Depending on how you look at it, second base is as weak as ever or pretty strong. The position lacks the long list of studs you get at shortstop, resulting in only four 2B going in the first five rounds of 12-teamers, two of whom also qualify at SS. On the other hand, it runs pretty deep, with interesting bats deep into the teens of a 2B ranking. But with so few sure-things at the top, you are diving into risky plays early on. If you want to ensure your risk pays off, here are three names to avoid.
Javier Báez (DET)
2021 Stats (547 PA): .265 AVG, 80 R, 87 RBI, 31 HR, 18 SB
I could make this easy and say that his ADP (2B #5, 65.6 overall at NFBC) makes him overpriced, but the risk goes beyond that. First of all, Báez continues to be a strikeout machine, posting a 33.6% strikeout rate in 2021 – his highest since his rookie season. His chase and swinging-strike rates were both career highs, with only a career-low 33.0% zone rate keeping his strikeout increase from being even worse. His plate discipline was already an issue, and it is trending in the wrong direction.
On top of that, while neither Citi Field nor Wrigley Field is a great hitters park, they are far friendlier to right-handed power hitters than his new home, Comerica. According to Baseball Savant, the Statcast home run park factor for right-handed batters is 104 at Citi Field, 100 at Wrigley, and just 86 at Comerica.
Only six parks are worse than Comerica. And the AL Central features four of the 12 worst parks for right-handed power. He better put on a show when he visits the White Sox because the rest of the AL Central schedule is going to be rough.
So you have a guy who finished 8th among 2B on the Razzball Player Rater in 2021, is showing problematic trends in this plate discipline, is moving to a park that will likely hamper his power, and now people are drafting him as the 5th 2B off the board? No, thank you. Not only do I think Báez won’t be a top-five 2B; I don’t think he finishes in the top 10.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. (MIA)
2021 Stats (507 PA): .248 AVG, 70 R, 53 RBI, 18 HR, 23 SB
This is my least favorite bust prediction, both because it will offend my Keep or Kut cohost, Pete Ball, and because Chisholm is such a fun player that it would be great to see him become a star. But I think there are too many red flags to justify the price point this year.
First, as with Báez, Chisholm comes with a lot of strikeouts and few walks, which means there is a low floor. If the ball isn’t flying out or dropping in, he won’t provide much value at all. As pitchers learn his tendencies and find holes in his swing, he’ll have to adjust, and I think that may lead to some growing pains in his sophomore season.
Second, I expect HR/FB regression, which will cap his HR potential. loanDepot Park is even worse for left-handed power than Comerica is for right-handed power, and Chisholm outperformed his batted ball data in 2021, posting an 18.2% HR/FB rate despite being closer to league average on barrel rate and in a tough park for power. I would bet on Chisholm being closer to the 13.6% league average HR/FB% than his 2021 numbers.
Chisholm has more upside than most 2B, but he was outside the top 15 2B last year, and I am not convinced 2022 will be better than 2021. I hope he makes me eat my words, but if he is going to be drafted in the 6th-7th round, I am going to be out.
Eduardo Escobar (NYM)
2021 Stats (599 PA): .253 AVG, 77 R, 90 RBI, 28 HR, 1 SB
It seems harsh to call a guy who just hit 28 HR a potential bust when there are 20 2B going before him in NFBC drafts, but I am going to do it anyway. The case against Escobar has a lot to do with his new home. After hitting in friendly parks the last couple of years, Citi Field is a less-than-ideal landing spot for him. But I think an even bigger issue for him is landing with the Mets.
Despite the 2021 results, the Mets are a good offense, which should be good for Escobar, but after hitting primarily in the 3 or 4 spot in 2021, I suspect he hits more like 7th in 2022, and that could be 8th if we get universal DH. In addition, the Mets roster is crowded. Somehow or another, Buck Showalter needs to find plate appearances for Escobar, Robinson Canó, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, Mark Canha, and Dominic Smith with only three or maybe four lineup spots between them (2B, 3B, LF, and maybe DH). And that is assuming they are done shopping, which I am not sure is a safe assumption. That will limit playing time for Escobar.
On top of that, while Escobar is a switch-hitter, he’s been better against lefties in his career. In 2021, he has a 129 wRC+ vs. lefties and 98 vs. righties. For his career, those numbers are 105 and 92, respectively. As Showalter is figuring out his daily lineups, benching Escobar against right-handed pitchers may make sense, as Cano, McNeil, and Smith are all lefties. I don’t think he turns into a pure platoon bat, but I also don’t think he comes close to 600 PA again. While the cost is just barely inside the top 200 right now, it’s a price I won’t pay for a one-dimensional bat that could end up in a bench role quickly.
(Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire) Adapted by Shawn Palmer (@palmerguyboston)