Photo Credit to: AP Photo/ Eric Christian Smith
Since 1931, only 11 second baseman have ever earned the honor of being named the MLB MVP in either the National or American League. At 5 foot 6, Jose Altuve became that 11th second baseman to be graced with the prestigious award after his stellar 2017 season. Unfortunately, there isn’t this type of talent throughout the position. After the top 7, the expected production really falls off and will have fantasy owners scrambling throughout the season.
Second base is one of the better positions in fantasy for finding speed with guys such as Altuve, Dozier, Merrifield, and Dee Gordon, but very few of them can contribute to all 5 categories the way owners would like them to. Many teams in the MLB look to build their team with strong play up the middle of the field and fantasy owners should take a page out of their book in their drafts this year.
The rankings below were based on standard 5×5 head to head leagues.
Tier 1- The Elite
1) Jose Altuve- The 2017 MVP is clearly the top second baseman after putting up 112 runs and 81 RBI with a league leading .346 batting average. He also jacked 24 long balls while swiping 32 bags. Altuve brings everything you could want to your fantasy team across the board and is well worth the high price you will pay for him.
2) Jose Ramirez- Ramirez is the other Jose in this tier and boy does he deserve it. After having a wonderful 2016 season, JoRam only got better as he almost tripled his power output during 2017. After smacking 11 home runs during the 2016 campaign, Ramirez found a way to hit 29 home runs and 56 doubles this past season. He found a way to steal 17 bases as well even after adding the extra 18 home runs. He won’t be the Indians main second baseman when Kipnis is healthy, but he does have 2B eligibility for the entirety of 2018.
Tier 2- The Next Best Thing
3) Daniel Murphy- Murphy has been one of the best second baseman since going to the Nationals two years ago. He has slugged at least 20 home runs while holding a batting average north of .320 each of those years. The only issue with Murphy going into 2018 is the right knee that he had surgery on over the off-season. There currently isn’t a solid timetable for his return, so there is a risk you could be without him for at least the first month of the season.
4) Jonathan Schoop- Schoop has ascended through the rankings over the past 2 years after hitting 57 home runs and driving in 187 in the combined seasons. The 26-year-old Oriole also raised his batting average by nearly 30 points from 2016 to 2017. The only downsides to Schoop are his unwillingness to draw walks and lack of speed on the basepaths. The problem with his lack of walks is that when he goes into a slump, he gets ice cold. During the month of September last year (and the fantasy playoffs mind you), Schoop hit .230 while only slugging 2 home runs and driving in 5. The risk is definitely there with Schoop because of how cold he can get at important times, but there is some definite upside for the times when he gets hot.
5) Brian Dozier- The Twins second baseman has been getting better year in and year out. For the 2nd year in a row, Dozier hit at least 30 home runs while adding in at least 15 swipes. He doesn’t have the best batting average of all the 2nd baseman, but a .260 or .270 batting average is nothing to scoff at when you get that much power. Be prepared for a slow start as Dozier has been notoriously cold in the first half of the season, but he can and will be a major contributor to your team post All-Star Break.
6) Dee Gordon- Gordon was one of the better pieces of the Marlins lineup over the past couple years and you knew what you were getting with him. However, Gordon was traded to the Seattle Mariners over this off-season, which raises his run scoring opportunities as he will hit ahead of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Zunino. Mariners manager Scott Servais stated that Dee is likely to hit leadoff for the 2018 season. The 5 foot 11 Gordon doesn’t have much power in his bat, but he is a lock for 50 plus steals and 100 plus runs year in and year out. He will also gain OF eligibility as the new Mariners CF, which is great for roster construction.
7) Robinson Cano- Cano is the most boring of all the second baseman here in tier 2. Every year you can count on Cano to play at least 150 games while posting a .280 average and at least 20 home runs. Cano won’t bring you any stolen bases anymore, but he does hit in the middle of a good Mariners lineup that added the previously mentioned speedster Dee Gordon.
Tier 3- Middle of the Road for 2018
8) Whit Merrifield- Whit Merrifield was one of the largest breakouts for any position in 2017 as he slugged 19 home runs and added 34 swipes as a 29-year-old. Whit could have easily made tier 2 if not for the breakdown of the Kansas City Royals roster. With the departures of Hosmer, Cain, and Moustakas, Merrifield is likely to see regression in terms of run and RBI opportunities. The 9.4% HR/FB rate is sustainable, but with the lack firepower in the Kansas City lineup, 2017 was likely the ceiling for Merrifield. The lack of big bats could also lead to Whit running a bit more than 2017 as the Royals will need to manufacture runs more often in 2018.
