This week we continue the trip around the infield by looking at the second basemen.
I’m pretty sure I said this last year, but I will say it again: second base is the scrapheap of major league baseball. It seems every manager believes anyone can play second base – and they may be right. You have players getting starts at the spot that you would think would never play there – like a Brandon Drury. Right fielders, center fielders, third basemen, first basemen – they are all getting time at second base.
With so many fantasy leagues requiring middle infielders, the list of keepers is long and the bar to be on the list consists of players who had to have at least 10 starts at second base.
Enough with the chit chat, on to the 2024 Top Keepers – Second Basemen
*Age as of April 1, 2024
|51||Ji Hwan Bae||Pit||24|
There is really not a lot to say about this tier other than if you are keeping any of these players you must be in a 30-team league. There are a few players here who actually may contribute to your team, but not many.
A Few Good Men
Mauricio will only be 22 on Opening Day and stole seven bases in 26 games. Gonzales, Freeman and Bae will all be 24 on Opening Day, with Bae showing the most upside at this moment. In 111 games, he stole 24 bases, so he provides speed if that is something you need.
Elvin Andrus is the fish out of water when it comes to this tier as he is the only player not just in his 30s, but his mid-30s. But Andrus can still swipe a base here and there and doesn’t kill you in the slash line.
A Little Pop
Michael Massey is the only player in this tier who has some pop at the plate. In 129 games he hit 15 homers and drove in 55. While that is not great, out of the 60 players in these rankings, those homers and RBI rank in the top 25. What keeps Massey ranked in this tier is the fact he slashed .229/.274/.381, which is pretty much in line with his career marks of .233/.284/.379.
The Speed Guys
While Massey is the only player who displays decent power, there are a host of players who can steal a base for you if that is your need. Six players, including Andrus, stole 12 or more bases. Leading the way were Brice Turang and Jose Caballero with 26 steals. Turang needed 448 plate appearances to swipe his 26 bags and slashed only .218/.285/.300, so speed is about all he was good for in 2023.
Caballero stole his 26 bases and 280 plate appearances. And while he did not have a high batting average, he did have a .343 OBP thanks to a 10% walks rate. If he can cut down on his 24% strikeout rate and raise his batting average, he could be a real threat on the bases for the Mariners and your team.
Taylor Walls started the year well for the Rays, slashing .302/.397/.571 through his first 20 games with four homers, 10 RBI and five steals. But then came the rest of the season as he failed to hit above .191 in any month from May through September. About all did well during that time was steal some bases. He ended the year with 22 steals, but 15 came within the first two months of the season.
If Tier 5 was the group of the 28-and-under players, then his is the group of 29-and-over players. For better or worse, you kind of know what you will get from the players in this group.
Jake Cronenworth may be ranked too high, but I still hold out hope that he will rediscover the magic of 2021 when he hit 21 homers, drove in 71, and slashed .266/.340/.460. But since his slash line has dropped to .239/.332/.390 in 2022 and .229/.312/.378 this past season. If he was still hitting homers, you might be able to live with that, but he slugged only 10 dingers this year and drove in 48.
For the year, Josh Rojas put up mediocre numbers, but after being traded from Arizona to Seattle, he did well for the Mariners, slashing .272/.321/.400 in 46 games with four homers, 14 RBI and six steals.
The Steady, the Flash and the Question Mark
In his first season with the Astros in 2022, Maurico Dubon struggled at the plate. But in his second season with the club, he was the unsung hero. With Jose Altuve missing the first month and a half of the season due to a broken thumb suffered in the World Baseball Classic, Dubon filled in at second base. When Altuve returned Dubon played at least one game at every position except pitcher and catcher. He did this while slashing .278/.309/.411 with 10 homers, 46 RBI and seven steals.
While Dubon was steady all season, Davis Schneider flashed onto the scene before falling back down to earth. In 14 games in August, Schneider slashed an amazing .426/.526/.894 with six homers and 14 RBI. Those numbers were obviously not sustainable, but he didn’t just slow down his pace, he crashed hard in September. In 21 games, he slashed .174/.321/.406 with two homers and six RBI with a 33% strikeout rate.
He is not going to repeat what he did in August, but he is better than what he showed in September.
