Second Base Tiers: Only The Real Strong Survive
You smell that? That’s fresh-cut grass. You hear that? That’s a baseball hitting a glove. Pitchers and Catchers have finally reported and you know what that means: It’s officially the start of the 2021 Baseball Season! The draft season has reached its midpoint, and there are still so many questions that we need answers to. Where are some of these free agents signing and what does it mean for roles on ball clubs we thought we knew? What is the impact of the new baseball? Will six-man rotations and inning limits be as much of a problem as we expect? Tons of information that we need to continue to process as players begin to ramp up and Spring Training games get set to begin.
As we prepare for one of the best days of the year (Opening Day), there are still many fantasy tasks at hand. The goal is for anyone reading all these great articles on Fantrax, to go out and win their league. For this article, we are looking at Second Base Tiers. This is a position that only the strong will survive. I will be using ADP from the NFBC (National Fantasy Baseball Championships) since February 1st for this discussion. Sit back and enjoy the tier breakdown of the Second Base position. Don’t forget to check out the FantraxHQ Staff Consensus Second Base Rankings!
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Second Base Tiers:
Stud Central Tier
- DJ LeMahieu – 2021 ADP: 26.18
- Ozzie Albies – 2021 ADP: 35.89
- Whit Merrifield – 2021 ADP: 40.52
There’s not much to say about this star-studded crop. You land one of these three fine young gentlemen and you are happy about where you stand at the position. LeMahieu will give you the highest batting average of the three. Albies has the highest potential for power. Merrifield is going to add the most stolen bases of the bunch. All are multi-category players and there’s a reason there’s over a 20-point ADP gap between them and the next second base eligible player. Enjoy your stud here if you decide to address the position early and attack other positions in your draft.
The Boom-Bust Tier
- Cavan Biggio – 2021 ADP: 62.69
- Keston Hiura – 2021 ADP: 70.10
- Brandon Lowe – 2021 ADP: 72.08
Let’s get messy. Each of these guys has access to a ceiling that many of us fantasy baseball players salivate at. They all have access to a floor that we all are extremely scared of at the same time. They seem to be roller coaster players if you will. Let’s break them down a little:
One of the many offspring of former ballplayers on the Blue Jays, Biggio has some question marks that are tough to ignore at this ADP. Right off the bat, drafting Biggio will give you tons of position flexibility, which is huge in fantasy. Biggio also continues to be an OBP machine as he was in the 92 percentile in walk rate and had a .375 OBP despite a putrid .250 batting average. The man does not like to swing, as evident by his 36% career swing rate.
This type of draft capital is troubling for Biggio as the Springer signing almost assuredly will take him from the top of the Blue Jays order. Biggio’s below-average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel percentages have been well documented, and when he’s not able to pull the ball as he does nearly 50% of his at-bats, he struggles to hit for any power at all.
With little chance for 100 runs at the bottom of the lineup, not a great batting average or power source, there’s a lot to question about drafting Biggio here.
Hiura has some of the highest power potential of the entire position. Over his 143 career games at the big league level, he’s been able to show he knows how to barrel the ball consistently. He was top 8% of the league in 2019 and top 9% in 2020, having no lower than a 13.9% barrel percentage either season. Remember, getting the barrel on the ball will result in 98 mph or over velocity off the bat, along with a great launch angle for fly balls and home runs.
Speaking of home runs, Hiura excels at that too. At a position where power is almost non-existent, Hiura was only one of five second-baseman in 2020 to have reached double-digit home runs. In fact, over the last two seasons, only 3 other 2B eligible players have more home runs than Hiura.
There is a downside to Hiura and you have to start with his stunning strikeout percentage. It was 30.7% in 2019 which was bottom 4% of the league. What did Hiura do in 2020? He upped that to a stunning 34.6%, also bottom 4% of the league. Not only was his strikeout percentage going up, but his walk rate went down. It went from over 7% in 2019 to 6.5% in 2020. While not as significant a change as the strikeout percentage, it’s never good to see walks going down while strikeouts elevate.
When you also look at all the stats with the ball coming off his bat in 2020, those weren’t great either. Hiura’s Exit Velocity, Launch Angle, and Sweet Spot Percentage all took big hits in 2020. His batting average and slugging percentage stats also went in the wrong direction. The 2019 Hiura looked great with a .303 batting average and .570 SLG but not so fast.
