2015 Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data below is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems, with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position.

Yes, we know WAR is imperfect and there is more to player value than is wrapped up in that single projection, but for the purposes of talking about a team’s strengths and weaknesses, it is a useful tool. Also, the author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

Positional power rankings! Second base! Let’s do this. Here comes a graph of projected team WAR:


Well, would ya look at that. Robinson Cano is still good at baseball. For the third consecutive year, Robinson Cano’s team lands atop the second base rankings of power. There’s a pretty defined top three, a pretty defined top 10, and then the rest. You can see that. Let’s talk about it.

Wait — really quick before we begin, the disclaimer: decimal points of WAR really don’t matter. Team X with 3.0 WAR isn’t demonstrably better than Team Y at 2.7 WAR. It’s less about an exact order and more about visualizing, roughly, where each team falls within the landscape of the league. Okay, now with that in mind, let’s begin.

#1 Mariners

Robinson Cano 637 .296 .361 .455 .353 21.3 -0.8 1.9 5.0
Willie Bloomquist 28 .268 .302 .341 .285 -0.5 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
Rickie Weeks 21 .223 .308 .361 .302 -0.1 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Brad Miller 14 .249 .308 .387 .308 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .292 .356 .446 .347 20.6 -0.8 1.3 5.1

Right. Robinson Cano, good at baseball. Cano got to sign his name on a $240 million contract last season on account of him being good at baseball, and he continued being good at baseball in 2014, giving the Mariners their best season at second base since the Bret Boone days. It’s just that Cano was good in a different way than we’d grown accustomed to. Cano had settled in as a 30-dinger-a-year guy in New York, and hit just 14 in his first season in Seattle. On the surface, that might seem like Cano’s debut year was a disaster, but his overall adjusted batting line was still up there with sluggers like David Ortiz, and not too different from Cano’s seasons in New York. Cano adjusted to thick Seattle air by hitting the ball on the ground more often, and essentially traded some power for contact. Considering the production didn’t much suffer, it’s a strategy that not only seems wise but perhaps showcases a player in complete control of his swing. Up there, in the “Bat” column, the number listed for Cano is just about double that of the guy in second place. There’s no need to worry about Robby Cano.

As for Cano’s backups, they shouldn’t matter much, as Cano has played at least 157 games in eight consecutive seasons. But if he does happen to finally miss some time, the Mariners at least have competent replacement options. Weeks can still hit. Miller still has the potential to do a lot of good things. Bloomquist can still Bloomquist.

#2 Red Sox

Dustin Pedroia 623 .281 .345 .399 .330 5.4 -0.6 11.9 4.3
Mookie Betts 63 .276 .343 .418 .338 0.9 0.2 -0.1 0.4
Brock Holt 14 .268 .319 .358 .302 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .280 .345 .400 .330 6.2 -0.3 11.9 4.7

Last season, for the first time in his career, Dustin Pedroia was a below-average hitter. Granted, he was only 1% worse than league average, which is basically just league average, but still. This is what’s been happening to Pedroia’s power:

Dustin Pedroia’s isolated slugging percentage, 2010-14

  • 2010: .205
  • 2011: .167
  • 2012: .160
  • 2013:  .114
  • 2014: .098

Pedroia’s performance over the most recent two seasons has almost certainly been hampered, to some extent, by injuries to both his left thumb and wrist. But it’s not like the drop in power wasn’t already occurring, and it’s not like those injuries didn’t still happen. If Pedroia falls victim to injury at some point, voilà, Mookie Betts now has an everyday home, and it’s not a given that would make Red Sox much worse off. If Pedroia stays in the lineup, we still might not know what kind of offensive production he’ll bring, but we have an idea of what he’ll contribute defensively. No matter what, it’s a good spot. Pedroia’s the main reason the Red Sox are projected as a top-five defensive team, and his projected defensive value more than doubles that of any other second baseman except for…

#3 Tigers

Ian Kinsler 644 .268 .323 .413 .325 4.6 1.5 6.3 3.9
Hernan Perez 56 .256 .286 .350 .282 -1.5 0.1 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .267 .320 .408 .322 3.1 1.6 6.2 4.0

…Ian Kinsler, who, like Pedroia, is a very good fielder. Kinsler, also like Pedroia, is a still-mostly-good hitter who has seen his power production drop in recent years. And then here’s a fun game: look through the top line for each team and find how many teams have starting second baseman who are above average at the plate, on the bases, and in the field. On second thought, that doesn’t sound like a very fun game at all — that’s just work. So I’ll do it for you. There’s only three teams, and Detroit is one of them. Kinsler is one of the league’s best baserunners and, combined with his ability both at the plate and in the field, is pretty much the epitome of an all-around second baseman. In addition, Kinsler’s racked up more plate appearances than any hitter in baseball over the last four years, so the name doesn’t much matter.

