Fantasy Baseball 2B: Flushing Pedroia
(Editor's Note: Feel free to tweet at Tom to ask him whether he's crushing on or flushing any player. You can find him at @TomMcFeeley and use the hashtag #CrushOrFlush).
As I get older, I find more and more things make me cranky. Shoveling snow is a big one. People “inviting” me to play games on Facebook is another. Don’t even get me started on ordering food from the drive-thru.
But each winter, when I start to evaluate second basemen, I can feel that “Get off the lawn!!” feeling begin to churn inside of me. Love evaluating first basemen. Outfielders get me giddy. Finding those late pitchers who will emerge as top starters emboldens me. But second basemen? They almost strip my will to live.
Okay, I exaggerate. But with Robinson Cano on the decline, Chase Utley almost done, and having to play Anthony Rendon at third base in the only keeper league in which I own him has (almost) put second-baggers in the “catchers” category. They are the Seattle of baseball positions. Sure, there is an occasional sunny day, but the rest of the time, you drown yourself in coffee to hopefully find the silver lining.
So fill up your travel mug and let’s traverse the second base landscape.
Below are many of the second basemen I’m either flushing or crushing on. Now don’t get confused, if I crush on a player, it simply means I like him to have a better season than a year ago and I like him better than conventional wisdom (and his ADP) this spring. If I’m flushing a player it’s because I don’t like his current value or think he’s headed for a decline when most are looking for a statistical boost.
Here we go:
Ben Zobrist. He did suffer a finger injury last year, which cost him some games and undoubtedly some power. But at age 33, is he going to gain back those 10 HR and 22 RBI that came off his 2013 totals? I’m betting no. A wonderful player who will not hurt your Fantasy baseball team. But make sure he helps you enough to draft (or buy) him where you do. FLUSH
Jason Kipnis. I’m sorry to all you Kipnis owners last year. I never owned him until I got him in a good draft slot last year and then, well, you saw what happened. His abdominal injury pretty much sapped all his Fantasy numbers. But he’s a very professional hitter, will only be 28 on Opening Day, swipes 20 or more bases a year and he’ll be devalued in this year’s draft. Watch for news of his health in the spring and be ready to pounce. Could be a second or third round value in rounds 7-10. CRUSH
Howie Kendrick. His HR count dipped from 13 to seven in 2014, despite 161 more plate appearances. But his RBI total was up 39 percent (75 from 54) and his runs increased by 55 percent (85 from 55). He’s still a good batting average source, and he’s “only” 30. So superstardom didn’t come his way, but fellow owners will shy away from the power drop, and you should swoop in for help in the other categories. CRUSH
Dustin Pedroia. Laser show needs new batteries. And we hope you bought the extended warranty. He’s becoming less relevant each season. He lost some patience at the plate last year, and I’m not sure he’ll see double-digit home runs again. His average is fine, but if he becomes even more impatient, that will be next to decline. Let the Red Sox fan in your league call his name and be thankful. FLUSH
Gordon Beckham. Beckham is barely worth talking about in Fantasy. The White Sox finally got rid of him and dealt Beckham in August. But like a lost cat with nine lives, he found his way back home over the winter. The pale hose should have pretended they weren’t home. Yes he hit 16 HR and collected 60 RBI in 2012. And yes, his .226 average should climb near .250 because of a lower line drive percentage and a lower BABIP in 2014. He owns a very poor walk rate (four percent) and despite a decent strikeout rate of 17 percent, he doesn’t bring enough speed or power to make it matter much. He’ll struggle to get 400 plate appearances this year, if the White Sox are smart. If. FLUSH
Ian Kinsler. He’s had 2,071 plate appearances over the last three seasons, and he’s a consistent producer. Totals of 17 HR/92 RBI/100 Runs/15 SBs and a .275 batting average are obviously great for a second baseman. I’m on the fence about crush or flush, mostly because he cut his walk rate in half last season to a Beckham-like four percent. But availability is among the most important tools, and even if he contributes 15 HR/85 RBI/85 Runs/10 SBs and hits .260, it’s still a very solid contribution at this position. Not having to worry about finding a 2B during the season makes me have a very slight Kinsler CRUSH.
