With catchers and first basemen out of the way it’s time to rank the second sackers. If you read either of the first two installments or you’re familiar with this exercise from years past, you know that these rankings function best as something like a cross between keeper preferences and dynasty rankings for those whose window of contention is open in the immediate future. It’s important to state that these rankings are mine alone. They no doubt vary from the opinions of other writers on this site and that’s okay. Good, even. This wouldn’t be much fun if we all thought the same thing about every player and couldn’t learn from each other in the cases where we diverge.
And with that out of the way, let’s get on with it:
Finished first, second, and first at the position the past three years, hasn’t turned 27 yet. Not much to discuss here.
3. Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
Turner as a first rounder feels aggressive to me for 2017 alone, but this ranking contemplates a three-year period where he’ll gain shortstop eligibility and enter his physical prime as several of the other elite second base options leave theirs. Turner’s speed is truly top-of-the-scale, just make sure to regress the 2016 batting average and power output with a heavy hand before you sign up. His HR/FB was way out of line with his true talent level and while his wheels can turn would-be outs into hits, a .300 average is a tall ask unless he improves his contact percentage. I’m fully bought in to the pull-happy version of Murphy that surfaced in August 2015 and led the National League in TAv in 2016. He’s always possessed enough bat-to-ball ability to contend for the batting title and the 20+ home run power and lineup placement it affords rounds out Murphy’s top-shelf fantasy profile.
8. D.J. LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies
Odor roto-slashed 89/33/88/14/.271 in 2016 and barely snuck into the top ten among primary second basemen. That’s crazy depth. He might have had his career year at age 22, but I expect several more seasons where Odor offers positive five-category contributions. Dozier went on a crazy tear late last summer, crushing 23 home runs in the season’s final 56 games. The home run total will back up and the batting average will retreat too, perhaps to a significant degree considering his extreme fly ball tendency. Dozier has the speed to support his second-tier standing anyhow; a 90% success rate on his 20 attempts last season suggests his ability on the base paths is not entirely speed dependent, a comforting sign as he approaches his 30th birthday. Cano hit 35 dingers in his first two Mariners seasons combined, then slugged 39 in 2016 while setting a new career high in runs scored. I guess you could say I’m not a believer in the power surge at the keystone because, as with four of the five players ranked above him, I suggest you lop a quarter off 2016’s total when projecting for 2017. Do that for Gordon and you’ll have somewhere between zero and one homer, which won’t matter if he runs like he did in 2015. LeMahieu is the best value proposition of the group. You can disbelieve in the context-free talent level all you want, but the Rockies control him for the next two years. I don’t expect the discount to last much longer as people get hip to waiting the extra round or two for equivalent value.
10. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Miss out on the upper class and want a steady veteran? This is your group. Kipnis had his best season since the 2012-13 run that had us all projecting a leap that never came. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but going from nine to 23 home runs in one season is suspect. No matter. He’s solid across the board. Pedroia got back into Lazer Show mode last season, setting a new career high line drive rate. He’ll keep doing his thing as long as he stays healthy: making plenty of contact, scoring runs by the boatload, annoying the bejeezus out of non-Red Sox fans. You can find my thoughts on Zobrist in our second base targets piece from Monday. Cliffs notes version: safe underlying skills, rich context, mispriced by the market. Kinsler is the borderline hot take here. I’ve also written about him this offseason. Summary: you’re in trouble if you draft him expecting anything close to the 200 R+RBI he posted last year. The RBI were especially out of line with what recent history tells us a leadoff hitter is capable of (I acknowledge the selection bias in this argument). Kinsler was able to get to 83 in large part because he homered 28 times. You’re never gonna believe this, but I don’t think he sniffs that number again.
I’ll probably never own Schoop. I’m just not down with the approach and he’s coming up on 1500 career plate appearances with a three percent walk rate. The power is obvious though and he’s made it work for long enough now that he deserves to be at least this high. Forsythe warrants the extra attention he’ll get as he moves from one of baseball’s smallest markets to one of its biggest. If he gets the leadoff job in Tinseltown, I’d buy an argument for bumping him up a slot or two. Carpenter would be at the top of this group if I had any confidence he’d be eligible anywhere except first base in 2018-19. And while I’m articulating scenarios that could move these guys up a bit, health is it for Travis. He’s been fantastic on a per-game basis but hasn’t played more than 101 of them as a major leaguer.
