2016 Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

It’s our turn to Positionally Power Rank the second baseman. If you’re not familiar with this series, read the introduction, and then come back for a walk through the league’s most homogenous spot on the field. By which I mean that the keystone position in MLB is an eclectic mix of young contact hitters, aging contact hitters, contact hitters with some power, and Jonathan Schoop. But hey, let’s sort out which of these contact hitters are better than the others, and we’ll do that right now.


It’s a set of stairs with lots of plateaus, as there is no dominant team, but also some pretty distinct tiers. Let’s get to the specifics.

#1 Mariners

Robinson Cano 630 .288 .347 .441 .337 12.8 -2.0 -1.8 3.4
Luis Sardinas 28 .238 .270 .298 .250 -1.4 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Shawn O’Malley 21 .243 .299 .326 .277 -0.6 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Chris Taylor 21 .254 .316 .344 .293 -0.3 0.0 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .284 .341 .429 .331 10.5 -1.9 -1.9 3.4

For the first half of 2015, it was hard to imagine the Mariners would end up atop this list, as Cano looked more like one of the worst contracts in baseball than an elite second baseman. He limped into the all-star break with a .251/.290/.370 batting line, and suddenly just looked old. But in the second half of the year, Cano was in vintage form, hitting .331/.387/.540, finding his power stroke and reducing his strikeout rate at the same time, and suggesting it’s still a little premature to eulogize his career as a high-level performer.

Of course, the first half still happened, even if it might have been the result of dealing with a parasite, and his struggles and age do suggest that we shouldn’t expect him to play at the level he reached in the second half. But there’s no other clearly dominant second baseman in baseball, so even a diminished Cano and some replacement level backups is still enough for the Mariners to grade out at the top of a mediocre heap.

The Mariners need to hope Cano doesn’t have any more parasites, though, because their alternatives aren’t great. If Cano hits the DL, the team is left with a collection of guys who fit best in Triple-A, so there’s basically no depth here. If the team is going to make a run at a postseason berth, they’re going to need a healthy, parasite-free Cano playing 150 games.

#2 Astros

Jose Altuve 644 .308 .348 .432 .336 9.3 1.0 -3.1 3.2
Marwin Gonzalez 49 .255 .294 .383 .295 -0.9 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Nolan Fontana 7 .206 .316 .296 .281 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .303 .344 .427 .332 8.2 0.8 -3.2 3.3

Jose Altuve’s development from a height-challenged curiosity into a legitimate All-Star continued in 2015, as he added surprising power and took some steps forward defensively, making himself more of a well-rounded player than the singles-and-steals specialist he’d been previously. The forecasts are still incorporating his pretty lousy 2013 season, which is why he’s expected to take a step back in 2016, but if Altuve can show that his power growth is for real, he has a chance to establish himself as the best second baseman in baseball.

Altuve has proven quite durable over the past three seasons, so there won’t be a lot of extra playing time available unless he gets hurt, but Marwin Gonzalez has proven a useful role player, and would be able to give the team at least a decent stopgap if Altuve hit the DL. And if they ever decided they just wanted the exact opposite of Altuve’s approach at the plate, they have Nolan Fontana around to stand there, take pitches, and never swing.

#3 Red Sox

Dustin Pedroia 595 .282 .343 .405 .327 1.2 -0.7 7.5 3.2
Brock Holt 70 .274 .332 .366 .308 -0.9 0.2 -0.4 0.1
Deven Marrero 21 .241 .293 .332 .276 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Josh Rutledge   7 .250 .297 .374 .292 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Sean Coyle 7 .222 .287 .387 .294 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .279 .339 .398 .323 -0.9 -0.4 7.0 3.3

Pedroia’s rebound at the plate, even in a shortened season, was enough to convince ZIPS and Steamer that the Red Sox second baseman has something left in the tank. With his elite contact skills, Pedroia should be an effective hitter for as long as he can still drive the ball, and in 2015, he showed enough power to look something like the Pedroia of old. The problem going forward looks like it may be health, as he spent a few months on the DL with hamstring issues, and at 32, is reaching the point where second baseman begin to break down.

But if Pedroia is limited in how often he can play, at least the Red Sox have a pretty nice alternative, as Brock Holt has emerged as perhaps the game’s best utility player, and a guy who can capably fill in when Pedroia’s on the bench. The Red Sox would be worse with Holt in the lineup on a daily basis, but as a secondary option behind a guy who can still hit when he plays, he’s a pretty nice insurance policy. The other options behind Holt are significantly less palatable, and Boston fans should hope they see as few of them as possible.

#4 Cubs

Ben Zobrist 511 .273 .356 .431 .342 9.6 -0.3 -0.9 2.8
Javier Baez 98 .250 .301 .450 .322 0.3 0.2 -0.6 0.4
Tommy La Stella   42 .272 .338 .377 .315 -0.1 0.0 -0.3 0.1
Arismendy Alcantara 35 .234 .283 .392 .292 -0.7 0.1 0.0 0.1
Munenori Kawasaki 14 .235 .303 .292 .269 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .267 .342 .426 .334 8.6 -0.1 -1.7 3.3

While Zobrist made his name as baseball’s swiss army knife, he’s probably looking at mostly everyday work at second base in Chicago. As age – and a knee injury that cost him part of the 2015 season – begins to erode his defensive value, Zobrist now looks like a guy who will get most of his value from his offensive abilities, and even in his mid-30s, those remain formidable for a middle infielder. In fact, Zobrist has the highest projected wOBA of any player forecast to get at-bats at 2B this year, and the Cubs only rank 4th on this list because it’s difficult to project Zobrist for too many games played given his age.

