numberFire’s 2014 Second Base Rankings: Is Cano Still the Best?

Robinson Cano is no longer a Yankee. Is he still the best second baseman?

We’ve already taken a look at this year’s top first basemen, and now it’s time to move to their versatile neighbors on the diamond at second base.

Like any other year, the position provides solid options that hit for average, all while scoring runs and stealing bases. There are a couple of familiar faces in new places near the top of our rankings, while things get, well, a little ugly as you get closer to your backups and bench guys.

The rankings below result from projections and what we call our “numberFire score”. The score, from a high level, takes a player’s contributions across all relevant scoring categories (5X5 league) and adjusts for position scarcity. It’s all placed in one fine, cute number, but the amount of math that goes behind it is significant. After all, that’s what we love – we love math.

Without further ado, here’s who the algorithms like this season at second base.

1. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners


Cano’s lineup will be weaker, and he’ll be hitting in a more pitcher-friendly ball park, but he’ll still be beasting at the plate as the best second baseman in fantasy. After signing a monster deal, Cano will look to hit above .300 for his sixth straight season, all while using his powerful .200-plus ISO bat. Don’t be fooled by his relatively high BABIP last year – Cano has recently hovered the .320 territory within the category, as he continues to increase his line drive rate.

2. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians


Cleveland’s second baseman stole 30 bases for the second straight season (in his second full season), and was able to get his batting average up to .284 last year. Prepare for a little regression though, as his BABIP soared from .294 to .345 a season ago, perhaps due to a little more power (ISO increase of .46). But all in all, Kipnis should provide a decent average, one of the best steal totals within the position and a top five RBI, making him our number two second baseman this season.

3. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox


Over the last three seasons, Pedroia has stolen at least 17 bases, hit at least 65 RBI and tallied at least 81 runs. His .301 average last year may have been a little high due to his batted ball luck, so a decrease in that department could be forthcoming. However, you know what to expect from him and he’s a safe option as your second baseman in fantasy this year.

4. Daniel Murphy, New York Mets


The algorithms seem to like Murphy more than most out there, but we’re excited about his breakthrough campaign last year, as well as his increase in power. Because we’re numbers driven, it’s not as though we’re expecting another 23 stolen bases, 92 runs and 13 home runs. But 16, 74 and 11 aren’t far off for the Mets second baseman. The rest of the lineup will be key to whether or not he can continue his pace.

5. Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers


The Tigers have a new second baseman, and he’s going to be good at fantasy baseball, too. Kinsler reportedly shredded some weight over the offseason, which means there’s a potential for more base stealing. And, if he is indeed the leadoff guy for the Tigers, he’ll get plenty of opportunities to do just that. Most are down on him for his lack of non-AVG fantasy-relevant metrics from last year, but he did play fewer games than his previous three seasons. The algorithms aren’t overly optimistic about his home run and RBI total this year, but we do like him to see an increase in stolen bases and runs scored compared to 2013.

6. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays


Zobrist has hit between .269 and .275 over the last three years, but 2013 saw a massive decrease in power. After hitting 20 home runs in both 2011 and 2012, Zobrist’s total dropped to just 12 after posting a low .127 ISO. Considering his .201 and .202 ISO marks over the previous two seasons, there’s a bit of concern. He should be a solid second baseman, but like any year, this position is going to be weak.

7. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals


Carpenter’s breakout season featured the most runs scored in baseball, and a wOBA that ranked second behind only Robinson Cano among second basemen. And, more importantly for fantasy purposes, no second baseman hit for a better average than Carpenter in 2013. He can contribute in a lot of different categories, though his speed for a leadoff guy isn’t very strong. His high BABIP is more than likely not just luck-based (it was high in 2012 as well), but the mark in 2013 was a top-10 one, so perhaps a slight decline is on the way for Carpenter. All in all though, he should still be a solid option.

8. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds


I’m sure Reds fans want to forget about Brandon Phillips’ 2013 season just as much as he does. He saw his lowest average since 2008, his worst OBP since nearly ever, and a wOBA that could make your eyes bleed. If not for Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo always being on base, Phillips’ season would’ve been even worse – his 103 runs batted in really saved him. We don’t expect him to be horrific this year, but Dat Dude could struggle to come close to his 2013 RBI total.

9. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros


Houston’s little guy will get you steals, and we’ve got him set to get 33 of them this year. His average should hover around the same .280 to .285 spot that we saw him hit last year as well. In his Astros preview, Brad Wilson noted that Altuve, while good, is probably a little overrated because of what he can do in fantasy. While his stolen bases are super fun, his .297 wOBA last year left a lot on the table. He won’t provide a ton of power (he comes up to my waist in height, how would he?), but he’s at least an Astro that matters in fantasy.

10. Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks


While the majority of experts like Aaron Hill, our algorithms favor utility teammate Martin Prado by the slimmest of margins. We shouldn’t expect Prado to have Sonic the Hedgehog legs again like he did in 2012 (17 stolen bases when his second-highest total has been 5), but we do still like him to steal seven, all while hitting .290 and 12 dingers. Though Hill is projected for more homer runs and RBI, Prado gets the slight edge with a few more steals and runs scored. No matter how you look at it though, you could go either way.

Click here for the rest of the second base rankings.