2021 Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

Yesterday, Meg Rowley introduced this year’s rankings, and Dan Szymborski examined the state of the league’s first basemen. Today, we turn our attention to second and third basemen, starting with the denizens of the keystone.

Second base is always a great time here at Positional Power Rankings Inc., an opportunity for us to answer the age-old question: If contact hitters were different, how different would they be? The answer is, of course, quite different, which is why we must rank them. Some, like the players at the top of this list, are contact hitters whose skills expand beyond that limited scope, taking them to critical plate appearances in the postseason, to pennants and championships. Some, with their abilities dwindling over time, are forced to adopt a different style of hitting. Some have never been successful big-leaguers; some are decade-long veterans. Some are young and on the rise; others are old, and sort of on the rise anyway. But they all occupy second base, and these are their rankings.

2021 Positional Power Rankings – 2B
1. Braves
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Ozzie Albies 651 .283 .338 .495 .347 10.0 2.1 4.6 3.9
Johan Camargo 21 .251 .308 .421 .308 -0.4 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Jason Kipnis 21 .237 .311 .395 .302 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Ehire Adrianza 7 .242 .311 .361 .290 -0.2 -0.0 -0.1 -0.0
Total 700 .280 .336 .489 .344 8.9 2.1 4.5 3.9

For the first time since 2016, someone other than Jose Altuve takes our top spot at second — someone who, in 2016, was a teenager. Albies missed a bunch of his laborious 2020 season with a bone bruise in his right wrist; his performance pre-injury was terrible, but he managed to finish strong after his return, putting together one of the most scorching-hot stretches of his career through September. Given the injury, which had been present since before the season began, and the general pandemic-ness of everything, it’s hard to make definitive statements on what could actually be problematic going forward. One might send a concerned glance toward his dramatic increase in strikeouts and comparative lack of walks, a change driven largely by a near-complete inability to handle breaking pitches last season.

At his best, Albies is capable in the field and surprisingly powerful at the plate — and even with a truncated, hurt season last year, he was an above-average hitter. The gap between him and the second basemen around him near the top of this list isn’t that great, but his combination of capability in the field, youth, and pop make him, when healthy, just about the most exciting player to watch at this position. One only has to look at his two NLCS homers to see how he can electrify a team.

2. Astros
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jose Altuve 651 .283 .350 .464 .344 15.7 0.0 -4.0 3.6
Aledmys Díaz 35 .256 .307 .436 .312 -0.1 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Alex De Goti 7 .233 .291 .357 .279 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Robel García 7 .214 .288 .408 .294 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .281 .347 .461 .342 15.2 -0.1 -4.2 3.7

The tone was set for Altuve’s 2020 from the very first time he stepped onto the field in spring, when he was roundly booed and hit by a pitch. Though he never ended up having to play games that counted in front of booing fans, you could almost hear them echoing whenever he stepped up to the plate. Not since his first few seasons in the major leagues had Altuve struggled so profoundly. He struck out more; his contact quality was markedly poor; he had none of the power that appeared to such effect in 2019. Granted, he did miss some time with a knee injury, which probably hampered his performance. But the recurrence of the injury that sent him to the Injured List for the first time in his career three years ago is concerning in and of itself, especially since it’s the same knee he had surgically repaired. The signs of decline noted by Dan Szymborski in last year’s installment of this series have only gotten more pronounced.

Even with all of these concerns and firmly on the wrong side of 30, Altuve projects just barely behind Albies, his junior by almost a decade. The former MVP is unlikely to reach the heights of his peak seasons again, but he’s likely to be better than just about anyone else at his position.

3. Yankees
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
DJ LeMahieu 581 .300 .355 .459 .345 11.5 -0.1 3.9 3.7
Tyler Wade 84 .228 .300 .345 .280 -3.1 0.2 -0.1 0.0
Thairo Estrada 35 .234 .279 .358 .273 -1.5 0.0 -0.0 -0.0
Total 700 .288 .345 .440 .334 6.9 0.1 3.8 3.7

Last season’s Most Valuable Second Baseman, now having re-upped with the Yankees for six more years in an offensive environment that seems to suit him even better than Coors, appears well-positioned to make another run at that title. Though he’s made his career as a contact hitter — and still isn’t much of a barreler, unlike many of his teammates — LeMahieu has continued to improve his power, and actually had the best power season of his career last year (with the obvious caveat that it was a 60-game campaign). Again, the Yankees’ home-field run environment seems to agree with LeMahieu — and now he’s going to be there for, possibly, the rest of his career. There seems to have been some decline in his defensive ability — he is, after all, 32, and the Yankees have already begun to experiment with him at the corner positions. But if his bat stays on this trajectory, it’ll be well worth it.

4. Blue Jays
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Marcus Semien 609 .259 .336 .451 .333 5.8 0.7 1.6 3.1
Joe Panik 42 .253 .326 .366 .300 -0.8 -0.0 -0.1 0.1
Cavan Biggio 28 .232 .347 .410 .327 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.1
Breyvic Valera 14 .260 .322 .376 .301 -0.3 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Santiago Espinal 7 .249 .297 .351 .280 -0.3 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .257 .335 .441 .330 4.6 0.7 1.6 3.3

After his incredible 2019, questions abounded about whether Semien would be able to sustain a similar level of production. With a pandemic thrown into the environment, 2020 was not great for him on either side of the ball, particularly when it came to strikeouts. Though avoiding punch outs was a strength of his 2018 and ’19 seasons, in 2020, his strikeout rate reverted to his pre-breakout levels; his swinging strike rate and contact rates both regressed. Without the 2019 power surge to buoy his performance, his line ended up being poor overall.