But when Zobrist sits, there’s a chance the Cubs will be just fine, as the projections think Javier Baez can show enough power to make up for his swing-and-miss issues. He’s essentially Alfonso Soriano for the new generation, and certainly comes with his share of risk, but few teams in baseball have a backup middle infielder with this kind of tantalizing potential. And then there’s still La Stella, who has some use as a depth piece, and Alcantara, who has showed promise at times. The Cubs aren’t as vulnerable at this spot as you might think a team with a 35 year old coming off a knee injury might be, and if Zobrist ends up getting closer to 600 plate appearances, they might end up at the top of the end-of-season 2B rankings.

#5 Tigers

Ian Kinsler 644 .273 .321 .411 .318 -0.5 1.0 5.5 3.1
Mike Aviles 35 .248 .284 .353 .278 -1.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Andrew Romine 21 .240 .290 .308 .265 -0.9 0.0 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .271 .318 .405 .315 -2.5 1.0 5.6 3.1

A couple of years ago, the Rangers really wanted to get rid of Ian Kinsler, but couldn’t really find anyone who wanted to take the rest of his contract, so the Tigers swooped in and stole him while getting out from under Prince Fielder’s deal at the same time. Since that trade, Kinsler has put up +9.4 WAR, the most of any second baseman in baseball, and has shown no signs of aging to this point. Given that he’s 33, things will turn south eventually, but he remains one of the most underappreciated stars in the game.

Fortunately for the Tigers, Kinsler also plays almost every day, because their alternatives for when he sits are not particularly appealing. Aviles and Romine bring little to the table, and both are essentially replacement level players, so the Tigers need Kinsler on the field 150 times.

#6 Indians

Jason Kipnis 630 .270 .344 .407 .327 5.1 2.1 -3.1 2.9
Jose Ramirez 70 .260 .314 .372 .300 -0.9 0.1 0.5 0.2
Total 700 .269 .341 .403 .324 4.2 2.2 -2.6 3.1

In two of the last three seasons, Kipnis has been an elite performer, putting up a combined +9.7 WAR in 2013 and 2015. In between, he was awful, posting less than +1 WAR in 2014, as his power disappeared and took his offensive value along with it. As a guy who has had to work hard to become average-ish with the glove, his overall value will always be driven by how much he hits, and the uncertainty around his offense makes him a tough guy to forecast. If you think 2014 was just an outlier, then he’s in the argument for best player at this position, but 2014 happened, and so it’s probably best to take a more measured view of his expected production. But clearly, there’s upside here, given what Kipnis did last year, and a couple of years before that.

But even with that upside, one could make an argument that the team’s best alignment would come with Jose Ramirez at second base instead. A quality defensive shortstop, Ramirez grades out as an elite defender when shifted to second base, and he hits enough to be a viable regular with that defensive contribution. Given the Indians weak outfield options, the team may very well be optimally aligned with Ramirez at 2B and Kipnis in the OF, but they’ve resisted the idea to this point, and it seems unlikely to materialize in season. But if Ramirez shows some offensive improvement and their collection of veteran platoon bats don’t perform well in the outfield, it will be interesting to see whether moving Kipnis to the outfield eventually becomes something the team considers.

#7 Twins

Brian Dozier 630 .243 .319 .422 .322 1.7 1.7 -0.8 2.7
Eduardo Nunez 35 .262 .301 .381 .297 -0.6 0.1 -0.2 0.1
Eduardo Escobar 21 .258 .305 .401 .306 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.1
Jorge Polanco 14 .256 .299 .358 .287 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .244 .317 .418 .320 0.5 1.8 -1.0 2.8

The most laughably absurd right-handed pull hitter in baseball, it’s hard to look at Dozier’s spray chart and not think that eventually pitchers are going to figure him out. With a career 212 wRC+ when he pulls the ball, a 59 wRC+ when he goes up the middle, and a -1 (yes, negative one) wRC+ when he hits the ball to right field, it’s a wonder that Dozier is ever thrown a pitch middle-in. If you subscribe to the extreme-pull-hitters-have-a-short-shelf-life theory, then you might be convinced that teams did exploit his weakness in the second half of 2015, holding him to just a 73 wRC+ after the All-Star break.

But while the shift is going to eat up a bunch of would-be singles, Dozier seems to have enough power to retain a chunk of his value. He’ll probably be a low-average slugger, which isn’t the normal profile for a middle infielder, but if he can keep hitting 20 bombs a year and running the bases well, he’ll be an above average regular. But if pitchers really did figure Dozier out in the second half, the Twins are in some trouble, because Jorge Polanco is probably not ready for regular at-bats in the big leagues yet, and the bench infielders in Minnesota aren’t guys you want starting.

