2022 Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

This morning, Jay Jaffe covered the league’s first basemen. Now, Ben Clemens examines the state of the keystone.

Second base is deeper than ever this year. A logjam at shortstop — there were more talented free agent shortstops than there were teams that needed someone at the position — pushed talent over to second base. Indeed, two of the top three spots on this list are teams that signed marquee free agent shortstops and parked them at second. That’s part of a broader trend toward a widening of the talent pool that teams see as worthy of a starting job. Not only will you see shortstops like Trevor Story here, but also bat-first mashers like Max Muncy and elite defenders like Nicky Lopez. The old keystone archetype — a contact-first bat with serviceable defense but without the range or arm for short — still shows up in spades, too. Some diminutive second basemen have even started hitting for power — hi, Jose Altuve and Ozzie Albies. It’s a variegated group, but they all stand in the dirt between first and second — or, until next year, in short right field.

2022 Positional Power Rankings – 2B
1. Rays
Brandon Lowe 602 .245 .333 .500 .353 22.1 1.3 -0.6 4.5
Vidal Bruján 63 .237 .300 .365 .291 -0.9 0.3 0.1 0.2
Taylor Walls 35 .222 .311 .350 .292 -0.5 -0.0 0.5 0.1
Total 700 .243 .329 .480 .344 20.7 1.6 0.0 4.9

Lowe might be the most unheralded star in baseball. All he’s done over the last three years is put up 10.3 WAR in 1,166 plate appearances, largely by hitting .258/.343/.526. Only Marcus Semien has outproduced him, and that projects to continue this year. Lowe’s skillset – plus power, plus patience, and not enough strikeouts to ruin things – isn’t one you normally see at second base, but his offense is hugely valuable, and the Rays have long figured out a way to put their best players in the lineup and sort out the exact fit later.

That commitment to positional flexibility means that Lowe will spend time away from second base, either in the outfield or at DH. That’s where Tampa Bay’s depth comes in; Bruján, our 55th-ranked prospect, looks like a roughly average major leaguer already and Walls was a borderline top 100 prospect before graduating. Both of them bring plus defense to the table, as well, which gives the Rays extra flexibility in their defensive positioning. The overall package – a star at the top, multiple top prospects in reserve – gives the Rays perhaps the highest floor at second base, with plenty of upside from there. They do rank first, after all.

2. Rangers
Marcus Semien 623 .263 .338 .478 .349 17.5 1.0 4.1 4.6
Brad Miller 35 .233 .323 .444 .329 0.4 -0.1 -0.1 0.2
Charlie Culberson 21 .242 .292 .385 .292 -0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Yonny Hernandez 14 .239 .346 .309 .300 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Nick Solak 7 .258 .326 .402 .317 0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .261 .336 .469 .345 17.3 1.0 4.0 4.9

Semien was the best second baseman in the game in 2021, and he’s projected to be superb again this year. He does it with one simple trick: lifting and pulling the ball for extra-base hits. Fine, he has a ton of other good skills, too – he walks more than average, strikes out less than average, and grades out well defensively – but Semien’s ascension to All-Star production has a lot to do with his power ticking up, and we think he’ll repeat that this year.

One thing to keep an eye on: Semien is projected for the second-highest OBP of his career. Most of that comes from a BABIP rebound – he didn’t do well in that category last year, basically the only thing he didn’t excel at – but if you’re looking for downside here, it would be Semien getting on base at a lower clip and being merely a good hitter instead of an excellent one.

Behind Semien, the Rangers have multiple capable backups. Swanson — er, Culberson, it’s so hard to know for sure — is a competent utility infielder and Miller should contribute all over the diamond against right-handed pitching. Hernandez is a good fallback as well. The depth here should keep the lights on if Semien is out for a short stint, though he’s of course the headliner.

3. Red Sox
Trevor Story 630 .260 .333 .481 .346 12.1 1.8 4.3 4.2
Christian Arroyo 42 .249 .307 .421 .314 -0.3 0.0 0.2 0.1
Enrique Hernández 21 .255 .333 .458 .339 0.3 0.0 0.1 0.1
Jonathan Araúz 7 .239 .304 .383 .299 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .259 .331 .476 .344 11.9 1.8 4.6 4.5

Boston had a revolving door at second last year, but they solved that problem by copying Toronto’s gambit from a year ago of bringing in a prized free agent shortstop and sliding him down the defensive spectrum. Story is a solid defensive shortstop, which means he’s an excellent defensive second baseman, and his lift-and-pull offensive game should result in wall-ball doubles and “he got just enough of it” homers galore in Fenway. Leaving Coors is less of a problem when you’re going to another excellent hitter’s park, and departing Rockies hitters have fared well in their new homes historically. While he’s unlikely to ever bat near .300 again, extra-base hits and solid walk rates should still create excellent above-average offensive production.

If Story misses time with injury or spends time covering shortstop, the Sox will have to decide whether they’d rather play Arroyo or Jackie Bradley Jr. every day. Hernández is the team’s starting center fielder, but he could shift to second if Story is out for an extended period. Neither of those options is particularly appetizing; Boston’s best bet is for their prized free agent to remain healthy. Bold take, I know.

4. Braves
Ozzie Albies 665 .274 .329 .489 .346 11.6 2.5 3.5 4.2
Orlando Arcia 28 .252 .309 .407 .308 -0.4 -0.0 0.2 0.1
Brock Holt 7 .242 .315 .340 .291 -0.2 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .273 .328 .484 .344 11.0 2.4 3.7 4.3

Albies is a mainstay atop lists of contract-inclusive value, but he’s also just great. After a forgettable, injury-shortened 2020, he’s back to his old tricks, swinging early and often and making frequent, loud contact. It’s a strange profile – he swings so much and stands only 5-foot-8, so the power is hard to comprehend – but he hits home runs at a 22-per-600 PA pace, so swinging a lot sure seems to work for him. Combine that with excellent baserunning and solid defense, and you get a perennial All-Star.

