Every Friday I will take a snapshot of this year’s current crop of prospects at each position relative to how they were ranked a year ago. I’ll examine the top performers, those who did not live up to our lofty expectations, and the key graduates. Our rankings last year were compiled by Andy Germani and myself, and I know we have our fair share of hits and misses. The point of this exercise, though, is to highlight players to target heading into 2017, as well as those to look at moving while they still have name value.
There were three graduates in 2016, but none of them stuck at second base. Even Tony Kemp, who fell ten at bats short of graduating would have done so at a different position. On Sunday our Top 20 Second Basemen for Dynasty Leagues list will come out, and it is such an incredibly deep position. Expect to see more movement away from the keystone as so many teams have that spot covered. Even our #1 from Last year’s Top 25 Second Base Prospects ,Yoan Moncada, is playing third base, though he’ll stick in our 2B rankings heading into 2017.
(2016 rank in parenthesis)
(T5) Jose Peraza, Reds: Peraza played mostly shortstop and center field last year, but chipped in a few appearances at second base and left field. A 21% hard hit rate, and a 44% ground ball rate aren’t conducive to a large offensive output, but he did manage to hit .324 with 21 stolen bases in 241 at bats. Credit his speed and his insanely high contact rates. If only he could draw a walk, but a 2.7% clip there won’t help boost his future stolen base numbers. He’s just 22 years old so he could grow into some better patience, but his ceiling is limited until then. He may even end up back at second base once Brandon Phillips retires.
(9) Rob Refsnyder, Yankees: Refsnyder was used primarily as a 1B/OF in 2016 by the Yankees, posting a respectable .328 OBP in his rookie season. Unfortunately that was higher than his slugging percentage as he, like Peraza, hit a ton of ground balls and made a lot of weak contact. With Starlin Castro locked up until 2020, Refsnyder may never see 2B again in New York, and unfortunately that’s about the only spot his bat would possibly play. There’s value here from a team point of view, but it’s extremely limited now from a fantasy perspective.
(13) Brandon Drury, Diamondbacks: Drury had a heck of a rookie year, and one that had he stayed at second base, would have made him an interesting fantasy target. As an outfielder, though, his value took a huge hit. Fortunately he’ll have third base eligibility for 2017 at least, but it’s still a far cry from where he would rank at the keystone. Drury played last year as a 23-year-old, so it would be premature suspecting any slight drop in power, despite an elevated HR/FB% and an unspectacular average fly ball distance. Unfortunately most of this is a moot point anyway with his position change, except for the very deepest leagues.
(12) Willie Calhoun, Dodgers: Calhoun played all season as a 21-year-old in AA last year, hitting 27 home runs while batting .254. Even more impressive than the power is the solid discipline he showed with it, walking 8% of the time while striking out at just an 11.6% rate. Only Travis Demeritte hit more home runs as a second baseman than Calhoun in 2016, but he played at a lower level (and struck out a third of the time). He’s just 5’8″ but there’s a lot of power packed into that small frame. Time will tell whether he can stay in the infield defensively, but his bat is going to play – as a second baseman he has the potential to be an impact fantasy contributor.
(17) Max Schrock, Athletics: Schrock was traded to the Athletics for Marc Rzepczynski by the Nationals – kind of a steep price for 11 innings of decent relief work. Now Schrock isn’t without faults; he has no power, average speed, and doesn’t take too many walks. What he does do is make a ridiculous amount of contact which results in a very good batting average. His strikeout rate in two pro seasons across 6 different ball clubs is an otherworldly 7.6%. The Athletics sent Schrock to the AFL, along with Franklin Barreto who is back at shortstop for the time being. Schrock may get a cameo in 2017, especially if he can add some positional versatility. He’s not the most exciting fantasy prospect, but he’s seen a good boost to his value this season.
