Welcome to Day Three of the 2017 Positional Power Rankings from FanGraphs. For some background on how these posts work, read the introductory post by Dave Cameron. Click on the links above to examine other positions.
The rankings below come from the FanGraphs Depth Chart projections. While the projections spit out specific numbers, these projections are estimates and teams that are within a few tenths of a win of each other have similar forecasts for the season. While I didn’t create the projections, the commentary is my own.
Last season was marked by a surge of offense throughout baseball, and this was very much the case for second basemen, who posted one of the greatest seasons of all time for the position. While it might be tempting to point to some sort of emerging group of players set to change the way we think about the position, the evidence doesn’t support that hypothesis. Of the top-eight players, only Jose Altuve will play this season under the age of 30, with many of the best already in their mid-30s. Jose Altuve is the exception, not the rule, as the young star has a sizable lead over his competitors at second.
This is the first time in half a decade that the team with Robinson Cano isn’t atop this list. Cano didn’t stumble far and other aging vets fall in line behind him. As far as the order in which clubs appear here, there could be a shakeup before the year is out. A couple teams near the top might be shopping their second basemen if they fall out of contention. If you’re looking for a team to rise, look to the south side of Chicago, where the best prospect in baseball could get his first real shot at a starting job later this season.
For the last four years, the team that employed Robinson Cano occupied the top spot in these rankings. The reign that moved from New York to Seattle is no more. Jose Altuve, who is not tall, has the best projection for a second baseman by a quite a bit this year. In 2014 and 2015, Altuve had a 130 wRC+ based almost entirely on contact that stayed in the yard. His walk rate was under 5% and his .129 ISO — based on a large collection of doubles rather than homers. Last season, he kept roughly the same rate of doubles (42) and triples (5), but hit 24 homers and increased his walk rate by 70% without striking out more. The result was a 150 wRC+, good for eighth in all of baseball last season.
If Altuve has a flaw — and he does, as I am about to point out — it’s baserunning. His stolen-base percentage is fine. He stole 30 bases in 40 attempts last season and he’s been worth 3.6 runs above average the last two years stealing, but he’s also made 29 outs on the basepaths over the last few seasons while trying to take an extra base. He’s cost himself roughly five runs on the basepaths over the last few years per UBR. That figure beats only 20 players in baseball. Among those 20 players are your Miguel Cabreras, your Prince Fielders, your Yadier Molinas, your David Ortizes, and Albert Pujolses. Of the players in the bottom third in UBR, Altuve’s 3.6 runs stealing is one of just three positive numbers, with Melky Cabrera having gone 5-for-5 on stolen-base attempts and Joey Votto a sneaky 19 of 23 the past few years.
Nothing in the last paragraph will prevent Altuve from being very good this year, but it’s possible for him to improve. As for Marwin Gonzalez, he played more than 10 games at all four infield positions last year, including a lot at first base. That probably won’t happen this year. Like Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp is not tall. Unlike Jose Altuve, all of the other things.
Three years ago, Robinson Cano signed a 10-year, $240 million contract and, man, did it look enormous. Three years later, Cano has produced 4.4 WAR per season, basically just having a really bad first half in 2015 and otherwise being excellent. His 13.2 WAR total from 2014 to 2016 was the 20th-best mark among MLB position players. If he hits his projection this season and ages like a typical player into this late 30s, he will be worth almost the entire amount of his contract. For a contract as big as Cano’s — and one that goes to age 40 –that would have to be considered a victory for Seattle. If you’re interested in such things, here’s a fact: since Cano left, Yankees second basemen (more on them way down below) have hit for an 89 wRC+ with 2.1 WAR.
Speaking of those projections again, if Cano hits 3.6 WAR this year — he was at 6.0 WAR last season, the fifth time he’s recorded a five-win season or better — and then follows a generic aging path (declining by half a win per a year until he hits 38, then declining even more severely), Cano will have 13.3 WAR over the rest of his career. That would bring his career total to just a bit over 62 WAR, ahead of Willie Randolph and Ryne Sandberg and right behind Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, and Chase Utley among second baseman.
