Arguably the most enjoyable aspect of fantasy baseball draft season is trying to identify which players will break out. The emergence of a low-cost gamble as a core contributor can make the difference between a championship season and another year as an also-ran.
Today I'm here to talk about some potential second base breakouts and draft sleepers, candidates to emerge in 2017. Second base is deeper and boasts more top end talent than perhaps ever before, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t diamonds still out there in the rough. Today, we’ll look at three players who could make a difference at the keystone in 2017.
Second Base Breakout Candidates
Jose Peraza, Cincinnati Reds
Peraza’s ADP suggests that owners are paying an expectant price, but there’s plenty to like about him. He hit .324 with 21 stolen bases in less than half a season as a rookie last year. The batting average is likely to regress a bit, but Peraza’s combination of excellent contact ability and speed should allow him to remain a positive in that category.
While he’s mainly a singles hitter, Peraza does have a bit of pop in his bat that should play up with half of his games coming at Great American Ball Park. With a bit of luck, he could crack double digits in home runs. A bet on Peraza is also something of a bet against Billy Hamilton. If the veteran struggles as usual, Peraza could supplant him as the leadoff man and enjoy a boost in runs scored as a result.
Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays
Travis has had trouble staying healthy so far in his career, and he could open the season on the disabled list for the second straight year thanks to slow recovery from offseason knee surgery. When he does get on the field, though, the 26-year-old is quite productive. Over his 670 plate appearances in the majors, Travis has hit .301/.342/.469 with 19 homers, 92 runs, 85 RBI, and seven stolen bases. Even with the depth at the position in the current environment, those numbers place him firmly into the category of a viable fantasy starter in most formats.
Given his injury-prone nature, Travis shouldn’t be anyone’s Plan A, but he’s a great insurance policy. If he can finally give fantasy owners a full season, he’s got serious profit potential at his current price tag.
Cesar Hernandez, Philadelphia Phillies
Hernandez looked like a utility man when he broke into the majors in 2014, but he’s developed into a player with relevance in many fantasy formats. His plate discipline, contact rate, and contact quality have steadily trended up in the last three years. He earned some criticism for mental lapses on the bases – note the ugly 17-for-30 success rate on stolen base attempts – but hit .294/.371/393 with quality defense to turn in a surprising four-win season. Hernandez was 19-for-24 in thefts in 2015 and has been working with coaches to improve that aspect of his game this winter.
What makes Hernandez intriguing as a potential breakout is the drastic difference between his first and second half in 2016. While he hit for average consistently throughout the year, Hernandez nearly tripled his walk rate after the break and began driving the ball with a bit more authority. He’s likely to hit first or second in the Phillies lineup, and another strong OBP would likely lead to a decent amount of runs and plenty of stolen base opportunities.