Top 5 Prospects at Second Base (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
The second base prospect landscape is an intriguing one for the 2020 fantasy baseball season. Three of the players below have reached the majors, and the other two concluded last year at the Triple-A level. There’s some potential thump, batting average helpers, and stolen base contributors.
5 – Andy Young (ARI)
The Diamondbacks have a few middle infield prospects who could vie for meaningful playing time at the keystone this year, but Young’s my favorite of the bunch. Eric Longhenhagen and Kiley McDaniel ranked Young as the 17th-best prospect in Arizona’s farm system back in November. They described him as a “power-first prospect” and a “middle infielder masher,” and they give him a 45 current and 55 future game power grade on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.
MLB Pipeline ranked him a little lower in Arizona’s system as the 23rd-best prospect, and their scouting grade of a 50 on his power falls right in between FanGraphs’ current and future grades on the tool. Both outlets grade his hit tool as a 45, but FanGraphs gives it a 50 (which is average) future grade.
Young split his 2019 season almost exactly down the middle between Double-A and Triple-A. In 263 plate appearances at the former, he hit eight homers with a triple slash of .260/363/.453, a 8.7 BB%, 20.2 K%, and 140 wRC+, according to FanGraphs. In 277 plate appearances at the minor’s highest level, he slugged 21 homers with a slash of .280/.373/.611, a 8.7 BB%, 24.5 K%, and 131 wRC+. It was a highly productive season for Young, but, as Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus mentioned in his write-up of BP’s 20th-ranked prospect in Arizona’s system, the homers overstated Young’s power projection and were aided by the lively ball used in the Pacific Coast League.
Young isn’t a high-ceiling option, and he doesn’t have to be drafted anywhere. He does have the potential to earn a meaningful role on a team with some flexible pieces this season. If he does, the bar isn’t exceptionally high for him to be merely average at second base. In 2019, second basemen collectively hit .259/.322/.423 with a .164 ISO and 94 wRC+, per FanGraphs. Steamer projects him to hit .244/.305/.421 with a .177 ISO and 87 wRC+. Those projections are a pinch lower than last year’s average at the position, but if he makes a more seamless transition to the bigs than Steamer projects, Young could have middle infielder value in large mixed leagues and NL-only formats.
4 – Brendan Rodgers (COL)
Ask me to rank the prospects at second base again in a month or two, and Rodgers could make a compelling case for the top spot. Presently, however, a few factors for his 2020 outlook hold him back in fourth. The first is that Rodgers underwent shoulder surgery for a torn right labrum last June. Back in November, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post wrote about Rodgers and his recovery. Rodgers indicated he expected to begin throwing and hitting about a month from when that article was published, which would have been in December. At the time of writing, I’ve yet to read any reports of him beginning to throw and hit. The youngster’s goal is to be ready for spring training, and the lack of an update of him throwing and hitting doesn’t necessarily mean he’s off track for attaining that goal since he stated back in November that he’s “on track and maybe even a couple of steps ahead.” Regardless, his timetable for return is in question, and how effective he’ll be right away is, too.
Second, he doesn’t have an immediate clear path to playing time with Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story locking down the left side of the infield and Ryan McMahon and Daniel Murphy on the right side. Arenado’s name is being bandied about in trade rumors, though, so an opening could be there for the taking for Rodgers if Arenado’s dealt. A clearer path to playing time and Rodgers answering some questions about his health would go a long way toward increasing his stock in fantasy baseball this season.
Of course, he’ll also need to improve upon his initial struggles in “The Show.” The young infielder struck out in exactly one-third of his 81 plate appearances and hit .224/.272/.250 with a 25 wRC+. Knowing now that he was playing through a shoulder injury, those numbers should probably be taken with a grain of salt if not a heaping spoonful of it.
Prior to his call-up, Rodgers crushed it in Triple-A. In 160 plate appearances, he hit .350/.413/.622 with nine homers, a 8.8 BB%, 16.9 K%, and 147 wRC+. He backs those gaudy numbers with glowing scouting reports that include a smattering of plus hit and power grades on his tools across multiple reputable outlets such as the frequently cited MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus. Toss his tools and projection into Coors Field, and you have a tantalizing fantasy option. Rodgers has the makings of a spring training helium man if he proves healthy, hits, and/or Arenado is dealt. He isn’t a must-draft player in 12-team mixers presently, but you wouldn’t get any push back from me for choosing him as a late lotto ticket to stash now, either.
