Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

For an explanation of this series, go ahead and read the introduction. All the posts in the series can be found here.

We’re going to continue our positional power rankings series by focusing on the keystone. While playing time for some teams were relatively easy to figure, there were more than a few teams that have serious question marks at second. As Eric Seidman explained yesterday, the goal here is to determine how much value the position will produce. So while you will see Michael Young make an appearance on this list, his WAR only reflects his value at second base. Enough talking, let’s do this.

30. Los Angeles Dodgers

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Mark Ellis R 0.253 0.303 0.350 5.0 500 1.5
Reserve Adam Kennedy L 0.258 0.307 0.362 0.0 50 0
Reserve Jerry Hairston Jr. R 0.259 0.319 0.373 1.0 50 0
Prospect Justin Sellers R 0.232 0.308 0.349 1.0 50 0

Mark Ellis is still capable of providing stellar defense, but he cannot be relied on to stay healthy. When he eventually succumbs to an injury, the Dodgers don’t great backups. Adam Kennedy and Jerry Hairston Jr. should pick up at-bats when Ellis is on the shelf, but the team also has Justin Sellers waiting in the wings. At 25, Sellers isn’t particularly young, but there’s a good chance he would be as good as — if not better than — the Dodgers current reserve options.

29. Minnesota Twins

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Alexi Casilla S 0.261 0.324 0.361 2.0 450 1.5
Reserve Luke Hughes R 0.229 0.288 0.363 1.0 100 0
Super Utility Tsuyoshi Nishioka S 0.271 0.327 0.376 -4.0 100 0

There’s just not that much to like about the Twins current situation at second base. Alexi Casilla isn’t going to wow anyone with his bat, but at least his defense is regarded as above-average. ZIPS projects a .288 OBP from Luke Hughes this season, meaning he’ll have to really shine defensively to be a useful option. Tsuyoshi Nishioka is a bit of a forgotten man. He had an abysmal rookie season, but came over with a solid track record. If given enough playing time, there’s a chance he’ll improve quite a bit. As of right now, he looks like he’ll be fighting for playing time.

28. Baltimore Orioles

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Robert Andino R 0.249 0.301 0.358 3.0 500 1.5
Reserve Brian Roberts S 0.265 0.332 0.411 -1.0 150 0.5
Prospect Ryan Adams R 0.260 0.307 0.381 -1.0 50 0

If healthy, Brian Roberts is an easy bet to start. Unfortunately, at this point in his career, he cannot be counted on to receive significant playing time. As a result, Robert Andino steps into the starting role. Andino wasn’t great last season, but played solid defense, and nearly produced a two-win season. Ryan Adams isn’t a strong prospect, but he performed adequately in limited duty last season. If Roberts isn’t going to play much this season, the Orioles might want to see what Adams can do with more playing time.

27. San Francisco Giants

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Freddy Sanchez R 0.273 0.313 0.373 2.0 400 1.0
Reserve Mike Fontenot L 0.245 0.308 0.367 0.0 200 0.5
Super Utility Ryan Theriot R 0.272 0.323 0.337 -2.0 100 0.5

When healthy, Freddy Sanchez will make enough contact to be a useful second baseman. He’s also been a pretty good defender over his career. Problem is, the last time he received 500 plate appearances in a season was way back in 2008. The Giants are relying on Mike Fontenot as Sanchez’s main backup, which isn’t the greatest strategy. Fontenot may be the epitome of scrappy, but that doesn’t make him a good baseball player. Ryan Theriot could steal some at-bats at second as well. While he won’t hit for power, there’s a good chance he’ll be slightly better than Fontenot.

