I care about batting slot for anyone on my fantasy team, but when it comes to middle infielders, I especially care. And you should, too.
A good slot ensures extra trips to the plate, sure, and the buoyancy of the lineup as well — you’re supported by, ostensibly, your best teammates. But team scope and strategy also comes into play. A leadoff man might be allowed to steal liberally; a hitter stuck in front of an NL pitcher, not so much.
I ran through the current projected lineups and took a snapshot of where we find the second basemen. Keep in mind, plenty of 2B-eligible guys, like Jonathan Villar, aren’t expected to play second base this year.
This is where the 30 starting second basemen are expected to slot:
• Three leadoff men
• Eight batting second
• Three batting cleanup
• One batting fifth
• Five batting sixth
• Three batting seventh
• Four batting eighth
• Three batting ninth
Additionally, five are slated for platoons. In the smaller mixed leagues, a platoon can be a kill shot.
You need a buying guide as you attack second base, so here’s my set of recommendations. Don’t agree with a few, with most, with all? Good! That’s why we play this game about a game.
To the clipboard:
Likely to be Undervalued
He’s slotted second to start the year, right in the middle of the Legacy Foursome. Toronto’s organization feels it’s a year or two away from serious contention, but this lineup can be fun today.
Don’t sweat the .234 average; focus on that pretty .364 OBP. Like his pop, Biggio gets on base. And catch the pretty 14 steals against zero caught stealing; if Baby Biggio wants a bag, he takes it. Toronto didn’t want to run much as a team, but there’s no reason to stop this kid. The NFBC rooms have Biggio at a reasonable ADP 133; he’s 30 picks cheaper in Yahoo.
A good example of how misunderstood former Rockies can be. Some mistakenly fear that a hitter departing Coors will quickly become his road-stat profile, but what usually happens is the hitter’s splits start to even out. Remember, Coors is unfair for batters at home, then a monumental tax on the road when your timing is all messed up.
LeMahieu probably slots first in that loaded New York lineup. His surprising opposite-field power plays nicely in Yankee Stadium. Position flexibility isn’t that big a deal in Yahoo since we liberally allow for it, but I still like LeMahieu manning the three infield bases. His NFBC price (ADP 64) is more fun than the Yahoo ticket (56.8), but I could proactively take him in either room.
Mike Moustakas, Cincinnati Reds
I made two reasonable assumptions on Moose last year — a boost from his home Milwaukee park, a LH-power haven, and a potential drag from the emotional tax of playing second base. Whenever a player is asked to man a more-demanding position on the defensive spectrum, I get nervous.
Of course, I was wrong on both counts. Moose was better on the road, and second base didn’t faze him at all. Now he’s in Cincinnati, another launching pad, and into his boring veteran days. Just outside of the Top 100, I’ll accept three strong categories and a batting average that isn’t a major drain in the shape of today’s game.
Jonathan Villar, Miami Marlins
Ticketed for the outfield, but he was primarily an infielder last year, so we’ll stick him here. Sure, the power was mostly a Baltimore thing last year, but he batted .283 and had 24 steals on the road. The bags are more about guile than raw speed, and sometimes playing on a bad team is buoyancy for steal attempts — the team needs to sell something and can endorse a DGAF approach to running.
Bottom line with Villar: You have to accept that he’s a much better fantasy player than real-life one. I have no problem minding that gap. His ADP is 40 in NFBC, but into the mid-50s for Yahoo. Take what they’re giving you.
Heading into an age-31 season and tied to a non-contender, these could be the boring value days. Mind you, he’s pricy in Yahoo (ADP 44) and not a giveaway in NFBC (one round later), but I’d still be keen to a falling price. There’s nothing sexy about Merrifield, and that type of player could be a steal in any room.
His base-stealing interest and efficiency dropped last year, so we play the guessing game forward. But everyone’s projecting for 20-plus, and I’ll do that, too. He’s been durable his entire career and his best roto skills are two things you rarely have to pay full freight for — versatility without one eye-popping stat, and batting average. Merrifield figures to be in trade talks all summer; there’s a good chance he ends the season on a much better team.