2020 aside, Albies has also been extremely durable – he averaged 158 games per year in ’18, ’19, and ’21 combined. The Braves will need that health to continue, because their roster behind Albies is shockingly thin at the moment. Arcia is a competent backup, but he’d be stretched as an everyday player. He’s also the backup at shortstop, and the team doesn’t yet have anyone else on the roster to handle the position; Holt, a minor league free agent signing, is the next best option. If Albies is healthy, though, that won’t matter – Atlanta will have one of the best second base situations in the game, just like always.

5. Astros
Jose Altuve 637 .277 .346 .469 .349 18.9 0.3 -3.5 4.0
Aledmys Díaz 28 .251 .310 .406 .308 -0.1 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Niko Goodrum 28 .218 .293 .367 .289 -0.6 0.1 -0.1 0.0
Alex De Goti 7 .216 .282 .330 .270 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .273 .341 .461 .344 18.0 0.3 -3.5 4.1

Every year, it feels like Altuve must be declining towards average. He’s 31, but he feels older than that because he’s been part of the Astros since their darkest tanking days. He also saw his production decline every year from 2017-20, culminating in a near-replacement level pandemic season that was only salvaged by a blisteringly hot playoff performance. Joke’s on our frail human pattern recognition, though: Altuve put that decline behind him with a monstrous 2021, combining durability, batting prowess, and defensive stability to the tune of 5.2 WAR.

He likely won’t match that production this year, but his track record speaks for itself at this point. He’s going to avoid strikeouts, rack up barrels, and pop enough home runs that you’ll doubt he’s as short as he looks on the field. It’s an exceedingly rare profile, and you might get laughed out of the building for predicting 25-homer power for a 5-foot-6 prospect, but Altuve is just a unicorn.

Díaz, his main backup, is a league average bat with positional flexibility, a useful cog if Altuve’s injury issues flare up again or he simply needs some time off. If things go as planned in Houston, he’ll be under-utilized, but his presence helps mitigate a worst-case scenario. Goodrum provides an extra layer of redundancy; he’s capable of backing up nearly every position on the diamond, though he’ll likely combine that with uninspiring offense.

6. Reds
Jonathan India 644 .260 .364 .449 .353 12.8 0.1 1.8 3.8
Donovan Solano 28 .276 .325 .395 .312 -0.4 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Max Schrock 14 .252 .307 .395 .303 -0.3 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Alejo Lopez 14 .274 .334 .370 .310 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .261 .361 .444 .350 11.8 0.1 1.7 3.9

While Cincinnati’s experiment with Eugenio Suárez at shortstop failed miserably, it gave India a spot on the big league club, and he ran with it. His well-rounded offensive game – he hits for power and walks quite a bit without a ruinous strikeout total – helped anchor the Reds lineup last year, and he projects to be the best hitter on their offensively challenged squad in 2022.

If there’s a worry about India, it’s how sustainable his offensive production is. We’re not talking about someone with a long track record of dominance at the major league level – or even a long track record, period. He topped out at Double-A Charlotte in his second professional season, 2019, and then made the Reds’ roster to start ’21. That’s not automatically cause for concern – he’s hit well at every level he’s attempted – but at the top of the list, I’m often looking for risk factors, and “good projection for a guy with only 1,300 professional plate appearances” definitely qualifies. It will probably be fine – India very much looked the part in 2021, and his projections bake in that lack of track record – but it’s something worth keeping an eye on, particularly on an otherwise-uninspiring Cincinnati offense.

7. Twins
Jorge Polanco 588 .274 .331 .474 .343 13.1 0.0 -3.6 3.2
Luis Arraez 63 .301 .364 .399 .333 0.9 -0.0 -0.0 0.3
Jose Miranda 35 .276 .324 .451 .331 0.4 -0.0 0.1 0.2
Nick Gordon 14 .252 .300 .382 .296 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .276 .333 .464 .341 14.1 -0.0 -3.6 3.7

Polanco was Minnesota’s everyday second baseman last year until he took over shortstop, and the Carlos Correa signing brings him back to the keystone. He’s the best hitter you probably think is a bad hitter; he has a career 109 wRC+ and socked 33 homers in 2021. His game isn’t flashy, and I don’t think he’ll repeat those home run numbers, but a simple formula allows him to succeed: rarely strike out, walk at a reasonable clip, and put the ball in the air frequently. He has just enough power to convert those frequent fly balls into homers, even if he runs a hard-hit rate well below the major league average. So long as you’re a high-volume hitter with enough pitch recognition to avoid getting yourself out, you don’t need to crush every single pitch you hit.

Arraez and Miranda are both overqualified backups, and they’ll work into the Twins lineup at multiple positions as the team tries to put its best offensive players on the field. We project Arraez for a .302 batting average; I know it’s a bad offensive statistic, but that’s still incredibly impressive. His value is all in high BABIP and low strikeout rates, while Miranda strikes out more, walks less, and brings the thunder. The Twins have an overlapping middle infield machine, and their trio of second basemen will be key parts of what promises to be an excellent offense.

8. Padres
Jake Cronenworth 553 .272 .345 .446 .339 10.8 -0.4 1.6 3.2
Ha-Seong Kim 98 .241 .311 .403 .309 -0.6 0.2 0.0 0.3
Jurickson Profar 28 .241 .329 .386 .313 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
CJ Abrams 21 .245 .298 .367 .289 -0.5 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .266 .338 .435 .333 9.7 -0.2 1.6 3.7

When San Diego acquired Cronenworth, he felt like a throw-in in the trade that netted them Tommy Pham, but he’s developed into a piece of San Diego’s offensive core. He’s also Exhibit A in why skills matter in context, because if you look at some of his batted ball metrics, you’d wonder why he ranks so highly on this list. He’s in the 23rd percentile for hard-hit rate and 38th percentile for barrel rate. You don’t have to be a sabermetric genius to know that those numbers are low.

