HomeTrending MLB News2024 Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

2024 Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

Published on

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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

As has been the case for quite a while now, second base feels like the island of misfit toys. Players who don’t quite fit at other spots on the diamond end up playing second. Shortstop who can’t quite field enough? Try second. Corner infielder whose bat doesn’t quite equal your competition? Maybe you can field a little, give it a shot. Good athlete without the range for center field? Sure, why not, second might work out.

That leads to a lot of different styles at one position. There are the classic little guys who do a little bit of everything – think Jose Altuve and Andrés Giménez. There are bigger shortstop types who nonetheless look mostly like the middle infielders of a generation ago, just slightly larger – think Marcus Semien, Xander Bogaerts, or Matt McLain. Then you get into the boppers. Nolan Gorman truly doesn’t look most people’s mental image of a second baseman. Colt Keith and Edouard Julien don’t either. They’re all beneficiaries of the new way teams are thinking about second base.

One knock-on effect is that second base has a high floor and a low ceiling. Teams almost never have their very best player at second; if your best player is a transcendent defender, they’ll probably play shortstop, and if they’re an imposing hitter, they’ll probably end up in a corner. On the other hand, second now draws from a huge pipeline, which means more competent players get on the field instead of languishing as a backup somewhere else. Take out one or two of those converted second base types who have become popular of late, and the position would look much thinner towards the bottom.

That also means that second base is well aligned with a team’s overall talent level. If you’re a good team, you probably have someone good to throw at second. If you’re not, you don’t. Only two teams in the bottom 10 of these rankings have even a 30% chance of making the playoffs. No other position is so universally strong across the contenders. So I hope you enjoy your team’s second base play this year – increasingly, it’s a great way of figuring out if you’ll enjoy their play in general.

2024 Positional Power Rankings – 2B

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Marcus Semien679.265.336.460.34212.90.94.94.4
Josh Smith7.238.336.378.317-0.0-0.00.00.0
Ezequiel Duran7.253.301.422.311-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
Justin Foscue7.239.324.399.317-0.0-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.265.335.459.34112.80.94.94.5

Semien might be the game’s quietest star, but make no mistake: He’s a star. He was the best second baseman in baseball by a mile last year, with his 6.3 WAR lapping the field by a full two wins. He plays a ludicrous amount; in the past five 162-game seasons, he’s averaged 730 plate appearances and 161.2 games played. He’s a true everyday player, and one of the best defensive second basemen in the game in addition to being well above average at every aspect of hitting.

With that kind of inhuman consistency penciled in, the Rangers back Semien up with a whole lot of nothing. Why would they do anything else? This is the kind of player you can construct a lineup around – or perhaps I should say construct a lineup behind, because every one of his 753 plate appearances in 2023 came in the leadoff spot.

Every team in baseball would jump at the chance to plug Semien into their lineup, but only the Rangers actually got to – and in a year where he was comfortably their best player and they made the playoffs by the slimmest of margins en route to a championship, no less. This season figures to be more of the same.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Andrés Giménez637.268.334.427.3298.61.58.44.2
Tyler Freeman21.264.334.371.313-0.00.0-0.00.1
Angel Martínez14.230.291.348.280-0.4-0.00.10.0
Gabriel Arias14.235.299.387.299-0.2-0.0-0.00.0
Brayan Rocchio7.250.315.370.302-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
José Tena7.229.282.342.274-0.2-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.266.332.421.3267.71.48.54.4

Giménez regressed in every imaginable way last year. His power went way down, he walked less frequently, and his BABIP declined by 64 points. By all accounts, it was a disaster of a season, except that his baseline was so high that he still put up 3.6 WAR thanks to a league average batting line and sterling defense. That’s the best way to think of Giménez’s game – he’s not an elite hitter all the time, but even when he’s not hitting well, he’s so good at everything else that he’s still great.

In 2024, we project him to finish with an offensive line roughly halfway between his last two seasons. He has enough power to slug 15-20 homers, enough bat control to strike out less frequently than average, and enough speed to churn out infield singles. He doesn’t walk very often, which means he’s prone to prolonged hot and cold streaks depending on how the ball is bouncing. But that kind of offense works out better than average in the long run, and everything else that Giménez does well means that “better than average” is a great outcome indeed. José Ramírez might be Cleveland’s superstar right now, but Giménez isn’t far from taking the baton.

One quick note: Should Giménez miss time or end up playing shortstop (he has the defensive chops), any of roughly 17 billion middle infield prospects will cover second for the Guardians. Your guess is as good as ours as to which one, which you can see in our playing time estimates up above.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Gleyber Torres644.271.342.455.34316.4-1.2-1.43.8
Jorbit Vivas14.240.322.351.300-0.2-0.00.00.0
DJ LeMahieu14.257.338.382.3170.1-0.10.10.1
Oswald Peraza14.245.309.394.307-0.1-0.00.10.1
Oswaldo Cabrera7.234.296.389.297-0.1-0.00.00.0
Jahmai Jones7.217.312.353.296-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.268.340.449.34016.0-1.3-1.14.0

Does it seem weird to you that Torres is projected for more WAR than he’s ever compiled in a single season? It definitely seems weird to me, but after digging into the numbers, I can see it. The reason for that projection is that he very nearly had a career year in 2023, only for defense and baserunning to let him down. We project him to regress towards the mean in both categories in 2024 while maintaining most of his offensive gains (more walks, fewer strikeouts, same power).