That .303 average was projected to be closer to .265 and his .570 SLG slightly lower at .530. This set the tone for his dip in production although a lot more drastic at a .212 BA and .410 SLG respectfully in 2020. Even Keston Hiura’s weighted on-base percentage (wOBA) went down like crazy going from .388 to .299. Long story short, his hitting as a whole took a major step back in 2020 and it’s going to be up to you if you think he can bounce back from these struggles.
Brandon Lowe: A .269/.362/.554 slash line with 14 home runs and 37 RBI may have you wondering why he’s considered so boom-bust. There are positive shines he’s shown after a 150 wRC+ 2020. Lowe upped his walk percentage, decreased his strikeout percentage by nearly 10%, all while maintaining nearly the exact same batting average when he began to break out in 2019. He also dropped his O-Swing % and seemed to be more selective at the plate.
Lowe’s BABIP was also extremely encouraging as it went down from the insane .377 in 2019 to a more reasonable .309 and he didn’t seem to miss a beat.
Lowe still has an above-league-average strikeout rate and might be on the list of the streakiest players in the game. He also still has not shown in his time in the big leagues to hit anything besides fastballs consistently. Drafting Lowe, you need to expect there will be highs and lows.
They’re Average..I guess Tier
- Ketel Marte – 2021 ADP: 80.10
- Jeff McNeil – 2021 ADP: 84.51
When drafting both Marte and McNeil, the first thing that comes to your mind should be that you’re looking to improve your batting average. Both of these gentlemen rank in the top 2% of the league in terms of limiting strikeouts and know how to make contact. They are also guys that don’t hit the ball very hard as evident by their roughly league average exit velocities.
With McNeil, you are getting a .319 career major league hitter who now with the deadened baseball, you’re looking at 12-15 home runs if things work out in his favor. He does pair that with an above-average walk rate so McNeil can help some in OBP.
Marte is slightly lower at a .282 career batting average but just hit .329 as recently as 2019. He should be capable of more power than McNeil and I would expect closer to 20 home runs if things break right for Marte. Remember he does have a 30-HR season to his name. Marte does not walk. He does not walk at all, evident by a below-average walk rate that was down to 3.6% in 2020.
Draft these guys to first and foremost, help lock down a solid player at the position. Unlike the boom-bust group, they should be players you should have some expectations with what you’re getting.
The Grizzled Veteran Tier
- Max Muncy – 2021 ADP: 89.77
- Jose Altuve – 2021 ADP: 95.89
- Mike Moustakas – 2021 ADP: 114.52
We have a group of guys here in this range all 30 and over. They have seen many peaks and valleys over the last couple of seasons after many years of great production. That leaves us questioning what to do with these veterans of the game.
Max Muncy was a revelation to the Los Angeles Dodgers when he first broke out as a regular three seasons ago. Muncy has been the definition of solid production in one of the top lineups in baseball. Back-to-back seasons of 35 home runs will definitely play. However, there seem to be questions about Muncy after the 2020 season.
One is the incredible reliance that Muncy has on hitting fastballs. I owe this particular research to my co-host on our podcast (Triple Play Fantasy’s Baseball Show) Art Tornabenny aka Little Cheesecake. Pitchers seem to be catching on to Muncy’s reliance on the fastball as the number of fastballs being thrown to him has gone down from nearly 60% in 2018 to roughly 55% in 2019, and finally just under 49% in 2020. This could be trouble for Muncy’s home run numbers as he does not seem to hit the breaking and offspeed pitches nearly as well.
When looking into the percentage of how many of Muncy’s home runs came from fastballs, In 2018 & 2019, Muncy hit 49 of his 70 home runs off fastballs or 70%. In 2020, 11 of his 12 came from fastballs or 91.6%. Max Muncy already isn’t known for his great exit velocity so I feel when pitchers keep adjusting, Muncy will become what he’s been at times ALL of the time. That is a hitter that walks a lot and gets on base. In a points league, that is fine. If you’re in a roto league, however, this would zap him of adding power to an already poor batting average profile.
Jose Altuve was one of the baseball’s best players from 2014-2019, however, looked far from that in 2020 on the surface. Altuve hit a ghastly .219/.286/.344 with an ugly wRC+ of 77. What these stats don’t show you in the small sample of the 60-game season is what happened in the playoffs.
Altuve clubbed five homers and slashed .375/.500/.729 over 60 plate appearances. This included home runs off of Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow. These extra games (60 total plate appearances) accounted for 23% of Altuve’s overall statistics in 2020. This data shows that one could expect that Altuve would have eventually turned it around had the 60-game season continued to play out. Looking at this great data shown below from MLB’s Mike Petriello, you can see as the 60-game season continued to play out in the postseason, how guys continued to play.