#8 Mets

Neil Walker 518 .259 .330 .434 .330 8.2 0.4 -4.5 2.3
Wilmer Flores 63 .263 .300 .416 .308 -0.1 0.0 -0.3 0.2
Asdrubal Cabrera   56 .251 .310 .407 .310 0.0 0.0 -1.0 0.1
Dilson Herrera 42 .254 .309 .398 .308 -0.1 0.0 0.1 0.2
Matt Reynolds 21 .229 .278 .326 .267 -0.7 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .258 .323 .424 .323 7.3 0.4 -5.6 2.8

To replace their previous left-handed bat-first second baseman, the Mets traded for Walker, a switch-hitting bat-first second baseman. Only Walker isn’t a particular good hitter from the right side, so he should probably rest against a lot of southpaws, meaning that the Mets new second baseman might end up also being effectively a left-handed bat-first second baseman. Of course, Murphy was a perfectly useful piece for the team, and Walker should be as well; you don’t have to be a great defender when you can hit like these two can.

And the Mets have enviable depth. Flores looks like a perfect platoon candidate for Walker, at least on days when he’s not covering for David Wright at third base, and the projections think Dilson Herrera could be perfectly capable of handling the job himself if need be. Walker is probably just holding the job for 2016 while Herrera gets more seasoning, but it could be interesting to see how the Mets handle the position if Herrera forces the issue; he might be good enough to do just that.

#9 Giants

Joe Panik 560 .277 .334 .381 .314 3.0 0.2 2.1 2.6
Kelby Tomlinson 91 .244 .296 .314 .272 -2.6 0.1 -0.3 0.0
Ehire Adrianza 49 .230 .297 .317 .274 -1.3 0.0 0.3 0.1
Total 700 .270 .326 .368 .306 -0.9 0.3 2.0 2.7

Given what Panik did last year, this forecast is a pretty big step backwards, suggesting he’ll be more of an above average hitter than the excellent one he was a year ago. The forecasts look at his underwhelming minor league numbers and see regression coming, but I’d probably take the over on these projections, given the Giants success in developing this specific kind of position player over the last decade or so. As a line drive machine who sprays the ball all over the field, Panik can probably sustain higher BABIPs than most hitters, and if he can post power numbers anywhere near what he did last year, that makes him not all that different from a guy like Dustin Pedroia. Going against the forecasts is not something I’m generally inclined to do, but I’d bet on Panik doing better than this projection suggests.

I wouldn’t necessarily make the same assumption about Tomlinson, though. While he was a nice story last year, there doesn’t look to be as many reasons for optimism there. He might be useful enough as a bench piece, but the Giants are likely to take a pretty big hit on days when Panik isn’t in the lineup.

#10 Rangers

Rougned Odor 623 .273 .323 .457 .334 4.1 -0.3 -2.4 2.6
Hanser Alberto 49 .261 .284 .357 .278 -1.9 0.0 0.3 0.0
Ian Desmond 14 .244 .300 .408 .308 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Jurickson Profar 14 .245 .309 .382 .303 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .271 .319 .447 .329 1.8 -0.4 -2.1 2.6

Odor was so awful early in 2015 that he played himself back to the minor leagues, but from his return on June 15th through the end of the season, he hit .292/.334/.527, good for a 126 wRC+. As a 21 year old. He’s still somewhat raw, but the fact that Odor combined contact and power at those levels for four months in the big leagues suggests that he could become the best second baseman in baseball if he develops well. It probably won’t happen in 2016, and his overall game needs some more refinement, but Odor is a very good player with more potential than anyone on this list. An early breakout would go a long way towards putting the Rangers back in the postseason.

Behind Odor, Profar is the most interesting name, a one-time phenom himself who is now something of an unknown due to his missed development time. But Odor is even younger and not in need of a platoon partner, so there doesn’t appear to be a path to playing time at second base for Profar unless Odor gets hurt. Having him around in case that happens is a nice insurance policy, but if Profar ends up getting significant playing time at second base this year, something went wrong in Texas.

#11 Cardinals

Kolten Wong 595 .262 .314 .391 .307 -4.0 1.9 2.7 2.2
Jedd Gyorko 84 .252 .307 .415 .314 -0.1 -0.1 -0.6 0.2
Greg Garcia 14 .245 .324 .336 .295 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Dean Anna 7 .246 .325 .340 .297 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .261 .314 .392 .308 -4.5 1.8 2.1 2.5

It’s an oversimplification, but if Kolten Wong can figure out how to hit left-handed pitching, he could be a fantastic player. As it is, he’s a perfectly solid starter on a contender, but that 52 wRC+ against LHPs limits his upside, and might end up forcing the Cardinals to platoon him in 2016. The trade for Gyorko looked to be designed to give the team a right-handed second baseman to provide flexibility for a job-share situation, but I’m sure St. Louis would prefer that Wong just figure out how to neutralize his platoon issues instead.

Against righties, he’s a terrific player, looking a lot like a Pedroia or Kipnis in terms of offensive profile, including rounding his value with quality baserunning. If he were even just a decent hitter against lefties, Wong would be an All-Star. But until he shows otherwise, he’s a guy you pencil in for 500 at-bats and think about pinch-hitting for late in games, especially with Gyorko around as a better option against LHPs.

#12 Rays

Logan Forsythe 595 .254 .327 .392 .316 1.6 -0.1 -0.5 2.4
Tim Beckham 70 .231 .279 .345 .273 -2.2 0.0 -0.5 0.0
Nick Franklin 28 .233 .302 .376 .297 -0.3 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Ryan Brett 7 .246 .283 .351 .277 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .250 .321 .386 .310 -1.1 -0.2 -1.2 2.5

After a couple of replacement level seasons as a utility infielder, Forsythe found his power and turned in a four win season; the high value in hitting the ball over the fence is real indeed. But while he essentially doubled his career home run total, Forsythe’s breakout was also driven by a fairly standard BABIP regression; he went from .268 in 2014 to .323 in 2015, which helped drive his average from .223 to .281. As a slight-pull hitter who hits the ball in the air with some regularity, Forsythe probably isn’t a .320 BABIP guy going forward, and something closer to league average offense is probably more realistic, but there’s value in a guy who can play second base and be a league average hitter.