It’s difficult to improve in as many categories as Torres did last year all at once. He upped his walk rate from below average into the double digits. He went from striking out 22.6% of the time to 14.6%. He did all that while still clobbering 25 homers, the best mark of his career aside from the Year of the Rabbit (Ball) in 2019. It would hardly be shocking to see him out-hit the two guys in front of him on this list; the raw talent has always been there and he’s tapping into it more than ever.

The risks, as they often are with the Yankees, are health and consistency. Torres has only eclipsed 600 plate appearances twice in five full big league seasons. He’s dealt with a number of nagging injuries in the past three years. The Bombers really need him to pan out – the depth chart behind him is speculative at best. Torres’s median projection is nice indeed, but risks abound.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Jose Altuve602.275.353.466.35319.2-0.5-4.13.7
Mauricio Dubón63.263.305.390.302-0.7-0.1-0.20.1
Grae Kessinger21.211.291.325.275-0.7-0.10.00.0
David Hensley14.222.312.339.291-0.3-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.271.346.452.34517.5-0.7-4.33.9

Surely this can’t continue forever, right? Altuve is about to turn 34, and he missed a ton of time due to injury last year, so you might expect him to slow down. Instead, he had one of the best offensive seasons of his career. If he were to run that campaign back over a full season, he’d top these rankings this year – but at some point, the party can’t possibly keep going.

Altuve ran a .348 BABIP last year, one of the highest marks of his career, despite declining footspeed and hitting a ton of pop ups. He chased more often while swinging less frequently at good pitches. He made less contact and also took more called strikes. You could make the case that our projections aren’t taking all the warning signs seriously enough.

On the other hand, Altuve’s career is essentially a series of warning signs that haven’t come true. He’s too small. He can’t hit for power. He won’t age well. He’s a product of the offensive environment. None of those forecasted declines have actually happened, though, so what’s one more year of defying the odds? The Astros sure hope it’s that easy, because Dubón is absolutely not the answer in a full-time role.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Nico Hoerner644.278.338.398.3221.42.58.43.6
Michael Busch21.243.325.428.3270.1-0.0-0.00.1
Miles Mastrobuoni14.257.334.364.310-0.10.0-0.00.0
Nick Madrigal14.282.334.376.313-0.1-0.00.10.1
Christopher Morel7.243.311.466.3320.1-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.276.338.398.3221.52.48.53.9

Hoerner is coming off of two straight 4-WAR seasons, and he’s doing it with his glove and his legs. He has a 104 wRC+ over that time period, but he’s sixth in the majors in baserunning and sixth in defensive value (excluding catchers). That’s how the Cubs ended up fifth in these rankings despite a wOBA that matches 13th-place Minnesota.

Hoerner is an excellent shortstop playing out of position, so I don’t think the defensive value is likely to wane. I’m less optimistic about his baserunning, but our projections already bake in meaningful regression there. I’d be surprised if Hoerner tops 10 homers in 2024, but I think he’ll be one of the most valuable second basemen in baseball anyway thanks to a combination of defense and contact skills. Not every excellent player gets there with gaudy counting numbers.

The odds of this playing time projection working out exactly are quite low. Hoerner might get hurt, or he might end up covering innings at shortstop. The Cubs have plenty of depth, though. Busch, Morel, and Madrigal all project meaningfully above replacement level. Mastrobuoni is a nice utility infielder. It might not immediately look like it, but Chicago is set up for success in the middle infield.

The best two fielding seasons of Bogaerts’ career, per Statcast, came in 2022 and 2023 at shortstop. The only problem is, those seasons were just a hair above average, while Ha-Seong Kim showed off elite defense when given the chance. That means the spot that X is marking is now second base, and I have some real questions about how it will all work out.

Few of those questions come on the offensive side of the ball. Bogaerts could fall out of bed and post an offensive line 20% above league average while making himself coffee. He has plus power, makes good contact, and doesn’t get himself out. Some of the power he displayed at his peak was undoubtedly Fenway-aided, but even in San Diego, he looks like a 20-homer guy with enviable strikeout and walk numbers.

The problem is that I have no idea how Bogaerts will handle second. In theory, he should be great; he’s been improving on defense for years and now gets an easier position. But not everyone makes those transitions smoothly, and he doesn’t hit well enough to be a star if he’s a below-average defender at the keystone. My base case is that he’ll look just fine out there, but it’s not a lock.

Should injuries or defensive hiccups change this arrangement, the Padres have a ton of backup plans. Cronenworth is a sterling defender who is comically miscast at first. Rosario played a lot of second and short in the minors. Merrill is currently trying his hand in the outfield, but he’s an infielder by training. Bogaerts might be the worst defensive option out of the bunch – but where else are you going to play him?

