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2014 Draft Prep: Second base profiles

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Al's profiles: Cs | 1Bs | 2Bs | SSs | 3Bs | OFs | Ps

If you are drafting somewhere between the third and seventh spots, addressing your need for a second baseman is pretty easy. Pick Robinson Cano, if available.

If you miss the boat on Cano -- and most of us will -- finding your second baseman will not be a simple task. The position does not even have a clear-cut elite beyond Cano. Among the remaining second basemen, only Dustin Pedroia is a sure-fire early-round option in both Rotisserie and Head-to-Head leagues. Matt Carpenter and Ian Kinsler are not far behind Pedroia in Head-to-Head value, but both are flawed as Roto options (because of home run power and RBI, respectively). Stolen bases make Jason Kipnis and Jose Altuve rivals to Pedroia in Roto value, but Kipnis' strikeouts and Altuve's lack of walks render them as less valuable in Head-to-Head

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With each format possessing a top tier of just four players, most owners will have to settle for a lesser player to fill their keystone spot. The production thins out quickly at the position, and several of the second-tier alternatives, including Daniel Murphy and Aaron Hill, have plenty of risk to go along with their upside. As much as with any other position, it makes sense to wait on your second base pick, as middle-to-late-rounders like Jurickson Profar, Anthony Rendon and Kolten Wong offer great potential as bargains.

As players who are difficult to project due to the significant risk and reward they pose, both Murphy and Hill are profiled here. So are Profar and Wong, as both are slated to get their first taste of being a regular second baseman. Is Jedd Gyorko poised to challenge the ranks of the elite in his sophomore season, and is Kinsler no longer a top second baseman? Both questions beg for some analysis, so Gyorko and Kinsler round out our sample.

Daniel Murphy, Mets

2014 5x5 projections: .285/.321/.408, 12 HR, 74 RBI, 84 Runs, 19 SB in 645 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 12.7 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 5th among second basemen; 443 Fantasy Points, 7th among second basemen

Going into last season, Murphy went from being outside the top 10 second basemen to finishing among the top five in both Roto and Head-to-Head. Setting a career high in plate appearances helped, but even on a per-game basis, Murphy produced like he never had before. Part of Murphy's improvement was tied to an uptick in power, which led to a career-high 13 home runs and his highest home run-to-flyball ratio since 2009.

Given that Murphy was 28 last season, and that a power outage spanning 2011 and 2012 was preceded by a season-ending MCL tear, it's believable that he could have experienced a legitimate and sustainable power spike. Less clear is whether Murphy can build on his first 20-plus steal and 90-plus run seasons. Both of those achievements were likely aided by Murphy hitting higher in the batting order more frequently, but since he had never stolen more than 10 bases or scored more than 62 runs before, it's probably not realistic to expect a repeat. I have Murphy projected for mild downturns in those categories, but he should come close or equal to his 2013 slash line (.286/.319/.415) and home run and RBI output.

Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks

2014 5x5 projections: .277/.333/.466, 22 HR, 79 RBI, 88 Runs, 6 SB in 560 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 12.6 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 6th among second basemen; 443 Fantasy Points, 8th among second basemen

Because Hill missed more than two months of the season and played the last three months with a left hand that was not fully healed from being broken, owners could be tempted to toss out last season's stats and look for a repeat of 2012. Since Hill was the second-most valuable second baseman in Fantasy that year, we'd be talking about a return to elite status, should he pick up where he left off.

Apparently, owners aren't looking to Hill to reach 2012's heights, as he is currently ninth in average draft position. In fact, that was arguably Hill's best season, and owners are likely -- and rightfully -- scared off by a long-standing pattern of extreme inconsistency. Still, owners in early drafts have been selling him a little short, especially in Roto leagues. Hill's batting average and doubles rate have been all over the map, but he's been largely reliable as a home run threat. Even with last season's injury, he was close to a 20-homer pace, and he hit more than 25 homers in three of the previous four seasons. As a middle-of-the-order presence for the Diamondbacks, Hill should easily be in the neighborhood of 80 RBI and runs.

Despite success in the batting average and stolen base categories in the past, owners shouldn't count on big contributions there. Given his tendency to pop out, Hill's projected .277 batting average could be very optimistic. After going just 1 for 5 in stolen base attempts a year ago, there is no reason to expect Hill to return to double-digit territory.