The trials of last year contributed to Semien taking just a one-year deal with the Blue Jays. With Bo Bichette at shortstop, Semien will have to adjust to defending at second base, a position he hasn’t really played since 2014. At the plate, the most likely outcome seems to be one that falls somewhere not quite as high as 2019’s heights, but not back down to another 2020, either. A season of above-average performance at the plate and competent performance in the field will be a good outcome for both Semien and the Jays.

5. Rays
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Brandon Lowe 406 .245 .324 .466 .332 5.5 0.6 0.7 2.2
Wander Franco 147 .253 .309 .388 .297 -2.5 -0.5 0.1 0.3
Vidal Bruján 84 .247 .304 .357 .285 -2.3 0.0 0.4 0.1
Joey Wendle 35 .257 .310 .381 .295 -0.7 0.0 0.2 0.1
Mike Brosseau 21 .254 .316 .428 .315 -0.0 -0.0 0.1 0.1
Taylor Walls 7 .237 .300 .361 .285 -0.2 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .248 .317 .430 .316 -0.2 0.2 1.4 2.8

Lowe played all over the place in 2020, though most of his games were at second base, and he was great, nearly matching his WAR total for 2019 despite playing fewer games. Improvements were made to his strikeout and walk rates, and he barreled the ball more than ever before. His plate discipline, a major weakness in his game, also improved significantly, though off-speed and breaking pitches remain weak points. But the continuous year-over-year improvement gives Lowe-watchers a lot to look forward to, especially if he can continue to cut his whiff rates.

Speaking of things to look forward to, Lowe projects to lose some playing time down the line due to the impending arrival of Wander Franco. Franco, we now know, will begin the season in the minors; he had six hits in 22 plate appearances over his stint at big-league spring training, including an absolutely massive homer. It’s only a matter of time before we see him in the majors — he is, per Eric Longenhagen’s 2021 Top 100 rankings, the best prospect on the planet.

6. Mets
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jeff McNeil 448 .293 .359 .460 .346 10.6 -0.8 -2.2 2.3
Jonathan Villar 154 .241 .310 .376 .295 -3.2 0.7 -0.4 0.3
Luis Guillorme 84 .253 .334 .346 .300 -1.4 -0.0 0.1 0.2
José Peraza 14 .252 .297 .361 .282 -0.4 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .276 .344 .426 .328 5.5 -0.2 -2.5 2.7

After bouncing around the field in his first two major-league seasons, McNeil will settle in this year as the Mets’ starting second baseman. Last year, he didn’t quite manage to replicate the successes of 2019 at the plate. Though he hit for a high average, and his on-base percentage remained essentially unchanged from his first two seasons, his power took a major dip. Statcast had him in the bottom 5% of the league for 2020 when it came to hard-hit rate, and in the bottom 10% in Barrel rate. Despite the variation in his power, McNeil’s been a consistent producer for all three of his seasons in the majors, and his combination of low strikeouts and high contact should remain viable, even as he projects to slide back a bit in terms of average.

Behind him on the depth chart is the veteran Villar, who had a respectable 2020 with the Marlins, and the young Luis Guillorme, who floundered in 14 games with the Mets last year after his 2019 breakout — interesting options for opposite reasons.

7. Twins
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jorge Polanco 448 .274 .334 .436 .326 1.0 -0.1 -2.0 1.6
Luis Arraez 231 .311 .370 .410 .337 2.7 -0.2 -0.2 1.1
Travis Blankenhorn 14 .237 .283 .392 .285 -0.5 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Nick Gordon 7 .250 .297 .366 .284 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .285 .344 .426 .329 3.0 -0.3 -2.2 2.7

With Andrelton Simmons ready to take the reins at shortstop, Polanco will look to bounce back from his injury-marred 2020 at his original position — one he hasn’t played for four seasons. Though Polanco managed to stay on the field for most of 2020, he needed offseason surgery on his ankle for the second consecutive year. If he was playing through pain for all of last season, it showed: He managed just four homers in his 55 games, compared to 2019’s 22. He didn’t hit the ball with authority, and with a drop in his walk rate, Polanco had the worst hitting season of his major-league career.

With the bone spurs now gone from his ankle, the hope for the Twins is that a move to second will ease the burden on that beleaguered joint, especially with Simmons’ sure hands on the left side of the infield. Even in 2019, defense at short was an issue for Polanco; now, the pressure there is off. If the ankle issues are finally resolved, it should be a good year for him to bounce back. And there to provide backup is contact-king Arraez, who continues to impress in a utility role with his on-base capabilities.

8. White Sox
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Nick Madrigal 609 .298 .344 .391 .317 -1.7 -1.5 3.3 2.3
Leury García 49 .261 .298 .378 .289 -1.3 0.0 0.0 0.1
Danny Mendick 21 .239 .314 .373 .297 -0.4 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Tim Beckham 14 .237 .294 .411 .299 -0.3 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Matt Reynolds 7 .222 .305 .349 .285 -0.2 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .291 .339 .389 .314 -3.9 -1.6 3.3 2.4

While 2020 may not have been the easiest time to make one’s big-league debut, Madrigal made the most of his brief time in the majors. Despite his well-known lack of power — which manifested in the form of a .029 ISO — Madrigal managed to be an above-average hitter over his 29 games. He only struck out seven times all season. Of concern is the shoulder injury that caused him to miss time and needed surgery over the offseason, but Madrigal claims not to have been set back at all.