(24) Domingo Leyba, Diamondbacks: Last year I confessed to having over-ranked Leyba heading in to 2015 when I tagged him at #7. He definitely didn’t deserve that high of praise – but he deserves better than the 24-spot that he fell to in last year’s rankings. His production has followed that same roller coaster ride, but he’s saved his best for last, hitting .301/.374/.436 once promoted to AA this season. Leyba played all season as a 20-year-old and actually played more SS than 2B, but we can leave him ranked at the keystone for the time being.
|2014||Low A- A||.323||.360||.423||5.0||10.8|
(8) Darnell Sweeney, Phillies: It was a tough year for Sweeney to put things mildly. After hitting .270 with 9 home runs and 32 stolen bases in AAA in 2015, Sweeney was a part of the package that brought Chase Utley to the Dodgers. He hit only .176 in his brief big league appearance, but had some position versatility and managed a 13% walk rate. Fast forward a year and Sweeney has been outrighted of the Phils’ 40-man roster after hitting just .233/.299/.345 in 118 games in AAA. Already 25, the chances of even a big league utility role are starting to look grim. It’s too bad, because there’s some speed there, a little pop, and the ability to draw walks. Nonetheless, he’s no future starting second baseman.
(T5) Chad Pinder, Athletics: By all accounts Pinder had a successful 2016, including hitting more home runs than any other middle infielder in the PCL. He got called up late August and started 15 games and got into 22, hitting .235/.273/.373. He played shortstop as well as second base. The high batting average from 2015 seems like a mirage at this point, as the free-swinging Pinder just strikes out way too much to ever be a positive batting average contributor. Already 24 years old he has little else to prove in the minor leagues, but he may not have anything more than a utility role with the Athletics for the time being. He’ll need to show some power to make up for his poor on-base skills if he ever wants a full-time role.
(7) Micah Johnson, Dodgers: Johnson played in his third season of AAA last year and he’s going to be 26 years old before the 2017 season begins. That’s not to say he doesn’t have skills; he’s very fast and his on base skills are pretty solid, but his strikeout rate keeps climbing and he probably comes up short on the defensive ability to stick at second base. Willie Calhoun, if he can stick at second, appears to be the future for the Dodgers while Johnson’s speed should at least get him a utility role if not an outfield spot.
The New Faces
Andy Ibanez, Rangers: Ibanez defected from Cuba and signed with the Rangers as a 22-year-old in July of 2015 for a bargain-price of $1.6 million. He made quick work of A-ball last year, hitting .324/.413/.546 with 7 home runs and 10 stolen bases in just 49 games. He was promoted to AA in early June and held his own hitting .261 with 6 more home runs and 5 stolen bases. He struck out just 13.8% of the time while walking at a 7.4% rate. He also hit 36 doubles between the two levels. Ibanez will find a place among the best second base prospects with his ability to consistently make solid hard contact. He won’t ever be a threat to go 20/20, but a .300 hitting 10/12 type player with more value in points leagues.
Video courtesy of Baseball America
Luis Urias, Padres: Urias really broke out in 2016, hitting .330 in 120 High-A games, as well as going 4-9 with a home run and 5 walks filling in for three games in AAA. Incredibly, he did all of this as a 19-year-old. He has elite contact skills for a player his age, striking out just 6.8% of the time last year. He’s just 5’9″, 160 lbs, so there is little to no power projection for him and his speed is just slightly above average. He has played 2B, 3B, and SS this year and I think he’s as safe a bet as any 19-year-old to carve out a big league career. Here’s a look at that AAA home run courtesy of minorleagueball.
Ozzie Albies, Braves: Another 19-year-old, Albies spent a couple of months in AAA, before ending the season in AA. He struggled some in AAA but he was just barely 19 and that is to be expected. Even still, he hit .248/.307/.351, holding his own. Once in AA we saw the more familiar batting line of .321/.391/.467, and he was still one of the youngest players in the league. Now Albies is not new to our rankings per se, but he was ranked as the 12th best shortstop prospect heading into the season. While lacking power, Albies has plus speed and a very good hit tool. With Swanson at short, the Braves look to have one of the most exciting young double play combos for years to come.
Next week I will take a look at third base prospects, where quite frankly there was more disappointment than anywhere else.
Head on over to Fantasy Rundown for more minor league prospect news, draft prep advice, off-season happenings, rankings, and tons of other baseball related links.
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