Top 15 Second Base Prospects (2020 Preseason): Intriguing Names Emerging Behind A Potentially Elite Player

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There’s no doubt that there’s a potentially elite second baseman emerging, and he’s already arrived at the highest level. The question is whether or not there could be any intriguing players emerging behind him, and while they may not be superstars (at least not yet) there potentially are. With speed down across the game there are quite a few names to monitor as they could make a significant impact in the category. Who are they? Who are the names to watch? Let’s take a look at the rankings:

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RankPlayerTeamGrade
1)Gavin LuxLos Angeles DodgersA
2)Brendan RodgersColorado RockiesB+
3)Vidal BrujanTampa Bay RaysB+
4)Jeter DownsBoston Red SoxB
5)Nick MadrigalChicago White SoxB
6)Xavier EdwardsTampa Bay RaysB
7)Nico HoernerChicago CubsB-
8)Nick SolakTexas RangersC+
9)Sheldon NeuseOakland A'sC+
10)Aaron BrachoCleveland IndiansC+
11)Mauricio DubonSan Francisco GiantsC+
12)Owen MillerSan Diego PadresC+
13)Tyler CallihanCincinnati RedsC+
14)Jeremiah JacksonLos Angeles AngelsC+
15)Michael BuschLos Angeles DodgersC

1) Gavin Lux – Los Angeles Dodgers
Grade – A

He may have struggled in his first taste of the Majors in ’19 (.240 with 2 HR and 2 SB over 23 games), but the experience was likely invaluable.  Expected to slide into a starting role in 2020, Lux hit .347 with 26 HR and 10 SB between Double and Triple-A last season.  While there were strikeouts, the underlying numbers show that he should provide a strong approach overall:

  • Strikeout Rate – 19.5%
  • SwStr% – 8.5%
  • Walk Rate – 11.7%

Even in his brief time in the Majors he was hitting the ball hard (52.9%), and while his SwStr% spiked (11.4%) he wasn’t chasing outside the strike zone (20.9%).  With power and enough speed, Lux has the potential to be a Top 5 fantasy second baseman.

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2) Brendan Rodgers – Colorado Rockies
Grade – B+

Rodgers is the epitome of a Rockies’ prospect, as he’s shown promise and potential but continues to struggle finding an opportunity at the highest level.  While there’s a chance he emerges as the team’s starting second baseman in 2020, there are numerous players standing in his way (Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, etc.) and a healthy Trevor Story is locked into the starting shortstop job.

Rodgers got his first taste of the Majors in 2019 and struggled, hitting .224 with 0 HR and 0 SB over 81 PA, before his season ended due to shoulder surgery (labrum).  That injury will likely cost him time to start 2020, and while it gives the team time to sort out the second base jumble it also could allow someone else to claim the job before Rodgers is ready to roll.

Prior to being recalled Rodgers hit .350 with 20 extra base hits (10 doubles, 1 triple, 9 HR) over 160 PA at Triple-A.  He showed an ability to make consistent contact (9.6% SwStr%), though that was a significant improvement over his 2018 mark (11.7% SwStr% between Double and Triple-A).  Considering MLB pitchers further exposed him (15.7% SwStr%, 40.3% O-Swing%) and he has always struggled to draw a walk, there are legitimate concerns.  How he recovers from this injury will be key, as there’s no guarantee that there isn’t a lingering impact on his power (which would really destroy the long-term outlook).

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3) Vidal Brujan – Tampa Bay Rays
Grade – B+

Splitting time between High-A and Double-A in ’19, Brujan hit .277 with 4 HR and 48 SB over 429 PA.  He brings an impressive approach, with a 7.0% SwStr% leading to a 14.2% strikeout rate and 8.6% walk rate.  He also improved his contact rate as he advanced, only adding to the positive outlook in terms of his approach:

  • High-A – 7.7%
  • Double-A – 6.4%

He showed that there’s a little bit more power in his profile while playing in the Arizona Fall League, with 9 extra base hits in 82 AB.  If he could develop into a 10-14 HR hitter, something that’s extremely possible, with his approach and speed he has elite potential.  There’s still a little bit of projection at play, but he’s coming quickly and could ultimately arrive in the Majors before 2020 is over.