26. Kansas City Royals

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Johnny Giavotella R 0.271 0.320 0.384 -3.0 550 1.5
Reserve Chris Getz L 0.266 0.323 0.320 1.0 100 0.5
Super Utility Yuniesky Betancourt R 0.262 0.283 0.385 -8.0 50 0

The Royals have a ton of young, major-league ready talent, but not at second base. Giavotella seized the job late last season, and has the inside track at starting in 2012, but that’s mainly because he’s not Chris Getz. It’s unclear if Giavotella is even better than Getz, but he hit for high averages and made a ton of contact throughout his minor league career. Getz is probably capable of producing a similar average and on-base percentage as Giavotella, but he won’t give the Royals any power. If you’re going to employ Yuniesky Betancourt, it should be in a situation like this, where people will really have to struggle in order for him to receive playing time.

25. San Diego Padres

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Orlando Hudson S 0.249 0.329 0.364 0.0 500 1.5
Reserve Andy Parrino S 0.207 0.298 0.322 1.5 150 0.5

Orlando Hudson is running on fumes at this point. Even his defense is starting to slip. While his park definitely hurts his offensive production, there’s just not much to like here anymore. Andy Parrino is nothing special with the bat, but gets exceptional marks for his defense.

24. Miami Marlins

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Omar Infante R 0.282 0.324 0.383 3.0 650 2.0
Reserve Donnie Murphy R 0.226 0.287 0.428 1.0 50 0

Omar Infante isn’t special, but he won’t kill you in any one area. He also rates as a pretty solid fielder at second base. Even if his offense takes a hit, you can rely on Infante to produce decent fielding statistics. That’s more than you can say about some of the team behind the Marlins on this list. Donnie Murphy showed some power in the minors, but that’s yet to transfer over to his brief stint in the majors.

23. Oakland Athletics

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter vs RHP Jemile Weeks S 0.267 0.318 0.374 -2.0 600 2.0
Reserve vs RHP Eric Sogard L 0.254 0.321 0.347 1.0 50 0
Reserve vs LHP Adam Rosales R 0.234 0.288 0.347 1.0 50 0

Jemile Weeks has strong future potential, but ZIPS sees a bit of a slump this season. Though Weeks is fast, and should be expected to post high BABIPs, his .350 rate last season is likely to drop. Weeks displayed strong patience in the minors, but only walked 4.8% of the time once he reached Oakland. If he regains his patience, he might be able to offset the batting average decline. Of all the players on this list, Weeks might be the most likely to outperform his WAR total.

22. Arizona Diamondbacks

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Aaron Hill R 0.265 0.318 0.424 2.0 550 1.5
Reserve Willie Bloomquist R 0.258 0.305 0.348 -3.0 100 0
Defensive Rep John McDonald R 0.251 0.283 0.374 2.0 50 0.5

It’s been a strange past couple of seasons for Aaron Hill. After a breakout in 2009, Hill has slumped badly. While he was able to resurrect his value once he was dealt to Arizona, that was an incredibly small sample. If Hill misses time, Willie Bloomquist should fill in behind him. Bloomquist isn’t special, but he won’t kill you if he’s in a reserve role. John McDonald was signed as a defensive replacement, but should never be given a bat.

21. Detroit Tigers

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Ryan Raburn R 0.255 0.308 0.429 -3.0 500 1.5
Reserve Ramon Santiago S 0.258 0.321 0.364 3.0 200 1.0

For all the improvements Detroit made this off-season, second base still appears to be somewhat of a weak spot. Raburn is going to need to keep his strikeout rate in check if he hopes to have a successful season. Ramon Santiago won’t hit for much power, but plays strong defense and could be a nice reserve infielder.

20. Chicago White Sox

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Gordon Beckham R 0.254 0.318 0.388 2.0 550 2.0
Reserve Eduardo Escobar S 0.256 0.290 0.344 0.0 50 0
Super Utility Brent Lillibridge R 0.230 0.299 0.378 -1.0 50 0.5

This should be a make-or-break season for Gordon Beckham. After a strong debut, Beckham has been terrible over the past two seasons. At least he turned into a solid fielder last season. It’s unclear who will be Beckham’s primary backup this season. Eduardo Escobar appears to be a likely candidate, but he has very little track record in the majors. Brent Lillibridge could see some time at second base as well. After years of toiling in the majors, Lillibridge experienced a bit of a breakout last year. Unfortunately, he’s unlikely to repeat that performance.