9) Ian Happ- Happ came up in the middle of May and was a good offensive piece for the Cubs this past season. The 23-year-old has average speed, but wasn’t given the green light much while he was on the basepaths. He was able to collect 8 steals and 24 home runs during his rookie campaign even while striking out 31% of the time. The high strikeout rate led to a lot of hot and cold streaks for Happ, but I expect him to take another step forward with his pitch recognition, which should lower the strikeout rate a couple of points. Happ is one of my favorites to jump into tier 2 for by the end of the 2018 season.
10) Scooter Gennett- The soon to be 28-year-old had the best offensive output of his career and what a year it was. Scooter smashed 27 long balls and drove in 97 baserunners while maintaining an average close to .300. The juiced baseball definitely helped the second baseman, but so did the boost in launch angle. He was able to add some loft to his game and it made a large difference. The walk rate dropped in 2017, which is slightly concerning, but if this is the new Gennett, it would be great for fantasy owners. Beware the possible volatility in Gennett this year as he had a home run to fly ball rate of 20.8% in 2017 compared to his career rate that sits around 11%.
11) Ozzie Albies- The Braves young second baseman only played in 57 games last year, but boy was he entertaining to watch. He was one of the better defensive second baseman this past year and flashed possible 20/20 potential along with a .280 average. The walk rate is likely to sit somewhere between 6% to 8%, which is pretty good, but Albies’ hit tool will allow him to keep a good average without a high walk rate.
12) Starlin Castro- Starlin has fallen like a shooting star and it wasn’t even due to his own volition. After being traded to the Miami Marlins in a package for Giancarlo Stanton, Castro took a hard hit in the fantasy rankings since there is very little upside. Even though we could see Starlin Castro in the middle of the Marlins lineup, the Miami roster has a lot of holes in the middle of a rebuild. Plus, the Marlins stadium doesn’t do anything to help Starlin’s value.
13) Yoan Moncada- Moncada finally made his major league debut for the White Sox in 2017 and it was filled with ups and downs. Moncada came up in the middle of July, but struggled until mid-September. The young second baseman found an offensive groove as the season went on, especially after teammate Jose Abreu helped him order new bats. Over the last 4 weeks of the season with the new bats, Moncada had a triple slash of .276/.349/.469 and 5 home runs along with 2 stolen bases. Moncada has a ton of potential for a great career and 2018 could be just the start of it. He was hitting mostly in the 2 hole this past season and could even bat leadoff for the White Sox this year, which would allow him to use his 70 grade speed more often. I think we will see the first 20/20 season of Moncada’s career this year as he faces some bad Royals, Tigers, and Twins pitchers in the AL Central.
14) Javier Baez- Baez is always an intriguing option to own because of his power speed combo and positional flexibility. The downside with Baez is that Joe Maddon loves to constantly shuffle his lineups. Baez set a career high for plate appearances in a season last year with 508. His appearances were boosted because of the 6 weeks that Addison Russell missed in August and September. During that time, Javy settled in at shortstop (and 8th in the batting order) and hit .290 with 8 home runs, 27 RBI, and 6 stolen bases. Expand those numbers over a full season and we could potentially see almost 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases. With Zobrist still in the Cubs organization and Maddon loving the lineup blender, Javy Baez is limited in his upside.
15) Rougned Odor- Do you want a guy who hates taking walks, but loves hitting dingers? Then Odor is the guy for you. After a down 2017, Odor has really fallen down the rankings and the draft board. The good thing about Odor is that he actually did grow as a hitter in 2017. He decreased his swing rate on pitches outside the zone, but his contact on pitches inside the zone did go down as well. The fact that Odor is clearly recognizing pitches better than before shows that is he growing as a hitter. If he can get into an offensive groove early in the year, we could see Odor hit .240 to go along with 30 HR and 15 stolen bases.
16) D.J. LeMahieu- If you want the exact opposite of Odor and would like your second baseman to have a higher floor, the Rockies D.J. LeMahieu is right up your alley. I am not high on LeMahieu because the only stand out category that D.J. has is his high batting average. He has only hit double digit home runs once in his career, which sounds hard to do when your home is Coors Field. The speed seems to have faded from LeMahieu’s game as he has posted seasons of 11 SB and 6 SB in 2016 and 2017 respectively. It’s unfortunate that the speed has disappeared for someone with such a low ceiling as it is. DJ’s price won’t be very high once again, but neither will his ceiling as his best quality for fantasy is being a batting average stabilizer.