Bottom line is that Altuve is going as low as he probably will for some time. He will fall off eventually but I don’t believe it’s right now. Go get him.
In a year where Moustakas had a career-high K rate and saw his O-Contact% go down, one may worry if he’s starting to lose it. The power is still there but a .230 batting average is not getting the job done. All in all, he batted .230/.331/.468 with eight homers, 27 RBIs, and a 108 OPS+.
In a wild 2020 season, people forget that Moustakas was limited by a right quadriceps bruise that put him on the 10-day injured list, as well as a foot contusion. Not to mention that he had to miss time because of COVID-19 protocols.
There are reasons to be optimistic though. Moose did hit six homers over his final 20 games. Given a full normal season, Moose seems to be a consistent year in and year out roughly .250 average 20-25 guaranteed bombs and 70+ RBI. Lock that in as something I would expect in 2021.
Full of Promise Tier
- Dylan Moore – 2021 ADP: 114.29
- Tommy Edman – 2021 ADP: 127.08
- Nick Solak – 2021 ADP: 172.05
- Andres Gimenez – 2021 ADP: 177.21
This might be the most interesting tier of them all. Many polarizing names have risen and slid down draft boards all offseason. Let’s break them down some:
The career so far of Dylan Moore is an interesting one. He was a minor-league journeyman, a utility man, a starter committing a ton of errors, and now the starting Second Baseman of a team on the rise.
He only played in 38 games in 2020, but over those games, he showed a big jump from 2019. Over the short season he slashed .255/.358/.496 with a wRC+ of 138. His Strikeout percentage also dropped from 33% to 27%.
Another reason Moore is so attractive is his speed. His speed was on center stage in 2020 as he passed his entire 2019 total (11) with more in the shortened season (12). He was also a lot more efficient in 2020 as in 2019 he was caught stealing nine times. That number dropped to five in 2020. Who’s to say 20 stolen bases could be out of the question?
In 2021, Moore should be getting more at-bats and more playing time. He’s going to have to show everyone his new approaches at the plate are real and that he can hold down the second base position. At his ADP it is a risky proposition, but it could really pay off.
Edman has been filling a super-utility role during his first two Major League seasons. The switch-hitter has a career .283/.337/.449 slash line and finally has a defensive role locked down at Second Base. What can we expect from Edman in 2021?
Tommy Edman should have a spot atop the Red Birds lineup and can provide a lot of the little things for you fantasy team. Edman’s 17 stolen bases across two seasons show that he’s willing to steal some bags, and he accompanies that with a 95% sprint speed. He also pairs that with an 84% whiff percentage an above-average expected batting average.
What Edman won’t do is hit the ball hard. His exit velocity and hard-hit rates leave something to be desired. He does not barrel the ball consistently and has 16 home runs in two seasons with a happy baseball. With the deadened baseball, that will for sure go down.
Draft Edman when looking to add runs, stolen bases, and batting average for your team. Don’t expect the power to be there and use him accordingly when constructing your roster.
Nick Solak is an interesting profile to look into. He’s a 26 year old that now is a veteran on a young Texas offense and looks to finally get consistent plate appearances for the first time in his career.
Solak made a lot of positive strides in 2020 that we can be excited for in 2021. Across the board, Solak upped his exit velocity, launch angle, expected batting average, and hard-hit percentage. All while cutting down on his strikeouts. Solak was also aided by an elite zone contact percentage of over 90%.
The counting stats should be there for Solak as long as he gets the expected playing time and is a great player to snipe from others that might not be familiar with his name or his expected place in the offense.
Andres Gimenez was already a relevant name under the breath of many in fantasy baseball circles when with the Mets. Now that he’s with the Cleveland Baseball Team, he’s no longer a secret anymore. Granted, there is a chance he does not start the season on the MLB roster and you’ll have to act accordingly. For the 2021 season as a whole, many have great expectations for Gimenez.
Gimenez emerged as a hitter in 2019, when he won the Arizona Fall League batting title with a .371 average. As a rookie in 2020 he hit .263/.333/.398 with eight stolen bases in nine attempts.
With Cleveland, Gimenez should hit for a decent average, get close to double-digit homers, and plenty of runs scored. Where he’s going to make a real difference is in stolen bases. He had eight steals with the Mets last season, getting caught only once. At pick 177, this could be a value pick and a great player to snag as you get to the latter part of your draft.