Cano has been incredibly durable, averaging 679 plate appearances per year over the past 10 seasons, so Shawn O’Malley might be doing his utility work elsewhere on the diamond. Taylor Motter matters, mutters Dan Szymborksi, who gave him a decent 1.0 WAR projection.
A couple months ago, it didn’t really seem possible that the Twins would be ranked this high. It didn’t seem possible a year ago, either, albeit for different reasons. Last year, Dozier was looking at a 2.7 WAR projection after big nosedive in the second half of 2015 made him an average hitter despite 28 home runs. For the first two months of last season, any pessimism seemed warranted, as he was hitting worse than Jason Heyward when the calendar turned to June. Then, Dozier went crazy the rest of the season, with a 157 wRC+ that trailed only a handful of the league’s best hitters (Freddie Freeman, Mike Trout, Joey Votto, etc.). His 37 homers during that time were four more than second-place Nelson Cruz’s; his 42 homers overall were third-best in baseball and the most ever for an American League second baseman, just one behind Davey Johnson and tied with Rogers Hornsby MLB-wide.
A few months ago, all the momentum seemed to be heading towards a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the Twins couldn’t extract enough value for them to pull the trigger and the Dodgers went elsewhere. Dozier is signed for two more seasons, and with the Twins unlikely to contend this season, Dozier will once again be the target of trade discussions if he continues his great play. It remains to be seen if any offers will feature anyone better than Jose DeLeon, the player whom the Dodgers eventually traded for their own second baseman. As for the backups, Jorge Polanco and Eduardo Escobar both figure to see more time at shortstop this season, but if Dozier were to get traded at some point, one of them would slide over to second, and the Twins would slide down these rankings.
Remember in 2013 when the Red Sox won the World Series? You probably do. Do you remember all of the big contributors to that team? Of the 21 players who appeared in 40 games or pitched at least 50 innings, Dustin Pedroia is the only one left expected to have any sort of role on this year’s team. Pedroia is now 33 years old and still has five years left on his deal, but he’s only owed $71 million and he’s coming off a five-win season. Projections for Pedroia are more modest, calling for a decline from last season’s 120 wRC+ to something closer to average. Even an average bat with his normal good defense is going to make Pedroia a three-win player.
The Red Sox traded Yoan Moncada in the offseason, so they kicked the question of Pedroia’s replacement down the line. Brock Holt is going to do what Brock Holt does: play a variety of positions semi-competently with a bat a little bit below average. He’s a good player to have on a team, but he’s not a player to get too excited about, unless you really want to. Who am I to tell you how to be a fan?
After putting up a four-win season in 2013, Jason Kipnis signed a contract extension and was terrible, suffering from and then playing through an injured oblique. Healthy again in 2015 and 2016, Kipnis put up a pair of five-win seasons with a solid 120 wRC+. The odds that Kipnis will be able to put up another five-win season recently took a hit: Kipnis will be out at least a month with a shoulder problem. We reduced his playing time a bit, but it remains to be seen just how good Kipnis will be on his return.
At second base, Cleveland might not even miss Kipnis while he’s gone. The team can go ahead and plug in Jose Ramirez, who had a breakout 2016 season and put up a five-win season of his own. This is the first team we see where the backup actually produces at a rate higher than the player ahead of him. While moving Ramirez to second base doesn’t hurt Cleveland at second, taking Ramirez away from third base hurts the team overall, as Giovanny Urshula represents a drop-off. Also available at second is Michael Martinez, who made the final out of the World Series last year. Sorry for bringing that up.
From 2012 to 2015, Ian Kinsler put up a 108 wRC+ and averaged 3.8 WAR and 15 homers per season. Then last season, at age 34, Kinsler put up a 5.8 WAR season with 28 homers and a 123 wRC+. As offense exploded, Kinsler exploded with it. A reasonable estimate of this season’s production would consider last season the outlier when compared to the four seasons coming before it. Add in Kinsler’s age and he’s a good bet to decline. That said, he’s also only making $11 million this season, with a reasonable $10 million for 2018. The combination of Kinsler’s production and his contract could make him trade bait if the Tigers fall out of the race and attempt to begin rebuilding.
