Last week with first base was so much fun that I’m back again this week. But this time with the usually much shorter second basemen! Give it up for middle infielders! As with last week, this is another deep position in 2018, and there are rosterable guys deep into the 5th or 6th tier even in 12 teamers. You already know there’s TONS of speed here. As long as Dee Gordon qualifies at 2nd, there always will be. There’s also a surprising amount of power options in the position, and even tier 5 can net you 20-25 home runs this season. Although it’s deep, I wouldn’t wait too long to grab your second baseman. The guys in the top 2 tiers are dynamite, and many find themselves well within the top 50 overall fantasy players in 2018.
With that being said, let’s get to the first tier!
2018 Second Basemen
Tier 1: Jose Altuve is my height.
1. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
This is an obvious one, folks. No need to overthink it here. Jose Altuve has unquestionably closed the gap between himself and Mike Trout for the #1 player in all of fantasy baseball. In fact, I would say that the distance between them in a literal sense is about the length of Altuve himself. Like if he were lying on the ground between the two of them and you had Trout over here and…this is going nowhere.
(a brief pause)
So there are about 46 inches separating the two. Give or take a few inches. Long story short: Altuve does it all. He hits for power, high average, scores runs, drives in runs, steals bases and bats atop one of the best lineups in baseball. He contributes in every category in every format, and I want whatever you are smoking if he’s not in your top 3 overall rankings for 2018. Draft him and you’ll be saying “Altuve All Day!” when you’re brunching with friends in patio seating somewhere in Williamsburg this summer.
Projection: 95 R/23 HR/105 RBI/30 SB/.320
2. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
As much as Altuve has closed the gap between himself and Trout, Jose Ramirez has low-key done the same to Altuve among second baseman. What used to be Altuve then everyone else has now turned into…well Altuve and Ramirez in the top tier. Ramirez had a breakout season in 2017 with a 107 R/29 HR/83 RBI/17 SB/.318 line, which was good enough for a top 5 finish for the position in every single one of those categories. The same goes with his phenomenal triple slash of .318/.374/.583. A .583 slugging! His power is better than Altuve’s, and he has the 15-20 SB upside as well. His contact percentage has always been in the high-80s, but his improvements in ISO, HR/FB and hard contact all suggest that last year could be the new normal and then some. I’m looking for Ramirez starting in the second round, but many early mocks I’ve done somehow have him lasting until the third. That’s a steal.
Projection: 90 R/25 HR/95 RBI/15 SB/.305
3. Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins
Dozier comes into the 2018 season as arguably the top power option among all second baseman. He’s a notoriously slow starter (because you can’t feel your limbs in Minnesota until May at least), but don’t let that deter you from one of the biggest sluggers of the position. He’s hit at least 23 dongs every year since 2014, he’s two years removed from a 42 HR season, and he gives you very solid numbers in all counting stats (including steals). In fact, Dozier has tallied at least 100 runs every year since 2014. For my OBP friends, the talented Twin (alliteration!) was second only to Jed Lowrie(?!) last year in walk rate among qualified second baseman. That helped elevate his OBP to a career-high .359, which contributed to another career-high with an OPS of .857. All-in-all, patience paid off last year with Dozier, and it will again even if he struggles out of the gate. When you look at the total package, his full-season stats have been remarkably consistent the last few years. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he bats in a lineup that should challenge for a return to the playoffs in 2018.
Projection: 103 R/35 HR/98 RBI/15 SB/.265
Tier 2: Tier 1 Caliber But…
4. Dee Gordon, Seattle Mariners
Gordon was part of the Great Derek Jeter Cleanse in South Florida this offseason, and he has now landed in Seattle. Wait. Hold on. They already have Segura and Cano! That was me being you back when the trade was made. “It’s true,” I would have said to you, “but the plan is to stick Gordon in center. Ok?! Cool! Let’s roll.” Obviously, defensive positions don’t matter much to us, so I don’t think this affects Gordon’s speed potential in the least. And let’s be real, that’s all we care about with this guy. He provides you absolutely no power at all, but he scores a ton of runs and has a floor of 50 steals with the upside for 60+. Only Billy Hamilton can say “hold my beer” to numbers like that. Last year, Gordon gave us one of the weirdest stat lines to look at with a 114 R/2 HR/33 RBI/60 SB/.308 line. He’s not the complete one-trick pony that Hamilton is, so that makes him worthy of the high-valuation in my book. He led all second basemen in both runs and steals last year, and he was top 5 in batting average. I like the lineup he lands at the top of in Seattle, and as long as you properly strategize for the lack of power, Gordon feels like a safe top 3-4 round pick.
