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Reality Check: Early look at second base

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Remember on Draft Day, when everyone strained to fill second base early for fear of what might await them in the later rounds? Suddenly, the position doesn't look so bad anymore. In fact, some might even call it deep.

Granted, I took a similar stance with shortstop about this time last year, and it ended up being as weak as usual in 2013. While you could make a case for any position being deep if you assume a best-case scenario for every player, you have to account for some thinning of the ranks, whether because of injury or performance. I see a big enough drop-off after the top 25 or so that I would still consider second base a position to target early in 2014.

But right now, sticking with just the top 20, I like what I see.

Top 10 second basemen for 2014:
1. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox
3. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
4. Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B, Cardinals
5. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers
6. Martin Prado, 2B/3B/OF, Diamondbacks
7. Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Rays
8. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds
9. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies
10. Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros

Polling my Twitter followers, the only suggestion I got for the top spot other than the insanely reliable Cano was Kipnis -- who, with the season winding down, has a decent shot at 20 homers and 30 steals. Personally, I think picking Cano first among second baseman is one of the easiest calls you'll make on Draft Day, right up there with Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout at first and second overall. Pick him, and you'll have nothing to worry about. It's been that way for the last five years, and even with him turning 31 this offseason, I'm not prepared to predict anything otherwise.

But by the same token, I get it. A true power-speed threat at a position where you'd normally be making compromises is a definite luxury. Pedroia and Kinsler had been the position's top power-speed guys, but Pedroia has never had a 20-homer, 30-steal season and Kinsler, given his decline over the last two years, might never again.

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For that reason, I can almost talk myself into moving Kipnis ahead of Pedroia (and, in the same vein, Kinsler ahead of Carpenter) in Rotisserie leagues, but reliability counts for something as well. Pedroia has been an early-round mainstay for half a decade and only recently turned 30. Even in a "down year," he's been the fourth-best second baseman in Rotisserie leagues and the third-best in Head-to-Head. And let's not forget he's been playing with a torn ligament in his thumb virtually all year. You don't think it's in some way responsible for his drop in home runs?

Plus, Kipnis' 17 homers and 28 steals haven't been evenly distributed over the course of the season, as any of his owners will tell you. In fact, he's been in a rut for almost the entire second half, batting .246. Sure, it's the final numbers that count, but if he tempts you to bench him from time to time, you'll inevitably miss out on some of what he has to offer. It's nitpicky, yes, but when deciphering between three players destined to go in the first two rounds, nit picking is the only way to go. Hooray for subjectivity!

On that note, Prado probably looks like he's ranked higher than he should be, judging by his season numbers. But remember, he was inexplicably batting .240 as recently as June 24. His .322 batting average since the All-Star break is much more indicative of his ability (he entered 2013 a career .295 hitter), and during that stretch, he's averaging 3.42 Head-to-Head points per game. By comparison, Carpenter is averaging 3.44 points per game this year. They're almost mirror images of each other when you consider their strengths and weaknesses. I slot Prado two spots behind Carpenter because, perception being what it is, he should come at something of a discount, but I can't justify taking him after the fading trio of Zobrist, Phillips and Utley.

Zobrist's walk rate will keep him plenty useful in Head-to-Head leagues, but he's never been a great source of batting average and, entering his age-33 season, is no longer a safe bet for even 15 home runs. Phillips' fluky RBI total has spared him from a fourth straight season of underwhelming production. Utley has been more productive than both on a per-game basis, but he's exactly why per-game production doesn't have the final say in player evaluation. I'd bet against any 35-year-old middle infielder playing a full season. He's lucky to have played as much as he has this year.

In fact, I'd drop Utley behind Altuve if I could trust the Astros offense to take a step forward next year. I'm still not sure I won't. Altuve is only 23, so I'm not sure he doesn't become a double-digit homer guy someday. And we know the steals are legit.