If Forsythe does regress, Beckham and Franklin are around trying to salvage the last vestiges of their prospect sheen, and should take inspiration from the fact that Forsythe himself didn’t really put it together until he was 28. But both would have to make significant improvements before they were the kinds of guys you’d want to give regular at-bats too, and at this point, it’s more likely that they’re going to go the way of other prospect busts rather than finding themselves at a later age, as Forsythe did.

#13 Marlins

Dee Gordon 637 .288 .328 .370 .306 -6.5 4.4 1.6 2.3
Derek Dietrich 35 .244 .318 .417 .320 0.0 0.0 -0.3 0.1
Miguel Rojas 28 .246 .292 .327 .272 -1.0 -0.1 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .284 .326 .371 .305 -7.5 4.4 1.5 2.4

Like with Panik, the forecasts are expecting a huge step backwards, in large part because the track record pre-breakout was so poor. Well, also, that .383 BABIP, which isn’t sustainable even for a speedy groundball machine like Gordon. But mostly the pessimism is about those lousy years with the Dodgers; ZIPS and Steamer haven’t forgotten about those numbers just yet, and so they see him as more of an average player than a star.

Of course, Gordon has improved significantly the last few years, especially as it relates to making contact on pitches in the zone. As a guy with limited power, he needs to be an elite contact hitter in order to drive his value, and he’s become that in Miami; his continued success will likely depend on him retaining most of his contact skills and his speed aging well.

If Gordon gets injured, the team has a DH masquerading as a second baseman in Derek Dietrich, a guy with an interesting bat who gives back almost all of his value when asked to play the field. Offensively, they might actually be better with Dietrich in there, but they’d be better offensively with Giancarlo Stanton at shortstop too, and that’s about as good an idea as giving Dietrich a lot of innings at second base. So for the sanity of the Marlins pitchers, let’s hope Gordon stays healthy.

#14 Pirates

Josh Harrison 525 .282 .321 .416 .319 2.9 0.9 -1.1 2.2
Sean Rodriguez 133 .236 .281 .374 .285 -2.9 -0.1 -0.7 0.1
Alen Hanson 21 .247 .286 .383 .290 -0.4 0.0 0.1 0.0
Gift Ngoepe 14 .200 .265 .294 .249 -0.7 0.0 0.1 0.0
Max Moroff 7 .233 .295 .326 .275 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .270 .311 .404 .310 -1.4 0.7 -1.6 2.3

Like Zobrist, the Pirates are probably going to turn a guy-who-plays-everywhere into their everyday second baseman, as the team’s depth at third base and the outfield means they no longer need Harrison to bounce around the field like he once did. And if Harrison doesn’t find the power spike that drove his breakout season in 2014, the bat profiles best at second base anyway. The contact skills and solid baserunning – beyond the poor SB/CS rate, anyway – give Harrison a high floor, but like Kipnis, his value is tied to his fluctuating power. If he finds it again, the Pirates could have one of the best second baseman in the league, but given the inconsistency of his track record, it’s better not to count on it.

If Harrison goes down in the short-term, Sean Rodriguez can provide a short-term stopgap, but Alen Hanson’s development could be critical if Harrison has a more serious health issue. Chris Mitchell’s KATOH minor league forecasting system loves Hanson, and both ZIPS and Steamer think he could be a contributing big leaguer this year if need be. If he takes a step forward, he could even push Harrison back into a super utility role, as the team’s second baseman of the future could be ready for the big leagues at some point in 2016.

#15 Dodgers

Howie Kendrick   490 .283 .327 .404 .317 1.7 -0.5 -1.4 1.8
Chase Utley 133 .240 .306 .370 .293 -2.1 0.3 0.1 0.3
Enrique Hernandez 63 .253 .300 .388 .300 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.2
Micah Johnson 7 .255 .301 .361 .291 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Austin Barnes 7 .250 .317 .378 .305 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .272 .320 .396 .310 -1.2 -0.2 -1.3 2.3

Given that none of the options are necessarily superstars, I wouldn’t call this an embarrassment of riches, necessarily; maybe more an embarrassment of a stable middle class income? Kendrick is a perfectly useful big leaguer even as his skills decline, and should get most of the playing time at second base this year. But Utley is a BABIP regression away from being a solid hitter, albeit without all the other value he used to have before his body broke down. And behind the old guys, Hernandez and Barnes are both interesting enough to deserve more at-bats than they’ll get in LA.

The Dodgers don’t have a clear star here, but they do have depth, and that should keep them from running out an unproductive player for a long stretch of time. High floor/low ceiling doesn’t get many people excited, but you can’t have elite players everywhere, and this is one of the spots where the team is betting on a quantity of decent players to combine for something greater than the sum of their parts. If they effectively manage their platoons and keep everyone rested, it should work out just well enough.