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Ketel Marte630.277.353.468.35216.5-0.8-3.03.6
Blaze Alexander28.220.293.341.282-0.9-0.10.10.0
Geraldo Perdomo21.241.338.347.307-0.20.00.00.1
Jace Peterson14.234.320.353.298-0.30.0-0.00.0
Elvis Andrus7.250.303.365.293-0.20.00.00.0
Total700.273.349.456.34614.9-0.8-3.03.7

I don’t have groundbreaking insights for every team’s second base situation. The Diamondbacks, in particular, leave me without a lot to say. Have you heard of Marte? Of course you have. He’s been good for years and just led his team to the World Series. Can you imagine what it looks like when he’s good? Of course you can. You just saw it in October, and for all of last year really.

Do we think anything will be different this year? Nah. We think Marte will hit for power and average. We think he’ll handle second base adequately; sticking with one position instead of pinballing around the field has been good for his defense. We think he’ll be good for 630 PA – debatable given that 2023 is the first year he’s surpassed that mark, but hey, he surpassed it in 2023! He’s good in a classic way, a bunch of plus skills adding up to a plus-plus player. If he’s healthy, not much will change in 2024. If he’s not, none of the options below him on the depth chart will be able to make up for his production. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Ozzie Albies644.275.330.484.34612.40.9-1.13.6
Luis Guillorme35.256.340.342.304-0.5-0.1-0.10.1
David Fletcher21.273.314.353.293-0.5-0.00.00.0
Total700.274.330.473.34211.30.7-1.23.7

Albies is a modern marvel. His game doesn’t look like it should work. He’s so small, and yet he takes gargantuan hacks. His approach at the plate could charitably be described as voracious. He’s technically a switch-hitter, but he boasts a career 145 wRC+ against lefties and a 98 against righties. Things really shouldn’t work for him as well as they do.

As you can probably tell from both my description and Atlanta’s place on this list, however, things do work well for Albies. His game relies on him being a complete outlier when it comes to reaction time and power generation, and he’s absolutely both of those things. You can pretty much bank on 3-4 WAR in a healthy Albies season, one way or another.

That suits the Braves just fine. Albies doesn’t have to be their best player. According to our Depth Charts, in fact, he’s their sixth-best guy. That’s the kind of team building that has the Braves head and shoulders above their division and annually challenging for 100 wins. The depth behind him is surprisingly good, to boot: Guillorme and Fletcher both play defense well enough that even with lackluster bats, they’re reasonable second options should Albies miss time.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Brandon Lowe476.239.328.456.33711.10.3-2.02.7
Amed Rosario119.267.306.392.302-0.70.1-0.40.3
Taylor Walls42.209.306.341.289-0.70.10.00.1
Curtis Mead21.250.321.400.3140.1-0.00.00.1
Jonathan Aranda14.255.341.412.3290.2-0.0-0.10.1
Richie Palacios14.249.337.381.3170.1-0.00.00.1
José Caballero7.230.341.350.3120.00.0-0.00.0
Isaac Paredes7.244.340.462.3460.2-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.243.323.433.32710.30.4-2.53.4

If you’re tired of reading “this little guy does a lot of things well” in this article, the Rays have you covered. Lowe doesn’t fit that profile despite being fairly short of stature himself. He’s good at one thing above all: hitting dingers. He’s at the plate trying to launch the ball, and if it costs him some BABIP or some strikeouts, so be it. He’s acceptable, but no more than that, on defense. He doesn’t steal a ton of bases. But dingers! They’re so valuable! The whole package works as long as he can keep hitting them.

His aggressive approach means he chases too many bad pitches, but he makes up for it by pouncing on fastballs and hanging breaking balls over the heart of the plate. He’s not one of the Rays’ crop of pull-enabled hitters with below-average power who make it work anyway; he has elite exit velocities and barrel rates, and makes the most of them by gearing his swing for fly balls.

As you’d expect from a lefty slugger, Lowe has performed much worse against southpaws in his career, which is where the deep Tampa Bay bench comes in. Rosario is a lefty-killer who looked adept at second in a brief audition last year. Walls, who is still recovering from offseason hip labrum surgery, can cover any infield spot. Mead is more of a third baseman, but he can play second in a pinch. This is the kind of depth you expect from the Rays.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Gavin Lux434.258.333.397.3190.9-0.1-1.31.6
Mookie Betts154.279.377.514.3808.10.2-0.71.3
Chris Taylor84.228.316.390.308-0.60.10.10.3
Miguel Rojas14.252.304.362.292-0.3-0.00.10.0
Miguel Vargas7.248.331.412.3240.0-0.0-0.00.0
Enrique Hernández7.235.300.384.298-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.259.340.421.3318.00.1-1.83.3

This one is pretty much guesswork. The Dodgers had the best second base situation in the majors before they announced that Betts was moving to shortstop full-time after Lux had a spate of throwing issues in his spring training audition there. They’re still more or less the same team regardless of which way they line up their middle infielders, but taking one of the best hitters of the 21st century from 600 plate appearances down to 150 is a great way to move down the second base power rankings specifically.

