KEEPERS: 2017 Dynasty Reload—2B

This is the third installment of our annual off-season series aimed at helping keeper league (KL) and dynasty owners address needs over the next 3-5 years. Each week we will examine a position, and note players and prospects who 1) are likely available in your league; and 2) we think have a good shot at earning double-digit R$ sometime between 2017 and 2019.

Stable, established contributors are more difficult than ever to acquire, be it by trade or off your league's free agent list. This is even more valid for rebuilders with little excess talent to barter, and particularly relevant with respect to position players in deeper leagues.

We'll attempt to identify the best and most MLB-ready of both marginal producers and legit prospects with upside, some with little to no MLB track record. And of course context matters—in terms of opportunity, risk, health, age, price and productivity time-line. Our filter uses the following criterion:

  • Player must be growth-age—27 years old—or younger as of April 1, 2017
  • Player must have earned less than $10 in a 5x5 format during 2016
  • Player must have 100+ AB above A+, AFL experience, or 5 years in professional foreign ball

Links to previous positions: C | 1B

We had surprisingly good results from this space last year. Cover-boy Jose Peraza changed organizations and finally inherited an extended opportunity down the stretch, both hitting and running his way past the $10 mark while playing all over the field. We were able to identify him and five other new $10+ second-basemen, including comebacker Anthony Rendon, Javier Baez, Scooter Gennett, Jedd Gyorko and Chris Owings all above the cut. We noted blocked CLE middle-infielder Jose Ramirez below the cut, from where he put on OF/3B gloves and promptly earned $29. 

Along with Ramirez, Peraza and Baez also played multiple positions, which once again offers a clue in staffing second base if one doesn't own names like Altuve or Cano from the get-go. Similar to 2015, only eight MLB teams had players with a hundred or more games at 2B in 2016, suggesting that this spot offers good positional fluidity depending on injuries and immediate game needs. On teams missing an established/healthy star, anyone who can hold their own with the bat and wear different gloves is likely to see some second base time. 

This makes complicates our off-season job of identifying all of the hidden production options. For example, Tyler Saladino played 60 games at 3B in 2015, with zero at 2B—and entered 2015 behind Todd Frazier in CHW. But he was able to take advantage of deficiencies and injuries at other infield spots and earn $11 while playing mostly 2B and SS. Minor league SS Trea Turner was noted as a comer on that position's page, but he spent most of his outstanding MLB debut playing CF and 2B. The list of players with 2017 double-digit earnings upside at 2B while currently qualifying elsewhere—including Wilmer Flores, Brandon Drury, etc.—is significant.

In short, look for hitters with positional versatility, and don't panic if your fantasy squad is still holding 2B tryouts as of Opening Day. Among the names that profile as potential utility players or perhaps even better at second base than at their 2016 qualifying positions include KC 3B Cheslor Cuthbert, MIN SS Jorge Polanco, and rejuvenated utility player Nick Franklin. Standing out among the clubs that do not currently have an established regular at second base include ARI, ATL, CHC, KC, LA, LAA, OAK and SD. Also, as we noted (and was proven) last year, second base should again be used to target speed, particularly in the current an era of declining SB totals.

In sum, our 2017 second base list offers more than a few names that could carve out full-time careers at second-base, be they current MLB rebound candidates or high-ceiling prospects who are a couple of years away from real value.   

 

Ozzie Albies' (2B/SS, ATL) Double-A dominance reaffirmed his standing as an elite prospect and ATL's second baseman of the near-future; the only question is the speed with which that arrives. Skills-wise, Albies is a pint-sized, energetic slasher with outstanding bat-to-ball skills, plus base-running and fine defense profiled earlier in this space several weeks back. At age 19, his partial-season 2016 Triple-A struggles aren't a long-term concern. But a fractured elbow sustained during the Double-A playoffs in September will keep Albies inactive at least until January, and perhaps longer. This hiatus along with legitimate questions as to how this injury might impact his play—not to mention the absence of urgency in rebuilding ATL—now suggest that Albies might spend a good chunk of 2017 in Triple-A. See Chris Blessing's scouting report on Albies from late August for more info.