Madrigal proved, over his limited trial last year, that he’s capable of bringing the contact skills upon which he’s built his career into the majors. The projections seem to believe that, given more opportunity this season, he will continue to produce well within his skill set — certainly well enough to be a valuable fixture for the White Sox at second.

9. Brewers
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Kolten Wong 574 .264 .344 .396 .318 -4.5 0.9 3.6 2.0
Luis Urías 70 .248 .333 .388 .312 -0.9 -0.1 0.1 0.2
Keston Hiura 35 .251 .320 .465 .328 0.0 -0.0 -0.1 0.1
Daniel Robertson 14 .237 .337 .353 .305 -0.3 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Mark Mathias 7 .235 .303 .368 .289 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .261 .341 .398 .318 -5.9 0.8 3.7 2.3

Wong enters his age-30 season pretty well-established as a light-hitting, elite defender. In 2020, he didn’t come close to replicating the offensive peak he reached in 2019, posting the worst power marks he’s had since the beginning of his career. He hit just the one home run through his 53 games, good for a mere .061 ISO, and generally didn’t hit the ball with much authority. Even though his plate discipline was in line with the rest of his career, his performance overall suffered from the power outage.

For the first time in his career, he is playing with a team other than the Cardinals, having taken a two-year deal with the division-rival Brewers, and the change of scenery might suit him: he has historically hit well in Milwaukee. Regardless, the band of expectations for Wong is sturdy but narrow. He’s not likely to become a slugger, but he is likely to flash the leather fairly often, even as his defensive ability naturally declines. Given Keston Hiura’s prior issues in the field, that’ll be a major improvement for the Brewers.

10. Padres
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jake Cronenworth 336 .267 .337 .399 .317 -1.5 -0.1 0.8 1.1
Ha-seong Kim 231 .260 .329 .418 .318 -0.9 -0.0 0.0 0.7
Jurickson Profar 133 .251 .331 .420 .320 -0.2 0.2 -0.2 0.4
Total 700 .262 .333 .409 .318 -2.7 0.1 0.6 2.3

Cronenworth had about as stellar a rookie season as anyone could have hoped for. Rating positively both in the field and at the plate, he finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting. A glance at his Statcast page shows an awful lot of red, which is to say that he excelled by the reckoning of quite a number of metrics — beloved by x-stats, and certainly among the league’s better performers when it came to whiff rate. It was an impressive performance overall, especially considering his relative lack of experience at second. He’s a versatile defender, and repeating his performance at the plate will make him valuable anywhere.

His versatility may well come into play to accommodate Kim, a free-agent signing this offseason from the KBO. Both a power hitter and a speedster, Kim obviously won’t be displacing Tatis at short, the position he played in Korea. Second, then, seems the natural next step, and if Kim can translate the consistency he had in the KBO to MLB, it’s an embarrassment of riches for the Padres in the middle infield.

11. Dodgers
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Gavin Lux 434 .255 .320 .448 .323 1.0 -0.2 -1.1 1.5
Chris Taylor 189 .250 .328 .433 .323 0.4 0.2 -1.1 0.6
Zach McKinstry 56 .234 .296 .373 .287 -1.6 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Omar Estévez 14 .228 .279 .353 .271 -0.6 -0.0 -0.0 -0.0
Max Muncy 7 .238 .363 .467 .352 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .251 .320 .436 .319 -0.6 -0.2 -2.2 2.2

It was a difficult second go-around in the majors for Lux in 2020. With a late start to the season, he found very little success in the few games in which he appeared, and ended up being left off the team’s postseason rosters almost entirely. Now with two different big-league stints under his belt, and over a year removed from his last real minor-league season, Lux will have to channel some of what made him so formidable a prospect in 2019. With Enrique Hernández off to Boston, regular playing time is in the cards for Lux — and should he need time to readjust, Chris Taylor is, as ever, waiting in the wings.

Someone to watch for, too, is Zach McKinstry, who is once again having a great spring. McKinstry recorded his first major-league hit over the course of a four-game sojourn with the Dodgers last September, and seems primed to fill the void left by Hernández.

12. Diamondbacks
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Ketel Marte 266 .287 .347 .475 .345 3.8 0.1 0.3 1.3
Josh Rojas 189 .247 .321 .394 .306 -3.6 -0.0 0.5 0.4
Eduardo Escobar 77 .251 .309 .444 .312 -1.1 -0.0 0.1 0.2
Andy Young 70 .232 .309 .414 .309 -1.2 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Asdrúbal Cabrera 56 .254 .322 .432 .319 -0.5 -0.2 -0.4 0.1
Josh VanMeter 42 .236 .314 .405 .307 -0.8 -0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .261 .328 .436 .323 -3.3 -0.2 0.1 2.1

Marte did not come anywhere close to replicating his MVP-level 2019 season in 2020. He barely struck out or whiffed at all, but the walks, in particular, just shriveled up, and with his power regressing severely as well, the result was a deeply indifferent line. (Earlier this month, Jake Mailhot did a deep dive into Marte’s diminished thump here.) Worth noting is the wrist injury that plagued him through much of the season and ultimately knocked him onto the IL — not entirely to blame, but certainly a factor in his woes. The reality of Marte, as reflected in the projections for this season, is likely neither as unhappy as his 2020 line nor as lofty as his 2019 numbers would suggest.