You know what you’re getting with Betts – even in an extremely part-time role, he gives the position a 1.3 WAR boost – but Lux is still a mystery. Despite breaking into the bigs in 2019, he’s only racked up 1,003 PA in the majors thanks to a checkered injury history. He looked solid offensively and defensively in 2022 before missing all of last year, but that’s a short track record for someone who’s theoretically a key part of the offense.

In fact, Lux might be the highest-variance piece of the Dodgers’ roster. If he’s All-Star caliber, the offense will be deep and resilient to injury. If he’s average or below, his playing time is going to vanish quickly, in favor of either Betts or Taylor. In my opinion, this is the most volatile second base projection out of any team in baseball.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Matt McLain441.253.339.450.3414.6-0.11.92.3
Jonathan India217.254.348.419.3361.5-0.2-1.30.8
Tony Kemp21.253.335.373.314-0.20.00.00.1
Spencer Steer14.258.340.443.3400.1-0.00.00.1
Mark Mathias7.234.320.365.303-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.253.341.437.3385.8-0.30.63.2

I think this is too low for the Reds, but I also think that India’s playing time at second is going to wither away to zero as the year goes on unless someone gets hurt. McLain is the best young player you may not know much about. He’s been overshadowed on his own team by Elly De La Cruz, and he slipped on Rookie of the Year ballots thanks to an injury-abbreviated season, but he’s a plus defensive shortstop who should excel at second and is a great hitter to boot. We’re projecting him as the best player on the Reds by a good margin, in fact.

Why doesn’t he have more of a grip on playing time at second base? For two reasons. First, he’s going to play some shortstop to back up De La Cruz. Second, the team really wants to find somewhere to put India, who looked like he had one foot out the door when the team signed Jeimer Candelario this winter but miraculously stayed put. India’s best defensive position is DH, but the Reds have a cavalcade of hitters they’re planning to rotate through there. That forces India into the field, and second is the natural place to put him. Things will get even more complicated when Noelvi Marte returns from his PED suspension, but the path of least resistance is for McLain to end up as an everyday starter and for the rest of the options to find someplace else to play.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Nolan Gorman455.243.321.468.3387.7-0.5-2.82.2
Brendan Donovan154.274.365.397.3372.6-0.2-0.60.8
Tommy Edman56.263.319.405.314-0.10.30.00.2
Thomas Saggese14.247.299.391.299-0.2-0.00.00.0
Brandon Crawford14.238.310.384.302-0.2-0.0-0.00.0
José Fermín7.245.326.359.305-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.251.330.443.3349.7-0.5-3.43.2

Gorman is a prototypical corner infielder, with middling footspeed and huge power. The Cardinals employ Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, though, so he’s been ticketed for second base since the low minors. He broke out last year despite a 31.9% strikeout rate and sketchy defense. You can get away with a lot when you crack 27 bombs in 119 games of playing time. He’ll likely be bad at a lot of things again in 2024 and put up a good season anyway, because hitting the ball over the wall comes so naturally.

Gorman will get plenty of time at DH thanks to his indifferent defense, and the team likes to give him rest against tough lefties, which means their brigade of multi-position defenders will play a lot of second as well. Donovan put up an equivalent offensive season to Gorman in an extremely different way, and might be a better defender. Edman has an elite glove, though he’s playing a lot of outfield these days. Saggese has looked like a revelation this spring, potentially forcing himself into the team’s plans. Heck, we even have Brandon Crawford down for a few games, despite exactly zero professional innings at the position.

Every one of those options except Saggese has an above-average projection, which means it might not matter exactly who plays second for the Cardinals. They’ll probably end up around this spot in the rankings no matter how they divvy up playing time.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Edouard Julien441.240.358.397.3357.6-0.5-0.42.3
Kyle Farmer112.246.304.378.299-1.4-0.30.60.3
Brooks Lee84.245.304.379.298-1.1-0.20.00.2
Willi Castro49.248.308.389.303-0.40.10.00.2
Austin Martin14.230.330.320.296-0.2-0.0-0.10.0
Total700.242.339.389.3214.4-0.80.23.0

If you like Joey Votto but think he swings a little too often for your liking, you’re going to love what Eddie Jewels brings to the table. If you throw him something outside the strike zone, he’s not swinging. No one swung less frequently at balls in 2023 than Julien. Of course, he’s liable to watch strikes go by, too, and his big swing, geared for maximum damage, means that even his discerning eye can’t stop him from running up ugly strikeout totals. But a 30% strikeout rate is more palatable when accompanied by 15% walks and a heaping helping of homers.

Without some contact improvement, Julien’s offensive potential is fairly capped; there’s only so much you can do to offset all those strikeouts. That’s more or less why he plays second base; he wouldn’t be a star-level first baseman, so the team is hoping he can be a star-level second baseman with defensive improvement. If Julien improves offensively while continuing to scuffle in the field, I think he’ll end up at first soon. But as long as he’s not an overpowering offensive force, the Twins will continue to throw him in the middle infield and hope he can hang.