The Padres Are Going to Mess With Our Heads Tier
- Jake Cronenworth – 2021 ADP: 188.42
- Ha-Seong Kim – 2021 ADP: 201.52
- Jurickson Profar – 2021 ADP: 251.98
All these players have second base eligibility on various sites and are going to make fantasy players tear their hair out trying to figure out what to do with these guys.
After last season, it is definitely surprising to see Cronenworth not have a clear path to everyday playing time. Heck, there may even be a chance Cronenworth isn’t with the Padres by the end of the 2021 season.
The runner-up in the 2020 National League Rookie of the Year voting, Cronenworth ranked in the 91st percentile in whiff rate and in the 84th in strikeout percentage. Cronenworth also ranked 98th in xBA as it was projected as high as .324. He’s in the 91st percentile in expected slugging as well. Cronenworth can also run as he has elite sprint speed and runs the bases very well.
The problem for Cronenworth will be maintaining consistency. In August, Cronenworth achieved a 1.194 OPS while getting on base 44 percent of the time. Flash forward to September and that OPS dropped dramatically, posting a .543 OPS and having his OBP drop nearly 200 points.
Kim signed a four-year deal worth up to 28MM so I would expect him to get the most chances at playing time between the three. As noted by Fangraphs Brendan Gawlowski, “Kim has notched a 140 wRC+ in each of the last two seasons. He produced a .306/.397/.523 line last year, with 30 homers and more walks than strikeouts. He’s also swiped 56 bases in 62 tries over the last two years, a 90% clip.” Will that translate to the majors? We’ll have to see as not all great athletes coming from overseas necessarily transition well (I’m looking at you Byong Ho Park).
Gawlowski also states in the article how Kim is very pull-happy when it comes to power and his highest exit velocity last season was approximately 105 MPH. That would have placed him in the bottom of the league.
I think many were surprised (including myself) when the Padres decided to sign Profar to a three-year 21MM contract after obtaining Kim in the offseason. The change in scenery seemed to be what the doctor ordered after a miserable last couple seasons for Profar. In 2020, Profar saw time at all three outfield positions, as well as second and first base, and set career-highs in batting average (.278) and on-base percentage (.343). He also hit .329/.372/.497 over his final 45 games.
The benefit for Profar is he will be able to play pretty much anywhere on the field, so if an injury strikes or someone struggles, he’ll have more positional flexibility than the other two he’s competing with. His ADP is also much lower so the risk is not nearly as high.
The Super Utility Tier
- Jonathan Villar – 2021 ADP: 159.85
- Chris Taylor – 2021 ADP: 209.42
- David Fletcher – 2021 ADP: 220.88
This tier is exactly what it says it is. These are guys you can scoop up later in drafts that will give you positional flexibility at two or three positions. Taking players like these can be valuable to stash on your bench if the starter you drafted at a position goes down with injury. They pretty much can be plugged in at any position.
Jonathan Villar is great if you’re looking for a cheap steals source. David Fletcher makes great contact and will help contribute in batting average. Chris Taylor is the most balanced of the three and is an incredible value at his ADP if he gets in the lineup every day.
While this group isn’t flashy, when building a team with roster flexibility, these guys are worth looking at to help with your team construction.
Who The Heck Knows Tier
- Ryan McMahon – 2021 ADP: 229.26
- Gavin Lux – 2021 ADP: 250.06
- Garrett Hampson – 2021 ADP: 255.35
Surprised there are two Rockies on this list? You shouldn’t be. These three were regarded as great and up-and-coming prospects with Lux the highest of the trio consistently in every evaluator’s top 5 prospects. While there is still promise for these three, they’re all facing their own challenges this year.
Ryan McMahon & Garrett Hampson:
You could even throw Brendan Rodgers in here if you want. This group of young prospects are incredibly frustrating to roster. Those that know how the Rockies operate, it’s give the old veteran playing time over the exciting young player. It’s a science they have down to a tee.
Roster Resource currently has Rodgers starting at Second Base and McMahon starting at Third. Hampson is projected to start the season on the bench in favor of Raimel Tapia in Left Field. For these Rockies players, it’ll be about two factors: Playing time and Consistency.
It’s been well documented how McMahon has struggled away from Coors. He hit .244 at home in 2020 and a putrid .186 on the road. That wasn’t any better in the full 2019 as it was still a big gap between .270 at home and .226 on the road. Right now he’s strictly a home play until he turns it around.