19. Cleveland Indians

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Jason Kipnis L 0.258 0.320 0.420 -6.0 650 2.5
Reserve Jason Donald R 0.248 0.314 0.350 -1.0 50 0

Jason Kipnis got off to a strong start last season, which could make him somewhat overrated heading into this year. While he probably won’t slug .500 this season, he’s definitely got strong potential down the road. Unfortunately, he doesn’t provide much value with the glove. He’ll still hit enough to be a useful second baseman, but his overall line might be slightly lower than last season’s. Jason Donald isn’t anything special, so expect Kipnis to get a ton of at-bats.

18. Atlanta Braves

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Dan Uggla R 0.248 0.330 0.451 -9.0 650 2.5
Reserve Josh Wilson R 0.241 0.288 0.351 0.0 50 0

Dan Uggla is a statue at second base, and will never hit for high averages, but his power gives him a ton of value. While five straight seasons with at least 30 home runs is quite an accomplishment, his terrible fielding numbers will limit his WAR. Josh Wilson has been starting games at second base this spring, and might be Uggla’s primary backup. Uggla should play a ton, however, so Wilson shouldn’t receive significant playing time.

17. New York Mets

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Daniel Murphy L 0.286 0.334 0.432 0.0 600 2.5
Reserve Justin Turner R 0.265 0.327 0.372 -2.0 100 0

Daniel Murphy won’t provide much power or speed, but ZIPS expects him to be a pretty solid hitter. Since he’s also regarded as a strong fielder, his value is higher than some of the more proven players on this list. Turner is nothing special as a hitter and rates pretty poorly as a fielder. Hopefully, Murphy stays healthy.

16. Toronto Blue Jays

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Kelly Johnson L 0.242 0.323 0.434 2.0 600 2.5
Reserve Luis Valbuena L 0.251 0.313 0.377 -1.0 50 0
Super Utility Omar Vizquel S N/A N/A N/A N/A 50 0
Prospect Adeiny Hechavarria R 0.241 0.269 0.345 1.0 50 0

Over his career, Kelly Johnson has alternated between pretty good, and really average. He’s patient and he hits for a decent amount of power for his position, but he’s also regarded as an above-average fielder. Luis Valbuena was picked up during the off-season and is out of options, so he may force his way onto the team. Omar Vizquel and Adeiny Hechavarria probably won’t see a ton of playing time at second unless things have gone horribly wrong for the Blue Jays.

15. St. Louis Cardinals

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Tyler Greene R 0.233 0.309 0.364 0.0 300 1.0
Reserve Daniel Descalso L 0.263 0.328 0.378 -1.5 200 1.0
Reserve Skip Schumaker L 0.272 0.328 0.352 -6.0 100 0.5
Super Utility Allen Craig R 0.276 0.329 0.454 0.0 100 0.5

The Cardinals’ current situation at second base is a bit of a mess. Tyler Greene is the worst projected hitter of the bunch, but it looks like he has the first shot at the second base job. Daniel Descalso and Skip Schumaker are decent reserves, but would likely be stretched in full-time roles. At the same time, both Descalso and Schumaker might be more valuable than Greene. The wild card here is Craig. He hit well last season before injuries took hold, and should miss some time at the start of this season as well. There’s a playable combination here, I’m just not sure what it is.

14. Chicago Cubs

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Darwin Barney R 0.273 0.311 0.352 5.0 600 2.0
Reserve Adrian Cardenas L 0.272 0.323 0.360 -1.0 50 0.5
Reserve Jeff Baker R 0.250 0.299 0.375 1.0 50 0.5

Darwin Barney isn’t a strong hitter, though he will likely post a solid average. Most of his value comes from great defense at second base. The Cubs picked up Adrian Cardenas this off-season, and while he might be a better hitter than Barney, he’s not strong defensively. Jeff Baker is nothing more than a league-average reserve.