Josh Rojas, meanwhile, has torn up spring training this season. He’s made little impact thus far as a major leaguer, but a step forward with the bat could make someone with his positional versatility extremely valuable.

13. Angels
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
David Fletcher 525 .279 .333 .385 .310 -5.3 -0.1 2.5 1.7
Franklin Barreto 126 .223 .281 .409 .291 -3.3 0.1 -0.0 0.2
Phil Gosselin 28 .237 .302 .350 .281 -1.0 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Luis Rengifo 21 .235 .317 .361 .295 -0.5 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .266 .322 .387 .305 -10.1 -0.0 2.4 1.9

Appearing in almost every game last season, it was a banner (shortened) year for Fletcher, who for the first time in his career put together a well-above-average performance at the plate. He is, of course, still himself: still not one for barrels or exit velocity, still hitting mostly for contact. This season, with a full-time job at second, Fletcher, with his stellar defensive abilities, could blossom if the slugging ability he showed in 2020 can carry through a full season. He has, after all, improved steadily in every year of his major-league career thus far.

Of course, given his established profile as a hitter, that last year marks a true shift in his ability is far from certain — an uncertainty reflected in the conservative projections for him. If Fletcher regresses somewhat over a full season to his lighter-hitting ways, then he’s a competent starting second baseman. If he can sustain something close to his 2020 offensive production, though, he would be among the best in baseball at the position. One can imagine! Joe Maddon certainly is.

14. Red Sox
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Christian Arroyo 315 .260 .315 .432 .315 -3.6 -0.2 -0.1 0.8
Enrique Hernández 182 .247 .320 .440 .320 -1.4 0.1 -0.6 0.5
Marwin Gonzalez 105 .258 .326 .422 .318 -1.0 -0.1 0.2 0.3
Michael Chavis 56 .236 .296 .435 .307 -1.1 0.0 -0.3 0.1
Jeter Downs 28 .237 .303 .407 .301 -0.7 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Jonathan Araúz 14 .235 .293 .365 .283 -0.6 -0.0 -0.1 -0.0
Total 700 .253 .316 .431 .315 -8.3 -0.3 -1.1 1.7

Christian Arroyo has seen it all: ups, downs, waiver claims and DFAs. After altering his swing while at the Red Sox’s alternate training site last season, Arroyo seemed to strike upon something, having a minor hot streak before injury dulled the effect. Will he be able to bring the change into this year? Or will utility-man Enrique Hernández, newly signed as a free agent and with an eye on regular playing time, end up taking most of the starts at second? Hernández appeared in 48 games last season, and did not have one of his better years at the plate, with an OBP of just .270 — a continuation of a downward trend for him. He doesn’t hit right-handed pitching well; Arroyo, in 2020, pretty much only hit right-handed pitching.

Add Marwin Gonzalez to the mix — another utility player who had a poor showing at the plate last season — and the options for second base, at least, are plentiful, even if none of them individually are much to write home about. Gonzalez is set to be the team’s starting left fielder, so his appearances in the middle infield will likely be limited. Arroyo, who despite being so well-traveled is only 25, might be the most interesting to watch.

15. Cleveland
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Cesar Hernandez 567 .266 .343 .384 .315 -5.5 0.1 -0.7 1.6
Yu Chang 56 .217 .288 .360 .278 -2.3 -0.0 0.2 0.0
Amed Rosario 35 .281 .318 .428 .314 -0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Andrés Giménez 28 .253 .310 .392 .300 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Owen Miller 14 .260 .313 .373 .295 -0.4 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .262 .336 .385 .311 -9.2 0.1 -0.5 1.7

2020 was a good season for Hernandez, the veteran of almost a decade in the majors. He’s had quite a few of those good seasons, actually, which explains his longevity: Though not an exceptional hitter or an exceptional defender, he’s been very consistent, a stabilizing producer of reliable hitting and defense in the middle infield. And with Francisco Lindor sent off to New York, Cleveland have decided to avail themselves once more of Hernandez’s services, perhaps feeling the need for such stability more than ever. Sure enough, Hernandez projects to be right in line with the career norms he’s maintained. Which is to say he’ll be a critical part of the Cleveland lineup — last season, he led the team in hits. He was, in fact, the third-best second baseman in baseball last season with at least 50 plate appearances. Consistency, even through a pandemic year, will take you there.

Backing up Hernandez is Yu Chang, whose star has fallen somewhat. A rough September call-up in 2019 was followed up by an even rougher handful of games in 2020, wherein he failed to record an extra-base hit.