He probably can! And Farmer is a good defensive option for later in games or for when Julien DHs. There’s even some prospect juice here; Lee looks just about ready for The Show. A lot of the time, though, the Twins are going to live with bad defense and too many strikeouts, because everything else Julien does is just that good.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Jackson Holliday280.255.345.381.3211.9-0.6-0.01.2
Jordan Westburg203.253.321.423.3221.6-0.11.01.0
Ramón Urías168.252.320.390.311-0.2-0.30.50.6
Kolten Wong21.252.325.391.3140.0-0.0-0.00.1
Jorge Mateo21.235.282.379.286-0.50.10.10.1
Nick Maton7.223.317.364.302-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.252.329.395.3172.7-0.91.42.9

Ooh, shiny! The best prospect in baseball gets a lackluster projection, but as you can imagine, the error bars here are considerable. ZiPS and Steamer are understandably restrained in their guesses for rookies because plenty of them struggle in their first bite at the major league apple. Holliday certainly looks like a stud, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be a top hitter right away, even if his long-term prognosis is blindingly bright.

Luckily for the O’s, they have a nice contingency plan. Westburg might be too good of a hitter to profile as a utility infielder long-term, but in 2024, he’ll rotate between second and third depending on which of the team’s other precocious youngsters click immediately. We actually project second, third, and short to all be time-shares for the O’s, with Holliday, Westburg, and Gunnar Henderson shuttling around the three spots. Urías fits into the mix as well, though likely with the least playing time out of the four.

The top farm system in baseball could complicate matters; Coby Mayo needs somewhere to play too, and that might be third base. That puts a squeeze on second indirectly. In my mind, though, Westburg is a great bet for above-average production, and Holliday is going to get a full season of playing time even if he starts slow. It’s a tough puzzle to solve, but also a rewarding one; there aren’t many wrong answers here.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Bryson Stott581.262.321.398.313-4.21.56.22.5
Whit Merrifield105.255.303.371.293-2.40.2-0.10.2
Edmundo Sosa14.247.298.391.299-0.3-0.00.10.0
Total700.261.318.393.309-6.91.66.32.7

If you like Stott for his offense, you’re doing it wrong. He’s something of a cult hero in Philly for his ability to foul off an unending stream of two-strike pitches, but 40-grade power and pitch recognition mean that he was only average offensively in 2023 despite an elevated BABIP. You can defend the plate as much as you want; if you swing too often at balls without doing damage on strikes, the ceiling is low.

That said, Stott is still a very good major leaguer because of his glove. He was among the best defensive second basemen after moving over from short last year. His arm strength was the sole blemish in his defensive profile, and that’s mitigated now that he’s playing closer to first. What’s left is a beautiful combination of acceleration, reflexes, and sure hands that lets him range shockingly far in both directions, making spectacular and routine plays alike.

Without more offense, which I find unlikely, Stott isn’t a perennial All-Star. But he’s an excellent everyday regular, and the Phillies seem content to let him run with the job – wisely, in my opinion. Merrifield is a nice utility option, but his offensive game is sub-Stottian and his defense isn’t in the same stratosphere. We think that most of his playing time will come in the outfield, leaving second in Stott’s capable hands.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Jorge Polanco602.244.321.421.3226.2-0.4-4.22.4
Dylan Moore28.213.313.383.306-0.10.00.10.1
Ryan Bliss21.222.279.353.277-0.6-0.00.10.0
Josh Rojas21.233.307.352.291-0.30.1-0.00.1
Sam Haggerty14.238.313.365.299-0.10.1-0.10.0
Luis Urías7.234.327.387.3150.0-0.00.00.0
Samad Taylor7.230.316.354.297-0.10.0-0.00.0
Total700.241.319.413.3185.0-0.3-4.02.7

Polanco is a bankable commodity at second base, the first time the Mariners have had that since Robinson Canó’s heyday. He hits a ton for a second baseman. He’s always had sneaky power, and he’s started working deeper counts in recent years hunting pitches to drive, which has bumped up his walk and strikeout numbers in equal measure. Second basemen who are 10% above average offensively don’t grow on trees.

That said, there are two red flags here that push the Mariners down the list. First, Polanco’s defense has slipped. He used to be a shortstop, but he was a poor one and that was years ago. He has the worst defensive projection among full-time second basemen, in fact. That eats into the good things he’s doing on offense.

The other issue is durability. Polanco has missed significant time in each of the past two seasons. The Mariners don’t have a lot behind him. Moore is a nice multi-position backup who would be miscast as a starter. Rojas is already a platoon starter at third, so he won’t be available that often. Bliss is probably still a year off. In summary, the base case for Seattle looks acceptable, but the downside risks are tremendous.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Vaughn Grissom462.285.353.422.3385.1-0.4-2.81.9
Enmanuel Valdez126.249.321.430.324-0.1-0.2-0.30.4
Pablo Reyes49.260.324.394.313-0.5-0.1-0.30.1
Ceddanne Rafaela35.258.299.424.310-0.4-0.00.20.1
Romy Gonzalez21.238.288.403.297-0.50.10.10.0
David Hamilton7.231.311.358.296-0.20.00.00.0
Total700.273.340.420.3313.4-0.6-3.12.6

This is the ranking I disagree with the most. Grissom has the kind of game that feels tailor-made for Fenway, and I also think that having a consistent position and playing time will help with his defensive shortcomings. He showed plus power in the minors and makes a lot of aerial contact, two skills that will combine to produce a ton of wall-ball doubles and lofted homers. It’s not just a Fenway skill, either; Tropicana Field suits his swing well, though hopefully he’ll get some days off when the Sox visit Baltimore and its left field power trap.

