2020 Fantasy Baseball Second Base Preview: Storm in a Tea Ketel

by Tyler Thompson
2020 fantasy baseball second base preview

The second base position has a wide array of talent to choose from in 2020. What I've been finding in my early research is that I will be attacking the position differently in each of the leagues that I play in.

You have your guys that hit all the rotisserie categories but don't really run a great overall slash line. However, you also have the guys that are professional hitters but don't really fill the stat sheet every night. This will make more sense when I run through the position preview! Check out our other position previews after this one!

All this to say that fantasy baseball draft season isn't always about putting all your eggs into one basket and getting tied down to players in every draft. It's about knowing your league and what kind of players are successful in those leagues. The keystone position is a wonderful reminder of this with the variety of players it offers.

Let's freaking get to it, eh?

2020 Fantasy Baseball Second Base Preview

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How do the Reds find playing time for all that talent?

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Are the Reds trying to field two teams this year? I get the whole "you can never have too much depth" philosophy, but holy shnikes.

After signing Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos, two players you'd expect to get everyday at-bats based on their contracts, the playing time gets muddy. Now, Eugenio Suarez did have a little too much fun in his pool, so that could open up a spot early in the season. However, with no designated hitter and loyalty to Joey Votto, there are still only five more positions to go around on Opening Day excluding catcher. By my count, there are six worthy players of those slots.

The biggest question mark is where Nick Senzel fits into the plans. Assuming the Reds don't trade him, which has been a hot rumor in the last month, they have to get creative to find him playing time. When Suarez returns to 3B, Moose shifts back to 2B and Senzel is dipping into outfield at-bats. With Jesse Winker and Shogo Akiyama sharpied in against righties, Senzel moves to a weak-side of a platoon.

With all this in mind, Senzel is going around between rounds 16 and 18 at the moment. Great players force their way into playing time. If you believe in the talent, he's going to get the opportunity at the beginning of the year. This provides a nice buy-low chance for his fans. However, there are players going after him that I believe have a safer path to playing time and fantasy production.

Can we believe in the Ketel Marte breakout?

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Alright, let's get into some stats now!

Marte was an absolute monster out of nowhere last year. Between 2015 and 2018, Marte had 22 homers and a slash line of 0.263/0.324/0.389. In 2019, he blasted 32 bombs and slashed an incredible 0.329/0.389/0.592. Furthermore, the switch hitter ran a 0.975+ OPS against righties and lefties. He had only one month where his wRC+ was under 140. The numbers are astounding, but what can we expect for an encore?

I, for one, definitely believe in the breakout. The most eye-popping statistic that I found on the 26-year-old is his approach against offspeed pitches. Statcast data says that he's always hit fastballs pretty well, but the jump in production against offspeed pitches was amazing last year. Against breaking balls, in particular, his batting average and slugging skyrocketed from 0.213 and 0.352 to 0.310 and 0.581, respectively. While those are hard ratios to repeat, pitchers now know that they can't just defer to offspeed to counterbalance Marte in any count.

Marte is certainly worth a 4th round pick this year as he ADP suggests. He's entering his prime, figuring things out after thousands of plate appearances, and is now hitting atop a dangerous lineup. I'll certainly be looking to grab a share or two where I can snag him!

Are we a year too early on Keston Hiura?

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Going just before Marte in your average NFBC draft, the 23-year-old uber-prospect now gets his chance to shine in the Brewers lineup. Hiura enjoyed the juiced ball upon his major league arrival, popping 19 homers in just 84 games and slugging 0.570. The youngster also had fun on the basepaths, swiping nine bags. Steamer projects 30 homers and 12 steals, which would just be gnarly for fantasy production.

While the NFBC sharks and projections are all over him, there are still reasons to be wary in 2020. Yes, he's likely going to be a perennial all-star at the keystone. Looking at redraft leagues for 2020 though, we have to be a little more realistic. The strikeout rate was alarming between AAA and the majors last year, hovering around 30%. BABIP and expected batting average (xBA) both imply that Hiura's 0.303 batting average could come crashing down somewhere between 0.260 and 0.270 (still okay).

I'm already having FOMO on Hiura just because I'm not going to be targeting him in the 4th round. This is a good example of a player that may be a better roto option than points league option.

Players on the Rise

Jeff McNeil, New York Mets

From unknown prospect to lineup regular, McNeil has had an interesting couple of years in the Mets organization. A broken wrist cut his season short, but he still put up very respectable numbers. The 27-year-old slashed 0.318/0.384/0.531 with 23 homers in 133 games. He is expected to return by Spring Training and move to third base permanently in 2020 with Robinson Cano returning from suspension.

While 25 homers should be considered a ceiling for McNeil, he is a riser in drafts because of his consistency at the plate and expectancy to score a lot of runs as the everyday leadoff hitter. In fact, that draft stock is now in the top 90 picks of NFBC drafts.