16. Tigers
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jonathan Schoop 518 .261 .305 .460 .319 -2.5 0.0 -2.5 1.5
Niko Goodrum 84 .227 .297 .387 .292 -2.4 0.2 -0.3 0.1
Harold Castro 49 .266 .295 .356 .279 -2.0 -0.1 -0.1 -0.0
Greg Garcia 42 .236 .334 .331 .296 -1.1 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Zack Short 7 .214 .311 .356 .291 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .305 .436 .312 -8.1 0.1 -2.9 1.6

Schoop, though he’s yet to become the star that he’s sometimes seemed capable of becoming, was one of the Tigers’ best players last season. Is that because the Tigers have little in the way of impact position players? Yes, but even when you widen your view to the entirety of baseball, Schoop did pretty well for himself. His 1.4 WAR put him alongside Jake Cronenworth and Cavan Biggio among second basemen with a minimum of 50 plate appearances.

Injury has been an issue for Schoop, though, and it once again limited his playing time last season — an errant pitch sent him to the IL with a hurt wrist. In that way, as in the plate performance and the steady defense, it was a pretty typical Schoop season. Niko Goodrum, on the other hand, followed up his promising 2019 with a troubled .184/.263/.355 line, and seems likely to be relegated to a backup role.

17. Cardinals
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Tommy Edman 385 .263 .314 .398 .304 -5.9 0.7 1.6 1.0
Matt Carpenter 259 .219 .339 .396 .317 -1.2 -0.6 -2.1 0.5
Edmundo Sosa 35 .243 .284 .364 .276 -1.4 -0.0 0.1 -0.0
Max Moroff 21 .203 .310 .338 .286 -0.7 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .245 .322 .394 .307 -9.1 0.1 -0.5 1.5

With Kolten Wong gone and Nolan Arenado in town, it is erstwhile third baseman/utility guy Tommy Edman’s time to man the middle infield. Edman appeared on the major-league scene in 2019 and quickly made an impact, shining as a defender while showing a surprising amount of power in his bat. Alas, that power largely did not appear in 2020, and doesn’t seem like a good bet to rebound to 2019 levels. (Is this tale of a contact hitter who had a power surge in 2019 sounding familiar yet? Funny, that.)

Edman is a very capable defender, even if John Mozeliak’s comment that he “has no problem” with Edman at second sounds like something less than a ringing endorsement. He’s also extremely fast, ranking in the 98th percentile in sprint speed last season. There may be a learning curve at the new position, and the bat seems more likely to resemble 2020 than 2019, but it won’t be a disaster. If you’re looking for power, you can always look over to third.

18. Phillies
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jean Segura 392 .279 .330 .420 .318 -2.8 0.5 0.1 1.1
Scott Kingery 203 .229 .285 .390 .286 -7.2 0.3 0.2 0.1
Brad Miller 98 .224 .320 .438 .319 -0.6 -0.2 -0.4 0.2
C.J. Chatham 7 .247 .280 .339 .265 -0.4 -0.0 0.0 -0.0
Total 700 .257 .315 .413 .309 -11.0 0.6 -0.1 1.4

After a disappointing 2019 season, the Phillies led Segura to change his approach at the plate, orienting him away from contact and more towards power. The change was incentivized, apparently, with small wagers based on pitches swung at, and for whatever reason, it worked: Segura was a changed hitter in 2020. Up went his strikeout rate — dramatically so, from 11.8% in 2019 to 20.7%; down went his contact rate. And up went his power, to the tune of a career-best .156 ISO. He walked more, too — at more than twice his career average rate — and got on base far more than he had in his previous season with the Phillies. The result was a pretty decent season overall, and an encouraging step forward from the disappointment of the year before.

What will be interesting going forward is how the new, not-a-contact-hitter version of Segura will evolve. Reinventing yourself as your 30s hit, increasingly confronted by both the constant nearness of mortality and the fleeting nature of youth, is hardly something that has never been done before, but it’s not always successful. Speed and contact made Segura an All-Star in his 20s; when it stopped working, he had to reassess, change positions, take wagers. Only time will tell if this new version of himself can be something like the old.

19. Giants
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Donovan Solano 371 .281 .320 .384 .302 -6.6 -0.4 -1.2 0.5
Tommy La Stella 238 .275 .344 .413 .324 0.4 -0.2 -2.2 0.6
Wilmer Flores 84 .277 .323 .458 .327 0.4 -0.2 -0.6 0.3
Mauricio Dubón 7 .264 .309 .391 .299 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .278 .328 .402 .312 -5.9 -0.8 -4.0 1.4

The 33-year-old Solano actually had his best season at the plate last year. It was a short season, yes, but that’s no small feat. Solano has been around for a long time. His career could easily have ended in 2015, when he was below replacement level for the Marlins, or 2016, when he appeared in only nine games for the Yankees. But here he was in 2020, running a BABIP of nearly .400 for the second year in a row, the primary second baseman for a team that was somehow actually in playoff contention — his first season, shortened though it was, as a real full-time player. Donovan Solano, relegated to throwaway lines in previous power rankings, was, in fact, the recipient of the Silver Slugger award for his position.

Can he do it again? I mean, probably not. But then again, who would have listed him as their prediction for the Silver Slugger before last season? Solano recently lost his arbitration case against the Giants over a difference of less than $1 million, and the team also signed Tommy La Stella, threatening Solano’s status as the full-time second baseman. La Stella is coming off a year split between the Angels and the A’s, a year that was also one of his best at the plate. He, too, is in his 30s. With more of a track record of success than Solano has, he projects to be a better hitter; Farhan Zaidi says he expects him to set a career high in plate appearances this year with the Giants. How exactly the playing time at second will shake out remains to be seen. Solano has been batting around .500 this spring — something, maybe, or maybe not.