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4) Jeter Downs – Boston Red Sox
Grade – B

Downs spent the bulk of 2019 at High-A (479 PA), with a cup of coffee at Double-A (56 PA), showing an intriguing blend of power and speed with 24 HR (as well as 35 doubles and 4 triples) and 24 SB.  There are questions as to his ultimate upside, as scouting reports seem to indicate that he doesn’t go 100% at all times at the plate.

He posted an 11.2% walk rate overall last season, and while we need to monitor his 11.6% SwStr% there appears to be potential.  At worst he could be a 15/15 player who should fit somewhere on the infield (thus far he’s seen time at 2B and SS), but what if he was consistently focused?  He may not have the speed to steal much more than 20 bases annually, but could he develop into a 25/20 player with a solid average?

The upside is there to reach those types of levels, and while he’s not there yet it’s easy to envision him flourishing at 21-years old (he’ll turn 22 in July). Currently a “B” grade, he has the upside of reaching B+ (or if it all comes together an A-) by year’s end.

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5) Nick Madrigal – Chicago White Sox
Grade – B

Madrigal brings speed and an impressive approach, though his lack of power drags down his overall outlook.  Over 532 PA split between High-A (218 PA), Double-A (180 PA) and Triple-A (134 PA) he hit .311 with 4 HR (36 total extra base hits) and 35 SB.  Of course we’d like to see a few more walks (8.3% walk rate), but his ability to make consistent contact (2.2% SwStr%, 1.9% at Triple-A) is as impressive of a statistic as you’ll find. 

The problem is that it’s impossible to anticipate power suddenly develop, considering he didn’t show it both in the minors or in college.  In today’s game the unique speed only player isn’t seen as being as valuable, though with his ability to make contact he could overcome it. 

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6) Xavier Edwards – Tampa Bay Rays
Grade – B

Acquired as part of the Tommy Pham trade, Edwards could get overshadowed in a deep Tampa Bay system that features a similar player in Vidal Brujan.  Edwards brings an elite ability to make contact (4.3% SwStr% in ’19) and significant speed (34-for-45 in SB attempts in ’19), though a complete lack of power (27 extra base hits in 561 PA) is going to limit his ceiling.  A switch-hitter with nearly equal upside from each side of the plate, he has the potential to be a fixture atop the batting order.

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7) Nico Hoerner – Chicago Cubs
Grade – B-

Hoerner got his first taste of professional baseball in ’19, hitting .282 with 3 HR and 0 SB over 82 PA.  He spent most of the year at Double-A (294 PA), though his approach is in question a little bit after a big regression upon his promotion (SwStr%):

  • Double-A – 6.1%
  • Majors – 10.3%

Obviously we’d expect the MLB number to improve with more experience, though he also had a 48.6% O-Swing% and didn’t draw many walks even at Double-A (7.1% walk rate).  There also are questions about how much power and speed he’ll develop, and without those things the skill set isn’t overly enticing.  His name does draw some love, but he’ll likely be more valuable as a “real” player as opposed to a fantasy one.

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8) Nick Solak – Texas Rangers
Grade – C+

Solak’s ceiling isn’t particularly high, but after splitting time at Triple-A (with the Rays and Rangers) where he .289 with 27 HR over 419 AB he showed he could hold his own in the Majors.  Over 135 PA he hit .293 with 5 HR, displaying a solid approach at the dish:

  • SwStr% – 8.5%
  • O-Swing% – 26.3%

Where he fits defensively is going to be a question, though it’s possible Solak is going to be utilized in a super utility role seeing time at 2B, 3B and in the OF.  You also have to wonder if the power explosion was for real, considering his 27.6% HR/FB at Triple-A, as he hadn’t shown this type of power before (19 HR over 478 AB at Double-A in ’18).  There’s value, with the potential to add double-digit stolen bases, but there are limitations.