Andrew Romine, of the baseball-playing Romines, played eight of nine positions last year, including pitcher. He plays decent defense and can steal a base, but he’s not a long-term option should Kinsler get injured or traded. Omar Infante is still in camp but not yet on the 40-man roster so he might spend time in the minors. You might think Infante made the All-Star team a few years ago when Royals fans stuffed the ballot boxes despite Infante being terrible. He didn’t end up making it that year, but he did go back in 2010 for the Braves when he was still good.
That Daniel Murphy is something else. In his first 3400 career plate appearances, from 2008 through July 2015, he hit 54 homers, or just under 10 per 600 plate appearances. In the 880 plate appearances since, Murphy has hit 40 homers, roughly 27 homers per 600 plate appearances. His 156 wRC+ last year was fourth in baseball behind Mike Trout, David Ortiz, and Joey Votto. While he’s unlikely to sustain a .348 BABIP and .249 ISO as he enters his age-32 season, he hit just as well in the second half as he did in the first half, and he’ll be a bargain anyway if he regresses back to average.
Murphy isn’t great defensively, but even the prospect of poor defense and major regression offensively still makes Murphy a three-win player. The Nationals have a hole at first base, and are unlikely to get great production from either Ryan Zimmerman or Adam Lind. Murphy could provide some flexibility in moving to first base, as his newfound skills with the bat would still play there. There are a few second basemen further up this list who might be available in trade if the Nationals wanted to juggle things around a bit and maintain good production at second base. Stephen Drew, for example, put up a sneaky 124 wRC+ in just 165 plate appearances on the strength of eight homers, but unless you think Drew can hit homers with the same propensity as Daniel Murphy, that production is coming down this year. Drew’s counterpart on the bench is Wilmer Difo, which is fitting, as the latter’s name is an anagram for I’m Drew Foil.
|Tommy La Stella||63||.268||.340||.375||.314||-0.5||-0.1||-0.5||0.1|
Ben Zobrist has won two World Series in a row and has a decent shot of going for three this season. He spent most of the last year’s regular season at second base, but shifted to the outfield in the playoffs to accommodate Javier Baez. Baez was fantastic in the first two rounds of the playoffs last year before cooling off considerably in the World Series. It’s possible, even likely, that he has surpassed Zobrist in the field, but Zobrist is still the superior player overall. In 2016, Zobrist walked 15% of the time, struck out just 13% of the time, and hit 18 homers, a feat only ever matched by Charlie Gehringer, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Morgan, Jackie Robinson, and Lou Whitaker among second basemen.
Zobrist’s four-year, $56 million contract seems quickly headed for bargain status after a four-win debut in Chicago. Given the depth the Cubs have, they might not require the 36-year-old Zobrist to tally 147 games or 600-plus plate appearances overall, but his defensive versatility makes it tough to get him too much rest. Baez can handle second base, but there are still questions about his offense as he strikes out a ton and doesn’t take many walks: just 17 last season compared to 129 strikeouts in 521 plate appearances, including the postseason. When Ben Zobrist was drafted, Baez was just 11 years old, and like Baez and Zobrist, Tommy La Stella is a World Series champion.
In light of his .239/.315/.379 slash line and 89 wRC+, one might suppose that Joe Panik was pretty bad last year. With a combination of above-average baserunning and good defense, though, Panik still produced an average season, nothing to lose sleep over. His walk and strikeout rates were roughly the same as his good 2015 (136 wRC+) season and his ISO was right around .140 in both years. His average exit velocity both seasons was right around 87 mph, but his line drive and hard-hit rates were down a bit and his BABIP plummeted from .330 to .245, tanking his offensive line and likely causing concern.
As most of the numbers from 2015 aligned with 2016, his dip last season isn’t too worrisome. If you’re expecting another .330 BABIP, it’s possible you’ll be disappointed, but if you are thinking something closer to .300, the season should pass without trepidation and he will be close to a three-win player. Between Orlando Calixte, Aaron Hill, and Kelby Tomlinson, we are provided with two excellent names, but no decent production.
