Last week when I brought you the bottom of the barrel first basemen, I did so with the intention of highlighting some of the non ranked players that could be of some use for the 2015 fantasy season. Just because we didn’t think highly enough of players like Billy Butler, Steve Pearce and Mark Teixeira does not mean that they should not be drafted or at least considered. This got me thinking back a few years to several leagues I had participated in that have since folded, an AL only league and a NL only keeper league. In these types of leagues every player is relevant. While someone like James Loney or Mike Napoli may be available in the everyday league; guys like this were not only rostered, but they were treasured parts of your lineup.
Those of you who have never played in an Only league or a deep 16-20 team league may be getting a chuckle when I say they were treasured; you have that luxury considering the depth of talent available to you on waivers. You dismiss someone like Garrett Jones when you see him on waivers, but in a deep or NL only league you would kill to find someone like him sitting on waivers in 2014. It has been several years since I have had to dig this deep for players; being in a league where having a suitable backup for each position is of vital importance. Leagues like this are like playing chess compared to the checkers of a standard 12 team mixed league.
I’ve found myself getting lazy being away from this side of the game for so long. OK, it’s only been three years, but in fantasy; 3 years can be a lifetime. Three years ago Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols were must own players for first base. Today they’ve all been downgraded; some more than others. The point is before I get totally sidetracked and start going through my past teams, I’ve forgotten how important some of these lower or non ranked players can be. I got a little taste of this last year when I found myself with a hole in my middle infield slot. Looking out on waivers there were no exciting or comparable players to the one I had just lost. Bad averages, low RBI totals, no power, little speed, it was a smorgasbord of mediocrity.
It was in this muddled mix that I found my savior, Joe Panik. No power or speed, limited RBI potential, but he was hitting for a high average, scoring runs, and more importantly, playing every day. This was the kind of player I would have been thrilled to have back in a NL only league, yet here I was today ready to dismiss him because of his lackluster numbers. In Only and deeper leagues, sometimes all you can ask for is a guy who plays every day and hits for average; those players that most of us see on waivers in every league that we rarely give a second look to. So, I’ve decided to cover those bottom of the barrel players for each position moving forward; continuing this week with second base. I probably could have said all that in 100 words or less, but I’ve never been able to make a long story short.
None of these players ranked in our top 25 but they might on other lists depending on which site you frequent.
Rougned Odor & Jurickson Profar: Depending on where you look you might see one of these men ranked in the top 20 or 25; overall though, most people are taking a wait and see approach. Profar missed last season but the Rangers are optimistic he will be ready for spring training. If not for his injury, Odor probably wouldn’t have received more than a cup of coffee in September.
Odor played well his first month, took small steps back for the next two and bottomed out in August before rebounding with a strong September. While his overall contact rate didn’t change much, the quality of his contact improved which is reason enough for optimism. While Profar is a year older and the potential favorite to start the season at second, don’t rule out the chance Texas starts him off in AAA – even if the shoulder is healthy and he is ready to go.
If Odor starts the year at second he should be viewed as someone to target in 12 team leagues that use a MI slot. He has similar power to Profar (meaning very little) but a little more speed and a more refined bat at the plate. I would expect small improvements but nothing close to a breakout. He should be able to hit around .260 with 60 runs, 50 RBIs and 10 each for home runs and SBs. Those numbers are similar to what you would get from someone like Ben Zobrist. If Profar is the starter come April, he can ignored in shallow leagues given the depth of the position and is a low, repeat low, end option for deeper leagues. He hasn’t been able to carry his minor league batting average over to the majors and his speed hasn’t shown up either. The lower batting average will keep him at the bottom of the lineup which means limited run scoring opportunities. There is talent here and maybe one day Profar will be fantasy relevant, but it is not 2015.
Jonathan Schoop: There is more talent here than the .209 batting average and 25% strikeout rate suggest. Don’t forget, Schoop was one of the top 5 prospects in the organization for multiple years. At age 22, Schoop seemed overmatched at times. His over-aggressive style cause a spike in strikeouts, but given his age and minor league track record there is reason to believe that number will be under 20%. With an improved K% should come an uptick in batting average. He only managed to hit in the .250 range in the upper levels so don’t expect monumental improvements here; somewhere in the .240 range is a realistic estimate. Another area you should expect improvements in is walks. His walk percentage in 2014 was a paltry 2.7%, nowhere near the 10+% he put up through the minors. Even if he only doubles that you’re talking about a potential increase in run production. Finally we have power; Schoop hit 16 home runs over 455 at bats with poor plate discipline. You might expect a bump in power given additional at bats, but as a base line I would not expect less than what he did in 2014.
