What a year 2016 was for the second base position in Fantasy baseball. Second was a position I was more than comfortable waiting for in drafts, and I walked away happy if I got Logan Forsythe as my starting option.
As is typical with any position, some players broke out, some busted and some lived up to the lofty expectations (looking at you, Jose Altuve). In 2017, can those busts rebound? Will those breakouts suffer a sophomore slump or fall back to Earth? And for the love of God, will Rougned Odor take a damn walk?
Here is an early look at the second base tiers for the 2017 Fantasy Baseball season.
*Note, we are going with 5×5 category rankings.
You always expect to get a steals total in the 30s with Altuve, but the 24 home runs were certainly a nice surprise, along with his .194 ISO and raising his hard hit rate from 25.9 percent in 2015 to 33.8 percent in 2016. While the added power (13 percent home-run-to-fly-ball ratio) was nice to go along with the elite speed (steals did take a dip), Altuve improved his patience at the plate. Altuve is always an elite option, but if there was a knock against him, that may have dropped him a spot or two in the overall rankings, it’s that he didn’t walk enough. He nearly doubled his walk total from 2015 (33) to 2016 (60) with an 8.4 percent overall walk rate, all while keeping his strikeout rate (9.8 percent) nearly identical from 2015 (9.7 percent). It was due, in part, to his O-Swing% dipping to 32.7 percent from 35.6 percent the year before. He should be, at worst, the third overall player drafted in 2017 drafts … I’ve gone back and forth on Trea Turner this high, as I’m worried about a sophomore slump. With a second-year slump last year, Carlos Correa, who was more hyped than Turner at this point last year, finished as the No. 55 hitter on ESPN’s Player Rater, which resulted in no return on the first-round investment. Turner has the speed that Correa doesn’t have, though. Is some of it unsustainable? Sure, but his wRC+, wOBA and BABIP would all be in the Top 10 in the league, which isn’t exactly out of the realm of possibility. My biggest concern with the dual-eligible Turner is his 4.3 percent walk rate, which would have been tied with Adonis Garcia and Starling Marte for ninth-worst in baseball a season ago among qualified hitters. Plate patience can be learned, and even if it is around that number next year, too, Marte is the perfect example of a player that can produce stellar numbers with a ridiculously low walk rate … I addressed Daniel Murphy here with the first basemen tiers … What a strange, strange season for Brian Dozier. Early on, it looked as though he would be a bust, as he had just five home runs in 46 games through the end of May. Then the light switch went on, especially in the last two months of the season, when he hit 23 homers in 56 games. In the past, Dozier was a fast starter and a slow finisher. He was the exact opposite last year. While he may get over-drafted because of his second half, I’m expecting a normal Dozier season with a lot of home runs and a lot of strikeouts … I addressed Matt Carpenter here with the first basemen tiers … Overcoming the death of his grandfather and the stomach illness that Robinson Cano had in 2015 may have made the difference after all. He looked like his old self in 2016 but even better, as he hit a career-high 39 home runs by raising his flyball percentage from 25.3 percent to 36.1 percent. Who would have thought that you’d hit more home runs if you hit more fly balls. Weird, I know. What impressed me the most with Cano’s home run outage was that he maintained his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate from 2015 while doing so.
Odor is still only 22, which is amazing to me. The funny thing is, that’s about the walk total you can expect from him this year. He’s going to be an MLB star and in Fantasy, but he needs to develop better patience at the plate. His 41.8 O-Swing% was the sixth-worst in baseball last year … I was avoiding Ian Kinsler in drafts last year, as the skill set was trending downward over the previous years. What does he do instead? He hits 28 homers, which was his total from his two previous years combined.
I’m going to make it a priority in drafts to target a second baseman from one of the top two tiers. This tier is, “OK, I settled.” If I’m going to settle, first I’m going to target Dee Gordon, who has the most upside out of anyone in this tier. Remember, just last year, we were drafting Gordon in the third round of drafts. Granted, before and after his suspension, he wasn’t playing that well, but I expect a bounce-back season … Dustin Pedroia is as good as his health allows him to be. Last year, Pedroia played in 154 games; his most since 2013. He’s a safe option… Speaking of safe, DJ LeMahieu’s photo is beside the word in the dictionary. He helps with your triple-slash numbers each year … I’m probably the low man on Jean Segura this year, and you know what, that’s OK. If I’m in need of elite speed I’ll reach for him, but even in a historic year for power, I’m not buying his power breakout … Jason Kipnis and Ben Zobrist are just guys to me. Name value will have them go higher than I want to take them.
Joe Neil Walker
I’m not sure who Devon Travis really is at this point, as we don’t have a big enough sample size to rely on. I don’t buy the early power that we saw in 2015, but at this point in drafts, he has the most upside at the position for me as a middle-infield option in roto leagues or a second baseman if I wait … Forsythe is underrated in Fantasy, but the position is top-heavy enough that he falls to the fourth tier. If I can take Zobrist in Round 12 or Forsythe in Round 18, I’m more than happy with Forsythe … Thought Odor’s O-Swing% was bad? Jonathan Schoop was one of the five players who were worse. Unreal power if you need some late in drafts … I prefer Joe Panik in OBP leagues more than in leagues that use AVG … Neil Walker’s 23 homers were impressive in a shortened season, but he was massively helped by the nine-homer April.