I think that the biggest legit question with Grissom is whether he can actually play second, but ZiPS’s defensive forecast thinks he’ll do passably well there, which is good enough for me. Or maybe I’m being a little unfair to our projections, because there’s one more important question: how soon he’ll be healthy. He’s going to miss Opening Day, which is why we have Valdez getting a substantial amount of run. Valdez is a solid utility infielder, but he’s not a first-division starter in the same way that I think Grissom is. The options behind him are break-glass-in-case-of-emergency, nothing more. This is the Grissom show, for better or worse.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Zack Gelof602.237.308.402.309-0.31.20.52.4
Abraham Toro42.243.315.388.308-0.0-0.1-0.10.1
Aledmys Díaz28.240.292.369.287-0.5-0.1-0.30.0
Nick Allen14.241.299.340.282-0.3-0.00.10.0
Jordan Diaz7.248.290.391.294-0.1-0.0-0.10.0
Hoy Park7.220.319.329.291-0.1-0.00.00.0
Total700.237.308.398.307-1.41.00.12.6

Feast your eyes on Oakland’s best projected position (well, other than the starting rotation). Gelof tore up Triple-A and then kept it going in the majors last year, playing at a 6-WAR pace. Obviously, we’ve baked in a good amount of regression, but it’s hard for me to see anything other than a good big league regular when I’m looking through his numbers.

Does he get on base enough? Not really; it’s hard to when you’re a fly ball guy with strikeout issues. But he looks like a perennial 15-20 homer type, even in the cavernous Coliseum, and the early returns on his defense are solid. An average second base defender with power isn’t any great shakes – Oakland is only 18th on this list, after all – but the A’s are desperately short of quality major leaguers, so in that sense Gelof is an outlier.

Of note, the options after him on the depth chart are bad — like, catastrophically bad. I’m an unrepentant Abraham Toro fan and even I wouldn’t want to play him at second base, and that’s the good option. The A’s aren’t going to be contending for the playoffs or anything, but even from a low floor, there’s a sizable falloff here if Gelof gets hurt.

What a delightfully uncertain forecast. Any of the top six options could feasibly win this job on a full-time basis, though I think the base case of using second base for whichever multi-position hitters aren’t playing somewhere else that day makes sense. It also makes sense to me that Schneider and Biggio are the two players most likely to seize the job. Schneider cooled off enough last year that the job isn’t obviously his, while Biggio has never quite been able to stick at one position as a starter. The most likely situation is that they share the role; they’re natural platoon partners without obvious other places to play. They both moonlight as outfield backups, but the Jays have a packed outfield already.

This situation won’t get any easier if Justin Turner plays more third base than originally expected. That’s what has Espinal entering the second base equation. He’s a solid defender who would normally have a short-side platoon role, only Schneider’s emergence has made that role less useful. That doesn’t even get into Clement and Martinez, interesting prospects both, though I think that Martinez’s performance was uneven enough that he won’t enter into the equation unless he goes on a tear to start the season.

And we’re not even done! Kiner-Falefa is another hitter in the Espinal mold, glove over bat with the ability to play all over the place. He’s also going to play third base and the outfield, so he won’t have much time at second base, but it’s going to be a veritable logjam. The good news is that this position is comically immune to injury. The bad news is that John Schneider is going to be spending a lot of time telling guys that they can’t play second today.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Luis Arraez343.317.371.425.3446.6-0.6-1.81.7
Vidal Bruján98.244.311.368.299-1.8-0.1-0.30.1
Jon Berti91.255.327.368.306-1.10.3-0.20.2
Nick Gordon91.257.301.407.305-1.2-0.1-0.60.1
Xavier Edwards56.280.345.366.315-0.30.00.20.2
Tim Anderson21.281.317.382.305-0.30.0-0.20.0
Total700.287.344.402.3241.8-0.4-2.92.5

Arraez ranking 20th feels low given his electric 2023 season, but remember, these are team rankings, and we think Arraez is going to spend roughly half his time at second, with the rest split between first base and DH. There’s also the pesky matter of WAR not loving him; despite chasing a .400 batting average for most of the year, he was only 31% above average with the bat and gave away a lot of that value in the field and on the basepaths.

That said, if you’re looking for upsides here, they’re easy to see. Arraez hit for more power in September, and he did it the easy way: by swinging harder. His actual results were excellent. His xStat results were also excellent — like, best full month of his career excellent. There’s a chance that Arraez is in the middle of turning into a more complete hitter, and he was already a good hitter in contact-only mode.

