Fantasy baseball second base preview: Deeper than you think

Yoan Moncada will swing and miss, but when he gets it right, the Chicago infielder offers tons of fantasy upside. Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire

With the MLB season coming sooner than you think, ESPN's fantasy baseball experts have gathered to break down each position to help you prepare your draft-day strategy.

How are our fantasy analysts approaching the second-base position, and which players are they picking and avoiding in their drafts?

For more position previews, plus rankings, cheat sheets and mock drafts, check out our draft kit.

How are you approaching the second base position this season?

Perhaps it is just me, but I cannot say I approach either of the middle infield positions with the usual concerns or angst of past seasons. I rarely even worry about filling positions until half the draft is complete. Second base is not weak. The arguable top fantasy player is a second baseman and there is plenty of power and speed available in the middle rounds or in the top 100 if you believe in Whit Merrifield, as I apparently do. Gone are the days fantasy managers have to reach at middle infield. Ample choices await in the middle and later rounds. -- Eric Karabell

Perceptions can be dangerous, and there's this long-standing one about second base being one of the thinnest positions in fantasy baseball. Not so: Would you believe that the top five second baseman last season -- even excluding dual-eligible player Jose Ramirez (2B/3B) -- outscored the top five first basemen in Player Rater earnings? How about the fact that the top 25 second basemen outscored every other field position using the same measure (with outfield including the top 80, then compared on a per-player earnings basis)?

One of the reasons is that second base was one of the better positional sources of speed, including three of the majors' top six in stolen bases (Dee Gordon first, Merrifield fourth, Jose Altuve sixth) as well as seven of the 19 players with at least 23. I won't reach for a second baseman under the "position scarcity" guise, though when I do address the position, I'll probably be looking for steals first, home runs second, and try not to sweat any of the other categories. It's a good place to get a sneaky-good performer in those two departments. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

Unless I get the overall No. 1 pick, where I'll take Mike Trout, if Altuve is on the board when my turn comes along, he's my guy. If not, I'll consider Ramirez at the back end of the first round. Beyond that, I'm willing to wait until Rounds 6-9 to claim one of the remaining members of my top 10 at the position, once that group gets down to the final few names. Of course, if there are still several options on the board, I'm quite content to let my 2B slide several rounds further down. I think there's a lot of similar value to be found here. -- AJ Mass

If I can get power from my middle infield, I'm taking advantage for much the same reason I laid out the other day in my talking up of Wil Myers: if I can gain on the field at a specific position, I'm going to do so. By getting power here, I gain the roster flexibility to capitalize on the value that someone like Adam Eaton presents in the outfield, as I will have as much 2B+OF3 power as my opponents while taking advantage of Eaton falling as everyone feels as if they need more power. -- Kyle Soppe

My sleeper at second base is:

I think the fantasy world is viewing Yoan Moncada incorrectly. Everyone was so excited for the Moncada promotion to the majors by the Red Sox in late 2015 and 19 at-bats later people got scared and ran away. Sure, Moncada will swing and miss. He will also take a walk, will steal bases at a better rate than 2017 and he will provide power and score runs at the top of an underrated lineup. I view Moncada as a top 100 player capable of 20 home runs, 30 steals and 90 runs. -- Eric Karabell

Brandon Drury, the New York Yankees' projected starting third baseman who enters 2018 with second base-only eligibility. He might not seem to fit the "sneaky-good power" description, but he's in a stadium where even the slightest tweak to his swing could pay off serious dividends in the home run category, and he costs effectively nothing in standard leagues. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

Merrifield has been hot this spring, batting .500 through his first 28 at-bats, including eight extra-base hits. I really wish he would stop drawing attention to himself, as he's going to become less of a sleeper if he keeps up this torrid pace -- even if the games and stats don't count. A repeat of last season's very-near 20 HR/30 SB campaign seems very likely to me, so if you're among those fantasy managers leaning more towards Robinson Cano earlier in your draft, by all means, go ahead and lean that way. I'll wait for Whit. -- AJ Mass

Remember way back in 2016 when Ian Kinsler gave you 42 homers-plus-steals while batting .288 and playing in over 150 games for a third straight season? I'm not sure that we can say that version of Kinsler is definitively gone ... and with him projected to hit in front of that Trout guy, there's more than one reason for optimism. This is a pick that could go sideways if he really did age as much as his 2017 stats suggest, but I'm fully invested in a rebound and I'd suggest you do the same given his current asking price. -- Kyle Soppe

My bust at second base is:

Few expected Eduardo Nunez to repeat his outstanding 2016 campaign and he did not, but the concern this season is about health, both for him and starting second baseman Dustin Pedroia. I generally do not worry about potential blocked playing time but for Nunez this has to be a concern if Pedroia can play in the first month, which seems likely. Nunez is not likely to see much time at any other position because the Red Sox are loaded. In addition, he is not likely to hit near the top of this great lineup. I view Nunez as a productive and versatile bench option capable of 10 home runs and 20 steals, but his generous ADP shows expectations are too high, as if big numbers and playing time are safe. -- Eric Karabell

