2021 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 30 Second Basemen

This is a first pass. I mean, it’s only November. In the books already are the Top 15 Catchers and the Top 30 First Basemen. Much will change over the coming months, but here’s my starting point for the keystone.

2020 wasn’t ALL bad for Marte. His hard hit rate held steady and his K-rate decreased.
RANKPLAYERTEAMNOTES
1Ozzie AlbiesATLHe’s a premier power/speed combo at a weak position. Entering 2020, he had already given us seasons of 24/14 and 24/15. His 2020 year was slowed by a wrist injury, but if you project his 6/3 totals (in 29 games) to more of a full year, you get roughly a 30/15 season. He’s a free-swinger, but he makes above-average contact and his eye for the zone his elite–in 2018 he ranked second in the majors in Z-Swing%. In 2019, he ranked fifth. And while he didn’t qualify due to injury in 2020, his 85.1% zone swing rate would have ranked first in the league, just ahead of some guy named Corey Seager.
2DJ LeMahieuNYYWe’ll all be hoping he doesn’t leave the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, which is built for his swing. But he’s a premier batting average asset due to his quality of contact, and his eligibility is huge plus. Those things won’t change no matter where he plays in 2021.
3Whit MerrifieldKCHis success rate on steals jumped back to 80% in 2020 (12-for-15) after dipping to 66.6% in 2019 (20-for-30). His swing rate was unchanged from 2019, steady at 49.1%…but he lowered his chase rate, swung inside the zone more, made more contact, and trimmed his swinging strike rate. His speed continues to slowly erode, but his 28.4 ft/s mark still ranked inside the 89th percentile in 2020. His 5.1% barrel rate, .292 xBA, and 12.5% strikeout rate were the best marks of his career. He’s a premier line drive hitter, an asset in batting average, runs scored, and steals. Merrifield is a free square at his current NFBC ADP of 45.
4Cavan BiggioTOROver the last season and a half he’s played 159 games, slashing .240/.368/.430 (with 24 homers and 20 steals). His walk rate was steady at 15.5% in 2020, but he cut his strikeout rate from 28.6% to 23.0%. He was still passive at the plate, but his chase rate was stupid-low and he improved his contact from 75.9% to 78.3%. Unlike others on this list, I trust his power and his speed. The ONLY question is his batting average, and he’s got a single-digit swinging strike rate. With any sort of BABIP luck on his side, you’ve got a fantasy monster on your hands.
5Ketel MarteARZEntering 2020, he had trimmed his ground ball rate and beefed up his line drive and fly ball rates. On the rise were his launch angle, barrel rate, and hard hit rate. His 2019 was superb, with his .299 xBA (top 6% of MLB) and .405 wOBA (top 3%) culminating in a 32-homer, 10-steal campaign. His 2020 wasn’t all bad, as his hard hit rate held steady at 40.5% and he trimmed his strikeout rate to 10.8% (top 1% of MLB). He also made more contact than ever, it just wasn’t good contact. He chased more outside the zone (31.8% to 33.3%) and bumped up his contact rate outside of the zone (73.3% to 79.7%). The problem is he didn’t swing at pitches in the zone like he should’ve, as his Z-Swing% plummeted from 71.6% to 60.8%. This resulted in more ground balls, more infield flies, and more soft contact (per Fangraphs). Only two homers and one steal made his .287/.323/.409 slash line pretty empty. All this said, if he can beef up his swing rate inside the zone again, when you add in his hard hit rate, his plus speed, and last year’s career-best 5.6% swinging strike rate–he’s still worth drafting at a thin position.
6Brandon LoweTBHe was more selective in 2020, dropping his swing rate to an average level (instead of free-swinging) and severely decreasing his chase rate (34.1% to 26.8%). He also cut his 19.1% swinging strike rate to a more palatable 15.4% rate. The end result was a shiny 24.9% strikeout rate (down from 34.6%) and a healthy 11.2% walk rate (up from 7.6%). Add in a healthy amount of line drives, fly balls, and a 98th percentile barrel rate…things are looking up for Lowe.
7Max MuncyLADHe’s probably carrying 1B/2B/3B eligibility on most platforms in 2021, making him one of my favorite buys in early drafts. There were no discernible changes in his plate discipline, and Muncy actually trimmed his swinging strike rate down to 9.3%, while increasing his contact rate (73.6% to 74.4%). He was still the same passive hitter (only a 36.6% swing rate) and his chase rate was a career-low 18.3%. Only Cavan Biggio (16.3%) and Mike Trout (17.4%) had lower swing rates outside the zone. I’d love for him to swing more, but the healthy barrel rate, stellar walk rate, and a likely rebound in BABIP means he’s still a great pick in ’21.
