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Five Players Set to Break Out at Second Base

When defining a breakout, I look at it as players that can take a step forward to a level they never reached before. This leaves most of the top targets at the position unavailable for this discussion.

Today, we bring you five players at the second base position that can take that next step and break out.

The average draft position data is NFBC ADP since December 1, 2020.

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Nick Solak, Texas Rangers

ADP: 162

Nick Solak is entering his age-26 season and comes into 2021 with the inside track to play second base every day. In 2020, Solak showed us an improved strikeout rate of 18%. This is a 3.5 point improvement from 2019 and in line with his minor league production. He also posted seven stolen bases but just two home runs. The stolen bases were definitely welcomed by fantasy managers as it was unexpected. Although, having stolen 21 bases as recently as 2018 in Double-A, we know the skill set is there. Also, 2020 may have indicated the Rangers are willing to be a team who gives their players the green light after being tied for fourth in the league with 49 stolen bases as a team.

Solak also flashed power in the minors with double-digit home runs at three different stops. So we know the power potential is there. We have come to know that max exit velocity is an indicator of power potential and he posted a max exit velocity of 111.7 MPH. This is either tied with or better than names like Brandon Lowe, Mike Moustakas, Francisco Lindor, and Luke Voit among others. A reminder that the double-digit home run totals we saw in the minors were not a fluke. Solak did increase his launch angle and in turn, the GB% dipped (but was still high) to 48.5% and the fly balls increased 11.3 points in the process up to 25.1%. So it shows he is making progress towards putting the ball in the air more, which should lead to some more power production.

Lastly, the batting average floor feels safe given the contact profile. Solak has never hit under .266 at any stop in his career. In 2020, we saw gains in the contact rate (up 2.4 points to 82.1%) with an elite zone contact rate of 91.7%. That is up there with the best of them. This contact skill allows for there to be a solid floor of production at the very least. Ultimately, the track record and skill set are in place for Solak to take a step forward in 2021.

 

Andres Gimenez, Cleveland Indians

ADP: 196.24

Expect this to increase a ton now that he has been traded to the Indians. This not only opens up playing time, but allows him to have the opportunity to possibly lead off. He has shown off the speed in the minors and his short stint in the MLB as well. Gimenez has stolen double-digit totals in every stop since A-Ball in 2017. The hit tool followed him as well as he minimizes strikeouts and hits for a solid batting average. He also produces good OBP. The all-around profile is very safe and provides what should be a high floor.

In the small sample of 2020, he had above average O-Contact% (63.1%), Z-Contact% (86.5%) which led to an above-average overall contact% (76.9%). This was his first taste of the majors so with time it could continue to grow. Although speed is his main attribute, the power isn’t an absolute zero. He has grown into some pop of late having posted nine home runs in Triple-A and then three over the span of the shortened season. That leads me to believe 10-to-12 HR over a full season is realistic. Ultimately, with this trade and improved playing time situation and paired with possibly leading off, he could be a sneaky 4-to-5 category producer. 

 

Mauricio Dubon, San Francisco Giants

ADP: 283.65

We may have been a year early on Mauricio Dubon. The 26-year-old came into 2020 as more of a platoon bat and did not play every day. However, he worked his way into everyday at-bats by the end of the season. In the final month of the season, he hit three of his four home runs while batting .273. He stole two bases on the year as well. This gives us a chance for a little power and speed combination. He has multiple seasons in the minors with double-digit stolen base outcomes. Most recently, he stole 13 bases in 2019 when combining the three stops he made.

The power showed up as well in 2019, however, that was the year of the juiced ball so it is something to consider as to part of the reasoning. He posted 24 home runs in 2019 as a whole and although it was the juiced ball season, they all weren't from the ball so even if you regress the total down, 12-to-15 over a full season is a very realistic outcome. Pair that with the double-digit stolen base potential and solid batting average and we have ourselves a diamond in the rough (so to speak).

