One consequence (or benefit, you could say) of the juiced ball era was the elimination of position scarcity in Fantasy. What had been one of the pillars of drafting strategy became almost an afterthought with offense being more widespread.
The exception, if there was one, was second base, which lacked the sort of high-end talent found at the other positions. There wasn't a particularly reason it lagged behind. Just luck of the draw.
Well, it turns out that same need in Fantasy was also felt in real life, and so, as luck would have it, a number of high-end hitters known for playing other positions migrated to second base at some point in 2021, putting the position on near equal footing with the others in terms of talent distribution. I'd even rank it ahead of third base.
Of course, if too many multi-eligible players are drafted to play elsewhere, the talent could still dry up. You could argue it's being stretched even by the end of this top 20, though I'll point out that notables like Jonathan Schoop an Jeff McNeil didn't quite make the cut.
You might also notice I've excluded Mookie Betts, who picked up second base eligibility toward the end of this season. He did not, however, make enough appearances to qualify there for next season.
Note that these rankings are intended for 5x5 scoring (such as Rotisserie leagues), but I point out distinctions for points leagues where applicable.
Trea Turner Los Angeles Dodgers 2B
|Whether or not Corey Seager walks in the offseason, Turner has second base eligibility locked up for 2022. Not since the glory days of Jose Altuve has a second base-eligible player been such an obvious first-rounder.
Marcus Semien Toronto Blue Jays 2B
|Statcast flagged him as an overachiever from the beginning, but the production just kept getting better and better. What we're left with is a player who, for all of his prior mediocrity, has delivered elite numbers two of the past three years. He may not return to the Blue Jays, but he actually hit the majority of his home runs on the road.
Ozzie Albies Atlanta Braves 2B
|His deficiencies from the left side of the plate keep his batting average lower than you'd like, but he offers enough power and enough speed in a deep enough lineup to make him a greater-than-the-sum-of his-parts guy. His durability and low strikeout rate also elevate him in points leagues.
Jose Altuve Houston Astros 2B
|He continues to sell out for power during the second act of his career, reaching the 30-homer threshold for the second time in three years, and has basically given up on a stealing bases. But he put to rest any concerns about him being merely a product of the sign-stealing scandal and remains a top contributor at age 31.
Whit Merrifield Kansas City Royals 2B
|One of just two players to reach the 40-steal, or even 35-steal, threshold in 2021, Merrifield remains one of the most reliable contributors in that most coveted of categories. But his production in the other 5x5 stats has slipped to the point he's now fairly one-dimensional, at least by early-round standards.
Max Muncy Los Angeles Dodgers 1B
|Playing banged-up in the second half cost him his MVP candidacy and left him with a middling batting average as usual, but his power and patience remain first-rate. He may actually be more valuable at first base now, and he's certainly more valuable in points leagues, where I'd slot him ahead of even Ozzie Albies.
Brandon Lowe Tampa Bay Rays 2B
|Lowe hit .205 with a .742 OPS over the first three months and .281 with a .981 OPS over the final three, and it's exactly that sort of disparity that has defined his career so far. His first full-length season did see him hit the second-most home runs at the position, though. You could argue for drafting him in Jose Altuve's range if the Rays were more committed to playing him every day.
Ketel Marte Arizona Diamondbacks CF
|This ranking feels a little unfair given that Marte mostly validated his breakthrough 2019 after raising new doubts last year, but he did so while losing significant time to injury and contending with a horrendous supporting cast. You'll find others who rank him higher, but I view his placement here as a testament to how strong the position has become.
Javier Baez New York Mets 2B
|The tightrope walk only seems to be getting tighter for Baez as he ages. He has overcome poor plate discipline in the past with outlier BABIPs and home run-to-fly ball rates, but he pushed those marks to their upper limits in 2021. Maybe ignorance is bliss and you should just enjoy the numbers for what they are, at least in 5x5 leagues.
Jorge Polanco Minnesota Twins 2B
|His career-best stat line looks all the more impressive when you consider he was batting .225 with a .686 OPS on June 1, possibly still feeling the after-effects of offseason ankle surgery. He was must-start in 2019 as well, though this year's home run output caught even the most optimistic among us by surprise. Move him and this next guy ahead of Javier Baez in points leagues.
Jonathan India Cincinnati Reds 2B
|The rookie's 2021 unfolded similarly to Jorge Polanco's, with much of the production coming over the final four months. It's a closer call between the two than the final numbers would suggest, with India offering better on-base skills, more speed and the hope of comparable power production. Shame he won't qualify at third base anymore.
Jake Cronenworth San Diego Padres 2B
|His first full-length season, with its highs and lows, only made Cronenworth more difficult to pin down, but we can at least conclude that he'll put the bat on the ball. The power potential is middling, but that goes for most everyone yet to be ranked. As much as anything, it's the triple eligibility that sets him apart.
Jazz Chisholm Miami Marlins 2B
|Turns out his contact issues weren't as exaggerated as many feared they would be, but his rookie season still wasn't steady enough for him to shed the high-variance label. It's easier to take the plunge in leagues that use 5x5 scoring rather than points now that 20/20 production is a reasonable expectation for him, but there's still risk of him bottoming out.
Tommy Edman St. Louis Cardinals 2B
|There isn't much power or on-base ability here, but a leadoff hitter who steals 30 bases is a rare find in today's game. It wouldn't be a huge stretch to call Edman a poor man's Whit Merrifield, though he's a bit rough around the edges still. Because it's mostly the steals elevating him in 5x5 play, you can downgrade him (along with Jazz Chisholm) three spots in points leagues.
Brendan Rodgers Colorado Rockies 2B
|His 2021 went a long way toward restoring our confidence in him after injuries and a pathetic first couple stints in the majors corroded his once sparkling pedigree, but he was still held back by a poor launch angle. As flaws go, though, it's not as bad as a runaway strikeout rate, and with Coors Field as his home, it wouldn't take much for him to break out in a big way.
Ty France Seattle Mariners 1B
|It's possible he'll give you everything Jake Cronenworth will for what looks to be a multi-round discount, but my feeling is that France has already maxed out his potential, getting as much power as he can out of a swing that's not really geared for it. I wouldn't bet against him hitting better than .290 again, though.
DJ LeMahieu New York Yankees 2B
|Maybe he's just getting old, having turned 33 over the summer, but it sure looks like LeMahieu was a casualty of the "deadened" baseball this year. The previous two seasons were an outlier for him power-wise, and they came with the ball at its juiciest. It's why I'm not pegging him for a rebound even though his underlying numbers actually didn't change much.
Chris Taylor Los Angeles Dodgers CF
|An All-Star for the first time this year, Taylor sputtered soon afterward, and the Dodgers, being the Dodgers, had no incentive to ride him out. The profile -- a possible 20/20 man with on-base skills and triple eligibility -- is pretty interesting, though, particularly with him hitting the open market this offseason.
Eduardo Escobar Milwaukee Brewers 3B
|I may be overrating Escobar slightly based on the 35 homers and 118 RBI he contributed in 2019, and if he signs somewhere this offseason to be a part-time utility man, he obviously moves way down. But 28 homers and 90 RBI are still nothing to shake a stick at, even if further decline is to be expected in his age-33 season.
Ryan McMahon Colorado Rockies 3B
|The former prospect and perennial Fantasy Baseball tease looked like he was finally putting it all together with 13 homers over the first two months, and with a greatly improved strikeout rate and launch angle, he seemed likely to keep it going at Coors Field, of all places. But he didn't, and if those improvements weren't enough to get it done, what would be?