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Just when the depth of fantasy value at 2B looked to be drying up, a new group of young stars has reloaded the position, making it one of the most intriguing positions come draft day.
I wish we could say the same at SS, where the talent pool remains somewhat shallow and injury-plagued - though a couple of local guys still make my top 10.
1. Robinson Cano, SEA.
With HRs dropping from 27 to 14 and RBI from 107 to 82 from 2013 to 2014, you can't call his move a Seattle a success yet. Still, he's a model of consistency with his batting average - .313, .314, .314 the last three years, and the Mariners have built a better lineup around him. Interesting 2014 stat: 37 doubles after five straight years of 41 or more.
2. Jose Altuve, HOU.
After a stunning year of .341 batting average, 225 hits, 47 doubles, 56 SBs, there is an argument to rank him No. 1, especially if you look toward middle infield slots to satisfy all your SB need. Interesting 2014 stat: 9 - times caught stealing, out of 65 attempts.
3. Anthony Rendon, WAS.
This multi-category stud won the No. 2 ranking at 3B, and nearly makes an argument for No. 1 here. If he manages a 30 HR, 30 SB season, we'll regret ranking him third, though I think he's a year away from that. Interesting 2014 stat: 111 runs was second at second.
4. Ian Kinsler, DET.
Surprised a lot of us last year who thought playing in Texas for years inflated his stats and that being in Detroit would bring them down. He bettered his 2013 marks in HRs, RBI, runs, doubles and hits. Interesting 2014 stat: 92 RBI was a career high.
5. Kolten Wong, STL.
Rendon-like potential to score across categories, though he had a pretty rough 2014, which is why he's ranked lower elsewhere. 12 HRs, 20 SBs last season suggest 20/20, maybe 20/30, is possible this year. Interesting 2014 stat: 71 strikeouts in 402 ABs.
6. Dee Gordon, MIA.
A lot of people like him higher, and his 64 SBs are hard to ignore. I think he can do it again, but he's a one-trick pony , and I don't think he can manage a .289 average again. Interesting 2014 stat: 12 triples if you like that sort of thing. Could get more in Miami's big park.
7. Jason Kipnis, CLE.
Bombed in 2014 after getting a No. 1 ranking from many. I'm buying that he still has a career year ahead of him and it could be this year. Even a mild comeback could mean a 20 HR, 30 SB year. Interesting stat: 27 years old, so he's in his prime.
8. Brian Dozier, MIN.
How do I have him eighth after 23 HRs, 71 RBI, 21 SBs, 112 runs in 2014, when he led 2Bs in HRs, runs scored and walks? I don't have much faith in his power, and not excited by .242 batting average. Interesting 2014 stat: 129 strikeouts against 89 walks.
9. Dustin Pedroia, BOS.
No power, no speed, and his batting average is now sinking, too. His hopes on living up to this ranking rely largely on the beefed up Boston lineup around him, and I do think it could rejuvenate him. Interesting 2014 stat: .376 slugging percentage was a career low.
10. Josh Harrison, PIT.
Super-sub is another across-the-board scoring option, but don't wait too long. This ranking might undervalue him. A good bet for 15 HRs, 70 RBI, 30 SBs, .320 average, maybe 10 triples, too. Interesting 2014 stat: 57 extra-base hits reminds me of Cano in his prime.
11. Daniel Murphy, NYM.
Down year after a breakout 2013, but injury was a factor. Multi-category potential like Rendon, Wong, Kipnis, Harrison, etc., but a few years older than all of the above. Could be a late-season rental for a contender. Interesting 2014 stat: .322 away-game average.
12. Neil Walker, PIT.
Tied Dozier with 23 HRs last year to lead 2Bs, but as with Dozier, I'm selling high on that number. Still, decent power and potential for 75+ RBI keeps him in the discussion as a fantasy starter. Interesting 2014 stat: 137 games second highest of career - injury hint.
13. Chase Utley, PHI.
Persistent injuries - ankle is already limiting spring activity - and age pose risks. He no longer brings HR value, but stills hustles for doubles and triples (42 combined last year). Worth a bench spot. Interesting 2014 stat: age 35 last year, he turned 36 in December.
