Bold Predictions: Second Base Edition
1. Javier Baez is not a top 50 overall player in 2019
The hardest part of fantasy baseball is adjusting your valuations of a player on the fly and not getting stuck with biases. Unfortunately, Baez is a weak spot of mine. He’s a really fun player and I like the way he plays the game but I’m worried that owners aren’t taking in to account all of the regression that’s coming in 2019. A player who walks as little as Baez (4.5%) is going to be volatile. He hit fewer fly balls in ’18 than ’17 yet he hit 11 more home runs. The HR/FB% was a career high by far. He’s just not going to hit as many home runs and I’m concerned about his ability to get on base enough to steal 20+ bags again. He’s going as the 13th player off the board in NFBC drafts and there’s a chance he can repeat his 2018. Because he’s such a special talent, there’s a non-zero chance he’s even better. It just won’t be on my team.
2. Daniel Murphy finishes as a top 3 second baseman
Murphy missed the start of the 2018 season with a knee injury. He really struggled upon his return, batting just .253/.309/.333/.643 with 1 home run the first half. Once he got his legs underneath him he was back to playing like the Murphy of old. He slashed .315/.346/.498/.844 with 11 home runs in 63 second half games. He’s now in the hitter’s paradise known as Coors Field. Rarely have I seen a ballpark and player line up as perfectly as Coors and Murphy. The spacious outfield will allow him to slap liners all over the park and post a ridiculous BABIP. I’m expecting a .320+ batting average with 20+ home runs. Owners will shy away from him because of his down 2018 and age (34). Don’t make that mistake.
3. Jonathan Schoop finishes in the top 10 for second baseman
Going in to his subpar 2018, Schoop was viewed as one of the top second baseman in fantasy as he slashed .293/.338/.503/.841 with 32 home runs in ’17. He has good power for a 2B but I’d be a liar if I said his plate skills didn’t drive me nuts. He has the 4th lowest walk rate in the MLB (3.7%) since his big-league debut in 2014. Take a walk, man! The reason I’m buying Schoop despite his terrible BB% is the power that I mentioned. The 21 HR last year were the lowest he’s hit since 2015. He’s going to hit mid 20s home runs the only question is how big of a toll will that power take on your batting average or on base percentage? Another year of a .233 batting average isn’t going to get him into the top 10 among 2B so I’m calling for his BABIP to rise from .261 in 2018 to his career average of .296. That’ll put the 27-year old’s batting average back in the .265 range and have him squarely in the top 10 among second basemen.
4. Cesar Hernandez goes 20/20
Hernandez battled through a broken foot for half of 2018 and still managed to hit 15 HR and steal 19 SB. His batting average dipped from .294 to .253 though and he clearly was dealing with the effects of that foot injury. That’s a big positive for me going in to 2019. It shows that he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet. My two favorite things about Hernandez are his spot in the lineup (lead off) and his excellent eye at the plate. He had a BB% of over 13% last season and an OBP north of .350 despite the low batting average. He’s going to get himself on base enough to steal 20+ bases. He also plays in one of the best ballparks in the league for home runs, so I’d bet he beats his career high 15 HR from 2018.
5. Nick Senzel wins NL Rookie of the Year
Senzel is the Reds top prospect and should be in the big leagues very early on in 2019. Cincinnati manager David Bell said he considers Senzel the favorite for the starting centerfield job. He’s known for his plus hit tool and above average power and speed. He reminds me a bit of Andrew Benintendi because he’s solid across the board. He’s not flashy but he’s a good bet to put up a 20/20 season at some point in his career. I’m very high on Senzel for fantasy in 2019 because of those skills, a great ballpark, and improved lineup. He’s also got a good eye at the plate so that, coupled with high batting averages should have his OBP above .375 at his peak.