#16 Nationals

Daniel Murphy 595 .296 .337 .432 .330 5.2 0.6 -7.9 2.0
Danny Espinosa 49 .226 .289 .369 .285 -1.3 0.1 0.2 0.1
Stephen Drew 35 .222 .293 .372 .290 -0.8 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Wilmer Difo 14 .250 .284 .355 .278 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Chris Bostick 7 .241 .284 .366 .284 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .287 .330 .422 .323 2.4 0.7 -7.8 2.1

After missing out on their primary targets this winter, the Nationals settled for Murphy as their big free agent signing of the off-season, but his late-season power spike makes him a bit more interesting than most fallback plans. An early-season improvement in strikeout rate gave him a high floor, but then Murphy spent the last three months of the season – postseason included – showing real pull power for the first time in his career. The simultaneous gains in both contact and power are unusual, especially for a guy entering his decline phase, and there’s plenty of skepticism about whether he can retain those adjustments or if they were just outliers from a guy who will go back to being an average performer any minute now.

But even the lower power version of Murphy was a solid contributor, and if any of the power carries over, he could be a nice player for the Nationals in the short-term. You don’t want to expect him to repeat his second-half surge, but I’d probably take the over on this projection for Murphy, and wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up as one of the better offensive second baseman in the league.

As for depth, Espinosa is probably going to end up getting some at-bats against lefties once Trea Turner comes up and claims the shortstop job, and Espinosa is a quality reserve to have around. Wilmer Difo’s position as the team’s second baseman of the future probably took a bit of a hit when the team gave Murphy a three year deal, but he could also factor into the job if Murphy suffers a serious injury.

#17 Yankees

Starlin Castro 525 .271 .309 .401 .306 -5.5 -1.0 -0.2 1.3
Rob Refsnyder 70 .258 .326 .402 .318 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.3
Dustin Ackley 70 .257 .314 .417 .317 -0.1 0.1 0.7 0.3
Pete Kozma 21 .217 .280 .307 .259 -1.0 0.0 0.1 0.0
Ronald Torreyes 14 .262 .299 .346 .283 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .266 .310 .399 .307 -7.1 -1.0 0.5 1.9

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we find yet another contact-oriented hitter with an inconsistent track record driven by power fluctuations. When Castro runs an ISO around .150, he’s a solid player, even if not quite the star he was projected to be as a prospect, but when he’s more of a .100 ISO guy, he barely belongs in the starting lineup. The Yankees are hopeful that a fresh start and a full year at second base can unlock some of his offensive potential, though Yankee Stadium isn’t as friendly to right-handed hitters as it is to lefties, so Castro’s improvement will have to be more about his development than ballpark fit.

Behind Castro, the team has a couple of options in Refsnyder and Ackley, who could form a decent platoon again if Castro gets hurt. Ackley played well after the Yankees picked him up for the second half of the season, but as a guy who had been converted to the outfield, his defense at second base remains a bit of a question mark. Refsnyder’s defense is more well known, but not in a good way, and he’ll have to hit to justify any real playing time at the position.

#18 Reds

Brandon Phillips 623 .268 .308 .381 .300 -10.8 -0.1 5.5 1.7
Jose Peraza 49 .269 .295 .368 .286 -1.4 0.2 0.1 0.1
Ivan De Jesus 21 .246 .304 .347 .287 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Eugenio Suarez 7 .254 .311 .412 .315 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .268 .307 .379 .298 -12.8 0.1 5.6 1.8

This is the spot on this list with the most potential for awkwardness. The Reds traded for Peraza with the intention of installing him at second base to replace Phillips, only to have the incumbent block trades to contenders in other cities. Phillips is apparently comfortable in Cincinnati, and used the contractual power the Reds gave him to remain a Red, blocking Peraza’s path to everyday at-bats. At this point, Phillips is still too effective to justify benching him without causing a PR nightmare, but how the team will handle this situation if he falls into a slump could be one of the stories of the summer.

Clearly, the rebuilding Reds would prefer to have a job open for Peraza, who should be the second baseman of the future in Cincinnati. As a low-power guy, he lacks a ton of upside, but his contact-and-speed profile should allow him to be a useful player at least. For now, he’ll get work as a super utility guy while the team waits for Phillips to either regress enough to justify losing his job, or decide that he’s open to playing in another city. Until then, a team with plenty of holes around the field will have to figure out how to make due with one too many players at second base.

#19 Athletics

Jed Lowrie 315 .250 .319 .384 .305 -2.0 -0.1 -1.5 0.8
Chris Coghlan 245 .241 .319 .378 .305 -1.7 0.2 -0.2 0.8
Eric Sogard 119 .246 .300 .320 .275 -3.7 0.2 0.3 0.1
Joey Wendle 14 .245 .282 .369 .283 -0.3 0.0 0.1 0.0
Tyler Ladendorf 7 .219 .277 .313 .262 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .245 .315 .370 .299 -8.0 0.3 -1.5 1.7

After failing to convince Jed Lowrie to re-sign as a free agent a year ago, the team simply forced him back to Oakland, trading for him once the Astros deemed him expendable. Instead of manning shortstop as he did his last go around, Lowrie should get plenty of at-bats at second base, though with his health track record, it’s probably not wise to call him an everyday guy. Especially after the team also traded for Chris Coghlan, then promised to use him as a “Ben Zobrist type”, suggesting that Coghlan will get a decent amount of time at second base as well.

Neither Lowrie nor Coghlan are high-end players, but both hit better than most middle infielders, and should help provide some offense when they are in the lineup. Unfortunately, they also both have to play defense, and neither one is going to win any awards for their glovework. Like most of the 2016 A’s roster, they do enough to provide value overall, but it’s hard to see a lot of upside here. The A’s second baseman should be inoffensively okay, which is probably the tagline for the team this year too.