Then there is the question mark – Luis Garcia of the Nationals. Overall, his numbers were pretty average. He had nine homers, 50 RBI and nine steals in 122 games while slashing .266/.304/.385. Garcia, however, will only be 23 on Opening Day and I think there is more to his game than what he showed. He is the same player who slashed .304/.347/.411 with 11 RBI in May and .304/.360/.507 in September with three homers and eight RBI.
Lux missed all of the 2023 season after being slated to play shortstop for the Dodgers. But with no games played in 2023, he should still qualify as a second baseman in 2024, and I think he will be a valuable player next season. In 2022 he slashed .276/.346/.399 with six homers, 42 RBI and seven steals in 129 games.
Westburg is a player I talked about in September. For an in-depth look at him, you can read this. But to summarize, he has the power to deliver 20 or more home runs. He will just need to make a few adjustments to get some more lift on the ball. Even if that doesn’t lead to a lot of homers to left field in Baltimore, it will on the road and a host of doubles in home games to boost his slugging percentage.
Whit Merrifield is now a free agent, and at age 35, his best years are behind him. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a productive player anymore. He is coming off a season in which he hit 11 homers, drove in 67 runs and stole 26 bases while slashing .272/.318/.382.
Thairo Estrada is seven years younger than Merrifield, making him a better keeper as he should produce for several more years. And Estrada’s production may be overlooked. He doesn’t do one thing great, but he did hit 14 homers and steal 23 bases. He also won’t hurt your slash line as he slashed .271/.315/.416 for the Giants this past season.
The Power Hitters
At 6-foot-2, Ryan McMahon and Brandon Drury do not look like your typical second baseman. McMahon is really a third baseman. However, he started 16 games at second base and appeared in 22 games there overall. That is enough playing time to slot him at second in these rankings. And what kind of production are you going to get? Call it 22 homers and 75 RBI. In the last four full MLB seasons, he has hit 24, 23, 20 and 23 home runs and driven in 83, 86, 67 and 70 runs. That is pretty consistent.
During Drury’s nine-year career he has appeared in 284 games at second followed by 211 at third and 127 in the outfield with time also at first base and shortstop. Be happy Drury slots in at second base because he delivers power to the position. Last year he hit 26 dingers and drove in 83 runs while slugging .497 and has a career slugging percentage of .446.
There are a lot of players with long-term potential in this tier, and one of those players is Andres Gimenez. In 2022, his first full season in the majors, Gimenez slashed .297/.371/.466 with 17 homers, 69 RBI and 20 steals. This past season his slash line of .251/.314/.399 didn’t match what he did in 2022. However, he still hit 15 homers and drove in 62 runs with 30 steals. That is probably his floor – and I’ll take that. But I think there is still room for more power.
Likely Headed Elsewhere, But…
The chances of Jonathan India playing for the Reds next season are not good, not with the plethora of infield talent the team can put at second base. But no matter India plays, I think he will produce. Despite being slowed in the second half of the season by plantar fasciitis, India still had 17 homers, 61 RBI and 14 steals with a .338 OBP.
Power/Speed Combo – From Different Players
Christopher Morel and Nico Hoerner, if one player, would make a great second baseman. However, they are different players who bring two different offensive skill sets to the position. Morel hit 26 homers and drove in 70 runs, but slashed .247/.313/.508. That slugging percentage is a number I’ll take any day.
Then there is Hoerner. He doesn’t have the power of Morel (nine homers), but he swiped 43 bases while slashing .283/.346/.383. Considering he is a true second baseman and Morel’s time at that position may be for only one more year fantasy-wise, I’m ranking Hoerner a little higher.
Power vs. Average
Issac Paredes is a third baseman who got enough time at second base to allow him to be a second baseman in our world. And if you have Paredes on your team, be happy with that. In his second full season in Tampa Bay, Paredes busted out for the Rays with 31 homers and 98 RBI while slashing .250/.352/.488. The power is real as he hit 20 homers in 331 at-bats in 2022, but the slash line may come down a little in 2024. But if the home runs keep coming, that is a small tradeoff.
Luis Arraez is ranked 11th because of one thing – his ability to hit for average. He only hit 10 home runs this past season – a career high. But slashed .354/.393/.469 after slashing .316/.375/.420 in 2022 for the Twins. For his career he is a .326 hitter with a .379 OBP. Batting average is no longer used in many leagues, but OBP is and thanks to his high average, Arraez will continue to help your team’s OBP.