8Jeff McNeilNYMMcNeil’s 9.1% swinging strike rate is above average, but not spectacular. What IS spectacular is his recognition of pitches inside the strike zone, as his 84.0% swing rate was second-best in the league in 2020 after only Corey Seager (84.8%). McNeil’s crazy 56.8% swing rate–third-highest in the majors–might seem scary, but he makes plenty of contact in the zone (26th in MLB) and loads of contact on pitches outside the strike zone (12th in MLB). In short, the man is a pure hitter. He may not have otherworldly power, but he’ll bat .300 in his sleep and he’ll likely qualify as 2B/3B/OF in your league.
9Keston HiuraMLWHe’s played 143 MLB games in a season and a half, slashing .266/.338/.505 with 32 homers and 12 steals. That batting average was buoyed by a .402 BABIP over his first 84 games, however. He batted .212 in 2020, with a .273 BABIP and .210 xBA. He’ll need to beef up 2020’s 39.6% hard hit rate (50th percentile) in order to rebound in 2021. Let’s hope a more normal year brings a bit of a rebound in the contact department, too–Hiura’s swinging strike rate ballooned from 17.5% in 2019 to 20.3% in 2020. His was the second-highest mark in the league, trailing only Luis Robert (22.1%). He’s still just 24 years old. Take a shot on the tools.
10Jake CronenworthSDHis 5.8% swinging strike rate and 85.3% contact rate in 2020 were stellar, especially when married to his “all red” Statcast profile. He also ranked inside the top 10% of the league in xBA (.324), xSLG (.541), and xWOBA (.383). Cronenworth’s success rate on steals has trended downward as he has ascended levels, but he was 3-for-4 in a small 2020 sample and has 92nd percentile sprint speed. Steamer projects 11 swipes over 603 PA for 2021, but that feels a little light to me given that he plays for the run-happy Padres.
11Jose AltuveHOUHe’s posted the highest sprint speed marks of his career in the last two years, which is strange because his success rate over 2019-2020 is only 50% (8-for-16). That’s a measly 16 stolen base attempts over his last 172 games, so I think we can comfortably say you’re looking at only 5-8 steals over the course of a full year. I also think the power is a mirage–Altuve’s whopping 50% pull rate of 2019 (the year of the rabbit ball) now reads like a major outlier. It makes sense that he’d yank everything down the line with that ball, but 2020 was a reversion to a more normal batted ball profile. Altuve’s contact rate has declined every year since 2014, and his chase rate leapt to 38.2% in 2020. His “x” stats are also pretty damning, with his xBA reaching a new low of .230 in 2020, and his sweet spot rate landing well below average at only 24.8% (the MLB average is 32.8%). He should be an asset in runs scored, but it’s possible that comes with an ordinary BA and weaker counting stats, and only a sprinkling of speed.
12Mike MoustakasCINFor a guy with his power, he doesn’t strike out much (career 16.0%, and only 22.1% in 2020). His .242 xBA was better than Altuve’s last year, and he was superior to Altuve in barrel rate, average exit velo, and hard hit rate. In his second year in Cincy, I still think he’s a “go” for a .250 BA and 30 homers. Maybe it’s a hot take, but I could see “Moose” besting Altuve in BA, HR, and RBI in 2021. It would be safer to just say HR/RBI, though, but I think these two could be close by the time the dust settles.
13Jonathan VillarFAHe’s a free agent, but I’m assuming he’ll still be a starter given his defensive skills and versatility. In fantasy, it’s the ability to swipe bases that keeps him relevant. His sprint speed dipped a bit in 2020 (27.9 ft/s to 27.1 ft/s), but he was still 16-for-21 (76%) on the basepaths. In the last season that wasn’t shortened by Covid-19, he cracked 24 homers and stole 40 bags. He’s only 29 years old.
14Dylan MooreSEARight now he’s Seattle’s starting second baseman, and besides that he played in every single spot except for catcher last year. That versatility should keep his newfound offense in the lineup. In 2020 he focused on simplifying his swing. As a result, he lowered his swinging strike rate, hit the ball harder, and hit for more power. To boot, he’s got 71st percentile sprint speed and stole 12 bags in the shortened year. It was only a 70.5% success rate, but that was an improvement over 2019, when he was only at 55%. Versatility, power, speed, and a team still bad enough to have to play him? I’m very interested in the player, but I also acknowledge the current ADP of 115 leaves little room for profit.
