It's Day 3 of our position preview and I'm stoked to be presenting the 2018 Fantasy Baseball Second Base Preview. Check out my good friend Jonathan Chan's take on first basemen in yesterday's piece.
Odds are that, if you are a big-time fantasy baseball junkie like myself, you come from a mathematics background or just enjoy your equations. Therefore, you've likely heard of the 'exponential decay' equation. It's applicable to a lot of things in real life like finances, population, even beer froth! The general stages of an exponential decay graph include:
- First stage - highest point of a draft is at the very beginning
- Second stage - steep decline over a short stretch
- Final stage - leveling out over large stretch
This sounds a lot like the pool of second basemen in this year's draft. There are a couple of elite options, a steep drop-off to a 'middle group', then finally a leveling out where all the players seem the same. While I'm not ready to liken second basemen to beer froth, this certainly is in the back of fantasy minds when in the draft. This after our second base preview from last year had the subtitle of 'overwhelming depth'. Sigh. I will address this drop-off shortly.
Despite all of this, I believe the second base position to be an exciting one this year in drafts. You've got plenty of ways to attack a draft. You can go for the young upstart talent that should have steady playing time this year. On the flip side, you could get a bargain on older players that generally have gone much higher in years past. No matter your methodology, I've got you covered here.
2018 Fantasy Baseball Second Base Preview
Should you freak out if you miss out on one of the elite second basemen?
As alluded to in the intro, the five-tool players at the top are Jose Altuve and Jose Ramirez. There's no one else like these guys in the 2B pool. They've been stellar for multiple seasons and are drafted accordingly. You won't get a chance on these guys after the first round or two. How worried should you be if you don't grab one of these guys early?
Short answer: don't freak out. There's drop-off at most all positions between the top few options. So while it's ideal to draft one of those top guys, it's not the end of the world. I don't force myself into drafting based on position unless it's a tiebreaker sorta thing. However, there's an even more generic answer that you'll hate to read that I want to share with you.
I like to analyze each position and get a feel for which ones I have a handle on in draft season. Which position do I feel like I can personally beat the field in consistently in the middle rounds? If you feel like second base is a crapshoot after the two Jose's and you have the spot to take them, go right ahead. Just do your homework on the other positions like 1B or SS that have similar circumstances. However, if you are like me this year, for some reason 2B just has a nice feeling of upside in the middle rounds.
Who ya got, DJ LeMahieu or Rougned Odor?
The only thing these two guys have in common is that they are ranked in the top 10 at second base. Otherwise, these dudes are hilariously different. LeMahieu is the 6'4" guy that hits for average. Odor is the 5'10" guy who hits for power. I don't know why that's so funny to me, but alas I am a baseball nerd. Who would you rather have?
Unsurprisingly, the best answer is 'it depends'. It depends on if you are in a points league, where I would prefer DJL, or a rotisserie league, where I would prefer Odor. Alternatively, it depends on how your draft has looked up to that point. If you have drafted some boppers that don't hit for average, DJL could make sense. If you've drafted some high average guys without pure counting stats, Odor could be your guy.
In a vacuum, I'm taking Odor every day of the week. I believe that his 0.204 AVG in 2017 was an anomaly largely due to a 0.224 BABIP. For comparison, he ran a 0.292 BABIP, good for a 0.265 AVG, between 2014-2016. I'm more willing to bet on a bounce back on AVG for Odor with his normal counting stats than a year for DJL with double-digit homers and steals.
Ideally, though, I would wait even further in drafts to get one of the next few guys I want to talk about.
What can we reasonably expect from Yoan Moncada?
The top prospect on many lists in 2017, Moncada is now ready to take control of the keystone position in Chicago. He showed promise in a small sample size towards the end of last year. After struggling in the first few weeks with the big league club, he turned it up. Over his final 21 games, he slashed 0.299/0.365/0.517 with a 0.375 wOBA and 136 wRC+.
So what can we expect over a full season? That's the million dollar question. You are going to have to pay a top 10 round value for Moncada at the least, so you better do your homework here.
I know everyone likes to be a year early on a player, but for my taste, I'm willing to sit this year out. I'm taking a 'wait and see' approach on Moncada and I'm ready to bite the bullet if I miss out on a stellar season. I worry about young players with undesirable plate discipline (see Byron Buxton, human roller coaster). In his half season of 2017, Moncada ran a 32% K-rate which fell right in line with his 28+% K-rate throughout the upper levels in the minors. Even during that great 21-game stretch mentioned previously, he had a 27% strikeout rate, which is looking more and more like his best case scenario for 2017.