Projection: 100 R/2 HR/40 RBI/55 SB/.295
5. Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles
As of the 2016 season, Schoop has finally broken out into a fully relevant fantasy option at second base with a floor of about 25-30 HR a year. We like that, fam! Schoop is never NOT going to be that guy who strikes out at less than a 21-25% clip, but we can definitely live with that as long as he buoys that with good power. Also, it wouldn’t hurt for him to be anything close to the stellar (yet unsustainable) .293 average he posted in 2017. Because of the poor BB/K rate, he’s a slight liability in OBP leagues, and you can regularly bet on a .330 mark in that category. Regardless, there has been an incremental improvement in the walk rate over the last three years, but going from horrible to just tolerable isn’t something to get excited about. It does seem like he was a bit lucky with the average a year ago, so don’t be surprised if the average dips 20-30 points. He’s not quite Dozier, but he’s a great option for power and some top 5 counting stats among his positional peers (alliteration again!).
Projection: 80 R/30 HR/95 RBI/2 SB/.270
6. Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
I would unquestionably have Murphy at the top of this tier if it weren’t for the injury questions coming into 2018. As you’ve probably heard, Murphy underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee this off-season, but reports say he should be good to go by Opening Day. However, Murphy is entering his age 33 season, and knee injuries can be nasty little buggers to come back from. So, let’s analyze him under the assumption he WILL be totally healthy by April. Murphy has been nothing short of incredible since coming to the nation’s capital as his floor has been 20-25 HR, 90 R, 95 RBI and a sexy triple slash that would make a senator in a bathhouse blush. The last two years have established Murphy as one of the very best in terms of OPS at this position, and he even led the entire National League with a .985 mark in 2016. Also, for what it’s worth, he’s a doubles machine and has led the NL each of the last two seasons in that category. He’s currently projected to hit 5th in a stacked lineup that should contend for yet another NL East title…before the Nationals inevitable early playoff exit, of course. Monitor his health in the spring, and bump him up (or drop him) accordingly.
Projection: 90 R/25 HR/90 RBI/1 SB/.315
Tier 3: So Many Questions, So Little Time7. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
Well, after a remarkable career, it looks like Father Time is finally catching up to ol’ Robby Cano. Or is he? Cano actually finished with a very solid 79 R/23 HR/97 RBI season a year ago, and his RBI were actually good enough for 2nd in the position. His triple slash was .280/.338/.453, and while that’s a good season for many major leaguers, that was actually his worst mark in a very long time. Like 2008 Yankees long time. Many announced the beginning of the end because that was a far cry from his 2016 line of 107 R/39 HR/103 RBI, but y’all ever heard of an outlier season?! Sheesh! He wasn’t repeating that production. Although the production was “down,” many of his underlying metrics don’t hint at major regression coming. His eye metric (BB/K) was pretty close to his career mark, his hard contact stayed hard (lol), and he maintained his above-average contact rate. The price is coming down on Cano because of the counting stat regression and age, but he’s a bargain down here in the 3rd tier. Don’t overspend on draft day, but he’s a great option if you miss on the tiers above him.
Projection: 75 R/25 HR/90 RBI/1 SB/.280
8. Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals
2017 was lit for Whit, but that has made him one of the more polarizing players coming into this year. There are LOTS of strong opinions out there on whether or not last season’s power surge was legit. The reality of the situation is this: his minor league and college track record and well…just about every other underlying metric that shot up in 2017 for him…tell us 19 HR is probably going to be a career high. It’s chalk at this point to call for regression, but sometimes chalk is chalk for a reason. Know what I’m saying? Good. Anyways, let’s talk speed. Merrifield’s 34 stolen bags a year ago was 2nd only to Dee Gordon in the position, and that’s exactly the guy he was in the minors as well. It’s fair to expect 30 again this year as long as he can improve that below average 0.33 BB/K mark and get on base a bit more. Also, keep in mind that the Royals lineup is expected to be a shell of its former self as Moose and Hosmer are expected to move on like former teammate Lorenzo Cain already did.