In Cronenworth’s case, though, it doesn’t matter. His carrying tool isn’t power; it’s an unerring eye and sterling bat control that combine to make him one of the toughest outs in the big leagues. His 5.4% swinging strike rate means he can wait pitchers out, and he lifts and pulls the ball frequently enough to hit for above-average power despite the low measurables. It’s an odd way to compile a career 118 wRC+, but there are no style points in baseball; offense is offense.

Defensively, Cronenworth fits in across the infield, which means Ha-Seong Kim will get plenty of run at second base. Kim had a disappointing rookie season at the plate, but was excellent defensively. He probably won’t run a .241 BABIP again, and a bit of offensive improvement would make him a roughly average player, which gives the Padres enviable depth if Cronenworth gets hurt. Kim can also fill in elsewhere — in case the team needs, say, a few months of shortstop innings.

9. Diamondbacks
Ketel Marte 539 .291 .352 .485 .356 14.2 0.0 -0.3 3.4
Sergio Alcántara 77 .225 .314 .331 .287 -2.4 -0.0 0.4 0.1
Wilmer Difo 49 .241 .306 .341 .285 -1.6 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Josh Rojas 28 .248 .328 .395 .315 -0.2 0.0 -0.0 0.1
Drew Ellis 7 .213 .304 .375 .298 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .278 .343 .454 .342 9.9 0.0 0.0 3.6

Marte was always going to be Arizona’s best hitter — it’s just a matter of where they want to play him. In 2021, that was mostly center field, but we think that a bevy of young players will rotate there, leaving Marte to mostly play second and pick up scraps of playing time elsewhere. That’s great news for Arizona’s second base PPR placement – and of course, neutral news for the team overall, because you don’t get to convert your position in this exercise into wins.

Marte will probably never replicate his superlative 2019, but he was excellent when healthy in 2021, to the tune of a .318/.377/.532 slash line. He possesses a rare combination of bat-to-ball skills (7.2% career swinging strike rate) and raw power (97th-percentile maximum exit velocity); his .295 batting average since joining the D-backs doesn’t look like a fluke, and neither does his .495 slugging percentage. He could stand to walk more often, and his defense is inconsistent, but he’s a natural infielder, so concentrating his playing time on the dirt should yield improvements there. There aren’t a lot of bright spots in Arizona at the moment, but wherever Marte ends up playing, he’ll be one of them — and for longer five more years, to boot.

10. Yankees
Gleyber Torres 539 .265 .340 .438 .335 9.0 -0.2 -3.1 2.6
DJ LeMahieu 140 .284 .349 .413 .332 1.9 -0.1 0.7 0.8
Marwin Gonzalez 14 .233 .300 .365 .291 -0.3 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
José Peraza 7 .252 .299 .377 .294 -0.1 0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .268 .341 .431 .333 10.4 -0.3 -2.5 3.4

Did you know that Torres is only… wait, Gleyber Torres is 25 now? Yes, we’re a long way from the halcyon days of 2019, and Torres’ star has dimmed considerably in the interim. We’re projecting somewhat of a return to form, and Torres was valuable even in his poor 2021 season; average offense and average fielding (below-average for a shortstop is still average, to be clear) makes for an acceptable player.

“Acceptable” isn’t amazing for a Yankees team hoping to win the American League this year, though, which means that Torres’ leash might be quite short. LeMahieu is an excellent second option. If he bounces back, and Josh Donaldson stays healthy, and… the Yankees have a complicated infield, is what I’m getting at here. There’s talent there, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the two Bombers ends up among the AL’s best second basemen, but it’s a fluid situation in need of some stability at the moment.

11. Dodgers
Chris Taylor 252 .247 .330 .430 .327 2.1 0.5 -1.8 1.0
Gavin Lux 182 .252 .328 .423 .324 1.0 0.1 -0.4 0.7
Max Muncy 126 .249 .371 .509 .374 5.9 -0.0 0.0 1.0
Hanser Alberto 112 .283 .307 .397 .303 -1.3 -0.0 -0.0 0.3
Mookie Betts 21 .279 .374 .505 .374 1.0 0.1 0.3 0.2
Zach McKinstry 7 .238 .301 .414 .307 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .334 .438 .332 8.6 0.6 -1.9 3.3

Whether it’s center field or second base, the Dodgers never miss a chance to platoon Lux and Taylor. That’s a much better plan in the infield, where Lux can provide his signature pop without looking like a fish out of water defensively. That pop might not be what we expected a few years ago – he was our number two overall prospect before the 2020 season – but he’s a patient, powerful hitter who I could easily see bopping 20 home runs year in and year out.

That’s assuming he plays every day, which isn’t a given in the Dodgers’ Rube Goldberg lineup. Muncy will get some run at second when he isn’t DH’ing or playing first. Taylor won’t always be at second even against lefties; he’s too valuable across the diamond. Alberto will cover that role from time to time. The exact composition of Taylor’s plate appearances is up in the air, and might depend heavily on injuries, so don’t take this projection as gospel. Just know that LA will give Lux and Taylor plenty of at-bats and fill in the gaps with some exciting upper-minors bats, veteran role players, and defensively stretched boppers. Oh, and check out that sweet Betts projection near the bottom!

12. Brewers
Kolten Wong 581 .265 .336 .412 .325 0.7 0.9 4.2 2.7
Luis Urías 63 .253 .346 .433 .337 0.7 -0.1 0.1 0.3
Mike Brosseau 28 .231 .304 .401 .305 -0.4 -0.0 0.0 0.1
Keston Hiura 14 .227 .303 .416 .311 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Jace Peterson 14 .237 .330 .378 .312 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .261 .335 .413 .325 0.7 0.8 4.2 3.1

You’re never gonna believe it; Wong combined elite defense and a sneaky-good bat on his way to another excellent season at the keystone. A balky oblique limited him to 116 games, but when he was on the field, he produced at a borderline All-Star clip, the fifth straight season he’s managed that trick. The formula is consistent: he’s been within 10 points of a 100 wRC+ in each of those years, and at least according to advanced defensive metrics, provided piles of value with his glove year after year.