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9) Sheldon Neuse – Oakland A’s
Grade – C+

Strikeouts have always been a concern, but he took a significant step forward in his development in 2019.  After struggling in his first taste of Triple-A in 2018, hitting .263 with 5 HR over 537 PA, he erupted to hit .317 with 27 HR over 560 PA and the big change was in his SwStr%:

  • 2018 – 15.4%
  • 2019 – 12.5%

Obviously the 2019 mark is still slightly elevated, and it rose to 14.2% over 61 PA in the Majors, but it’s not an unacceptable mark when coupled with the power surge.  He added 31 doubles and 2 triples, and while he may not be able to maintain that pace he could profile as a .270ish hitter (and better for those in OBP formats, with his 10.0% walk rate) with 15-20 HR.  As a middle infielder, there would be value in those numbers.  If he can prove last year’s breakout is for real, however, the grade would increase to the B/B- range.

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10) Aaron Bracho – Cleveland Indians
Grade – C+

The switch-hitter was another part of the 2017 international class for Cleveland, and while he’s not quite George Valera the upside is there.  He had 21 extra base hits in 169 PA last season, including 8 HR, and while he did swing and miss a lot (15.9% SwStr%) given his age it’s not a red flag considering how many walks he was able to draw (16.6% walk rate).  There are questions about where he fits defensively and if he’ll be able to maintain his speed as he matures physically, but he’s a name to keep a close eye on.

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11) Mauricio Dubon – San Francisco Giants
Grade – C+

Dubon is penciled in as the Giants’ starting second baseman, after being acquired from the Brewers in ’19.  He showed a power explosion in ’19, totaling 24 HR between Triple-A (20 HR) and the Majors (4 HR).  Of course his speed, which was once considered his best talent, declined significantly last season (13 SB).  Still a 15/15 middle infielder has upside, assuming he can hit enough to tap into it.  His approach in Majors gave more questions than answers, considering a 46.3% O-Swing% over 111 PA.  Never one to draw many walks, he needs to be able to continue making contact in order to hold appeal.  Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

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12) Owen Miller – San Diego Padres
Grade – C+

Over 560 PA at Double-A he hit .290 with 13 HR and 5 SB.  Obviously the power and speed isn’t going to blow you away, though a 10/10 player is quite possible (with the potential for maybe 15/10).  His best asset is his approach, as he posted an 8.3% SwStr% (leading to a 15.4% strikeout rate) and 8.2% walk rate.  That should play as a .280+ hitter at the highest level, and if he can develop even a little more power (28 doubles and 2 triples), the outlook would be that much more promising.  Even as is the numbers would play at second base.

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13) Tyler Callihan – Cincinnati Reds
Grade – C+

Selected in the third round of the 2019 draft, there are questions regarding his approach as he didn’t show an ability to draw walks (4.2% walk rate) and swung and miss far too much (13.8% SwStr%) at Rookie Ball.  He did show an intriguing combination of power and speed, with 22 extra base hits and 11 SB, and if he can refine his approach his stock could take a step forward.

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14) Jeremiah Jackson – Los Angeles Angels
Grade – C+

Selected in the second round of the 2018 draft, the 19-year old spent the year in Rookie Ball and appeared to take a power-oriented approach.  While it did lead to 23 HR over 291 PA, there is obviously concern considering these numbers:

  • Strikeout Rate – 33.0%
  • SwStr% – 18.7%
  • Flyball Rate – 47.9%

He doesn’t project to have elite power at the highest level, and taking this type of approach will be disastrous as he faces more advanced pitching.  Sure he hit .266 last season, but he should be exposed as he takes a step up the organizational ladder if he doesn’t make the necessary adjustments.

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15)Michael Busch – Los Angeles Dodgers
Grade – C

No one is going to question his ability at the plate, though there are questions about where Busch will ultimately fit defensively (currently they are trying him at second base, though his future could be at first base or a corner outfield spot).  Even in his brief time in professional baseball (10 games), he showed his upside as he drew more walks (7) than strikeouts (5) and there’s some power to tap into.

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Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, MLB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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