Like Albies, Franklin Barreto (2B/SS, OAK) is a precocious, undersized youngster who has been rushed up to the high minors without major setback. Also like Albies, Barreto split his 2016 time between SS and 2B, and is expected by some to shift to the latter spot at the MLB level. What's not in question is an MIF bat that offers both contact and power upside. As a 20-year-old in 2016, Barreto posted a .284/.342/.422 line (36/94 BB/K, 10 HR, 30/15 SB/CS) over 479 AB, predominantly at AA-Midland. Both pitch selection and baserunning could use some polish, suggesting that 2017 could very well be a consolidation year for this fast-riser who has drawn Rafael Furcal comparisons. But whether in late 2017 or shortly afterward, there's nothing in OAK that will block Barreto from MLB playing time when he's ready.

CHC's 2015 first-round pick Ian Happ (2B/OF, CHC) finished off his first full professional season posting a .279/.365/.445 line over 488 AB between High-A and Double-A before holding his own in the Arizona Fall League. The 22-year-old Happ's 15 HR / 16 SB combo showed off his secondary skills, and 68 BB attests to his patience—but 129 Ks say there's work to be done. The Cubs' depth will allow Happ to marinate in the high minors for most of 2017, suggesting that his first extended shot at real fantasy value will come the following season. But as an athletic college product and switch-hitter with good bat speed, the versatile Happ could also take a step forward and be ready to contribute before then.

Dilson Herrera's (2B, CIN) new club clearly values him more than the Mets did, but as of this moment he remains blocked by a big-contract veteran through 2017. He'll be barely 23 years old as of Opening Day, but Herrera seemingly has little to prove in the high minors, other than perhaps polishing his defense. His 2016 .274/.335/.456 line with 15 HR in 423 AB didn't jump out, but this second Triple-A stint may also have left him a little bored. This is an offensive-minded second-base prospect with a career .298/.362/.468 line over 2168 AB, decent plate skills and power/speed upside. Herrera projects to get the next extended 2B shot in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark as soon as the Brandon Phillips era ends in CIN. 

Following his first 500 AB and $10+ season, Brett Lawrie (2B, CHW) began 2016 with the fly-ball stroke for which we'd hoped. And 11 HR (130 PX) at the halfway mark suggested that he was well on his way to the power season we'd been projecting. But a hamstring issue hobbled him for most of the 2H, during which Lawrie compiled only 44 AB. Apart from his healthy 2015, that "F" Health grade hasn't budged. And while selling out for HR, his 69 ct% and 81 HctX were career lows—and even the 92 xPX is no longer as optimistic as it has been. U.S. Cellular Field gives Lawrie a good shot at another double-digit R$ season, but you know the risks. Still flashing power, still with an F Health grade that won't budge, and still looking for that first 20-HR year.

On the heels of a breakout 2015, Joe Panik (2B, SF) began 2016 with a strong April before being hobbled by a groin injury and poor h% luck in May. The latter problem plagued him throughout the 2H, but Panik also wrestled with concussion symptoms from late June on after being hit by a pitch to the head. The results—14 July AB and a .215 2H BA (22% h%)—were not exactly surprising. Through it all, the 25-year-old Panik maintained fine peripherals, notably a 10% bb%, 90% ct% and .270 xBA. With a return to health, he's a .300 BA rebound with double-digit HR/SB upside waiting to happen. 

Despite getting plenty of AB in TEX following his late-May recall, Jurickson Profar (2B/3B, TEX) looked like a shadow of his former self after his two-year absence. Profar batted well over .300 over his first 100 AB through early June, but it was a h%-fueled mirage. He slid badly in the 2H, finding himself on the bench more often than not, and finished 2016 with .239/.321/.338 line with 5 HR and 2 SB in 275 AB. Profar's 10% bb% and 78% ct% were reasonable, but a 75 HctX and 56/47 PX/xPX say that two years of shoulder woes and time off the field have taken something out of him. Once the #1 prospect in the game and still just 24 years old as of Opening Day, Profar has plenty of time to rebuild strength and have an MLB career. But don't pay for his previous value.

