The 2022 Replacement-Level Killers: Second Base and Shortstop

Taylor Walls
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

While still focusing upon teams that meet the loose definition of contenders (a .500 record or Playoff Odds of at least 10%), and that have gotten about 0.6 WAR or less thus far — which prorates to 1.0 WAR over a full season — this year I have incorporated our Depth Charts’ rest-of-season WAR projections into the equation for an additional perspective. Sometimes that may suggest that the team will clear the bar by a significant margin, but even so, I’ve included them here because the team’s performance at that spot is worth a look.

As noted previously, some of these situations are more dire than others, particularly when taken in the context of the rest of their roster. I don’t expect every team to go out and track down an upgrade before the August 2 deadline, and I’m less concerned with the solutions – many of which have more moving parts involved than a single trade — than the problems.

2022 Replacement-Level Killers: Second Base
Team AVG OBP SLG wRC+ Bat BsR Fld WAR ROS WAR Tot WAR
Rays .195 .267 .330 75 -11.0 0.3 -1.5 0.1 1.8 1.9
White Sox .220 .265 .329 68 -13.8 0.2 2.4 0.2 0.6 0.8
Mariners .215 .282 .308 73 -12.6 0.0 4.6 0.6 1.0 1.6
Statistics through July 25. ROS = Rest-of-season WAR, via our Depth Charts.

Rays

After hitting for a 137 wRC+ with 39 homers en route to a 5.0 WAR season in 2021, Brandon Lowe helped the Rays top this year’s preseason Positional Power Rankings. But he hit just .177/.250/.316 (66 wRC+) with three homers in April and was sidelined by a stress reaction in his lower back in mid-May, missing two months. The Rays used five other players at the spot in his absence, with Vidal Bruján (.189/.229/.233), Isaac Paredes (.164/.282/.377), and Taylor Walls (.125/.204/.188) all varying degrees of dreadful in making 14–24 starts at second.

Thankfully, Lowe was activated off the injured list just before the All-Star break and has hit .435/.458/.652 in 24 PA since returning, lifting his line to .248/.318/.454 (123 wRC+). Between him and Paredes, who has homered 13 times in 191 PA and hit .216/.293/.485 (123 wRC+) overall while playing third, second, and first base, the Rays probably have enough coverage at the position. The more pressing infield need is actually at shortstop, where Walls (.173/.254/.282, 59 wRC+ overall) is playing regularly while Wander Franco recovers from July 12 surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone; he’s probably out for another three to six weeks.

Thus, a shortstop who could also help at second would be a good trade target. The Rockies’ José Iglesias is a pending free agent, and the Marlins’ Miguel Rojas is signed through next year, albeit at just $5 million. Paul DeJong, who fell out of favor with the Cardinals and was sent to Triple-A Louisville, where he recently won International League Player of the Week honors, could be a buy-low candidate if St. Louis is willing to eat some of of his remaining salary (about $13 million including a buyout of his 2024 option). A bigger deal that also helps to cover for the season-ending injuries of catcher Mike Zunino (thoracic outlet syndrome) and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (torn hip labrum) could shake additional options loose.

White Sox

The Josh Harrison/Leury García tandem at second base didn’t appear likely to work, given that the team ranked 27th in our preseason Positional Power Rankings, but it didn’t project to be this bad. Harrison has started 47 times at the position and hit a respectable .238/.311/.372 (97 wRC+) with strong defensive metrics across the board, but García, who has started 42 times, has hit just .212/.222/.301 (43 wRC+) with two walks in 163 PA in that capacity, which even his average-ish defense can’t cover up. Garcia hit for a 98 wRC+ with 1.8 WAR in 474 PA last year, but he’s down to 40 overall in 249 PA this year and a level 80 wRC+ against pitchers of each hand since 2020, which for a multipositional switch-hitter doesn’t exactly suggest much utility.

Playing Harrison more regularly, which has essentially been the case since mid-June, represents some improvement. Given the loss of utilityman Danny Mendick, who hit .289/.343/.443 in 106 PA before tearing his ACL [which I missed before this was first published], the White Sox would probably benefit more from some outside help. The Marlins’ Jon Berti (.271/.365/.375, 118 wRC+) and the Reds’ Brandon Drury (.274/.333/.523, 132 wRC+) and Donovan Solano (.329/.383/.471, 136 wRC+ since debuting on June 22 after a hamstring injury) are all versatile and in the midst of career years for teams going nowhere; any of them could be useful additions.

