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“On Bzdek” A Baker’s Dozen: Drafting Strategy for the Top Second Basemen

Last week, I gave you my “Not Top 12”. As it turns out, I forgot Anthony Rizzo obtained second base eligibility last season as a result of the Chicago Cubs’ shift to defend against the bunt. So this week, instead of a top 12, I’m throwing in an extra and giving you a bakers dozen of second basemen. I’ll break down each player individually, and provide some draft strategy thoughts for each. We’ll take it from the top, since it’s no surprise who comes in at #1.

1. Jose Altuve, Hou

Altuve has been the top dog at the second base position for several years now. His core skill set is his ability to hit for average and steal bags. Altuve hit .338 or better in 3 of the last 4 seasons, with a .313 average being the outlier, and accumulated at least 200 hits in each of those four seasons. He’s also swiped 30+ bags in each of the last 6 years.  Altuve’s consistency is what made him a top second baseman, but his improved power over the last two seasons (24 home runs in each) is what put him in the top echelon of all batters. In a stacked Houston lineup, you won’t have to worry about Altuve’s run and RBI totals. At the prime age of 27 and coming off an MVP season, Altuve is as sure a bet that you can make with your first pick.

Draft Strategy: If Altuve is available, take him. He’s the consensus #2 overall pick, but you can’t go wrong taking him #1 overall.

2. Anthony Rizzo, CHC

There is debate over whether or not Rizzo should actually have second base eligibility, but he does in Yahoo leagues so I included him in my rankings. Another model for consistency, Rizzo’s amassed at least 31 homers, 94 runs, and 101 RBIs in each of the last three seasons. Unlike many other power hitters of today, Rizzo is able to maintain a great strikeout rate of around 15%. Entering his age 28 season and in a great Cubs lineup, Rizzo is a sure bet to put up another comparable season. The 1B/2B eligibility is an added bonus.

Draft Strategy: Rizzo’s average draft position is 21 which puts him at the end of round 2 or early round 3. This is a bargain. I always look for consistency in the early rounds. I would take Rizzo over the likes of Bryce Harper, Freddie Freeman, Manny Machado, and Aaron Judge, all of whom are being selected in front of Rizzo. Best cast scenario, your league mates let Rizzo slide and you can draft him around his ADP.

3. Jose Ramirez, CLE

Ramirez broke out in 2016 hitting .312/.363/.462, and followed it up with an even better 2017 where he improved his triple slash to .318/.374/.583. The boost in slugging % was driven by a jump in home runs from 11 in 2016 to 29 in 2017.  In 2017, Ramirez also hit the ball in the air more, pulled the ball more and hit the ball hard more. At 25 years old, I like Ramirez to keep the power numbers. The projections give him 21 homers, but I think 25 is reachable for a guy entering his prime. Ramirez can also contribute with his speed, posting 22 and 17 steals over the last two seasons. If the power continues to progress, the steals may fade, but the overall package makes Ramirez the #3 second basemen.

Draft Strategy: Ramirez hasn’t shown the power of Rizzo just yet, but he makes up for it with a bit more speed. He also comes with 3B eligibility. He should be picked right after Rizzo is off the board.

4. Brian Dozier, MIN

Dozier is one of four second basemen to hit 30 home runs or more in 2017, the other three being Anthony Rizzo, Rougned Odor, and Jonathan Schoop. I like Dozier more than Odor and Schoop because his 11% walk rate is more than double either of theirs. The resulting higher on-base percentage will impact some fantasy leagues, but it also gives Dozier additional opportunity to score a run or swipe a bag, which he did 16 times last season. The sub-par batting average is holding Dozier back from being elite. His 3-year rolling batting average comes in at .258, weighted down by a .236 average in 2015. In the last two years, Dozier batted .268 and .271, so I’m willing to treat 2015 as the outlier. Dozier comes in at #4 in my rankings.

Draft Strategy: Dozier’s current ADP is 36, which puts him as a 3rd rounder. I think that’s a fair price. He provides consistency in 4/5 hitting categories, and if he continues to bat around .270 that won’t kill you. You can get a power 2B later in the draft, but you’ll have to sacrifice speed or average to get it.

5. Dee Gordon, SEA

Since 2014, Gordon posted SB totals of 64, 58, 30 (season shortened due to 82 game suspension), and 60. Very impressive, but what is equally unimpressive is his power numbers over that time: coming in at 2, 4, 1, and 2 home runs. This makes Gordon a very interesting player to put a value on because it really depends on the make-up of your team and your league settings.

In a standard 5×5, rotisserie league, Gordon is most valuable. Steals are hard to come by, and you can put Gordon in your lineup and bank 50+ steals for the year. As your league begins adding additional categories, 6×6 or 7×7, the value of the stolen base declines and so does the value of Gordon.

