I’m not a huge fan of the term “sleepers” in fantasy these days because the word has been watered down to mean a variety of things depending on the size of your league, format, roster construction, etc.
It gets thrown around a lot.
But at the same time, we all have a general acceptance of the idea, and it rolls off the tongue a little better than “players I value more than ADP.” So I’ll go with it.
It’s good to have a reference point for these discussions, to understand what players are being drafted at the top of the position (in this instance, the keystone), so below is a current list of the Top Second Basemen currently being drafted via FantasyPros entering the 2022 season.
- Trea Turner (LAD)
- *Mookie Betts (LAD) – Check your platform for eligibility, he started five games at 2B in 2020 and therefore has 2B-eligibility on Yahoo!.
- Ozzie Albies (ATL)
- Marcus Semien (TEX)
- Whit Merrifield (KC)
- Jose Altuve (HOU)
- Javier Baez (DET)
- Brandon Lowe (TB)
- Ketel Marte (ARZ)
- Jorge Polanco (MIN)
- Jonathan India (CIN)
- Jazz Chisholm (MIA)
- D.J. LeMahieu (NYY)
- Tommy Edman (STL)
- *Max Muncy (LAD) – Injury status? Reportedly dealing with a torn UCL
- Chris Taylor (LAD)
Call them whatever you’d like, but below are five undervalued players I believe should outperform their ADP in 2022.
Jake Cronenworth (Padres)
ADP: 119.79 #14 second baseman (NFBC)
More than anything, I simply want to have Cronenworth on one of my teams this year, so I can rejoice every time I hear terrific Padres broadcaster Don Orsillo yell “the Crone Zone!”.
At the age of 28, Cronenworth is older than most players with only two years of experience at the major league level. While that lessens his value in dynasty/keepers leagues to some extent, it does not hinder my lofty expectations for him in 2022.
Cronenworth broke onto the scene in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season with a solid rookie season, hitting .285 with an .831 OPS. His performance was supported by stellar advanced metrics as well, as Cronenworth finished in the Top 10% of the entire league in xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA via Baseball Savant. However, after hitting only four home runs across 57 games, expectations were still relatively low entering 2021 as evidenced by his ADP of 200.17 via NFBC prior to drafts last season.
Then, the Crone Zone hit .277 in the first half of the season in 2021 with 12 home runs, 63 runs scored, and an .809 OPS, numbers strong enough for Cronenworth to be named to his first National League All-Star team.
4 straight games with a homer.
The Crone Zone is poppin'! pic.twitter.com/CenkcB4Wmp
— MLB (@MLB) June 26, 2021
However, Cronenworth slumped in the second half of the season before suffering a fractured finger in early September which hindered his performance even further down the stretch (.237 AVG, .702 OPS in September/October) as his numbers cratered. I imagine hitting a baseball is very difficult (and painful) with a broken finger.
Given Cronenworth’s spot hitting near the top of a potent Padres lineup, he is in a very strong position to score tons of runs given his strong hit tool. The Michigan product has always possessed tremendous bat-on-ball skills which he displayed throughout his college career (.312 AVG) and in the minor leagues (.283 AVG). He also possesses an elite strikeout rate (14.4% career) and finished amongst the best in the entire league in that category in 2021.
I’m banking on a return to his first-half form in 2021. If he can score 100+ runs to go along with 15 home runs, 70+ RBI, and a handful of stolen bases, he could provide very nice value at second base if you miss out on some of the big names early on in the draft.
Gavin Lux (Dodgers)
ADP: 223.92 #26 second baseman (NFBC)
This pick is simply more of a hunch and rooted in pedigree—and an anticipated increase in playing time—than it is proven performance (at least at the major league level) so far during his career.
Gavin Lux was selected in the first round of the MLB Draft by the Dodgers in 2016. In 2018, at the Single-A and Double-A levels, Lux hit .324 with a .913 OPS.
Then, in 2019, at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, Lux hit an astounding .347 to go along with a .607 SLG and 1.028 OPS in 113 games before joining the Dodgers late in the season. He was a consensus top three prospect prior to 2020 along with Wander Franco and Luis Robert.
However, on a stacked Dodgers team loaded with offensive talent (see: Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Max Muncy, etc.), consistent playing time has been hard to find for Lux over the past couple of seasons, and the results have been underwhelming and inconsistent. Lux has hit just .233 with a .692 OPS across 144 career MLB games scattered in bits and pieces over the past three seasons. Even worse, Lux has proven to be a very platoon-dependent player given his horrific performance against lefties (.168 AVG, .499 OPS). Looking at his underlying batted ball profile, there really aren’t any major takeaways to suggest that Lux has been unlucky. Simply put, he has struggled. And the lack of success against left-handers significantly limits his upside.