Take your pick between the two utility man, multi-position types, Marwin Gonzalez of the Houston Astros or Chris Taylor of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It'll be Taylor here, because he's the one whose primary position is actually second base, and while I think there's value in him as a potential .265-hitting, 15/15 candidate, that's not something on which I'm willing to spend a 12th-14th round pick. He's also a potential headache because the Dodgers, a team that loves to mix, match and platoon, will probably bounce him all over the lineup and never drop a hint he's sitting until hours before each game starts. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

Gordon is entering his age-30 season and also converting to the outfield, while also switching over to the American League after seven seasons in the majors. It's a perfect storm of adjustment and, on top of that, since 2000, only 18 players have stolen as many as 30 bases at the age of 30, with not one surpassing 45 steals. Since the bulk of Gordon's value comes from his excellence on the basepaths, I'm not willing to spend a Round 4 pick for something that very well be halved in 2018. -- AJ Mass

This isn't so much a bust as it is simply a difference in strategy. Rostering the Rockies' second baseman may seem like a savvy move, as it is difficult to lock in a plus-batting average anywhere in today's game, but is he really that much of an edge? DJ LeMahieu's batting average predictability regressed last season, making his 14 steals-plus-home runs a tough pill to swallow. The batting average will remain high, but the price you have to pay in terms of counting numbers will set you back and force you into other moves as your draft and season progress. He's a good baseball player, I just believe he is more valuable to the Rockies than he is to your fantasy team. -- Kyle Soppe

If I could get any second baseman at his current draft position cost to build around in drafts, it would be:

Fantasy analysts no longer question the viability of Orioles starter Jonathan Schoop, but it seems like his safe power and batting average remain a bit underappreciated based on his ADP. One of these years it is possible that Schoop, who raised his walk rate last season but still rarely walks, falls apart in batting average, but I no longer expect it. Get your stolen bases elsewhere, but this is safe power from a position not generally blessed with much. -- Eric Karabell

I know he seems like a one-category player, but Gordon is no slouch in terms of batting average or runs scored (hitting in the top third of the Seattle Mariners' order helps with the latter). There's no reason he should ever last beyond the 35th pick of your mixed-league draft, as he can almost single-handedly handle your team's stolen-base needs. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

Over the past three seasons, only 41 players have compiled over 600 total bases and under 300 strikeouts. Sitting at No. 10 on that list, with 741 TB is Colorado's LeMahieu. Also in the top 10 are Altuve, Cano, Daniel Murphy and Kinsler. While LeMahieu may not be a power hitter by any stretch of the imagination, that makes his production all the more "legitimate" to me, which I realize is a bit ironic, given the Coors Field bump some might imagine his home stats get. I'll point to the fact he actually had a 125-124 home-road split in total bases in 2017 and get him on as many rosters as I can. -- AJ Mass

It depends how you want to build your roster, but I'm having a hard time passing on Jonathan Villar in these times of limited speed. Even in a down season, this switch-hitter gave you 23 steals in 403 at-bats and ended the season in good form (.282/.304/.412 post All-Star break). The Brewers have no shortage of offensive tools and if Villar can rediscover his 2016 form (or, realistically, just give you his second-half production from last season), it wouldn't shock me to see him sitting atop this order and thus experience a spike in volume and value. -- Kyle Soppe

The young second baseman who could break out is:

As of mid-March it is easy to question where Scott Kingery is going to earn most of his big league playing time, as the Phillies do not currently have an obvious need, but based on skills one should absolutely be investing in this five-category threat. A promotion to the majors is pending after a few weeks of April and he will hit, run and defend well enough to keep a starting job. -- Eric Karabell

There's an excellent chance that Moncada will make the largest leap at the position this season, mainly because his skill set makes a 15/15 season effectively his statistical floor if he gets every-day at-bats. If he makes even slightly more consistent contact, he could really take off. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

Ozzie Albies scored 67 runs and stole 21 bases while at Triple-A Gwinnett last season with 33-year-old Sean Kazmar Jr. batting behind him in the order. Now imagine what a full season with Freddie Freeman as protection might allow Albies to achieve. In 26 games last season out of the No. 2 spot for Atlanta, he hit .295 with 3 HR, 14 RBI and a perfect 5-for-5 in steals. I'm very excited to see how that plays out over a 162-game campaign. -- AJ Mass

Albies showed some encouraging signs last season and I like the thought of him batting between a pair of consistent hitters like Ender Inciarte and Freeman. Albies is no Altuve, but Altuve was the only second basemen to go 20/20 last season and I don't think it is out of the realm of possibility for Albies to do that in 2018. -- Kyle Soppe