17. Raul Mondesi Jr., Kansas City Royals
21. Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves
22. Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals
Bret made the case for Mondesi on Monday. I get the argument, I just don’t think the bat is ready. I do think Albies’ bat is closer and he’ll be just as impactful on the bases when his time comes. This is going to be Castro’s age-27 season, which seems impossible. The Yankees have excellent middle infield depth on the farm but I don’t think any of them displaces Castro until mid-2018 at the earliest. He won’t kill you in the meantime and he plays every day. Panik makes far too much contact to repeat 2016’s poor performance. I don’t do 31-year-olds coming off back surgery. Let Walker be someone else’s risk. There is no right answer on Wong. This could be 10-12 spots too low if his performance bounces back in a full-time role, but the Cardinals’ 25-man is versatile enough that it’s hard to see Wong getting more than, say, a two-thirds timeshare.
24. Howie Kendrick, Philadelphia Phillies
Need speed? Here are three options ordered by age. Plus Kendrick. I think he can still hit enough to be useful and he’ll chip in a touch of power and speed.
27. Alen Hanson, Pittsburgh Pirates
28. Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs
29. Willie Calhoun, Los Angeles Dodgers
30. Dilson Herrera, Cincinnati Reds
Hanson gets top billing here because he’s the most likely to make an Opening Day roster, albeit likely in a utility role. If he can find enough at-bats, he has the speed to make an impact. The Cubs are kinda good at drafting college hitters in the first round. The trouble for this exercise is Happ’s at least a year away from making any reasonable impact and he’s blocked several times over in the Cubs organization. Calhoun may not be a second baseman by the time he gets to the majors. He’s here for now though, and having just mashed his way through a full Double-A season, could be in play for a cup of coffee in 2017. Remember when Herrera made the majors at 20 years old? That was more than two full seasons ago. He’ll be in line for regular work as soon as Phillips lets the Reds trade him.
Welcome to the hard pass portion of the proceedings.
33. Carlos Asuaje, San Diego Padres
35. Joey Wendle, Oakland Athletics
36. Cory Spangenberg, San Diego Padres
Along with Schimpf (above) and Jed Lowrie (not pictured), this makes six players for two jobs. I have no idea how to handicap it. The Padres’ roster construction—with three Rule 5 draftees, two of which are on the offensive side—seems to beg for the most versatile option, Asuaje. I like him as a low-ceiling/low cost prospect that does a little bit of everything and straddles the line between second-division regular and utility man. Pinder is probably the better player in Oakland, but Wendle may be the better fantasy option because of his speed. He performed reasonably well in two full Triple-A seasons. That would be cause for optimism if the As hadn’t given time to Max Muncy, Tyler Ladendorf, and Arismendy Alcantara (sorry Craig) before saying “fine, screw it, let’s get Wendle up here” last September.
37. Jace Peterson, Atlanta Braves
I’d like each of these guys many spots higher if I thought they were going to get full-time at-bats for even one of these three years.
39. Jose Miguel Fernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers
40. Andy Ibanez, Texas Rangers
Forty second baseman is a lot of second basemen. So many that I had to include a guy that hasn’t played in two years. The 29-year-old Cuban who recently signed with the Dodgers is a complete wild card. Ben Badler at Baseball America ranked Fernandez as the third best player in Cuba a couple years ago. If Fernandez can find at-bats somehow, he’s probably empty batting average but, hey, if you’re looking all the way down here you should take what you can get. Assuming he can get back into game shape quickly, he’s not far away from the majors. Ibanez dominated in a way-too-easy assignment to the Sally to begin 2016, then held his own in Double-A and the Arizona Fall League. He has enough barrel ability to be useful in deeper formats but he’s a second baseman all the way, which leaves him without a reasonable path to major league at-bats if he stays with the Rangers.