Likely to be Overvalued
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
I don’t have any good answers on the Astros, nor any good jokes. You’ve heard them all, anyway. You know where Twitter is, the land of everyone telling the same joke.
But we’ve seen Altuve’s steals collapse the last two years, in part because of injuries. We can’t take last year’s power at face value, given the overall landscape, and how it contrasts his career profile. Altuve can probably match his career .315/.364/.463 slash in his sleep, but I am uncomfortable betting on his power, his speed, or even his teammates. In years past, we knew this would be a great lineup. Maybe the 2020 Astros can effectively tune out the noise — maybe they can’t.
I don’t want a third-round pick who’s this easy to talk down. Nudge me if Altuve slides into the fourth, and if he doesn’t, so it goes. We’ll beat them with someone else.
Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers
He has pedigree to the moon, but on a loaded Dodgers roster, Lux is likely to bat eighth — and probably platoon. The NFBC rooms can’t help themselves, taking Lux at an ADP of 155 (with a high of 96). Shiny New Toys sure are expensive. This is not how I play. Maybe Lux will blow the lid off things, or others will get hurt, but I won’t price those expectations into the draft.
Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays
A bunch of strikeouts, and lefties all but knocked the bat out of his hands (.242/.265/.409). I haven’t heard any talk of Lowe being platooned, but the Rays are one of those organizations that aren’t happy unless the lineup is different every day. Baseball Savant says his batting average should have been 26 points lower; that’s the .377 BABIP talking. I can’t say the ADPs are out of control, converging around Pick 200, but I see too many paths where I regret this type of pick.
Tommy La Stella, Los Angeles Angels
We had fun with him last year, but he’s slotted to be in the bottom third and in a platoon. Okay, Joe Maddon could easily give La Stella some time at the top of the order, but he’s another chronic tinkerer with the lineup card.
To be fair, it’s low-hanging fruit to ding a pick at Yahoo ADP 243. I just want to underscore that your money probably goes further elsewhere. Mundane as it might sound, career spikes at age 30 are not to be chased the following year, especially when you add the injury, gridlock, and Maddon variables.
The Wild Cards
Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks
It’s cute to see some “Regression!” screams followed by a mic drop as if that solves our dilemma. Marte is ADP 44 in NFBC and 13 picks later in Yahoo; those are not prices commensurate with his 2019 stats. A significant giveback is already baked into that ticket.
I wanted to credit some of the breakout to the internal peace of everyday playing time; Seattle, after all, kept jerking Marte around. But he played 153 games in Arizona back in 2018, batted only .260. He has above-average sprint speed but has never wanted to run much. We know the homers are coming down, and it’s hard to know where the average belongs. I’ll never pay the NFBC ticket, but I could talk myself into Marte at the Yahoo price. Either way, it’s unsettling ground.
Garrett Hampson, Colorado Rockies
Did you catch Damien Williams in the NFL playoffs? He went bonkers, much to the delight of anyone who promoted him preseason. Yes, the loss was already in the books, the ink dried. But it’s so tempting to point to the playoff barrage and think, “I was right all along!”
Hampson is another case. A trendy 2019 sleeper, he was a flop from the start and quickly lost his spot in the lineup. By the end of August, he was resting comfortably, unbothered, on most waiver wires.
Ah, but then Hampson went ballistic in the final month: .318/.368/.536, with five homers, a perfect 9-for-9 on steals. At the end of the year, he was hitting leadoff regularly.
I want to take it at face value. I want to recoup what I lost on Hampson in 2019. I want to be in on the Rockies, too, of course. And yet, I can’t ignore this team’s frustrating history, its tendency to bench any non-star for a perceived three-day slump.
The early Hampson price isn’t bad: 174 in NFBC and two rounds cheaper in Yahoo. You get three positions. Everybody’s hit rate is so low by that stage of the draft, I’ll probably justify a couple of Hampson shares. And I’m fully expecting to loathe myself for it, come May 1.