#4 Pirates

Neil Walker 525 .270 .340 .438 .343 12.5 0.1 -3.3 2.9
Jung-ho Kang 140 .240 .304 .395 .309 -0.3 -0.1 -0.7 0.4
Sean Rodriguez 21 .238 .298 .387 .304 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Justin Sellers 14 .225 .275 .315 .264 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .262 .330 .425 .333 11.5 -0.1 -4.2 3.4

If you’re anything like me, in this one oddly specific and almost certainly one-time instance, you might be surprised to learn that Neil Walker possesses the second-best offensive projection of any second baseman in baseball this season. From 2010-13, Walker had been a consistently above-average producer at the plate. Then he took it to a new level in 2014, thanks to a big boost in power. He has missed 72 games over the past three seasons, earning himself something of an “injury prone” label, but 14 of those games were due to an appendectomy, another 14 were due to his finger being spiked on a stolen base attempt, and another three were from a freak dislocation of a different finger in an on-field collision. The lower back injuries linger, but a good chunk of Walker’s missed time has been relatively fluky.

And whenever Walker isn’t on the field, it’s likely that 27-year-old South Korean Jung-ho Kang will be the one filling his place, whose his sweet swing could provide considerably more pop than even Walker. Defense seems like it will be an issue for Pittsburgh at second base no matter who’s out there, but it’s a unit that should be able to hit the ball like few others.

#5 Astros

Jose Altuve 637 .304 .344 .415 .334 10.2 1.7 -5.6 3.2
Marwin Gonzalez 35 .245 .288 .348 .283 -0.8 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Luis Valbuena 28 .237 .323 .395 .319 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .299 .340 .411 .331 9.5 1.6 -5.6 3.4

It’s a testament to Altuve’s bat-to-ball skills that the Astros are able to occupy a top-five spot on this list, considering they had to overcome the second-worst defensive projection at the position. Nobody has accrued more negative defensive value at second base than Altuve since he entered the league, but, last year, he more than made up for it with the bat. Altuve, and his 225 hits, was as valuable with the bat as Robinson Cano, and that’s before factoring in baserunning. Altuve’s also a lock for 35+ steals, and even if he doesn’t put up a 200-hit season again in 2015, the Astros are in pretty good shape at the keystone.

#6 Dodgers

Howie Kendrick 546 .283 .330 .408 .324 5.7 -0.8 1.8 2.7
Justin Turner 70 .277 .335 .394 .324 0.7 -0.1 -0.5 0.3
Alex Guerrero 49 .248 .297 .396 .307 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Darwin Barney 21 .234 .286 .327 .272 -0.6 0.0 0.2 0.0
Enrique Hernandez 14 .245 .293 .371 .295 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .277 .326 .402 .321 5.4 -0.9 1.5 3.2

No team boosted their spot on this list more, from last year, than the Dodgers, who jumped from 26th to sixth. When the Dodgers traded Dee Gordon earlier in the offseason, there was a fleeting moment when you might have found the likes of Erisbel Arruebarrena and Alex Guerrero as the projected up-the-middle starters on a depth chart. If you blinked, you missed it, though, as they acquired Howie Kendrick, like, seven minutes after they’d dumped Gordon. Kendrick helped push the Dodgers up from 26th to sixth, while the Marlins — Gordon’s new team — sit at 21st. Kendrick is a solid defender, and has been one of the more consistent hitters at the position over the last half decade.

Behind Kendrick, the Dodgers are blessed with solid depth. Justin Turner was like baseball’s version of the Sixth Man of the Year last season, Barney is one of the position’s premier defenders, and Guerrero certainly has offensive potential, though his future with the team is an uncertainty.

#7 Athletics

Ben Zobrist 315 .264 .350 .408 .336 6.4 0.1 1.8 2.1
Eric Sogard 245 .245 .307 .327 .286 -4.5 0.2 0.3 0.5
Marcus Semien 105 .238 .314 .394 .315 0.4 0.0 -1.3 0.3
Joey Wendle 35 .238 .283 .361 .285 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .252 .326 .375 .313 1.7 0.2 0.9 3.1

Only one of these players was on the A’s last year! They did a few things this offseason, lemme tell ya. As it stands, Zobrist projects to be the everyday second baseman, with Semien at short. We can’t know how the A’s will end up using Zobrist’s versatility, and so he’s currently penciled in with playing time at a handful of positions. The more or less time Zobrist ends up spending at second, the more this ranking could change, on account of Zobrist being very good.

It’s worth nothing, too, that Semien’s defensive projection at second base is simply carried over from his defensive projection at shortstop. It’s logical, then, to assume that he’d fare better at second than short, considering it’s a less demanding position. Use this information as you see fit to mentally adjust the A’s spot.

