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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
Mets' Jacob deGrom working on perfecting his curveball
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:42 am ET) Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is working on perfecting his curveball this spring, according to the New York Post

"This spring is so different," deGrom said. "I can really come in here and work on things. Last year when I was over on the big league side, I didn’t throw my curveball one time because I was trying to make the team and prove I could get outs in spring training."

After experiencing some success in the majors, deGrom said he is more willing to work on stuff this time around. While he actually started using his curve more late last season, it seems like deGrom is going to work on perfecting the pitch during camp. 

"It’s a great pitch whether it be strike one or a strikeout pitch," deGrom said. "Talking to Gee, Wheeler and all those guys and see how they throw theirs and taking little bits of information from them and trying it in bullpens. Sometimes I throw it at 78 (mph) and that’s a big difference from the slider. It gets the hitter off balance."

deGrom, 26, posted a 2.69 ERA over 140 1/3 innings last season.


Rockies' Charlie Blackmon hoping for more consistency
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is hoping for more consistency in 2015, according to the Denver Post

Blackmon had a breakout season in 2014, but admits it's hard to be on every single game. "Last year, I swung the bat really well at certain times," he said. "But you go through a lot of ups and downs over 162 games, and that was a learning experience. I think that's going to help me this year."

Blackmon said his strong start made him a target for other teams, and that may have contributed to a slight slump during the season. Blackmon added that he's hoping to hit the ball to all fields this season.

Manager Walt Weiss is hoping Blackmon can deliver more of the same. "I don't know if he necessarily has to have an encore. I'm thinking more of the same," Weiss said. "I think Charlie would say that he wants to be more consistent."

The 28-year-old Blackmon hit .288/.335/.440 over 593 at-bats last year. 


Twins' Gibson feels 'a little more comfortable' with curveball
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson surrendered one run on two hits and one walk in two innings while striking out two in his spring debut Thursday, using the outing to work on his curveball, the Associated Press reports.

"I felt really good," Gibson said. "I'm working on some stuff, and some stuff worked out that I was working on. I threw more curveballs than normal. That's what spring training's for. It's just fun to be able to work on a particular pitch. I feel a little more comfortable."

Gibson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011, completed his first full major-league deal in 2014, going 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA and 107:57 K:BB ratio in 179 1/3 innings.


Blue Jays' Barton hoping his glove wins him a spot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Blue Jays first baseman Daric Barton is hoping his glove can win him a spot on the 25-man roster, according to the Toronto Sun.

Barton isn't much of a power hitter, but gets strong marks for his defense at first. Manager John Gibbons is well aware of Barton's skills. "One thing that put Daric on the map was that he was such a disciplined hitter and a great defender," Gibbons said. He added that the first baseman is involved in a large chunk of plays, so defense at the position is probably more important than people realize.

With that said, Barton may need a trade to make the opening day roster. As currently constructed, the Blue Jays may carry three catchers. If the team retains Dioner Navarro, Barton could find himself in the minors.

The 29-year-old Barton hit .158 over 57 at-bats last year.


Pirates' Pedro Alvarez feeling comfortable at first
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Pirates infielder Pedro Alvarez is feeling comfortable at first base, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

After playing third the past couple of seasons, Alvarez will transition to first base full-time in 2015. The 28-year-old is still getting used to the position, but he seems comfortable with the change.

"It’s just a matter of getting used to seeing the field from that point of view, get the reps in so that the responsibilities that come with playing the position become second nature," he said. "That’s just with time and repetitions."

Alvarez hit .231/.312/.405 over 398 at-bats last season. 


Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman gets strong marks at first
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman received strong reviews after playing his first game at first base this spring, according to MLB.com.

"He is still in the stages of having to think about it out there, because it's not natural yet," manager Matt Williams said. "He looked fine. He has fantastic hands." Zimmerman was tested during the start, and had to make two scoops in order to prevent possible throwing errors. 

He's been taking extra practice at the position this spring, and was fairly happy with how his first game turned out. "You can do so many drills, exercises and things like that until you have to go out there and play," Zimmerman said. "So it's nice to have a few chances. The more I play over there, the more comfortable I will get. I feel fine."

Zimmerman, 30, hit .280/.342/.449 over 214 at-bats last year. 


Orioles' Brian Matusz tosses scoreless inning in return
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz tossed a scoreless inning in his return to the mound.

Matusz came into camp dealing with a shoulder issue, but said he was pretty close to 100 percent. He allowed one hit during his one inning of work, and struck out one batter. Matusz is expected to open the season in the team's bullpen. 

The 28-year-old posted a 3.48 ERA over 51 2/3 innings last year.


Red Sox's Rusney Castillo wouldn't alter plan if sent down
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo won't be upset if he winds up being sent down to the minors, according to the WEEI.

That's not a likely outcome, but with his recent oblique injury, there's a chance Castillo could fall behind the other outfielders on the roster. "To me it wouldn’t be anything that would alter my plan, or my attitude, or my perspective," he said. "If that’s what it’s got to be, that’s what it’s got to be. I’m just worrying playing and continuing to get reps and reps wherever they may come."

Castillo did note that he's feeling a lot better, and is expected to return in about a week. Castillo hit .333 over 36 at-bats in the majors last year. 


Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr. showing off new swing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is showing off his new swing this spring, according to the Boston Herald

Bradley started working out at the team's facility in November, and started hitting in January. He worked with assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez for a good portion of the offseason. "Jackie was dedicated," Rodriguez said. "He listened, too. He was open to what we talked about."

Manager John Farrell has noticed the change in Bradley's approach. "In BP, to me, it seems like there’s more of a willingness to stay in the middle of the field and not look to lift a ball too much," Farrell said. "I think it’s more of his natural swing, which he was drafted with."

Bradley said his swing has been a "work in progress." While it doesn't appear Bradley has a starting role, his defense should make him a useful major-league asset.

The 24-year-old hit .198/.265/.266 over 384 at-bats last year. 

 


Molitor: Eduardo Escobar 'will be' important part of Twins in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Twins manager Paul Molitor marked infielder Eduardo Escobar as "an important part" of the team in 2014 and believes he will be the same this season, the Star Tribune reports.

"He was an important part of our team last year," Molitor said. "He will be this year, too."

Escobar delivered the best performance of his career in 2014, hitting .275/.315/.406 with six home runs and 37 RBI in 433 at-bats. However, he arrived at camp to learn he was in a competition for the shortstop role with last year's center fielder, Danny Santana. Breaking the news to Escobar was a delicate conversation for the manager.

"Obviously," Molitor said. "You’ve got a guy who came in and played every day for you last year, and then you’re thinking about doing something different. I’ve tried to explain it to him the best I could. His answers, at least for now, are, 'No problem. I understand.'"


 
 
 
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