15Tommy EdmanSTLThe Cardinals not picking up Kolten Wong’s option means Edman is now the primary second baseman in St. Louis. He’ll have 2B/SS/3B/OF eligibility in 2021, and 95th percentile speed to entice fantasy owners. Think Whit Merrifield lite, and you’ll have an idea.
16Nick SolakTEXIn 2020, Solak saw time at 2B, LF, CF, DH, and 1B. That ability to play multiple spots should keep his plus hit tool in the lineup. He nearly put up a 20/20 season at Double-A in 2018, with 19 homers and 21 steals. In 2019, he mashed 32 homers and stole seven bags across two levels. And over his 91 MLB games that span the end of 2019 and the abbreviated 2020, he has slashed .277/.351/.397 with seven homers and nine steals. Over the course of a full season, he can threaten the 20/20 threshold. Add in the 2B/OF eligibility, and I’m sold.
17Gavin LuxLADLux is still just 22 years old, so I’m taking his small MLB sample (42 games) with a grain of salt. He’s known for his plus hit tool, and in 2020 it looks like he took a small step towards more of an all fields approach by bumping his oppo rate to 29.5% (more in line with his MiLB numbers). He sacrificed his hard hit rate to to do so, but we’re only talking 44 batted ball events in 2020. And there were only 51 BBE in 2019. Let’s all take a deep breath and take another shot on his upside, which is a 25-homer, 10-steal sort of hitter. He’ll need to improve against southpaws, especially as a member of the platoon-happy Dodgers.
18Andres GimenezNYMRobinson Cano getting popped for PEDs means the pathway is clear for Gimenez. Of course, we’ll need to see what the Mets do for the rest of free agency. As is, I’m ranking Gimenez as a starter. He’ll have 2B/SS/3B eligibility in 2021, and the defensive versatility means he should be able to put his 94th percentile sprint speed to good use. He stole 28 bags at Triple-A in 2019 (117 games), and followed that up with eight steals in 2020 (49 games). A solid batting average and 20 steals seems like a given over a full year, with a smattering of homers–maybe 8-10?
19Mauricio DubonSFHe’ll be 2B/SS/OF eligible if your platform uses the seven-game threshold in 2021. That ability to play infield and outfield is super, and should keep his bat in the lineup. The .273/.337/.389 slash from ’20 was solid, if unspectacular. In 2020, Dubon improved his barrel rate, average exit velocity, launch angle, xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, XWOBACON, hard hit rate, and walk rate. All that, and his strikeout rate only increased from 18.0% to 20.3%. He also severely trimmed his chase rate (46.2% to 36.5%) and beefed up his swing rate in the zone (72.7% to 77.9%). I could see a 12/12 type of season, with room for more steals if he’s allowed to run and picks his spots a little better than he has so far.
20Ty FranceSEAHis first big year was 2018, when he crushed 22 homers across Double-A and Triple-A (137 games). In 2019, he jacked 27 homers in only 76 games at Triple-A…and upon his call-up he hit a modest seven over 69 games. In 2020 he got more playing time for the Padres, but was eventually traded to the Mariners. At only 26 years old, he’s still young enough to fit into their future plans, too. In 2020, he bumped his walk rate from 4.5% to 7.1%, trimmed his K-rate from 24.4% to 23.9%, and improved his batting average from .234 to .305 (supported by a healthy .288 xBA). If he gets to play, I think there’s 20 homers here, maybe more. With a plus BA, that’s tough to ignore at the 2B position.
21Wilmer FloresSFIn 2020, he enjoyed the most impressive power output of his career, slugging 12 homers in only 55 games for San Francisco. He sacrificed some contact to do so, with his contact rate falling from 89.7% in 2019 to 84.3% in ’20. This is still a well above average mark, though–so this is a tradeoff we are fine with in fantasy. Flores’ 51.5% pull rate was by far a career-high, as was his 16.9% HR/FB rate. Lastly, these marks weren’t otherworldly, but he did set career-highs in barrel rate (6.1%), launch angle (19.0 degrees), average exit velocity (87.9 MPH), sweet spot percentage (37.4%), and hard hit rate (34.4%). He’s a solid depth play with his 1B/2B eligibility.
22Jurickson ProfarFAHe’s not fast (56th percentile) but he knows when to pick his spots. For his career he has a 79.5% success rate, but over the last three seasons he’s been 10-for-10, 9-for-10, and 7-for-8. He also posted a career best .284 xBA in 2020, so we can trust the .278 BA. He’s a 20/10 threat with 2B/OF eligibility…he’s a sneaky guy to round out your fantasy rosters with, provided he lands in a spot where he’ll get to play.