Projection: 65 R/10 HR/65 RBI/30 SB/.275
9. Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
I want Odor to be good so badly. I really do. But alas. Last season was horrific for the Texas second baseman, and there is no way to cherry pick stats to make it look not so bad. For starters, he had a triple slash of .204/.252/.397. BARF. Next, he was dead last in batting average and OBP among qualified second baseman. And, for slugging, only DEE GORDON AND JOSE PERAZA HAD A WORSE MARK THAN HIM. Those guys hit like…1 1/2 homeruns combined per year. Oh, and he also had the worst wOBA and wRC+ among qualified 2B as well. I told you it was bad. Now, for some good news. His batting average has never, ever been this bad in his career. He could easily flip that script as long as he can shake whatever yips had him by the scrot in 2017. Personally, I’m not touching Odor. I’m very concerned with the “improved” BB/K rate that rose to 0.20 last year and his tumbling contact rate that’s gotten worse each of the last three years. Those are not indicators that say a bounce back can be expected. Still, there’s a power-speed combo (30 HR/15 SB) that’s definitely worth owning, and a proper strategy can make him a discounted source of really good counting stats. Did I mention he’s only 24?
Projection: 75 R/30 HR/90 RBI/15 SB/.230
Tier 4: A New Hope
10. Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves
There may not be anyone out there who wants the hype about Albies to be true more than this guy. *two thumbs pointed towards this idiot*. Albies rocketed through the minors and has been one of the youngest players at almost every level he’s played at. The track record says he’s a high average guy who should regularly compete for 20-25 steals, and projections say that speed starts to flash this year. I was encouraged by the 14% K rate he rocked in his brief 244 plate appearances a season ago, but I expect him that number to live closer to 17-18% as he gets a full season of work in 2018. He also impressed with his .354 OBP from last year, but Steamer thinks that will be closer to .330. Regardless, Albies has so many arrows trending in the right direction that it’s hard not to get excited. That combined with the skills we’ve already seen mean it could be LIT IN THE ATL! Inciarte-Albies-Freeman? Yes, please.
Projection: 90 R/12 HR/65 RBI/25 SB/.285
11. Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox
Remember him? After sky-high expectations coming into 2017, Moncada posted an underwhelming stat line of 31 R/8 HR/22 RBI/3 SB in his 231 plate appearances. And he had a triple slash of just .231/.338/.412. Kris Bryant spoiled us! But seriously, we cannot expect these top prospects to burst onto the scene and hit the ground running every single time. In fact, more times than not, it doesn’t happen like that. See: Byron Buxton. Growth ain’t linear for prospects, guys. Sure, the 32% K rate was hard to look at, but he’s already got a double-digit walk rate that makes me think he can improve that plate discipline rapidly. Steamer calls for a big jump forward this season with a 72 R/18 HR/60 RBI/20 SB line, and I will take it one step further and call for a 20/20 year. Good things happen when you hit in front of Jose Abreu.
Projection: 69 R(nice) R/20 HR/70 RBI/20 SB/.240
12. Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs
Another young guy I really like! I am going to end up with one of the three guys from this tier in every single lineup. I can just feel it. The former 1st round pick of the Cubs broke out last year in his 413 plate appearances to the tune of 62 R/24 HR/68 RBI/8 SB and a triple slash of .253/.328/.514. It wasn’t perfect, but it has Cubs fans dreaming big…as soon as they can find more regular playing time for the youngster. There are some concerns here as he, like Moncada, had a +30% K rate a year ago. 31% to be exact. That was actually the worst among 2B with at least 400 plate appearances. Fear not, though! He’s young. That’s what we’re supposed to say to talk ourselves into a player, right? But actually, despite the hit in batting average, Happ is projected to be top 5 in homeruns for the position according to Steamer. IF he can squeeze one of those outfielders, Baez, or Russell out of the lineup, he could easily finish as one of the top 10 options for 2B this year.