If Schoop improves his batting average, you could be looking at a minimum of 50 to 60 in runs and RBIs along with 16 home runs. Basically, a similar line to what Neil Walker produced in 2013 for comparison. Schoop may be a batting average liability at times, but he will give you production in the other 3 categories. For AL only leagues, he is a good mid-round gamble for your starting second baseman, a quality option for deeper leagues and a potential late round MI target for 12 team leagues.
Marcus Semien: I covered Semien in detail last month which you can read here. While Semien is an afterthought on most rankings, he could possibly be relevant even in 12 team leagues.
Dan Uggla: Roll your eyes, laugh, scream, go ahead and get it out-of-the-way. If you’re finished, I won’t deny Uggla was a mess in 2014 and his average was far below the Mendoza line in 2013. According to the Boston Globe, Uggla was diagnosed with oculomotor dysfunction in the off-season, stemming from June 2012 and March 2013 in which he got hit in the head by pitches. Allegedly he should be fine now, and if that is the case then there could be a genuine sleeper here. Now Uggla is not going to win you a batting title with a career .243 average and you will be lucky if a healthy Uggla will hit .230. But, if the vision is fine you could be looking at a good source of power.
In 2013 he had 22 home runs, 14 of those were before getting hit in the head. That would have put him on pace for 28 which is just a few shy of the 30+ he averaged the five previous seasons. This is also the same person which, prior to his head injury, drove in at least 78 runs from his rookie season through 2012. In addition, if the vision is fine the walk rate should improve and climb back up close to 12% which should lead to more runs. Overall, you’re looking at Adam Dunn light at second base.
The two questions that remain are
- Will he win the second base job for the Nationals this spring?
- Was the injury the cause of his sudden collapse of power?
He will have to first prove he is healthy and can still hit this spring. If he does, his primary competition is Yunel Escobar now that Danny Espinosa has been named a utility player. If (there are a lot of ifs here) Uggla can do that and get the starting gig you could be looking at a second baseman with 25+ home run power with one of your final picks in the draft. Would I gamble on him in a 12 team league? Probably not. In a NL only league or deeper league that uses a MI slot though, he might be worth the risk. Uggla will be 35 in March so it’s possible that what we saw the past 2 years was natural regression for a free swing power hitter. If there is something left in the tank though, he could be a worthy f/a pickup in those 12 team leagues at some point during the season.
Joe Panik: With the exception of his time in AA, Panik batted .297 or higher in each of the other minor league levels. His batting average is his calling card and ticket to the majors. The Giants slotted Panik second in the order last season. If they stick with this then you could be looking at approximately 70 or so runs making him a little more than an empty batting average. There isn’t much here in the way of power or speed. I would not expect more than 5 of either in 2015 and no more than 10 at any point in his career.
Panik is basically a 2 trick pony which is nice for an emergency fill in for 12 team leagues but little else. In NL only and deeper leagues though, sometimes having a player that can deliver a decent run total and not sink your batting average is just enough if you have power and speed covered elsewhere. Panik is easily someone to target in the mid rounds of NL only drafts and someone to consider later in deeper leagues that use a MI slot. Depending on the number of teams in your league, there is a chance that Panik might not be drafted. Also, while second base is deep this year, there are some unstable players in the rankings that may find their way to the waiver wire early on if they fail to produce. When that happens, don’t Panik and pick up Joey.
Nick Franklin: Now that Ben Zobrist has been traded, the former Mariner top prospect has the second base job all to himself. He hasn’t exactly lived up to the previous hype, but at age 24 (in March) there is still hope. The biggest issue for Franklin has been strikeouts with a 27.4% strikeout rate in 2014 and a 35.6% rate in limited at bats in 2015. If he can’t get those under control the average will continue to be a problem and eventually earn him a ticket back to AAA. If he can turn things around there is double-digit power and speed here. Unfortunately I can’t see him turning things around quick enough to be worthy of considering for mixed leagues. In AL only leagues, maybe as a late round flyer for your bench but not as your primary second base guy. Maybe you will get lucky, and by lucky I mean you won’t have to use him in your active lineup.