3 – Nick Solak (TEX)
Solak is a well-traveled prospect. He was drafted in the second round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft by the Yankees, dealt to the Rays, and dealt from the Rays to the Rangers last year. He made his debut for his current organization, and it was a rather splashy one.
He barely retains prospect eligibility. In 135 plate appearances for the Rangers last year, he hit .293/.393/.491 with five homers, a 11.1 BB%, 21.5 K%, and 126 wRC+. He added two stolen bases, too. His finish was the cherry on top of a productive season.
In 477 plate appearances at the Triple-A level split between the Rays and Rangers organizations, he slugged 27 homers with a .289/.362/.532 slash, 9.4 BB%, 22.0 K%, five stolen bases, and 121 wRC+. He’s not jacked up with tools, but MLB Pipeline gives him grades of 55 hit, 45 power, and 55 run. Furthermore, he’s a versatile fielder.
Solak started five games at second base and 11 games at third base for the Rangers. Comparatively, in the minors, he played 83 games at second, only one at third, and even played 26 games in the outfield, per FanGraphs. While he’s versatile, Jeffrey Paternostro panned his glove while gushing about his bat in Solak’s prospect write-up as BP’s No. 3 ranked prospect in the Rangers organization. MLB Pipeline grades his fielding as average at 50 with a slightly below-average arm at a 45. For fantasy purposes, Solak merely needs to be good enough in the field to get his name on the lineup card. As an added bonus, however, if he is used at multiple positions to get his bat in the lineup, that would result in multi-position eligibility.
Solak’s Steamer projection on his FanGraphs player page calls for him to hit .268/.340/.446 with 21 homers and seven stolen bases in 560 plate appearances. Unfortunately, Solak won’t be treated to the dreamy hitting conditions at Globe Life Park in Arlington, as the Rangers are opening Globe Life Field this year. We don’t yet know how the park will play since it hasn’t opened, but, with a retractable roof, he won’t be receiving a boost from blistering hot games that helped the ball carry farther at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Regardless, his steady diet of projected playing time and well-rounded statistical projection will play well even in a neutral ballpark. He has an ADP of approximately 265 at Fantrax, and I think he’s a pinch underrated. Solak’s worthy of a top-250 pick. He’s not a sexy selection, but he’s not devoid of upside and would be a great glue guy — especially if he gains or already has multi-position eligibility at your fantasy provider.
2 – Nick Madrigal (CHW)
There’s roughly a 180-pick gap between the ADP at Fantrax for Madrigal and the forthcoming top player on this list, yet it wasn’t an easy decision for me to rank him behind the upcoming prospect. Madrigal’s a unique player in today’s game of dingers and whiffs.
The 22-year-old second baseman opened last year at High-A, advanced to Double-A, and closed the year in Triple-A, and he struck out in only 2.8% of his plate appearances at High-A and Double-A while ending only 3.7% of his plate appearances in Triple-A with a strikeout. He also hit only four homers in 532 plate appearances between the three stops, ripping two in High-A and hitting one in each of the upper-minor levels.
The lack of thump hurts his value, but his top-shelf ability to put the ball in play is paired with an elite hit tool. MLB Pipeline grades his hit tool as a 65, and Jarrett Seidler mentioned potential batting championships in Madrigal’s write-up at Baseball Prospectus. Furthermore, FanGraphs has a future 70 hit tool grade on his player page. The results have been there, too. In total across the three minor-league levels last year, he hit .311.
As eye-catching as Madrigal’s batting average potential is, it’s his stolen base potential that made it difficult for me to slot him second instead of first on this list. Last year, he swiped 35 bases. His gaudy stolen base total is supported by a 70 current and future run tool assessment by FanGraphs and a 60 run grade at MLB Pipeline. The fly in the ointment in regards to his stolen base outlook in the bigs this year is his efficiency and raw stolen base numbers dwindling as he moved up the minor-league ladder.
