2017 Second Base Rankings: 1 of 2
For some of us, the time has come to begin researching for 2017 fantasy baseball drafts. For others, the research never ended. This week and next week I will be analyzing the second base position, starting with the bottom half this week and the top half next week. I’ve divided the second base pool into six tiers and we’ll start with Tier VI and make our way up the ladder.
Schimpf was a 28-year-old rookie in 2016 and he hit 20 home runs and 17 doubles in only 89 games. He hit the ball hard 39.7% of the time, which is excellent. He also hit for a batting average of .207 and struck out 105 times, good for a K rate of 31.8%. He walks at an above average clip so in OBP leagues he holds slightly more value, but the low average and strikeout rate make me want to run for the hills.
Hernan Perez got himself on the map in 2016 with 34 steals and 13 home runs in 123 games for the Milwaukee Brewers. What seems promising on the surface is marred by lack of guaranteed every day playing time. However 34 steals are never something to sneeze at, and Hernan is worth consideration in deeper leagues, or leagues with extra bench spots and daily line up changes.
Gyorko won the award in 2016 for having the least number of RBI (59) while collecting 30 home runs. He shares this award with Curtis Granderson, who also had 30 HR and 59 RBI though Gyorko completed the task in only 128 games versus Granderson’s 150. Of Gyorko’s 30 homers, 23 came in July or later, so he had a strong second half and his playing time increased each month. Unfortunately, Gyorko had only 9 doubles on the season. I would expect the homers and doubles to level out in 2017, and Gyorko doesn’t bring much speed, average, or on-base skills to the table.
Peraza was traded to the Reds last offseason in the three-team deal that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox. This was the second three-team trade in Peraza’s short career, the first being when he was shipped from the Braves to the Dodgers along with pitcher Alex Wood. The same deal would send Mat Latos to the Marlins. As a prospect Peraza was noted for his elite speed, which translated to 21 steals in 72 games for the Reds in 2016. Peraza triple slashed .324/.352/.411 in his partial season at only age 22. He doesn’t walk much but doesn’t strike out much either. Like a lot of speedsters Peraza is a contact hitter who doesn’t hit the ball hard that often. The big question for Peraza is playing time. There is no clear path to regular playing time, however he should play enough to showcase his speed and he has the potential to earn increased playing time if he outperforms his competition in spring training or throughout the season. He is well worth the risk in deep leagues, and in shallow leagues he is someone to monitor as the season progresses.
I’ve decided to look at the next tier as a group rather than individually. Aside from Joe Panik, this tier consists of players who have a solid history to look at and their performance has been relatively consistent year to year.
One thing that stands out from this group is Neil Walker’s .476 slugging percentage. Walker was having a career year with the Mets before a back injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Besides the back injury, the lack of doubles makes me hesitant to believe in Walker. With no significant changes to his batted ball profile, it seems that a few balls that would normally be doubles left the yard for Walker in 2016, and I’d expect that to even out going forward.
The real value pick here is Joe Panik. The 26-year-old is coming off a down year where he missed time due to a concussion. Despite the poor batting average, Panik’s contact rate was an above average 90%. Additionally, Panik’s BABIP was .245, which is below his career average. This suggests positive regression for Panik and I expect a batting average near .300 for 2017. If you’re waiting until the late rounds to grab a 2B, Panik is your man.
Tier IV, the last tier for today’s analysis, includes several young second basemen with upside, as well as veteran Ben Zobrist.
Devon Travis has yet to play a full season in the bigs. In 2015, his rookie season, he showed the ability to hit for average (.304) while also displaying a bit of power with 8 homers in 62 games. He started 2016 with a shoulder injury that forced him to miss most of the first two months of the season. Upon his return, Travis continued where he left off in his rookie campaign – he posted a .300 average and slugged .454 in 100 games. Travis had arthroscopic knee surgery in the offseason, but is expected to be ready for Opening Day. He’s a decent option at second base, and while I think he can continue to perform at his current level, I’d recommend waiting a few rounds and taking Panik.
Jonathan Schoop (value pick)
We all knew the power was there throughout his young career. In 2016, his first full season, he put together a nice .267/.298/.454 triple slash, with 25 homers and 38 doubles. An interesting thing about Schoop is that he hit the ball less hard in 2016 vs 2015. His hard hit % decreased from 35.8% to 26.6%. At only age 25 and entering his prime years, I expect that hard hit % to trend upwards, giving Schoop an excellent chance to reach the 30 HR mark. Baltimore has a great ballpark and he will have a great supporting cast that will boost his counting stats. That makes Schoop a value pick.
Baez’ slick glove makes him fun to watch. If you are in a league with Web Gems as a category, he would make a great pick. The bat is not quite as good as the glove just yet, but at age 24 there is room for improvement. Baez doesn’t walk much (3.3% BB rate in 2016) and strikes out at a decent clip (24% K rate in 2016), thus I wouldn’t expect much improvement in the average or on-base categories for 2017. He’s got a bit of pop and a bit of speed, and his potential makes me like him long term. The position flexibility makes him a good candidate as a utility fantasy player if your league’s benches are deep enough, but he’s generally overvalued by most of the average draft positions I’ve seen.
Brad Miller is currently 1B and SS eligible in most leagues, however the Rays have announced that Miller will be the team’s starting second basemen on Opening Day. Miller took part of the power surge in 2016, hitting 30 home runs and 29 doubles for a .482 slugging percentage. Other than that, his average and OBP decreased from 2015 to 2016, likely due to decreased BB% and increased K%. While his hard hit % increased, so did his soft hit %. It appears Miller tried to hit for more power and it paid off at the expense of some average and on base percentage – a trade off most players would willingly make. I like Miller for his position flexibility, but in a weak Rays line up runs and RBI will be hard to come by.
Zobrist is another sturdy veteran not unlike a few of the guys in Tier V above. Zobrist showed power above the guys in Tier V the last two years, despite being age 34 and 35 seasons. Aside from that, Zobrist separates himself from Tier V with superior counting stats, which is unlikely to change in 2017 while he is in the Cubs’ line up. The age is a concern, and I suspect manager Joe Maddon may find ways to get him a few extra days off this season, but he’s the closest to a sure thing from his tier.
That rounds out the bottom half of the second basemen entering 2017. In Tier VI, we have some young unproven players, a couple of which could make an impact if they see consistent playing time (Peraza, Perez). In Tier V, we pretty much know what we’re getting, and it’s nothing to get excited about. Panik is a bounce back candidate and a value pick, but even with a bounce back he’s likely not relevant unless you are in a deeper league. Finally, we get to Tier IV, which is the most interesting tier discussed today. All but Zobrist have room to improve. I think Schoop has the highest ceiling and is another value pick recommendation, but Miller, Baez, and Travis could all improve in the coming season.
Tune in next week for Tiers I – III.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 26th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #80 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss players in the draft going for nice bargains.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 2nd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #81 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. OPENING DAY SPECIAL! We will discuss some of the days events as well as relevant fantasy baseball updates.
Our guests this week are Ron Shandler, and Bilal Chaudry. Ron is FSTA Hall of Famer, and one of the pioneers of fantasy baseball. You can find his work at ronshandler.com. Bilal is a veteran owner in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and frequent radio guest.