With all that said, Corey Seager headed out of town to Texas after signing a massive 10-year, $325 million free-agent contract this offseason, and the aforementioned Muncy is reportedly dealing with a torn UCL in his elbow. Enter Lux—as there should be ample playing time, at least early in the season, for the 24-year-old to try to find his footing at the MLB level. Furthermore, the adoption of the universal DH offers even more opportunities for consistent playing time for Lux.
Hitting in one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball, there should be plenty of opportunities for the smooth-swinging left-hander to both score runs and drive in runs. Given that he still does not even have a full year of major league experience (473 career at-bats) under his belt, Lux is still in his rookie phase of development, and patience is recommended for a player of his pedigree.
With the chance to play regularly and hopefully solve some of his woes against left-handers, Lux offers a low-risk, high-reward option at second base in drafts this spring.
The biggest home run of Gavin Lux's career is a three-run blast that puts the #Dodgers ahead in the eighth.pic.twitter.com/lZLFGZwcyM
— Today in MLB (@Todayin_MLB) May 12, 2021
Gleyber Torres (Yankees)
ADP: 150.43 #20 shortstop (NFBC)
If you’ve never watched the TV show Chopped on the Food Network, the premise of the show is having chefs compete against each other (and a clock) while attempting to create and prepare a delicious meal when given a mystery basket of ingredients. And if you’ve watched enough episodes, one thing becomes quite clear: simply having the right ingredients does not always guarantee a great meal.
This brings us to Gleyber Torres.
(Note – some platforms such as Yahoo! and CBS have allowed Torres to retain 2B eligibility for the coming season given that he appeared in 19 games as a second baseman last season. Other sites such as NFBC have not, so check your league settings and plan accordingly. This could also be impacted if Trevor Story winds up in pinstripes as well).
Now, admittedly, it feels very counterintuitive to suggest that Gleyber Torres, entering his age 25 season, could be considered a sleeper, but here we are.
Ever since being acquired in a trade package from the Cubs for closer Aroldis Chapman in 2016, Torres has been thought of as one of the core building blocks for the Yankees’ future. And the infielder seemed to be well on his way to emerging as the next great Yankees star when he hit .278 and homered 38 times in 2019, finishing 17th in American League MVP voting.
All of the ingredients have been there to support the emergence of Torres as a star:
Strong pedigree? Check.
Regular playing time? Check.
Favorable ballpark? Check.
Great supporting lineup? Check.
However, since 2019, it’s been a brutal downturn for Torres, as trade rumors began to swirl around the Yankees shortstop this offseason after his second consecutive disappointing season.
Torres struggled mightily in the shortened 2020 season (.243 AVG, .724 OPS) before returning to form with a scorching hot performance in the playoffs. It was easy to discard Torres’ struggles amidst all the pandemic-induced turmoil of the 2020 season, as many expected he would bounce back in 2021.
Except he didn’t. Torres struggled even more so in 2021, hitting .259 with a dreadful .697 OPS. In 169 games spanning across the 2020-2021 season, Torres homered only 12 times. His barrel %, exit velocity, launch angle, and hard hit % have all fallen off considerably compared to 2019, not to mention his struggles in the field as well. His future in New York has become very much in doubt despite seemingly having all the necessary ingredients to succeed.
Yet, those same ingredients are all still there in hopes for a bounce-back season in 2022. Torres was a consensus Top Five prospect in 2017-2018 and has proven to be a viable fantasy contributor as recently as two seasons ago. And it’s again worth mentioning that he was an absolute star on the biggest stage during the 2020 postseason as well (.435 AVG, 1.263 OPS). He’s just entering his physical prime, hits in the middle of a strong lineup, plays in a favorable ballpark, and also showed an increased ability on the base paths with 14 steals in 2021 amidst his other struggles.
Keep in mind that Torres had an ADP of 29 (2020) and 65 (2021) over the past two seasons, so his current ADP has dropped significantly—which creates a potential buying opportunity. Buy the dip!
Now, I’m not expecting for Torres to re-emerge as a fantasy superstar and the 35+ homer season was very likely a fluke (especially with the division-rival Orioles changing the dimensions of their home ballpark where Torres notoriously homered seven times in 2019—and 13 of his 38 home runs that season came against Baltimore). Torres clearly needs to make some adjustments at the plate to regain his early-career form, which could start with simply hitting fastballs better (.230 against fastballs in 2021).
But at his current ADP, we are trying to identify value, and there is certainly the potential for a .270-85-20-85-10 season hiding in that basket of ingredients somewhere.
GLEYBER TORRES HOME RUN AND THE YANKEES HAVE THREE THIS INNING OFF OF ROBBIE RAY pic.twitter.com/AQdWqsDnwT
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) October 1, 2021
Brendan Rodgers (Rockies)
ADP: 160.50 #22 second baseman (NFBC)
Coors Field. That’s it. That’s the analysis.