#20 Padres

Cory Spangenberg 350 .260 .310 .384 .301 -2.8 0.5 0.1 1.1
Jose Pirela 280 .257 .305 .377 .298 -3.0 0.1 -1.6 0.6
Yangervis Solarte 42 .261 .315 .386 .307 -0.2 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Alexi Amarista 28 .234 .283 .338 .270 -0.9 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .258 .307 .379 .299 -6.8 0.6 -1.9 1.7

A former first round pick who didn’t hit in the minors, Spangenberg’s big league success the last two years has to to be considered something of a surprise, and not surprisingly, the projections aren’t expecting it to continue. While there’s enough gap power there to hold his own at the plate, Spangenberg’s command of the strike zone leaves a good bit to be desired, and at this point, he doesn’t hit enough homers to overcome that flaw, making him pretty reliant on a high BABIP to sustain his offensive value. While an improvement in his contact rate can’t be ruled out, more likely he’ll have to turn some of those doubles and triples into home runs if he wants to remain an effective big league hitter.

At the very least, though, he looks like a solid role player, and that might be his eventual role in San Diego if Jose Pirela can figure out how to translate his minor league success into major league production. A high-contact slap hitter, Pirela could provide more of the classic leadoff-hitter skillset, and if Spangenberg slumps, don’t be too surprised if Pirela is given a shot to see what he can do in 2016.

#21 White Sox

Brett Lawrie 511 .256 .309 .414 .314 -2.3 0.7 -2.6 1.5
Tyler Saladino 84 .237 .295 .353 .286 -2.3 0.3 0.4 0.2
Carlos Sanchez 70 .246 .289 .335 .275 -2.5 0.0 0.4 0.0
Leury Garcia 35 .242 .280 .325 .266 -1.5 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .252 .304 .394 .304 -8.6 1.1 -2.0 1.7

After playing and talking himself out of both Toronto and Oakland, Chicago may be Lawrie’s last shot to live up to the hype he generated with a monstrous big league debut. His career has stagnated since, as his power never carried over after that big first half season, and his controle of the strike zone went the wrong way in 2015 as well. The A’s have always made it pretty clear that he was a problem in the clubhouse last year, which is why they gave him away for peanuts just a year after targeting him in the Josh Donaldson trade, as teams aren’t that excited about getting a guy with moderate production who annoys everyone around him.

But the price was right for the White Sox, who had no real alternatives at second base, and could reap the rewards if Lawrie does finally live up to his potential. Chicago is a good place to hit for power, and if Lawrie can figure out how to drive the ball with more consistency, he could be a strong hitter for a middle infielder. If injuries or the long string of underachievement continue, though, the team doesn’t have many alternatives, so the White Sox need to hope this is the year that the light bulb turns on for Lawrie.

#22 Orioles

Jonathan Schoop 490 .256 .292 .432 .312 -3.4 -0.4 1.2 1.6
Ryan Flaherty 98 .223 .289 .374 .288 -2.5 0.1 -0.4 0.1
Paul Janish 77 .224 .274 .285 .250 -4.4 -0.1 0.3 -0.1
Jimmy Paredes   35 .252 .286 .382 .290 -0.9 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .248 .289 .406 .301 -11.1 -0.4 1.1 1.6

Schoop is something you don’t see everyday: a second baseman who strikes out ten times for every walk he draws. Most of the rest of this list is filled with contact hitters with questionable power, but Schoop flips that dynamic on its head, offering just enough power to compensate for a comical lack of strike zone judgment. Schoop made it work in 2015, providing a 112 wRC+ as a 23 year old, but his proclivity for infield flies means that he’s probably not going to be able to keep his BABIP anywhere near the .330 mark, and regression should be expected this year.

The power is real, but without some semblance of improvement in his approach at the plate, Schoop is likely to be more of a curiosity than a real asset. Unfortunately for the Orioles, they don’t have much in the way of alternatives, as Ryan Flaherty can’t hit, and Jimmy Paredes is so bad defensively that the team used Steve Pearce at second base instead last year. It’s Schoop or bust at second base in Baltimore this year, so they’re left to hope that their young 2B figures out that you don’t have to swing every single time the ball is delivered.

#23 Blue Jays

Ryan Goins 350 .238 .285 .330 .271 -13.7 -0.2 1.9 0.1
Devon Travis   245 .269 .325 .430 .328 1.5 0.2 0.5 1.2
Darwin Barney 70 .238 .286 .334 .272 -2.7 0.1 0.5 0.1
Andy Burns 35 .249 .295 .372 .291 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .249 .299 .367 .292 -15.6 0.0 3.0 1.4

For the first couple of months of 2015, Devon Travis was a revelation in Toronto, showing that his minor league success could indeed carry over to the big leagues. But a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season also will force him to start 2016 on the disabled list, so it’s difficult to project too much value from him this year, especially given how surprising his production last year was to begin with. In the meantime, the team will turn to defensive-wizard Ryan Goins, who played well down the stretch for Toronto.

Unfortunately for the Jays, even Goins moderate 2015 production is probably too much to hope for again, as his minor league track record suggests that his career path is probably something like Brendan Ryan’s. He’ll play good enough defense to remain rosterable for years to come, but the bat is very light, and the Jays will need to live with a pretty easy out at the bottom of the lineup when he’s on the field. If Travis can return at full strength, Goins is a very nifty utility infielder, but not a guy you necessarily want starting on a regular basis as the team tries to make another run at the postseason.