Projection: 70 R/25 HR/85 RBI/10 SB/.255
Tier 5: Safe, Not Safe, Old, Etc.
13. D.J. LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies
The Rockies’ second baseman took a “step back” after winning the batting title in 2016, but he still posted a .310 average. What?! No matter how you slice it, LeMahieu always hits for high average and has plentiful opportunities for counting stats sandwiched in between Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado. In fact, over the last few years, LeMahieu has established a nifty floor of about 90 runs. His declining speed damages his value, and he’s regressed each of the last 3 years going from 23 to 11 to 6 last year. But who needs to run when Arenado just bops you in? LeMahieu won’t help you much in power, but he’s among the elite in contact rate with a mark in the high 80s, and he’s got a phenomenal 0.66 BB/K rate. Hear that, OBP boys?! Most fantasy players didn’t take him very seriously until his incredible 2016, and even with the slight regression a year ago, he’s still got a very good floor. I’d rather take some chances on upside plays like Albies, Moncada, and Happ, but you could do much worse.
Projection: 90 R/8 HR/65 RBI/10 SB/.300
14. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
Baez got about 50 more plate appearances a year ago in a stacked Cubs lineup, and he made it count. 9 more homeruns compared to 2016, and he increased his counting stats across the board. His 75 R/23 HR/75 RBI/10 SB line is the kind of season the Cubs hope he can build on, but I was personally most surprised with his .273/.317/.480 triple slash. I had always associated Baez with a free-swinging, low average guy, but maybe…no wait. He still posted a 28% K rate and a crappy 0.21 BB/K mark. Oh, and the helium continues to leak out when you look at the 65% contact rate, which fell from his 72% in 2016. That’s definitely not good. The stat line was still good despite all that, but those holes in his game make me think the bottom could drop out at any moment. There’s a .240 lurking underneath the surface. Also, he’s hitting in the 8 hole. Cubs lineup or not, you don’t get a positive feeling when you look at that.
Projection: 70 R/20 HR/75 RBI/10 SB/.250
15. Cesar Hernandez, Philadelphia Phillies
If Hernandez hit say…5-7 more homeruns a year, I’d have him in the 3rd or 4th tier. As it stands, Hernandez is a sneaky good contributor that’s flying under the radar while some (like me) chase after the prospect names. He posted a usable 85 runs atop a mediocre Phillies lineup a season ago and stole 15 bases with a high average to boot. His track record says this is who he is, and peep that 2.14 GB/FB rate! We’ve got an extreme groundballer on our hands! 7 HR suddenly feels ambitious. Anyways, I would love for him to replicate that sexy .370s OBP he’s posted each of the last two years. Real talk, he’s probably already a Tier 4 guy at least in OBP leagues. He’s a good, patient hitter with a slightly above average contact rate, and he’s projected to hit atop the Phillies lineup again this year. I hate to say it because I’m a Braves homer, but that could be a sneaky, productive order this season.
Projection: 80 R/7 HR/50 RBI/17 SB/.290
16. Ian Kinsler, Los Angeles Angels
I love the move to LA for Ian Kinsler. The off-season trade suddenly places him on top of a lineup that features Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, and Kole Calhoun. After really regressing power wise around the 2013 season, he experienced a resurgence in Detroit around 2016. His homeruns more than doubled to 28 that year and then came down to 22 a year ago. Despite these power fluctuations, Kinsler has been able to maintain pretty steady counting stats. As he’s heading into his age 35 season, his days of stealing more than 20 bases are long gone, but he’s still getting between 10-15. The biggest red flag here is the absolute beating his triple slash took a year ago as he posted a .236/.313/.412 mark. That was down from his 2016 line of .288/.348/.484. Ouch. Personally, I expect a bounceback with the change of scenery, and we can expect something closer to his 2014 triple slash of .275/.307/.420. Kinsler is aging, but he has seemingly tapped into some nice power in the latter stages of his career. In fact, his hard hit percentage was a career-high 37% a year ago, and that number has grown each of the last four seasons. He’s a very cheap option for close to 20 HR, and he may even post double-digit steals as well.
