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Even during the peak of the juiced ball era, when positions normally reserved for slap hitters became just as saturated with sluggers, second base was considered the weak link. You could find offense there, sure, but not of a first- or even second-round caliber. It’s like shortstop absorbed all the talent for both middle infield spots.
But now, all of a sudden, second base is looking as strong as ever. It has less to do with the end of the juiced ball era and more with shortstop spreading the wealth. Turns out when that much talent is concentrated at one position, a team could easily find itself with a double helping, forcing one of the two to relocate. That’s what happened with Marcus Semien, Javier Baez and Jorge Polanco, who all picked up second base eligibility while remaining eligible at shortstop.
Position Strategy: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP
The most notable example of all is Trea Turner, who was dealt at the deadline to a team that already had Corey Seager, necessitating a move to second base. Even if just a one-year oddity, it’s a fortuitous one for us because it gives the position its first legit first-rounder since Jose Altuve was at the height of his powers. That alone lengthens the position.
Factor in the unexpected contributions of rookies Jonathan India and Jazz Chisholm, and second base now has its own surplus, offering plenty to go around in a 12-team league. My one word of caution, though, is that because so many of its high-end performers are also eligible at shortstop, some may actually be drafted to fill that position. Shortstop still has the greater surplus, so you’d think it would be rarer than it is. But drafts get wild, man.
So then, when’s the most opportune time to strike?
The most risk-averse among us may be inclined to take Turner first overall in 5×5 leagues. It happens where concerns about Fernando Tatis‘ shoulder and concerns about a stolen base shortage intersect on the Venn diagram. For me, Turner is more of a mid-first rounder, even in his most optimal format. Give me Tatis, Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Soto ahead of him.
He kicks off what’s clearly a big position for stolen bases, with Ozzie Albies, Marcus Semien, Whit Merrifield and Javier Baez also primed to make a significant contribution to the category. You’re sacrificing something power-wise by drafting Merrifield at his going rate, which is why I’m not so inclined to do it. Theoretically, you’re not sacrificing anything with Semien, who just set a single-season record for home runs by a second baseman. But Statcast pegged him as one of last season’s biggest overachievers, and he just signed onto a much worse situation with the Rangers.
No, unless I happen to be in the right spot to nab Turner, I’ll generally look toward the bottom of this group, with Jose Altuve being a regular target of mine. There’s no shame in taking Jorge Polanco either, even if he’s likely to fall a little short of last year’s numbers.
Some might be inclined to group Jazz Chisholm and Jonathan India with the studs. It’s an easier case for India in a points league, where his on-base skills are better appreciated, and an easier case for Chisholm in a 5×5 league, where his stolen bases are in higher demand. For the going rate, I personally see too much downside risk in Chisholm, who was more or less a disaster after April last season, but he’s a trendy pick among the category counters.
Concerns about Max Muncy’s elbow, which may well require Tommy John surgery at some point, take him out of the running as a starter for me. Jake Cronenworth and Chris Taylor aren’t flashy, but they’re versatile and contribute across multiple categories. If you’re caught flat-footed at the position, they’ll suffice.
Brendan Rodgers may have big things in store now that he’s carved out a full-time role with the Rockies, and he’s my favorite breakout candidate at the position. But I find my middle infield needs are generally met before I can entertain the idea of drafting him, which goes to show you how things have improved at this position. Still, I like knowing he’s there as a fallback option, particularly in Rotisserie leagues.
You see what I just said about Brendan Rodgers? Yeah, if I rarely need to turn to him, I’m certainly not turning to this group. I know some like Luis Urias to break out, but I don’t see it. He doesn’t impact the ball hard enough to be a true middle-of-the-order hitter and sells out too hard for power to be of much use in batting average. I guess he could be another Eduardo Escobar, for whatever that’s worth.
Gavin Lux still gives off some prospect shine, and the Dodgers finally did give him a longer look down the stretch. He didn’t show much power, though, and I don’t think is destined for a full-time role anyway. If you’re just looking for a Hail Mary late in the draft, Nolan Gorman doesn’t seem like a bad call. He’s moved too quickly through the minors to get the most out his 70-grade power bat, but he seemed to master Triple-A late in the year. Vidal Brujan is another youngster looking to break in if speed is more your thing, but his path with the Rays is less clear to me than Gorman’s with the Cardinals.
I’m surprised Robinson Cano is going completely ignored as he makes his return from a full-season PED suspension. Sure, he’s 39, but he was still awesome in 2020. Deep-leaguers, take note.
Like I said, it’s a big position for stolen bases. Trea Turner, Whit Merrifield and Tommy Edman are three of maybe a dozen players in the entire sport with a realistic shot at 30 steals, and Turner and Merrifield are among the safest bets as far as that goes. Jazz Chisholm might also sniff that total if he hits enough, and Vidal Brujan almost certainly will if he plays enough.
The rest here figure to play more of a supporting role in the stolen base category. I’m not sure Garrett Hampson, Andres Gimenez, David Fletcher, Nick Madrigal and Nico Hoerner bring enough else to the table to make it worth it, but in a deep enough league, possibly.
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