All A’s For Gelof
You may be surprised to see Zack Gelof ranked 10th, but you obviously don’t know how much I like him. This is what I said about the Oakland second baseman back in August. At that point of the season he was slashing .250/.315/.560 with six homers, 11 RBI and six steals in 22 games. By the end of the year, covering a total of 69 games and 300 plate appearances, Gelof slashed .267/.337/.504 with 14 home runs, 32 RBI and 14 steals.
I’ll gladly take a second baseman with a .500 slugging percentage and double-digit steals.
As a rookie in 2022, Bryson Stott slashed .324/.295/.358 with 10 dingers, 49 RBI and 12 steals. Not great, but he showed he could have success in the majors. And he showed the ability to improve. This past year he slashed .280/.329/.419 with 15 home runs, 62 RBI and 31 steals. The steals may be close to his ceiling, but I think he has more power in his game while producing a slash line close to what he did this season for years to come.
Spencer Steer counts as a second baseman for now. So as a keeper for next year, that is great news. He was ranked seventh in my first basemen rankings, so this is what I said about him last week: All Steer did this year was slash .271/.356/.464 with 23 homers, 86 RBI and 15 steals. Playing in a hitter’s park, those power numbers are likely to only increase. The only reason Steer may not be a future Tier 1 first baseman is because he may not be eligible to play there.
Is he a first baseman (53 games started), second baseman (13 games started), third baseman (42 games started) or left fielder (36 games started)? As long as he gets enough starts at second to be eligible there, who cares?
But the reason Steer may not be eligible at second base beyond 2024 is due to Matt McLain, who will likely be the primary second baseman next season. In his rookie season, McLain hit 16 homers, drove in 50 runs and stole 14 bases while slashing .290/.357/.507 in 89 games. He has power, he has speed, and he can hit for average.
(Sidenote: is there a team that has a more exciting future than the Reds – at least when it comes to the offense? Steer, McLain, Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte, Christian Encarnacion-Strand – is there a team with more top keepers than the Reds? It is a fun argument to have.)
A Solid Player
During his career, Ketel Marte has displayed the ability to hit for power (32 homers in 2019, 25 this year) and for average (.329 in 2019 and .318 in 2021). But outside of that 2019 season, the hitting and the power have not come at the same time. But Marte has produced an OPS+ over 100 in the last five full MLB seasons. He’s not flashy, but more often than not he produces.
Solid Production – Again
Gleyber Torres may never have another season like he had in 2019 when he hit 38 homers and had 90 RBI while slugging .535. But after a down year in 2021 when he slugged .366 and hit nine dingers, Torres has come back to swat 24 and 25 home runs the last two years with double-digit steals and slugging percentages of .451 and .453. The fact he hit 38 home runs leaves room for me to believe he can do it again – or at least reach 30 for a number of years as he is only going to be 27 next year.
Texas Two Step
If you look at just the numbers, Marcus Semien had a much better year than Jose Altuve. Semien hit 29 homers and drove in 100 runs while stealing 14 bases and slashing .276/.348/.478. Altuve had 17 homers and 51 RBI. But those numbers came in only 90 games. He slashed .311/.393/.522 and had an OPS+ of 151 compared to Semien’s 122. Among second basemen, Altuve ranked second in batting average, fourth in OBP and third in SLG.
In the end, both players are 33, both players are great, and both players show no signs of slowing down.
A Great Season
Ozzie Albies was one of just a handful of players who had a great season for the Atlanta Braves. He hit 33 home runs to rank second among second basemen. He drove in 109 runs, ranking first. His 96 runs scored ranked fourth and his 13 steals ranked 22nd. Meanwhile, he slashed .280/.336/.513, with the SLG number ranking fourth among second basemen. Across the board, Albies had a wonderful season and he will only be 27 next year. However, there is one player who had a better season.
A Greater Season
And that player is Mookie Betts, who had to moonlight at second base for the Dodgers this past year due to injuries. Betts produced a monster season, scoring 126 runs, hitting 39 homers and driving in 107 runs while chipping in 14 steals. On top of that, he slashed .307/.408/.579 (ranking 3rd, 1st and 2nd) for an OPS+ of 163 with 338 total bases.
Will Betts be a second baseman after the 2024 season? Probably not. But for next year he is the top keeper at second base in addition to being a top keeper in right field, which is a great problem to have.
Come Back Next Week
Thanks for reading this week and come back next week when the 2024 Top Keepers will move to shortstop.