Today’s piece is a long one as we dive into the second base rankings. I’m starting with the Not Top 12, and there are a lot of players out there who fit that criteria. In the later rounds of the drafts I’m usually looking to add a high upside player, a specific stat category that I feel I am lacking, or sometimes just a safe veteran if I’ve already picked some high risk-high reward type guys already. As such, I’ve divided today’s article into five groups for each type of player you might need at the end of your draft. Some draft strategy is provided as well. The five groups are: The Young and Unproven, The Prime Candidates, Power Up the Middle, The Need for Speed, and Veterans I’m Not Too Excited About. We’ll hit each group in order.
The Young and Unproven
Ozzie Albies – ATL, age 21
Yoan Moncada – CWS, age 22
Gleyber Torres – NYY, age 21
These three guys are the up and comers at the second base slot, and all have the potential to be draft bargains in 2018. Moncada has the most MLB service time of the three with 62 games, followed by Albies with 57, and Torres with zero. Players with such small MLB sample sizes come with additional risk. For Torres, how will he perform against MLB pitching? For Moncada and Albies, how will they fare when MLB coaches and pitchers have more time to study them and exploit potential weaknesses? You just don’t know until you play the games.
In addition to the most service time, Moncada also has the highest upside of the three. Scouting reports have him at 60-grade game power and a 70-grade speed, making him a potential power/speed combination that is so valuable in standard 5×5 leagues. Moncada is also the riskiest because he strikes out a ton – over 30% of his plate appearances end in a K. If you draft him, you will have to live with a few extra 2 for 22 weeks with 8Ks.
Albies seems like the safest play of the three heading into 2018. In his rookie campaign he posted a .286/.354/.456 triple slash, backed by an 8.6% walk rate and 14.8% strikeout rate. The walk rate is average, the strikeout rate is great, and both typically improve as players get on with their careers. Albies also stole 8 bags in 2017, making him a threat on the base paths. He hit 6 home runs and the projections have him at 12 for the 2018 season. Based on his batted ball profile that includes a hard hit percentage of 33% and a 40% fly ball rate, I think he has the potential to hit 20 bombs in his future. Granted, this is a small sample size, but there isn’t much to dislike about Albies thus far.
Torres hasn’t played a single MLB game yet, which makes him tougher to analyze. In fact, he’s only played 23 games at AAA and 32 games at AA, yet he appears to be the heir to the second base job for the New York Yankees. Despite the nickname “Baby Bombers”, the Yankees don’t have much of a track record in relying on young and inexperienced batters such as Torres. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird are all age 25 and had 100+ games at the AAA level before taking on full time MLB roles. While Torres will probably start the season in AAA due to a combination of returning from injury and service time manipulation, he will probably be the starting second baseman by June. If you trust the Yankee Brass, and they’ve been making all the right moves lately, then you’ve got to believe Torres is ready for the bigs and will be able to contribute upon arrival.
Draft Strategy: It’s really a coin-flip when picking a youngster. All three have exciting potential. I would draft whoever falls further between Moncada or Albies, and if either guy struggles out of the gate, I’ll have my eye on Torres to replace them as a mid-season call up.
The Prime Candidates
Devon Travis – TOR, age 26
Joe Panik – SF, age 27
Kolten Wong – STL, age 27
Cesar Hernandez – PHI, age 27
Brandon Drury – AZ, age 25
This group is made up of players in or entering their prime seasons. Devon Travis has shown the ability to hit for average when he’s not plagued with injury. He has the batted ball profile of a player who could hit 20 home runs if he can stay healthy for a full season, but that appears to be his ceiling more than the expectation.
Joe Panik brings empty batting average to the table. On the positive side, he strikes out just 9% of the time, so if you’re in a rare league that counts strikeouts against you, Panik gets a slight boost in value.
Kolten Wong looks like a decent play as he has a respectable 10% walk rate and 15% strikeout rate to go along with a .285/.376/.412 triple slash. Looking closer, Wong will likely platoon with Jed Gyorko, so while the averages look decent, the counting stats won’t be there.
