By now, we were supposed to be talking about what was happening on the field. We were supposed to be over-reacting to this year’s Matt Davidson (3 HRs on Opening Day 2018), but alas, nothing is right in the world. In an effort to push on, we’ll continue to do draft research until the game we love returns to the field.
Since second base falls off into the abyss, we’ll take a look at the top four off the board – Jose Altuve, Ozzie Albies, Gleyber Torres, and Ketel Marte. We’ll go through the pros and cons of each with our focus being on H2H Categories leagues. After checking out my opinion, let’s keep the debate going in the comments section!
Jose Altuve, 2B – The Tiniest Slugger of Them All
At 29 years old, Jose Altuve tapped into his man-strength and mashed 31 homers, topping his previous high of 24. The kicker is he did it in just 124 games played. Altuve went from an elite contact/plate skills batter to a swing for the fences pull hitter. The big question becomes, can he repeat that performance?
Despite managing to hover around the .300 average mark, Altuve put up career-worsts in strikeout rate, contact rates (both inside and outside the zone), and swinging-strike rate. Despite the negatives, selling out for power in a year with a magic ball paid dividends. Altuve put up a career-best 8.1% barrel rate and 41.7% pull rate, but he only managed to hit the 12th percentile in exit velocity. That gives me doubt that a full repeat of homers is on tap.
Following Altuve’s knee surgery after the 2018 season, I don’t think anyone expected him to return to his 30+ stolen base seasons. Now, following a season in which he stole just 6 bases, can we realistically expect a return to double-digits for Altuve, who turns 30 in May? The Astros as a team stole 67 bases, which placed them in the middle of the pack, but no one exceeded 10 steals.
After two relatively negative paragraphs, why is Altuve going first among these second basemen with an ESPN ADP of 30.6? A near .300 average with 20 bombs and top-end run/RBI production is nothing to sneeze at (please don’t in this pandemic). If you end up with Altuve, I’d be happy to fill my second base slot, but I would proceed as if I only got a handful of steals out of this pick.
Ozzie Albies enters his third full season in the majors, but I was surprised to find out that he’s actually the youngest of this group. Even if you add Keston Hiura, Albies is still the youngest of the group. Albies’ plate discipline took a step forward in 2019 as he managed to increase his walk rate while decreasing his strikeout rate.
One of the most encouraging parts of Albies’s 2019 season is the increased batting average, which is supported by a .291 xBA. When you combine the increased line drive rate with an increased barrel rate and better plate discipline, the results are a batting average you can count on moving forward.
Like Altuve, the projection systems expect Albies to chip in 15 steals. Unlike Altuve, Albies doesn’t have the same risks to stop running. Albies sprint speed landed him in the 86th percentile and he’s stolen 37 bases in the majors while being caught just 8 times.
For fantasy purposes, I’m viewing Albies as a 5-category contributor. I think we can count on a .285+ average, with 20 homers, 15 steals, and top-end run/RBI production. At an ESPN ADP of 39.6, Albies is my favorite of this group and I’ve drafted him over Altuve and Torres.
Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS – The Great Baltimore Bomber
In 18 games against Baltimore, Torres mashed 13 taters while driving in 20 RBIs, scoring 22 runs, and batting .394. For context, in 12.5% of his games played for the season, Torres produced 34% of his homers, 22.9% of his runs scored, and 22.2% of his RBIs. What does it mean for 2020? Torres still faces the Orioles, who has a pitching staff that can only be described as “hot garbage” (sorry John Means). In my opinion, the projection systems have already regressed back Torres’s numbers from last year to 33 bombs in a couple more games.
On the power front, Torres certainly benefits from his home ballpark, as well as his in division parks. Of his 38 homers hit in 2019, 29 of them came in AL East parks. Torres’s barrel rate was in the 76th percentile, but his average exit velocity only hit the 49th percentile. While I’m not extremely concerned about his power projection (and there’s certainly time for him to hit the next level), I wouldn’t necessarily assume 40 homers is assured.
Torres has chipped in a handful of steals in each of the last two seasons, stealing 11 bases in 15 attempts. The Yankees as a team finished with just 55 steals for the year, which was 24th in the league. I don’t expect the Yankees to all of a sudden change their style of play and become hyperactive on the basepaths. In addition, Torres’s sprint speed landed in the 43rd percentile, so I don’t expect him to be vocal about wanting to run more.
The Yankees lineup is once again stacked from top to bottom so, like Altuve and Albies, Torres should provide elite run/RBI production. The one main difference for Torres is he comes with shortstop eligibility, however, shortstop is deep enough that you’ll most likely be starting him in your second base slot.
With an ADP of 34.4, Torres is sandwiched in between Altuve and Albies. If you’re deciding between them in the third round, I’d look to your roster construction from the first two rounds. If you locked up stolen bases early with Trea Turner or Jose Ramirez, I would take Torres ahead of the others to make up ground in homers.
Ketel Marte, 2B/OF – Top Shelf Style
Raise your hand if you saw Ketel Marte’s 2019 coming? Can I raise half a hand? Marte’s plate discipline skills have now been legit for three years. He sports a high walk rate and a low strikeout rate which makes his high batting average sustainable. What I didn’t see coming was the power, but maybe his followers on Instagram saw his #GAINZ (Seriously, last off-season he was posting pretty often about his workouts).
Let’s start with the power. Marte’s barrel rate fell into the 78th percentile while his average exit velocity landed in the 66th percentile. Both of those numbers are better than Torres. What Marte doesn’t have going for him is his home ballpark. Since installing a humidor at Chase Field before the start of the 2018 season, the park factor went from 1.22 in 2017 (4th highest) to .888 in 2019 (20th). The projections systems have him on tap for 23 bombs, but I’d take a slight “over” lean on that number.
Marte chipped in 10 steals in 2019, so it would appear the days of him stealing 20+ bags (2013-15 in the minors) are over. The good news is he went 10 for 12 and has a sprint speed that puts him in the 73rd percentile. Arizona finished the year with the 10th most steals, albeit with Jarrod Dyson on the strong side of an outfield platoon. Overall, I feel like we can pencil in Marte for 10 steals.
The area where we have to give Marte a slight tick down (when compared to Altuve, Albies, and Torres) is in the run/RBI production. The Diamondbacks adding Starling Marte should give his brother Ketel plenty of RBI opportunities, but I don’t think it’s a hot take to say the D-Backs offense isn’t as good as the Astros, Braves, and Yankees. This is most likely what leads him to be drafted last among these second basemen at an ADP of 43.3.
In summary, second base is the position I don’t want to wait on so once we get to the third round, I’m looking to snag one of these four players. If I ignored stolen bases with my first two picks, I’m likely to lean towards Albies or Marte. If I locked up stolen bases early, I’ll look to Altuve or Torres. Overall, I view all four of these players as relatively safe at a position that falls off a cliff very quickly.