Today I present Part 1 of my second base rankings for the 2019 season. I went a little longer in the rankings than I anticipated, covering 17 players, but these are all guys going in the top 144 picks of drafts based on current Average Draft Position (ADP) and I happen to like some of the guys going toward the back end of the scale. Perhaps more important than the rankings is the draft strategy note for each player, which discusses each player’s value with respect to their relative ADP. The goal of this article is to serve as a guide for your 2019 drafts so that you can reference it quickly and easily, however keep in mind that ADP may change as we get closer to the start of the MLB season. With that said, here are the rankings:
1) Jose Ramirez, CLE
Ramirez has usurped Jose Altuve as the #1 fantasy second baseman. He broke out in 2017 with 29 HR, 17 SB, and a .318 BA. His 2018 was even better: 39 HR, 34 SB, 105 RBI, a respectable .270 average. Ramirez also nearly doubled his BB% from 8% to 15% year over year. His BB% is now higher than his 12% K rate. He has elite contact ability, with a career contact rate of 88%. And to put the icing on the cake Ramirez comes with 2B and 3B eligibility in most leagues. Obviously there is a ton to like from the top tier at any position, but Ramirez’s underlying numbers make his floor much higher than some of the high strikeout power bats in the first couple rounds. I do expect a bit of regression in power and SB, if only because repeating a 39HR/34SB season is extremely rare, however the elite contact tells me there is a lot more upside in his batting average. Entering his age 26 season, I am very comfortable spending a first round pick on Ramirez. Draft strategy: I’ll be drafting Ramirez as high as 3 if given the opportunity, after Trout and Betts. Don’t hesitate to do the same.
2) Jose Altuve, HOU
2018 was the first season since 2013 that Altuve did not accumulate 200 hits. This was the result of a knee injury that he suffered in July. After the season, Altuve underwent surgery to repair his patellar tendon which had ripped away a piece of bone from Altuve’s kneecap. He is expected to be 100% for the spring training, but this is definitely something to monitor throughout spring. Assuming a healthy knee, Altuve is a model of consistency in batting average and speed and has shown increased power in recent years, swatting 24 homers in 2017 and 2016. Draft strategy: A healthy Altuve is great value at his current ADP of 13. At age 28, he’s got plenty left in the tank and I am optimistic that he can produce another 200 hit, 25 steal, 20 home run season in 2019. I’d gladly draft Altuve at the back of the first round, or early second round.
3) Whit Merrifield, KC
The late bloomer enters his 4th MLB season at age 29. He led the AL in steals each of the last two seasons with 45 in 2018 and 34 in 2017. He has above average contact and on-base skills, so he should continue to see opportunities to run in 2019, especially on the Royals who lack power bats. In fact, Merrifield may see more at bats in the 2 or 3 hole this year for the Royals if Adalberto Mondesi can hit enough to maintain the leadoff role. Merrifield hits the ball pretty hard for a speed first player, with a 36.9% hard hit rate in 2018. Though he only hit 12 home runs last season, he had 19 the season before. The decrease is likely attributable to hitting 5% less fly balls. Merrifield looks like a solid bet to reproduce another 10+ HR, 30+ steal season in 2019, and if he lifts the ball like he did in 2017, there is some additional power upside. Draft Strategy: The high stolen base floor and solid batting average are driving Merrifield’s current ADP of 33. As I see some power/RBI upside, especially if Merrifield sees at bats in the 3-hole like he is currently projected, I will be looking to buy in at this price.
4) Javier Baez, CHC
Baez is coming off a career season, such that he made my ‘Booms and Busts From 2018’ article last week. I had some interesting discussions about Baez over the last week. My initial outlook was rather grim for a top 20 ADP player as I have major concerns with Baez’s below average walk rate of 4.5% and below average contact rate of 68%. I expect the batting average and home runs to regress, and I am not convinced in another 20-steal campaign after posting 12 SB and 10 SB in 2016 and 2017. However, Baez’s hard hit rate has increased the last two seasons and he also hits a lot of line drives, both of which could keep his batting average respectable, perhaps around .280 rather than the .273 of his 2017 and 2016 seasons. In the end, I am less pessimistic on Baez than I was last week. Draft strategy: While my outlook on Baez improved, the plate discipline still causes me concern. At an ADP of 16, I see more risk than reward here.
