More than ever, we really have to differentiate between the middle infield positions on Draft Day. In the past, you could get away with just lumping shortstop and second base together — they were where you might find your speed and some batting average help, maybe, but the bar for Fantasy relevance at both was pretty equally low.
Well, it isn't the case any more for shortstop, which looks a lot more like first or third base these days, with plenty of big bats available to help carry your offense — in fact, it might just be the best position in Fantasy heading into 2020.
Second base has some mashers too, but there just aren't quite as many all-around studs — of the seven players at the position who hit at least 30 homers, only three also hit better than .270; five players hit at least 30 homers with better than a .280 average at shortstop.
And second base doesn't have quite as many speedsters these days, either. Only four second-base eligible players in 2020 stole more than 20 bases in 2019, with just one reaching 25. By comparison, there were three 30-steal players at the position in both 2018 and 2017.
What that leaves us with is a position that is sort of the island of misfit toys for Fantasy.
There are no likely first-rounders at second base in 2020, and you might not see any taken in the first two rounds either. However, there are still plenty of solid players to be found after that point, and don't be surprised if a few players unexpectedly gain second-base eligibility. That's another trend we've seen with teams more willing to play bigger, slower players seemingly out of position at second base. With shifting still driving many teams' defensive approaches, that isn't going away unless the rules change.
Second Base Preview
Ketel Marte CF
ARI Arizona • #4 • Age: 26
If you buy into advanced stats, you buy into Marte, who ranked in the 94th percentile in Statcast expected average and 86th in expected slugging. He's of somewhat slight build, but makes tons of contact and optimized his batted-ball profile in 2019. His 2019 may prove to be the high-water mark, but you should bet on the improvements sticking.
Ozzie Albies 2B
ATL Atlanta • #1 • Age: 23
Albies may not have turned into the no-doubt-about-it superstar player some have been awaiting, but he took key steps forward in 2019 pretty much across the board and will be just 23 all season. To put it in perspective, he's two full years younger than 2019 NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso. There's still plenty of room for growth, in other words.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #25 • Age: 23
The batted-ball metrics don't quite back up Torres' near-40 homer season, but there's plenty of room in his profile for some regression without his value taking too big a hit. Playing in this lineup only helps.
Jose Altuve 2B
HOU Houston • #27 • Age: 30
Altuve's 2018 season was wrecked by a knee injury, but he more or less bounced back in 2019, albeit as a different kind of player than the one we've gotten used to. Twenty-plus steals over a full season might be out of the question at this point, and so are the days of him being a top-five pick. Now the bat is going to have to carry more weight, so the question is whether you buy him as a 30-plus homer guy.
MIA Miami • #2 • Age: 29
Villar is much more valuable in Roto leagues, where he has a chance in any given season to lead the league in steals. However, he's not a one-trick pony in the Mallex Smith mold, and playing for the Marlins should give him plenty of opportunities to play and run as much as he wants.
Hiura took a big step forward in 2019, emerging as a legitimate power threat in both Triple-A and the majors. It came at the cost of some swing and miss, but that's a tradeoff you'll take. He may not hit .300 again — expect more like .270 — but with 30-homer, 20-steal potential, he could be a star already.
KC Kansas City • #15 • Age: 31
It feels a bit disappointing that Merrifield's stolen base total was more than cut in half in 2019, but it's worth remembering he's going to be 31 on Opening Day. If he's just a 20-steal guy on a full-season pace, he's still a very valuable five-category contributor, just not a star.
DJ LeMahieu 2B
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #26 • Age: 31
You know Lemahieu is going to hit for a high average, and you know you're going to be able to use him at three different positions. The question is whether last year's power breakout was real. If it was, he's going to be a huge value in 2020.
Jeff McNeil 3B
NYM N.Y. Mets • #6 • Age: 28
One of the best bets in the league to hit .300 thanks to a plus-plus contact skill, McNeil shouldn't have any playing time concerns after the Mets moved him in and out of the lineup at times last season.
Max Muncy 2B
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #13 • Age: 29
Muncy is a good example of a player who probably would've been relegated to first base in the past in real life, but for Fantasy purposes you're more likely to use him at second than either first or third. He proved his 2018 was no fluke and that he can hit lefties in 2019, so there's no reason to doubt him at this point.
CIN Cincinnati • #9 • Age: 31
Another non-traditional second baseman, you know what you're getting from Moustakas — power. He's not going to hit .300 or steal even 10 bases, but Moustakas is going to hit 30-plus homers and drive in 90 runs on a full-season pace. Not a star, but a solid option you'll never have to worry about.
The underlying skill set has all the makings of an impact Fantasy option if Biggio can improve his approach at the plate. He's in a similar spot as Yoan Moncada was a year ago, where a significant breakout is entirely possible.
Don't forget about ...
COL Colorado • #1 • Age: 25
With speed at a premium, Hampson remains an intriguing option, even if he only came alive late last season. There's 20-plus steal potential here even in a shortened season with good plate discipline and a potential boost in average thanks to his contact ability and Coors' BABIP-inflating tendencies.
Dee Gordon 2B
SEA Seattle • #9 • Age: 32
Gordon may just be finished as a Fantasy relevant option after two disappointing seasons, but it's not too much to ask that he hit .275 with 15 steals in a shortened season, which could make him a viable starting Fantasy option in Roto leagues.