Jedd Gyorko, Padres

2014 5x5 projections: .261/.322/.467, 29 HR, 83 RBI, 78 Runs, 3 SB in 570 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 12.2 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 8th among second basemen; 418 Fantasy Points, 12th among second basemen

Gyorko's minor league stat sheet didn't leave us with much doubt that he could hit for power. If he did need to silence critics who thought his homer totals were fueled by parks in the California and Pacific Coast Leagues, Gyorko quieted them with 23 home runs in 125 games with the Padres. Assuming he won't miss more than a month with a disabled list stint, like he did a year ago, Gyorko could approach the 30-homer threshold, simply by virtue of additional playing time.

Gyorko didn't always hit for average outside of hitter-friendly minor-league circuits, and last season's .249 mark created a cloud of suspicion that hangs over his past .300-plus seasons. Especially concerning was the role played by a 25 percent strikeout-per-at-bat ratio. Gyorko wasn't a bad contact hitter in the minors, so he could possibly take a step forward and hit .270 or higher. Owners can expect some all-around improvement, but given last season's difficulties with making contact, to draft him as anything more than a .260 hitter is too risky.

Ian Kinsler, Tigers

2014 5x5 projections: .264/.335/.417, 18 HR, 68 RBI, 93 Runs, 14 SB in 645 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 12.2 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 9th among second basemen; 481 Fantasy Points, 4th among second basemen

Prior to last season, a combination of power and speed made Kinsler an elite among second basemen, even when he didn't hit for average. Then in 2013, Kinsler missed time with an intercostal strain, but the four-week absence wasn't solely responsible for his slide down the positional rankings. For the second straight year, Kinsler's stolen base efficiency declined, and he converted only 15 of 26 attempts. He also saw his home run-to-flyball ratio dip for the second straight year, slipping from 12 to 7 to 5 percent.

Kinsler's move from Texas to Detroit isn't likely to do much to improve either his stolen base or home run production. He gets a ballpark that is less hospitable to home run power, and while we have yet to learn how aggressive Tigers manager Brad Ausmus will be with the running game, it's unlikely that he will send runners as frequently as Rangers skipper Ron Washington did. Therefore, I have projected Kinsler for a third straight sub-20 home run season and a stolen base total (14) that would be his lowest since his rookie season.

Despite the predicted decline, Kinsler is still an elite option in Head-to-Head leagues. The one skill of his that hasn't declined is his ability to make contact, so a low strikeout rate will help him to retain much of his value in points formats.

Jurickson Profar, Rangers

2014 5x5 projections: .255/.332/.387, 14 HR, 59 RBI, 71 Runs, 11 SB in 545 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 9.3 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 18th among second basemen; 364 Fantasy Points, 16th among second basemen

Profar established himself as a top prospect by displaying a combination of speed, strong contact and on-base skills and good power for a shortstop. He even maintained this profile while being the youngest player in the Texas League in 2012. Perhaps expectations for Profar were tempered last year, since he didn't have a regular role with the Rangers, but with a claim to the everyday second base job, owners could look for Profar to break out in a big way.

While that's a possibility, Profar's projection for this season puts some stock in his 2013 numbers, as well as in the gradual pattern of improvement experienced by many top prospects upon their acclimation to the majors. Not every great prospect bursts onto the Fantasy scene by the age of 21 the way that Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera did. Profar is almost certain to make some notable gains after a mediocre showing last year, and his speed in particular should make a stronger impact in 2014. He should improve on a .162 batting average on ground balls, and he could do so to the point where he greatly exceeds his projected .255 overall batting average. To do that, Profar would need to maintain last season's 23 percent line drive rate, so modest expectations for his batting average are probably more appropriate. He could also exceed his projected 11 steals, but last season's total of two make Profar a less-than-secure play for stolen bases.

If Profar delivers on his considerable promise this season, he will provide an enormous return on a mid-round pick, but his inexperience and pedestrian rookie numbers make him too risky to draft among the top dozen second basemen.

Kolten Wong, Cardinals

2014 5x5 projections: .271/.334/.400, 9 HR, 42 RBI, 70 Runs, 16 SB in 460 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 9.0 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 20th among second basemen; 326 Fantasy Points, 24th among second basemen

Wong doesn't project to hit for much power, though he will be a cut above the Emilio Bonifacio/DJ LeMahieu class in terms of home run clout. What Wong should be able to do is keep strikeouts to a minimum, hit for a decent average and provide double-digit steals.

In Head-to-Head leagues, Wong's value could take a hit with Mark Ellis slated to take some of his playing time away, though over the long haul, doubles, triples and a low strikeout rate should give him value in that format. In Roto leagues, Wong is a viable late-round fallback option (at least for the MI slot) as his speed and baserunning skills could help him to deliver on the upside of 20-plus steals and a .290ish batting average buoyed by infield hits. That's a best-case scenario that Wong is unlikely to fulfill as a rookie, but given the options that are still available in the late rounds, he may be one of the more appealing endgame alternatives.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Nationals taking a cautious approach with Nate McLouth
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:39 am ET) Nationals manager Matt Williams said Thursday the team will take a cautious approach with outfielder Nate McLouth, who has started a throwing program coming off shoulder surgery in August.