Ideally, the Marlins would find somewhere else to stash him to hide his defensive limitations, which brings the backup brigade into play. Between Bruján, Berti, Gordon, and Edwards, I think the Marlins will turn up one interesting bat capable of playing second. I have no idea which one of them it will be, though.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Jeff McNeil497.284.345.407.3296.4-1.1-0.82.3
Joey Wendle161.240.286.357.280-4.5-0.1-0.90.1
Zack Short21.193.300.322.280-0.6-0.00.10.0
Ronny Mauricio14.246.289.402.297-0.2-0.00.00.0
Jose Iglesias7.250.289.348.279-0.2-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.270.329.392.3150.9-1.3-1.62.4

Meet the previous Luis Arraez, same as the current Arraez. McNeil built a career on looping line drives over the infield, but everything went wrong in 2023. He’s never made particularly loud contact, but that got worse last year, and without a raft of doubles or 2019-aided homers to bail him out, his offensive game was just empty average. At his peak, he delivered four seasons with a wRC+ between 130 and 145, but I don’t think there’s much chance he repeats those lofty numbers. That’s not to say he’s a bad hitter – “empty average” is still useful if you’re running a .350 OBP – but short of a late-career bat speed boost, I can’t see that repeating.

The good news is that McNeil is still an above-average player thanks to acceptable, albeit unconventional, defense. The Mets of recent years have dealt with roster holes that undermined the contributions of stars, but McNeil is a nice supporting piece these days. The lack of depth is worrisome, though; Wendle was atrocious last year, and he’s the only reasonable substitute when McNeil gets rest or plays somewhere else, either an outfield corner or DH. In other words, we might be one muscle tweak away from the same old Mets, and McNeil missed most of spring with a bicep injury, so things aren’t exactly starting out on a promising note.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Thairo Estrada560.260.314.403.311-1.70.7-0.22.0
Wilmer Flores49.262.335.444.3360.9-0.20.10.3
Brett Wisely42.233.307.356.293-0.8-0.10.00.1
Tyler Fitzgerald28.220.279.371.282-0.80.0-0.10.0
Otto Lopez14.262.319.355.296-0.2-0.00.00.0
Casey Schmitt7.240.288.367.286-0.2-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.257.313.401.310-2.70.4-0.22.4

Wondering why Estrada and the Giants place so low on the list despite his 3.9 WAR 2023? I can offer a fairly simple explanation: We don’t believe in his defense. After four straight years of average defense, he turned in an absolutely dominant 2023 – if you believe OAA, that is. If you believe DRS, he was still just average. His offensive game didn’t break out, either; he rode a .331 BABIP to an average overall line, and he still strikes out way too frequently for someone with his modest walk rate and power production. That puts a lot of pressure on his defense, and like I said, that’s up in the air.

One interesting subplot here: In recent years, the Giants have done a ton of platooning and positional shuffling. Estrada played shortstop and even moonlighted in the outfield last year. If the Giants believe in his defense, they probably won’t do that again, because none of the options behind him are great defenders. Bob Melvin also seems like less of a serial tinkerer than Gabe Kapler, which argues in favor of leaving Estrada in one place. I think that’s a smart decision; I’ve never liked shuffling players just to shuffle them, and flexing Estrada elsewhere on the field probably only makes sense if he’s covering shortstop to get Flores’ bat in the lineup. Other than that specific configuration, I would put him out there every day and let the chips fall where they may.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Colt Keith399.257.320.431.3232.2-0.7-1.31.5
Andy Ibáñez196.260.318.408.316-0.1-0.4-1.40.5
Zach McKinstry63.242.313.385.305-0.6-0.0-0.40.1
Gio Urshela21.277.322.410.316-0.0-0.1-0.00.1
Jace Jung14.226.308.382.301-0.2-0.00.00.0
Buddy Kennedy7.234.322.343.297-0.1-0.0-0.00.0
Total700.256.319.418.3181.3-1.2-3.12.3

Keith signed a long-term contract this offseason and the Tigers didn’t have anyone blocking him, so the path of least resistance is for him to end up in the majors right away to see if he can hang. He’s a fearsome hitter already; he checks pretty much every box, with excellent raw power, good contact numbers, and an advanced sense of the strike zone. That doesn’t mean he’ll excel immediately, because prospects are volatile, but this combination of tools and performance bodes well.

The big question with Keith is defense. He’s struggled at both third and second and might be an outfielder long-term. The Tigers will give him every chance to succeed in the infield, but it’s possible that he just can’t hack it. The team clearly understood that, though; they’ve stacked their roster with other options at the keystone. Three utility infielders back him up, with Ibáñez the most interesting in my eyes. If nothing else, he’ll probably spell Keith against tough lefties and sub in defensively. Sure, 23rd in the majors sounds bad, but I like the way this team is set up going forward. They might project for 23rd this year, but the trend is clearly upward.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Luis Rengifo357.259.320.421.3210.7-0.4-1.11.3
Brandon Drury252.247.298.441.316-0.5-0.9-1.10.7
Michael Stefanic63.272.355.361.3200.1-0.20.00.2
Ehire Adrianza21.232.305.337.285-0.6-0.1-0.3-0.0
Kyren Paris7.208.305.328.285-0.20.0-0.00.0
Total700.255.315.420.318-0.5-1.5-2.52.2

Rengifo’s skill set has always been an enigma to me. He doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard, or make an outrageous amount of contact. He’s not a line drive specialist, or one of those guys who walks 15% of the time no matter what. He doesn’t strike out very often, but that’s basically it. He’s a below-average defender at multiple positions. It might seem like I’m not painting a pretty picture, and well, I’m not. This is what some of the bottom situations in baseball look like for second base: not unplayable by any means, but below average considering what other squads are bringing to the table at the position.

