2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Top strategies for the second base position

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So you still think Jose Altuve is a first-rounder this year?

Consider it carefully before answering, because he wasn’t right last year. Not only did he hit about half as many home runs, but he basically stopped running over the final three months, which is particularly damning in an era when the stolen base is often considered an unwarranted risk. There may come a point when the Astros view sending him as no longer statistically viable.

Ah, but it turns out he was playing through a kneecap fracture and had surgery to correct it in the offseason. Maybe that explains everything. Maybe the Astros’ sworn secrecy last year has made for something of a first-round bargain this year. Maybe!

Yes, you’re in the right place. No, this isn’t the Jose Altuve Hour but a broader look at the state of second base. It’s just that if the knee explains everything and he is all right in 2019, he still represents the biggest advantage you could have at any position, especially now that the cost is no longer a top-five pick.

The only second baseman who’s in the ballpark in terms of possible production is Javier Baez, who may well be drafted to play third base or shortstop instead. And I’m sorry, but I’m not so optimistic in him repeating his near-MVP 2018. I go into more detail in my Busts column, but the bottom line is too much would have to go right for a player with clear plate discipline issues.

But look, even if he’s not Altuve, Baez is still pretty good, as are Whit Merrifield, Scooter Gennett and Ozzie Albies. They’re all fine players to target early if you want to ensure a positive outcome at a position with few assurances. Merrifield and Gennett make for particularly handy picks in traditional 5×5 leagues, giving you not only a positional advantage but a statistical one. Stolen bases (Merrifield) and batting average (Gennett) are two of the more difficult categories to fill late in drafts.

But you’re going to pay. At a point in drafts — say, between Rounds 4 and 7 — when other owners are stocking up on aces and sluggers, you’ll have to take a hit in one of those areas to satisfy your scarcity concerns. And since they all could conceivably go in between two of your picks, you may find yourself without one even if you went in with the best intentions.

Draft enough teams and you’ll eventually find yourself in a place where you have to sort through the remains at second base, which is less depressing than it is unsettling. There’s plenty of upside to be found. You just can’t be certain who’s going to make good on it. Pick wrong and the waiver wire isn’t exactly rife with alternatives.

Will Daniel Murphy stay healthy and reclaim his power stroke at Coors Field? How much more does Robinson Cano have left at 36? Why did Dee Gordon stop running, and will he start again for the rebuilding Mariners? Just what happened to Jonathan Schoop? Are Brian Dozier‘s batted-ball stats correct in suggesting he was the same as always last year, making him a reasonable bet to bounce back? Will the real Rougned Odor please stand up?

You see? Every one of those scenarios could go very right or very wrong.

Travis Shaw and Gleyber Torres might be the closest thing to “safe” choices after the big five of Altuve, Baez, Merrifield, Gennett and Albies go off the board, and they’re both eligible elsewhere, which means even more competition for their services.

Bottom line is if I’m playing the position scarcity game in 2019, I’m most likely doing it at second base and most likely taking one of Merrifield, Gennett and Albies between Rounds 4-7.

But if that doesn’t work out …

Scott’s second baseman to buy:
Daniel Murphy. His swing and approach are already geared toward making him a surefire batting title contender, and now he’s going to the park with magical BABIP-inflating powers. Please, just stay healthy.

Scott’s second baseman to sell:
Javier Baez. MVP-caliber production depends on him having both an outlandish BABIP and an outlandish home run-to-fly ball rate, which seems too much to ask two years in a row.

Heath Cummings’ second baseman to buy:
Travis Shaw. He was an elite option at a terrible position, and that was with an unlucky BABIP.  

Heath Cummings’ second baseman to sell:
Jonathan Schoop. He is an accumulator at best, and this will be the worst hitter’s park he’s ever played in.  

So which Fantasy Baseball sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued pitchers can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Baseball rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Scooter Gennett’s huge breakout last season, and find out.

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