"If we were to say at the end of this week that we're going to play a game and Nate was going to go two innings, we probably wouldn't do that at this point because he has got to go through that progression," Williams said, per MASNsports.com. "What that timeframe depends on is how he feels. You can look at the big picture and say well, you need X amount of rehab for this particular surgery. Everybody is different, of course. But we want to make sure that when he's ready to play, he's ready, because we don't want a setback.

"That being said, he's going through the progression of all of his throwing, he's hitting right now. He doesn't have an issue with that. It's going to get sore, we know it. So there's going to be days where he's going to have to just shut it down for that particular day. Which is frustrating because you want to play. We'll get through spring training with him and kind of monitor him on an everyday basis to see where he is at and act accordingly."


Red Sox's Betts focused on preparing for season, not OF competition
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:32 am ET) Mookie Betts knows he will have to put his best foot forward this spring in order to land a starting spot in the Red Sox's outfield. Betts, however, is not trying to think as much about the competition and rather focus on what he needs to do to prepare for the 2015 season.

“I feel as if I’m just getting ready for the season,” Betts told WEEI.com. “Whether it’s in the big leagues, Triple-A, Double-A, wherever it is, I’m just getting ready for the season and not really focusing so much on making the big-league team, just really just getting ready."

If Betts doesn't win a starting job in the outfield, then he could be a bench option for Boston instead of heading back to the minors.

“Whatever [manager John] Farrell and [general manager Ben] Cherington, whatever they do is what’s going to be best for the Red Sox,” Betts said. “And if that’s me sitting and watching, that’s perfectly fine and I’ll just fill into my role.”


Red Sox's Mujica reveals neck injury played part in 2014 struggles
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:21 am ET) Red Sox reliever Edward Mujica got off to a rocky start in 2014, posting a 6.41 ERA through the first two months of the season. He eventually settled down, posting a 2.68 ERA and seven saves over the final four months.

On Friday, Mujica revealed a neck injury played a part in his early season struggles. Mujica was diagnosed with his C1 vertebrae being out of place when he signed with the Red Sox and added the issue didn't clear up until midway through the 2014 season.

“My neck was bothering me when I got here, I got treatment and in spring training I felt good because of the weather,” Mujica said, per WEEI.com. “But then I felt sore in the neck because of the cold weather. I was also adjusting to the American League, all the teams have pretty good hitters 1-9. I just kept working every single day, watching videos, got that [physical] adjustment and got going in the second half.

“The C1 was a little moved out of place, but they put it in the right place in spring training to get through the season. With treatment every single day it helped me a lot after the first two months.”


Cardinals' Adam Wainwright targeting 2-3 weeks for spring debut
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:12 am ET) Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright is targeting 2-3 weeks before he is able to pitch in a spring game, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wainwright was diagnosed with an abdominal strain Thursday after heading back to St. Louis for further evaluation.

Wainwright will have 4-5 days of light activity before he can gradually increase his workouts. He will be re-evaluated Monday before the Cardinals decide if he can rejoin the starters’ throwing program.

“The good thing is it doesn’t hurt so I can continue to throw off the mound and face hitters,” Wainwright said. “I can throw live BP and just won’t field my position.”

With his current timetable and barring setback, Wainwright could make four starts during spring training. 

“Everybody was saying that you need to scale back your innings in spring training,” Wainwright said. “God just naturally found a way to make that happen without ticking me off. ‘OK, Adam, you don’t want to have time off? I’ll make you take time off.’”


Report: Bartolo Colon in the running to start opening day for Mets
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:55 am ET) The Mets are strongly considering veteran starting pitcher Bartolo Colon for the opening day start April 6 at Washington, multiple sources told ESPN. The sources added the Mets have narrowed the choices to Colon and one other pitcher, who was not named.

If Colon, who went 15-13 with a 4.09 ERA in 2014, gets the nod, then he would become the oldest pitcher (41 years, 317 days old) to start on opening day in the majors since Jamie Moyer (43 years, 136 days) and Randy Johnson (42 years, 205 days) in 2006. He also would become the oldest Mets' opening day starter, surpassing Tom Glavine in 2007 (41 years, 7 days). 

Colon has started six times on opening day. Dillon Gee started on opening day for the Mets last season.