#8 Phillies

Chase Utley 560 .258 .328 .406 .321 2.2 1.8 3.5 2.9
Cesar Hernandez 105 .257 .303 .339 .287 -2.4 -0.1 -0.6 0.0
Odubel Herrera 35 .256 .298 .327 .279 -1.0 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .258 .323 .392 .314 -1.1 1.6 2.9 2.9

Go Phillies! Top-10 in a list that doesn’t include the word “worst” in the title! Outside of Cole Hamels, Chase Utley is unfortunately one of the last positive things Phillies fans have to cling onto, and it’s only a matter of time before Chase is all alone in that regard. As for Utley’s 2014, it was both good and bad. It was good in the sense that he remained healthy for a full season for the first time in five years, but it was bad in the sense that he had his worst season at the plate since he became a starter nearly a decade ago. He’s still excellent enough on the bases and in the field to be a one of the game’s best second basemen when healthy, but at 36 years old, it’s tough not to wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of the end on a potential Hall of Fame worthy career. Lord help the Phillies if Utley can’t stay on the field, as they’d be forced to watch Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera. I mean, lord help the Phillies either way, but especially if that happens.

#9 Twins

Brian Dozier 630 .242 .320 .391 .317 1.5 1.3 -0.7 2.7
Eduardo Escobar 63 .255 .298 .367 .295 -0.9 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Eddie Rosario 7 .239 .272 .358 .278 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .243 .318 .389 .315 0.4 1.3 -0.8 2.9

The surprising thing about Brian Dozier in 2013 was his power. It was only natural to wonder if he could maintain it into 2014, and sure enough, he did. In 2014, then, the surprising thing about Brian Dozier was his plate discipline, and now we get to wonder if he’ll keep that up too. Dozier posted a top-15 walk rate among qualified batters last season, completing a three-year transformation from “no power, no discipline middle infielder” to “some power, no discipline, average second baseman” to “good power, good discipline, solid starter.” Then there’s the underrated part of Dozier’s game — his baserunning, where he was bested only by Ben Revere and Dee Gordon last season. The forecasts expect a good deal of regression from Dozier, most notably in the on-base department, but Dozier’s already fooled everyone the last two seasons, so who’s to say he won’t make it a third in 2015?

#10 Indians

Jason Kipnis 581 .254 .329 .385 .318 4.0 2.4 -4.9 2.4
Jose Ramirez 77 .258 .300 .354 .290 -1.1 0.1 0.5 0.2
Zach Walters 28 .234 .270 .449 .313 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Mike Aviles 14 .246 .276 .357 .280 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .254 .322 .384 .314 2.6 2.5 -4.5 2.8

Jason Kipnis struggled through an oblique injury for nearly all of 2014, zapping him of all his power. He was unable to drive the ball to the opposite field like he regularly did with authority in his first two breakout years, and instead rolled balls over to second base. How much you buy Kipnis in 2015 depends on how much you buy the oblique being the root of his 2014 struggles and if that’s an idea you subscribe to, you’d probably take the over on Kipnis’ 2015 projection.

If Kipnis is healthy, he should have no problem being a top-10 second baseman. If he can’t stay healthy, things could get interesting in Cleveland. The Indians are built to contend in 2015, and teams built to contend probably aren’t willing to give Mike Aviles everyday at-bats, making Jose Ramirez the most logical back-up plan for Kipnis. Thing is, Ramirez is the team’s starting shortstop right now. It’s no guarantee that super-prospect Francisco Lindor will make his major league debut before September, but a lingering Kipnis injury that shifts Ramirez to second could speed things up.

#11 Cardinals

Kolten Wong 560 .261 .307 .387 .306 -3.1 1.7 3.1 2.2
Pete Kozma 70 .223 .282 .319 .268 -2.4 0.0 0.5 0.0
Dean Anna 70 .238 .314 .346 .297 -0.9 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .255 .305 .376 .302 -6.5 1.5 3.5 2.4

Kolten Wong and the Cardinals either mark the end of the second tier of second baseman or the start of the third tier, depending on how much you agree with Wong’s projection. Wong opened the 2014 season as the Cardinals everyday second baseman, but apparently had a very short leash, as he was sent back to the minors after struggling through 20 games. In those 20 games, he had a wOBA of just .242. In the 93 games following the demotion, Wong posted a much more respectable .311 wOBA, and the forecasts see him as being much closer to that guy than the first guy. With good defense and enough speed to steal 20+ bases, Wong is an exciting — and probably underrated — second baseman.

#12 Rays

Nick Franklin 420 .234 .304 .362 .297 -2.8 0.3 -0.6 1.3
Asdrubal Cabrera 140 .244 .309 .383 .307 0.2 0.0 -1.7 0.4
Logan Forsythe 105 .228 .300 .343 .289 -1.4 0.0 -0.9 0.2
Tim Beckham 21 .232 .279 .322 .269 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Ryan Brett 14 .244 .281 .349 .279 -0.3 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .235 .303 .362 .297 -4.8 0.4 -3.2 1.9

The question, with regards to Nick Franklin, has long been about his defense. The question was whether he had the ability to stick at shortstop. That question may have been answered on Sunday when the Rays named Asdrubal Cabrera their everyday shortstop. We know what Asdrubal Cabrera is on defense. If you don’t know or don’t remember, feel free to use this as a refresher course (viewer discretion advised). Franklin is younger, and it’s hard to grade much worse than Cabrera has at the position, so the thought was probably that he’d at least get a crack. Instead, he’ll be manning second base. At the plate, Franklin’s minor league track record suggests his disastrous 2014 might have been bit fluky, and the forecasts back that up, to an extent. If 2014 wasn’t a fluke, though, and Franklin can’t hit in addition to apparently not being able to field, things could get grim.

