tommy John surgery before the season even began. So they likely have their sights set more on next season when Darvish hopefully returns before the All-Star break sometime. They hope that Hamels and Darvish can form a great 1-2 punch, though serious doubts should be had regarding Darvish and his control once he returns. All in all, it was a bold move for the Rangers who are starved for pitching, and Hamels will try to take the Rangers to the next level just like he did with the Phillies during the mid 2000’s when they had a great run.

Diekman, a left-handed reliever, has a poor 5.15 ERA and 1.75 WHIP this season, but he’s a power lefty that has some big time strikeout abilities and is under club control for a couple more years. He has the chance to develop into a nice bullpen piece for the Rangers if he can improve his walk rate.

Harrison should step right into the Phillies rotation, but his outlook shouldn’t really change a whole lot since he’s just rather mediocre and has been a walking injury the last two seasons. Three of the five prospects that the Phillies are receiving from the Rangers were ranked in the pre-season top 10 Rangers prospect list by Baseball America, so it appears that the Phillies did well and received a decent haul in return. But we’ll have to wait and see how they pan out. Continue reading

Trading Places: Tulo & Reyes

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The big story of Monday night came late when it was reported that the Toronto Blue Jays and Colorado Rockies had agreed on a blockbuster trade that would send veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins north of the border. The Blue Jays had been in the market for some relief pitching help and Hawkins’ veteran savvy can surely prove to be the stepping stone to turning the Jays inexperienced bullpen into a real force in the American League East down the stretch run as they vie for a spot in the post-season.

Also added in to sweeten the deal for the Jays was the oft injured shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, whose offensive stats have long been inflated by the thin air of Coors Field. Tulowitzki will provide some middle infield depth alongside the slick fielding Ryan Goins and Munenori Kawasaki.

Oh, wait. This doesn’t sound right…

I am just joking of course. Tulowitzki was the center piece of this trade and is a veteran star (and Hawkins probably won’t be instrumental in turning the Jays bullpen into a force — though never say never!). And going over to Colorado in this trade is veteran shortstop Jose Reyes along with a trio of pitching prospects that include Miguel CastroJeff Hoffman, and Jesus Tinoco.

Yes, Tulowitzki is oft injured and has had Coors Field to aid his performance over the years, but there’s no doubting that he is a good hitter and defender whose presence will be known. The Blue Jays had been known to be in the market for pitching both on the starting and relief ends, so a splash like this to add another slugger to what is already an incredibly powerful lineup that is 3rd in the Majors in home runs and 1st in the Majors in runs scored (by a hefty 72 run margin) was surely unexpected to say the least.

As I alluded to, Tulowitzki has performed better at Coors Field than on the road in his 10-year career, which would be the case for mostly any Rockies hitter. At Coors Field, Tulowitzki has a career line of .321/.394/.558 with 106 HR in 526 games. On the road, he has hit .276/.349/.468 with 82 HR in 521 games. So there is an apparent difference, but he’s still been a pretty good hitter on the road and he will be joining a very good lineup that plays its home games in a very advantageous park as well. The Rogers Centre in Toronto definitely is not the same type of hitters haven that Coors Field is, but it is one of the better places to hit for right-handed batters in the Majors. Just ask Josh Donaldson who is loving calling Rogers Centre his home for the first season as he is hitting .340/.380/.660 with 15 HR in 47 games.

What may be even more concerning about Tulowitzki joining Toronto than the move away from Coors Field is playing his home games on artificial turf in the Rogers Centre. Tulowitzki has been no stranger to the disabled list as it kind of has been his figurative home away from home since he generally lands there at least once a season (but not yet this season — *fingers crossed). Artificial turf has been known to be less forgiving on the lower body for players. So with Tulowitzki’s injury history and the fact that he will be turning 31 this fall, this could potentially mark the downswing of his career. And with the trade, Tulowitzki’s contract now includes a full no-trade clause for the remainder of his contract that runs through 2020. So while this trade for the Blue Jays seems impactful in a positive way for this season, it might not turn out so great when it’s all said and done.

From a fantasy perspective, Tulowitzki may lose some slight value with the home park switch, but he’s still in a favorable situation, and joining a loaded lineup could help to negate any potential difference in the home parks. Where he will be inserted into the lineup is not known yet, but the subtraction of Reyes from the Blue Jays lineup, who has been their leadoff hitter, means that they will be doing some lineup shuffling. Donaldson saw some time in the leadoff spot this season when Reyes was on the DL, so he might move back there with Tulowitzki slotting behind him in the 2-hole. Or another option would be to move rookie second baseman Devon Travis up to the leadoff spot as he also has spent some time there this season, though rather unsuccessfully hitting just .195/.267/.317 in 82 AB. If Travis is the one who takes over the leadoff spot then Tulowitzki could really hit anywhere from 3rd to 5th in the lineup. Whatever the case, Tulowitzki will still be in a great spot to produce well for fantasy — it’s Travis who could really see a big boost in value if he is given another chance at leading off.