At this point in Wong’s career, ascending to a higher level of production doesn’t look likely, but that’s fine: the Brewers are getting exactly what they want out of him, for now at least. There are warning signs on the horizon; 2021 represented his lowest walk rate since 2015 and highest strikeout rate of his career. He made up for it with a career high in home runs, and his lefty pull power is a good fit for Milwaukee, but a decline in dingers could push him more towards average than standout. That’s more of a 2023 problem, though; for now, all signs point to another season of unheralded but valuable production.

13. Cardinals
Tommy Edman 490 .271 .321 .408 .315 -0.1 2.5 2.9 2.3
Nolan Gorman 140 .253 .298 .433 .312 -0.3 0.0 0.8 0.6
Edmundo Sosa 49 .254 .310 .389 .303 -0.5 -0.1 0.3 0.1
José Rondón 14 .233 .287 .412 .300 -0.2 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Brendan Donovan 7 .250 .320 .374 .304 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .265 .315 .411 .313 -1.2 2.4 3.9 3.1

Far be it from me to doubt the exalted Depth Charts projection system, but this one shocked me. After a little thinking time to calm the Cardinals-fan part of my brain, though, I can kind of understand it. Edman projects as a league average hitter, which is precisely what he’s been in his career to date. I’m skeptical that he’ll reverse his downward OBP trend (.350 to .317 to .308 in the past three seasons), but if he can stick around in the vicinity of average at the plate, the rest of his game will churn out value at a high clip.

Good defense? He’s got that; OAA credited him with 13 outs saved in 2021. Baserunning? He added eight runs on the basepaths last year, and that hardly feels like a fluke; he’s one of the fastest runners in the league and also a canny base stealer. Production comes in all shapes and sizes, and the Cardinals have shown a knack for developing players who can consistently make the most of their skill set.

Gorman, who we see as Edman’s primary backup, is another Cardinals specialty: a guy who doesn’t quite have the defensive chops for where he’s deployed but who plays there anyway because of his bat. A natural third baseman, he’s blocked by Nolan Arenado, but he hit so well in the minors (.274/.320/.465 as a 21-year-old in Triple-A) that the team will likely use him all around the infield to get his plus power into the lineup.

14. Mets
Jeff McNeil 350 .281 .346 .430 .336 7.0 -0.5 -0.9 1.9
Robinson Canó 161 .259 .308 .407 .307 -0.7 -0.4 -0.7 0.4
Eduardo Escobar 140 .244 .304 .449 .320 0.9 -0.2 -0.0 0.6
Luis Guillorme 42 .254 .347 .349 .310 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Travis Blankenhorn 7 .231 .288 .405 .298 -0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .266 .328 .423 .324 7.1 -1.1 -1.7 3.0

Before the 2019 season, choosing a second baseman between McNeil and Canó was a problem the Mets were happy to have. In 2022? Not so much. McNeil had his worst season as a professional last year, and Canó didn’t even play; he was suspended after testing positive for PEDs a second time. At 39, he probably can’t stand up to the rigors of playing second every day, which means McNeil will get the lion’s share of the playing time, so the team will simply have to bank on him returning to form.

That’s certainly a possibility; we think he’ll be an above-average hitter and his usual middling self defensively. His biggest issue in 2021 was production on contact, which is a notable problem for a free-swinging, high-contact hitter. McNeil has never been a slugger, but he got a ton of value from pulling everything he hit in the air, and that pull power evaporated last year. If he can regain that old form, he might actually be better than he was before; he made meaningful gains in his approach that were lost in his poor batted ball results, limiting his chases while remaining aggressive in the zone. If he’s elevating and pulling the ball again this year, this ranking is too low. If not, the Mets will be scrambling for a solution, hoping Canó can hold up to a bigger workload, or plugging in Escobar and hoping the knock-on effects don’t ruin their defense elsewhere on the infield.

15. Royals
Nicky Lopez 434 .269 .335 .361 .307 -4.3 0.8 3.8 1.7
Whit Merrifield 238 .281 .327 .411 .318 -0.2 1.0 0.9 1.1
Adalberto Mondesi 21 .247 .287 .430 .305 -0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1
Ivan Castillo 7 .256 .295 .356 .282 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .272 .330 .380 .311 -5.0 2.0 4.8 2.8

Ah yes, just what I’d do with an electric defensive shortstop: slot him in at second base and force Merrifield into the outfield. An awkward positional logjam at short forced Lopez back to the keystone, where he’s over-qualified defensively. He might never hit for power in the big leagues — he has an admirable ability to make solid contact but the oomph just isn’t there — but he doesn’t need to if he can walk and avoid strikeouts at the excellent rates he’s managed thus far in his career. Add that to his defense and baserunning, and you have a valuable middle infielder, though one I’d prefer at short.

For the 77th consecutive year, Merrifield is an intriguing trade target who plays multiple positions for a Kansas City team that appears to be stuck in neutral. Fine, it hasn’t been quite that long, but it certainly feels like it – his listed position might change, but Merrifield keeps cranking out the singles and steals while putting in time at multiple spots. If Mondesi can’t stay healthy, Merrifield will pick up far more playing time here while Lopez shifts to shortstop, a defensive alignment that looks far better to me than what they’re rolling with now.