13. Houston Astros

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Jose Altuve R 0.292 0.326 0.403 1.0 650 2.5
Reserve Matt Downs R 0.255 0.315 0.413 -1.0 50 0.5

Despite his small stature, Jose Altuve whacks the hell out of the ball. He won’t walk much, so he’ll have to make solid contact in order to be a valuable commodity. ZIPS seems cautiously optimistic about his chances to build on his rookie year. Matt Downs probably isn’t special, but he showed some promise in a limited role last season. He can hold his own as a reserve.

12. Colorado Rockies

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Marco Scutaro R 0.289 0.350 0.415 1.0 600 3.0
Reserve Chris Nelson R 0.261 0.303 0.408 -1.0 100 0

Trading for Marco Scutaro was a pretty nice move for the Rockies. Scutaro isn’t often mentioned as a strong player, but he’s been quietly effective over the past four seasons. Staying healthy will be the key for Scutaro since Chris Nelson is relatively unproven at the major league level. He’s hit well in the minors, but his walk rates haven’t been strong in the big leagues.

11. Washington Nationals

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Danny Espinosa S 0.229 0.309 0.400 4.0 650 3.0
Reserve Mark DeRosa R 0.244 0.300 0.277 0.0  30
Prospect Steve Lombardozzi S 0.265 0.316 0.379 0.0  20

A lot of Danny Espinosa’s value is tied up in his exceptional defense at second base. If he can improve on his rookie line, he might be able to outperform his projected WAR. DeRosa should receive playing time at a bunch of positions, and Lombardozzi may not be up unless there’s an injury. Espinosa played in 158 games last season, so that seems unlikely.

10. Pittsburgh Pirates

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Neil Walker S 0.268 0.325 0.432 -4.0 650 3.0
Reserve Josh Harrison R 0.271 0.308 0.377 1.0 50  0

Walker’s not the perfect option at second base, but he hits well enough to make it work. His defense is a work in progress, but he makes up for that with above-average power for his position. Walker should get the majority of playing time, so Harrison is somewhat of a non-factor here.

9. Seattle Mariners

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Dustin Ackley L 0.261 0.348 0.410 3.0 650 3.0
Reserve Munenori Kawasaki L N/A N/A N/A N/A 50 0

It’s probably a bit of a risk to expect this much out of Dustin Ackley at such a young age, but he was a top prospect for a reason. Over a full season of playing time, Ackley should hit better than the average second baseman, and has much more power potential as well. He received solid marks for his fielding last season, and that’s definitely a big factor in this ranking. Kawasaki is a bit of an unknown, but it’s not likely to matter as Ackley will receive the bulk of the playing time.

8. Los Angeles Angels

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Howie Kendrick R 0.275 0.320 0.431 6.0 575 3.0
Reserve Maicer Izturis S 0.268 0.327 0.377 3.0 70 0.5
Utility Alexi Amarista L 0.254 0.288 0.341 -0.5 50 0

After years of waiting, Kendrick finally broke out last season. While his slash line was pretty impressive, it was Kendrick’s excellent defense that put the Angels in the eighth spot on this list. Maicer Izturis slides into a backup role, and he should be successful there. Amarista probably won’t get a lot of playing time at second unless Kendrick goes down with an injury and Maicer is ineffective.

7. Milwaukee Brewers

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Rickie Weeks R 0.260 0.350 0.460 2.0 500 3.0
Reserve Brooks Conrad S 0.224 0.297 0.392 0.0  100 0.5
Super Utility Cesar Izturis S 0.248 0.291 0.306 1.5 50  0
Prospect Eric Farris R 0.257 0.291 0.342 0.0  50  0

If Rickie Weeks could stay healthy, the Brewers would rate higher on this list. In his one healthy season, Weeks was as good as any second baseman in the game. Once regarded as a terrible fielder, Weeks has improved his defense and can be considered passable at this point. Brooks Conrad should be the main backup for Weeks. He’s patient and has displayed power, but his defense might not play at second. If Weeks gets injured and Conrad is ineffective, perhaps Eric Farris will get a chance to show what he can do in the bigs.

