To continue to make up for lost time, we are going to look at some of this year’s second basemen. We have the usual suspects Jose Altuve and Dee Gordon killing it as expected. My personal favorite, Mookie Betts, is the 4th ranked second basemen on Yahoo, but his .234 AVG is leaving a lot to be desired so I am not going to call him a surprise player. But there are a couple of rather unexpected performances so far at the position and some disappointments. Let’s take a look.
Surprises: Devon Travis, Marcus Semien
By far the biggest surprise of the year at second base is Devon Travis of the Blue Jays. Travis was acquired by the Blue Jays in exchange for Anthony Gose in the off-season and so far the Blue Jays have gotten the best of that deal. Travis was a deep sleeper heading into the year, but nobody could have foreseen a start like this for the 24-year old. Travis is leading all fantasy second basemen in runs (20) and RBI (23) and is tied for the lead in HR (7) and he has a .309 AVG to boot. Is this hot start for real or is some huge regression in store? Well, in 2013 across rookie ball, A-ball, and high A-ball, Travis hit .337 with 18 HR and 26 SB. Advancing to AA in 2014, Travis did not have the same success but still displayed some solid skills hitting .298 with 10 HR and 16 SB. Travis skipped AAA altogether with the Blue Jays immediate need for a quality second baseman and he has even been filling in at the leadoff spot in the absence of the injured Jose Reyes. Travis is bound to run into some struggles as his Major League rookie season progresses and is not going to keep up the current pace that he is on, but I think he still should be a quality fantasy second baseman the rest of the way. I am going to say that he finishes the season around .280/17/70/80/10, though the counting stats will be dependent on how long Reyes is out for because Travis could move back toward the bottom of the batting order with Reyes healthy.
The other surprise second baseman of the season so far is Marcus Semien. Semien actually is the everyday shortstop for the A’s, but also holds second base and third base eligibility. If you recall, I declared Semien to be the best candidate to be “This Year’s Brian Dozier” in the pre-season, and while he is still unlikely to reach the heights that Dozier got to last year, Semien can still be a very productive fantasy player. Currently he is hitting .273 with 3 HR, 12 RBI, 15 R, and 4 SB through a month of the season. So he’s not exactly excelling in any one category, but he is chipping in nicely across the board at shallow positions. I mentioned before that a key to a full on breakout in the style of Dozier would be dependent on his spot in the batting order. He has spent most of the year hitting 8th for the A’s, but recently was bumped up to the 2-spot for a handful of games. However, with Coco Crisp slated to return, Semien could once again be bounced back to the bottom of the order. Either way though, I still think Semien is going to be a solid fantasy player, but obviously it is optimal if he is hitting 2nd. I think that Semien will eclipse the 15 HR/15 SB mark and provide a nice return for anyone who took a chance on him.
Disappointments: Robinson Cano, Josh Harrison
Cano is really drudging along this season with just a .261 AVG, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 15 R, and 0 SB. This comes as no surprise to me as this is what I said about him in the pre-season: “It seems to me as if Cano is just in the decline phase of his career and I personally would not have him on any of my teams as his name value exceeds what I perceive to be his actual value.” All signs point to him continuing such a decline as he is really struggling to hit lefties this year with just 4 hits in 31 AB (.129 AVG), and both his walk and strikeout rates are currently at career worsts at 5.1 BB% and 14.5 K%. And then factor in that he is not hitting for any power whatsoever as his ISO sits at just .117, and you have yourself a player who resembles Martin Prado. I don’t imagine it getting much better for the aging second baseman. Kudos to Jay-Z and Cano for fleecing the Mariners.
After a couple seasons as a reserve utility player, Josh Harrison broke out in surprise fashion last year playing multiple positions. He is not eligible at second base in some leagues, but Yahoo has him playing the keystone as well as 3B and outfield. Harrison has been very slow out of the gate to begin the season as he is hitting just .188 with 2 HR and 0 SB and has been removed from the top of the order for the Pirates. While he is not hitting the ball with the same type of authority that he did last year, it would seem that he is getting a little unlucky on his balls in play as he has just a .211 BABIP. However, he also is striking out at a 3.1% greater mark than he did last year while also walking less to show that his plate approach just is not the same. I do have hopes for a rebound as there were some indicators that last year’s performance was not a fluke, but it’s looking more and more that he was a flash in the pan last year. If he could hit .270 with 10 HR and 10 SB the rest of the way, then I would be happy with that.
Injuries: Ben Zobrist
I wasn’t very high on Zobrist at all this year as like Cano, he is just an aging player with a declining skill set. But the good thing with Zobrist was that he was batting 3rd for the A’s before he suffered a knee injury that required arthoscopic surgery. In such a prime spot in the batting order, Zobrist was at least in a position to have the opportunity to rack up a decent amount of runs and RBI even if he wasn’t contributing much in HR or SB. Zobrist has 6 straight seasons of recording double digits in HR and SB as he barely did it last year, but that streak is now in jeopardy with the injury. I wouldn’t expect a whole lot out of him when he does return from the DL since I wasn’t expecting much from him to begin with, but the multi-position eligibility at 2B, SS, and OF is nice to have.
Keep an eye on: Addison Russell, Micah Johnson
Addison Russell is a shortstop by trade, but he has been called up by the Cubs to be their everyday second baseman. So far he is hitting .261 with 2 HR through 12 games, but he is striking out at a very high rate. I would not expect a whole lot out of Russell in his rookie year especially considering that he is spending most of his time batting 9th (yes, behind the pitcher because manager Joe Maddon is weird like that), but he surely is someone to keep an eye on. .250 AVG with 15 HR and 10 SB seems to be reasonable to expect for the whole season.
Micah Johnson won the starting second base job for the White Sox out of Spring Training but he has not done too much to impress so far in the regular season. He is hitting just .250 with 0 HR and only 2 SB. Power is not part of his game, but speed definitely is. So the fact that he is just 2 for 4 in SB attempts is not encouraging. However, if he gets hot at anytime soon then he could see time in the leadoff spot as Adam Eaton is going through some severe early season struggles. Johnson did steal 84 bases in 132 games in the Minors in 2013, but then followed that up with just 22 SB between AA and AAA last year in 102 games. The big decline in SB was due to a hamstring injury though, so look passed last year’s low SB total and realize that there is some potential here. At this point, I don’t expect a whole lot out of Johnson but he could be one hot streak away from becoming very relevant.