The Next Generation of Second Basemen Is Arriving

Since 1999, five second basemen have produced 40 or more wins. Of that group, Chase Utley debuted first, in 2003. Robinson Cano arrived in 2005, and Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, and Ben Zobrist all made their first major-league appearances in 2006. Over the last dozen years, those five players have dominated the position, and while they might not have gotten a shirtless photo-op like the shortstops of a generation prior, they have defined excellence at second base.

Even looking at the production of that group over the last four years — roughly a decade after their debuts — Cano, Kinsler, Pedroia, and Zobrist make up half of the top eight by WAR. Jose Altuve and Brian Dozier, who appear among the leaders, have emerged over the last half-decade, while Daniel Murphy has been a late-bloomer. But a collection of older players who debuted in 2005 and 2006 — one that also includes Aaron Hill, Howie Kendrick, Brandon Phillips (Reds debut in 2006), Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks Jr. — have been mainstays at the position over the last decade.

At the moment, however, it seems as though a changing of the guard is underway. Young talents like Ozzie Albies and Yoan Moncada — along with a strong group of prospects — appear ready to take over.

The 2016 season represented the best one ever seen for second basemen. Twelve players recorded four-win seasons, while batters at the position produced a collective 106 wRC+ for the season. While Jose Altuve topped that season’s production, Cano, Kinsler, and Pedroia made up three of the next five players. Due to the aging veterans near the top of the list, that level of production was going to be impossible to maintain. Unsurprisingly, the positional numbers dipped last season, with only Altuve, Dozier, and Murphy reaching the four-wins threshold, while Jose Ramirez’s great season came mostly while playing third. Second basemen put up a respectable 99 wRC+, but it was much closer to traditional expectations of the position.

This year, second-base production is up to a 103 wRC+. This early in the season, of course, we don’t know if that production will continue. What’s of considerably more interest, however, is the players occupying the top of the leaderboards at second base.

Second Base WAR Leaders
Name BB% K% ISO BABIP wRC+ WAR Age
Jed Lowrie 8.7 % 19.0 % 0.243 0.388 168 1.6 34
Asdrubal Cabrera 8.0 % 14.3 % 0.24 0.358 170 1.5 32
Ozzie Albies 5.5 % 18.9 % 0.353 0.298 166 1.4 21
Yoan Moncada 11.7 % 39.2 % 0.257 0.423 138 1.4 23
Javier Baez 5.8 % 21.2 % 0.365 0.313 162 1.2 25
Robinson Cano 14.7 % 15.5 % 0.167 0.355 152 1.2 35
Jose Altuve 8.6 % 12.5 % 0.096 0.392 141 1.1 28
Cesar Hernandez 18.6 % 23.7 % 0.105 0.379 130 0.8 28
DJ LeMahieu 10.8 % 12.5 % 0.215 0.299 126 0.8 29
Brian Dozier 9.9 % 15.3 % 0.17 0.278 107 0.5 31
Through Sunday, April 29.

Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera are off to incredibly good starts, but the next three players on this list are all 25 or younger. Like Lowrie and Cabrera, their hot starts are unsustainable. They’ve each built themselves a cushion, however, such that even modest production will result in strong end-of-season numbers.

According to the projections, which are conservative in nature, Albies and Moncada — the latter using an unusual approach at the plate — are headed for nearly four-WAR seasons, while Baez seems likely to reach three wins. The last time three second basemen aged 25 and under produced at least three wins was 2007 when Cano, Hill, Pedroia, Weeks Jr., and Kelly Johnson did it. Before 2007, you have to go all the way back to 1993, when Roberto Alomar and Delino DeShields led a young group that also included Chuck Knoblauch┬áthe previous season. No group is likely to measure up to the triumvirate of Paul Molitor, Willie Randolph, and Lou Whitaker from 1979 or the class of 1965 (featuring Gene Alley, Jim Lefebvre, Joe Morgan, and Pete Rose, but a collection of good, young second basemen is not a common occurrence, no matter how good the group turns out.

The projections for the rest of the season already have Albies and Moncada among the top five second basemen with Baez and 26-year-old Jonathan Schoop in the top 10. If we were dealing with just this group of players, this development likely wouldn’t merit much attention. Based on the prospect rankings, thought, it looks like there are a few more on the way. Here are the top-30 prospects coming into the season according to Eric Longhenhagen and Kiley McDaniel.

