Second base this year may not be what it was in years past. With the juiced ball sequestered to Bud Selig’s basement in hopes for Manfred to try and divert attention, we are now looking at a group of second basemen that still hit the ball hard, but maybe it doesn’t go out of the park. This could mean home run totals go down, but there are still great options early and late in the draft.
Let’s look at five second basemen targets for upcoming fantasy baseball drafts. As a precursor to this, take one of Jose Altuve, Marcus Semien, or Jazz Chisolm in the second round if they are there and you want to not think about the position. Altuve should maybe be first off the board but any of those three is going to give you a strong showing at the position.
2022 stats (445 PA): .235 AVG, 54 R, 16 HR, 56 RBI, 3 SB
I think it is out of the minds of many that Jorge Polanco hit 33 home runs in 2021. In 2022 he saw himself sidelined with a few different injuries—most notably a knee and back injury—leading to good-not-great numbers across 104 games.
Over a 162-game pace, Polanco was on track to hit 25 home runs, score 84 runs, and have 89 RBIs in 2022 if injuries had not affected his season. The power that we saw in 2021 is still there, even with a slight dip because of the lack of juiced balls.
Polanco also didn’t see a dip in any Statcast data—in fact, he increased his walk rate and improved his launch angle.
A 14.4% walk rate is fantastic and with Luis Arraez out of the picture in Minnesota, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Polanco take his talents to the lead-off position. The strikeout percentage went up a touch which is something to keep an eye on.
Right now Polanco is being projected as a round 13/14 player in a 12-team draft. The second base position thins out fast so do not be shocked if he is gone by round 10. If your strategy is to wait on second base until around the 10th round, Polanco may be sitting right there and expect a bounceback year. Draft him without hesitation.
2022 stats (266 PA): .221 AVG, 31 R, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 1 SB
I wrote about Brandon Lowe in my Tampa Bay Rays sleepers article. As said there, there isn’t too much to speak on with why Lowe is a sleeper going into the 2023 season.
Lowe had his season completely derailed by injuries in 2022. In 2021, Lowe had an extremely memorable year with 39 home runs, 99 RBIs, and a triple slash of .247/.340/.523. This was after his monster 2020 campaign as well where he hit 14 home runs, 37 RBIs, and slashed similarly to 2021 with .269/.362/.554.
At the start of 2022, Lowe looked like his old self until the injury to his back. I understand back injuries can be a bit scary (Christian Yelich you can have my spine), but with Lowe going into Spring Training healthy, there is a lot to be excited about.
Lowe isn’t just a second base sleeper, he is one of my favorite sleepers at any position. He, like Polanco, is projected to be drafted around the 13/14th round but don’t be shocked if he goes around the 10th round. It’s always tough to depend on a player who just came off of injury, let alone a back injury, but Lowe and his massive power upside are worth the gamble. He might be closer to a high-20s home run hitter, not a 40-home run hitter, but power at the second base position is extremely valuable.
2022 stats (431 PA): .249 AVG, 48 R, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 3 SB
Jonathan India, the 2021 National League Rookie of the year and certified best hair in baseball, did not put the sophomore season together that I’m sure he envisioned. A triple slash of .249/.327/.378 does not do much to excite, but if I have my optimistic hat on, a .327 OBP isn’t the worst thing in the world.
India was actually airlifted to a hospital after a leg injury in the Field of Dreams game in mid-August, and there was fear he would lose his calf muscle. Like Polanco and Lowe, there is a trend forming here, India had his 2022 season affected by injuries in a big way with India arguably experiencing the scariest injury.
As the season went on, and through the scary calf injury, India began to find his footing in the second half with a triple slash of 261./.351/.400. This looks much closer to the 2021 India that we know. By the end of the year, it felt like India had finally gotten back to a comfortable place at the plate.
Last year we also saw a decrease in India’s stolen base totals over his shortened season. In 2021, India stole 12 bags on 15 attempts, whereas in 2022 India only stole 3 on 7 attempts. India isn’t the fastest guy on the field but I don’t think the 12 stolen bases in 2021 were an anomaly. With the new bag sizes and pick-off rules, I believe players like India who usually float around 10 to 20 stolen bases, will see that number closer to 20.
India projects to be drafted right behind Polanco in the 15/16th round. It was clear India had some growing pains last year, but going into 2023, I don’t think it’s crazy to think we could see a 20-20 season from the young second basemen.
2022 stats (497 PA): .251 AVG, 65 R, 15 HR, 47 RBI, 17 SB
Kolten Wong enjoyed arguably his most productive offensive season in 2022. A triple slash of .251/.339/.430 with 15 home runs and 17 stolen bases are solid stats from the steady infielder. Wong is a player that usually gets put in that “good baseball player but not a good fantasy player” category. I think his last two years in Milwaukee have changed this.
He is now in Seattle, where he will take a bit of a hit in production due to the park factor change. However, he has a better lineup around him which I think will keep his runs up but also means we may see an uptick in RBIs dependent on where he hits in the lineup. To start the year, keep an eye on where Scott Servis has him in the lineup.
Wong is more of a high-floor guy, so if you are looking for consistency, he is the safe play as a late-round selection.
Nice, nice, not thrilling, but nice. His numbers aren’t going to shoot up in 2023 but players who score points consistently and give you speed, a bit of power, minimal strikeouts, and an AVG or OBP that isn’t going to crush you, are valuable players.
15 home runs, 15 stolen bases, and over 55 runs aren’t out of the question for Wong. Projecting to go outside of the first 20 rounds, Wong is a great late-round dart throw that will give you consistent stats in a category or points league.
2022 stats (581 PA): .266 AVG, 72 R, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 0 SB
Brendan Rodgers was terrible in March/April. Terrible is an understatement, Rodgers played in 14 games to start the year and slashed .078/.172/.098 with zero counting stats and a wRC+ of -32 which I didn’t know was possible. I understand that is only 14 games but what a rough way to kick off the season. May was definitely a better month for Rodgers, but the ups and downs were a lot in the 2022 season.
It took a bit but Rodgers finally got to league average with wOBA after about 40 games. For the remainder of the season, he showed great exit velocity numbers and encouraging improvements at the plate.
Rodgers improved his walk rate and reduced his strikeout rate in 2022.
He’s never been one to walk much in his career, so I find this very encouraging. His expected stats also looked great over the course of the year.
Rodger’s issue lay similarly with players like Yandy Díaz. They hit the ball very hard but do not have a great launch angle. The sweet spot for launch angle is 15 to 20 degrees, but this varies from player to player. Rodgers’s launch angle sits between 4.6 and 6.2. He is hitting the ball hard, but if this remains his launch angle, 30-home run potential is out the door.
If Rodgers can avoid one dreadful month and add consistency to his game, I think there is late-round value here for 2023. Right now he is projecting near Wong, past the 20th round. These late-round guys are crucial to maintaining success throughout the season. Rodgers should hit close to 20 home runs, and drive in 60-70 RBIs. For a guy who might be your last pick, he’s worth the roster spot especially when playing he’s at home.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Design by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)
Thoughts on Tommy Edman and Vaughn Grissom vs any of India, Lowe and Polanco?
Edman’s the safest and will have a stellar season.