The Dodgers’ primary second baseman projects roughly a win lower than the Twins’ primary second baseman. Logan Forsythe is an above-average offensive player and an adequate defender at second base. After pursuing Brian Dozier, the Dodgers settled for Forsythe, who’s owed only around $14 million for the next two seasons. Nothing stands out about Forsythe’s game, but between walks, strikeouts, power — even average — he does nothing poorly.
Logan’s run with the Rays started off slowly, with a poor half-season’s worth of playing time in 2014, but in 2015 and 2016 he was good for nearly 20 homers each season, recording a 119 wRC+. Behind Forsythe, potential Hall of Famer Chase Utley returned to the Dodgers in a reduced role. The 38-year-old will get the occasional start against right-handers. After 565 solid plate appearances last year (97 wRC+), he’s likely to see a big decline in playing time this season, and it’s not realistic to think he’ll keep producing at the same rate. Enrique Hernandez might steal some time here and there at different positions, but isn’t likely to get a ton of play at second base.
New year, same mantra for the Blue Jays at second base: if Devon Travis can stay healthy. If Devon Travis can stay healthy. If Devon Travis can stay healthy. If Devon Travis can stay healthy. If Devon Travis can stay healthy. If Devon Travis can stay healthy. If Devon Travis can stay healthy. If Devon Travis can stay healthy. If Devon Travis can stay healthy. If Devon Travis can stay healthy.
If Devon Travis can stay healthy, he has a chance to bolster what could be one of the deeper lineups in baseball, even after the loss of Edwin Encarnacion. In roughly a full season’s worth of plate appearances over the last two seasons, Travis has been worth nearly five wins, putting up a 119 wRC+. There are reasons to think that even if he does stay healthy, he won’t match that output, unfortunately. He doesn’t have a ton of power and he doesn’t walk a whole lot. With average strikeout numbers, he’s very reliant on a high BABIP to sustain production. So far in his career, it’s .354. The only active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances and a BABIP that high are Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Trout, and Joey Votto. Devon Travis is not those players.
As the BABIP comes down — assuming Travis stays healthy and recovers from his current knee malady — he should still be an average offensive player and average to slightly above-average player overall. The Blue Jays could really use a full season from Travis, as Darwin Barney isn’t equipped to handle the everyday job and Steve Pearce — while a good hitter, particularly against lefties — isn’t really able to handle second on a long-term basis.
After the 11th-ranked Blue Jays, the ole One-Two is occupied by Rougned Odor and the Texas Rangers. Odor has settled in quite nicely following a merely fine rookie season in 2014. In 2015, he hit for decent power while not walking much, but also not striking out that much either — especially for a guy with good power. He ended the season with a 107 wRC+. In 2016, he doubled down on the negatives to try and accentuate the power. He walked just 3% of the time and saw his strikeout rate increase to 21%. It worked, sort of.
Odor hit 33 homers last season and his ISO went from .204 to .231. The increased power was great, but as the other stats worsened and run-scoring went up throughout baseball, Odor’s wRC+ remained virtually unchanged, at 106 wRC+. Odor is still just 23 years old and projections see a slight increase on offense and a 2.5 WAR player. As long as he’s healthy, Odor will get most of the playing time, but Jurickson Profar still intrigues at 24 years old, even if injuries have taken most of his promise away. He’ll get most of his time in the outfield, but he can fill in at second if need be. In 162 career plate appearances, Hanser Alberto has a career wRC+ of six. If a player’s wRC+ is written out and not in numerical form, that is a bad sign.
Neil Walker was having a very good season as he headed towards free agency last year, with a 122 wRC+ in just 458 appearances through the end of August. Unfortunately, a herniated disc ended his season at that point, and after the Mets made the $17 million qualifying offer, Walker backed his way into New York again. Walker has been an average to slightly above-average player his entire career. Although he couldn’t quite finish his career year last season, there isn’t much reason to think he won’t the same player he’s been his entire career, even in his age-31 season.
Walker seems to be healthy this spring, but if he’s not quite back or suffers a recurrence, T.J. Rivera could fill in much like he did last season. Rivera is past the prospect status as a 28-year-old, but he did hit well throughout his minor-league career. He then hit well in 113 plate appearances last season, but his line is very BABIP-dependent, as he doesn’t walk or hit for power. As a utility option, he should do just fine.
