KEEPERS: 2020 Building Blocks—2B

We continue our annual off-season series focused on helping keeper league and dynasty owners identify useful targets that may be available in the current off-season. Each week we examine a different position, looking for players (“pieces”) that have potential to be solid parts in the construction of a winning fantasy franchise. We group them under three general designations:

CORNERSTONES – Premium quality franchise difference-makers, essential to the foundation of a true dynasty juggernaut. These pieces are top priority acquisitions, either by draft or trade.

BUILDING BLOCKS – High quality players with potential to be solid elements of a winning core. Desirable pieces that should be targeted as part of the ongoing championship franchise building process.

SUPPORT PIECES – More interchangeable lower grade parts that may provide help in a specific category or offer a lower ceiling than more desirable foundation pieces.

Players are listed with 2020 season age and major league organization, along with a designation if left-handed hitter (*) or switch-hitter (#).

We will attempt to identify top building targets within the following criteria:

  • ​Will play majority of 2020 season at 25 years old or younger (25 as of July 1, 2020)
  • Earned less than $10 in standard 5x5 roto in 2019
  • Reasonably projected to be MLB-ready at some point during 2020 season (may extend time horizon for Cornerstones)

Please see the Organization Reports in our Scouting section for more detailed, team-by-team analysis on prospects discussed here. Also, from time to time there may be slight differences between evaluations offered in this series and in our Organization Reports. Use that as your reminder that evaluations can differ. For each individual roster decision, you must factor in your specific team needs and goals.

Previous articles in this series:  C  |  1B  

This week we continue to work our way around the infield as we examine second base.

 

CORNERSTONES

Keston Hiura (23 years old, MIL) – The only reason Hiura did not exceed the ten-dollars-earned cutoff for this list was due to the fact that he was jerked around by the Brewers in an effort to keep him from gaining super-2 arbitration status (a mission at which the team likely succeeded). When he did get a chance to play in the big leagues, Hiura was fantastic, amassing a .303/.368/.570 line over 84 games. While Milwaukee insisted that he needed more mid-summer time in the minor leagues so they could play .163-hitting Travis Shaw, by the time of their October wild card game, the club thought enough of young Hiura to not only start him at second base, but to hit him in the cleanup slot. Needless to say he should be an integral part of a strong Milwaukee lineup going forward and a premium foundation piece for keeper league owners.

Gavin Lux* (22, LAD) – A top Dodgers prospect at shortstop, Lux rode the combination of an outstanding minor league season plus a late-August injury to Max Muncy to gain an early major league audition during LA’s September pennant stretch. Though his .240/.305/.400 line in 23 big league games may not elicit excitement, the .347/.421/.607 marks put up by the youngster between Double-A and Triple-A are the kind of numbers that make dynasty league competitors salivate. An excellent all-fields approach combined with a discerning eye and growing power make Lux a prime target. He also possesses speed useful enough to nab a handful of steals. The biggest issue facing Lux is a rather significant platoon split, which may leave him vulnerable to periodic “rest” vs. left-handed pitching, especially early in his career. His overall game and approach are so good, however, that he is worth targeting with confidence that he will mature into a good enough hitter against lefties to become an All-Star caliber player. The Dodgers second base job should be his to lose heading into spring training.

 

BUILDING BLOCKS

Nick Madrigal (23, CHW) – The 2018 first round pick rocketed up through the minor league ranks in 2019, shooting from High-A all the way to Triple-A with a relatively hollow batting average emanating from an inside-out swing that leaves liners strategically littered all over the field. Madrigal posted a .311/.377/.414 line over three levels, but what cements his Building Block status is his difference-making speed. With 35 stolen bases (in 48 attempts), Madrigal offers enticing production in a roto category that is finding significant producers increasingly scarce. The White Sox moved Yoan Moncada from the keystone to third base last year and parted ways with incumbent second baseman Yolmer Sanchez following the season, so the door is wide open for Madrigal to ascend to the starting job in 2020. The biggest question will inevitably be timing—that is, the timing of when Chicago decides they are finished with their formal tanking operation. While the recent signing of fellow top prospect Luis Robert to a long-term deal pretty much guarantees his spot on the Opening Day roster, Madrigal may not be so fortunate. Without a long-term agreement in place, be aware of the possibility for the White Sox to play possible service time games as they attempt to balance competing in 2020 with saving money. Similar to Hiura above, however, Madrigal stands an excellent chance to be setting the table at the top of the big club’s order by the time Labor Day rolls around. Dynasty leaguers who covet steals should buy with confidence.