I actually just found out while writing this that Logan Forsythe isn’t a 34-year-old veteran utility man like I thought he was — I guess I had always just assumed he was Kevin Frandsen — but rather Forsythe is a 28-year-old in just his fifth season. Huh. Learn somethin’ new every day.

#13 Reds

Brandon Phillips 525 .261 .306 .385 .305 -5.4 -0.7 6.3 1.9
Skip Schumaker 70 .242 .301 .317 .279 -2.1 -0.1 -1.0 -0.1
Kristopher Negron 70 .214 .265 .336 .269 -2.7 0.1 0.0 0.0
Eugenio Suarez 35 .238 .299 .368 .298 -0.5 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .253 .301 .372 .298 -10.7 -0.7 5.4 1.9

Perhaps it’s a good thing Brandon Phillips doesn’t care about getting on base because this group, led by Phillips himself, doesn’t exactly do a good job of it. Coming off an absolutely monster 103 RBI campaign in 2013, the curmudgeonly veteran followed it up with a surely disappointing 51 RBI season in 2014. Phillips’ five-year power decline hit new lows, and he failed to reach double-digit homers for the first time in his career, as a starter. Skip Schumaker was able to rack up 22 ribbies last year, though, and Kristopher Negron added 17 with Eugenio Suarez pitching in 23. Add it all up, and this is a 100 RBI unit, easy. Not bad.

In all seriousness, though, Phillips has been declining in nearly every facet of his game for the better part of four years now, and, along with his age and recent injury concerns, it feels like it’s just a matter of time before it all bottoms out. Of Phillips’ three backups, the most interesting is the 23-year-old Suarez, who was acquired for pennies on the dollar this offseason. If Phillips is forced to miss an extended period of time, expect Suarez to see the bulk of the playing time, rather than the two journeyman currently ahead of him on the depth chart.

#14 Rangers

Rougned Odor 595 .263 .301 .417 .315 -2.8 -0.5 -2.1 1.8
Adam Rosales 105 .235 .290 .351 .287 -2.8 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .259 .300 .407 .311 -5.6 -0.5 -2.2 1.9

Contrary to what transcendent post-rock band Explosions in the Sky might lead you to believe, the Earth occasionally is, in fact, a cold, dead place, and it’s for that reason that Jurickson Profar’s name does not appear in the lines above. Just like last year, shoulder surgery ended Profar’s season before it began.

While Profar’s situation is tragic, the Rangers are blessed to have another young, exciting talent behind him, for Rougnded Odor will now get his first crack at being a major league starter on Opening Day. Considering his age and position, Odor’s 2014 rookie season at the plate was an impressive one, and his minor league track record suggests he might have even more power than what was displayed last year. It’s a major disappointment that we won’t get to see Jurickson Profar on the field in 2015, but the positive is that Rougned Odor is still quite exciting in his own right.

#15 Cubs

Javier Baez 490 .228 .277 .436 .312 -2.7 0.4 -3.0 1.2
Arismendy Alcantara 140 .243 .290 .408 .307 -1.3 0.4 0.1 0.4
Tommy La Stella 70 .269 .337 .366 .315 -0.2 -0.1 -0.4 0.2
Total 700 .235 .286 .424 .311 -4.1 0.7 -3.3 1.8

There might not be a more polarizing player in baseball than Javier Baez. Our projections have him pegged for about 25 homers this year, but between his extreme contact issues, massive power, character concerns, and did I mention massive power, one could argue it’s just as likely he hits 25 homers as he does 10 or 40. There’s no guarantee that Baez will open the season in the majors at this point, and, even if he does, there’s certainly no guarantee that he sticks. If he sticks, that probably means he’s having a monster season. If he doesn’t, well, the Cubs are still in good shape!

The acquisitions of Dexter Fowler and Chris Coghlan leave jack-of-all-trades Arismendy Alcantara without an everyday role, and his minor league track record suggests he’s quite a bit more capable than what he displayed in his first 300 plate appearances last season. Once Kris Bryant gets to start mashing baseballs up in the majors, Tommy La Stella could be free to potentially return to his original position at second base, and his combination of contact ability and plate discipline make him a relatively safe player with a high floor, albeit one with a low ceiling.