20. Athletics
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Tony Kemp 350 .255 .330 .366 .302 -4.1 -0.2 -1.5 0.7
Chad Pinder 182 .248 .309 .435 .313 -0.4 -0.3 -1.5 0.5
Jed Lowrie 119 .234 .309 .359 .290 -2.7 -0.2 -0.8 0.1
Vimael Machín 49 .243 .324 .347 .291 -1.1 -0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .249 .321 .382 .302 -8.4 -0.8 -3.9 1.4

Kemp walked more than he struck out in 2020 — an impressive feat, but especially so when you look at what he did in 2019, when his strikeout rate was double that of his walk rate. Thanks to the career-best OBP created by this newfound plate discipline, you could almost ignore the total lack of power in Kemp’s line. The A’s chose to thank him for his services by bringing him back for 2021. He will likely split some time at second with man of many positions Chad Pinder, who spent a chunk of last season injured; and Jed Lowrie, brought back into the fold after a difficult few years with the Mets. Lowrie had only eight plate appearances with the Mets in 2019, and didn’t play at all in 2020. Now, almost 37 and back in Oakland on a minor-league deal, he hopes to find some of what he found back in 2017, when he discovered a late-career spark.

21. Cubs
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Nico Hoerner 427 .269 .330 .389 .309 -5.9 -0.1 0.7 1.0
David Bote 126 .235 .322 .410 .312 -1.5 0.1 -0.2 0.3
Eric Sogard 77 .244 .320 .348 .291 -2.3 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Ildemaro Vargas 42 .266 .303 .387 .294 -1.2 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Matt Duffy 28 .264 .332 .365 .303 -0.5 -0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .260 .326 .387 .307 -11.4 -0.1 0.2 1.3

It was not a great time for Nico Hoerner last year. Appearing in 48 games for the Cubs — his first full season, as it were — Hoerner produced very little at the plate. A high walk rate got him on base often enough, and his defense remained valuable, but a .259 slugging percentage is unpleasant to consider.

This spring, Hoerner finds himself with a lot of competition for the second-base role. He’s in contention with veteran Eric Sogard, in camp on a minor-league deal; with David Bote, weighed down by strikeouts, whose walk-off grand slam MLB.TV’s ad breaks have drilled into my brain; and with Ildemaro Vargas, who somehow managed to play for three teams last season without doing particularly well anywhere. Hoerner, with youth and a hot start to spring training on his side, is the most likely candidate for the starting job. The Athletic reports that he identified and worked on issues with his swing over the offseason.

22. Pirates
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Adam Frazier 553 .266 .329 .403 .313 -5.8 -0.6 0.7 1.4
Kevin Newman 84 .268 .317 .373 .296 -2.1 -0.1 -0.4 0.0
Rodolfo Castro 28 .208 .253 .331 .249 -1.8 -0.0 -0.0 -0.1
Cole Tucker 21 .234 .296 .351 .279 -0.8 0.0 0.0 -0.0
Erik González 14 .242 .279 .365 .272 -0.6 -0.0 -0.1 -0.0
Total 700 .262 .322 .394 .307 -11.2 -0.8 0.2 1.3

Here’s someone else who’s working on his swing: Adam Frazier, whose 2020 represented a frustrating step back after several seasons of consistent improvement. After reaching a career peak with 2.8 WAR in 2019, Frazier’s OBP took a nosedive in 2020 to the detriment of his production. But he’s tinkering with things. Kevin Gorman of Triblive.com reports that Frazier, talking with Colin Moran earlier this month, made an adjustment to the positioning of his hands, and has been raking thus far in spring training. Of course, it’s spring training, so who knows whether those results will translate into anything substantial. Right now, a breakout remains the stuff of hazy March dreams. But it’s safe to believe that Frazier isn’t what was suggested by his 2020 line, dragged down by a .246 BABIP. Solid through his career up to last year, solidity can be expected once again.

23. Mariners
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Dylan Moore 308 .222 .302 .386 .295 -5.7 -0.2 -0.8 0.5
Shed Long Jr. 231 .229 .297 .377 .289 -5.5 0.1 -0.6 0.3
Ty France 91 .262 .328 .434 .324 0.5 -0.2 -0.0 0.4
Sam Haggerty 63 .214 .300 .323 .274 -2.3 0.2 -0.5 -0.0
Donovan Walton 7 .235 .305 .343 .283 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .229 .304 .383 .295 -13.2 -0.1 -1.9 1.2

It’s kind of hard to fathom how good Dylan Moore was in his 38 games last year. Cutting his strikeout rate from a sky-high 33% to a less-high 27%, Moore demolished the baseball last year. The 28-year-old went from something of an afterthought to the Mariners’ starting second baseman. Unfortunately for Moore, he also took some pitches to the head last season, finishing his stellar year on the concussion list.

The Mariners’ other contender for the second-base role, Shed Long Jr., also dealt with injury last year, and is recovering from surgery. Unlike Moore, Long did not make a mark during the 2020 season. It remains to be seen how his recovery will pan out — he has only recently been cleared to take live batting practice. But he has been inconsistent as a major leaguer, and Moore has shown a little glinting edge of something special.