If I'm in a rotisserie league, I understand gambling on Moncada in the middle rounds at a weak position. His counting stats should stack up considering his place in the order and speed on the basepaths. If I'm in a points league, again for my taste, I'm staying far away. I'm generally not a risk-averse drafter either, so this is new for me to pass on this type of talent.
Players on the Rise
Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs
Speaking of not being risk-averse, here's a young player I'm willing to gamble on before Moncada for 2018. Happ broke out last year after being called up early in the season. Everyone was worried about playing time and Happ shut down the haters by making his mark in the lineup. A 0.842 OPS and 0.349 wOBA is fantastic at 2B with an added bonus of outfield eligibility.
Which begs the question - why are people all of a sudden worried that he's not going to see regular playing time? He was the highest rated defensive center fielder for the Cubs last year by far. He's average at 2B although Baez should play there full time. There are Cubs that should be worried about reps, sure. However, if Happ repeats last season, which Steamer projections certainly believe is possible, he shouldn't be one of those worried Cubbies.
Talent will win out here and his minor league history suggests that he could even improve on his slash line. If I can snag Happ a round or so later than Moncada and slot him at MI, I am ecstatic. On the flip side, if I'm punting 2B as mentioned earlier, Happ is a perfect candidate to lead the position in any scoring format. Perhaps pair him with another young upstart player with a completely different skill set...
Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves
We've seen this all before - speed-first middle infielder comes up and dominates in a half season. Everyone inflates his draft value because of his speed and he eventually flops under the pressure. Anyone remember Jose Peraza last year? What makes Albies different or will we fall into the same trap with him?
Well, for starters, Albies does have underrated power. His ISO has improved at each level in the minors and actually continued to increase in his major league stint last year. Secondly, his plate discipline is atypical of your 'speed-only' hitters. His walk-rate hovered around 8% in the minors and stayed around that level in the majors. This is all impressive for a 21-year-old who ripped through the minors.
There's a certain risk here as there is with most young players, but I'm confident in his skill set. To put my money where my mouth is, while I have him ranked 22nd at the position, I'm willing to take him as a top-tier MI. Having him as your starting 2B is too risky, but I would take him ahead of the next two guys I will cover. Both are being taken ahead of him based on name value.
As long as the hype train doesn't go too far, I'm hoping to own Albies in multiple rotisserie leagues this season. Just as with Moncada, I'm likely going to pass on him in points leagues.
Players on the Decline
Ian Kinsler, Los Angeles Angels
The first name that popped out to me when comparing FantasyPros rankings to NFBC draft data was Kinsler. The move to Los Angeles to bat in front of Mike Trout and Justin Upton apparently wasn't enough for owners to remember the down 2017 season that Kinsler had in Detroit. What can he do to turn it around?
For what it's worth, I tend to agree with the NFBC drafters more than the 'expert' rankings. I still think he's in the top 15 mix, but the days where we draft a 35-year-old Kinsler in the top 10 at the position are over. However, although I'm skeptical that he can't completely turn things around in 2018, just like Odor, his BABIP/AVG drop from previous years to last year was too ridiculous. After posting a 0.303 BABIP and 0.284 AVG from 2013 to 2016, all of a sudden he dropped to a 0.244 BABIP which led to a 0.236 AVG.
If he can get back to a reasonable ~0.280 BABIP, we can expect a 0.260 to 0.270 AVG with a 0.330+ OBP. That's going to lead to fantastic run production and nice numbers in four of the five major rotisserie categories. I'm not rushing out to get him in drafts by any stretch, but if his ADP continues to decline, I'm totally fine calling him my MI in redraft leagues.
Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
The biggest faller from 2017 draft season to 2018 versions was Kipnis and it wasn't really close. In an injury-plagued season, Kipnis struggled big time and lost plenty of believers. I suppose that happens when you slash 0.232/0.291/0.414 with an 82 wRC+ after three strong seasons of a 0.274/0.343/0.421 slash line and a 108 wRC+. He's going outside the top 20 at the position in NFBC formats, which sounds crazy. Can he prove the haters wrong and bounce back to a starting 2B option?