Kolten Wong’s MLB career has been up and down, and last season was no different. He started off great in the spring as the front office rewarded him with a contract extension. On the field, he slumped to start the season and once again found himself on the wrong side of Mike Matheny, getting demoted to Triple-A just to keep his game sharp. He was a roughly average hitter after he came back in the middle of June, but struggled to find consistent playing time as Jedd Gyorko powered up. There’s still potential for Wong to get better results, and consistent playing time is necessary to give him that chance.
Speaking of players who struggled to find their place after signing a contract extension, Jedd Gyorko put up just an 84 wRC+ in 2014 and 2015 and was basically a replacement-level player. The Padres shipped him to St. Louis and even paid part of his salary. Gyorko responded by hitting 30 homers in only 438 plate appearances. He’s always been a low-average player, so even with the power, his wRC+ was only 111. Knock off a bit of the power, and he should be average as both a hitter and fielder, which is a good player to have in a utility role. Gyorko doesn’t have a set role with the Cardinals this year. He will see some time at second and likely some time at third, taking starts from Jhonny Peralta.
Everything I just said about Jedd Gyorko’s stat line goes double for Brad Miller, except with a little more playing time. Miller got most of his starts at shortstop, but with the trade of Logan Forsythe and the Rays’ decision to move Matt Duffy to shortstop, Miller moves to second base now, where his glove should play a little better. As for his bat, Miller’s increase in pull rate allowed him to double his career home-run total in just one season. Even if he doesn’t hit for quite as much power, an average bat plus average defense makes for an average player, which seems fitting since we’re the halfway point.
Nick Franklin might be good and he might be terrible. From 2013 to 2015, he was a part-time player and he was mostly terrible on offense. Last season, he had a 110 wRC+, but he also got fewer than 200 plate appearances. The projections say that, at 26, he’s a below-average hitter and is somewhere between a replacement-level and one-win player. If he’s an average player on offense, he might be a bit better than that. Tim Beckham (obligatory reference to being No. 1 pick) is also around and could find some time against righties.
Average hitter, average defense, average player. In a dreadful 2014 season, Schoop recorded a .244 OBP, a 64 wRC+, struck out 25% of the time, and walked in fewer than 3% of plate appearances. He missed half of 2015, but hit well when he played. Last season, the 25-year-old hit 25 homers on his way to a roughly average season. He doesn’t take walks, which is going to limit his on-base percentage, as well as his overall offensive value. In 2004, Barry Bonds posted two months during which he walked at least 46 times. Jonathan Schoop has 44 career walks in nearly 1500 plate appearances, and he has walked more than five times in a month once, last June.
With an OBP below .300, his offensive upside is going to be limited, but if he keeps his strikeouts close to 20% and hits for solid power, that’s an average hitter. This will be Ryan Flaherty’s sixth season with the Orioles. He’s a really bad hitter, but he can play pretty good defense at multiple positions. The Orioles have a lot of outfielders, designated hitters, and first basemen. They have no depth at second base, third base, and shortstop and really need Schoop, Hardy and Machado to stay healthy.
Over the last four years, DJ LeMahieu’s walk rate has increased from 4% to 6% to 8% to 10%. The rest of his game’s growth has not been nearly as linear. His strikeout rates ranged between 15% and 18% from 2013 to 2015 before dropping down to 13% last year. His power numbers were flat from 2013 to 2015 — below .100, in each case — before jumping up to .147 last season. In 2013 and 2014, when his BABIP was in the .320s, his wRC+ was in the 60s. In 2015, when his BABIP jumped up to .362, his wRC+ was 89. Then last year, when his BABIP was .388, his wRC+ jumped up to 128.
The problem with the BABIP is that the only players to post a BABIP that high over the last five years were Chris Johnson in 2013, and Dexter Fowler and Torii Hunter in 2012. Those players averaged a .337 BABIP the following years. If he can keep his walk and power rates up, he might be a three-win player this year, but repeating his four-win season from last year is unlikely without another boost in walks or power. If he falls back a little bit in walks and power, he’s going to hit the projections you see above. As far as Rockies second baseman goes, LeMahieu’s the DJ, the rest are in the crapper.