Rays' Archer changes offseason program, already seeing benefits
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:45 am ET) Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer has spent the early days of spring training picking the brain of manager Kevin Cash about how Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber transformed into the 2014 AL Cy Young winner, according to The Tampa Tribune. Before taking the job with the Rays, Cash was the Indians bullpen coach (2013-14).

“Kluber has always had stuff, he just hasn’t had the success on that level,” Archer said. “And I’m trying to apply those things, because he saw it firsthand.”

Thus far, Cash has raved about Archer's bullpen sessions and said Archer appears to be game-ready. Archer believes the change in his offseason program is contributing to his promising start to spring training.

“In September, I had success but the body was tired, so I paced myself better in the offseason and I feel really good now,” Archer said. “I would just cycle it a little better to pace myself, because I’m thinking those (less intense) weeks in the offseason are going to help me feel better on the back end (of this season).

“I got to pump the brakes a little bit, because I don’t want to overdo it right now. Because what good is February and March? I’m trying to be good April through October.”


Ernesto Frieri hoping Rays pitching coach can revive career
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:32 am ET) Rays reliever Ernesto Frieri said one of the reasons he signed with Tampa Bay was for the opportunity to work with pitching coach Jim Hickey, per The Tampa Tribune.

“That’s why I’m here,” Frieri said. “I’ve seen Hickey, he’s the man. He knows what he’s doing. He fixed a couple of guys before, and I hope I’m not the exception. I’m pretty sure he’s going to give me the right information and I’m going to take advantage.”

The 29-year-old Frieri had a good run as the Angels closer in 2012 and 2013 before the wheels came off in 2014. He lost the closer's job with Los Angeles and was eventually traded to Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, he was only there a few months before more struggles led to his release.

Frieri said his 2014 struggles were because he developed bad habits. Instead of getting quicker to the plate, he was taller in his delivery, which robbed him of the deception, and caused his fastball to flatten out. The results were a 6.39 ERA with the Angels and a 10.13 ERA with the Pirates.

"(Fernando Rodney was) decent before he got here, but when he got here, wow, he got amazing,” Frieri said. “Hickey said something to him that really worked for him. Hopefully he says something to me that really works for me.”

Thus far, Frieri appears to be the ideal student.

“He seems to be extremely eager to hear what we have to say,” Hickey said. “You never know (how it will turn out), but at least it demonstrated his willingness to be open and try things.”


Report: Angels' Hamilton likely to receive suspension
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2:05 am ET) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will likely be suspended for at least 25 games, according to FoxSports.com.

Hamilton met with Major League Baseball on Wednesday for a disciplinary hearing. CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reported that Hamilton experienced a drug relapse a few months ago, and confessed that relapse to MLB. 

This is technically Hamilton's second violation as a major-leaguer. Hamilton was on the Rays 40-man roster during his first suspension, making him a major-league player. Typically, players who violate their drug treatment program for the first time are subject to a 15-25 game suspension. Given that this is Hamilton's second violation of his drug treatment program, it's unclear how severe the punishment will be.

With that said, commissioner Rob Manfred is reportedly trying to be lenient with any punishment. The league has a "favorable view of Hamilton's efforts to remain sober." Since his return to the majors, Hamilton has spoken honestly about his struggles with addition.

On top of that, Manfred is concerned about making the punishment too harsh. Hamilton's past relaspes have come when he's been away from the game. Manfred reportedly is not close to making a final decision on Hamilton's punishment at this time. 

Hamilton was already expected to miss the beginning of the season due to a shoulder surgery. It's unclear how much longer he'll be out due to a suspension.


Angels, Huston Street haven't talked extension yet
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) The Angels and closer Huston Street have not talked about an extension yet, according to MLB.com.

Both sides are reportedly interested in a deal, but Street wanted to wait a week in order to settle in to camp. Once that happens, the two sides are expected to start negotiating a new deal. Street is entering the final year of his contract, and will make $7 million in 2015.

Street, 31, posted a 1.37 ERA over 59 1/3 innings last year.


Phillies' Ryan Howard working on his swing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is working on his swing, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

Howard has spent time working with Charlie Manuel during camp. Manuel was brought in as spring training hitting instructor. Manager Ryan Sandberg has noticed the change in Howard's approach already. "As far as making some adjustments there, to really zone in to something that can really be productive for him and a little bit more consistent," Sandberg said. "I think there has been a little tweaking going on there."

Howard apparently has looked different at the plate. His stance has been described as "looser" and his hands are much lower when he starts his swing. 

The 35-year-old hit .223/.310/.380 over 569 at-bats last year. 


 
 
 
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