I don't think it's out of the reasonable range of outcomes for Kipnis. However, at his current draft price, you don't have to buy him based on his 2014-2016 performance. Look at the guys he is going around - Starlin Castro, Chris Owings, and Josh Harrison. It's almost laughable. I'm not the biggest Kipnis supporter, but the value here is undeniable. He's going to continue to hit towards the top of an elite Indians offense and doesn't have much competition at 2B within the team (unless my boy Yandy Diaz finally learns how to lift the ball).
I wouldn't take him ahead of Moncada, Albies, or Kinsler mentioned above, but he definitely headlines the list of 2B following them for me. If you like playing the smart hand, he's a wise buy-low investment this season.
Players on the Horizon
Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers
Do the Rangers have a 'thing' for short lefties with immense power? Hey, I'm just calling it like I see it.
The major piece in return for Yu Darvish from the Dodgers was the versatile Willie Calhoun. He was primarily a 2B in the minors, but with the aforementioned Odor manning that position, Calhoun will look for playing time elsewhere. There are talks of him either taking over left-field or even DH-ing. No matter the position, Texas needs to find a way for this rookie to accrue at-bats in 2018.
For evidence of how stellar his hit tool is, just look at the normally pessimistic Steamer projections. They project the rookie 0.278/0.329/0.490 slash line with 21 homers in just 110 games. That's outstanding for someone who has only logged just 37 plate appearances in the big leagues. This is one of those guys where, down the road, I could see him posting 1.00 K/BB seasons. His plate discipline is elite and he's ready to shine.
With an ADP outside of the top 250, I'm absolutely willing to buy on the upside. Not only that, if we are looking at Steamer projections and expect Calhoun to break camp with the team, you are buying a 25+ homer floor with batting average for next to nothing. As you can imagine, Calhoun is one of my favorite players in 2018 drafts.
Scott Kingery, Philadelphia Phillies
While he's not as close as Calhoun is to sniffing major league at-bats, Kingery is certainly a name to monitor come June or July. He likely needs another half season of seasoning at AAA, but he certainly has the fantasy upside that has us drooling. Over 132 games between AA and AAA ball last year, he had 26 homers and 29 steals to go along with a 0.889 OPS and 143 wRC+. Holy shnikes!
Something may have clicked for the youngster, but this season was a stark difference from his 2016 minor league season. His ISO jumped over 100 points between the two years which is a head-scratcher for sure. Scouts never really ranked his raw or game power very high before last season. The double-A park is notorious for boosting offense, so perhaps we should tame the power-talk a bit. However, when you watch him play and see him in the Futures Game, you wonder what scouts two years ago were thinking. It's a short compact swing with great bat speed. If he begins using his lower half more, perhaps incorporating any leg kick, look out.
He has been invited to Spring Training and should get plenty of reps there. If he continues his dominance at AAA, I would expect a call-up when rosters expand. If someone like Maikel Franco or Cesar Hernandez starts to slip up, Kingery could be called upon even earlier to take their place. Flag him early on and remain in tune with his status within the organization.
Player to Avoid
Dee Gordon, Seattle Mariners
I should preface this by saying that you need to have a specific plan if you are drafting Gordon early in rotisserie leagues. (I hope you guys catch my drift on points leagues by now - speedy dudes just aren't as good as power bats generally speaking.) The draft sharks out there are wizards at building a team around guys like Gordon. For my drafting methodology though, Gordon is not a smart buy in the early rounds.
You have no idea where the value will lie later in the draft. What if you draft Gordon and all the major power bats that produce in four categories start flying off the board? You will be left drafting more speed guys while falling way behind in HR and RBI. Sure, Gordon hits for a decent average and will score runs, but for my money, early in a draft, I want at least a four-category player.
To be clearer on this, look at the typical rotisserie league. In NFBC leagues with 14 starters, if you shoot for third in HR, you will need 310-ish homers. That's 22 home runs per position and if we combine two catchers into one, we will say 24 homers per position. Dee Gordon has hit 11 homers in 711 career games, so he's giving you a goose egg there. That means you now need the rest of your position players to hit 27 homers to cover him. Only 58 players hit 27+ dingers last year - your plan is to draft 13 of them between twelve teams? Good luck.
I haven't even mentioned the fact that he's switched teams and will be learning a new position. There's just too much going on here for me to buy in. Look elsewhere for your steals.
|2018 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews
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