16. Athletics
Tony Kemp 441 .259 .354 .390 .328 6.3 -0.0 -2.0 2.1
Jed Lowrie 126 .242 .314 .390 .306 -0.4 -0.4 -0.6 0.3
Sheldon Neuse 70 .243 .294 .396 .298 -0.7 -0.0 0.0 0.2
Nick Allen 28 .232 .284 .343 .274 -0.8 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Chad Pinder 21 .246 .306 .424 .314 0.1 -0.0 -0.0 0.1
Vimael Machín 14 .230 .314 .343 .289 -0.2 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .252 .336 .389 .318 4.1 -0.5 -2.6 2.7

If Kemp has his way, he’ll walk into the All-Star game. Newfound patience brought his game to new heights last year, and an encore seems plausible; two straight years of walking more than he strikes out is no joke. It’s a good thing, too: at 5-foot-6, he’s not hitting for a ton of power, and he’s an average defender. He looks more at home in the outfield, and if Oakland had a different roster configuration, he might end up there, but second base welcomes all comers, and Kemp’s plate discipline is too good not to find him a spot somewhere on the field.

Lowrie, recently re-signed, looked rejuvenated last year. We’re penciling him in for a lot of time at DH, but when healthy, he’ll likely handle second against left-handed pitching. Neuse is next on the list, and he’s basically a utility infielder; he doesn’t excel defensively anywhere, and doesn’t get on base much, but he does hit for power. Allen is a glove-first shortstop prospect who might chip in occasionally. Pinder will mostly play the outfield, but is available for offense-first lineups or fancy substitutions.

17. Cubs
Nick Madrigal 476 .296 .344 .403 .325 0.8 -1.1 2.4 2.0
Nico Hoerner 112 .277 .342 .382 .316 -0.7 -0.1 0.7 0.4
Jonathan Villar 77 .249 .318 .395 .310 -0.8 0.2 -0.5 0.2
David Bote 21 .234 .316 .401 .311 -0.2 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Ian Happ 14 .240 .340 .459 .344 0.2 0.0 -0.0 0.1
Total 700 .285 .340 .400 .322 -0.7 -1.0 2.5 2.6

Forget Madrigal realism; I believe in the power of Madrigal thinking. Though he missed most of last season due to injury, he’s already showed that his contact-first, contact-second, defense-third, contact-fourth approach plays at the major league level. It’s not going to be all about barrels – in fact, it will almost exclusively be about non-barrels, given that he has exactly two in his short career, and one of the lowest hard-hit rates in the game. But strike out this rarely – 7.4% in his career so far – and walk just a little bit, and you’ll achieve an enviable OBP. Look at that .297 projected batting average! Sprinkle in a few doubles and some improved baserunning, and he could be a big part of the team’s future.

When Madrigal gets a rest, or if he misses time with injury, Hoerner is an excellent second option. He’s going to have a super-utility role this year as the Cubs figure out where he fits long-term, with infield, outfield, and Zobristian multi-positional beast all in play. Also in play? A bat that never quite reaches major league average, which would make the rest of the package rather less enticing. But this season is a fact-finding exercise for the team, and Hoerner is a nice fit for that.

18. Mariners
Adam Frazier 546 .267 .330 .381 .311 0.6 -0.5 0.6 2.1
Dylan Moore 98 .209 .297 .373 .294 -1.3 0.2 -0.0 0.3
Abraham Toro 49 .250 .328 .412 .322 0.5 -0.1 -0.0 0.2
Donovan Walton 7 .251 .323 .395 .312 0.0 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .258 .325 .382 .309 -0.2 -0.4 0.6 2.6

With Carson Cistulli gone, Frazier doesn’t have a rabid defender at FanGraphs anymore, so I’ll assume the mantle for one blurb only. If you’re looking for a second baseman who will get on base and play good defense, Frazier is your man. If you’re looking for power… well, maybe Toro can help you out with that, I guess? I’ll be shocked if Frazier reaches 10 homers, but I expect him to provide average value anyway by avoiding strikeouts, taking walks, and hitting enough line drives to make the whole package work.

When Frazier is sitting or DH’ing to rest his legs, Toro and Moore will alternate as backups. Toro will move all around the diamond to get at-bats, and might pick up extra work at second base if Frazier falters now that Eugenio Suárez has third base locked down. Moore is a defensive wizard, but not much more than that, as his sub-.300 OBP projection attests. He’ll be a wonderful late-game defensive replacement at second when he isn’t in the game as a defensive replacement in the outfield.

19. Phillies
Jean Segura 602 .281 .334 .417 .324 0.2 0.5 0.1 2.3
Johan Camargo 56 .256 .320 .438 .325 0.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.2
Ronald Torreyes 28 .248 .291 .362 .283 -0.9 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Nick Maton 14 .217 .295 .348 .283 -0.5 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .277 .330 .415 .322 -1.1 0.4 0.1 2.5

Segura is a great way for me to explain how deep second base is at the moment. He’s probably going to hit for an average offensive line while playing plus defense, the same thing he’s done in each of his years in Philadelphia. He’s been a roughly average shortstop over the course of his career, which makes him a plus defensive second baseman, and he racked up 9 OAA last year. We project him for 2.3 WAR per 600 PA, roughly half a win higher than an average player.

And yet – Philly comes in 19th in these rankings. The league is awash in solid second basemen at the moment. Teams are getting quite good at fitting all manner of players in at the position – see Max Muncy, second baseman – which broadens the talent pool. There’s less than one win of projected difference between the sixth-best second base situation and the 20th-best. We’ve got the Phillies listed down here, but I’d hardly be shocked if they ended the season in the top 10. The position is simply that deep and close.

20. Guardians
Andrés Giménez 294 .250 .304 .415 .310 -1.7 0.8 2.3 1.2
Richie Palacios 140 .265 .343 .405 .327 1.2 0.2 -0.6 0.6
Yu Chang 98 .237 .292 .420 .305 -0.9 -0.1 0.4 0.3
Owen Miller 84 .245 .297 .375 .293 -1.7 -0.1 0.2 0.2
Ernie Clement 56 .248 .296 .348 .282 -1.6 -0.1 0.3 0.1
Gabriel Arias 28 .259 .308 .410 .310 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .250 .309 .403 .308 -4.9 0.7 2.6 2.5

What, you were expecting Francisco Lindor? Giménez, the star of Cleveland’s return for Lindor, struggled mightily at the plate in 2021 but made up for it with phenomenal defense. He’s a natural shortstop, but fellow former Met Amed Rosario is the incumbent there, so second base is the easiest fit for the moment. I’m skeptical that Giménez will ever hit for the power we project – 15 homers in 500 plate appearances is a lot for someone his size – but if he can keep his contact rates high, his speed will give him a nice offensive floor.

