TDG’S 2024 RISERS AND FALLERS: SECOND BASEMEN
Every year, we at the TDG office identify Risers and Fallers from our consensus rankings. But how did we get here!? And what’s real and what’s noise? Well, the Gurus are here to help. In each “Risers and Fallers” article, the Gurus will take you on an explanatory journey as to why these players have seen a fortunate rise, or an unfortunate turn toward their demise. Thanks for reading!
RISING: ZACK GELOF, OAKLAND ATHLETICS (AGE: 24, CURRENT RANK: 15, PREVIOUS RANK: 40)
A big riser in our second base rankings made his major league debut last season and hit the ground running. In fact, he played so well, I would imagine that at the end of the season he could have run through a brick wall without breaking his stride. Zack Gelof finished his first season in the majors with some eye-popping stats. In just 69 games, he had a triple slash line of .267/.337/.504, with respectable plate discipline. The counting stats would show a power/speed combo that fantasy owners dream of, 14 home runs, 20 doubles, and 14 stolen bases.
Looking back to the 2022 season, Gelof showed a profile that was good, but certainly nowhere close to the player he was in 2023. Down at Double-A that season, he had a triple slash line not too different from his major league debut numbers, .271/.356/438. He didn’t show high-end power or speed, as he only hit 13 home runs there and stole 9 bases. Then came the 2023 season, where combined between Triple-A and the major leagues, he would hit 26 home runs and steal 34 bases. The massive boost in his power/speed numbers is the core reason for his jump in the rankings, the real question is, are those stats sustainable?
To try and see if there is an answer to the sustainability question, it helps to look at Gelof’s statcast data. Diving deep into the numbers reveals he had really good control of the bat during his swings. His barrel percent was at 11.1%, almost double the major league average of 6.9%. The sweet spot percentage on his swings was also above the major league average at 38.6% compared to 33%. Those numbers helped lead to a hard-hit percentage of 41.3%, almost a full 5% better than the major league average of 36.3%.
Without any improvements, this offseason, Gelof looks to be in store for a massive first full year in the big leagues. With some tweaks to his launch angle, which sits around the major league average, he could see his numbers jump even more. It is not inconceivable that we see him jump into the top 10 by the time the midseason rankings come out.
Punch your ticket on this rocket ship before the boosters ignite!
FALLING: JEFF MCNEIL, NEW YORK METS (AGE: 31, CURRENT RANK: 34, PREVIOUS RANK: 16)
One of the big fallers in this year’s rankings is Jeff McNeil. We can all see the obvious nosedive in his stats. Just looking at his 2022 triple slash line compared to his 2023 line, it’s abundantly clear as to why he fell in the rankings, .326/.382/.454 versus .270/.333/.378. You won’t really see any power numbers from him, because he hasn’t hit more than 10 home runs in a season since 2019. He doesn’t provide much on the bases either, having never more than 10 stolen bases in any season of his career. What he did provide fantasy owners was elite average, good on-base numbers, and good slugging via doubles (39 in 2022). Those stats just never materialized in 2023, even the doubles dropped drastically, as he only hit 25 of them.
On the surface, McNeil looks to be a victim of Father Time. However, I’m here to tell you, don’t give up on him just yet. During the months of August and September, his triple slash line ballooned back to near his pre-2023 season numbers, .303/.342/.466. He also hit seven of his 10 home runs and nine of his 25 doubles. If he can put together a full year similar to his late-season run in 2023, then his value is not nearly as low as it is perceived to be.
Now I’m not saying he is going to start hitting at an elite level again, but I don’t think his value is as low as it looks to be. If you can get him at the value we have here, I think you are looking at someone who will be much better than the numbers behind his declining ranking. With Ronny Mauricio injured and Luisangel Acuña still a little too far out from making his debut, McNeil will be the everyday second baseman for the Mets. In fact, being an everyday player at one position may give him stability and could make him more comfortable, because he won’t have to play seven different ones like he did in 2023.
McNeil has fallen, but he isn’t down for the count just yet!
RISING: GLEYBER TORRES, NEW YORK YANKEES (AGE: 27, CURRENT RANK: 4, PREVIOUS RANK: 7)
Moving up in the second base rankings and receiving some respect is Gleyber Torres. Last year was a year that solidified the truth that Gleyber is someone you need to roster. No matter how you slice it, Gleyber was extremely valuable to those who rostered him last year. I have seen it over the years where someone climbs our rankings only to fall the next year. It happens all too often. Gleyber made a statement and said, metaphorically, “I refuse to be a negative fantasy baseball statistic.”
The first thing that jumped off the page at me when I looked at 2023 for Gleyber is that not only did his walk rate increase (and was the highest of his career when you look at every season where he had more than 500 plate appearances), but his strikeout numbers were also a career low, just below 15%. Lovely, right? Let’s look at one other thing as it relates. Not only did he strike out less and walk more than any point in his career, but this happened without his power taking a back seat.
His whiff percentage from 2018 to 2022 was well below the league average as well. From 2019 to 2022 he averaged being worse in this metric compared to 70% of the league. In 2024 he flipped the script, though, and was in the top 30th percentile league-wise. Since 2020 Gleyber had been very formidable in his ability to not chase pitches outside of the zone and now it seems like if Gleyber can build upon or maintain his ability to not chase or swing and miss – then what we saw from him last season can be expected. I would roster Gleyber Torres anywhere and so should you.
FALLING: TOMMY EDMAN, ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (AGE: 28, CURRENT RANK: 19, PREVIOUS RANK: 6)
The Cardinals made a change with Edman at some point last season. They decided to move him out of the everyday leadoff position, causing Edman to lose over a hundred at-bats last season.
For someone who garners much of his fantasy value because of his run production, you can understand why we dropped Edman in our rankings. He lost about 25% production in this stat. Why did he lose that leadoff spot, though? Simply put, the majority of his hitting metrics are below average across the board. The only exceptions are his expected batting average, whiff percentage and strikeout percentage. This puts him below league average in the following metrics: xwOBA, xSLG, average exit velocity, barrel percentage, hard-hit percentage, sweet-spot percentage, walk percentage and chase percentage. No wonder Edman was bumped from his leadoff spot. And no wonder he dropped ten-plus spots in our consensus rankings.
What also surprises me about Edman is his inability to walk more. He has never had a career walk percentage over eight percent. You have to be able to get on base with the leadoff role and since Edman has never demonstrated the ability to draw walks consistently, it seems that the Cardinals made this decision. With the loss of plate appearances comes the loss of production.
It isn’t the end of the road for Edman of course but for someone who thrives on what he does on base with stealing bases and scoring runs, Edman has to improve in his ability to barrel the ball and put the ball in play as well as draw more walks, and if he doesn’t then he will continue losing plate appearances. I would be looking for an exit route if you have Tommy Edman in all formats. There are too many red flags for me.