FANTASY PLAYS: Second base not as deep as it appears
Second base looks like one of the better positions in fantasy baseball for 2017, but a closer look reveals the pool is not as deep as it appears.
Among the top 12, there are plenty of core players that fantasy owners should look to draft. There are several players at the position who should be among your targets within the first six rounds. If you decide to wait a bit, keep in mind that nearly all of the top 12 second basemen are off the board by the end of the eighth round in 12-team leagues.
You'll have a few choices with upside as late as the 15th round or so but, beyond that, the pool begins to get very shallow.
But there are some upside plays and a few keystone men who could surprise and out-produce their average draft position.
TOP OF THE HEAP
There are two second basemen who are regularly being taken in Round 1. Jose Altuve (Houston) and Trea Turner (Washington) both have National Fantasy Baseball Championship average draft positions among the top 10.
Altuve was at his most balanced in 2016 and there's no reason to believe he won't repeat in 2017. While his stolen base numbers have declined annually, his home run total boosted to 24 last year. That came with his best counting stats (108 runs and 96 RBIs) to date. Altuve will be 27 this year, so look for continued power and five-category production worthy of a first round pick.
The Trea Turner hype has built to the point that he may be prohibitively overvalued already. There's no doubt the speed is real and will likely carry his value this season. However, at age 23, his power is still developing. There's no question he'll be a great player, but he may not hit for the kind of power you want from a first-round pick.
The best bets at second base this year are players like Rougned Odor (Texas), who gave us 34 HRs last year along with 15 stolen bases and a .271 batting average. The only red flag in his skill set is a lack of walks (3 percent walk rate) but it's his aggressive approach that led to most of his success last season. You can likely draft him in the fourth round and there's a good chance he'll end up among the top 30 hitters overall with the Rangers' improved lineup around him. Brian Dozier (Minnesota) showed vastly improved power skills in 2017. He's still at his peak and is a good candidate to repeat last year's production, even more so if he's traded to a contender at some point. Others to target include Daniel Murphy (Washington), Jason Kipnis (Cleveland) and Ben Zobrist (Chicago Cubs).
Devon Travis (Toronto) has the skill set of a .300 hitter, and indeed, when he's healthy enough to play that's exactly how he's hit. He's more of a gap hitter than a power hitter but playing half his games at the Rogers Centre will help him get into the double-digits, if not all the way to 20 HRs if he can stay on the field for 150 games. The Blue Jays still have a fearsome lineup, so Travis will get plenty of opportunities to score and drive in runs. He could easily reach a combined 150 runs and RBIs with a full season of plate appearances. The best part is that you can draft him somewhere around pick 200 (18th - 19th round), giving you plenty of early picks to draft your stolen bases, which Travis won't help with at all.
Ryan Schimpf (San Diego) was a quad-A type player prior to getting 330 plate appearances for the Padres last year when injuries left the organization with little choice but to promote the 28-year-old. All he did was hit 20 HRs and run up some decent counting stats (48 runs, 51 RBIs) for a team that struggled offensively for most of the season. He's currently being picked in the 340-range according to ADP data, with good reason. He could hack his way to 20 home runs again, but don't expect more than a .220 average.
Don't pay for Jean Segura's career year with the Diamondbacks in 2016. The move to Seattle will suppress his power and while he still has some speed, the Mariners simply don't run all that much and Segura gets caught too often for their conservative approach. Segura will provide some batting average and counting stats but the power and speed won't be there.
TIM'S Top 12 SECOND BASEMEN
1. Jose Altuve - Astros
2. Trea Turner - Nationals
3. Robinson Cano - Mariners
4. Rougned Odor - Rangers
5. Brian Dozier - Twins
6. Daniel Murphy - Nationals
7. Matt Carpenter - Cardinals
8. Jason Kipnis - Indians
9. Ian Kinsler - Tigers
10. Jonathan Villar - Brewers
11. Dee Gordon - Marlins
12. Ben Zobrist - Cubs
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com .