14. Jedd Gyorko, SD.
Maybe the biggest 2B fantasy disappointment of 2014, dropping to 10 HRs after 23 in 2013. Great power potential, but must improve sorry .210 average. Nice long-term investment, but don't over-pay. Interesting 2014 stat: 100 strikeouts in 111 games.
15. Mookie Betts, BOS.
Maybe undervaluing a guy many have as a top 10. Gets compared to Rendon, but not ripe yet. May compete with Cuban star Rusney Castillo for playing time this spring, so not a lock to break camp. Interesting 2014 stat: .368 OBP suggests mature eye.
16. Ben Zobrist, OAK.
Fading super-sub still peppers numbers across multiple stat categories, but probably no longer a fantasy starter. Just 10 HRs, 52 RBI last year for Tampa, and new home won't help his power stats. Interesting 2014 stat: 75 walks was second among all 2Bs.
17. Javier Baez, CUBS.
I know he will be valued more in local fantasy leagues, and he does have a very high power ceiling, but can't bring myself to rank him higher after a late-season tryout showed off major weaknesses. Cubs are trying to change his ultra-violent swing, which could prove either brilliant or a disaster. Interesting 2014 stat: .169 average says it all.
18. Brett Lawrie, OAK.
Off-season move could ignite a once much-hyped, now often-injured player. His 12 HRs, 38 RBI in less than half a season suggest top five stats for 162 games, though playing in Oakland could limit HR potential. Interesting 2014 stat: played just 70 games.
19. Howie Kendrick, LAD.
Usually a fantasy bench dweller, but a reliable hitter and run-scorer. Switched LA teams over the winter, but expectations won't change for a consistent, if boring, .290-something hitter with 70-80 runs, 10-15 SBs. Interesting 2014 stat: 181 hits a career high.
20. Brandon Phillips, CIN.
Career-worst year in 2014, and at 33, age and injury loom ever larger. However, I like him as a low-risk bench investment who might just surprise us with something like 18 HRs, 75 RBI and a .290 average. Interesting 2014 stat: 121 games fewest since 2005.
Sleeper: Arismendy Alcantara, CUBS.
All the Baez buzz leaves his teammate as the sneaky value at this position. His .205 average doesn't excite, but super-sub capabilities suggest he'll play, and could contribute extra-base hits and SBs. Interesting 2014 stat: Was just 22, turned 23 during off-season.
1. Ian Desmond, WAS.
Many folks rank him No. 2, which I get, but I like Desmond's 2014 line of 24 HRs, 93 RBI, 24 SBs to grow toward 30/110/30 this year. Still, batting average drop from .280 in 2013 to .255 last year and huge strikeout total concerns. Interesting 2014 stat: 183 strikeouts.
2. Hanley Ramirez, BOS.
In a revamped Boston lineup, he remains the most exciting fantasy shortstop. Bad back has limited his play for years, though he supposedly has done extra conditioning work on it this off-season. Appeared in 128 games last year, but hasn't played more than that since 2010. Interesting 2014 stat: .817 OPS second highest, minimum 400 at-bats.
3. Troy Tulowitzki, COL.
So hard to trust this injury-prone trade chip, but the fact that he managed 21 HRs, 52 RBI, .340 in just 91 games makes it hard to put him any lower. If you take him, just be sure to grab a good back-up. Interesting 2014 stat: Whopping 1.035 OPS in 315 at-bats.
4. Jose Reyes, TOR.
Fought back against an expected career fade last year, with 94 runs, 30 SBs, and a.287 average, bagging all the stats you hope for from SS if you can't pick one of the top three guys. Interesting 2014 stat: Four triples. His years of double-digit triples might be over.
5. Alexei Ramirez, WHITE SOX.
Turned it on after turning 30 a few years ago. SBs and average were down slightly last year, his 2014 line of 15 HRs, 74 RBI, 21 SBs, 82 runs and .273 average could grow in the beefier Sox lineup. Interesting 2014 stat: 158 games four years running.
6. Starlin Castro, CUBS.
Call it a comeback: 2014's .292 average, 14 HRs, 65 RBI brought him back from the brink of being sent down. Turns 25 this month, so he can still improve on those stats. Would be nice to see more than four SBs. Interesting 2014 stat: .777 OPS a career high.