Next 10 second basemen for 2014:
11. Aaron Hill, 2B, Diamondbacks
12. Brian Dozier, 2B, Twins
13. Daniel Murphy, 2B, Mets
14. Jedd Gyorko, 2B, Padres
15. Anthony Rendon, 2B, Nationals
16. Jed Lowrie, 2B/SS, Athletics
17. Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels
18. Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers
19. Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/OF, Royals
20. Dan Uggla, 2B, Braves

Hill is the last of the second tier of second basemen, having scored as many Head-to-Head points per game as Zobrist this year. You would have liked to see him play a full season, obviously, but he's done enough in half a season to convince me he's closer to being the guy we saw in Arizona last year than in Toronto the previous two. He'll turn 32 next year, making him no sure bet to stay healthy, but whatever. You'll take the production when you can get it.

What follows are what I consider to be the most interesting five players at the position -- the ones with the capacity to force their way into the top tier at the position or become completely irrelevant. Gyorko and Rendon are obviously the upside picks, but their prolonged slumps have overshadowed their flashes of potential, dropping them behind the less exciting Dozier and Murphy. (Incidentally, Nick Franklin also fits the description, but he's fallen so far over the last couple months that I worry he's gotten trapped in whatever vortex sucks all the potential out of every Mariners hitting prospect and don't anticipate the masses going gaga over him in March.) I actually like Rendon a little more than Gyorko long-term, believing him to be the more complete hitter, but you can't be too safe with Danny Espinosa still lurking.

Speaking of safe, you shouldn't sleep on Dozier and Murphy just because they're lacking in pedigree. Though Kipnis, Pedroia and Kinsler are best known for contributing both home runs and stolen bases, Dozier and Murphy have shown they can provide at least a dozen of each, with Dozier offering a little more power and Murphy offering a little more speed. All those little contributions certainly add up in Head-to-Head leagues, where Murphy ranks fifth among second basemen to date and Dozier is performing about like Pedroia in terms of points per game (3.15 to 3.18) since stepping up his production June 15.

Lowrie is closer to Dozier and Murphy than Gyorko and Rendon in that he won't get much better from here, but given his extensive injury history and inability to stand out in any one category, I rank him last of the group, even with the dual eligibility (something Dozier, Murphy, Gyorko and Rendon won't carry into next year, by the way).

What's that? No Kolten Wong, who most publications will rate as the top second base prospect entering 2014? No Scooter Gennett, who's hitting .335 in place of an injured Rickie Weeks down the stretch this season? Wait, no Rickie Weeks? Yeah, now you see what I mean. I was sure I'd get all three -- who I consider sleepers, to some degree -- in my top 20, but it just didn't happen. Even Neil Walker, a mainstay in the middle tiers for the last two or three years, couldn't make the cut. Too much meh from him.

For Wong, Gennett and Weeks, the issue is playing time. Unless the Cardinals trade David Freese in the offseason, which is far from assured, Wong can't hope for much more than the part-time at-bats he's getting now. Gennett has been great and all but has overachieved to some degree and still has to contend with another year of Weeks in Milwaukee. I could see the Brewers trading Weeks a little easier than I could see the Cardinals trading Freese, but until it happens, I have to assume Gennett and Weeks will cut into each other's playing time.

Yes, Profar has his own playing-time concerns, but with his pedigree and skill set, he's going to be a monster someday. I want him on my team in case someday begins next year. And Bonifacio ... have you seen what he's done with the Royals? Something about playing in Toronto, man. You can't run unless your name is Rajai Davis. Even Jose Reyes isn't immune.

Uggla we could discuss removing given his struggles the last two years. But his power is still among the best at the position, and I have some small hope his corrected vision will get his batting average back up to the respectable range. I think the floor is high enough and the ceiling attainable enough that he deserves to be drafted in most leagues. I can't say that for all the guys behind him.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Cardinals' Brandon Moss slugs go-ahead homer in win Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:17 am ET) Cardinals left fielder Brandon Moss had one hit on Thursday against the Diamondbacks. But it was a big one, as he snapped a 3-3 tie with a two-run home run in the fifth inning. The go-ahead homer was all the Cardinals would need, as they hung on for the 5-3 victory.

The home run was Moss' 16th of the year, and his first since coming to the Cardinals in a trade at the July 31 deadline. Moss is batting .200 (10 for 50) in his tenure with St. Louis so far.


