We continue our positional avoid series today with three second baseman who are going just a bit higher than would seem to be logical in 2017 drafts. Second base is a position that has long been among the shallowest, but there is plenty of depth at 2B this year. With the knowledge of that depth, don’t reach too early for one of these guys simply because you want to have a recognizable name in your starting lineup.
You should definitely make sure you’re not stuck with a Neil Walker/Starlin Castro duo as your 2B and MI spots, but if you nab one of the top ten (maybe Matt Carpenter) and one from the 10-20 range (maybe Ben Zobrist) you should be in great shape. If you get one of the elite guys (Jose Altuve, Trea Turner, Robinson Cano) you might even be able to pair him with Devon Travis and if Travis hits, that’s how you win leagues. Anyway, on to the three to avoid.Editor's note: Get 50% off any MLB Premium Pass. Draft guide, cheat sheets, 200 days of DFS access, and over 20 premium tools. Dominate your leagues all year long! Sign Up Now!
Potential Overvalued Second Base Candidates
Rougned Odor (seventh in RotoBaller 2B ranks; ADP of 39 in NFBC)
The man with The Punch Heard Round The World had a hell of a season in 2016. As a 22-year-old, Odor slashed .271/.296/.502 with 33 HR and 14 SB. He tallied 89 R and 88 RBI and was a plus contributor in all five classic roto categories. The reason that he is on this list is that despite all that success in 2016, he still only finished ninth among second baseman, and 2016 was likely a high-water mark for Odor.
The number that really stands out with Odor is that second number in his slash line - his OBP. Odor is one of, if not the, most aggressive hitters in the game. Odor’s swing rate of 54.3 percent in 2016 landed him ninth among qualified hitters. His swing rate on pitches outside the zone (41.8 percent) was even higher, coming in at sixth in the league. Surprisingly, pitchers failed to punish Odor for this impatience. Odor saw 42.5 percent pitches in the strike zone, just below league average and not even in the bottom 30, strange especially when compared to the previous two stats. Possibly because of pitchers still challenging him, Odor’s first strike rate was right about league average, and he was able to avoid getting behind in the count too often in 2016.
Don’t count on that too last very long, though. Pitchers catch on to hitters faster than ever these days, and one season blips can be eviscerated very quickly. Just think about the season Danny Santana had in 2014 before being nearly run out of the league in 2015. Now I’m not saying Odor is going to see a drop nearly as ferocious - his power is truly legitimate, and 30 HR are not out of the question again in 2017. However, if Odor could only be the ninth-rated 2B in 2016 when his BA was propped up by a good amount of luck (strikeout-to-walk ratios of 135:19 and not usually matched with a .271 BA), what is going to happen when Odor’s BA starts to fall into the .250 range? He doesn’t get on base enough to keep up his R tally high and his seven CS in 21 SB attempts suggest his SB may even drop. (Although Odor is so irrationally confident no caught stealing would ever actually make Odor think less of himself. And I say that lovingly.) Odor is more in the 10-12 range at the position, not the borderline top-five rate at which he is being drafted.
Jonathan Schoop (15th in RotoBaller 2B ranks; ADP of 165 in NFBC)
This is a tough one for me. I have been the drunk-at-the-wheel conductor of the Schoop train for each of the last two seasons and actually do still like him. It’s just that if I’m going to draft Schoop, it has to be later in the draft than he is currently going. The 2016 version of Schoop, who you could get in the final rounds of your standard leagues, was perfect. No real expectations and his flaws could be ignored since he was a 22nd rounder. Now that he’s moving up boards quickly in 2017, it’s time to put those warts under the microscope.
Similar to Odor, Schoop has some serious plate discipline issues. Last year, Schoop struck out 137 times and drew just 21 walks. He finished fourth in both swings on pitches outside the strike zone and first-pitch strike rate - not exactly two categories you want to be among the league leaders. In fact, only teammate Adam Jones swung at a higher percentage of all pitches than Schoop in 2016, and although Schoop had positive results last year (25 HR, .271 BA), the quick fall off for players with similar profiles is simply too terrifying to make Schoop worth a mid-round pick this year.
It is also troubling that Schoop posted a hard hit ball rate of just 26.6 percent last season. That figure ranked 14th worst among all qualified hitters in 2016 and makes the 14.9 percent HR/FB rate he had in 2016 look kind of sketchy. We all know Schoop has true power, but if he posts a low hard hit ball rate again, it would be surprising to see him reach 25 HR in 2017.
With all of that said, I’d rather take an equivalent risk on Devon Travis a few rounds later, or pay for a (slightly) poor man’s version of Schoop ten rounds later in the form of Jedd Gyorko. Although Gyorko isn’t going to post as strong R and RBI totals as Schoop, there’s also a decent chance the two have similar BA for 2017.
Javier Baez (18th in RotoBaller 2B ranks; ADP of 121 in NFBC)
You might think I’m going with a similar tack for all three of my second baseman to avoid, but it’s not actually the plate discipline that worries me with Baez (although I don’t love it) - it’s the playing time. Despite his heroics in the early rounds of last season’s playoffs, Baez heads into the 2017 season as a man without a starting gig. Right now, Zobrist is the starting 2B, Addison Russell is the SS, Kris Bryant is the 3B, and Kyle Schwarber is in LF.
Now part of what makes Baez so valuable on the actual baseball diamond is his flexibility (he played games at five different positions in 2016), but going with a man without a starting job over a similarly-skilled player who does have a starting job (Starlin Castro, Cesar Hernandez) seems foolish. Scott White of CBS Sports makes the comparison to Marcus Semien, who will likely match Baez’s production even if Baez gets a full season’s worth of starts. Semien is currently being drafted nearly eight standard rounds later than Baez in 2017. As many have noted, don’t pay for the added price that Baez accumulated during his 2016 playoff run. (If you do lean heavily on playoff stats, remember, he went 5-for-30 with 13 SO in the World Series when the Indians started to really clue in on him.) Unless your league gives extra points for fun tags, avoid Baez at his current lofty price in 2017.