Projection: 90 R/18 HR/65 RBI/12 SB/.260
Tier 6: More Questions Than Answers
17. Scooter Gennett, Cincinnati Reds
After never being fantasy relevant and more of a platoon player, Gennett burst onto the scene in 2017 with an 80 R/27 HR/97 RBI line and a .295/.342/.531 triple slash! Needless to say, those were all career highs. By a lot. And in just 497 plate appearances to boot! Plus, he hit more homeruns than Jose Altuve, Daniel Murphy, Robinson Cano, and Ian Kinsler. Combined! Just kidding. But you get it. Oh, and for more useless comparisons, he had more 2017 RBI than Dozier, Murphy, Altuve, Jose Ramirez, and Whit Merrifield. His average, slugging, wOBA, and wRC+ were all top ten among second baseman. It was a terrific year all around for Scoots, but can he do it again? Well, I’ll give that a fluid maybe at this point. Note that he was never more than a .260ish hitter in the bigs before last year. However, he did see increases in flyball percentage and hard contact rate that could indicate less regression than expected. I’m still skeptical that 2017 was an outlier, and I’ll let somebody else figure out if it was a fluke.
Projection: 60 R/17 HR/65 RBI/4 SB/.275
18. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
The former top-tier second baseman fell off the table last year with an injury-plagued stat line of 43 R/12 HR/35 RBI/6 SB. However, keep in mind that those lingering injuries limited him to just 373 plate appearances. If you extrapolate those stats, though, he was actually right on track to come close to his 2016 numbers. So, the big question is what Kipnis comes back in 2017? Will it be the guy who posted a 91 R/23 HR/82 RBI/15 SB from 2016, or will it be the beginning of the end for a guy on the wrong side of 30? I certainly hope it’s not the latter. He’s one of the bigger dice rolls in the back end of the draft. I’ll pass this year.
Projection: 70 R/15 HR/65 RBI/5 SB/.265
19. Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates
With Jung Ho Kang maybe never to return, Harrison got a full season’s worth of playing time in 2017. With that regular time, he was able to quadruple his homerun total from 2016 even though he experienced declines in RBI, SB, and average. He did improve his BB/K ratio, and the 0.31 mark he posted was his best ever in the majors. He did lose a tick on average, as stated previously, but his .771 OPS was his best since 2014. The gain in power was reflected by his improved hard contact and flyball percentages, and all these stats I’m throwing out are kind of contradicting themselves now. Does that mean he’s made adjustments or is this a case of juiced balls???! Hmmmm, Commissioner Manfred?! Ok. You can tell we’re getting to the end of this thing. It’s coming off the rails. Harrison will be pretty cheap on draft day, but that lineup is poopy pants. I’d rather roll the dice on Kipnis praying for a bounceback.
Projection: 60 R/12 HR/55 RBI/12 SB/.270
20. Jose Peraza, Cincinnati Reds
Peraza can be summed up pretty quickly. He’s a cheap speed option with very little production anywhere else, like Billy Hamilton but a third of the steals. He’s still a young player at 23, and I think there’s a good chance he can improve on his triple slash of .259/.297/.324 from a year ago. His 2016 produced a very good .324 average in 256 plate appearances, and that had many taking him late in drafts last year. However, he obviously took a step back instead. He’s a high contact guy with an 85.4% mark a year ago, so don’t be surprised if he lifts that batting average to the .270 range. He’s currently slated to hit in front of Scott Schebler and Tucker Barnhart, which makes me want to post on r/CringePics. I’ll stay away until he makes strides in his average and moves up in the order.
Projection: 45 R/5 HR/45 RBI/25 SB/.270
That’s all, folks! Comment below if you have any questions, guys I missed (aka Carlos Santana last week), or general thoughts. Don’t forget to give me (@jakebridges03) and the rest of The Turf team on Twitter! Like our Facebook page. Next week: Shortstops!
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