Tier 4- The Scrap Heap
17) Ian Kinsler- After spending the last 4 years in Detroit, Kinsler has finally returned to the AL West as a part of the Angels organization. Unfortunately, the move to LA could hamper the power output of Ian Kinsler. The spacious ballpark could bump Kinsler below 20 home runs for the first time in 2 years after seeing him hit 28 HR in 2016 and 22 HR in 2017. Kinsler’s average took a severe hit this past season due to the large change in Kinsler’s offensive approach. After pulling the ball 45% of the time over his career, Kinsler pulled the ball only 39% of the time in 2017 as he was hitting to the opposite field just over 5% more often. If Ian returns to his typical pull heavy ways, we could see the batting average rise again while hitting near the top of a good Angels lineup.
18) Jason Kipnis- 2017 was a year filled with injuries and disappointment for the Indians second baseman. Kipnis is going to turn 31 near the start of the season and it won’t make it any easier for him to stay healthy. Even though Kipnis didn’t put up the best of numbers, he did have the highest rate for fly balls in his career. There is clearly some concern on whether or not Kipnis can stay healthy anymore, but if he can, I think he still has a 20 home run and 10 stolen base season in him.
19) Josh Harrison- Harrison had the largest power output of his career last year as he slugged 16 home runs in the 128 games he played. He posted a 10.0% HR/FB rate last year and it doesn’t seem sustainable for a guy who had a career rate around 5% before 2017. Even if he was able to keep that kind of power, he won’t have much upside since he will bat at the top of a mediocre Pirates lineup.
20) Cesar Hernandez- Hernandez is like DJ LeMahieu lite, but without the possible Coors offensive boost. Hernandez has very little power in his bat as he has never hit double digit homers, but has the potential to steal anywhere from 13-18 bags a season while keeping a stable average around .295. The Phillies lineup is improving, but Hernandez finally crossed the 70 run benchmark for the first time in his career. He also has never had more than 40 RBI in one season. Even in a deep league, it is hard to rely on Hernandez for anything more than a stable average and some stolen bases.
21) Jonathan Villar- Villar was the biggest disappointment for fantasy owners last year, even over Jason Kipnis. The Brewers second baseman was a top 35 pick in 2017, but returned very little in value as he posted a .241/.293/.372 triple slash line along with 11 home runs and only 23 stolen bases. The value in Villar is his ability to steal 50 plus bases in a single season, but it is hard to do that when you can’t get on base consistently. The biggest reason Villar struggled was the near 7% increase in soft contact from 2016 to 2017. Even though he was able to put up a much better batting average in the 2nd half of the season, Villar also saw a higher soft contact rate in that same span. There is so much potential for Villar, but we still don’t know which version we will be getting in 2018.
22) Logan Forsythe- The Dodgers were let down by the ex-Rays second baseman that they dealt for in 2016-2017 offseason. Even as a part of a great Dodgers lineup, Forsythe only managed 6 home runs and 3 stolen bases in 119 games. Forsythe hit the ball with the same amount of authority this past season, but hit the ball to the center of the diamond almost 10% more than he did in 2016. One other issue with Forsythe is if he gets off to a bad start to the season, the Dodgers have a lot of younger players who could take over the second base job if needed.
23) Jed Lowrie- Lowrie is one of the more consistent bats in the final tier, but the upside is limited because of the odd Oakland Athletics lineup year in and year out. Lowrie offers no speed whatsoever while not having over the top power. Lowrie hit 14 home runs while driving in 69 RBI and I would expect a similar statline for this season. He does get a slight boost in OBP leagues with his 10% walk rate over the past few seasons.
24) Yangervis Solarte- Solarte would probably be the biggest sleeper for this list as he posted a .255 average with 18 home runs and 64 RBI this past season while contributing 3 stolen bases. The recent move to Toronto will only help boost the power that Solarte has flashed over the years, but he will also likely be near the back end of the Blue Jays order compared to the middle of the Padres lineup. The Blue Jays have yet to say where he will play and how often, but Solarte will likely be battling with Devon Travis for the open second base spot in spring training so keep an eye on the 30-year-old utility man.
25) Dustin Pedroia- After all these years, it is very odd to see the long time second baseman fall so low. The double digit power is likely gone, but the season long .290 batting average is still possible, especially in a good Boston lineup. The good thing for Pedroia is there is no rush to move on from him since they don’t have a great backup second baseman at this moment. I would only be looking at Pedroia in super deep leagues due to the health concerns surrounding the 34-year-old and the lack of offensive firepower left in his bat.
If you have any fantasy baseball questions, hit me up on Twitter @DadSox or tweet our fantasy baseball podcast @SixManRoto. You can listen to the show here. We are going through our yearly positional breakdown of each position and we just went through second base and would love any and all feedback. New episodes come out every Wednesday.