5) Daniel Murphy, COL
Murphy’s 2018 did not begin until June as he recovered from a knee issue. It’s no surprise then that his second half was much better than his first, namely a .315 avg vs .253. Murphy’s underlying stats remained solid, including an elite contact rate of 87.8% and an elite strikeout rate of 11.4%. Murphy’s hard-hit rate took a significant step back, going from 35.7% in 2017 to 26.1% in 2018, but I think the injury is partly to cause for this. Murphy’s power production was consistent with the 20-25 HR pace he’s put up the last three years as he smacked 11 home runs in 254 plate appearances after the all-star break. Murphy, 33, signed a 2-year deal with the Rockies this winter. Coors field, Murphy’s new home park, is known to inflate offensive numbers, especially batting average. Murphy is already a perennial .300 hitter, so I am penciling him in for the NL batting crown. Draft strategy: At an ADP of 92, I’m all in on Murphy. He’s already a high floor player and playing in Colorado just raises the floor. I’ll be targeting him in many leagues.
6) Ozzie Albies, ATL
Albies is coming off of a 24 home run, 14 steal campaign in his first full MLB season. He’s projected for a similar 20 HR, 16 SB season in 2019, with a slight increase in batting average from .261 in 2018 to .273 projected in 2019. The increase seems reasonable based on a 79.6% contact rate and 16.3% soft contact rate. The one concern I have with Albies is his plate discipline. In 2017, Albies had an 8.6% walk rate and a 14.8% K-rate, both very promising for a rookie. In 2018, the walk rate worsened to 5.3% and the strikeout rate increased to 17.0%. These are two metrics that tend to improve slightly throughout a player’s career, and Albies is just 22 years old. I’m sure playing his first full season had something to do with it as well, with pitchers building a book on Albies. Draft Strategy: I’m optimistic on Albies’ career, but at an ADP of 51, I will be passing on shares this season.The decline in plate discipline gives me a reason to pause. In addition, the projection is solid, but I don’t see a metric in Albies’ profile that tells me Albies will outperform his projection and provide draft day value.
7) Matt Carpenter, STL
I’ve been drafting Matt Carpenter the last three seasons due to his great walk rate which hovers around 15%, a hard-hit rate of around 40%, and 1B/2B/3B position eligibility. I saw Carp as a versatile high floor player with power upside, and in 2018 the power upside finally came to fruition as Carpenter slugged 36 dingers. Perhaps part of the outbreak was that Carpenter was healthy after battling a shoulder issue in 2017. Draft Strategy: My outlook hasn’t changed much for the 33-year-old Carpenter, however the draft day price has increased dramatically. Carpenter’s 2019 ADP is in the mid-60s, up almost 100 slots from 2018. At that price there is not a ton of upside in drafting Carpenter, but you still get a solid floor and a St. Louis line up that has improved in the offseason with the addition of Paul Goldschmidt. Carpenter is a safe play for 2019 but not a player I am specifically targeting.
8) Travis Shaw, MIL
Shaw put together his second straight 30+ home run season in 2018 with the Brewers, however his batting average dipped from .273 to .241. This came seemingly from an uptick in fly balls from 37.6% to 44.5% and an uptick in pull-rate from 40.3% to 45.8%. The hard hit rate remains strong at 39.8% and Milwaukee is a great place to hit in. Shaw is a good bet for a 3rd straight 30 home run season with potential increase in Run and RBI totals. The batting average is projected to regress positively by about 10-15 points, however if Shaw continues to pull the ball at a 45% clip, the batting average my end up closer to his 2018 result than his career average. Draft Strategy: For a player with back to back 30 home run seasons, Shaw seems undervalued at his current 94 ADP.
