by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Second base is often viewed as a shallow position for fantasy owners, but in recent years we’ve seen a sudden jump in youngsters at the spot with more on the way. While some of these options bring more name value than anything (i.e. Kolten Wong), there are plenty of young second basemen with the potential to produce impressive numbers on a yearly basis. Who is the best of the best? Let’s take a look:
5) Anthony Rendon – Washington Nationals (23-years old)
He moved over from third base and his bat certainly plays a lot better at second (.265, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 40 R and 1 SB in 351 AB for the Nationals in 2013). The question is, will the power continue to develop? He did have 6 HR in 116 AB at Double-A prior to his recall and had a total of 35 doubles (23 came in the Majors) in 2013. There’s obvious upside there.
There’s also a lot to like in the average department, given his 25.5% line drive rate (.307 BABIP) and 17.5% strikeout rate. You could easily argue that he can’t maintain that type of line drive rate (18.7% in the second half), but he did post a 17.5% strikeout rate in the minors which would help him maintain a strong average. The potential is there for a .280 plus hitter with 10+ HR and runs scored hitting second in the Nationals lineup. There’s value there, though it does appear limited.
4) Arismendy Alcantara – Chicago Cubs (22-years old)
What?! Who?! This is a name that many of you probably haven’t heard yet, but you need to know. He spent all of 2013 at Double-A hitting .271 with 15 HR and 31 SB. He hadn’t shown power prior to last season, but he also had 36 doubles and 4 triples and the number came courtesy of a realistic 13.9% HR/OFB. Granted, a 28.3% OFB rate isn’t ideal for big-time power, but by playing half his games in Wrigley he should be able to maintain 10-12 HR per season.
There is no questioning his speed potential, having stolen 25 bases in 83 games at High-A in 2012 as well. He also has been efficient the past two seasons, with 66 stolen bases while being caught just 10 times. He’s also seen his line drive rate rise, at 17.3% last season (just below the league average of 17.6%) and with the speed we mentioned he could maintain an elevated BABIP (as he did last season with a .332 mark).
He clearly could be the future for the Cubs at the position and only has Darwin Barney standing in his way.
3) Jedd Gyorko – San Diego Padres (25-years old)
There were supposed to be power issues for Gyorko in 2013, playing half his games at Petco Park, but he actually delivered 13 HR at home and 23 overall. Maybe there’s a slight regression, but he’s proven capable of hitting 20+ HR.
While he doesn’t bring speed to the table, the biggest question is if he can improve on his .249 average from 2013. He was at .272 in the first half, though can he maintain a 26.9% line drive rate? It fell to 18.0% in the second half, which is probably low in and of itself. He should be able to post a 21-22% mark (22.5% overall), so he definitely should maintain a better BABIP (.287 in ’13).
The greater question may be his strikeouts, which rose from 21.7% in the first half to 25.2% in the second. He was at 17.3% from 2011-2013 in the minors, so the first half number is probably closer to the truth. While it’s hardly elite, you couple the improved strikeouts with the BABIP and he should be able to hit .270+. Couple that with the power and there’s a lot to like.
2) Jose Altuve – Houston Astros (23-years old)
He gets the nod over Gyorko because he has proven over the past two seasons that he can be an above average fantasy option. He’s hit .290 and .283 and actually has the potential to go .300+. He owns a 12.2% career strikeout rate and a 21.3% career line drive rate, yet despite his speed his BABIP sits at just .317. All it takes is one “lucky” season and he’s over .300.
Sure he doesn’t have the power, but he’s stolen over 30 bases in each of the past two seasons (35 in ’13) and has as many as 42 in a minor league season. Couple the average and speed to go along with an improving Astros’ lineup (which should help lead to more runs scored) and there is an awful lot of upside. Don’t forget about him because he plays in Houston or because he doesn’t bring much power.
1) Jurickson Profar – Texas Rangers (21-years old)
Was there any doubt who the top option here would be? With Ian Kinsler now in Detroit the Rangers have cleared a spot for Profar, who will get a chance to show just what he can do. While he struggled last season in a part time role (.234 with 6 HR and 2 SB over 286 AB), why would you use someone so young to play so sporadically?
He has already started developing some power (13 HR at Double-A in ’12, with 26 doubles and 7 triples) and has speed (23 SB in ’11). He also had the makeup for a significantly better average last season, with a 19.4% strikeout rate and 23.4% line drive rate (.280 BABIP). Given his age, we all know the potential is there to just get better and better.
There is undeniable upside and, with full-time AB, he’s going to get a chance to show it. He has the skills to be one of the premier players in the game, at any position. Don’t be surprised if he starts to flourish in 2014.
- Scooter Gennett – Milwaukee Brewers (Brings average but little else)
- Nick Franklin – Seattle Mariners (The addition of Robinson Cano leaves him without an obvious position and could leave him in a utility role, but the upside is there to qualify for this list)
- Kolten Wong – St. Louis Cardinals (Little power and little speed keeps him outside of the list)
Sources – Fangraphs, Minor League Central
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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: