The second base position is littered with great talents towards the top. Players such as Trea Turner, Marcus Semien, and Ozzie Albies are all great four to five category contributors that are worth taking in the early parts of the draft. In some fantasy leagues, there are middle infield spots, and in some instances, you need several backups at a position. Such as a Draft and Hold league or your typical deep dynasty league. After those monster second baseman mentioned above are off the board, there are still some values to be had later in the draft.
Top Second Base Sleepers for 2022
Enrique Hernández, Boston Red Sox (NFBC ADP: 235)
The first name on the list is the Red Sox postseason hero, Enrique Hernández. Part of him being a sleeper has little to do with what he did in the playoffs and much more to do with what he accomplished in his first season in Boston.
Hernández really started to flourish after the substance crackdown last season, whether it was a coincidence or not. From June 20 on, he slashed .266/.368/.502 with a 16-percent strikeout rate and a 12.8-percent walk rate. Racking up 39 extra-base hits, 15 home runs, 51 runs, and 44 runs batted in during the 79-game stretch, roughly half of a season.
Some underlying metrics stood out about his game as well. Hernández posted career-highs in barrel rate, fly ball rate, pull rate, and in-zone contact rate. Though he nearly had a career year, he had slightly better numbers in 2018. How he turned it up in the second half last season, it’s possible there is another level there and the potential for him to have a true career year or simply just repeat what he did in a full 150-or-so game sample.
If Hernández carries over his awesome numbers from the second half into next season, we can expect somewhere around 25 home runs, a boatload of runs scored from the leadoff spot, and a .250 batting average. With the ability to slot him into the middle infield as well as the outfield, the flexibility on top of the production could prove to be one of the better sleepers in the middle rounds of your draft.
Kolten Wong, Milwaukee Brewers (NFBC ADP: 195)
Another underrated 30-year-old player that is locked into playing time and a spot at the top of a lineup. Kolten Wong signed a two-year, 18-million dollar contract with the Milwaukee Brewers last season, providing a massive surplus of value in the first year of his deal. Wong went on to hit .272 with 14 home runs, 12 stolen bases, and three wins above replacement in only 116 games.
Wong dealt with an oblique injury on and off for about three months. After healing from that he then dealt with a calf injury for two weeks. Despite being on the injured list three separate times, it didn’t stop him from producing.
Stolen bases have always been a part of Wong’s game. Though he saw his sprint speed take a bit of a hit last season, it could be because of all the injuries. For his career, Wong is 100-130 on stolen base attempts, roughly 77-percent, right about the 75-percent threshold where it is profitable for the team. Last season Wong was 12 for 17 in stolen bases, a little below his career norms, though again that could be due to the injuries he dealt with.
What Wong added to his game last season was in the power department. During his 492 plate appearance sample, he posted career bests in barrel rate and ground ball-to-fly ball rate. That allowed Wong to post eight more extra-base hits than he had in the 2019 ‘bouncy ball’ season despite 60 fewer plate appearances in 2021.
If he is able to play in 130+ games, we could see closer to 20 home runs from Wong with 15-20 stolen bases. Though he has been mildly injury-prone throughout his career, only two out of seven possible seasons have been more than 500 plate appearances. It’s likely we see a career year from Wong on a per-game basis, simply playing like he did last year if he is able to stay even remotely healthy.
Ramón Urías, Baltimore Orioles (ADP: 408)
In a standard 12-team league, this may not be a player you draft but instead someone you keep an eye on as the season progresses. Ramón Urías projects to be the Orioles starting shortstop throughout the 2022 season and should get enough playing time considering no prospect is close to the big leagues for the time being. During Urías’ brief stint in the Major Leagues, he has slashed .286/.365/.425 with seven home runs and one stolen base.
Urías impresses more than you would think in the underlying batted ball metrics. Last season, we saw a 112-mph max exit velocity and a 10-percent barrel rate. Those numbers really jump off the page when you look at other middle infielders around the league. When compared to another second baseman minimum of 100 batted ball events (51 players), Urías ranked sixth in barrel rate, seventh in hard-hit rate, and fifth in max exit velocity.
If we look at some of his underlying metrics in the minor leagues, Urías never had issues lifting the ball. His ground ball to fly ball rate was never worse than 1.25. This means he is nearly hitting as many fly balls as ground balls. Last season, in his 296 plate appearance sample in the big leagues, Urías posted a 1.92 ground ball to fly ball rate, hitting nearly twice as many ground balls as fly balls. Obviously, not ideal for hitting extra-base hits.
Another season of adjusting to big league pitching and this could be a legit 25 homer bat hitting in the middle of the Orioles lineup. Though he may not be spectacular in any other category, it’s hard to find anything better at this stage in the draft.
Diego Castillo, Pittsburgh Pirates (ADP: 725)
Now, this is a much deeper sleeper than the previous two. Castillo is a pick you can make if you are in a deep dynasty league or one of the final rounds of a Draft and Hold. What makes him appealing is the lack of true options at the second base position for the Pittsburgh Pirates next season.
Right now, Pittsburgh has options such as Michael Chavis (.655 OPS), Cole Tucker (.640 OPS), Kevin Newman (.574 OPS), and Hoy Park (.633 OPS). So obviously, no one on the Major League roster is going to run away with this job.
Last season in the minor leagues Castillo was a pretty big standout between the Yankees and Pirates organizations. In 388 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A, Castillo hit .278/.355./.487 with 19 home runs, 24 doubles, and nine stolen bases. Even though he is more of a “pop-up” prospect, coming out of nowhere last season, the Pirates still traded for him and will want to see what they have in him next year.
Looking at the Pirates infield situation to start the season conservatively. Cole Tucker and Kevin Newman likely start at second base and shortstop for the month of the season. When the tandem inevitably struggles, we should see Oneil Cruz and Castillo get a chance by late April, middle of May at the latest.
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