#16 Mets

Daniel Murphy 490 .282 .321 .398 .317 3.0 0.6 -7.1 1.4
Matt Reynolds 35 .230 .282 .319 .270 -1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Ruben Tejada 105 .246 .315 .320 .285 -2.0 -0.1 0.2 0.2
Dilson Herrera 35 .241 .290 .375 .295 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.1
Danny Muno 35 .219 .303 .326 .286 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .269 .316 .378 .307 -1.1 0.5 -7.1 1.7

For the last four seasons, Daniel Murphy has appeared in more Mets games than any other player, and while a part of that speaks to the current state of the New York Metropolitans, it also speaks to Murphy’s reliability and consistency. However, Murphy’s playing time projection was recently docked, thanks to a hamstring injury that could cause him to start the season on the disabled list. When Murphy is healthy, he’s a high-floor, low ceiling bat, but one whose glove grades out as one of the worst in the league at his position.

If Murphy misses extended time, it may very well be Matt Reynolds who would fill in. Resident FanGraphs prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel listed Reynolds as the Mets’ 16th prospect — a utility guy who has the glove to play shortstop and a contact-oriented swing. Reynolds might not kill a team, but that description sounds quite a bit like Ruben Tejada, so interpret that however you want.

#17 Orioles

Jonathan Schoop 525 .233 .274 .392 .294 -8.8 0.0 2.7 1.4
Everth Cabrera 105 .251 .310 .331 .289 -2.2 0.5 -0.5 0.2
Ryan Flaherty 35 .228 .286 .376 .293 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.1
Jimmy Paredes 35 .240 .271 .361 .278 -1.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .236 .280 .381 .293 -12.7 0.6 2.0 1.7

To finish a season with both 137 games played, and also a park-adjusted batting line 35% worse than the league average speaks volumes about a player. It says, for one, that the player in question was mostly bad at the plate. This much is true, with regards to Schoop, who owned the league’s worst BB:K ratio, minimum 250 plate appearances. It says, too, perhaps, that the player is young and/or shows promise, giving the organization incentive to keep him in the lineup. This much is also true, as Schoop is still just 23 and was named the organization’s fourth prospect before last year. It also might say that the player is good in other facets of the game, like with the glove. Also true, this, as Schoop made up half of the league’s best double play combination alongside shortstop J.J. Hardy last season.

The last thing it might say is that the team had no other viable replacement options, which was true last year, but is no longer the case this season. Everth Cabrera, despite his potential shortcomings as a human being, has shown to be a competent major league player in the past. If Schoop hits anything like he did in 2014, he’ll likely have a far shorter leash with Cabrera waiting in the wings.

#18 Padres

Jedd Gyorko 525 .239 .299 .397 .308 -0.2 -0.4 -2.9 1.5
Cory Spangenberg 105 .243 .281 .343 .277 -2.6 -0.1 -0.6 0.0
Alexi Amarista 70 .242 .285 .343 .277 -1.7 0.1 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .240 .295 .384 .300 -4.4 -0.4 -3.7 1.6

Only two teams fell further than the Padres in the second base rankings from last year’s edition of the series, and that’s because not many players fell further than Jedd Gyorko in 2014. Gyorko was on every sleeper list heading into last season, sure to be the next elite second baseman after a 23-homer rookie season in just 125 games. Instead, Gyorko battled plantar fasciitis in his left foot and lost nearly all the power that made him so exciting. The forecasts think Gyorko’s closer to the 2013 phenom than the 2014 disappointment, and it’s easy to forget that we’re still just one year removed from Gyorko being one of the more exciting young names in baseball. At 26, he’s right in his physical peak, and still has definite potential.

The other side isn’t as bright, as both of Gyorko’s backups are flawed hitters whose only value comes from one place. Spangenberg has 65-grade speed, and Amarista has the ability to play multiple positions, though there’s been little evidence that he plays any of them well.

#19 Nationals

Yunel Escobar 525 .269 .330 .365 .311 -2.1 -1.2 -1.3 1.4
Danny Espinosa 140 .218 .281 .352 .281 -3.8 0.2 0.5 0.2
Kevin Frandsen 35 .266 .305 .344 .290 -0.7 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .259 .319 .361 .304 -6.6 -1.1 -0.9 1.6

Your perception of Yunel Escobar heading into 2015 is mostly dependent on how much you trust a year of defensive data from a 31-year-old shortstop. Escobar inexplicably graded out -20 runs below average at short last year after routinely coming in as a +5-10 run defender throughout the rest of his career. Between the potential defensive concerns, and repeated character concerns, surrounding Escobar, perhaps it’s appropriate that he was traded twice in the same offseason and is now a member of his fourth organization in four years. On the other hand, Escobar has a remarkably clean bill of health, and has been a fairly consistent league-average hitter throughout his career, which is quite useful from a middle infielder.

One person who doesn’t necessitate questions, with regards to his defensive ability, is Danny Espinosa, whom one might describe as a “whiz” — or even “whiz kid” if you’re feeling frisky — in the field. The questions surrounding Espinosa are whether he can physically make contact with the ball, using his bat. Hitting concerns aside, as far as utility men go, Espinosa is a pretty nifty one to have.