2018 Top 30 Prospects
Rk Name Team Age Pos FV Variance
1 Shohei Ohtani LAA 23 RHP/RF 70 Low
2 Ronald Acuna ATL 20 CF 65 Low
3 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TOR 18 1B 65 Low
4 Victor Robles WAS 20 CF 65 Low
5 Fernando Tatis Jr. SD 19 3B 65 Med
6 Eloy Jimenez CHW 20 RF 65 Med
7 Nick Senzel CIN 21 3B 60 Low
8 Forrest Whitley HOU 20 RHP 60 Med
9 Bo Bichette TOR 19 2B 60 Med
10 Kyle Tucker HOU 21 RF 60 Low
11 Willy Adames TB 22 SS 60 Low
12 Gleyber Torres NYY 21 SS 60 Low
13 Lewis Brinson MIA 23 CF 60 Med
14 Miguel Andujar NYY 22 3B 60 Med
15 Brent Honeywell TB 22 RHP 60 Low
16 Alex Reyes STL 23 RHP 60 Med
17 Francisco Mejia CLE 22 C/3B 60 High
18 Brendan Rodgers COL 21 SS 60 Med
19 Sixto Sanchez PHI 19 RHP 60 Med
20 Michael Kopech CHW 21 RHP 60 Med
21 Luis Robert CHW 20 CF 60 High
22 Brendan McKay TB 22 LHP/1B 60 Med
23 Mitch Keller PIT 21 RHP 60 Med
24 Keston Hiura MIL 21 2B 55 Med
25 Scott Kingery PHI 23 2B 55 Low
26 Kyle Wright ATL 22 RHP 55 Med
27 Walker Buehler LA 23 RHP 55 Med
28 Luis Urias SD 20 2B 55 Low
29 J.P. Crawford PHI 23 SS 55 Low
30 A.J. Puk OAK 22 LHP 55 Med

Four of the top 30 prospects in baseball are second basemen, while two other young players — Gleyber Torres for the Yankees and Nick Senzel in the minors for the Reds — are playing second base right now. Some services still list Bichette as a shortstop (his current position in the minors) and others are not as high on Kiura, but generally, those who rate prospects have those players fairly high on their lists. I asked Longenhagen and McDaniel if they could recall a group like this one, and the former mentioned the Cano/Kinsler/Pedroia group while noting that Weeks was considered the best prospect at the time. McDaniel observed that such classes are unlikely because second basemen often arrive at the position by accident.

That’s not untrue for the present crop, either. Ozzie Albies could be a shortstop. Javier Baez is in the same boat. Gleyber Torres can play short. Maybe Bo Bichette can, too. We often think of second basemen as players who couldn’t play shortstop, but right now we have a group who could play shortstop but moved off the position due to incumbent starters. Nick Senzel might end up at second even though he profiles better at third — a position which, due to the presence of Eugenio Suarez, he’s unlikely to play in Cincinnati.

Albies, Baez, Kingery, Moncada, and Torres are already in the majors. Bichette, Hiura, Senzel, and Urias seem pretty likely to debut this year or next. How many of those players need to stay at second base and pan out to for this to become the next great class of players at the position? If half of those players go on to have good careers, this group will head the class at second base for the next decade, with Jose Altuve playing the elder statesman role of Jeff Kent as the younger group takes over. Second base might not ever have another year offensively like they did in 2016, but the aging core is about to give way to a young, talented group that we haven’t seen emerge in more than a decade.





Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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james123
Member
james123

Even beyond second base, seems like we currently have our next wave of really good prospects. A few years back, we had Bryant, Correa, Seager, Lindor, Syndergaard, Severino, and Buxton all debut relatively close together. Now we have the next wave with Devers, Albies, Moncada, Acuna, Rosario, Torres, etc. What a fun time to be a fan!

booj11
Member
booj11

easily the best part about being a baseball fan–when your team is bad, you get to look to the minors. every bit of prospect puffery is its own fantasy, and we get to indulge all of it. I once lived in a world where felix pie was a future hall of famer by now. that was fun. this is fun. it’s always fun to be a fan.