He stole 17 bases in 21 attempts in High-A, 14 in 20 attempts in Double-A, and only four in seven tries in Triple-A. Still, 35 stolen bases is nothing to sneeze at, and his efficiency remained strong in Double-A before it got messy in Triple-A. To add some context to his stolen base output, only five major-leaguers stole 35 bases or more, only eight hit the 30-stolen base threshold, and only 11 reached at least 25 stolen bases. Hell, only 21 players stole 20 or more bases. Even if Madrigal takes a big step back from his stolen base total posted in the minors last year, 20-plus is a reasonable expectation.
Circling back to his ADP, Madrigal looks like a steal to me with an ADP of approximately 315 in Fantrax leagues. Steamer projects him for 440 plate appearances, five homers, 18 stolen bases, and a .287 average. The Pale Hose are making win-now moves in the offseason, and they already agreed to a deal with fellow prospect Luis Robert. Perhaps they’ll come to an agreement with Madrigal and avoid the service time manipulation game, or perhaps the young second baseman will force their hand and win a spot in spring training on a club with reasonable playoff aspirations. Even if he opens the year in the minors though, I’m bullish on him playing more games and accumulating more plate appearances than Steamer projects, making his projected average even more helpful while giving him a better shot at besting 20 stolen bases, too. Madrigal’s worth selecting in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers and considering him anytime after pick 200 isn’t crazy depending on your team’s makeup.
1 – Gavin Lux (LAD)
Lux headlines a strong group of second base prospects. He played more shortstop in the minors than second base, but he played only second base upon his promotion to the Dodgers last year with Corey Seager entrenched at shortstop. Lux wasn’t great in 82 plate appearances in the regular season for the Dodgers, but he didn’t embarrass himself, either. He hit .240/.305/.400 with two homers, two stolen bases, and an 87 wRC+. He did strike out in a whopping 29.3% of his plate appearances, but his 11.4 SwStr% was only a tiny bit above the league average of 11.1%, and he did a masterful job of spitting on pitches out of the strike zone with a 20.9 O-Swing% (31.6% was the league average). Furthermore, he struck out in a palatable 20.6% of his 291 plate appearances in Double-A and 18.1% of his 232 plate appearances in Triple-A last year, so he should see a significant drop in strikeout rate this year.
Lux split his time almost down the middle between Double-A and Triple-A last year, and in 523 plate appearances in the upper minors, he ripped 26 homers with a .347/.421/.607 slash, 11.7 BB%, 19.5 K%, 166 wRC+, and 10 stolen bases in 16 attempts. In short, he destroyed the upper minors before finding things a bit tougher in the majors. Although, he showed the Dodgers enough to make their postseason roster, and he ripped a homer in one of his 10 plate appearances in the playoffs.
The 22-year-old infielder ranks as the second-best prospect in all of baseball at MLB Pipeline, and they’ve slapped grades on his hit, power and run tools of 60, 55, and 60 respectively. Kevin Carter at Baseball Prospectus described Lux’s power and run as plus tools, too. It might be wise to exercise some caution when projecting stolen bases this year for Lux even with a plus run grade. He stole 10 bases in 16 chances in 113 games in the minors last year before swiping bags on both of his attempts for the Dodgers. He wasn’t efficient stealing in 2018 either, and the analytically driven Dodgers didn’t take many chances stealing bases in 2019.
According to my manual calculations of the stolen bases and caught stealing totals at Baseball-Reference, the Dodgers attempted the second-fewest steals in 2019 with only 67 attempts. In 2018, they did rank a bit higher in 22nd with 99 stolen base attempts, so personnel on last year’s team is likely a contributing factor to the small number of attempts, but the Dodgers aren’t a club that run wild on the bases.
Steamer projects Lux to total 110 games and 451 plate appearances and steal eight bases. It also projects him to hit .266/.328/.436 with 14 homers. I’m more bullish on his power and batting average production this year, but the stolen bases feel like a reasonable baseline with potential for more if Lux cleans up his efficiency. With a more well-rounded profile than Madrigal and some experience in “The Show” under his belt, Lux edged him for the top spot. Additionally, Lux’s ceiling is simply higher. He has an ADP of approximately 133 at Fantrax, and that’s a bit rich for my blood at first blush. However, my opinion is subject to change as I dig deeper into ranking players this offseason. Lux should be drafted universally across all formats.
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