Behind him, it’s a ton of guys who should probably be good but don’t have a major league track record. Chang has a .273 OBP in 348 major league PAs, Miller excelled at Triple-A before 200 putrid major league PAs last year, and Palacios hit across multiple levels of the minors without earning a big league call-up. Why are our projections so divided? Because if Giménez becomes the full-time shortstop, whichever of these young players has the first hot streak will likely run away with the second base job.

21. Giants
Tommy La Stella 392 .270 .335 .409 .323 2.1 -0.7 -3.2 1.3
Thairo Estrada 119 .261 .314 .420 .316 -0.1 -0.0 -0.6 0.4
Mauricio Dubón 98 .260 .310 .395 .304 -1.0 -0.1 0.2 0.3
Wilmer Flores 70 .271 .332 .450 .336 1.1 -0.2 -0.4 0.3
Luke Williams 21 .227 .292 .344 .279 -0.6 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .266 .326 .411 .319 1.5 -1.0 -4.0 2.2

La Stella missed half of last season due to injury, but when he played, he provided lefty production that helped shore up the Giants’ weakest infield position. He’ll do the same this year as the big half of a platoon, though he’s more than just that, and I expect him to draw assignments against lefties with tough curveballs, a pitch he’s fared well against in his career. La Stella probably won’t play a full season — he’s never reached 400 plate appearances in a single year — but there’s upside in his bat; he had rotten batted ball luck in 2021 and was still a useful player, and I expect him to walk more often.

All four of the names behind La Stella are natural platoon partners with different shortcomings. Dubón is the best defender of the three but likely the worst hitter. Estrada is a worse fielder than Dubón but a better hitter, even if he doesn’t replicate the power he showed last year. Flores is the best bat of the three, particularly against lefties, but I’m not sure he can handle the position defensively; he’s more of a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency offensive boost. Williams doesn’t have an obvious spot on the team, but he’s the kind of hitter the Giants excel at working with.

22. Marlins
Jazz Chisholm Jr. 441 .236 .300 .430 .313 -0.8 0.6 -2.4 1.4
Joey Wendle 182 .261 .315 .401 .308 -1.1 -0.1 0.5 0.6
Jon Berti 77 .239 .330 .351 .303 -0.8 0.2 -0.1 0.2
Total 700 .243 .307 .414 .311 -2.6 0.7 -2.0 2.2

Is Chisholm the future face of the franchise in Miami? Their young pitchers will likely have something to say about that, but he’s the most exciting position player on the team, and if they want to contend this year, they’ll need him to make the leap from intriguing youngster to thumping, dual-threat lineup anchor. That’s easier said than done, but the tools are absolutely there. He posted impressive raw power numbers, barreled up 8.6% of his batted balls, and stole 23 bases with blinding straight-line speed.

When Chisholm handles shortstop duties or gets a rest, Wendle will bring his singles-and-defense skill set to the party. He’s bottled competence — slot him in at second or third, and he’ll stabilize your defense while chipping in on the offensive end. This is the exact role the Marlins envisioned when they acquired him, and he also provides needed redundancy; Chisholm should be able to slide to shortstop in the event of injury, or Wendle could take over third and leave the other backups to pick up the slack here.

23. Tigers
Jonathan Schoop 476 .265 .309 .441 .321 1.5 -0.2 -2.4 1.7
Harold Castro 77 .269 .299 .358 .285 -2.0 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
Kody Clemens 63 .231 .287 .407 .298 -1.0 -0.0 0.0 0.1
Isaac Paredes 42 .256 .343 .419 .331 0.5 -0.1 0.0 0.2
Willi Castro 28 .252 .301 .400 .302 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Zack Short 14 .206 .309 .377 .301 -0.2 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .260 .308 .424 .314 -1.5 -0.4 -2.8 2.2

Twenty-third on the list, and we’re still projecting average WAR-per-PA totals; second base is deep. Schoop is a known quantity at this point in his career — he won’t run a gaudy OBP, but he’ll hit for enough power to accrue an average batting line while fitting in defensively at second. He played a lot of first base last year, which hurt his overall value, but will return to his natural position with Spencer Torkelson expected to handle most of the reps at first.

The rest of this list is guesswork, with Paredes my favorite of the group. That projected .343 OBP is no joke, and he’s a model darling despite lackluster production in a brief major league career. Clemens has intriguing power and Short might have a major league future if he can cut down on a recent swell in strikeouts, but if the Tigers had their druthers, Schoop would hold down the position just long enough for Paredes to ascend. That ignores both Castros, because I think they’re more warm bodies than part of the team’s long-term plans at second.

24. Rockies
Brendan Rodgers 518 .281 .327 .474 .342 0.0 -0.5 0.2 1.9
Garrett Hampson 91 .248 .305 .397 .303 -2.9 0.3 -0.4 0.0
Ryan McMahon 63 .255 .332 .461 .339 -0.1 -0.0 0.2 0.2
Alan Trejo 21 .243 .285 .408 .296 -0.8 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Tim Lopes 7 .256 .311 .403 .309 -0.2 -0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .273 .323 .460 .335 -4.0 -0.3 0.2 2.2

Rodgers, Hampson, and McMahon represent three consecutive incarnations of “top Rockies hitting prospect.” They’re projected to share second base duties this year while also locking down third and part of an outfield position, with Rodgers getting the majority of the reps at second. That’s likely his long-term home; it’s his best fit defensively and Colorado could use his bat in the lineup.