#24 Rockies

DJ LeMahieu 595 .287 .337 .383 .314 -13.9 0.4 4.2 1.2
Cristhian Adames 42 .281 .325 .381 .308 -1.2 -0.1 0.1 0.0
Daniel Descalso   35 .245 .314 .362 .293 -1.4 0.0 -0.5 -0.1
Rafael Ynoa 28 .264 .306 .353 .289 -1.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .284 .334 .380 .311 -17.7 0.3 3.8 1.1

The Ryan Goins of the National League, LeMahieu had a strong season by putting up reasonable offensive numbers to go with his terrific glovework, but his career track record suggest the Rockies shouldn’t be counting on him to repeat those numbers from a year ago. As a low power guy with a nearly average strikeout rate, it’s difficult for LaMahieu to sustain high-level offense at the plate, though his baserunning allows him to not be a total zero even when he’s not hitting. He’d probably profile better as a very solid depth piece, but in Colorado, he’s their best option to start at second base.

Cristhian Adames stands as the young alternative if the team decides to move LaMahieu to a contender at some point during the season, and Adames’ contact rates suggest that he could take advantage of Coors Field if given an opportunity. As a guy who could play shortstop, he should be a defensive asset at second base, and giving Adames a chance to see what he can do in the second half of the season probably isn’t a bad idea for the Rockies, especially if they can turn LaMahieu into an interesting prospect.

#25 Brewers

Scooter Gennett 455 .276 .309 .402 .305 -6.5 0.1 -1.1 0.9
Aaron Hill 140 .251 .307 .392 .305 -2.1 -0.2 -0.8 0.2
Colin Walsh 70 .228 .319 .347 .296 -1.5 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Hernan Perez 21 .255 .282 .353 .276 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Yadiel Rivera 14 .229 .267 .315 .256 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .265 .308 .392 .303 -11.6 -0.1 -2.0 1.1

After surprisingly strong performances in his first couple of years in the big leagues, the wheels fell off the bus for Gennett in 2015. In the first half of the season, he got pull-happy, which led to miserable production and a lost job, but when he got back to spraying the ball around the field in the second half, his power went away. Gennett’s got a strong enough base of skills to be a big leaguer, but the upside is pretty limited, and if the Brewers weren’t focusing on the future, he’d probably be sliding into a role as a bench player.

But the Brewers are rebuilding, so the alternatives aren’t anything to write home about either. The team took Aaron Hill in order to acquire a prospect that might help them in a few years, but he’s likely going to play more third base than second base. Rule 5 pick Colin Walsh posted good numbers in Double-A last year, but he was 25, which is why he was available in the Rule 5 draft. Walsh might be interesting enough to give a look to if Gennett falters again, but more likely, the team’s second baseman of the future is currently in the minor leagues, or another organization.

#26 Angels

Johnny Giavotella 567 .263 .314 .363 .297 -6.0 0.5 -7.0 0.9
Cliff Pennington 70 .227 .302 .303 .270 -2.2 0.1 0.2 0.1
Yunel Escobar 35 .268 .328 .358 .304 -0.2 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Alex Yarbrough 21 .229 .259 .310 .249 -1.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Reynaldo Navarro 7 .251 .288 .360 .283 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .259 .312 .355 .293 -9.6 0.5 -7.0 1.0

Hey, look, another low-power, contact-oriented second baseman! It’s almost as if MLB teams have a type at this position or something. Unfortunately for the Angels, Giavotella combines the usual moderate offensive production that second baseman are known for with particularly shoddy defense, so even though he was close to a league average hitter a year ago, he still didn’t produce a lot of value for the Angels. While many expected the team to seek out an upgrade at the position this winter, the Angels are sticking with Giavotella, apparently believing that the best way to display Mike Trout’s greatness is to surround him with players who don’t steal any of his spotlight.

If Giavotella stops hitting, the Angels do have a sure-handed veteran in Cliff Pennington, but the most interesting thing about the team’s backup second baseman is how well he can pitch. That’s never a great sign, and given that the team has no farm system to speak of, there isn’t much hope for a youngster to come up and provide some value at the position either. If Trout manages to carry the Angels into contention again this year, expect the Angels to trade for a better second baseman this summer.

#27 Diamondbacks

Chris Owings 406 .252 .288 .370 .285 -12.7 1.1 0.7 0.3
Brandon Drury 175 .253 .291 .378 .291 -4.6 -0.3 0.4 0.2
Jean Segura 70 .267 .300 .367 .289 -1.9 0.2 -0.1 0.1
Nick Ahmed 35 .241 .287 .351 .279 -1.3 0.0 0.5 0.0
Phil Gosselin 14 .266 .304 .380 .298 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .253 .290 .371 .287 -20.8 1.0 1.5 0.6

Say this for the Diamondbacks; they aren’t lacking for options. None of them are particularly great options, but what the team lacks in quality, they make up for in quantity. Depending on how the shortstop battle between Segura and Ahmed shakes out, Chris Owings could end up as the regular starter or a utility infielder; the team is probably best served with Ahmed at short and Segura at second base, but if they prioritize offense over defense, Owings could grab the second base job and Ahmed could end up as a defensive replacement. The problem, of course, is that Owings isn’t exactly a great hitter himself, as his career 70 wRC+ is more along what you’d expect from a guy who was in the league for his defense.