9) Gleyber Torres, NYY
Gleyber was a highly touted prospect heading into 2018 and he did not disappoint, smacking 24 home runs in 484 plate appearances, supported by a 38.4% hard hit rate and a 42.7% fly ball rate. Accounting for pitchers adjusting to Torres in his second season, he should be able to replicate another 20+ home run season, albeit in about 100 more plate appearances. Torres also posted a below average contact rate of 70%, which leads me to believe there may not be a lot of upside from the .271 batting average Torres posted in 2018. I’ll also be monitoring Torres’ walk-rate closely in 2019. Torres posted an 8.7% walk rate in his rookie campaign, slightly above average but promising for a rookie. If Torres can maintain this rate in his sophomore campaign that would be great. If it regresses to the 5%-6% range, it will be cause for concern. Draft strategy: Overall, Torres is a talented young player. There are some positives and negatives from his 2018 campaign. The sample size being just 484 plate appearances comes with some risk, however that is somewhat reduced playing in a stacked Yankee lineup where the counting stats should be boosted. At the end of the day the ADP of 57 seems a bit high and I won’t have many shares of Torres.
10) Raul Adalberto Mondesi, KC
Mondesi is getting a lot of love for a player who has less than 1 full season of games under his belt, but that is what 14 HRs and 32 SBs in 75 games will do for you. The speed is no doubt for real and it’s fair to expect 40+ steals in 2019. The power I’m not quite sure of. Mondesi did have a 43.1% hard-hit rate last year along with a 37.6% fly ball rate, which support 20 home run capability. However, this is a small sample size we are talking about here and it’s fueled by a scorching hot Sept/Oct that accounted for 8 of Mondesi’s home runs and 14 steals. I also have serious concerns with Mondesi’s sub-par contact rate of 67% and an equally bad walk rate of 4%. I’m not convinced he will hit enough to keep an everyday job, though even in a partial playing time role, I expect a 40 stolen base season. Draft strategy: Mondesi is a high-risk, high reward player, going at a premium ADP of 66. The fan in me is giddy about the potential, but the cold-hearted fantasy GM says to pass.
11) Jose Peraza, CIN
I was high on Peraza entering last season and he didn’t disappoint, stealing 23 bases with a .288 average and 14 home runs to boot. Peraza increased his contact rate from 85.4% to 87.7%, which is phenomenal. He also hit the ball harder, increasing his hard-hit rate from 21.4% to 29.5%. Peraza doesn’t walk much, around 4%, but his contact rate and speed should see him replicate the strong batting average and get on base enough times to steal another 20 bases. The hard-hit rate is also promising. It not only shows some power potential, but also demonstrates Peraza is improving at hitting MLB pitching. Peraza started 2018 hitting toward the bottom of the Reds’ order, but finished the season at the top. I expect a full season batting leadoff which will also be a nice boost to his counting stats. Draft strategy: At an ADP of 114, I don’t think this draft position takes into account the potential upside hitting atop the Reds lineup. I would take a chance here.
12) Scooter Gennett, CIN
Gennett broke out in 2017 with 27 home runs, driven by an increase in hard hit rate from 28.9% to 34.4%. In 2018 this trend continued as Gennett’s hard hit rate jumped again to 38.8%, and the result was a solid 23 home run season. Entering his age 28 season, I expect Gennett to keep things going and put up about 25 dingers. His batting average has also been solid the last two seasons at .295 and .310. While he has league-average contact skills, he hits a good amount of line drives that should keep his batting average respectable. In addition, Gennett should bat toward the top of a capable Reds lineup, and the Great American Ball Park is very hitter friendly. Draft strategy: I like Gennett a lot as a high floor player who can be drafted in the middle rounds, but I don’t see a ton of upside. His ADP of 84 is fair, but I’d rather wait a couple of rounds and draft his teammate Peraza.
13) Dee Gordon, SEA
Gordon stole 30 bases in 2018. Pretty good on the surface, but if you drafted him last year you were banking on at least 50. So what caused the down year, and will Dee bounce back? First off injury. Gordon broke a toe in May that resulted in a DL stint. Then on August 3rd, Dee rolled an ankle. While the ankle didn’t cause a DL stint, Gordon only stole 4 bases after the injury and was eventually moved to 9th in the order. While this is a bit of a concern, if Gordon was unable to run he’s not so useful batting leadoff, so I think a healthy Gordon bats leadoff for the Mariners this year. The next thing that jumps out is a career low walk rate of 1.5%. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a walk rate that low before, however, Dee has never walked much and always relied on a high contact rate and his speed to get on base. The contact rate last year was 85.5%, which is still great and in line with historic levels. At age 30, all things point to Dee bouncing back in 2018. Draft strategy: At an ADP of 102, Dee could certainly bring great value especially in 5×5 leagues where his speed plays up. I see no reason why he can’t hit .300 and steal 40+ bases in 2019. If you miss on speed early, Gordon is a great middle round value.