After posting double-digit HR/SB/R$ in 2014-15, Kolten Wong's (2B, STL) 1H struggles earned him part-time player status and even a brief Triple-A demotion in early June. Despite gaining some positional versatility, Wong never recovered full-time status in the 2H—but his performance offered glimpses of potential. Despite his inability to push that BA over .250, Wong hit the ball with more authority (88/114 PX/xPX, 105 HctX, .263 xBA) in 147 AB after June. A 10% bb% was a career-high, and bodes well for again unlocking a base-running game (158/147 RSpd/Spd, 7 SB) that was torpedoed from inactivity and an SBO plunge. Wong is also a fine defender and the best glove in an otherwise porous STL infield. His struggles vs. LHPs may limit him to 400 AB, but Wong is a worthy rebound flyer depending on the cost.

 

Missed our cut, but worth watching: 

Carlos Asuaje (2B, SD): Smallish left-handed hitter with all-fields line-drive approach barreled up everything at AAA-El Paso, finishing with .321 BA (535 AB). Barely adequate defender, he profiles as a utility player, but could hit his way into a chunk of AB at what could be a fluid SD 2B spot.  

Derek Dietrich (2B, MIA):  Glove-challenged utility guy earned career-high $8 filling in during Dee Gordon's suspension. Left-handed platoon bat and pop has always been intriguing. But power metrics slid, and 35% h%, .279 BA are unlikely repeats. Needs the right situation.

Isan Diaz (2B/SS, MIL): Has yet to experience A+ ball, but 20-year-old didn't look overmatched in the 2016 AFL. Borderline Top 100 prospect with budding patience and power to all fields. Could move fast from here, though obviously not 2017-fast.

Wilmer Difo (2B/SS, WAS): Bat, pitch selection seemed to regress in second Double-A stint (.259 BA, 8% bb% in 410 AB) before holding his own (.276 BA, 12 bb%) at WAS in 58 AB. Legs and running game (31 SB) are still a big fantasy plus. Can defend either SS or 2B, but needs opportunity. 

Adam Frazier (2B/OF, PIT): Contact hitter with career .299 BA and .363 OBP in 1354 minor league AB posted similar numbers in 146 AB MLB debut. No plus tools, but versatility is an asset. Projects as a bench player; limited fantasy upside.

Alen Hanson (2B, PIT): Athletic defender with line-drive approach and plus speed still with time at age 24. But .266 BA and 36/15 SB/CS didn't scintillate, and his opportunity in PIT is currently a question mark.

Jorge Mateo (2B/SS, NYY): Plate skills and running game regressed at High-A, might be premature to include him below the cut. But athleticism and tools are obvious, and we can't forget 82/17 SB/CS from 2015 in A-ball. His ascent will likely take some time.

Raul Mondesi (2B/SS, KC): Rushed 21-year-old shortstop-of-the-future made MLB debut with 135 AB, mostly at 2B. The .185 BA (.249 career minor league mark) say his bat isn't ready. But that 9/1 SB/CS point to gold when the light finally goes on. How long can you wait? 

Chad Pinder (2B, OAK): Neither he nor teammate Joe Wendle (2B, OAK) showed much upside at AAA-Nashville or in their late season OAK debuts. But they enter the winter as stopgaps behind oft-injured and 2018 FA-to-be Jed Lowrie. A situation to watch.

Brendan Rogers (2B/SS, COL): Below the cut, yet to get his first high-minors AB. But legit Top-50, bat-first prospect posted .281 BA and 19 HR in A-ball during first full professional season. Though he has some positioning issues (drafted as SS, played some 2B also in 2016), the 20-year-old could move quickly; likely Coors Field destination is a bonus. (For more info, see our scouting report on Rodgers.)

Cory Spangenberg (2B, SD): Began 2016 as starting 2B, but torn quad finished him in April. In rookie 2015, earned $8 by hitting .271 and swiping 9 bags in 303 AB. Limited ceiling, but he'll in the mix for SD PT, both at 2B and elsewhere.

 


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.