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Three Up, Three Down for Prospects - Second Base

Continuing the RotoBaller dynasty preview series, this article shifts the attention to second base prospects that owners should target in dynasty leagues and drafts. The keystone is one of this writer's favorite spots, as it offers the most comprehensive mix of player types. For as fun as the outfield is to rank, there are basically two positions: center fielders and corner outfielders. These provide significant groupings, and there is little variance within each category. Center fielders, in general, are batting average upside players with speed and good gloves, whereas the corners will generate more power. At second, the variety is much different, all at one position on the field. These players can range from power options such as Robinson Cano, to the batting average carriers, like Jose Altuve, or the elite speed options, such as Dee Gordon. Whatever owners like at the spot, there is something to be had.

And yet, with every position, the types of players that are making jumps also range a bit at the spot. With second this year, the list includes both 18-years-olds and 24-year-olds, making this a deep position for owners looking to add reserve and future options. With that in mind, owners should use second as that reinforcement for stats their current teams lack, and can shoot for more of a floor here as opposed to the ceiling of other spots on the diamond.

With all of the RotoBaller coverage, continue to read through draft previews to put yourself in the best spot to dominate dynasty league drafts, and set up your dynasty. Flags fly forever, and no good team can make it without production at the keystone.

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Stock Rising

Brayan Rocchio (2B, CLE)

After only his first year in pro ball, Rocchio seems to be a real deal with a plus hit tool to compliment plus-plus speed. In 60 games at Rookie ball, Rocchio slashed .333/.390/.441 with two homers and 22 steals. What also makes Rocchio an intriguing prospect is how selective he was at the plate, without having much of a walk rate to back that up. With sub 12% K rates and sub six BB rates, this will be something to watch as he develops. And yet, with how much contact he makes, the approach seems to be working for him and will bode well for his fantasy outlook. While Rocchio will never hit for much power, this is the type of batting profile that will hunt for batting titles and should have a .300 floor to start.

The good news is that the other pieces, runs and steals, will keep Rocchio from being an empty batting average option and should be a top player in the long term. There are questions if he will play at short or second, but assuming nothing changes, expect him to enter the Majors as a utility infielder and therefore have second and short eligibility to start. If there is a current player to compare with Rocchio it would be Garret Hampson, and drafts are showing how much fantasy owners are loving that profile. 

Vidal Brujan (2B, TB)

Another fast riser on the list, Brujan should start the year at Double-A after crushing High-A to end 2018. Even if he stays down a level, Brujan will be on pace to debut in 2021 making him one of the closest to fantasy impact on this list. What has fueled the new hype around Brujan has been the explosion of power with nine homers over both levels last year, after a previous high of three in a full year. While eight-plus homer upside might not be all that sexy, combining that with plus-plus speed, and an elite bat sure will. For example, regarding speed, in 2018 Brujan stole 55 bags in 75 attempts. After the promotion to High-A, Brujan slashed .347/.434/.582 setting new career marks in all those rate categories.

The final selling point is the close to 1:1 K:BB line, with both sitting at 13.2% at High A, and an 11.1 BB% and 12.2 K% at A-ball. When Fangraphs gives his glove a 60 FV, there are very few reasons not to target Brujan in minor league drafts this year.

Eli White (2B, TEX)

The former 11th-round pick of the Oakland Athletics, White moved to Texas in the Jurickson Profar deal and looks to be set to begin the year at Triple-A. He will start the season at age 24, so he's one of the older players on his list, but well on track to make an impact soon. Not only does the organization fit him better, but White showed across-the-board improvements last campaign, with his batting average moving from .270 to .306. Add in the homers rising from four to nine, and steals from 12 to 18, and White now looks set to be a 10/20 threat at the position after some early down years, and the low draft stock. The other good sign was the plate approach with the K rate dropping from 24.1% to 20.1% even with the step up the ladder, and White will need to keep these gains to stick at second long-term.

There are some questions that he might play shortstop, third, or first, but the bat, with some power, seems to fit better at second, or at least, that is what fantasy owners should hope for his stock. White is the safest pick on the list, and an unheralded draft pick who has made real strides and now projects as a high-floor option at the spot.

 

Stock Falling

Shed Long (2B, NYY)

The move to New York is better than the move to Seattle, but neither was a great spot for a player who needed a bit of a break to hold down a place in the Majors. Long is a bat-first player, with questionable defense, but enough glove that he should be able to avoid the Willie Calhoun route. Even that is not even a great comparison, as Calhoun’s bat can carry the bad glove, but Long has not shown that ability to hit at that level after being a sexy pick a year ago. In 126 games at Double-A for the Reds, Long slashed .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and 19 steals. The counting stats are nice to see, but he needs 20-plus homer power to carry the batting average, especially with a relatively deep position in the prospect ranks.

The other concern is that 2018 was a repeat of Double-A after 42 games at the level in 2017, and his K-rate went up to 23.6% from 19.4%. Long does walk a good amount, with a 10.9% BB line in 2018, but again, it moved the wrong direction from 11.9% the year before. Long is still a projected Major Leaguer, but not the impact prospect that some had expected.

Isan Diaz (2B, MIA)

Before his trade from Milwaukee to Miami, Diaz had some run in the fantasy community as an offensive second baseman with real impact potential. Whether the move to Miami has hurt that upside, or the player has struggled with steps up the minors, Diaz should no longer be a target for fantasy impact at the position. The concerns emerged with a promotion to Triple-A last season, where Diaz slashed only .204/.281/.358 with three homers in 36 games. Plate discipline has never been one of his carrying tools, with 25%-plus K rates over his career, and often, a 2:1 K:BB mark.

Despite some speed upside, Diaz has only pushed above a 75% steal success rate twice in his career, but the good news is that both of those occurred in the last two seasons. The hope for fantasy owners is that the path to playing time will let Diaz produce sooner rather than later and that the steal success will carry over. If not, this is a free-swinger without a power upside to count on, and perhaps, long term a .240 batting average player.

Franklin Barreto (2B, OAK)

Entering 2018 as Oakland’s second-rated prospect, Barreto had a down year that might put his future prospects in doubt. The main thing that owners learned about the second baseman is that he will not have the glove to stick at the spot, and confirmed some reports that he is well below-average at fielding his position. This hurts a team like Oakland who has tended to put a premium on defense recently. Barreto was once thought of as the next top hitter at the spot, but after a second stint with the team, the bat has still not appeared.

In 2018, Barreto appeared in 32 games for the Athletics and slashed .233/.253/.493 with five homers and no steals. A 38.7 K% also does not bode well for a player who has nothing left to prove in the minors, so will need to start producing with the team to earn and hold a roster spot. The concerns about his defense have led the team to consider a move to the outfield, so he might not even be a disappointment at second much longer.

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