Josh Harrison has averaged 2.5 WAR per 600 plate appearances in his career; however, he’s also only had one season above 1.5 WAR. That one season was well timed for Harrison, as a five-win campaign in 2014 earned him a guaranteed $27 million. In his other 1500 plate appearances, he’s been worth roughly 1.5 WAR a year, just like he was last season.
Harrison doesn’t hit for power and he doesn’t walk, but he plays a decent second base and is a good baserunner. He probably won’t ever get close to his 2014 season again, and he might not even be average, but he’s still a useful player and Pittsburgh never owes him more than $11 million a season even if they pick up his options in 2019 and 2020. Alen Hanson is Pittsburgh’s 10th-best prospect and profiles as a speedy utility player.
Ryan Schimpf put up a very surprising 2016 season, hitting 20 homers in just 330 plate appearances as a 28-year-old rookie. Everything Schimpf did last season was outsized. Strikeouts? Sure: 32% of the time. Walks? Yep: in 13% of his plate appearances. When Schimpf came to the plate in 2016, there was a better-than-50% chance you would see one of three outcomes: strikeout, walk, or home run. Of the 268 players with at least 300 plate appearances, Schimpf’s .315 ISO was best in the majors, 10 points more than David Ortiz’s own mark. All the strikeouts and a low batting average meant that Schimpf could still only muster a 129 wRC+. That’s a good number but not one he’s to likely repeat over the course of a full season.
Add in an oblique injury this spring and the 40% strikeout rate he recorded during final month of 2016, and it’s reasonable to temper expectations for this season. Schimpf should also see some time at third base, leaving some plate appearances for Cory Spangenberg. Both Schimpf and Spangenberg are lefties, but there should be some sort of role for Spangenberg, who profiles as a decent player but lost his job due to injury last year. Asuaje, acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade, got in a few games last year. He has a decent bat and, according to Eric Longenhagen, profiles as a low-end regular.
The Marlins ranked 13th on this last season. Generally speaking, a decent-sized drop like this would be attributed to some sort of change in personnel. That isn’t the case for these Marlins, though, as they have almost exactly the same players at second entering the 2017 season. The main difference is the status of Dee Gordon. A year ago, Gordon was coming off a five-win year that was aided by a .383 BABIP. I realize I keep harping on BABIP, but when we see these breakout seasons and the only number to change is BABIP, be wary that it will continue. Players have control over their BABIP, but extremely high BABIPs — particularly ones out of character — come back to earth.
Gordon’s 2016 season was marred by a PED suspension, but his numbers weren’t great when he was playing. That BABIP went down to .319, and even though his walk rate went up a bit, the 60-point BABIP drop led to both a decline in OBP and a 72 wRC+. The projections see a slight rebound in BABIP with decent defense, but that only adds up to a 1.5 WAR for Gordon. Derek Dietrich is a solid bench option, and will get near-regular playing time at a bunch of different positions.
Last year, the Phillies were last in these positional power rankings. The projections didn’t believe much in Cesar Hernandez, barely placing him above replacement level. Hernandez was coming off a season during which he recorded a 92 wRC+ and 1.4 WAR in 452 plate appearances. Last year, Hernandez put up a really fluky four-win season. He’s unlikely to repreat the 13 UZR he posted. His .363 BABIP is also a candidate for regression.
On the positive side, Hernandez takes walks and he does seem to have decent batted-ball skill. There’s also room for him to become more efficient as a baserunner: he was just 17 of 30 on stolen bases in 2016. If some of his UZR was real and he hits the ball hard, Hernandez might just double his projection. That’s the hope, anyway.
If you’re reading this from start to finish, it’s probably been quite a while since I mentioned the Yankees. Here they are again. If you only looked at a couple stats and those stats were batting average and home runs, you might see Starlin Castro’s line from last year and say, “Hey, 21 homers and a .270 average is pretty good for a second baseman.” You might believe Castro had a good year. He did not.