Vidal Brujan# (22, TAM) – A switch-hitting speedster who offers defensive versatility up the middle, including not only second base and shortstop, but likely even center field if needed, Brujan had a solid first half in High-A, where he had finished the 2018 season strong. He was promoted to Double-A at mid-season, finishing with a rather pedestrian .266/.336/.391 line in 55 games over the season’s final two months. The one skill that has carried well as Brujan has moved up is his difference-making speed. After pilfering 55 bags in 74 attempts (74% success rate) in 2018, he elevated his efficiency to a robust 48 out of 61 (79%) in 2019. The biggest concern with Brujan is that, like many switch-hitters, he is proving to be much better from the left side of the plate. In 2018 at two A-ball stops, he posted a sterling .338/.421/.516 line from the left side, but only .275/.358/.319 from the right. In 2019 between High-A and Double-A, Brujan went a fine .301/.365/.429 lefty, but a miserable .202/.286/.266 from the right side. In particular, note the anemic .319 & .266 SLG marks swinging right-handed. Brujan has not hit a home run in 400 professional at-bats from the right side. He still has development time, as the deliberate-minded Rays will almost assuredly send him back to Double-A to begin 2020, but the trend is substantial enough at this point to be a legitimate concern. That said, he was recently added to Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster, eliminating one major hurdle to a promotion should his performance combine with other team events to warrant the opportunity. Even with the red flag platoon split, Brujan's difference-making speed in today’s station-to-station game is worth rostering, while his strong LHH proficiency and defensive acumen/versatility provide bankable playing time upside.

Xavier Edwards# (20, TB) – Acquired from San Diego in the Tommy Pham trade, the diminutive Edwards has speed to burn, which he effectively combines with excellent bat-to-ball skills. Similar to Vidal Brujan, who he may now be paired with, Edwards is better from the left side of the plate, though his splits have not been nearly so drastic to this point. Edwards has very little power, but projects to get on base enough to be a dangerous leadoff type. Though he played primarily shortstop his first year as a professional, he switched over to play more second base in 2019. Now in a new organization, it will be interesting to monitor if the Rays attempt to play Edwards and Brujan together up the middle. Not only can they each play both middle infield positions, but they also both possess the speed necessary to handle center field, as well, if that were to become a consideration. Brujan may be slightly ahead of Edwards at this point, but not enough that they can’t both be reasonably projected to be big league ready by late 2020 or early 2021.

Garrett Hampson (25, COL) – With good speed and some pop in his bat, Hampson generated some excitement heading into last season, considering the potential for a Coors Field home to elevate his numbers beyond that of a normal rookie. Unfortunately, a slow start soon derailed any hopes of him becoming a rookie sensation, as Hampson endured a pair of trips to the minors and only sporadic playing time in the big leagues over the season’s first five months. However, he got hot at the beginning of September and rarely came out of the lineup the rest of the way. Hampson appeared at second base, shortstop, and center field while posting an intriguing .330/.374/.538 line over his final 25 games. While he is not in line for a starting job heading into spring training, his versatility combined with five-category potential and his September surge make him an excellent buy-low target if your competitors only see his composite line. The odds of Hampson working his way into regular work should be strong.

 

SUPPORT PIECES

Nick Solak (25, TEX) – A solid hitter with plus power and an element of speed, Solak provides a solid foundation for making a fantasy contribution. That said, an elevated 35% hit rate and a high 21% HR/FB both aided his numbers during a lofty late-2019 big league debut. While he is a useful piece and the presumptive starter at third base (along with versatility to play 2B & OF), some qualitative regression should be expected over the course of a full season.

Cavan Biggio* (25, TOR) – Featuring a useful combination of power, patience, and speed, Biggio emerged as a solid part of the core Toronto is trying to build during their current tanking operation. While his consistently deep counts lead to a high number of whiffs, Biggio’s solid OBP rates are good enough to compensate for an expectedly low batting average. While he may not be a difference-maker in any one category, Biggio should provide enough well-rounded production to be useful everywhere but BA.

Luis Urias (23, MIL) – After another solid campaign in the minors but disappointing production at the major league level, Urias got a fresh start with a trade to the Brewers, where he suddenly projects to be the starter at third base in a strong lineup playing in a good hitter’s park. He is still young, so he has time, and his minor league track record is quite strong in several respects. Throw in the fact that he showed serious power for the first time, blasting 19 home runs with a .600 slugging percentage hitting the MRB (Manfred Rabbit Ball) over 295 Triple-A at-bats, and it certainly makes sense to take a shot on grabbing him where you can. As a third baseman, however, it will be especially imperative that the power develop. Something of a lottery ticket, but one worth buying.