How high does the ADP climb for McNeil? Or, better yet, how high is too high for a guy giving you above-average production in only two roto categories? Conversely from Hiura, McNeil is the perfect target for a points league rather than a roto league.

Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays

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One of the many sons of former major leaguers to arrive last year, Biggio is looking to carve out his own place in the majors. In 100 games last year, Biggio stuffed the statsheet with 16 homers and 14 steals while running a 0.364 OBP. Not bad for a rookie! Speaking of rookies, Roster Resource has Biggio batting behind Bo Bichette and in front of Vlad Guerrero Jr. At least against righties, he will see valuable at-bats with great hitters around him.

He's flying up draft boards and, looking at the numbers, it's easy to see why. While a 29% K-rate isn't ideal, it's totally fine if he's walking at a 16% clip like he did last year. His minor league power ratios suggest more is on the way and the juiced ball shouldn't hurt either. The one concern I have is his production against offspeed pitches according to Statcast. I would expect that to get better with a fresh offseason of tape and more reps, though.

With a 12th round ADP, I'm willing to take on these risks in a roto league where Biggio could turn out to put up counting stats comparable to (or better than) many of the second basemen above him.

Players on the Decline

Dee Gordon, Seattle Mariners

Aging is cruel, especially to speedsters in the majors. Once a perennial second-to-third round pick in drafts just a couple of years ago, Gordon is now outside of the top 225 overall in ADP.

Checking out the numbers, it's sadly for good reason. His sprint speed has decreased steadily over the last three years. The wOBA has been around 0.280 the last two years. You know what they say - "you can't steal first" - gah, I feel gross for that. Anyway, all this has led the Mariners to bat him in the bottom third of the lineup. Hell, there's even talk of him moving to a utility role.

For those looking to gain ground in stolen bases at the middle infield position, I get it. He was on pace for another 30 stolen base season in 2019. However, with the M's looking to rebuild, the days of Gordon as an everyday player at the top of a lineup are long gone. I'll be looking elsewhere for my late-round stolen base targets.

Players on the Horizon

Nick Madrigal, Chicago White Sox

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The No. 4 overall pick of the 2018 amateur draft should get a chance this spring to compete for the second base job. A polished hitter with a storied background, Madrigal would be the perfect table-setter for Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, and the slew of sluggers in that Chicago lineup.

Speaking of late-round stolen base targets, Madrigal is exactly what you like to see. He parlayed a 0.377 OBP into 35 stolen bases across the three highest minor league levels in 2019. His BB% was never lower than his K% at any minor league level. Yeah, I had to do a double-take too!

If given the opportunity to lead off, Madrigal will be in a great position to be in the upper quartile of the league in steals and runs scored. That along with a good AVG and OBP will make him a valuable player in the latter third of your draft.

Nick Solak, Texas Rangers

Going right around Madrigal is Solak, who was moved from the Rays to the Rangers by way of trade in 2019. I don't think there's a better move than that one for Solak. The Rays were absolutely loaded with position players and made a move from depth. The Rangers, on the other hand, actually have a lot of question marks in their infield. How long will they allow Rougned Odor to put up empty counting stats? Can Elvis Andrus stay healthy? How committed are they to Todd Frazier and Ronald Guzman?

There's a big opportunity for Solak to shine here. The minor league numbers speak for themselves and he had a great major league stint with the Rangers last September. He's getting a lot of respect from Steamer projections too. Let's compare the project roto stats for Solak and the previously mentioned Keston Hiura (using Steamer600 to compare apples to apples):

  • Hiura:  28 HR, 77 R, 89 RBI, 12 SB, 0.271 AVG
  • Solak:  22 HR, 72 R, 78 RBI, 7 SB, 0.267 AVG

Obviously, I'm not saying Solak is better than Hiura. I'm just providing you the off-brand version and showing you the respect Steamer gives Solak's body of work. They may actually be underrating his SB capability considering his decent speed and the Rangers' willingness to give the green light. The Rangers led the league in stolen bases by a long shot in 2019.

I'm definitely buying Solak late in drafts as a low-risk, high-reward player.

Players to Avoid

DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees

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I hate writing negative things on players. All these guys are great in their own way and can provide value to different formats. However, there are a few guys at the position that I won't be able to afford and LeMahieu is one of them.

It's honestly just a gut feeling for me, especially in roto leagues. You're looking at a guy who just doesn't have the speed anymore. This tells me a couple of things. One, stolen bases are few and far between now relative to his past (he hasn't had more than six in a season sine 2016). Two, that 0.350 BABIP is looking mighty suspect. He's run high BABIPs over his career, but it's also been hard to predict for him. I'm expecting a ~10% decrease across the slash line and a decline in homers.

Again, it's tough to knock a guy who got a fresh start last year and dominated from start to finish. When you look at that 5th or 6th round ADP though, I'm just more likely to wait and get one of my other targets.

Check out the rest of the 2020 Fantasy Baseball coverage to help win your leagues.

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