Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.
Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.
Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB
Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Second Base
1. Robinson Cano, Yankees(A)
Unless Cano opens the season on the DL with a subluxation of the psyche after that 3-for-40 postseason abomination, he occupies a tier all his own. His .313-33-94-105 of 2012 has never been replicated by a non-steroid-implicated American League second baseman — and this was the fourth straight season he’s done something comparable.
2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Pedroia’s .300 AVG, 15 HRs and 20 SBs are a given, but his runs and RBIs fluctuate appreciably depending upon batting order nuances. Last year was his first with an OPS below .800. Then again, he was essentially the lone bastion of normalcy in Boston.
3. Jason Kipnis, Indians
Last year, we pegged Kipnis as the “second coming of Chase Utley,” and though his inability to solve southpaws bumped him slightly off track, we’ll stand by the assessment. Stolen bases in the 30s will tide you over while he smooths the wrinkles.
4. Ian Kinsler, Rangers
Kinsler — a two-time 30-30 asset — took a step back, chiefly because his swings and misses rocketed from 102 to 166. Though retaining at least 20-20 prospects, he’s failed to break .260 three of the last four years. Homered three times in the first six games of both 2011 and 2012.
5. Ben Zobrist, Rays
Zobrist is precious defensively (he also qualifies at shortstop and in the outfield), and he’s put two strong offensive seasons back-to-back for the first time. A quantum upgrade in his SO/BB ratio from 1.66 (2006-11) to 1.06 suggests he still may have another level in him.
6. Brandon Phillips, Reds
Other than de-emphasizing the speed component of his game (as most 30-somethings do), Phillips has been astoundingly consistent. He’s the only keystoner besides Cano with a .275 AVG, 18 homers and 75 runs every year since 2009.
7. Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks(E)
Hill is either the guy who averaged 29 homers in his three best seasons or the one who’s totaled 36 in his other five. He’s either the guy who’s topped .290 three times or the one who once batted .225 over a 275-game period. Enjoy the ride.
8. Jose Altuve, Astros
Altuve supplied the first-ever 160-hit/30-steal season by 5'5" player, but he’s no novelty act. An All-Star at 22, he’s got surprising pop and patience. Whether he can avoid wearing down is the long and “short” of it.
9. Dustin Ackley, Mariners(B)
He was once regarded as a future batting title contender, but Ackley’s first full season was a tire fire. His .226 AVG was one of the 11 lowest by a qualifying AL second sacker in the past half-century. That aside, his baleful .265 BAbip and amply evident ability make him an alluring post-hype play.
10. Danny Espinosa, Nationals
Espinosa is the lone National League second baseman with at least 15 swats and 15 swipes each of the last two seasons, but the price exacted from the fourth-most strikeouts in the game during that span was a .242 AVG.
11. Howard Kendrick, Angels
After years of guessing what Kendrick could be if he played full-time, we now know precisely what he is: his three-year average of .284-12-68-70-14. Recommended to those with low risk tolerance and realistic expectations.
12. Rickie Weeks, Brewers
By the time he rose above the Mendoza Line on July 26, Weeks had critically wounded many a fantasy season. A trio of 20-homer/75-run seasons in a row commands respect, but brace yourself for mixed messages.
13. Chase Utley, Phillies(F)
Chondromalacia sounds as if it ought to be somewhere in between Bangladesh and Phnom Penh, but it’s actually just this side of Utley’s right femur and tibia. The chronic condition has clouded his future — though the future even of healthy 34-year-old second basemen is limited. Nonetheless, he’s shown above-average productivity when ambulatory.
14. Neil Walker, Pirates(F)
Kendrick-like in his humdrum competence across all five categories. Has one home run in 320 plate appearances as a right-handed hitter since 2011. Non-surgical herniated disk that shelved him late last year bears monitoring.
15. Dan Uggla, Braves
Uggla is easily the position’s home run king since he debuted in 2006, but his 19 last year were a personal trough by eight. Having batted above .260 only twice in seven seasons and bottoming out at .220 in 2012, he’s threatening to run out of positive categories.
16. Emilio Bonifacio, Blue Jays
17. Gordon Beckham, White Sox (B)
18. Daniel Murphy, Mets (B)
19. Josh Rutledge, Rockies (C)
20. Marco Scutaro, Giants (E)
21. Jemile Weeks, Athletics
22. Omar Infante, Tigers
23. Logan Forsythe, Padres (C)
24. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals (C)
25. Darwin Barney, Cubs
26. Brian Dozier, Twins
27. Donovan Solano, Marlins
28. Alexi Casilla, Orioles
29. Johnny Giavotella, Royals
30. Kelly Johnson, Free Agent (E)
31. Maicer Izturis, Blue Jays
32. Brian Roberts, Orioles (F)
33. Ryan Roberts, Rays
34. Steve Lombardozzi, Nationals
35. Chris Getz, Royals
36. Jedd Gyorko, Padres (G)
37. Daniel Descalso, Cardinals
38. Mark Ellis, Dodgers
39. Kolten Wong, Cardinals (G)
40. Skip Schumaker, Dodgers (E)
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013