Jedd Gyorko. Took a step back in his sophomore season, but skills-wise, it wasn’t a giant step. Plantar fasciitis will saps anyone’s power and productivity, but he actually became a more patient hitter, particularly after his return and throughout the second half. Gyorko was all the rage last spring and before that, but his (perceived) value will be low. A return to 20 HR is likely, and in my opinion, more likely than not. Should be a true value in a draft, especially in a keeper league. The only thing I don’t like about him is that he spells his name with two D’s. Major CRUSH
Wilmer Flores. When I say a crush, it doesn’t mean I think a player will win the MVP award… this is an example of what I mean. The Mets are trying to find someone else, anyone else, to play shortstop ahead of Flores. But I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world if Flores received a full-season look. Flores is an end-of-draft flier, but one I would suggest. He qualifies at both 2B and SS, he managed a .251 average at age 22 in the big leagues and the dude makes contact. Consider this: The league average O-contact % (percent of swings on pitches outside of the zone that resulted in contact) is about 66 percent. Flores’s O-Contact %? 85.8 percent, or 30 percent above average. (Not that contact on a pitch out of the zone will normally result in a positive outcome, but he has that ability to make contact). That’s almost as good as his 87.9 percent contact rate of balls IN the strike zone. He’s a hacker – walking a terrible 4.4 percent of plate appearances, but his K percentage is an excellent 11.3 percent. He owns *some* power, but focus on his .265 BABIP. Here’s a guy who puts the ball in play, but his BABIP was 34 points below league average. If he hits league average BABIP, his .265 average could easily be .280 or .285, especially if he cuts down on those swings out of the zone. And he did hit six HR and 29 RBI over 274 PAs. With no improvement, he’d have 12 HR and 58 RBI if given 550 plate appearances (Daniel Murphy numbers by the way). Playing time is a key, but he gets it, I’ll admit to a little Flores CRUSH.
Arismendy Alcantara. The most fun Cub name since Aramis Ramirez, and Chicago’s North Side hopes his power is just as fun. He got off to a hot start with 10 HR and eight stolen bases in 300 plate appearances last year. But beware. His K percentage accounts for 31 percent of all his plate appearances, his contact percentage is just 70 percent (10 percentage points behind league average) and his Swinging Strike percentage is a terrible 12.7 percent. On the up side, his .205 batting average has to improve, if only because of his .266 BABIP a year ago. Plenty of potential here, but much of his short-term value is in his second base eligibility, the Cubs want to make him an OF. A nice keeper prospect, but until his patience improves, expect short-term headaches. FLUSH
Robinson Cano. Normally, I give props to players who consistently finish in the first round of Fantasy value at the end of the year. Cano has typically done that. But his power outage was combined with a less patient approach at the plate. I think he’ll bounce back but not to previous levels, and I cannot endorse a first round pick on Mr. Cano any longer. Drafting his lofty average early in the draft, though, can allow you to take a Chris Cater type of slugger later without much worry, and any boost in power will be icing, but as a first round pick, I gotta FLUSH
Anthony Rendon. I’m saving the best for last. Some have said that they want to see Rendon have the great season he had a year ago once more before they take him, but I say he’s almost a lock to do it again this year. He has a remarkable patient and disciplined approach at the plate, with a 4.8 percent Swinging Strike rate (9.5 percent is league average and he makes contact on over 95 percent of swings on balls in the strike zone – 19 out of 20 – league average is 87 percent). He only offers at 20 percent of pitches out of the zone (league average is 30 percent). Rendon is a line drive hitter, and notice I didn’t list any of his Fantasy stats? As good as they were, they weren’t even close to his skills. Especially with flexible eligibility at 3B and 2B, Rendon is a legit first rounder and potential MVP candidate already, at age 24. CRUSH
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