23Jean SeguraPHIIn Year 2 with Philly, he elevated the ball more than ever, with a career-high 11.2 degree launch angle and 6.1% barrel rate. His 38.5% hard hit rate was also the best of his career–all of this culminated with seven homers over only 54 games. By comparison, he hit only 12 homers in 144 games in 2019. He hasn’t lost much of a step despite being 30 years old, as he still posted a 87th percentile sprint speed in 2020. He’s a 10/10 guy over the course of a full year, with room for more if he continues to elevate the ball in 2021.
24Scott KingeryPHIHe’s a guy where I’m willing to toss out 2020 due to Covid-19 and take a shot on a player with 2B/OF eligibility. He’s a power/speed threat, having given us a 19/15 season heading into 2020. He’s still just 26 years old.
25Chris TaylorLADHe can play both middle infield spots and the outfield, and the Dodgers love him. I think I’ve been selling him short. He popped eight homers and stole three bags in 2020, ranking inside the top 25% of the league in hard hit rate, xwOBA, xSLG, barrel rate, and sprint speed. He also trimmed his swinging strike rate to 12.7%, a three-year low. He swings in the zone a ton, at 76.2%. His 21.3% chase rate was stupid-low and a career-best mark. Just 30 years old, the only concern here is the platoon-happy team for which he plays–which is mitigated a bit due to his versatility.
26Cesar HernandezFAHis 66 hits were tied for 11th-best in the majors, and he still had 90th percentile sprint speed (though he did not have any stolen base attempts in ’20). In his two full seasons prior to 2020, he managed seasons with 15/19 and 14/9…and the reason he only had nine swipes in 2019 was because he only attempted 11 steals. That 9-for-11 was nearly an 82% success rate. I only mention it because I think his role will be really important–he has a career .352 OBP and had a .355 mark in 2020. If he winds up setting the table for any team in 2021, there’s 10/15 potential here.
27Kolten WongFAYikes at his 44th percentile sprint speed from last year. Really? Entering 2020, Wong had never been below the 63rd percentile for speed, but he dropped from 27.6 ft/s in ’19 to 26.6 ft/s in 2020. I’ll definitely need to see a rebound in this department next spring before I take a shot on his BA/SB profile. His home plate to first time went down for the second straight year, too. Here are his last three marks, beginning in 2018 (in seconds): 4.16, 4,20, and 4,29. That 4.29 mark actually compares really favorably with other guys who had his same overall sprint speed, and I don’t want to just bank on one short season’s worth of data. But he is 30 years old now, so I think it’s worth knowing.
28Jon BertiMIAHe’s 30 years old and has only appeared in 116 games at the MLB level. Over that time he’s slashing .269/.359/.391 with eight homers and 27 steals. Over a full year’s worth of playing time, I don’t see why he couldn’t do 10+ homers and 30+ swipes. He’s in the 97th percentile for sprint speed and he’s been successful on 27-of-32 stolen base attempts in the bigs (84.4% success rate). I won’t say he’s become more selective as a hitter, as the swing rate has gone down but the zone swing rate hasn’t improved. But becoming more passive and drawing walks like Berti did in 2020–15.4% of the time–it really plays to his skill set. If I knew he’d set the table for Miami and that his playing time was guaranteed, he’d be higher on this list.
29Nick MadrigalCWSBy my count, he won’t be recovered from shoulder surgery until around March. Someone is going to have to explain to me how a no-power guy coming off of shoulder surgery is being drafted so aggressively. What if the Sox don’t let him run as much? And even if he’s got the green light to do so, his minor league track record has less power and less speed than a guy like Berti. Here, you’re getting a batting average boost over Berti…but I fail to understand why the massive discrepancy in their ADPs exists.
30Garrett HampsonCOLHe’s Berti, except he’s only 26 years old and he’s got the Coors backdrop. Trouble is, I trust Berti to have more playing time, because the Rockies are gonna…Rockie? He’s got the ability to play infield and outfield, so theoretically there are multiple ways his bat can find the lineup. Trouble is, his walk rate decreased and his strikeout rate increased for the third year in a row–and while the 7.1% walk rate was tolerable, the 32.6% strikeout rate is ghastly and unsustainable. Maybe in a more normal 2021 we can see Hampson rebound to tolerable levels, but at this point he and his organization are hard to trust.

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