6. Cincinnati Reds

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Brandon Phillips R 0.279 0.331 0.436 9.0 650 5.0
Reserve Wilson Valdez R 0.253 0.298 0.332 0.0 50  0

Brandon Phillips has definitely established himself as one of the elite second basemen in baseball. While he doesn’t walk as much as you might like, he makes up for that with power and incredible defense. Wilson Valdez is an ordinary backup second baseman. He won’t kill you in a limited role.

5. Philadelphia Phillies

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Chase Utley L 0.265 0.362 0.448 8.0 550 5.0
Reserve Michael Martinez S 0.231 0.277 0.339 0.0 100  0

Chase Utley is just way too good when healthy. And even though his slash line was slightly down last season, he still managed to provide solid defense. While he’s no longer a sure thing, he should put up great numbers when he plays. Utley’s knee condition will only get worse, and how he chooses to manage it will have a great impact on his value this season.

4. New York Yankees

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Robinson Cano L 0.299 0.347 0.506 -2.0 650 5.5
Reserve Eduardo Nunez R 0.273 0.312 0.379 -7.0 50  0

The only thing that separates Cano from the players ahead of him on this list is defense. While Cano is an exceptional hitter, he still struggles defensively. He doesn’t walk much either, but makes up for that with his strong contact rate and high averages. His power potential at second base is unmatched right now. He can mash.

3. Tampa Bay Rays

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Ben Zobrist S 0.261 0.355 0.444 10.0 600 6.0
Reserve Jeff Keppinger R 0.270 0.313 0.366 -2.0 100 0.5

Zobrist may not hit for as much power as Cano, but he still has the ability to hit for 20 home runs. He’s also a patient hitter, and plays phenomenal defense. He may never reach the highs of his 2009, but Zobrist proved last season that he’s far from a fluke. Bringing in Keppinger this off-season was a solid move. He’s not a great defender, but he absolutely destroys lefties. He’ll be a valuable reserve when he plays.

2. Texas Rangers

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Ian Kinsler R 0.274 0.360 0.474 8.0 600 6.5
Reserve Alberto Gonzalez R 0.254 0.288 0.337 1.0 50  0
Super Utility Michael Young R 0.291 0.336 0.431 -1.0 50 0.5

With all the strong offensive players on the Rangers, it’s a shame that Ian Kinsler still somehow falls under the radar. Finally healthy for an entire season, Kinsler put up eye-popping numbers. He may not hit for high averages, but walks enough to offset that deficiency. He also plays great defense. Alberto Gonzalez could play the utility infielder role and spell Kinsler when he needs a day off, but Ron Washington could choose to get creative with Michael Young if that situation comes to pass. Young’s not a great defender, but his bat will play at second.

1. Boston Red Sox

Role Player Bats ZIPS BA ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG Fielding PA WAR
Starter Dustin Pedroia R 0.294 0.368 0.461 11.0 650 7.0
Reserve Nick Punto S 0.250 0.332 0.335 1.0 50 0.5

There’s probably not much difference between Pedroia and the last four guys on this list. Pedroia just does everything really well. Depending on how you feel about UZR, you might not agree with this ranking. Pedroia’s UZR jumped to 17.9 last season, which was much higher than his average in the category. Still, Pedroia is as consistent as they come in the batters box. He consistently hits for high averages and above-average power, and is capable of stealing at least 20 bases per season. He’s a true five-tool player.

Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

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10 years ago

Minor correction, Chris: I think you mean “Eduardo Nunez,” not “Eduardo Perez,” is the backup second baseman for the Yankees.

Nice list, though. I agree with most of it.