24. Rangers
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Nick Solak 546 .266 .334 .414 .320 -7.2 0.6 -3.7 1.1
Brock Holt 63 .243 .326 .345 .294 -2.3 -0.1 -0.0 0.0
Rougned Odor 49 .215 .281 .434 .298 -1.6 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Andy Ibáñez 21 .242 .303 .369 .289 -0.8 -0.0 0.0 -0.0
Anderson Tejeda 14 .233 .281 .399 .287 -0.6 -0.0 0.0 -0.0
Charlie Culberson 7 .229 .278 .356 .270 -0.4 -0.0 0.0 -0.0
Total 700 .258 .327 .407 .314 -12.9 0.4 -3.8 1.1

The Rougned Odor second base era is, at least for now, over. Odor’s 2020 was a nadir, an encapsulation of all that was trending downward for him: the extremity of the strikeouts, the utter lack of on-base ability, walks few and far between, and no longer even enough power to make up for the deficiencies.

His position has now been officially ceded to Nick Solak, who got his first, largely successful taste of major-league action in 2019. In 58 games last season, Solak rated very poorly as a defender — as in 2019, he played all over the place — but was most definitely an improvement over Odor at the plate. And unlike Odor, there is upside with Solak, even if his 2020 was worse than his 2019. One can only imagine that the stability provided by a set position will be good for Solak. Backing up the efforts at second is Brock Holt, who is still hanging around, and may end up playing at third.

25. Royals
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Nicky Lopez 518 .253 .315 .346 .289 -16.5 -1.4 3.4 0.5
Hanser Alberto 133 .289 .314 .403 .304 -2.4 -0.0 0.3 0.3
Whit Merrifield 28 .281 .331 .428 .322 -0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Lucius Fox 21 .229 .301 .330 .276 -0.9 0.0 -0.0 -0.0
Total 700 .260 .315 .360 .292 -19.9 -1.4 3.7 0.9

Though both of Nicky Lopez’s major-league seasons to date have resulted in a WAR total of -0.2, he arrived at that number in rather different ways. In 2019, he didn’t strike out much, but walked even less; in 2020, he struck out quite a bit, but balanced it out with a proportionally-improved walk rate. In 2019, his wRC+ was 56; in 2020, it was 55.

The bat, obviously, is not Lopez’s tool of choice. He plies his trade with the glove, and it is with the glove that he justifies his presence on the field. There are far worse fates in this life than to excel at what you are needed for. The Royals do not expect a power hitter out of Lopez; they have never expected a power hitter. What they have is someone who can play defense very well, and who has, if nothing else, immense room for improvement at the plate. Moved from his familiar position by someone on the rise, he does what he can with what he has.

26. Marlins
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Isan Díaz 350 .229 .308 .379 .296 -6.9 -0.5 -1.4 0.4
Jon Berti 196 .241 .331 .350 .300 -3.2 0.9 0.7 0.5
Jazz Chisholm 154 .205 .278 .376 .280 -5.2 -0.1 -0.3 -0.0
Total 700 .227 .308 .370 .294 -15.4 0.3 -1.0 0.9

In 2018, Isan Díaz slugged .578 in Triple-A. In 2020, Isan Díaz slugged .182 in Miami. That both of these realities can exist in the same person is humbling. Of course, Díaz played just seven games for the Marlins last season; that stint, and its lack of success, was far from a definitive statement on his future as a major leaguer. But the time given to make such statements is often limited, and there are others who will fill Díaz’s role if he ends up being unable to produce at the plate.

There’s Jazz Chisholm, who struck out too much in his debut last year, but who is younger, and who might have more yet to offer; waiting in the wings is Jon Berti, a longtime Blue Jays farmhand who was an unlikely contributor to an unlikely postseason run last year. So far this spring, with Chisholm and Díaz named as the main competitors for the starting job at second, it is Chisholm who has performed better. There are less than two weeks until the season begins, and time is running out.

27. Reds
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jonathan India 434 .231 .315 .374 .297 -12.4 -0.5 0.8 0.3
Mike Moustakas 154 .255 .326 .494 .340 1.2 -0.3 -1.2 0.5
Mike Freeman 56 .230 .300 .328 .274 -2.7 -0.1 0.1 -0.1
Dee Strange-Gordon 28 .267 .302 .342 .278 -1.3 0.1 -0.2 -0.0
Kyle Farmer 21 .240 .294 .369 .284 -0.8 -0.0 -0.1 -0.0
Max Schrock 7 .246 .303 .353 .284 -0.3 -0.0 0.0 -0.0
Total 700 .238 .315 .395 .303 -16.4 -0.8 -0.6 0.7

Ranked as the Reds’ seventh-best prospect by Eric Longenhagen this winter, India is poised to make his debut in the majors this year. A strong spring showing has necessitated a realignment of plans, with Eugenio Suárez moving to short and Mike Moustakas returning to third. To have such a hubbub accompany India’s arrival is a statement of confidence, especially for a player with such a limited major-league track record. In the absence of obviously better options, the Reds will take their chances with India.

Besides, it’s not like Moustakas isn’t capable of taking the wheel if necessary. Moustakas had another good year at the plate in 2020, enough to offset the defensive hit he took from being moved around the field. Should India turn out to need more time in the minors, Moustakas can be expected to serve as a steady replacement.