As for the make-up of your team, if you’ve loaded up on power hitters with no speed, Gordon is a nice compliment. If you’re team is built around more well-rounded 20/20 players, you probably want to avoid Gordon and the hit he will have on your power and RBIs.

Draft Strategy: You know both what you’re getting and what you’re not getting from Gordon. Draft accordingly. He won’t see much change in value moving from Miami to Seattle. Gordon is slated to play center field for the Mariners though, so he will have dual eligibility in no time which is always a plus.

6. Daniel Murphy, WSH

Murphy had a career year in 2016, triple slashing a whopping .347/.390/.595. Murphy could always hit for average, but the power spike was a bit of a surprise. The spike was fueled by increased fly ball percentage coupled with increased Hard-Hit percentage. Both regressed slightly during 2017, but still above his rates prior to 2016. Regression for Murphy in 2017 looked like a triple slash of .322/.384/.543, which was good enough to land him as the 4th best second basemen in standard leagues. I think 2018 will look similar to 2017 for Murphy, with a solid triple slash and 20+ home runs. He will again benefit from being in a strong National’s line up, so 90ish RBIs and Runs are reasonably expected.

Draft Strategy: If you’re team is in need of batting average, Murphy is a great, safe option at pick 60. While I believe in Murphy, there is better value in waiting a few rounds and drafting Robinson Cano, who is next on the list. Update: Daniel Murphy is questionable for opening day as he is still recovering from micro-fracture surgery in his knee. His ADP has fallen with the news. Be sure to monitor the situation prior to your draft in case Murphy’s prognosis worsens.

7. Robinson Cano, SEA

Heading into the 2017 season, Cano was coming off a career high 39 home runs and batting average of .298; his best since joining the Mariners. The power didn’t stick in 2017 though, as Cano hit just 23 homers. It was reported that Cano was battling lower body injuries in the second half. The lower body is key in generating power, and Cano hit just 6 home runs in the second half after hitting 17 in the first half. I’ve got to believe injuries were the main cause of this. Of course, at age 35, there is an increased injury risk, but a healthy season from Cano could result in 30 home runs for the veteran.

Draft Strategy: Cano’s current ADP is 74, which puts him in the 6th or 7th round. I’m all over Cano at this price. You know you can count on Cano for a solid batting average, and he should have no trouble accumulating RBIs and runs given that he’s hitting in a potent Mariners lineup that includes speedsters Dee Gordon and Jean Segura setting the table. Cano’s power potential makes him a high ceiling player too. I think we’ll see a 30 homer, 100 RBI season from Cano, making him a bargain for those who drafted him.

8. Jonathan Schoop, BAL

I pegged Schoop as a value pick last year and he made me look smart by cracking 32 home runs and driving in 105 runs. Schoop also batted .293, which I cannot say I expected. Unfortunately, Schoop’s 2017 performance is driving up his 2018 price a little too much for me, mainly because I don’t think the .293 average is sustainable. Schoop walks at a 5% clip while striking out at a rate of 21%. This batted ball profile is the makings of a .270 hitter; not bad, but not .293 either.

Another concern I have is that after 32 home runs and an All-Star appearance, Schoop will be on every opponent’s radar when they square off with the Orioles. To make matters worse, the Orioles seem destined to trade slugger Manny Machado before he hits free agency. This will further increase the focus of opponent’s game planning around Schoop while also hampering his RBI opportunities, as Schoop batted 3rd behind Machado for much of the 2017 season.

Draft Strategy: I still like Schoop as a player and as a 30-home run threat, but with an ADP of 64, the price is just too high. I’ll be avoiding Schoop for 2018.

9. Marwin Gonzalez, HOU

Marwin is a swiss army knife when it comes to position eligibility. He qualifies at 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, and OF. He also hit 23 home runs in 2017 while hitting for a .303 average, both career highs. Another career high for Gonzalez was his walk rate coming in at 9.5%, up from about 4% the previous two seasons. The increased walk rate is supported by improved plate discipline. Gonzalez swung the bat less, but made contact more. See the table below.

Year O-Swing% Z-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact%
2016 35.7% 65.1% 57.8% 87.6%
2017 29.2% 59.8% 68.8% 89.0%

These are legitimate changes Gonzalez made at the plate in 2017 so I think his breakout is for real. The projections have Gonzalez regressing to a triple slash of .263/.322/.434, but based on improved plate discipline, I think he will exceed these projections. 20 home runs, a .280 average, and a handful of steals are all attainable, and batting in the middle of the Astros line up he will accumulate plenty of runs and RBIs.

Draft Strategy: At an ADP of 139, I’m all over Gonzalez. 2017 was for real, and Gonzalez is eligible at every position except catcher. He’s the ultimate super utility man. Great for daily leagues as well as deep leagues where finding replacements for injured players can be difficult. Draft away.