Brandon Drury is the youngest of the group, so he comes with a little more upside. In 2017, Drury had 52 extra base hits, 9 more than fellow groupie Joe Panik. Drury hits the ball hard 32% of the time and in the air 29% of the time. If he could increase the number of fly balls he hits by 5%, 20 homers are attainable, and in AZ he’s in a hitter’s park with a great line up around him. He’s lacked consistency so far in his career, which is why he’s never played more than 135 games. A step in the right direction could make Drury worth starting full time for the Diamondbacks and your fantasy teams.
Cesar Hernandez should be the safest pick of this bunch. He’s stolen 15 bases or more the last three years and batted .294 with an 11% walk rate the last two seasons. Hernandez also increased his extra base hits by 10 between 2016 and 2017, all while playing 27 less games. Hernandez doesn’t hit the ball hard enough or in the air enough to be a serious 20 home run threat, but he contributes in other areas and is a good bet to continue doing so in his age 27 season.
Draft Strategy: Hernandez is the pick if you want the highest floor, but Drury has the highest ceiling. As the rounds get later I prefer drafting upside, so I’d go with Drury here.
Power Up The Middle
Scooter Gennett – CIN, age 27
Javy Baez – CHC, age 25
Paul DeJong – STL, age 24
Ian Happ – CHC, age 23
Ian Kinsler – LAA, age 35
This is a rather eclectic group of players. The one thing they share is they all hit at least 20 home runs last season and are the only players discussed in this article to do so. Gennett had the most homers of the group with 27, 4 of which came in one game. It was a career best for Gennet whose previous career best was 14 homers in 2016. Gennett did boost his hard hit % from 29% to 34%, while also pulling the ball more than any other season in his career. These factors persuade me to think another 20 home run season is possible. However, I do not think Gennett’s 97 RBIs from 2016 will be matched and there is no guarantee his 80 runs scored will be either.
Javy Baez showed improvement from 2016 to 2017. He posted a .273 batting average both years but boosted his ISO from .150 to .207, respectively. He’s a talented young player in a great Cubs lineup who should only improve going forward.
Paul DeJong exceeded rookie limits in 2017 while hitting 25 homers and batting .285 over 108 games. Extrapolated, that’s a 37-home run pace over a 162-game season. We know better than to extrapolate the power numbers of a small rookie sample size, but DeJong hit the ball hard 36% of the time and in the air 43% of the time. While the average will probably drop 30 points, DeJong may be able to repeat a 25-home run season.
Ian Happ also exceeded rookie limits in 2017. He hit 24 home runs and batted .253 over 115 games. Like DeJong, Happ hits the ball hard and hits a ton of fly balls. He’ll be a useful source of power and could steal 10 bases as well. Playing for the Cubs will help his counting stats but may hinder his playing time as the aforementioned Javy Baez has a lock on second base and the outfield is rather crowded with Heyward, Schwarber, Almora, and Zobrist all in the mix. Joe Madden is a master of maneuvering the line up card, so I think he will get Happ his fare share of at bats, but I’m not sure I want to draft a guy that may get as much playing time as my catcher.
Besides sharing a first name, Ian Happ and Ian Kinsler both share the ability to draw a walk, which can’t be said of the other three in the power group. Despite batting a putrid .236 last season, Kinsler was able to hit 22 homers and score 90 runs, while swiping double digit bags for the 12th season in his 12-year career. He was traded to the Angels in the off-season which should help rejuvenate Kinsler after playing in a 98-loss season for the Detroit Tigers.
Draft Strategy: Javy Baez is the favorite as he’s young and trending upwards. He’s a borderline top 12 second baseman. If he continues to trend positively he will break the top 12, even top 10, at the end of 2018. My next option would be Kinsler because he’s been a consistent power/speed combo and I think the move to LAA will help him. I’ll pass on the rest as I see regression for all three and they will be overvalued on draft day.
