Draft season is officially here, folks! It’s that glorious time of year when we dig through stats in order to help us gain a better sense of the player pool. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the keystone position. Entering the 2023 season, second base is fairly top-heavy, production-wise. Marcus Semien, Jose Altuve, Jazz Chisholm Jr, and Ozzie Albies are the top options off most draft boards, and all are going inside the top 50 on average. While the position isn’t as shallow overall as third base is this season, it does dry up pretty quickly. However, if you wait on the position, value – and steals! – can still be had at various points throughout the draft. So, let’s get to it and look at some of those second base sleepers for the 2023 fantasy baseball season!
For this article, I looked at second basemen going after pick 175 on average.
The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
Second Base Sleepers for 2023
Jonathan India, Cincinnati Reds
There was a ton of hype surrounding Jonathan India heading into last year. He was coming off a 2021 season where he hit 21 home runs with 98 runs scored, 69 RBI, and 12 stolen bases across 631 plate appearances. He also slashed .269/.376/.459 with a 120 wRC+. Oh yeah, and he won the 2021 National League Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, India’s sophomore season didn’t go as planned. Injuries limited him to 103 games, his quality of contact metrics took a hit, and he finished the season with 10 home runs, three stolen bases, and an underwhelming .249/.327/.378 slash line.
Injuries plagued India from the get-go. He played the first seven games of the season and then landed on the IL with a hamstring injury – an injury he re-aggravated that cost him all of May and half of June. India also suffered a significant leg injury on August 11 that required him to be airlifted to the hospital. He subsequently dealt with swelling issues in his leg until the end of the season.
While there wasn’t too much to get excited about India’s 2022 season, his production in July – the only month he was fully healthy – was encouraging. In 104 plate appearances that month, India slashed .290/.365/.527 with a .237 ISO and 144 wRC+. He also hit five homers during this span, accounting for half of his season total. Additionally, India’s July numbers are remarkably similar to the numbers he put up in the second half of his 2021 breakout season, taking into account a higher BABIP:
Assuming India’s health holds up, I’m buying a rebound performance in 2023. He has 20/20 upside, hits at the top of the lineup, plays in a hitter-friendly park, and should provide a plus-batting average. India is currently going around pick 180 on average, and I’m buying that all day. Of all these second base sleepers India probably has the highest ceiling.
Miguel Vargas, Los Angeles Dodgers
Miguel Vargas is expected to be the Dodgers’ everyday second baseman, and I’m here for it. The young hitter excelled in the minors, displaying both power and speed. He also consistently increased his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate across three levels in the minors since 2021. To top it all off, Vargas put on a hitting clinic in Triple-A last season. In 520 plate appearances, he popped 17 home runs, with 100 runs scored, 82 RBI, 16 stolen bases, and a .304 batting average. He also recorded a .915 OPS, .208 ISO, and 129 wRC+.
Heading into the 2023 season, Vargas could make a significant impact in his first full season. He was up for a cup of coffee in 2022 but didn’t make much noise in his 50 major league plate appearances, finishing with an ugly 26 wRC+. However, some of that can be attributed to a lack of consistent playing time. Despite his underwhelming numbers, Vargas showed power in his limited stint, registering a 40% HardHit% and 8.7% barrel rate. That should bode well with his expanded role in 2023.
There could be growing pains with Vargas, but he has pedigree and should benefit from hitting in a solid Dodger lineup. Most projections have him pegged for 13-16 home runs, 60 runs scored, 60 RBI, 6-9 steals, and a .260-.270 batting average. Vargas is currently going around pick 250 on average, and is a solid upside play at that point in the draft. Plus, while gaining dual-eligibility adds a nice bump to his overall fantasy value, keep in mind that Vargas is only eligible at first base to start the season in most leagues.
Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies
If you ask me, Brendan Rodgers is criminally underrated. He’s currently going just outside the top 250 picks and aside from having a boring profile, I can’t understand why. Rodgers doesn’t steal bases, but he’s solid everywhere else. Last season, Rodgers hit 13 home runs with 72 runs scored and 63 RBI across 581 plate appearances. He also posted an above-average .266/.325/.408 slash line. While none of that is flashy, the homers, runs, RBI, and batting average all ranked tenth or better among second basemen.
There are a couple of reasons that underlie Rodgers’ sneaky-productive season. The first thing that stands out is his improved plate approach. He posted a sub-20% strikeout rate for the first time in his career and walked at a 7.9% clip (up from 4.6% in 2021). He also continued to hit the ball hard, upping his HardHit% from 40.3% to 45.9%. However, while the improved quality of contact is nice to see, Rodgers’ inability to consistently elevate the ball should keep his home run total under 20.
Playing half of his games in Coors Field also helped Rodgers pad his numbers across the board. Like most Rockies hitters, Rodgers posted better numbers at home than on the road. 10 of his 13 home runs came at Coors Fields, to go along with a .379 wOBA and 117 wRC+ (compared to a .261 wOBA and 65 wRC+ on the road). But don’t let those splits scare you off. In league formats where you can play Rodgers only when he’s at home, he’s an especially sneaky addition to rosters.
Rodgers is one of the more reliable four-category contributors that can be had on the cheap. Pencil him in for 15-18 home runs, 70 runs scored, 65 RBI, and a .270 batting average – a draft day steal! He’s one of the more low-key second base sleepers in 2023, especially in deeper leagues.
Tony Kemp, Oakland Athletics
Diving further into the player pool, it’s tough to go wrong with Tony Kemp. As Oakland’s primary leadoff hitter last season, he recorded seven home runs, 61 runs scored, 46 RBI, and 11 stolen bases. He also slashed .235/.307/.334 across those 558 plate appearances. Okay, so that’s not super-impressive. But wait, there’s more!
Kemp came on stronger in the second half of the season. Across 239 plate appearances, he slashed .278/.342/.426 and posted a .768 OPS, .337 wOBA, and 126 wRC+. He also hit five of his seven homers in the second half.
If Kemp can build off his second half, he could put up double-digit power and speed numbers, with a 10/10/.250 season in the cards. If not, then the worst-case scenario isn’t too bad, either: A leadoff hitter with guaranteed playing time, who brings a little bit of pop and speed to the table. The offense in Oakland is far from potent, but with Kemp at the top of it, he should still accumulate decent counting stats. Kemp is also eligible at outfield, further boosting his value in deeper leagues. Not too shabby for a player going around pick 450 in drafts this season.
Who are your favorite second base sleepers for the coming season? Drop some names in the comments below. For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!