By Scott Barzilla

As we move to second base, we move to an important strategy point when it comes to fantasy baseball. While you can certainly form a pretty good team by listing players in exact value order, the best fantasy players exploit inefficiencies between the positions. In other words, a player that is 20 runs above average at second base is more valuable than a player that is 20 runs above average at first base.

The reason for that is very simple. The gap between such players and the next at that position are considerably different. Make no mistake, there are already auctions and drafts going on. They tend to be by the experts at this point, but even the experts sometimes overvalue players at premium offensive positions. Don’t make that mistake on your draft day.

1. Robinson Cano– +25.4 runs

I saw someone one Twitter (his name will remain anonymous to protect the innocent) draft Carlos Gonzalez over Cano. That’s nuts in my opinion. CarGo isn’t even the best left fielder and even if he was, you could get three or four guys that could approximate his value. There are no other Canos at second base. Sure, he doesn’t steal bases, but he does everything else at such a better rate.

2. Dustin Pedroia– +16.2 runs

Something tells me Pedroia is going to come back in a huge way. Pedroia doesn’t put up the gaudy offensive numbers like Cano, but he does offer the advantage of about 20 steals. If you want a safe pick that can give you something in all of the categories. Don’t overplay that hand too early in the draft, but if Cano is off the board and you want a solid second sacker then Pedroia is your man.

3. Ben Zobrist– +16.1 runs

Zobrist is a decent backup plan if Pedroia goes off the board because both of you will essentially give you the same thing. His value depends on the nature of your league. If your league counts walks and OBP then he might even be more valuable than Pedroia. If you are running in a straight five category league then Pedroia will give you better average.

4. Ian Kinsler– +15.9 runs

As you can see, there are quite a few players in this value area. When you see this many guys this bunched up it affords you the opportunity to look elsewhere. Kinsler had a down year last year, but there is no reason to expect that to continue. He offers more raw power and speed than the two above him, but he tends to be a low batting average kind of guy.

5. Chase Utley– +12.2 runs

Utley is a premium offensive talent when he gives you 500 or more plate appearances. He hasn’t done that in quite some time, but he is also coming into the season healthy where he missed the first half of last year. Winning fantasy leagues requires some gambling. You have to gamble on players to overachieve their projected value and Utley might be one of those guys you can gamble on.

6. Rickie Weeks– +12.0 runs

Weeks was a great example of a player that was horrific in real baseball, but surprisingly valuable in fantasy baseball. He produced more than 20 home runs and more than 20 stolen bases. In a five category league he really only torpedoed your average. In a more sophisticated league he started to hurt more because of a low OBP and lower walk total.

7. Dan Uggla– +11.5 runs

Uggla represents another value point within your draft. Last season, he had a down season in the categories you would expect big performance from. You shouldn’t expect much in the speed categories, but Uggla is usually good for 30 or more home runs and that is a bonus for this position.

8. Brandon Phillips– +8.6 runs

Phillips is not as good as people make him out to be. However, you should consider the position before completely eliminating him from consideration. He is still capable of 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases, but otherwise is a bit underwhelming. Of course, he is usually healthy, so he will accumulate the other numbers more than other guys.

9. Jose Altuve– +7.3 runs

Altuve became a cult hero last year when he burst on the scene and became the Astros only all-star representative. He gives you surprising production with his legs, but you should be careful not to overvalue him. He finished slowly and fell below .300. He also doesn’t walk much and doesn’t hit many home runs. So, his value is limited.

10. Howie Kendrick– +5.6 runs

Kendrick was supposed to win a batting title by now according to the scouts. That certainly hasn’t happened, but he has become a decent fantasy performer just the same. He did that by adding enough power to his arsenal to give you solid production. With the Angels’ lineup adding more power he might also be good for some cheap runs.

11. Neil Walker– +5.1 runs

It seems like I say this every year, but Walker has the look of a guy that seems ready to break out at any time. Last year might have been the year, but he missed some time late in the season to injury. He seems like a guy that could hit 20 home runs and drive in some runs for you, but something always seems to get in the way.

12. Emilio Bonifacio– +4.9 runs

Now, we get into the section where we start looking at specialists. Bonifacio is good for at least 30 steals if he is a regular. The advantage he has is that he can play a number of positions. The disadvantage is that he is not particularly strong defensively, and he sometimes struggles to hit enough to justify the time. He will be battling Maicer Izturis for the second base job, so this bares watching.

13. Jason Kipnis– +4.5 runs

As a fantasy performer, Kipnis actually should probably go higher than this. I’d probably flip him with Altuve on my cheat sheet. Kipnis is what I would call an accumulator. He doesn’t do well in the percentage stats, but he wound up with a number of home runs and stolen bases last year in spite of it all. He also should grow as a hitter, so he might be the best fantasy sleeper at the position.

14. Mafarco Scutaro– +4.2 runs

Scutaro is going from the fantasy version of paradise to the fantasy version of Siberia. AT&T Park is a horrible environment for hitters, but Scutaro should still be a better than average performer for the position. This placement seems ideal for him as he can serve as a reserve on your bench. In some leagues he will be eligible at shortstop as well.

15. Aaron Hill– +3.1 runs

I know this seems extreme to many of you after what he did last season. Quite frankly, I just don’t trust him. A look at the last five campaigns would show that last season sticks out like a sore thumb. If you go by what he normally has done you can predict some good power numbers for a second baseman, but he tends to be a low batting average guy.

16. Daniel Murphy– +2.9 runs

There are sleepers and then there are hibernators. Murphy is a perfect guy to draft in the twenties and then stash on your bench. He has shown in the past that he can produce some surprising power numbers and the occasional steal. If he takes the next step then he could be a decent fantasy starter for someone.

17. Omar Infante– +-0.9 runs

Infante is an average offensive player at the end of the day. However, he is an average offensive player on a team with two great hitters and a couple of other good ones. That affords him the opportunity to drive in some cheap runs and score some cheap runs. Add a steal here and there and he wouldn’t be a bad option to play an occasional game or two when your starter is banged up.

18. Danny Espinosa– +0.4 runs

Espinosa is actually better than this in fantasy terms. If I got one of the top five or six guys as my regular I would probably nab him before I nab anyone else. He gives you solid power numbers and good stolen base numbers as well. Like many of the others, he struggles in terms of batting average, but in leagues that count walks and OBP he actually is pretty good as well.

19. Dustin Ackley– -0.3 runs

When you start getting into negative TRI scores you are scraping the bottom barrell, but you also have to keep in mind that out of 30 regulars, you should get into some questionable value towards the bottom of the list. Ackley is a pick based on spec. He was the second overall pick, so last season was a disappointment. If he takes a step forward he could be a decent bench alternative, but no one should pick him as a starter.

20. Mark Ellis– -1.7 runs

I’m including Ellis because I need 20 guys. This is the best example of how weak the position is because I can’t even find 20 guys worth drafting. Ellis was actually above average last season, so if you want to go on recent accomplishments then he is better than Ackley. Ackley simply has more potential as Ellis will never be anything more than average.

Scott Barzilla

Scott Barzilla is the editor in chief at hardballchat.com. He is also the author of four books, including The Hall of Fame Index. The Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical innovation in 2011.

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