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(1:13 am ET) Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar began his minor-league rehab assignment with Class A Hickory on Thursday. Serving as the designated hitter, Profar went 1 for 4 before being lifted for a pinch runner in the seventh inning.

Profar is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, and it is not yet known if he will be able to return to the Rangers in 2015.


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Rosenthal has successfully converted each of his last 15 save opportunities. His ERA is down to 1.52 on the season. The 41 saves ties him for the most in the Major Leagues this season.


Diamondbacks' Rubby De La Rosa scuffles in start Thursday
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De La Rosa (11-6, 4.46 ERA) fell into an early hole in this one. He allowed a solo home run to Tony Cruz in the first inning, and then watched two more runs score on him in the second.

The D-Backs were able to tie the game in the bottom of the second, and De La Rosa put up goose eggs over the next two frames. But he served up a two-run home run to Brandon Moss in the fifth inning, and that would be the final blow for either side.

De La Rosa had been pitching well in August, as Thursday was the first time in five starts that he allowed more than three runs. He had won each of his last five decisions prior to Thursday's outing.


Cardinals SP Carlos Martinez grinds out win on Thursday
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(1:06 am ET) Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez posted a quality start in his outing against the Diamondbacks on Thursday. The young right-hander allowed three runs on four hits over six innings. he walked two and struck out six, throwing 60 of his 103 pitches for strikes.

All three runs Martinez allowed came in the third inning, which tied the game. But the Cardinals were able to bring in two in the fifth, paving the way for Martinez to pick up the 5-3 victory.

Martinez (13-6, 2.91 ERA) posted quality outings in three of his five August starts. With Thursday's victory, he snapped a personal two-game losing streak.


Diamondbacks' Daniel Hudson leaves game with finger injury
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:52 am ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Daniel Hudson was lifted from Thursday's game against the Cardinals due to a cut on his finger. Hudson suffered the injury while fielding a comebacker in the top of the ninth inning. 

Hudson went 1 1/3 innings, allowing a hit and striking out a batter with no runs allowed. 


Mets' Daniel Murphy stays hot, plates go-ahead runs in victory
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:10 am ET) Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy came through with the biggest hit of the night on Thursday. Murphy, who went 3 for 6 with a run scored and two RBI, snapped a 5-5 tie by smoking a two-run double in the 13th inning. The Mets would go on to beat the Phillies 9-5.

Murphy also made a dazzling play in the field, as he led the charge to the four-game sweep over the Phillies. He has somewhat quietly been on a bit of a tear lately, hitting .366 (15 for 41) with two home runs and 13 RBI over his last nine games.


Mets' Kelly Johnson belts game-tying home run on Thursday
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(12:07 am ET) Mets second baseman Kelly Johnson had one hit in six at-bats on Thursday against the Phillies, but it was a key hit. Johnson launched a game-tying, solo home run in the fifth inning, knotting the score up at 5-5. The Mets would go on to win the game 9-5 in 13 innings.

The home run was Johnson's third since coming over in a trade at the end of July. He has been mired in a bit of a slump recently, as he was 6 for his last 24 coming into play on Thursday.


Yoenis Cespedes keeps on rolling for Mets
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:04 am ET) Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes stayed red-hot at the plate on Thursday, as he connected on a two-run home run in the 9-5 win over the Phillies. Cespedes' home run came in the fifth inning, as the Mets stormed back to erase a five-run deficit.

The home run was Cespdes' only hit of the night, but it was his eighth longball since coming to the Mets at the July 31 trade deadline. Perhaps even more impressively, over his last eight games, Cespedes is batting .350 with six home runs and 15 RBI. He has certainly been a catalyst for the Mets' recent upswing.


Mets RP Carlos Torres does it all in victory on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(8/27/2015) Right-handed reliever Carlos Torres was one of the heroes of the game for the Mets, as they went on to beat the Phillies 9-5 in 13 innings on Thursday. Torres shined with his arm, his glove, his bat and his speed in this one.

On the mound, Torres tossed 2 1/3 scoreless ball, allowing just one hit. He also made a couple of athletic plays, including a sprint to first base to beat Jeff Francoeur on a deflected ground ball.

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