Welcome down to the depths below the positional top 50, which for second basemen is so low it bends back like a limbo tree. As another popular destination on the positional spectrum for players who fail to stick higher up in the pecking order, second-base prospect lists tend to be on the shallower side. That certainly doesn’t mean true second-base talent can’t exist outside the top tiers, however, and while the cupboard closest to the big leagues is pretty bare, the 2016 domestic and international classes in particular both feature strong rosters of incoming talent at the position. In case you missed it this morning, here is Bret Sayre’s full Dynasty League Top 50 for the position, and here are the links to my looks at first base and catcher, covered previously.
Backup Types, But They’re Big Leaguers, So…
Kelly Johnson, ATL – The speed that complemented his pop to make him such an appealing second-tier target back in the day is gone, as is his youth. There’s also the whole thing where he signed as a backup in Atlanta (Atlanta), so a path to regular playing time—a general prerequisite for fantasy relevance—is far from guaranteed. Still, he’s behind just Jace Peterson, and while Peterson showed some signs of an approach, he was terrible defensively in his rookie campaign, he hit just .239, and his impressive raw speed played poorly on the bases. Consider this scenario: Peterson scuffles out of the gate, the team loses patience with his defense and bounces him around to test out a utility profile, Johnson slides in, pops another 15 homers, and parlays it into a second-division starting role next year. That’d probably be enough to crack our top 50 next winter, wouldn’t it?
Gordon Beckham, ATL – A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I once traded a couple of years of Matt Holliday for Beckham and a pitching prospect, so sure was I of his future as a top-five second baseman. Oops. Even the great ones make mistakes. He’ll battle Kelly Johnson for a backup/utility role, and has less fantasy upside—or chance at cracking next year’s top 50—than Johnson does.
Stephen Drew, WAS – Getting called “Uncle Dirt” by J.D.’s kids is about the only thing Drew has going for him for fantasy purposes at this point. He did somehow manage to pop 17 over the wall last year despite fighting to the last bell to crack the Mendoza Line, however, and it’s theoretically possible he finds another 400 plate appearances and does the same this year, right?
Isan Diaz, ARI – A second-rounder in 2014, Diaz destroyed the offensively charged Pioneer League last summer, riding mechanical tweaks to a ton of hard contact and an eventual league-MVP trophy. Especially given the pedigree he’ll likely make for a popular stat line scout in deeper leagues this winter, and speculating on the performance is not a bad idea in this case, as the hit and power tools both project into above-average territory. Despite impressive stolen base totals last summer his speed requires the solid instincts he shows just to play up to average, however, so managers shouldn’t go nuts to acquire him as a true power-and-speed guy. Full-season ball will prove more instructive, but he’s definitely wandering into the conversation for medium-depth formats.
Ryan Brett, TAM – A former third-rounder, Brett hit his way up the chain before struggling mightily at times mightily at Triple-A after an early-season shoulder injury last year. His swing is quick and compact, limiting the power ceiling to well below average, but he makes contact at a good clip and shows borderline-plus speed. There’s no standout tool here, but there’s enough to project some deep league utility where he can develop into a second-division starter who won’t kill you in any category.
Wendell Rijo, BOS – Rijo is another one in the well-rounded mold, with average-or-better hit and run tools to go with just enough pop to keep pitchers honest. Gambling on guys like Brett and Rijo in dynasty formats that roster less than 200 prospects is generally poor form, but either is capable of playing his way into the mix for a back-end slot on next year’s top 50.
Chris Bostick, WAS – A solid real-life soliloquy of struggle and triumph, Bostick is a soon-to-be-23-year-old former 44th-rounder who last year clawed his way to a half-decent season split between High-A and Double-A. He has a poor approach and rarely takes a walk, but he clubbed a dozen homers last year after hitting 11 and 14 in comparable plate appearance totals in each of the previous two seasons. He also stole 31 bases in 39 attempts, again in line with prior production while modestly young for each level. The production outstrips the scouting reports, but its consistency through ascent warrants attention, as does his proximity to the majors.
Kevin Kramer, PIT – The Bucs popped Kramer in the second round out of UCLA, where he played shortstop last spring a year out from labrum surgery on his throwing shoulder. He logged a couple of reps at the six spot after signing, but he played the overwhelming majority of his A-ball games at second, and that’s his destiny. The swing is a bit unorthodox and lacks any semblance of leverage, but he shows excellent balance and timing, and of the 20 plate appearances I saw last spring a dozen at least ended with a line drive. He has average speed but good instincts to help it play up on the bases, and his outstanding feel for the strike zone and patient approach both translated extremely well in his first taste of professional pitching. It’s not the most exciting fantasy profile, but good hitters always find ways to generate some value, especially at a position as thin as second.
Mikey White, OAK – The A’s nabbed White in the second round, and while he currently plays short his lack of footspeed and range probably pushes him to second if his bat develops enough for him to play regularly. His swing features just mild leverage and is geared more toward line-drive contact, and his lack of additional tools beyond hit is even more pronounced. He’s not worth much attention outside of deep formats, but as an advanced college bat likely ticketed for the California League he could certainly see his value spike significantly by this time next year.
