2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Second base strategies, complete with sleepers and ADP review

If there’s a position that’s scarce heading into 2020, it’s … well, it’s catcher. But if there’s one that’s scarcity actually reverberates in Fantasy Baseball, it’s second base.

Why the distinction? Well, some of the second base-eligible players might be drafted to fill other positions. Some might even be drafted for the utility spot. Catcher is so its own world, with such a low baseline for competence, that the only players who matter there are the ones necessary for filling all the league’s catcher openings. And frankly, there are enough competent catchers to go around in a 12-team, one-catcher league.

Theoretically, there are enough second basemen, too — strain though you may to find it, there’s no such thing as position scarcity in 2020 — but it’s not as much of a given here as at other positions.

One complicating factor is the number of multi-eligible base-stealers that the position offers. By my count, it’s four that’ll be drafted in virtually all Fantasy formats, with another (Kevin Newman) that’s right on the fringes. In an era when home runs are commonplace and well distributed across the player pool, stolen bases are the only true scarcity, at least on the hitting side, which means that anyone who offers them — or even the hope for them — is deliberately targeted, regardless of what position he plays. Nobody with a need for speed is passing up Tommy Edman just because he already drafted Ozzie Albies.

If you’re one to wait for optimal value, then, trusting that those who’ve already filled the position will be content to pass it over, chances are you’ll come face-to-face with scarcity. And while there is upside to be found beyond the top 12 at the position, it’s not the sort you can bank on.

So who can you bank on?

You see what I mean about position scarcity not being a thing in 2020? Here I am talking up second base as the weakest of the bunch, and yet there are 10 players any Fantasy GM would be thrilled to have.

But remember what I said about multi-eligible players. Only three of these 10 — Jose Altuve, Albies and Keston Hiura — are strictly second basemen, so you have to be conscientious in your approach to the position and can’t just expect to wait for your turn.

You’ll notice not a single second baseman is going off the board within the first 24 picks (or what would be the first two rounds of a 12-team draft), which is another trait the position shares with catcher. It means there aren’t as many sub-tiers within this group of studs — at least in theory. Ketel Marte was the obvious standout at the position last year, but it was one of the most surprising performances for any hitter in 2019, particularly since he’s a guy who never projected for power coming up through the minors.

The skepticism is evident in the ADP, to the point it’s almost certainly worth the gamble just to see if he can come anywhere close, and the same, frankly, holds true for DJ LeMahieu. If you really want to set yourself apart at the position, those two are your best hope of doing it, apart from the fleeting hope Jose Altuve begins running again. And they don’t cost near what he does.

I mentioned Hiura, and he’s the big upside play at the position, showing five-category potential in about half a season’s work. The elevated strikeout rate is some cause for concern, but his minor-league profile suggests it’ll work itself out. And even if it doesn’t, his high-BABIP profile should counteract it, to a degree.

But wait, there’s more. These four make for some fine fallback choices at the position:

You know some are going to lump Mike Moustakas and Eduardo Escobar in with that first group, and look, that’s fine. Season to taste, I always say. But Moustakas showed us about the full extent of his potential last year, and it was clearly on a lower level than what the studs delivered, as the points-per-game column makes abundantly clear. Escobar, meanwhile, actually went beyond his best-case scenario, judging by the expected stats, and he and Moustakas profile about as similarly as two players can.

I struggled with whether I should group Cavan Biggio and Edman with these two or with the sleepers below, because neither has yet to play a full season or, perhaps, to show us the full extent of his potential. The difference is that they only need to continue doing what they’ve already been doing to justify a starting job in Fantasy. Both will be drafted as starters and both for stolen base help, though they depart in what else they bring to the table. Biggio will hit for power, but with limitations on his batting average, while Edman will hit for average but likely fall short in the home run category.

*minor-league stats

Lux’s upside is so high, being a top-five prospect whose upside improved every step up the minor-league ladder, that some will argue he’s a trustworthy starter right from the get-go. My response would be that I’m not even sure the Dodgers will treat him as such. Back when it looked like they had traded Joc Pederson to the Angels, giving Cody Bellinger less of a reason to play first base and Max Muncy less of a reason to play second, yeah, OK. But seeing as Pederson is still with the Dodgers, there are just too many hitters for eight lineup spots. When you consider that the least proven of them is a 22-year-old who did little with his opportunity to play late last year and still has minor-league options … well, let’s just say nothing is guaranteed.

The fact is all of these players have playing-time concerns. Hampson will likely have to carve out a super utility role with the Rockies, with McMahon being one of the players he spells. Lowe may sit against lefties, and Madrigal is fighting for a job this spring. The one whose playing time is most assured is Arraez, who also has the clearest limits to his upside as almost a non-factor in home runs and stolen bases. So what makes him a sleeper? His batted-ball profile is perfectly tailored for batting average — and with decent on-base skills to boot, which should absolutely play up in a power-laden Twins lineup.

*minor-league stats 

Yes, indeed — lots and lots of speed here, and all of it potentially usable. Kevin Newman, Dee Gordon and Kolten Wong may not offer enough power to rise to the draftable range in your league, but all three should be at least decent sources of batting average. The first seven will all be targeted in large part for their speed, which doesn’t exclude Hampson even with his uncertain playing time. His electric final two weeks of 2019 put him firmly back on the mixed-league radar, and like every Rockies hitter, he gets a Coors Field bump.

Whit Merrifield may actually have the greatest cause for concern of this group, just because you can’t be completely sure what to expect from him. He led the majors with 45 steals in 2018 but then saw that number cut to only 20 last year while succeeding on just two-thirds of his attempts. He says he made a conscious decision not to put his body on the line with so little on the line, which is all the more disconcerting since it’s not like the Royals are in a position to contend this year.

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