Castro doesn’t walk and recorded only a .300 OBP despite his other strong points. He’s not a good baserunner, so he can’t add extra value there. There is some room for optimism, perhaps, on defense. Castro wasn’t a great shortstop, but even mediocre shortstops are typically pretty good at second base. There’s room for growth there, maybe.
Castro is owed $31 million over the next three seasons. While that’s a substantial commitment, it’s hardly onerous. On a rate basis, the projections are actually seeing an improvement for Castro this season due to a better number on defense and similar offensive numbers. Given how long Castro has been around, it’s hard to believe he turns only 27 at the end of this week.
Ronald Torreyes will serve in a utility role for the Yankees this season, but not much is expected. Projections have always seemed to like Rob Refsnyder due to solid minor-league numbers, but the Yankees seem to disagree, never really giving him a chance at the starting second-base job despite lackluster results at the position since Robinson Cano left.
The Reds were ready to move on from Brandon Phillips. Given that his name has yet to appear in these rankings, moving on appears to have been the wise choice. Jose Peraza, acquired in the trade that sent Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox, turns 23 next month and had a decent debut last season. He doesn’t walk or strike out a lot. He’s fast, but couldn’t turn that into a great stolen-base rate last season, stealing 21 times in 31 chances.
The Reds are in a spot competitively where it makes a lot of sense to see what they have in a player like Peraza. That said, they also have Dilson Herrera, acquired from the Mets in the Jay Bruce trade. Herrera is the same age as Peraza, and while he might not have quite prospect shine that Peraza once had, he’s also young. Unlike Peraza, Herrera has a little bit of pop, reaching double-digit homers in each of the past four seasons. If you see Arismendy Alcantara and wonder if he’s the same Arismendy Alcantara who was a legitimate prospect with the Cubs a few years ago, yes, it’s that same Arismendy Alcantara. How many Arismendy Alcantaras do you think there are?
We’ve definitely reached the most exciting name near the bottom of these rankings — and no, it’s not Tyler Saladino, even if Saladino’s currently the guy at the top of Chicago’s second-base depth chart.
No, the real guy is Yoan Moncada, arguably the best prospect in baseball. Signed for $31.5 million by the Red Sox (who had to pay another $31.5 million in penalties to sign him), Moncada was traded in the deal that sent Chris Sale to Boston. Moncada tore up High-A and Double-A last year before getting a call-up at the end of the season. If projections could talk, ZiPS would say Moncada could hold his own right now, while Steamer would reply in the negative. Projections can’t talk, of course. I can, however, so I’m just going to say, “Get excited.” He’s going to be a fun player to watch. If Moncada tears up Triple-A, we might see him in the big leagues by the end of May.
As for the current starter, Tyler Saladino looks to be the biggest beneficiary of the White Sox’ decision to move on from Brett Lawrie. Saladino was a slightly below-average hitter in half a season last year. He’s easily better than replacement and has a shot at average if things break right. He could move over to third base if the White Sox move Frazier and call on Moncada, so he might end up with a full season’s worth of plate appearances. With Jose Abreu at first, Moncada at second, Tim Anderson at shortstop, and Tyler Saladino, you could squint and see a credible infield.
In the Astros-A’s Jed Lowrie cycle, we currently finds ourselves in Phase IV. Lowrie was on the Astros for one season in 2012. Then he was on the A’s for two seasons in 2013 and 2014. Then he was on the Astros in 2015. He was with the A’s last year, and he’ll rejoin the team this season, as well. His move to the Astros in 2018 is inevitable, however: don’t try to fight it, no matter how much you might want to.
As for this season, Lowrie’s hitting numbers have gone down three straight seasons, to a 77 wRC+ last year. He turns 33 this season, and he’s coming off a below-replacement-level season. The projections say he’ll be above replacement this year.
Adam Rosales hit 13 homers in just 248 plate appearances last year. He wasn’t particularly good in his last go-round with the A’s, and he struck out 36% of plate appearances last year, so it appears he’s adopted something of an all-or-nothing approach. On the plus side, he also walked a lot and hit a bunch of homers, so in limited time, it’s an approach that just might work. I don’t know if people ever refer to Joey Wendle as “Mr. Wendle.” What I do know, however, is that if he doesn’t make the A’s, he’s going to be taken to another place — more specifically, to Tennessee, where Oakland’s Triple-A club is located.