In 2020, he posted a strikeout rate of 20.3%. This was the highest strikeout rate since Rookie-Ball in 2013 to give you an idea of how solid the plate approach is. We also saw gains in walk rate. It nearly doubled from 2019 coming in at 8.5% in 2020. Speaking of the plate approach, the batting average has only dipped below .272 once and, again, that was his 2013 Rookie-Ball season. Something to be aware of is Dubon crushes left-handed pitching and is mediocre verse right-handed pitching. However, given a chance, he could improve against them. If he does not, he still hits them well enough (career .259 and .311 OBP so far) to get a strict platoon situation. Also, it's not like the Giants have anything to lose giving the young kid a chance to develop.

Last little tidbit, Dubon changed his stance and mechanics from 2019 to 2020.

If given the chance to work on his game, he could give us some all-around production. Dubon will likely hit at the bottom of the lineup so that will limit his runs and RBI but the stolen bases and batting should still come with the few home runs. He isn't flashy but he should be a solid contributor.

 

Ty France, Seattle Mariners

ADP: 289.53

Ty France was acquired last season by the Mariners and now enters 2021 as the favorite to be their everyday DH. France is expected to play the field as well though and could pick up eligibility even at third base. In 2020 he flashed some of his upside by hitting four home runs while batting .305. Not a large sample, but we saw the strikeout rate slightly reduce but the more notable change from 2019 to 2020 was the 2.6 point increase in the walk rate. This shows there was some growth at the plate as he entered his second season as a major leaguer after getting just 69 games in 2019. 

There is even reason for more optimism in the plate discipline front as France has never struck out over 19% of the time in the minors at any level. So we see two small samples of a strikeout rate of over 23% and there’s a chance once he gets accustomed to the MLB that he improves on that rate.

We have seen the power play up in the minors and it really began to take off in 2018 when he hit 17 home runs in Double-A. France continued the power production into the 2019 season, where he hit a combined 34 between Triple-A and the Majors. He makes a good amount of contact as a whole and we saw France increase his barrel rate from 2019 to 2020 as well. It increased by 2.8 points to 8.7%. The Sweet Spot% also increased 12.6 points to 44.2%. This shows us the quality of contact has improved.

Unfortunately, the hard hit rate (29.8%) and average exit velocity (85.7 MPH) both declined in 2020.  However, given the growth in quality of contact, an increase in line drives and pull rate, he can manufacture power with that approach. France improved his ground ball rate and got it down 4.9 points to 38.5% and the fly ball rate also fell while the line drive rate increased dramatically. It was up to 34.6% from just 22.1% the year prior. A line drive heavy approach should play well to batting average and BABIP. Although a repeat of a .390 BABIP will not happen, if these changes hold it should drop as low as you may think it will. 

There is ultimately a lot to like here between the profile and potential. This is a combination of the two and given his draft day cost, it is worth taking a shot.

 

Luis Arraez, Minnesota Twins

ADP: 346.67

When you think of Luis Arraez, you should think of David Fletcher. Among players with 100 PA last year, there were five players inside the top 10 in O-Contact%, Z-Contact%, Contact% and SwStr%. Now, all these metrics correlate and the same names SHOULD be on these lists. But the point of why it made sense to look into it was to form this idea of similar profiles and of the five names, two were Luis Arraez and David Fletcher. Both offer similar profiles but one can be drafted 130 picks later. In part, it is the consistency and multi-positional flexibility Fletcher offers, but with such similar skill sets, you are better off attack flexibility elsewhere and take the discount here.

Reasons to buy into Arraez:

  •  Should bat atop the lineup (hit top two in final two games of regular season and the two playoff games)
  • Great hit tool and plate discipline
  • On a good offense so he will get good amount of runs
  • He will hit for a high average over a large number of at-bats

You need to build for taking on this type of player but runs and batting average tend to be hard to come by late and those are the two categories of strength he should bring to your roster.



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