2017 Fantasy Baseball, Knocking on the Door: Second Basemen
It used to be that the corner positions on the diamond were the dominant fantasy positions. There certainly are no shortage of great first and third basemen, but the middle of the diamond is as talented as it has always been. That meant that some talented younger second basemen slipped through the cracks when we did the top 24 rankings. Some didn’t slip through the cracks as much as we couldn’t find an appropriate ranking for them.
So, we are profiling the top three up and coming second basemen. Obviously, these selections are predicated more on potential playing time than on who is definitely going to be the best guy down the road. In the meantime, we will also look at the possible barriers each player has to launching themselves amongst the top 24 guys.
Ryan Schimpf— San Diego Padres (.217, 20 HR, 48 Runs, 51 RBI, 1 SB, 42 BB)
Schimpf is easily a case of not necessarily not launching yet, but more of a case of not being sure exactly where to place him. He is similar to Gary Sanchez in that regard. He hit 35 home runs between AAA and the big leagues last season. That doesn’t fit his overall profile as he hit a career high of 23 home runs in his previous five minor league seasons.
The low batting average and high strikeout rate is disturbing, but players often struggled some in their first taste of the big leagues. He is a career .249 hitter in the minor leagues, so this isn’t likely to get much better. He profiles similarly to former Padre Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko has proven to be a useful player with the Cardinals, but he will never be a superstar because of the underdeveloped hit tool. Schimpf does have a fairly good batting eye, so that should play up in six category leagues.
Barriers to Launch: Schimpf has the job for the foreseeable future, so there is no problem there. The question is whether there is enough power there to get him a starter’s spot. He might be similar to Jonathan Schoop and that isn’t enough to make you a fantasy regular, but you will wind up on someone’s bench.
Raul Mondesi Jr.— Kansas City Royals (.185, 2 HR, 16 Runs, 13 RBI, 9 SB, 6 BB)
Mondesi is a very different player than his father. His game is built primarily around speed. The numbers seen above came in the last two months of the 2016 season, so it’s hard to figure out how much stock to put in them. He’s been in the Royals system since 2012 when he was just 16 years old. In five minor league seasons he has a .249/.297/.378 slash line. That line won’t impress anyone, but his 95 steals at the minor league level (in 418 games) is promising.
The main thing holding Mondesi back is his ability to make contact. That likely comes back to his inability to manage the strike zone. At the big league level, he struck out nearly one third of the time and only walked four percent of the time. That won’t get it done. If he could somehow lower that strikeout rate to 20 or 25 percent he might have enough speed to hit .250 and steal 20 to 30 bases.
Barriers to Launch: The Royals still have designs on competing in the AL Central this next season. That won’t happen with a second baseman that can’t hit his weight. The Royals will likely give Mondesi every opportunity to win the job, but he will have to win it. Even if he doesn’t make it, it doesn’t mean he’s done as a prospect. He was the youngest player in MLB last season. He has time to get it right.
Willie Calhoun— Los Angeles Dodgers (.254, 27 HR, 75 Runs, 88 RBI, 0 SB, 45 BB)
There are bigger names that are nominally second base prospects. Yoan Moncada is rated number one by MLB.com, but he also can play third base and that seems to be a more likely path for him next season. Ian Happ is next on the list, but he is blocked by Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez. So, that leaves us with Calhoun and his impressive AA numbers from last season.
He is only 21 years old, but has shown consistent power through multiple levels of the minors. He is here because the Dodgers don’t have a second baseman on the roster. They might trade for any number of guys or sign Chase Utley again, but they also could roll the dice and give Calhoun a shot. What is more likely is that he will start the season in AAA and get called up when it looks like he has mastered that level of competition.
Barriers to Launch: Calhoun is being profiled because I must profile three guys. Honestly, the odds are that Calhoun should begin the season in the minors. However, if the Dodgers make a deal he could be part of it as well. He shouldn’t be on anyone’s draft list unless you are playing in a dynasty format. However, he is a name to keep in mind for later on in the season.