28. Orioles
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Yolmer Sánchez 350 .248 .315 .366 .294 -8.5 -0.5 -0.4 0.4
Jahmai Jones 175 .228 .287 .334 .270 -8.0 -0.5 -0.7 -0.2
Pat Valaika 84 .249 .291 .440 .306 -1.2 -0.2 -0.1 0.2
Rylan Bannon 56 .234 .306 .382 .295 -1.3 -0.1 -0.0 0.1
Ramón Urías 28 .254 .324 .417 .316 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.1
Richie Martin 7 .220 .277 .335 .264 -0.4 0.0 -0.0 -0.0
Total 700 .242 .304 .370 .290 -19.4 -1.3 -1.3 0.5

Yolmer Sánchez has the distinction of being perhaps the only player in baseball history to post a season line with identical 23.8% strikeout and walk rates. This is because he only played 12 games in 2020. Injured fairly soon after the season began, Sánchez was released by the Giants and did not play again last year. The Orioles will look for him to provide the kind of unglamorous, reliable production he did with the White Sox — that is, until they have more clarity on the future of Jahmai Jones, acquired from the Angels in the Alex Cobb deal. Jones had a cup of coffee with the Angels last season, and slotted into 14th in the Orioles’ organizational prospect rankings this year.

29. Rockies
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Brendan Rodgers 322 .262 .311 .431 .313 -9.8 -0.0 1.1 0.3
Ryan McMahon 189 .251 .324 .448 .326 -3.6 0.0 -0.5 0.3
Garrett Hampson 98 .255 .313 .391 .301 -4.0 0.3 -0.0 -0.0
Chris Owings 70 .241 .295 .395 .293 -3.3 0.0 0.0 -0.1
Bret Boswell 21 .230 .282 .389 .284 -1.2 -0.1 0.1 -0.0
Total 700 .255 .313 .425 .312 -21.9 0.3 0.7 0.4

Rodgers recently sustained a right hamstring strain, and is expected to miss at least a month. It’s the latest in a string of injuries that have hampered his development, making his future as a big-leaguer uncertain. He appeared in only seven games last season, and with a .095/.095/.143 line, it’s not hard to see why his appearance was so brief. Ryan McMahon, who has been the Rockies’ primary second baseman for two seasons now, continued to struggle with strikeouts in 2020. He was expected to take over the Arenado-shaped void at third, but with Rodgers out, McMahon could find himself back where he began — or, to avoid such complications, Hampson or Owings could step into the role. No matter which option the Rockies choose, though, it’s a bad situation.

30. Nationals
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Luis García 301 .266 .295 .377 .287 -11.2 -0.3 -0.4 -0.1
Starlin Castro 287 .275 .315 .438 .316 -3.3 -0.2 -1.7 0.5
Josh Harrison 77 .247 .303 .370 .289 -2.7 -0.1 -0.2 -0.0
Hernán Pérez 28 .247 .288 .398 .290 -1.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Jordy Mercer 7 .239 .299 .362 .283 -0.3 -0.0 -0.1 -0.0
Total 700 .266 .304 .402 .299 -18.3 -0.6 -2.4 0.4

Luis García, who made his debut with 40 games in 2020, stands to see most of the playing time at second for the Nationals, though no-longer-a-Marlin Castro projects to produce the most. García, with only an unremarkable season at Double-A under his belt, took over for Castro last year after the latter sustained a wrist injury. He didn’t exactly light the world on fire, but he didn’t need to: He’s only 20, and the Nationals are looking into the future. They see García, whom Eric Longenhagen described as having remarkable bat control, as their long-term second baseman, and can lean on the veteran Castro, now recovered, to tide them over until the future they are looking for makes itself known.





RJ is the dilettante-in-residence at FanGraphs. Previous work can be found at Baseball Prospectus, VICE Sports, and The Hardball Times.

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sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

If you were asking yourself “how much do the projections trust 2020,” this section provides a useful summary. Albies is in the top spot despite the worst performance of his career, and Altuve is #2 despite the worst offensive performance of his entire MLB career. And then you get the following projections for the following 2nd basemen (prorated 2020 fWAR over same number of PAs in parentheses):
DJ LeMahieu: 3.7 over 581 PAs (6.7 fWAR prorated from 2020)
Brandon Lowe: 2.2 over 406 PAs (4.35 fWAR prorated from 2020)
Jake Cronenworth: 1.1 over 336 PAs (2.45 fWAR prorated from 2020)

In other words, the projections do not do not do not trust 2020 at all. I’m leaning towards thinking that they are probably fine on Albies and Altuve, they haven’t adjusted to LeMahieu’s batted ball profile and how it plays in the Bronx or Cronenworth’s scalding batted ball profile, and I’m split on Lowe.

TKDC
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TKDC

Ozzie’s season was 29 games. He had a 20 wRC+ in 11 games before being ILed for a nagging wrist and had a 152 wRC+ in 18 games after he came back. Yes, those are tiny samples, but the only real negative that should have come out of last season for Albies is forecasting his ability to stay healthy; but after averaging 159 games 2018-19, I don’t think one injury should change his forecast much.

AngelsLakersFan
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AngelsLakersFan

It’s hard to take these projections seriously.

David Fletcher has one full season of well over 3 war under his belt and two partial seasons push his career total near 7. He’s coming off his best performance yet (a 4.5 war pace). A 1.7 war season would be represent a significant decline from his established level.