A free swinger with plus power, Rodgers could use a bit of lift to really maximize his fit in Coors. Even without that, though, he looks like an average hitter now, with upside for more as he further acclimates to the majors. That’s a bat the team has no trouble finding space for — in fact, he has the third-highest WAR projection among all Rockies hitters, behind only McMahon and Kris Bryant.

McMahon will spend most of his time at third base, but he’s a similar story: average offense that could use more fly balls for Coors to turn into doubles and homers. Hampson is the only one of the trio without a regular home; we think he’ll back up second, short, and left, but three straight years of wRC+’s below 70 have sapped his expected playing time significantly. That means more reps at second base than McMahon, but much less playing time overall.

25. Blue Jays
Cavan Biggio 364 .226 .338 .401 .323 0.4 -0.0 -0.3 1.4
Santiago Espinal 294 .258 .316 .367 .299 -5.5 -0.2 1.1 0.6
Otto Lopez 42 .256 .308 .370 .295 -0.9 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .242 .327 .384 .311 -6.0 -0.3 0.8 2.1

Acquiring Matt Chapman to play third base simplifies things for the Jays: they can play a lefty utilityman against right-handed pitching, a righty utilityman against left-handed pitching, and use both to chip in across the diamond on off days. That sounds like a waste of Biggio’s bat, but those aforementioned at-bats will add up. Espinal grades out as the better defender, which suggests we’ll frequently see him at second while Biggio tags in elsewhere to give someone a rest day.

If Biggio takes a step forward this year, this might be less of a platoon and more of a 75/25 split, but that’s somewhat harsh to Espinal. Before the Chapman trade, he looked like Toronto’s everyday third baseman, and while our projections are skeptical that he can repeat his solid 2021 offensively, the defensive bona fides are there. If he surprises just slightly to the upside, he’s an average hitter with plus defense. That’s a nice player to have in a complementary role, and one of the benefits of adding a star elsewhere on the diamond.

26. Angels
Matt Duffy 210 .270 .341 .370 .314 -0.4 -0.2 -1.4 0.6
David Fletcher 196 .275 .321 .367 .300 -2.7 0.2 -0.1 0.5
Tyler Wade 133 .227 .302 .334 .281 -3.9 0.5 -0.2 0.1
Michael Stefanic 84 .265 .328 .384 .312 -0.4 -0.1 0.2 0.3
Luis Rengifo 42 .244 .310 .390 .304 -0.4 -0.0 0.1 0.1
Jack Mayfield 35 .231 .282 .405 .294 -0.7 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .259 .322 .367 .302 -8.6 0.4 -1.5 1.7

Or, in layman’s terms, a shrug emoji. Three different players with at least 100 PA in their projections might work if you’re the Dodgers, running out 75 stars at 10 positions and rotating them to keep everybody fresh. It’s less exciting when you’re rotating three guys projected for an aggregate 1.2 WAR in 539 PA. Of the three, I like Fletcher the most, and the Angels do too, which is why he’s going to be their starting shortstop. You can’t start at both positions, so someone else has to pick up the slack at second, which feels like a natural fit for Fletcher’s premium defense and hey-wow-better-than-I-thought-but-no-home-runs offensive line.

That leaves Duffy as the obvious fit at second, and he’s your standard average regular: he doesn’t hit for much power and doesn’t walk a ton, but he makes up for it by rarely striking out. He’s a natural third baseman, and a solid defender there, but I don’t see any reason it can’t translate to second, and the Angels could really use one extra competent hitter in their lineup, so they’ll have to hope he can make the defense work.

After that, Wade is a fast and fun player who probably makes more sense as an outfielder, where he can show off his premium speed. The Angels have a bunch of outfielders, though, so he’ll also get some time here. Stefanic has the best per-PA projection of the bunch; he was excellent in Triple-A last year and will likely get a chance this year, and perhaps an extended chance if the team deals with injuries. Rengifo is available too, if things go really wrong somewhere and their depth is tested.

27. White Sox
Josh Harrison 350 .259 .317 .377 .304 -3.3 -0.5 -0.6 0.9
Leury García 252 .259 .311 .371 .298 -3.7 0.2 -0.9 0.5
Danny Mendick 63 .233 .306 .360 .293 -1.1 -0.1 0.2 0.1
Romy Gonzalez 28 .231 .289 .406 .299 -0.4 0.0 -0.0 0.1
Yolbert Sanchez 7 .269 .304 .377 .295 -0.1 -0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .312 .374 .300 -8.6 -0.3 -1.3 1.6

Harrison and García should provide the White Sox with at least a stabilizing presence at second, but it’s a weak point for the team. After trading Nick Madrigal last year, they don’t have an obvious replacement waiting in the wings, and didn’t have the budget or desire to add a top-end replacement in free agency. Scraping together near-average performance from an assortment of veterans and utility players will probably be enough given how good the rest of the lineup is, but this will definitely be one of the weak points on an excellent Chicago club.

The position stands out enough, in fact, that they may look to improve it via trade during the year. Whether that works out remains to be seen, but in the meantime, I’m glad they at least brought in two veterans who will make the position a minor weak point rather than a gaping hole in the lineup.

28. Nationals
César Hernández 448 .254 .328 .392 .314 -3.7 -0.2 -0.6 1.2
Luis García 161 .269 .309 .441 .320 -0.5 -0.3 -1.3 0.4
Ehire Adrianza 49 .245 .316 .381 .304 -0.8 -0.1 -0.4 0.1
Dee Strange-Gordon 28 .257 .287 .347 .276 -1.1 0.0 -0.2 -0.0
Alcides Escobar 7 .245 .293 .352 .282 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 -0.0
Lucius Fox 7 .216 .299 .331 .280 -0.3 0.0 -0.0 0.0
Total 700 .257 .321 .400 .312 -6.7 -0.5 -2.5 1.6

Hernández is the latest in a proud tradition of competent infield veterans who the Nationals seem adept at picking year in and year out. At 31, he’s on the downside of his career, but he’s coming off a strong run of 15 WAR in the last six seasons, even with 2020 in the picture. He’s one of the modern second base archetypes: decent approach at the plate, solid contact skills, below-average power, and enough defense to look good at second or bad at shortstop.