#20 Royals

Omar Infante 490 .271 .306 .372 .299 -5.7 0.0 0.0 1.3
Christian Colon 105 .258 .304 .349 .292 -1.8 0.0 -0.1 0.2
Rafael Furcal 77 .245 .299 .332 .284 -1.8 0.1 -0.4 0.1
Ryan Roberts 28 .234 .293 .353 .288 -0.6 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .265 .305 .364 .296 -9.9 0.1 -0.7 1.6

Omar Infante seemed like he was destined for a career as a utility man until a switch flipped sometime around his 28th birthday and he became a solid major league regular at second base. He had an impressive five-year run, given his past track record, but he’s now 33 years old and coming off a disappointing 2014 in which he dealt with both lower back and right shoulder issues. Now he’s got elbow troubles, too, which are already forcing him to consider surgery, though apparently he’s going to try and play through it this year. Doesn’t sound too good.

If/when Infante misses time, the Royals will likely turn to the 26-year-old fringy Christian Colon. At the bottom of this depth chart, you’ll find Rafael Furcal and Ryan Roberts, who combine for 71 years of life on this planet of Earth, and also 59 total MLB appearances in 2014. So that’s all you need to know about that.

#21 Marlins

Dee Gordon 560 .269 .315 .346 .295 -9.4 4.3 -1.6 1.3
Derek Dietrich 70 .238 .300 .403 .311 -0.3 0.0 -0.5 0.2
Jeff Baker 35 .251 .299 .386 .301 -0.4 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Donovan Solano 35 .255 .303 .338 .286 -0.8 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .264 .312 .353 .297 -11.0 4.3 -2.3 1.6

The most improved team, relative to last year’s rankings, is the team that traded away Dee Gordon. The Dodgers went from 26th last year, to sixth this year. The team that got Dee Gordon, though, also improved, as their Rafael Furcal/Donovan Solano-led group came in at 28th and has now moved up to 21st. What that says, partially, is that Howie Kendrick is quite a bit better than Dee Gordon. But what it also says is that Dee Gordon took legitimate steps forward in 2014. The difference in his projected wOBA, from last season to this one, is nearly 20 points, and that’s a substantial increase. Problem is, where Gordon was coming from, it takes more than 20 extra points of projected wOBA to be considered anything near a quality major league hitter. Gordon has also graded poorly in the field, but what he does have going for him is that he may be the premier non-Billy Hamilton baserunner in the game, which props up his shortcomings at the plate and in the field. Gordon’s got some interesting tools and has improved at the dish, but he’s still an incomplete player.

Then the group behind Gordon is an odd, but interesting, hodgepodge of very different players. Dietrich is a stocky, 25-year-old Dan Uggla-lite type of player. Baker is a 34-year-old lefty killer, and Donovan Solano is your run-of-the-mill glove-first utility man. It’s not great depth, but there’s some skills spread throughout the group.

#22 Brewers

Scooter Gennett 525 .278 .312 .403 .314 -2.5 -0.2 -0.4 1.6
Luis Sardinas 140 .260 .291 .333 .278 -4.5 0.0 -0.4 0.0
Elian Herrera 35 .245 .297 .330 .280 -1.1 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .273 .307 .385 .305 -8.1 -0.2 -1.0 1.5

The four players immediately following Scotter Gennett, on a leaderboard of total offensive production over the last two seasons: Adam LaRoche, Chase Utley, Evan Longoria, Carlos Beltran. When Gennett has played, he’s hit, but there’s two caveats in play. One is that Gennett has had the privilege of playing half of his game’s in one of baseball’s most hitter-friendly parks for lefties. The bigger one, though, is that 88% of his plate appearances have come against right-handed pitching, as he’s almost exclusively served as one-half of a platoon with former teammate Rickie Weeks. What’s Gennett’s wRC+ against left-handed pitching, you ask? That’d be -29. Admittedly, that’s over a puny sample size of 78, but when you have a minus sign in front of a stat that has a plus in it’s title, that’s not good, and maybe the point is that he’s only faced 78 lefties in two seasons. This year, though, Gennett appears to be in line for every day at-bats, hence the relative pessimism found in his projection.

If Gennett truly can’t hit lefties, Luis Sardinas could be in line for some playing time. Sardinas is one of the pieces that came over from the Rangers in the Yovani Gallardo trade, though none of his minor league numbers, his projections nor his scouting grades suggest he’d be able to hit left-handed pitching — or maybe any kind of pitching — much better, although he likely does represent an improvement in the field.