Not convinced? Okay, I’ll dive in a little deeper.
Like Lux above, Brendan Rodgers is another former first-round pick who has struggled to find consistent playing time since being drafted by the Rockies third overall in the 2015 MLB Draft. Despite being a consensus Top 15-20 prospect from 2017-2019, the Rockies were never able to find a spot in the lineup for him.
Then, after a brief cup of coffee at the end of 2019, Rodgers struggled immensely in limited playing time during the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season (.095 AVG).
However, he showed real signs of life last season, hitting a solid .284 to go with a .798 OPS and 15 home runs in just 102 games. Nothing sensational, but we can work with that for a 25-year-old former top prospect. Even more encouraging, he finished the season on a high note, slashing .299/.320/.504 with five home runs, 16 RBI, and an .824 OPS across 28 games in September and October.
More importantly, with Trevor Story likely headed elsewhere in free agency, Rodgers should have a clear path to consistent playing time in the infield moving forward while playing half his games in hitter’s paradise.
Now, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows here. Rodgers’ dreadful walk rate (4.6% in 2021) is a glaring red flag and was amongst the worst in the league last season. Being that aggressive at the plate is rarely a recipe for a sustainably high batting average unless your name is Tim Anderson. Furthermore, Rodgers has zero stolen base attempts at the MLB level (134 games) which limits his fantasy appeal as well.
But after a strong second half of the season in 2021, a wide-open runway for consistent playing time for the first time in his young career, and the hitter-friendliest ballpark in the league, Rodgers makes for a sensible pick at his current ADP, especially if he earns a spot hitting in the heart of the Rockies lineup.
Nolan Gorman (Cardinals)
ADP: 490.95 #47 second baseman (NFBC)
I’ll be honest—in that #20-50 tier of available second basemen, things start to get pretttyyyy dicey, so let’s do a little rapid-fire.
Kiké Hernandez had a strong second half, a sensational postseason (.408 AVG, five homers, 1.260 OPS), and appears penciled in to hit atop the Red Sox powerful lineup again this season, so there is real value there in terms of power and runs scored for the 30-year-old veteran. I like him a good bit.
Garrett Hampson has speed and plays in Coors Field, but he’s really struggled when given the opportunity over the past few seasons (.288 wOBA last season was amongst the worst in baseball).
Jeff McNeil (career .298 AVG) offers some intriguing bounce-back potential, but his role remains uncertain as he may get traded prior to the season.
Abraham Toro offers promising potential if he can lock down a full-time role in Seattle after being acquired from the Astros last season.
Mike Moustakas stands to benefit considerably from the adoption of the universal DH this season which should keep him in the lineup regularly. The 33-year-old should prove to be a viable source of cheap power in Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. Just don’t expect much in terms of batting average, runs, or stolen bases.
Adam Frazier was hitting .319 for the Pirates last season when he got traded to the Padres, and his season subsequently went into the tank. Now hitting leadoff for what should be a strong Mariners lineup after an offseason trade, there is potential for a solid batting average and plenty of runs scored, but the 30-year-old’s underlying advanced hitting metrics throughout his career leave a lot to be desired.
Jonathan Schoop hit .278 last season to go along with 22 home runs (his fifth career 20+ homer season).
Nick Madrigal (batting average) and Vidal Brujan (stolen bases) offer some category-specific juice and could provide value.
But instead, I wanted to use this space to mention the St. Louis Cardinals‘ top prospect, Nolan Gorman.
The Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2018 seems unlikely to begin the season with the major-league team, but the 21-year-old shouldn’t be long for the minors. Once he gets the call, Gorman should prove to be a fantasy-relevant contributor immediately, given his power potential at a shallow position like second base. The left-hander homered 25 times in just 119 games last season across Double-A and Triple-A and possesses some of the best raw power in the minor leagues.
What if we told you…
that Nolan Gorman…
…HIT ANOTHER ONE! pic.twitter.com/erAJKBeLQE
— Springfield Cardinals (@Sgf_Cardinals) June 12, 2021
Initially a third baseman, the Cardinals have been transitioning Gorman over to second base ever since they acquired Nolan Arenado from the Rockies last offseason. Keith Law of The Athletic rates Gorman as his 17th overall prospect currently and notes that “his bat will carry him—there’s still 35-40 home run power in there, and given the rapid improvement in his approach in 2021, there’s a greater chance than ever that he’ll get to it.”
Depending on league type (redraft vs. keeper vs. dynasty) as well as factoring in the size of your roster/bench, drafting-and-stashing Gorman for the first month or two of the season may not be a worthwhile endeavor. However, he is a name to keep in mind at second base once he makes it to The Show.
Photo from Icon Sportswire| Adapted by Shawn Palmer (@Palmerguyboston on twitter)