Mark Mathias, CLE – Mathias went to Cleveland in the third round on the strength of surprising athleticism for his size and plus bat speed that hints at an interesting offensive profile. He has a way to go in order to shout at his ceiling, however, as the current swing is long and flat enough to limit his already-borderline power. He showed a solid approach both in college and at his first professional stop last summer, and his strong wrists and that aforementioned bat speed give him the opportunity to grow into an above-average hit tool. Like many on this list it isn’t the sexiest projection, but his demonstrated polish could be enough to push him aggressively through the low minors and into the picture for deep dynasty leagues sooner than later.
Dylan Moore, TEX – Now we’re talking. A seventh-round senior sign out of Central Florida, Moore raked in his junior year, raked even harder in his senior year, and just kept right on raking last summer. He boasts a strong frame with recent power growth, and he showed intriguing efficiency on the bases after signing as well (15-for-16 SB). The additional power he has demonstrated over the last year-and-change has come at the cost of significantly more whiffs—he struck out in almost a quarter of his plate appearances in the Northwest League—but if the power-and-speed combination matures as it could few fantasy managers will mind.
Max Schrock, WAS – A scrappy scrapper out of South Carolina, Schrock went to the Nationals in the 13th round last summer and hit well in the NYPL after signing. He lacks standout tools but plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he proved adept at making contact at a stellar rate in his first look at professional pitching. This is a longer-shot pony to be sure, but especially if your league counts tenacious plays (“Ecksteins”) among the scoring categories, Schrock is your man.
2016 (and Beyond) Names
Nick Senzel, Tennessee – Senzel was one of the best hitters I saw on the Cape last summer when he won the league’s MVP award, transitioning well to wood after crushing the ball in the SEC all spring. He tracks well and delivers a quick trigger into the zone, and while the over-the-fence pop may take some time to develop he’ll be good for a lot of line drives in the meantime. He’s played everywhere on the dirt but short in his college career, and if he can stick off the grass he’ll likely wind up somewhere on the decent defender with average offense at third base to bat-first second baseman spectrum. Managers in dynasty formats will want to track him closely this spring and hope for the latter.
Cavan Biggio, Notre Dame – Yes, that Biggio is his dad. I’ve seen the younger one on the Cape in each of the past two summers, and he couldn’t be more of a polar opposite to his stoic father in the batter’s box. He’s all over the place in his pre-pitch setup, but once he launches he shows an entrancing precision with his barrel delivery. Not unlike an Ian Happ or a Willie Calhoun from this past year’s draft class, he’s a good hitter with a less-than-likely shot to stick at second base, however. He’s not a natural defender there, lacking the intrinsic quickness or smooth actions you’d like to see in the field. As an outfield prospect he’d be less interesting, though there’s enough raw material with the bat to keep tabs on his spring.
Nick Solak, Louisville – Another bat-first guy (sensing a theme here?) in the college ranks, Solak shows as a natural hitter with advanced command of the zone and high marks for makeup that should allow him to maximize his raw talent. He’s a recent convert to the keystone, but early returns were solid and he shows the physicality to stick on the dirt. There’s borderline-plus speed here as well, and he improved his base-stealing efficiency while swiping 18 bags in his sophomore campaign, making him one of the more interesting college follows at the position.
Bo Bichette, Lakewood High School (FL) – The younger son of Dante, Bo features a similarly tantalizing potential for big-time power, and at least at this point there are reasons for cautious optimism that he can stay in the middle of the diamond. He won the home run derby and MVP honors at last summer’s UA All-America Game at Wrigley, despite a wonky swing that features a humungous hitch and loop of the bat head at trigger. He similarly lacks natural actions at second, but has impressed enough along the showcase circuit to raise the idea that he’ll smooth out as he grows into his frame. He’s committed to Arizona State, but may never get there if he throws up a strong spring campaign.
Tetsuto Yamada, Tokyo Yakult Swallows – The 23-year-old has posted back-to-back monster years in the NPB, last year leading the league in OPS while crushing 38 homers and swiping 34 bags. His home park is among the most hitter-friendly in Japan, but scouting reports back up his power upside to go with plus speed. He is theoretically still more than a half-decade away from free agency, but the Swallows have a history of posting players earlier than they have to, and he should at least be on radars in leagues with no eligibility requirements.
Jose Fernandez, N/A (Cuba) – Fernandez left Cuba in December intending to sign a big-league deal, and he’s an interesting target as soon as he does. At 27 he’s as big-league-ready as he’ll ever be, though it should be noted that he hasn’t played competitively since his 2014-2015 season ended in suspension after a failed defection in October of ’14. In his last full season he struck out just 10 times in 314 plate appearances (with 65 walks to boot) in the Serie Nacional. He boasts exquisite bat-to-ball ability, though he’s a less exciting fantasy prospect outside of OBP leagues on account of below-average power and speed potential. Still, a potentially stellar batting average with plenty of run-scoring opportunity as soon as this season makes him an interesting follow.
Randy Arozarena, N/A (Cuba) – The 20-year-old Arozarena left the island last summer, but just received free agency clearance a couple weeks ago and held his first open workout for teams a few days ago in Mexico. He’s an excellent athlete, with wiry strength and plus speed complimenting an advanced approach at the plate that should lend itself to a strong on-base profile. It’s an open question whether he’ll end up at second, however. He played all over the place in Cuba, most recently splitting time between the outfield and second, and it is entirely possible that whichever team signs him will prefer to give him a shot in center. He’s an interesting bat with a chance, however, and a candidate to end up in A-ball after signing.
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