The Need for Speed
Jonathan Villar – MIL, age 26
Eduardo Nunez – FA, age 30
Jose Peraza – CIN, age 23
Jose Reyes – NYM, age 34
The value of the stolen base varies highly depending on league formats. In the standard 5×5 league, these guys all have some value because they can steal 20 bases or more. So if you’re scrounging for some steals at the end of your draft, which guy should you take a chance on?
Well, they all have their flaws. Jose Reyes surprisingly had the best season of the group in 2017 at age 34. Reyes is also the only one with a half decent walk rate at 8.9%, so if he’s not hitting, he can still manage to get on base from time to time. However, his playing time is in question after the Mets acquired Todd Frazier to play third base. They will likely shift Asdrubal Cabrera over to second base and give youngster Amed Rosario the opportunity at shortstop.
Jonathan Villar posted an incredible 2016 but busted hard in 2017. He’s also not guaranteed a starting position and lost playing time last year to Eric Sogard, due to Villar’s sub-par performance, but if he bounces back the starting job is his.
Nunez signed a one year deal with the Red Sox last night. With Pedroia out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, Nunez should see consistent playing time from the start before transitioning to a utility type role. Even without a bonafide starting position Nunez should see enough games to be able to swipe 20 bags.
Finally, there is Jose Peraza. Peraza is the youngest of the group and reminds me of Dee Gordon in a few ways. First, both are low walk, high contact hitters who rely on their speed to get on base. Second, both started their careers with the Dodgers. And third, both had successful rookie campaigns that included batting over .300 with 20+ steals in partial seasons, followed by heavy regression the following season. It took Gordon four years to find his groove and become the consistent .300 hitter he is today. I think Peraza could be on a similar trajectory. 2018 may not be the season he puts it all together, but he’s young and has upside that I’d take a chance on. Peraza has already shown some improvements in his game, reducing his caught stealing percentage from 32% in his rookie season to 26% in 2017.
Draft Strategy: I’ll take my chances with the younger legs in Peraza and Villar for my speed needs. Peraza has a higher upside in batting average. Villar gets the edge in power. Draft depending on your team needs.
Veterans I’m Not Too Excited About
Starlin Castro – MIA, age 27
Josh Harrison – PIT, age 30
Logan Forsythe – LAD, age 31
Jed Lowrie – OAK, age 33
Dustin Pedroia – BOS, age 34
Jason Kipnis – CLE, age 30
Asdrubal Cabrera – NYM, age 32
Yangervis Solarte – TOR, age 30
These second basemen are all veterans on the other side of 30 (except for Castro) and with multiple years of experience. If you want to know what they will do in 2018, you’ll get a pretty good idea by looking at their performances the last few seasons. There’s not a ton of upside here, but sometimes the boring veteran is just what the doctor ordered.
The only player of the bunch who I’m remotely interested in is Yangervis Solarte because he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason. Leaving Petco Park will be a positive for Solarte, who managed 18 home runs last season with the Padres. The Blue Jays seem to have a knack for getting the most out of acquired hitters (see Justin Smoak, Joey Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion). Solarte doesn’t have a clear path to playing time, but Tulowitzki and Travis are often injured, so he should be able to get his fair share of at bats. I think Solarte could break the 20 home run mark, and with 2B, 3B, and SS eligibility, would be a nice bench piece for your team that won’t cost you much.
Draft Strategy: Avoid drafting one of these guys to be your starting second baseman, but any could provide value off the waiver wire if your starter gets injured. I’d roll with the hot bat or the matchups in that scenario.
Man, this has been a long one. If you made it this far you probably need a recap and a night cap, but that will just make it even longer. Share your thoughts below, thanks for reading, and I’ll be back next week breaking down the top 12 second basemen. I was also on the MLFS Podcast last night, so be sure to check out the podcast today in the link below.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday February 15th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #98 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. We will the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Kevin Bzdek. Kevin is a writer with Major League Fantasy Sports and part of the editing staff. Kevin’s articles publish every Friday morning at 7am.
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