Now we get to Brandon Phillips. The former Red, once traded for Bartolo Colon, has had a pretty good career. Phillips turns 36 this year, though, and hasn’t produced an above-average offensive season since 2012. Also, his once excellent defense is likely slipping with age. If his offense doesn’t erode anymore, and his defense is still sufficient, he just might turn in an average season in the Atlanta suburbs.
The Braves were 28th in these rankings last year, with Jace Peterson projected as the primary second baseman. Peterson is still around, but not expected to contribute much beyond a utility role. If Braves fans can wait just one more year, Ozzie Albies might help them move up the rankings for 2018.
The projections aren’t huge believers in Jonathan Villar, on account of him (a) being not very good in his first few years as a major leaguer and also (b) recording a .373 BABIP in 2016 that’s due for regression. Villar showed improved power last season, with 19 homers to go along with 62 steals. Villar is making the transition this year from shortstop to second base to make room for Orlando Arcia, and Villar’s glove is likely a better fit away from shortstop. He’ll also likely see some time at other infield positions. Villar hits a ton of ground balls, so he relies on finding holes or amassing infield hits to be productive. With his speed, average offense is a reasonable expectation. Some improvement on defense, however, will be required for him to profile as an average overall player.
Last year’s second baseman, Scooter Gennett, is still around, but he’s been replacement level the past two seasons and it’s only fair to expect more of the same, especially in a reduced role. Hernan Perez might just play enough everywhere to come close to qualifying for the batting title, a title he probably won’t win. Yadiel Rivera is a good fielder.
These projections say Danny Espinosa isn’t a very good baseball player relative to other major-league baseball players. They might be wrong, though. Espinosa has decent power, hitting 24 homers last year. He’s a good fielder — almost certainly better than average at second base. He walked at a good rate this past year, but even his 9% mark undersells his on-base ability a little bit, as he’s also demonstrated the ability to get in the way of pitches thrown anywhere inside. If he can keep that OBP a little north of .300, play solid defense, run the bases well, and avoid double plays, he might be an average player.
Luis Valbuena, who isn’t terrible, might get some starts at second, although he’s more likely to see time at first and third base. The projections really don’t like Cliff Pennington. Not fans of Kaleb Cowart and Nolan Fontana, either, though I’ll defer my judgment until I’m further convinced of their existence.
After a decent cameo in 2015, Ketel Marte was set to be the Seattle Mariners’ starting shortstop in 2016. He occupied that role for a while, but he just couldn’t get positive results at the plate, hitting .259/.287/.323 for a wRC+ of 66. Low power, low walks, low average is no way to get through a season. Marte has decent speed, but couldn’t get on base enough to use it.
When the Diamondbacks traded Jean Segura to the Mariners for Taijuan Walker, Marte came along for the ride. He doesn’t have a definite starting role, and he should be better than last year, but he’s going to have to improve a lot to be a worthwhile player.
The position could also go to Brandon Drury. Last season, Drury got most of his playing time in the outfield, but he has experience at third base and second base, as well. He posted a solid 102 wRC+ in 499 plate appearances last season with close to 50 extra-base hits. Despite that performance, projections don’t see that power sticking, regarding the 24-year-old as something closer to a replacement player. Arizona is known for its warm temperatures.
This decade, the Royals have given more second-base plate appearances to Omar Infante than any other player. He recorded a 60 wRC+ in Kansas City. Second in second-base plate appearances is Chris Getz with 1,098. His wRC+ was 66. Nobody else has received more than 500 plate appearances and, in total, Royals second basemen have put up a wRC+ of 72, their 44 homers barely besting Brian Dozier’s total from just last year. The tradition continues.
The Royals got rid of Infante, but they haven’t gotten better. Mondesi is just 21 years old, which is interesting, but also means he should probably spend more time in the minors. Christian Colon is 27, making him less interesting, but still not very good. On we go, to Whit Merrifield. The Royals are last for a reason, and that reason is the players. You can blame the front office if you want, though the team is just one year removed from a World Series title.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.