For the Rockies, they are always searching for pitching prospects to try and find the right guys who have the right repertoire and makeup to succeed in pitching at Coors Field. But this young trio of prospects that they received have to be hating life right now as they must be aware of the long list of pitchers who have failed as Rockies players. Ultimately, it could cost them many dollars in future earnings. Hoffman was the Blue Jays 1st round pick in the 2014 draft and is considered to be the most intriguing of the prospects. But with the Rockies, none of them will have any fantasy value for the remainder of this season, unless Miguel Castro (who closed out a few games early in the season for the Blue Jays) is given a chance to close at some point. For keeper and dynasty leagues, it would be difficult to roster these pitchers knowing that their immediate future is in the Rockies organization.

Reyes will take over Tulowitzki’s spot on the diamond at shortstop, but there is the chance that he gets flipped to another team for more prospects. But on the assumption that he does remain with the Rockies beyond the trade deadline, Reyes should get a boost in value playing at Coors Field despite having an underwhelming career line at Coors Field of .254/.259/.447 with 2 HR in 25 games. He would likely hit 1st or 2nd for the Rockies with the current Rockies just being slightly shifted in the lineup, so there would really be no big change in fantasy value for anyone.

***UPDATE (7/28/15 12:00 PM PST)

Something that I overlooked initially is the fact that if Reyes is indeed flipped to another team, that potentially opens up shortstop for the Rockies prospect Trevor Story. Story is one of the organization’s top prospects and has worked his way up from AA to AAA during this season. Between the two levels, he has hit .281 with 16 HR, 56 RBI, 60 R, and 15 SB in 90 games played this season. But what’s been the most important part of his season has been his improvement in his strikeout rate. In 2013 at high-A ball, Story struck out 33.0% of the time. In 2014 across four levels and ending at AA, he struck out 30.3% of the time. But this season, he has cut that rate all the way down to 23.4%. The power and speed blend is obviously there and has been there for his whole professional career, so for him to show improvement in his plate approach and discipline at the age of 22 is a great sight. Story should be monitored in all leagues.

Jonesing for More (and other notes from 7/12/15)

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Consistency from year to year can often be overlooked in fantasy baseball because often times we want the flair for the dramatic, the opportunity to own a player for his big breakout season.  So sometimes we will forego the opportunity of making the “safe” pick of drafting a player that is easier to predict and we “know” what to expect from him because we want the upside for more instead.  Over the last four seasons, one of the most consistent and reliable fantasy outfielders has been Adam Jones of the Orioles.  There’s been some fluctuation in his RBI and runs scored due to his spot changing in the batting order, but for the most part he has been much the same player from year to year from 2011-14.  Take a look:

  • 2011 – .280/.319/.466 with 25 HR, 83 RBI, 68 R, 12 SB, 4.7 BB%, 18.3 K%
  • 2012 – .287/.334/.505 with 32 HR, 82 RBI, 103 R, 16 SB, 4.9 BB%, 18.1 K%
  • 2013 – .285/.318/.493 with 33 HR, 108 RBI, 100 R, 14 SB, 3.6 BB%, 19.7 K%
  • 2014 – .281/.311/.469 with 29 HR, 96 RBI, 88 R, 7 SB, 2.8 BB%, 19.5 K%

Jones has missed 11 games this season due to various minor injuries to his ankle, shoulder, and toe, but with 2 HR off Max Scherzer on the day right before the All-Star break, Jones is now hitting .281/.326/.490 with 14 HR, 43 RBI, 43 R, and 3 SB, which puts him near pace to have another season that is pretty consistent with the past four seasons.  However, there is one big difference in his performance so far that in the end could allow him to break the some of this consistent production in a positive way.  That difference is that this season he is striking out at a career low rate of 14.5%.

Jones has always been a free swinger who doesn’t really enjoy taking walks, and this season he is sporting a career high swing rate by offering at a whopping 60.2% of pitches, which is much higher than his 55.9% career rate.  However, he has been able to make contact on more of those swings with a career best 11.4% swinging strike rate.  His career swinging strike rate is 13.5%, which isn’t too much higher than his current 2015 rate, but it’s still a noticeable enough difference and appears to be the primary factor to the decline in his strikeout rate.

The drop in his strikeouts is significant because in theory he should see an uptick in his batting average if all other things in his batted ball profile are mostly constant.  Jones’ BABIP over the last several seasons is something that has also been consistent with marks of .304, .313, .314, and .311, but this season it is down to a very uncharacteristic .292.  His hard hit rate is the only thing that would really suggest a decline in his BABIP as it is at 30.4%, which is the lowest it’s been since 2011, but that’s not too far off from his career mark of 31.9%.