Jose Peraza: The Braves are in a rebuild mode and Alberto Callaspo is nothing more than a 1 year stopgap. Peraza is on the fast track to the majors and if he hits this year like he did in the minors in 2014, I can see a June call up. Peraza stole 64 bases in 2013 and another 60 last season; that’s 124 stolen bases over 154 attempts covering 224 games over 3 levels. Peraza was also a .300 hitter during his limited time in A+ and AA so the Braves definitely have a top of the order guy in the making. You would think Atlanta would want to get a look at what they have sooner rather than later which is why I predict a mid-season call up. We could be looking at Jose Altuve or Dee Gordon type production in the second half if we’re lucky.
In deeper leagues, if you draft a questionable option for second and play with a MI slot, Peraza should be on your draft board. In NL only leagues, he is a must own as he could be a game changer for the second half when teams are fighting for those playoff spots. As for 12 team mixed leagues, you can probably leave him alone on draft day with all the available options, but he is someone to monitor closely since he could a mixed league option at some point. As for Alberto Callaspo – well, beggars can’t be choosers in an NL only league. If you are considering him, you waited waaay too long to draft a second baseman.
Josh Rutledge and Grant Green: He goes from a hitter’s paradise in Colorado to the spacious fields in Los Angles. Good thing Rutledge isn’t a power hitter. He did hit 8 homers on the over 133 games while playing in Colorado so there is a chance he reaches double digits here. Rutledge also stole 21 bases over 266 games so you get a decent combination of power and speed. The batting average will be the deciding factor to his overall value. Rutledge was a .287 hitter in Coors but just .230 on the road. If he struggles at home the road will not be any friendlier visiting the cavernous Coliseum and Safeco.
The positive factor here are the Angles have much better bats than the Rockies so run and RBI opportunities will be there regardless of where he bats. The negative is the Angels have a plan B in the name of Grant Green. Green was a .300 hitter in the minors, possesses similar power and speed to Rutledge and did well during his brief stints with the big club in 2013 and 2014. What has held Green back the past 2 seasons (other than the presence of Howie Kendrick) is Mike Scioscia. Scioscia is notorious for not playing rookies preferring to stick with veterans. This would give the edge to Rutledge in theory, but a strong spring by Green could complicate things.
With the addition of Matt Joyce the outfield got a little more crowded so Green’s chances of breaking in at another position are slim. Both players are worth owning depending on which one gets the start at second. The arm chair manager in me says go with Green since he has the higher ceiling, but me and Mr. Scioscia don’t exactly see eye to eye on things. Regardless, the starter becomes someone to own and their backup becomes a late round pick. If Rutledge wins the 2B battle, Green is still worth stashing in AL only leagues and some deeper leagues depending on the number of teams and roster size.
Stephen Drew: It’s hard to find something positive to say here. Best case scenario you’re looking at a .250 average; worst case it is below .200 like last year and in 2012. The short porch in Yankee Stadium should aid Drew and help him get back to double-digit home runs and there is a chance for 50 to 60 runs and RBIs. Those numbers aren’t horrible, but they are tied to the batting average. Should the batting average bottom out, the Yankees are only on the hook for $5 Million and have Rob Refsnyder in the minors, but Drew will get at least a few months to prove himself before they pull the plug.
Deeper mixed leagues should just avoid Drew. AL only leagues? I guess if you wait until the last minute and there are no better options, do what you have to do but be sure to handcuff Drew with Refsnyder. Things could work out, but it is a risk I would prefer not taking.
DJ LeMahieu: The best case numbers I stated for Drew are the worst case scenario here except substitute steals for home runs. LeMahieu hit his first year in Colorado but the average has been sinking the past two seasons. His minor league track record suggests a better hitter is in there somewhere. While he has some speed, his success rate is poor as he was successful on only half of his attempts last season. LeMahieu is also a home body (like most Rockies hitters) with a .315 average in Coors compared to .236 on the road. Given the players on the roster, he has little chance of moving up in the batting order. Hitting 8th means limited run and RBI opportunities. Overall he is an average hitter who won’t help much but won’t hurt you either.
LeMahieu could be worth owning in deeper leagues as part of a platoon; using him for his home games while having an alternative for him road starts. In NL only leagues, you can probably do better for a starter but he makes a worthy backup to own.
A few other options for those in AL and NL only leagues are Omar Infante, Yangervis Solarte, Luis Valbuena and Emilio Bonifacio. They each have limited upside and are really nothing more than injury fill in/bench material. Valbuena and Bonifacio have slightly more value because they are eligible for other positions giving you some flexibility, but that’s about it.
Between the players named above plus those ranked in our top 25, that should about cover second base. If there is a player that wasn’t ranked or mentioned here, feel free to inquire in the comment section below. Third base coverage will begin tomorrow.