Second Base Sleeper, Breakout & Bust
LAA L.A. Angels • #9 • Age: 31
From an analyst's perspective, it's a shame La Stella didn't get to finish his season off, because it was one of the more curious performances of 2019. La Stella was a relatively punchless utility player for most of his career, entering 2019 with a 10 career homers in 396 games and a .098 ISO, and then he came out and clubbed 16 home runs in his first 78 games before going down with a fractured leg that would rob him of all but two of the final 76 games. La Stella has always been a contact-oriented player, which should lead to strong batting averages, but 2019 was the first time we've ever seen him play at the level he did — and his Statcast expected stats mostly backed up the breakout with an expected .296 average and .482 slugging percentage. If he can be a 20-homer hitter with his batting average skills, La Stella could give you what Jeff McNeil does with one of your final picks on Draft Day.
Hiura has the potential to be a first-round Fantasy pick by 2021. That's how high the ceiling is. He put together a massive 2019 between the majors and minors, and showcased elite batted-ball skills in the majors, especially. He was in the 92nd percentile in barrel rate, 97th percentile in hard-hit rate and 90th percentile in average exit velocity. Among players with at least 250 plate appearances, Hiura was fifth in wOBA on contact at .540, so when he put the bat on the ball, very good things happened. The problem is, he didn't make as much contact as you'd like, sporting a 30.7% strikeout rate, the 24th-highest out of 320 players. He had some good luck on his side, too, especially with a .402 BABIP. He'll need to improve that strikeout rate to make the leap to the elite tier, but given that he never had a strikeout rate higher than 26.3% in the minors (and had a 21.1% rate overall), I'm betting on some improvement. With 35-homer, 20-steal upside in a full season, this might be the last time you can get Hiura outside of the top 20 on Draft Day for the next seven years.
Is Biggio passive, or is he selective? It's a subtle distinction, but a key one when trying to figure out his future. I can see a path to him becoming a Fantasy stud, or being a significant disappointment in 2020. His high walk rate and incredibly low chase rate — no player with at least 400 plate appearances swung at pitches outside of the strike zone less often than Biggio's 15.8% rate — point to a player who might have preternatural control of the strike zone. That could make for an incredible Fantasy skill set — think Matt Carpenter with the potential for 20-plus steals. However, Biggio had one of the lowest swing rates on pitches in the strike zone as well, so it's fair to wonder if his walk and chase rates were the result of a reticence to swing overall. That leads to more called strikes, and more situations where he is batting with two strikes. He could put himself into better situations by swinging at more hittable pitches, though there is also some question about whether Biggio has the underlying skills to make the most of it — he ranked in just the 41st percentile in average exit velocity and was just about average in hard-hit rate. I can see a path to very good Fantasy production, but too many things have to go right for me to bet on it.
Second Base Top Prospects
Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .347 BA (458 AB), 26 HR, 10 SB, 1.028 OPS, 61 BB, 102 K
Major-league stats: .240 BA (75 AB), 2 HR, 2 SB, .705 OPS, 7 BB, 24 K
Lux's already rapidly rising star went supernova with his move up to Triple-A midway through last year, where he hit .392 with 13 homers and a 1.197 OPS in 49 games. His tepid showing in both September and the playoffs in the majors makes it less than assured he's the starter going forward, but with his quick bat, advanced approach and newly developed opposite-field pop, it won't be long.
Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .350 BA (143 AB), 9 HR, 10 2B, 1.035 OPS, 14 BB, 27 K
Major-league stats: .224 BA (76 AB), 2 2B, .522 OPS, 4 BB, 27 K
Though Rodgers' minor-league numbers haven't exactly been lacking, last year represented the first time the production totally measured up to the hype for the former third overall pick ... so of course, his season was ended by a torn labrum in his shoulder. While his timetable is unclear and path currently blocked, Rodgers is ready for the next challenge and will find it in a forgiving offensive environment.
Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .311 BA (473 AB), 4 HR, 35 SB, .792 OPS, 44 BB, 16 K
There are contact hitters, and then there's Nick Madrigal, whose strikeout total over the past two seasons is more like a number you'd see in the caught stealing column. Yes, the contact skills that have earned Willians Astudillo so much attention over the past couple years are equaled here, to go along with a more patient approach, an inclination for stealing bases, a first-round pedigree and a glove that actually plays. He'll be ready to step in this year.
4. Vidal Brujan, Rays
Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .277 BA (429 AB), 4 HR, 48 SB, .735 OPS, 37 BB, 61 K
An 80-grade runner with plus contact skills from both sides and occasional power from the left side, Vidal Brujan has a chance to develop into a Rafael Furcal-type player. He might even make a greater impact in stolen bases if he winds up with an organization that encourages aggression on the basepaths (i.e., maybe not the Rays).
5. Xavier Edwards, Padres
Age (on opening day): 20
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .322 BA (503 AB), 1 HR, 34 SB, .771 OPS, 44 BB, 54 K
Edwards offers a similar profile to Brujan but is a level behind and has even less hope of developing usable power. The on-base skills and all-fields approach should be good enough to earn him a spot in the lineup someday, though, which will give the Padres every incentive to make the most of his blazing speed. It's prospects like this one who give the stolen base a chance of making a comeback.
So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued second baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda's huge breakout last season, and find out.