That’s just a stopgap. García is the long-term solution here. He has underwhelmed in two cracks at the majors, but has a chance to be an offensive force; he swings early and often and makes loud contact when he connects. His approach might cap his offensive ceiling, but if he improves at pitch selection, the offensive upside is huge, and the Nats are enthused enough by his defense that they’re trying him out part-time at shortstop this year as well, which explains his light plate appearance projection here.

29. Pirates
Kevin Newman 245 .265 .310 .372 .296 -5.0 -0.0 -0.4 0.4
Cole Tucker 189 .228 .307 .361 .293 -4.3 0.0 0.4 0.3
Diego Castillo 119 .248 .309 .385 .302 -1.7 -0.1 -0.3 0.2
Hoy Park 77 .239 .340 .379 .316 -0.3 -0.0 -0.2 0.2
Michael Chavis 49 .242 .295 .437 .313 -0.3 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Tucupita Marcano 21 .241 .313 .338 .289 -0.5 -0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .247 .311 .376 .299 -12.1 -0.2 -0.6 1.3

Here’s Pittsburgh’s depth chart, or as I like to call it, “the sampler platter.” The Pirates aren’t trying to maximize their wins at the major league level this year, and they’re likely to give everyone with a pulse a chance at second base to see who works best. My money is on Park, a singles-and-walks prospect who suddenly showed power in 2021. He’s hardly a lock to succeed, but players with his blend of skills often amount to more than the sum of their parts, and Pittsburgh has the luxury of a long runway to let him try to take off.

If Park isn’t the answer, Marcano might be. He’s Park minus the power breakout in 2021, but I like his combination of bat control and defense and think he could be a major league regular down the line. Castillo is another interesting option; like Park, he was acquired from the Yankees at the trade deadline last year and added power to an offensive game previously defined by slap-hitting. Tucker and Newman have kicked around the majors putting up uninspiring batting lines over the past several years, and they perpetually seem to be locked in a battle for playing time at the same spots, but the answer might end up being “neither” unless one of them breaks out offensively soon.

30. Orioles
Rougned Odor 336 .213 .287 .424 .304 -4.2 -0.5 -1.1 0.7
Shed Long Jr. 119 .229 .295 .388 .296 -2.2 0.0 -0.6 0.2
Jorge Mateo 84 .236 .277 .387 .285 -2.4 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Ramón Urías 63 .248 .322 .400 .315 -0.2 -0.1 -0.3 0.2
Chris Owings 56 .216 .281 .365 .280 -1.8 -0.0 0.2 0.0
Jahmai Jones 42 .226 .293 .372 .290 -1.0 -0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .223 .290 .403 .299 -11.8 -0.6 -2.2 1.2

Odor looked like he might bounce out of the league years ago, but he’s rebounded to a state of generic journeyman infielder, and the Orioles needed one of those with Urías handling starting shortstop duties this year. I don’t expect Odor to make anyone in Baltimore forget Brian Roberts, but he’ll pop a few home runs and keep the spot warm for a year while the Orioles work out their plans.

Those plans might quickly evolve to include Long, who was a minor league free agent signee after a disappointing run in Seattle. He hasn’t played much in the past three years, which means there’s plenty of downside, but for a team looking to strike gold by giving reclamation projects at the major league level a chance, he’s an ideal fit. If he pans out, the Orioles might have a younger Rougned Odor on their hands to complement the regular one they already have. The rest of the plate appearances will be split by a variety of utility players the team is testing out in hopes of finding one who sticks.

Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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Left of Centerfield
2 years ago

Not sure I’ve ever seen a team so up in the air about who’s going to play for them as the 2022 Guardians. Particularly for a team with plans/delusions to contend. There are literally multiple players who could end up being their primary 1B, 2B, SS, LF, and RF. That’s 5 of the 8 defensive positions that are completely unsettled.

2 years ago

Let me guess: Bradley (1B), Naylor (RF, 1B), Kwan (RF, LF), Nolan Jones (LF, RF), Palacios (LF, 2B), Rosario (SS, LF), Andres Gimenez (SS, 2B), Arias (SS, 2B), Bradley Zimmer (any outfield spot), Mercado (any outfield spot), Owen Miller (literally anywhere), Yu Chang (literally anywhere), Ernie Clement (2B, for some reason?).

They can’t possibly need all of these guys on their 40 man roster, do they? I think if I were a Guardians fan, I’d want Naylor at 1B, Kwan and Palacios playing as much as possible, and a big shrugging emoji for SS and the last spot in RF/2B that Kwan and Palacios haven’t covered.

Left of Centerfield
2 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Pretty much. You could throw Jones into the 1B mix. And Clement has also played left and short. And while he’s never played 2B, Rosario would probably be a better fit there than at SS.

There’s definitely a lot of dead weight on the 40 man roster: Zimmer, Mercado, Clement, Hentges, Allen, and probably several others. But if they cut ties with any of those guys they have to add someone else. Not sure who that would be.

2 years ago

Greg Allen–isn’t he on the Pirates now? Or is this a different Allen who really shouldn’t be on a 40-man roster? I sort of get why Zimmer is still on a roster somewhere, since he can play CF. Mercado too, although he’s pretty redundant with Straw since they’re both right-handed. Clement is the one I really can’t figure out.

Left of Centerfield
2 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Oh, I added pitchers into the mix so that would be Logan Allen. The original one, not the new improved version.

Clement isn’t that hard to figure out. Francona LOVES him because he looks like a ballplayer, he hustles, etc. He’s basically Eric Hosmer at a different position and with less talent. But some managers have a thing for that type of player…

2 years ago

Clement isn’t even a poor man’s version of Willie Bloomquist, so he must be oozing the Hosmerian intangibles 😉