14) Brian Dozier, WSH
I was pretty high on Dozier entering 2018 as a reliable source of power and speed, plus a batting average that won’t kill you. He was a huge bust though and Dozier had to settle for a 1-year deal with the Washington Nationals as a result. The 31-year-old should bounce back in 2019, as it seems he suffered from a bit of bad luck according to his career low .240 BABIP and no material changes in his batted ball profile. Draft Strategy: Dozier could very well approach 30 home runs and 15 steals in 2019 with the Nats, and at an ADP of 144 that’s a bargain. I have him ranked a bit lower due to the streakiness and probably from the sour taste he left in my mouth last season. If he’s on the board at 140 and I need a 2B though, I’ll bite.
15) Jonathan Villar, BAL
Villar has had a volatile past three seasons. In 2016, he helped win fantasy leagues with a 20 home run, 62 steal season. He followed it up in 2017 with a bust worthy 11 home runs and 23 steals. 2018 saw Villar landing in the middle, with 14 home runs and 35 steals in a season split between the Brewers and the Orioles. He’s tough to predict, but the projections have him in line with a repeat of his 2018 season. Draft strategy: Villar is not the type of player I like to target, but he’s in a good hitters park and has a high ceiling. If you don’t draft speed early, Villar is a high upside option at an ADP of 105, although I would prefer Jose Peraza around the same ADP as I see him as a safer option with just a bit less SB upside.
16) Robinson Cano
Cano’s 2018 was highlighted by an 82 game PED suspension, which he accepted shortly after breaking his hand. Cano finished the year with 10 home runs and a .303 average, fueled by a .329 BABIP that is likely to regress in 2019. In the off-season Cano was traded to the New York Mets. Going from one pitcher’s park to another won’t help his numbers but shouldn’t hurt much either. At this point, Cano can still be a serviceable bat. Projections have him pegged for 23 homers and a .278 average, which I think is fair. I like to think there is another valuable fantasy season in Cano, but at age 36 the ceiling is limited. Draft strategy: With an ADP of 130, Cano’s price tag isn’t bad. Compared to Dozier going 14 picks later on average, Cano has a higher batting average floor, but he won’t steal you any bags. If you are looking for that type of player, draft away.
17) Max Muncy
The 28-year-old late bloomer flowered with the Dodgers in 2018, smacking 35 home runs in 137 games, backed by a 47.4% hard hit rate and a 44.9% fly ball rate. Those signal the power potential with Muncy is real. In addition, Muncy walked at a tremendous 16.4% clip, although the 27.2% strikeout rate is on the high side. Muncy is in small company when it comes to his plate discipline. In 2018, only 5 players had a walk rate above 15% and a K rate above 25% (min 400 PAs). As you can see below, it is interesting company.
First thing I notice is that Muncy and Judge have the best hard-hit rates, and also the highest batting averages, but I sense the batting average of these players can get ugly really quick judging by the other three players putting up averages in the .230s. The hard-hit rate will be a key factor for Muncy in 2019. I’d like to see some more volume from Muncy before I confidently draft him at his current ADP of 105, though I do think he’s got 30 home runs in him. There is also the question of playing time, as Muncy could receive some additional days off against left-handed pitching. Draft Strategy: Muncy will be a great source of power, however in looking at the table above, I think I’d rather take my chances on Kyle Schwarber 80 picks later even though he’s not a 2B.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and I will be back next week with Part 2. Similar to last year, Part 2 will cover some lesser ranked 2Bs and focus on which players to target in the late rounds if you want speed, power, or upside. In the meantime, feel free to get involved in the second base discussion by dropping a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday February 10th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #136 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. Join us for our first Sunday night show of 2019. We will be breaking down the National League divisions over the next 3 Sundays. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will break down the N.L. East.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore on Thursday February 14th, 2019 from 9pm – 10:45pm EST for the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. Call in number is 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Our topic for tonight will be the A.L. Central.
Be sure to check out our Sunday night show February 17th from 8pm to 9:30pm EST. They will cover the N.L. Central.