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Top MLB Prospects: Second base sleepers for the 2018 fantasy baseball season

Sporting News — (Frank Neville)

The keystone has increasingly become an offense-first role, thus raising the bar for the former shortstops who used to populate the position. In fact, good-field, no-hit middle infielders who can’t stick at shortstop are much more likely to be released nowadays rather than slide over to the right side of the diamond and play second base. Still, there are plenty of middle infield prospects who will be 2B-eligible in fantasy baseball leagues this year and beyond who are worth watching.

This year’s top second base prospect is indeed a former (and possibly future) shortstop with plus hitting tools and the potential to eventually be a big league star. 

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Top MLB Prospects 2018: Second base

The Yankees’ Gleyber Torres has been a shortstop throughout his minor league career, but second base isn't exactly locked down in New York even after the signing of Neil Walker, and the Bombers would like to get Torres’s bat in the lineup. He may open the season at Triple-A due to service time concerns, but it’s almost certain that he’ll be starting in the Bronx before midseason. Torres was sidelined much of last year by surgery on his non-throwing elbow, but he’s healthy and getting lots of reps in big league camp. At his best, Torres shows solid plate discipline and a good all-fields approach which should allow him to hit for average in the majors. His swing plane is currently a bit flat, but his plus bat speed should allow him to hit for moderate, 12-15 HR power as he matures.

The Phillies’ Scott Kingery is another rookie second baseman who will probably open the season at Triple-A but should receive a call-up relatively quickly. Kingery retooled his swing last year and enjoyed a breakout season in which he stroked 26 home runs and stole 29 bases. A free swinger, he probably won’t hit for average against advanced pitching, but a .265 average, 20 home runs, and 20 stolen bases are possible. With the Phillies in rebuild mode, it’s just a matter of time before Kingery replaces incumbent Cesar Hernandez (and his 17 home runs in 1,700 career at bats) in Philadelphia.

Oakland’s Franklin Barreto has played mostly shortstop in his professional career, but he’s a better fit at second and has been getting many of his spring reps on the right side. Barreto struggled to control the strike zone in a late-season call-up last year, but he has the bat speed and leverage in his swing to be an above-average offensive contributor at second base. Only 22, Barreto will probably get more seasoning at Triple-A. If he can improve his plate discipline and stop chasing pitches out of the strike zone, Barreto has the ability to be a 20-20 guy in the majors.

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Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Dynasty league 2Bs

While he will almost certainly open the season in the minors, San Diego’s Luis Urias is already an elite hitter and looks big league ready despite the fact that he’s only 20. Urias is off to a blistering start this spring and has hit at every level even though he’s consistently been the youngest player on the field. Urias has outstanding hand-eye coordination and great strike zone discipline (he had more walks than strikeouts last year at Double-A). He doesn’t have much power at the moment, but his plus bat speed should allow him to develop 10-12 home run pop as he matures. The Padres have no reason to rush him to the majors, but Urias’ bat will likely force the issue sometime in 2018.

There are lots of jobs up for grabs in Tampa as the Rays rebuild their roster. Brad Miller is currently slotted in to play second base, but he could be called on to fill another position in the Rays’ patchwork lineup. If Miller does move off the keystone, prospects Nick Solak , who was acquired from the Yankees this offseason, and  Joey Wendle could get the call. Both are getting looks at second this spring, and, while Wendle is probably first in line as a replacement for Miller, Solak has more long-term upside. Wendle is a stop-gap who can play solid defense but doesn’t have the bat to be a regular. Solak, on the other hand, has plus bat speed, solid plate discipline, and an above-average glove. He’ll open the season at Double-A, but he’ll almost certainly be in the majors sometime in 2018. Long-term he profiles as a guy who could hit .280 with 15-plus home runs and 15-plus stolen bases.

Gavin Cecchini struggled last year in Triple-A and he’s blocked in New York by Asdrubal Cabrera, but he has the bat speed, hand-eye coordination, and plate discipline to be a solid big league hitter. The Mets’ middle infield depth is shaky, and, if he can regain the focus he lost last year, Cecchini could get a fair number of big league at bats this season. He’ll never be a star, but he should hit for average and post a high on-base percentage while hitting an occasional home run.