Tommy Edman# (25, STL) – Called up due to a mid-season injury-related opening, the unheralded prospect took advantage of his opportunity, posting a .304/.350/.506 line while playing virtually everyday at several positions. While his production may be expected to regress a bit, his plus speed and versatility are real, giving him value, especially in NL-only formats. Edman is a rare switch-hitter who has been consistently better from the right side, so he runs the risk of being weak-side platooned should his production drop enough. That said, his ability to play just about anywhere on the field provides a great avenue for playing time. A good insurance policy to have on the roster.

Brandon Lowe* (25, TAM) – Appeared headed for a breakout in his first full season when a foul ball off his shin in early July cost him an All-Star Game appearance and effectively ended his season. Before the injury, Lowe had blasted 17 home runs in 82 games while posting a .270/.336/.514 line as he laid claim to the second base job. He also offers a modicum of speed (5-for-5 SB), but a subpar contact rate will tend to make him a drag on BA and could even lead to strategic benching during periods of underwhelming production.

Sheldon Neuse (25, OAK) – A college slugger with a rocket arm, Neuse was selected by Washington in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft. He was traded to Oakland the following year in a mid-season deal. Neuse has seen time at both shortstop (his position in college) and second, but mainly third base, in order to take advantage of his arm. Though he does not run particularly well, his solid all-fields approach and above-average raw power provide an encouraging offensive base. Things finally came together for Neuse in 2019 to the tune of a .317/.389/.550 line in hitter-friendly Las Vegas of the offense-oriented PCL. He got the call to the big leagues in late August, playing second base in 20 of 25 games with the A’s down the stretch. With Jurickson Profar’s recent trade out of town, the Oakland second base job appears to be up for grabs heading into spring training. Neuse could be a nice surprise.

Luis Arraez* (23, MIN) – After hitting a blistering .344 between Double-A and Triple-A over the first two months of 2019, the contact-oriented Arraez showed he could perform just as well at the big league level, hitting .334 in everyday action over the second half of the season. While he lacks much power or running speed, his phenomenal ability to get on base gives him value. In addition, Arraez's versatility (2B/SS/3B/LF), albeit as a subpar fielder, provides a multitude of ways to get his bat in the lineup.

Mauricio Dubon (25, SF) – Acquired by San Francisco at the trade deadline last season, Dubon was promoted to the big leagues in late August, where he played virtually every day down the stretch, seeing time at both second base and shortstop. Though something of a free swinger, he is skilled at putting the bat on the ball, giving him more value in BA than OBP formats. Dubon was a plus base stealer before suffering a torn ACL in 2018. He was successful on 14 of 23 SB attempts in 2019, so he can still contribute at least a moderate number of steals, and he showed some surprising pop hitting the MRB in 2019. With the inside track on the starting second base job heading into spring training, Dubon stands to be a moderate multi-category roto contributor.

Brendan Rodgers (23, COL) – A mainstay on top shortstop prospect lists since putting up a .372 average in the high-octane California League in 2017, Rodgers put in more time at second base than short in 2019. He was limited to 62 games between Triple-A and the big leagues, however, as a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder short-circuited his campaign. While Rodgers excelled in Triple-A, his major league numbers were much more pedestrian, and he enters 2020 buried on the depth chart. Still young, Rodgers has time, but marginal contact rates throughout his pro career have been an issue and the serious injury further clouds his outlook. Not an awful dynasty target, but far from the Building Block he was once considered.

Ryan McMahon (25, COL) – A strong second half featuring 17 of his 24 home runs was aided by an extreme 41% HR/FB rate. And while he offers some power, McMahon’s stability is undermined by an awful 66% career contact rate. He stands as the incumbent and presumptive starter at second in Colorado, but any kind of struggle could see Garrett Hampson begin to nose him out.

Isan Diaz* (24, MIA) – A sparkling .305/.395/.578 line over his first 102 games at Triple-A gave way to a rather miserable .173/.259/.307 line in the majors following an early August promotion. The main cause was an inability to handle big league quality off-speed stuff. While Diaz will certainly get a lengthy leash with the perpetually-tanking Marlins, the contact issues will leave him prone to slumps and possible benchings if/when Miami ever gets serious about competing.

 

DON'T FORGET ABOUT...

David Fletcher (26, LAA) – While fantasy analysts will decry his relative lack of power and speed, perhaps we could benefit by appreciating what Fletcher does bring to the fantasy table. With a spectacular all-fields line-drive stroke that led to a major league best 32.6% line drive rate in 2019, Fletcher posted a helpful .290 batting average off a .284 xBA. Best of all, he did it while being deployed all over the field. As a result, the super-utilityman enters 2020 qualifying everywhere except catcher and first base. With the established importance of being competitive in total fantasy at-bats, the benefits of having a competent fill-in bat at your disposal with the versatility of Fletcher cannot be underestimated.


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