On the most recent episode of FanRag Fantasy Baseball, I gave an overview of the second base landscape for next year’s drafts. Not that much has changed at the top of the position’s rankings; Jose Altuve is still the undisputed top player, while Brian Dozier, Dee Gordon, Daniel Murphy and Robinson Cano compose the heart of the second tier.
Trea Turner and Jean Segura are no longer eligible as fantasy second basemen, but in leagues where only 10 games played in 2017 is required for eligibility, Anthony Rizzo fits squarely between Altuve and the second tier. Jose Ramirez has also emerged as a solid second-tier option.
Once you get beyond the top six (or seven, if you count Rizzo), things get interesting and confusing. Whit Merrifield and Jonathan Schoop were top 10 second basemen in 2017, but can they be counted on to maintain their gains in 2018? Are Chris Taylor and Marwin Gonzalez the real deal and will they continue to get regular playing time? Where will Eduardo Nunez sign and will he have a significant role again? Will either Chicago second baseman — Javier Baez or Yoan Moncada — need to be owned in 12-team mixed leagues?
The second baseman who could cause the most hand-wringing come draft day is Rougned Odor. Drafted among the top 10 at the position in 2017, Odor failed to finish as top 20 second baseman in both Roto and Head-to-Head points formats. This was in spite of the fact that he was only three homers shy of his 2017 total of 33, and he increased his stolen base total from 14 to 15. A 67-point drop in batting average, from .271 to .204, was a catastrophe for his fantasy value, and it contributed to decreases in his RBI and run totals.
There were no discernible changes in Odor’s ground ball, pull and hard contact rates, and his strikeout rate rose modestly from 21.4 to 24.9 percent. According to Andrew Perpetua’s xStats, Odor should have been only a slightly worse hitter on ground balls than he was in 2016, but his batting average on grounders fell notably. On grounders with a launch angle between 0 and 10 degrees, Odor’s batting average decreased from .593 to .409, and on balls with a negative launch angle, his average decreased from .188 to .130. Yet if Odor had tallied the expected number of ground ball base hits last season, that alone would have added only 13 hits to his total and raised his overall batting average to just .226.
So while Odor’s fall was not quite as bad as the surface stats suggest, he needs to hit more line drives and fewer popups, and he has to strike out less often. It’s not an overreaction to leave Odor out of your top three tiers.
For the entire episode, including the fuller discussion of the second base landscape, have a listen here.
I had not yet posted the episode in which I discussed the first base landscape, but you can find that here.