As much as ever, second base is looking like the oddball position in Fantasy Baseball
It doesn't have the natural disadvantages catcher has, which means it's not even in the same category of weak, and yet it's the only other position where there isn't a single player you could justify drafting in Round 1.
It's light on the most plentiful of categories (home runs) but heavy on the scarcest (stolen bases). It's chock-full of players for whom it's impossible to say whether the 2019 or 2020 numbers should carry more weight. You might even say all but the very best at the position are going through a full-blown identity crisis.
That's a recipe for some less-than-confident drafting, which is particularly troublesome at a position where you're not likely to get a second shot at something great. Don't get me wrong: The list of players who could be great here isn't a short one, but the chances of them all making good, especially given the concerns surrounding most of them, are slim.
So I find it's a position where I'm unlikely to invest much, unless I happen to be in line to land one of the three bankables early. If the upside plays are all gambles anyway, I'll target one of the least costly, particularly if he's going to be of some help to me in stolen bases, and reserve my capital for something more trustworthy.
There's a particular upside play I have in mind, but first, let's look at those three bankables at the position.
I said back in the catcher strategy guide that J.T. Realmuto might represent the biggest advantage for any player at any position, but looking at how DJ LeMahieu stacks up here, I may have lied to you all. Yankee Stadium is perfectly designed to get the most out of his power potential, and it's been proven twice over now. You also won't find a better bet for batting average or runs. Anytime he makes it to late in Round 3, you can bet he's at the top of my queue.
You might be able to find some 5x5 participants who prefer Albies or Merrifield at the position, given what they can provide in the stolen base category, but in terms of overall potential, they're not in the same category as LeMahieu. They're still worth a premium, though, because of their five-category contributions and the fact they have no real downside. Albies' batting average suffered because of a bruised wrist early in 2020, but he ended the year on a tear. Merrifield saw his stolen bases decline in 2019 but came roaring back last year.
|2021 ADP||2020 PPG||2020 BA||2020 HR|
Brandon Lowe TB 2B
Ketel Marte ARI 2B
Jose Altuve HOU 2B
Max Muncy LAD 1B
Jeff McNeil NYM 2B
Mike Moustakas CIN 2B
David Fletcher LAA SS
So here's where second base has the potential to make or break you. Each of these players had a standout performance in either 2019 or 2020, but none of them excelled in both. The one who came closest was Brandon Lowe, but he had a playing-time issue in 2019 and a weirdly uneven performance in 2020 even though the finale numbers looked good. Some strikeout concerns there, too. Nah, I can't trust him.
The ones I come closer to trusting are Max Muncy and Jose Altuve, who both had a track record of success leading up to 2020, and I'm keen on both at their going rates. Maybe I'm just not drafting with the right people, though, because I've never seen Altuve go as late as 89th overall. Seeing as he hit .375 (18 for 48) with five home runs in the postseason, we probably shouldn't fixate on his 48-game slump during the regular season, especially given his history as an early-round mainstay. Muncy I prefer for points leagues because of his walk-to-strikeout rate, but his power is significant enough for all formats. Nothing in the underlying numbers suggests he was a fundamentally different player in 2020 even though the production suffered.
It's worth pointing out Mike Moustakas has a steady track record, too, but his ceiling is more limited. The same might be true for Jeff McNeil, who has at least proven to be a batting average standout but might turn out to be another David Fletcher type if he can't replicate his power from 2019.
Speaking of Fletcher, he shapes up better for points leagues than categories since he offers little in the way of home runs or stolen bases, but he should be a good source of batting average and runs.
The upside plays here, meaning the ones with the best chance of pushing LeMahieu for top honors at the position, are Ketel Marte, who held the mantle in 2019, and Keston Hiura, who offers a top prospect pedigree and made a strong first impression in 2019. But you have to pay a little something for that upside, and generally, I'm more focused on pitching at the point they go off the board. Frankly, I'm not sure the risk/reward adds up for me anyway.
|2021 ADP||2020 PPG||2020 BA||2020 OPS|
Nick Madrigal CHW 2B
Gavin Lux LAD 2B
Ty France SEA DH
Nico Hoerner CHC 2B
Brendan Rodgers COL 2B
Josh Rojas ARI 2B
*2019 minor-league stats
The players with the most upside here are probably Gavin Lux and Brendan Rodgers, but their 2020 roles are so uncertain at this point that you can't draft either to be your starter at the position. Maybe you could play it safe with a Tommy La Stella or Fletcher type and then target one of those lottery tickets late, but it would have to be in a league that offers the sort of roster space to justify it.
Of course, in leagues where you have an additional middle infield spot to fill -- particularly ones that emphasize stolen bases, like standard 5x5 Rotisserie -- Dylan Moore and Nick Madrigal should most certainly be on your radar. Moore might be the single most interesting player at the position, having been outdone only by LeMahieu in Head-to-Head points per game last year. But it came out of nowhere for the 28-year-old who spent most of his 20s toiling in the minors, and so no one's really drafting him at face value. The ADP still comes in fairly high for Rotisserie leagues, as depicted here, but only because of his potential to impact the steals category.
You'd think Madrigal would be a bigger target considering. He comes with a much higher prospect standing and is a slam dunk to contribute in batting average because of his high contact rate. It's possible an offseason shoulder surgery is scaring folks away, but the discount is enough to remove virtually all risk. The possibility of him making a significant contribution in the two scarcest categories while manning the weakest position is just too good to pass up. You know how I said earlier there's a particular upside play that I like getting for cheap? Madrigal's the one.
|2021 ADP||2020 SB||2021 hope||Also eligible|
Ozzie Albies ATL 2B
Jonathan Villar NYM 2B
Nick Solak TEX LF
Nick Madrigal CHW 2B
Jon Berti MIA 2B
Joey Wendle TB 3B
Scott Kingery PHI 2B
Kolten Wong MIL 2B
Clearly, there's no shortage of steals sources here, though they're of course not all on equal footing. You can't count on Albies, Merrifield, Cavan Biggio or Hiura being available to you, and you might not want to pay the premium for them anyway. We don't know exactly what kind of roles Garrett Hampson, Jon Berti and Joey Wendle will have, and we're still waiting to see how Jonathan Villar and Kolten Wong fit with heir new teams.
But the bottom line is that second base is one of the positions that's most capable of meeting your stolen base need, so you might want to have a healthy supply already if you're looking to fill the position with a Muncy or Moustakas type. There aren't too many spots (pretty much just the outfield) where you can slot in more steals once second base is filled.
So which 2021 Fantasy baseball sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy baseball rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Will Smith's huge breakout last season, and find out.