And then you throw Brandon Drury into the mix, a 3B-turned-2B with a decent minor league track record and is having the kind of spring that could see him steal some at-bats from the presumed starters. The D’Backs ability to mix and match could help them, as they won’t have to stick with anyone struggling for too long, but it’s also not clear that there’s an actual good second baseman in this mix. Depth is a nice thing to have, but you’d rather have too manyg guys who deserve to start rather than a plethora of options who look better as bench pieces.

Segura is the upside play, and if the D’Backs are right about his ability to rekindle his early-career success, they could find themselves with a solid answer at the position. But after 2 ½ years of hitting like a bench player, it’s becoming harder and harder to see Segura’s lingering potential.

#28 Braves

Jace Peterson 350 .239 .310 .334 .285 -8.8 0.2 0.1 0.4
Gordon Beckham 210 .236 .287 .347 .278 -6.4 -0.1 0.1 0.1
Kelly Johnson 105 .232 .298 .388 .299 -1.4 0.0 -1.2 0.1
Emilio Bonifacio 28 .242 .291 .316 .268 -1.1 0.1 -0.2 0.0
Daniel Castro 7 .256 .285 .333 .271 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .237 .300 .345 .284 -17.9 0.2 -1.2 0.6

Long-time Cistulli favorite Jace Peterson has a broad enough base of skills to be a big leaguer, without any standout skill, his lack of power makes him a utility player in the making. On the 2016 Braves, though, he’s a starter by default, and will hold the position until one of the team’s shortstop prospects comes and moves him out of the way.

Given that neither Dansby Swanson nor Ozzie Albies have cracked Double-A as of yet, Peterson probably will have the job for most of 2016, and the short-term alternatives around him are also placeholders. But with Swanson and Albies coming, the team could take a big leap forward at this position in 2017. The team’s present second base situation isn’t great, but their future second base options look quite exciting indeed.

#29 Royals

Omar Infante 455 .253 .281 .353 .275 -15.9 0.1 0.4 0.1
Christian Colon 210 .266 .317 .351 .295 -3.9 0.1 -0.3 0.4
Raul Mondesi 28 .233 .264 .347 .265 -1.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Ramon Torres 7 .255 .285 .342 .275 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .291 .352 .281 -21.3 0.2 0.1 0.5

On the list of reasons to be skeptical of the Royals chances of repeating as World Series champions, a 34 year old starting second baseman who posted a 44 wRC+ last year is pretty high up the list. Infante was atrocious a year ago, and was displaced by Ben Zobrist at the trade deadline, but the Royals opted not to go out and bring in anyone else to challenge Infante for the job in 2016, which seems to be a curious decision.

Christian Colon provides an in-house alternative, if not a particularly great one, but he’s probably better than Infante at this point. Raul Mondesi is an exciting athlete who could be the long-term answer, but as a 20 year old who hasn’t yet figured out how to hit minor league pitching, he’s probably not ready for the show. Realistically, the team will probably have to make another mid-season trade for a second baseman if they’re in the playoff push again, as there doesn’t seem to be a guy on the roster you’d want starting for a contender this year.

#30 Phillies

Cesar Hernandez 350 .264 .319 .345 .293 -7.1 0.3 -2.7 0.3
Andres Blanco 175 .248 .303 .378 .298 -3.0 -0.5 -1.8 0.1
Freddy Galvis 140 .247 .287 .363 .283 -4.0 0.2 -0.2 0.1
Darnell Sweeney 35 .230 .291 .357 .284 -1.0 0.0 -0.3 0.0
Total 700 .255 .307 .357 .292 -15.0 -0.1 -5.0 0.4

Hey, look, it’s the Phillies at #30 for the second list in a row. At least they rated 29th on the catcher rankings yesterday!

Cesar Hernandez is Jace Peterson with worse defense, so I’d like to appeal for the Phillies to give Andres Blanco some real playing time this year. Sure, rebuilding teams shouldn’t usually carve out playing time for 32 year olds at the expense of 25 year olds, but Blanco was shockingly good last year – you could win some bar bets based on his 136 wRC+ if you went to a bar where people knew what wRC+ was – and his power spike suggests it might not be entirely a fluke. If he finally figured out how to drive the ball at age 32, Blanco could have some value to a contender, and letting him establish himself as an older Justin Turner during the first half of the season could allow the Phillies to flip him for something useful this summer.

More likely, Blanco is still just a replacement level utility infielder who had a good run for a few hundred at-bats, but when you’re the the Phillies, what do you have to lose. At least there’s some chance that Blanco’s out-of-nowhere 2015 performance was indicative of real improvement, and the Phillies don’t really have anything to lose by giving him a chance.

It’s 2016, and I’m arguing for increased playing time for Andres Blanco. The Phillies in a nutshell, everyone.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Baron Samedi
8 years ago

Wow. Cano, Altuve and Old Man Pedroia/Zobrist are the best of a truly mediocre lot.

8 years ago
Reply to  Baron Samedi

Before one-year dips in 2015 Zobrist and Cano were perennial 5+ WAR players, so it could look a lot better than the projections if they manage full bouncebacks.

snoop god
8 years ago
Reply to  swingofthings

It’s weird that you excluded Pedroia from that comment, because literally the exactly same is true of him.