Second Base – The Choice is Yours

I am going to round out the infield with second baseman as the regular season is literally eight days away! Some people have already had their drafts but this upcoming weekend is the last big time-frame for fantasy baseball drafts. I’d like to get the starting pitcher “The Choice is Yours” but I’ve been busy writing a few articles for draft preparation over at FantasyPros, so go check it out. If I can’t get to it, I’ll post all the pitchers I’m way higher/lower on than Yahoo ADP. Today I’m looking at five mystery second baseman using ZIPS projections and NFBC ADP. Second base is similar to shortstops in that I can’t believe how deep the position is compared to years past. There’s just so much offensive talent in today’s game, I wouldn’t put extra weight on positions like 2B and SS like in the past when they were considered shallow. Get your guys and get your numbers, catcher is the only shallow position in my opinion. Let’s look at our 2B mystery players.

2B ZIPS Projections   NFBC
PlayerAVGHRRRBISBADP
Player A0.283207484284
Player B0.25421637112103
Player C0.25629868614104
Player D0.25528778511128
Player E0.26116835811184

Player A looks like a safe bet to at least contribute in four categories but clearly has no speed. However, he’s doesn’t appear to excel in any single category. This AL veteran has long been considered one of the best second basemen of the last decade and has made eight All-Star appearances. Ok, this one is pretty easy, Player A is Robinson Cano. He’s not a bad “safe” pick but he’s 35 years old and his home runs totals the last four seasons are 14, 21, 39, and 23. The 39 in 2016 appears to be an outlier for an aging veteran who never really had elite power. Cano has always been a high contact guy with elevated BABIPs which typically were justified. However, his BABIP is trending in the wrong direction from .334 in 2014 and on a steady decline to .294 last year. Cano is no longer a .300 hitter and I expect the batting and average and power to continue their downward descent. DON’T GET WITH THIS.

Player B is one of the more exciting players to watch. He’s a wizard defensively and can hit some moon shots (when he connects). He’s on my hometown team so I get a lot of exposure to him, he’s only 25 years old and has over 360 games played in the majors. Player B is Javy Baez. Yes, he did have a solid season last year with a .273, 23 HR and 10 steals in only 508 plate appearances. If you’ve been visiting my site, you know I’m not a huge fan, here’s my bust post I wrote back in January. Click bait! Anyways, the keys points are that he swings at everything, doesn’t make a lot of contact, and doesn’t hit the ball hard constantly. Playing time could be an issue with Joe Maddon and the Cubs if he doesn’t kick the old habits. His stat line was just fine last year but xStats pegged Baez for a triple slash of .242/.317/.431 with a xBABIP of .304. If that isn’t bad enough, Javy was second to last in both O-Swing% and SwStr% which means he chased pitches out of the zone and swung and missed almost as much as anybody in the league. DON’T GET WITH THIS.

Player C looks like the best combination of power and speed based on ZIPS projections. He’s also one of the three players clumped in a tight ADP window that includes Baez and Player D below. Based on his projections, there’s no reason he should be drafted at the same ADP as Baez and I already wrote about my displeasure for the Baez ADP. The issue is that Player C hit an atrocious .204 last year! Ok, so Player C is Rougned Odor. Yes, the strikeout rate went up to a career-worst 24.9% and his plate discipline is poor, but it’s not as bad as Baez’. He still managed to hit 30 home runs and steal 15 bases which were nearly identical to 2016 and he’s only 24 years old. Bottom line is his BABIP won’t be .224 again and the power is legit justified by a 37% hard contact rate. A .250-30-14 season is much more likely for Odor is 2018. GET WITH THIS. 

Player D looks almost identical to Odor with a little less speed and maybe that’s why his ADP is a little lower. Player D is also very young (only 23), has a lot of swing and miss to his game, but actually has an above average walk rate, unlike the rest of this list. He also has a playing time issue similar to Baez but is eligible in the outfield as well. Player D is Ian Happ. I really like young players with good walk rates, it shows maturity and potential upside. His 30+% K rate is bad but his profile looks good in that he hits about 40% fly balls and only had a 3.2% IFFB rate, meaning he’s getting good value out of his fly balls, hence the 25% HR/FB rate. I don’t think he will repeat that but he did hit 24 home runs in only 413 plate appearances. So he has a little more power than Baez and a little less speed with a better walk rate, I’ll take my chances with Happ two rounds later. GET WITH THIS.

Player E is the other old man of the group. He had one of the worst seasons of his career and is now playing for a new club. To me, his poor season was fueled by a poor BABIP because his walk rate improved, his hard contact was the highest of his career, and his approach remained well above average. Player E is Ian Kinsler. Yeah, lots of Ian talk today. Kinsler is 35 years-old but I think the projection by ZIPS is a bit low. He’s averaged 25 home runs the last two seasons and will be leading off in front of Mike Trout. His SwStr rate and K rate remaining near elite and the improvement in walk rate mean plenty of runs. I can easily see 20 homers, 10 steals with 95-105 runs. His ADP needs to be inside the top 150. GET WITH THIS.

Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson – Robinson Cano Bust Post

Tags: Robinson Cano, Bust, 2018 Projections  Whit Merrifeld, Ian Happ, Ozzie Albies, Rougned Odor

Robinson Cano is one of the all-time great 2nd baseman, he’s going to the Hall of Fame in 10 or so years and he’s been one of the most durable and reliable top tier fantasy players for over a decade.  That being said, I’m the kind of guy who would rather get out on a guy a year early than a year too late.  I think memories of 2016 where Cano went nuts hitting 39 HRs and combining for over 210 runs + RBI are still hanging around with some people.  And maybe he can be like his teammate Nelson “40 HR till I’m 40” Cruz but I doubt it.  To me, the decline began in 2014 when he came to the Mariners.  Last year was the first time since 2008 that he failed to reach 650 PAs!  Now, that stat is amazing on its own for the durability over the last decade plus.  Cano needs that type of volume to compile his stats.  I believe the decline in PAs and games played continues at age 35 in 2018.

Let’s dig into the STATS!  Cano’s BABIP has slipped from .335 in 2014 to .294 in 2017.  He has absolutely no speed to speak of and doesn’t run hard to first or around the bases (maybe that’s how he stays so healthy).  Plus, he’s no longer hitting 24-25% line drives, he’s been below 20% each of the last two seasons.  Now, he still hits the ball hard but either way that BABIP will continue to decline.  So his once elite average drops to around .270-.275.

Over to his power.  He barely hits 35% fly balls and has only once posted a HR/FB over 20% and that was back in 2012 with the Yankees.  He’s typically around 13-15% which is fine if you hit 40% fly balls or you have over 700 PAs.

Cano is a professional hitter.  He doesn’t strikeout much but he also doesn’t walk much so his OBP isn’t likely to be over .330-.340.  With everyone and their mother hitting 20 HRs, even at 2nd base like Scooter Gennett hitting 27, the value of Cano dwindles.  So if you’re drafting Cano just remember you need perfect health from a 35 year old with moderate power and no speed.  ESPN and Yahoo will rank way too high, no doubt about it.  If you’re smart, you won’t listen to them.  You can wait a couple rounds and grab Whit Merrifeld or Ian Happ in rounds 8 or 9.  Or wait even longer and grab my guy Ozzie Albies (Teaser: sleeper post coming soon) or bounce back candidate Rougned Odor.

For 2018, I’ll give Cano: .272/.336 19 HRs 1 steal, 79 runs, 88 RBI

(Way Too Early Mock Drafts have him at an ADP of about 63 overall)