Mariners

The Mariners traded for Adam Frazier in November, but he simply hasn’t played well, hitting .238/.298/.309 (78 wRC+) overall in 71 appearances at second, 15 in right, and 12 in left (though just 11 combined starts at the outfield corners). Abraham Toro hasn’t been helpful either, hitting .176/.239/.324 (61 wRC+) in 39 games at second, 17 at third base, and 21 appearances as the DH. A potential outfield surplus could hold the answer, though the word “surplus” admittedly sounds farfetched given that manager Scott Servais started Frazier, Dylan Moore, and Sam Haggerty — all primarily second basemen, though the last two have seen far more outfield duty than the keystone this year — in the outfield on Monday night. Jesse Winker was out with a right ankle sprain after colliding with the Astros’ Jeremy Peña on Sunday, and Julio Rodríguez sat for his fourth straight game due to left wrist soreness. Servais also bypassed Kyle Lewis, who returned from an eight-week absence due to a concussion on Friday in right field but hasn’t played the outfield since (he’s DHed and pinch-hit).

Anyway, Lewis is in the outfield pool, and both Mitch Haniger (high ankle sprain) and Taylor Trammell (hamstring strain) are likely to return soon. That frees up Moore, who’s hitting .204/.349/.380 (117 wRC+) and owns a career 107 wRC+ against lefties, to play more second base, at least in a platoon capacity opposite the lefty-swinging Frazier. If Winker, Rodríguez, Haniger, and Lewis are all available, one outfielder could also DH, with Carlos Santana playing first base and Ty France, who earned All-Star honors at first, sliding over to second base, where he played 52 times over the last three seasons but has yet to do so this year.

All of which is to say that there are ways the Mariners can piece together an upgrade if the aforementioned outfielders are in the mix, though given general manager Jerry Dipoto’s penchant for wheeling and dealing, a trade can hardly be ruled out, particularly with Frazier and Haniger both pending free agents.

2022 Replacement-Level Killers: Shortstops
Team AVG OBP SLG wRC+ Bat BsR Fld WAR ROS WAR Tot WAR
Phillies .211 .276 .326 69 -13.6 2.3 -3.8 0.2 1.0 1.2
Yankees .254 .302 .314 75 -10.7 1.5 -1.8 0.6 1.0 1.6
Statistics through July 25. ROS = Rest-of-season WAR, via our Depth Charts.

Phillies

The Phillies re-signed Didi Gregorius to a two-year, $28 million deal after a strong 2020 season, which looms as a significant mistake on the part of club president Dave Dombrowski. After producing just a 68 wRC+ and -0.9 WAR last year and missing time due to a right elbow impingement, Sir Didi has hit just .225/.284/.332 (72 wRC+), provided shaky defense (which seems to be a job requirement for this team), and missed a month due to a knee sprain. Thanks to a 4-for-50 slump in July, he’s netted 0.0 WAR.

Rookie Bryson Stott, who entered the season 34th on our Top 100 Prospects list, has played 32 games at the position, mainly in Gregorius’ absence, but mostly he’s played second with Jean Segura out due to a right index finger fracture. At either position, he hasn’t been much help with the bat (.196/.268/.332, 69 wRC+) or the glove, producing 0.1 WAR. Utilityman Johan Camargo, who has played 32 games at short and hit .242/.302/.322 (77 wRC+) overall, hasn’t provided the answer either.

With Segura beginning a rehab assignment on Monday and likely to return in early August, the Phillies will probably give Stott a longer look at short, as his offense has been trending upwards (.234/.312/.426, 106 wRC+ since June 1). Center field may be a bigger priority, given that Philadelphia has gotten -0.4 WAR there, the worst among contenders. Fortifying the middle infield depth seems more likely than dealing for a starter ahead of Gregorius and Stott, particularly as there aren’t any game-changers on losing clubs.

Yankees

With prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza topping their prospect list and ranking 10th and 39th, respectively, on this spring’s Top 100, the Yankees stayed out of the deep end of the free-agent shortstop market this past winter, instead trading for Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The 27-year-old ex-Ranger has been decent defensively (though his 6 DRS is an outlier compared to his -.0 UZR and -1 RAA), but his 82 wRC+ (.272/.316/.322) is his lowest mark since 2019.

The odds seem high that the Yankees, who have cooled off a bit but are still playing at a 110-win pace and lead the AL East by 12.5 games, won’t do anything to improve the spot. The bullpen and the outfield are more likely to be their focus, given that they’ve lost Chad Green and now Michael King to season-ending injuries and that they’re still not getting much from Joey Gallo.





Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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dbannonmember
20 days ago

Worth noting Stott’s improvement after a brief spell in the minors, and how good he’s been defensively at second base.