7. Jhonny Peralta, STL.
Got very little notice for a pretty good 2014: 21 HRs, 75 RBI - both second among SSs. His .263 average was a big drop from 2013's .303, and he lacks speed, but still looks like a bargain. Interesting 2014 stat: 38 doubles were more than any other SS.
8. Jimmy Rollins, LAD.
Nice rebound last year when he barely seemed like a bench candidate to open the season. Can he repeat 17 HRs, 55 RBI, 28 SBs at age 36? Switch from Philly to Dodger Stadium may cap his HRs. Interesting 2014 stat: 64 walks a career high in his 15th season.
9. Danny Santana, MIN.
Lurking as the possible next big thing at SS, with a hot bat and speed: .319 average, 20 SBs, 27 doubles, seven triples in just 405 at-bats. That average may settle down, but still a lot to like. Interesting 2014 stat: .825 OPS highest, minimum 400 at-bats.
10. Xander Bogaerts, BOS.
This popular 2014 sleeper pick fizzled for the most part, though 12 HRs, 46 RBI hinted at something. Still just 22, so we'll forgive the .240 average and hope a scary lineup protects him this year. Interesting 2014 stat: 138 strikeouts.
11. Erick Aybar, LAA.
A few years distant from his breakout 2011, when he had 10 HRs, 30 steals and eight triples, Aybar isn't stunning anyone in those categories, but 164 hits, 68 RBI and 77 runs last year all were career highs. Interesting 2014 stat: 16 SBs leaves him as a borderline starter.
12. Elvis Andrus, TEX.
Consistently ranked higher elsewhere, but his SBs fell from 42 in 2013 to 27 last year, runs dropped from 91 to 72 and his average is down three years straight. Once a key piece of prolific Texas lineup, no more. Interesting 2014 stat: 15 times caught stealing.
13. Alcides Escobar, KC.
His primary value comes from 31 SBs, though his .285 average last year was better than the three guys ahead of him. He's almost interchangeable with Andrus as a player with good speed, zero power and not much else. Interesting 2014 stat: 165 hits third at SS.
14. Ben Zobrist, OAK.
See above at 2B. The shallow talent pool at SS buys him a slightly better ranking here, and he probably is good insurance for injury-prone talents like Ramirez and Tulo.
15. Brandon Crawford, SF.
40 extra-base hits and 69 RBI last year are evidence of flashes of brilliance, though total value was mitigated by .246 average. 153 games last year, but didn't always start Interesting 2014 stat: 10 triples tied for tops at SS.
16. Javier Baez, CUBS.
See above at 2B. Pretty much the same story, though if he does bring up his average and his HR numbers, he could very quickly enter the fantasy starter discussion at SS.
17. Jean Segura, MIL.
Sank fast last year after a breakout 2013 campaign, but if he bumps up his average from .246 and increases SBs from 20 to near 30, he'll get back in the discussion, at least as a fantasy bench dweller. Interesting 2014 stat: Only five HRs, after 12 in 2013.
18. Brock Holt, BOS.
Rising super-sub hit .281 in 449 at bats and did a little bit of everything, including 12 SBs. Depending on his role and playing time, he could score a lot of runs off Boston's big bats. Interesting 2014 stat: 98 strikeouts in 106 games.
19. Eduardo Escobar, MIN.
Let's start with his interesting 2014 stat: 35 doubles. Actually, 43 of his 119 hits - more than one-third - were for extra bases, and his .275 average was better than many guys ranked higher. If he gets more than the 433 at-bats he had last year, watch out.
20. Adeiny Hechavarria, MIA.
Didn't do much fantasy-wise last year, but 10 triples tied for tops at SS, and his average improved from .227 in 2013 to .276 last year. Interesting 2014 stat: 148 hits in 146 games last season after 123 hits in 148 games in 2013.
Sleeper: Didi Gregorius, NYY.
The guy - or one of the guys - that could replace that Derek Jeter fellow. He's 24 and has multi-category potential, but hasn't had much chance to realize it year. A low-risk investment, with the hope that the dirt under his feet retains a little of the Jeter magic.
Part 1: The Corner Men.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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