Hampson on the other end has shown incredible flashes. Hampson appeared in 53 games for the Rockies during the 2020 campaign, slashing .234/.287/.383 with five home runs and 11 RBI. What sticks out is his 6 SB’s and his 23 over his 559 plate appearances.
Many believe Hampson could become a 20/20 player but in reality, will it ever happen? He’s one of the biggest teases in the sport, flashing weeks where he’ll hit 3 home runs and steal multiple bases. He also is coming off a horrid 32% K rate and the worst hard-hit rate of his career.
It will ultimately be a risky move in the case of both Rockies investing and expecting huge production.
Lux is a little different from the Rockies players as he hasn’t gotten much of a chance to contribute at the big-league level. Lux has only played in 42 games and accumulated a measly 151 MLB at-bats. Over that time he’s slashed .210/.278/.377 with a .655 OPS.
The difficult part is the Dodgers have so much depth and roster flexibility that they don’t NEED to give Lux consistent at-bats. They can easily have Chris Taylor (who is projected to start) play at 2B, Max Muncy slide over, or choose to send Lux back to the minors so he doesn’t waste away on the bench.
It is being reported that Lux has every chance to win the starting job in the Spring so his ADP and outlook could change very quickly in 2021. Keep an eye on how he does in Spring Training and act accordingly.
Late Round Help:
Nick Madrigal – 2021 ADP: 197.33
An up and comer for the new-look Chicago White Sox, the man has 4 career minor league home runs. That’s not a misprint. You can expect zero power from Nick the Stick. He is also expected to hit at the bottom of the stacked White Sox lineup, so the counting stats may not be there as much as one would like. There is no arguing his batting average potentially, however. He hit .336 combined between two levels his last year in the minors and .340 in his limited first time in the majors. He combines that with an absolutely minuscule strikeout rate. Madrigal is going to put the bat on the ball and hit for a high average.
Luis Arraez – 2021 ADP: 449.82
A career .331 hitter in 124 major league games. He’s only hit below .300 in one year of his time in professional baseball since 2014. That was .298 in AA. If there’s a player that has the safest batting average floor in the league, it’s Arraez. He won’t give you much else, but with nearly a 450 ADP, he’s great to draft here to help with your batting average.
Ty France – 2021 ADP: 367.92
Kike Hernandez – 2021 ADP: 425.93
Both France and Hernandez will benefit for the first time in their careers from having everyday at-bats at the big league level.
All projection systems have France and Hernandez hitting anywhere from 15-18 home runs but I think with a full season of plate appearances, both will blow by that.
Hernandez has been platooned his entire Dodgers career and should be in the middle of the Red Sox lineup consistently, while France has destroyed in AAA waiting for his chance to mash at the big league level. I would expect both to provide cheap 20+ HR power.
Tommy La Stella – 2021 ADP: 325.39
La Stella is the definition of a contact machine. He ranks in the top percentile in K rate while also being in the 99 percentile in whiff percentage. He also adds in the 77 percentile in walk percentage.
This adds up to even in a year where he wasn’t quite as good as his 2019 breakout season, he still had a .370 OBP. La Stella putting the bat on the ball as much as he does and his patience at the plate is great to help out in your on-base percentage.
Cesar Hernandez – 2021 ADP: 386.82
This is another guy that could fit into multiple categories in this section, however, he’s sliding in here. Hernandez should chip in some steals, score some runs for Cleveland’s baseball team, and hits for a decent batting average.
Hernandez with his higher batting average, his low tendency to strikeout, while walking at an above-average clip should allow Hernandez to give you a .350+ OBP.
Jon Berti – 2021 ADP: 276.77
Let’s not pretend to make out Jon Berti someone that he’s not. He’s a guy who most likely, in a full season, won’t reach double-digit home runs, won’t be in the lineup every day, and does not hit for a great average while striking out over league average. Where the value is found is in his steals.
Berti has a 97% sprint speed and 26 stolen bases in his last 112 games. If you’ve waited on steals, he’s a great guy to add late.
Kolten Wong – 2021 ADP: 279.38
This ADP for Wong won’t last as, since his trade to the Brewers, his value has started to creep up. Even though Wong is in the stolen bases category (29 over his last 201 games and 20+ twice in his career), he can do a lot of things to help you late.
Wong is coming off a career-low strikeout percentage and the second-highest walk rate of his career in 2020. He also should be hitting atop the Brewers order and should be able to provide a good amount of runs for an improving lineup. Take a stab on him.
Media/Link Credit: Baseball Savant; Fangraphs; MLB.com
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