10. Rougned Odor, TEX

Odor, currently age 24, had his breakout campaign in 2016 when he hit 33 home runs and stole 14 bases, all while posting a triple slash of .271/.296/.502. He followed it up with a 30-home run, 15 steal season in 2017, but his triple slash took a big hit coming in at .204/.252/.397. This was not all that unexpected as Odor’s walk was a putrid 3% in 2016. His inability to take a walk was exploited by pitchers and the dip in batting average was the result. On the bright side, Odor also appeared to suffer a bit of bad luck. Odor has a career .273 BABIP, but in 2017 his BABIP was a career low .224. That should regress positively in 2018 and pull the batting average up along with it. The projections have Odor pegged for a .256 average. I’m not taking that projection to the bank but even .245 would ease the pain of owning Odor tremendously.

Draft Strategy: Despite the batting average concerns, Odor posted consecutive seasons of at least 30 home runs and 14 steals. There is certainly value there with room for improvement as Odor is just 24. At an ADP of 103, Odor may be worth the gamble, but until I see consistent improvement in his walk rate and batting average I won’t be drafting him.

11. DJ LeMahieu, COL

LeMahieu has hit above .300 in each of the last three seasons, including a batting title in 2016 when he hit .348. He walks at a decent clip, 13%, and hits toward the top of the Rockies line up where he amassed 95 and 104 runs scored in the last two seasons respectively. That’s about all you’re going to get from LeMahieu, as he probably won’t crack 10 in either the home run or stolen base category. It’s difficult to find reliable batting average this late in the draft. LeMahieu can fill that need and makes a great compliment to a team that’s already stocked up on power and speed.

 Draft Strategy: LeMahieu doesn’t have a high ceiling, but his floor is high and you can count on his batting average. I’m not necessarily targing him in my drafts, but if I feel I need some batting average and he’s there, I won’t hesitate to grab him at his ADP of 118.

12. Chris Taylor, LAD

Chris Taylor had a breakout 2017 season, posting 21 home runs, 17 steals and a triple slash of .288/.354/.496. The biggest change for Taylor in 2017 was opportunity. He played 140 games with the Dodgers, batting lead-off in 74 of them. Prior to 2017, Taylor shuffled between AAA and MLB with the Mariners organization, never getting more than 50 games of big league games in a season.

With just one full season under his belt, it’s tough to say what Taylor will do in 2018. The projections have him regressing to a .261/.325/.415 triple slash, which is stern, but fair. Taylor should be able to reach double digit home runs and steals., and if he continues to bat lead-off for the dodgers, he will get his fare share of runs. Taylor also provides value through position flexibility as he’s eligible at 2B, SS, and OF.

Draft Strategy: Taylor is a nice player to have on your team, but at an ADP of 110, I’ll have to pass this year. I need to see more sustained success before I pay that price for him. I’ll be waiting to draft Marwin Gonzalez 20 picks later.

13. Whit Merrifield, KC

Merrifield was very good in 2017. It was his first full MLB season in his career (145 games) at age 29. Merrifield showed us speed with 34 swipes, pop with 19 home runs, and ability to hit for average with a .288 batting average. The late bloomer should regress some in 2018, as most players do after a breakout season. Merrifield never broke 10 home runs in any minor league year, but he has stolen at least 20 bases on multiple occasions. I think it’s reasonable to expect something along those lines for 2018; 10 home runs, 20-25 steals, and a .275-.285 batting average. He should hit atop the Royals order, but the line up is not what it was last year with Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer lost to free agency, and Mike Moustakas still unsigned. That will be a negative for Merrifield’s counting stats, but may allow him more freedom to run.

Draft Strategy: On average, Merrifield is drafted at pick 80. The reason he is so high is because of the 34 stolen bases last season. It’s not easy to steal that many bases, and even harder to repeat it. The batting average makes Merrifield a high floor option for steals, but I think I’ll wait the 100+ picks and take Jonathan Villar or Jose Peraza if I need speed.

 

That wraps up this weeks article and my second base rankings. Thanks for reading, share your thoughts below, and I’ll be back next week discussing the shortstop position.

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday February 22nd, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #100 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 John Gozzi. John is new to the MLFS baseball writing staff in 2018 and His articles publish every Saturday morning at 7 am. He is also the co-host of our Sunday show along with Brian Roach Jr, which airs live from [7:30]-9pm EST every week.

The link above is to listen on our blog talk radio website. You can listen to the show directly on the homepage of majorleaguefantasysports.com without the annoying popups and obnoxious ads that are on the blog talk website. It will be playing automatically during the show time.

I've been playing fantasy baseball for 14 years. I am also an auditor and CPA, where I analyze information on a daily basis. Combined, my passion for fantasy baseball and analytical background create a unique perspective for analyzing and writing about fantasy baseball.

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