#23 Yankees

Stephen Drew 420 .216 .290 .362 .289 -8.9 -0.5 2.2 0.9
Rob Refsnyder 140 .248 .313 .379 .309 -0.9 -0.1 -0.6 0.4
Jose Pirela 140 .250 .294 .377 .297 -2.2 0.1 -0.3 0.3
Total 700 .229 .295 .368 .295 -12.0 -0.5 1.4 1.5

All you really need to know about Stephen Drew’s 2014 is that he came to the plate 300 times, and the only article written on this site about him since then was titled, Did Stephen Drew Ever Look Like a Major-League Hitter? Drew had a seriously rough go at things, posting a .176/.255/.328 slash line in 39 games with the Red Sox after sitting out the first two months of the season. Turns out all Drew needed was a change of scenery, though, as he posted a .150/.219/271 slash in 45 games with the Yankees after the Red Sox cut bait, and that’s all the Bronx Bombers needed to ink him to another year.

If Drew fails again, the Yankees have two options. The most likely is 24-year-old Robert Refsnyder, who had a monster 2014 season between Double- and Triple-A, and is the Yankees top prospect if going only by projected 2015 WAR. The other is Jose Pirela, who made his major league debut last season, but lacks any real tools and is likely destined for a role on the bench.

#24 Giants

Joe Panik 546 .259 .310 .340 .291 -6.5 0.1 0.0 1.3
Ehire Adrianza 70 .220 .279 .303 .262 -2.4 0.0 0.3 0.0
Matt Duffy 49 .248 .302 .332 .284 -0.8 0.1 0.0 0.1
Joaquin Arias 35 .254 .282 .333 .270 -1.0 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .254 .305 .336 .287 -10.6 0.1 0.4 1.5

A national audience became familiar with both Joe Panik and his rosy cheeks, thanks to some heroics in the Giants championship run. It’s often the case with relatively unknown players getting their name put in the national spotlight, that the expectation bar gets raised. Realistically, Panik is a decent player, but doesn’t appear to posses the tools to be much better than average.

On a more positive note, he’s got quite a bit of professional experience for his age, and a track record of good health. He’s averaged 600 plate appearances over the last three seasons, and should have no problem handling the workload of being an everyday player for a full major league season.

#25 Diamondbacks

Aaron Hill 490 .258 .309 .400 .313 -3.4 -1.0 -2.8 1.0
Cliff Pennington 105 .247 .313 .345 .295 -2.2 0.1 0.2 0.2
Brandon Drury 70 .235 .277 .373 .287 -1.9 0.0 0.1 0.1
Chris Owings 35 .264 .296 .395 .304 -0.5 0.1 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .254 .306 .389 .307 -7.9 -0.8 -2.4 1.3

Honestly, who can say what’s going to happen with anything the Diamondbacks do this year. Now, as I’m writing this, reports are that Chris Owings might be switching to second, pushing Aaron Hill to third and Yasmany Tomas, potentially, to the minors for the start of the year. Hill, himself, is already a confusing player to begin with; from 2012-13, he had two fantastic seasons at the plate wedged between three seasons — ’10, ’11 and ’14 — of being decidedly below average. The defensive metrics can’t figure out whether he’s good or bad either, and so in this case, it’s impossible to say what’s going on in Arizona, which I’m guessing will become a theme throughout this year’s Positional Power Rankings series.

#26 Angels

Josh Rutledge 385 .236 .284 .354 .284 -6.6 0.5 -3.2 0.5
Johnny Giavotella 175 .257 .308 .357 .295 -1.4 0.0 -0.8 0.5
Grant Green 105 .256 .293 .373 .295 -0.9 -0.1 -0.4 0.3
Taylor Featherston 35 .215 .259 .325 .260 -1.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .243 .290 .356 .287 -10.1 0.3 -4.3 1.2

What this collection of players represents is the most downgraded second base unit, relative to last year’s rankings, going from eighth to 26th. The Angels traded away Howie Kendrick for Andrew Heaney, and replaced Kendrick by acquiring Josh Rutledge and Johnny Giavotella. So, really, they didn’t replace him at all. Here’s an Angels beat writer’s take on the situation:

#27 Rockies

DJ LeMahieu 546 .281 .321 .374 .306 -14.2 -0.9 5.4 0.9
Daniel Descalso 119 .259 .327 .366 .307 -3.0 0.0 -1.0 0.0
Charlie Culberson 35 .253 .287 .392 .298 -1.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .276 .321 .373 .306 -18.2 -0.8 4.2 0.9

Atop the Rockies second base depth chart is the player with the lowest projected batting value of any player who appears in this post. It’s not that LeMahieu won’t produce at all — a .306 wOBA is certainly passable for a middle infielder. It’s that he won’t produce, given his offensive environment. When you consider where LeMahieu plays his home games, his batting line becomes far less impressive, and really only passable given Darwin Barney-like defense at second base. Unfortunately, the bat is Barney-like, too, and that’s the reason Barney wound up as a third option on a different team’s depth chart.