So if Jones can get his BABIP back up to a level that he is used to giving, paired with the decrease in strikeouts, that could lead to his first .300 AVG season of his career.  If he is unable to achieve so, then at the very least he should end the season once again in very familiar territory that is consistent with what he’s been known to do.  That wouldn’t be a terrible thing, but definitely not overly exciting and it would leave the fantasy baseball community jonesing for more.

Let’s take a look at the rest of Sunday’s action as we enter the All-Star break.

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A Lesson in Klubotics (and other notes from 5/13/15)

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The reigning AL Cy Young, Corey “the Klubot” Kluber had been on the wrong end of some hit parades over the course of his first 7 starts of the 2015 season, which led him to an 0-5 record with a 5.04 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.  Given that his breakout 2014 performance kind of came out of nowhere (though there were signs that he had breakout potential), fantasy owners of Kluber were chomping at the bit to get rid of him.  Yes, it is unfortunate for anyone who owns/owned Kluber that they had to endure such an ugly stretch, but a closer examination of what was really going on showed that there really was never any real reason to worry.

Heading into Wednesday’s action, Kluber had a .364 BABIP and 62.3% strand rate, both of which were way worse than the league average and they were numbers to expect to regress towards the mean.  Though his ERA was bloated at 5.04, his xFIP was 3.16 and his SIERA was 3.21.  xFIP and SIERA are far more accurate measures of what a pitcher’s “true” performance is, and for Kluber’s marks to have been nearly two whole runs beneath his ERA, it was an obvious sign of things to come.  Then add in the fact that his normal catcher, Yan Gomes who is known to be a great game caller with excellent framing metrics, got injured within the first week of the season, and his impending return in a couple weeks was more reason to believe in Kluber.

With that being said, the Klubot emerged on Wednesday to hurl one of the most dazzling games of this millennium.  Outside of a bean ball on Matt Holliday early in the game and a 7th inning single given up to Jhonny “don’t spell it Johnny” Peralta, Kluber was perfect.  At the end of 8 innings, Kluber had tallied 18 strikeouts on 113 pitches.  I really think that Kluber should have came out for the 9th inning to be given the opportunity to get to 20 strikeouts, or even 21 to set a new record, especially with the ugly way that Indians closer Cody Allen has been pitching.  However, possibly playing a part in the decision of Kluber coming out of the game was the fact that manager Terry Francona was ejected earlier in the game and the acting manager for the Indians wanted to be cautious and not get in trouble with anyone for leaving Kluber out there too long.  Whatever the case, the Klubot mystified Cardinals hitters all game long and effectively reversed any doubts that any fantasy owners may have had.

Kluber improved to 1-5 with a 4.27 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 64 K/11 BB in 52.2 IP.  From here on out, those numbers should keep on improving.  The window to buy low on Kluber has officially closed, and this has been your lesson in Klubotics.

Let’s see what else took place on hump day… Continue reading

Year to Date (5/6/15): Fantasy Second Basemen

To continue to make up for lost time, we are going to look at some of this year’s second basemen.  We have the usual suspects Jose Altuve and Dee Gordon killing it as expected.  My personal favorite, Mookie Betts, is the 4th ranked second basemen on Yahoo, but his .234 AVG is leaving a lot to be desired so I am not going to call him a surprise player.  But there are a couple of rather unexpected performances so far at the position and some disappointments.  Let’s take a look.

SECOND BASEMEN

Surprises:  Devon Travis, Marcus Semien

By far the biggest surprise of the year at second base is Devon Travis of the Blue Jays.  Travis was acquired by the Blue Jays in exchange for Anthony Gose in the off-season and so far the Blue Jays have gotten the best of that deal.  Travis was a deep sleeper heading into the year, but nobody could have foreseen a start like this for the 24-year old.  Travis is leading all fantasy second basemen in runs (20) and RBI (23) and is tied for the lead in HR (7) and he has a .309 AVG to boot.  Is this hot start for real or is some huge regression in store?  Well, in 2013 across rookie ball, A-ball, and high A-ball, Travis hit .337 with 18 HR and 26 SB.  Advancing to AA in 2014, Travis did not have the same success but still displayed some solid skills hitting .298 with 10 HR and 16 SB.  Travis skipped AAA altogether with the Blue Jays immediate need for a quality second baseman and he has even been filling in at the leadoff spot in the absence of the injured Jose Reyes.  Travis is bound to run into some struggles as his Major League rookie season progresses and is not going to keep up the current pace that he is on, but I think he still should be a quality fantasy second baseman the rest of the way.  I am going to say that he finishes the season around .280/17/70/80/10, though the counting stats will be dependent on how long Reyes is out for because Travis could move back toward the bottom of the batting order with Reyes healthy. Continue reading