#28 White Sox

Micah Johnson 329 .252 .297 .356 .290 -7.0 -0.3 -1.0 0.4
Gordon Beckham 126 .243 .296 .365 .294 -2.4 0.0 -0.4 0.2
Emilio Bonifacio 105 .248 .303 .329 .284 -2.8 0.7 -0.2 0.2
Carlos Sanchez 98 .250 .293 .332 .279 -2.9 0.0 0.5 0.1
Leury Garcia 35 .224 .263 .304 .253 -1.8 0.1 0.2 0.0
Tyler Saladino 7 .231 .294 .348 .288 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .248 .295 .348 .287 -17.0 0.5 -0.9 0.8


I maintain the American League Central depth charts, and, lemme tell ya, this one’s been a doozy to keep up with. All signs had been pointing to Carlos Sanchez winning the starting job until acquisitions of Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio muddied the waters and then Micah Johnson went and outplayed them all in Spring Training and seemingly claimed the starting job in the process.

If there’s a positive to be taken away from this murky situation, it’s that none of the four options appear to be terrible. We know what Bonifacio and Beckham can (but also can’t) offer. The projections don’t love Carlos Sanchez, but he’s a nearly finished product and plus in the field and on the basses. And then there’s Micah Johnson, who swiped 84 bags in 2013 and has evidently recently earned the organization’s trust. It might look messy right now, but it’s not hard to see one of the four from this group stepping up and having a good year.

#29 Braves

Jace Peterson 280 .229 .295 .316 .276 -8.4 0.3 -0.4 0.1
Alberto Callaspo 210 .251 .325 .345 .301 -2.2 -0.8 -1.1 0.3
Phil Gosselin 105 .247 .284 .335 .275 -3.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Jose Peraza 35 .256 .285 .338 .276 -1.1 0.1 0.1 0.0
Kelly Johnson 70 .224 .304 .370 .301 -0.7 0.0 -0.5 0.1
Total 700 .239 .303 .334 .286 -15.7 -0.4 -2.0 0.6

Speaking of messy second base depth charts! This job would probably be Alberto Callaspo’s to lose, if only Atlanta’s third base situation wasn’t a disaster too. The Braves saw quite a bit of Phil Gosselin at second base down the stretch in 2014, which is perhaps one reason why they went out and acquired Jace Peterson from San Diego in the Justin Upton trade. Peterson doesn’t have any outstanding tools, but, according to Kiley, has consistently played better than his tools and can contribute at multiple premium positions. Kelly Johnson, who at this point in his career isn’t much different than a left-handed Callaspo, could see some time, too.

Thankfully, for the Braves, these are all just stopgap options to keep the seat warm for top prospect Jose Peraza. Peraza has what Kiley referred to as game changing speed with the contact and plate discipline abilities for that speed to make a difference. It’s just not a guarantee that difference will be made in 2015.

#30 Blue Jays

Ryan Goins 315 .232 .267 .317 .260 -13.8 -0.6 1.7 -0.1
Devon Travis 175 .251 .296 .389 .303 -2.0 0.0 0.0 0.5
Maicer Izturis 105 .254 .305 .346 .292 -2.1 -0.1 -0.9 0.1
Munenori Kawasaki 42 .238 .300 .299 .272 -1.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Ramon Santiago 35 .230 .300 .314 .279 -1.0 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Steve Tolleson 28 .235 .295 .340 .285 -0.7 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .240 .285 .339 .278 -21.0 -0.8 0.6 0.4

I really, really don’t know how this happened. The Blue Jays are a good team! They’re trying to win! And yet this same group, “led” by Ryan Goins and who found themselves in this exact same position last year, are right back at the bottom of the second base power rankings. Goins, trusted with the Opening Day job last year, slashed .188/.209/.271 in 67 games — which was only a little worse than his previous go-around — yet here they are again. An interesting piece in Toronto, at least, is Devon Travis, who came over from Detroit in the Anthony Gose trade. Travis has hit well in the minors with a gap-to-gap approach, but doesn’t offer much in the way of baserunning or fielding value. Not exactly a beacon of hope at second base for a team hoping to contend.

I’ll end this post by repurposing a piece of unsolicited advice, taken from Carson Cistulli’s iteration of this same piece from last year, that is admittedly less applicable, because they did take the advice, but perhaps still applicable nonetheless because it’s still not an overly inspiring situation: “Make a trade, Blue Jays.”

August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at august.fagerstrom@fangraphs.com.

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9 years ago

I’m stand by what I’ve said before. The Blue Jays not signing Rickie Weeks is the most baffling move of the off season. He is a good hitter and it is Rogers Centre…it will work. Now the defense isn’t good, but he is an above replacement level player and costs very little

9 years ago
Reply to  Matt

although it would be in keeping with aa’s attempt to field the best young players in the world from ~2006, at this point, reyes/weeks infield would surely be the most unbearable thing to watch.

9 years ago
Reply to  Matt

There’s no way the Jays could afford to have a Rickie Weeks commemorative statue out there in the middle of the infield next to their existing Jose Reyes statue.