If you’re looking for a clear place where WAR isn’t working well, second base might be it. This is a “league average” projection, and yet 24th in baseball. It’s pretty clear that teams can manufacture average players at second base more easily than at other positions.

That mini-rant aside, maybe the Angels won’t end up this bad. Our projections like Drury less than Rengifo, but he’s been raking for two straight years. His offense is boom-or-bust – he strikes out a ton and rarely walks – but he has 30-homer power, which makes up for a lot of sins. He might be their best option at second – and potentially at a few other spots.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Brice Turang455.244.315.360.297-8.91.13.01.2
Joey Ortiz140.254.308.393.305-1.9-0.11.10.4
Owen Miller42.248.302.374.294-0.9-0.0-0.10.1
Andruw Monasterio21.247.329.356.305-0.3-0.00.10.1
Oliver Dunn21.210.307.359.295-0.5-0.00.10.0
Tyler Black14.239.341.389.3230.00.0-0.00.1
Sal Frelick7.269.338.390.319-0.0-0.00.00.0
Total700.246.313.368.299-12.40.94.31.9

That offensive projection for Turang should scare you. You can’t be a major league regular if you hit like that, unless you’re delivering Andrelton Simmons levels of defense. Turang can pick it, no doubt, but he’s likely not even as good of a defender as Ortiz, who is breathing down his neck for playing time. Ortiz’s newfound power gives models and analysts hope that he’ll break out of the slap-hitting archetype and into the good-hit/great-field role instead, though that’s still an open question given his limited major league experience.

The way I read this situation is that the Brewers think both players are in their long-term plans, but haven’t decided where each will play. They could both handle shortstop, and one likely will when Willy Adames leaves in free agency. That will result in some awkward playing time crunches in the short run, but Milwaukee is always playing for tomorrow as well as today. If Turang replicates his 2023 batting line (.218/.285/.300), though, he might fall out of that picture by year’s end.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Michael Massey448.254.305.415.311-4.2-0.4-0.11.2
Adam Frazier189.266.326.381.310-1.9-0.3-0.00.5
Garrett Hampson35.244.309.351.292-0.90.1-0.10.0
Nick Loftin21.258.318.388.309-0.2-0.0-0.00.1
Maikel Garcia7.264.325.371.306-0.1-0.00.10.0
Total700.257.311.402.309-7.3-0.7-0.21.8

Massey was a trendy sleeper pick last season, but he never woke up. The Royals brought in some retreads to push him on the depth chart, but Frazier looked pretty cooked in Baltimore last year and Hampson is already 29 and 1,500 plate appearances into a lackluster (70 wRC+) career, though things went better than that last year. That makes me think that Kansas City is behaving rationally given its position in the standings and is giving Massey every possible chance to establish himself in the bigs.

It’s hardly out of the question that this plan could work out. Massey has legit power and his contact skills took a step forward in 2023. He’s capable defensively, too; he’s the kind of gamble the Royals should be taking. Even if they’re wrong in this particular instance, they’ll win in the long run. I don’t always like the way the Royals run things, but the way they’re handling Massey makes a lot of sense to me.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Brendan Rodgers581.278.333.438.333-4.6-1.20.51.7
Alan Trejo63.248.295.408.303-2.1-0.10.10.0
Adael Amador21.268.341.408.327-0.3-0.0-0.20.0
Aaron Schunk21.242.288.369.285-1.0-0.00.1-0.0
Coco Montes14.243.307.400.308-0.4-0.00.00.0
Total700.273.328.432.328-8.3-1.40.61.7

Sigh. Rodgers had huge promise as a prospect, with a hit/power combination that jumped off the page. He’s a good reminder that things don’t always pan out, even for seemingly high-floor prospects, and that the Rockies have been unlucky in addition to being unskilled in roster construction. But like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. Rodgers still makes loud contact, and he’s not lost at the plate by any means, but for whatever reason, he’s yet to put together even a reasonable offensive season.

The most likely culprit is injury. Rodgers has been hurt a lot in his career, rarely managing an entire season without a stop on the IL. That can make it tough to get into rhythm, though obviously I’m just guessing here. Whatever the cause, Rodgers is fast approaching free agency (!) and still hasn’t quite established himself. The only reason he’s penciled in for so much playing time is that the other options are no great shakes either. Amador is probably the future here, either at second base or short, but he’s still a year away, so Rodgers will get one last shot at the job.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Luis García Jr.476.273.314.422.316-1.9-1.2-1.81.3
Trey Lipscomb91.241.272.355.272-3.7-0.20.2-0.0
Ildemaro Vargas56.256.303.374.294-1.2-0.10.40.1
Jake Alu35.257.312.387.304-0.5-0.00.20.1
Nasim Nuñez28.214.302.275.265-1.30.00.0-0.0
Nick Senzel14.231.296.346.284-0.4-0.0-0.1-0.0
Total700.263.307.400.305-9.1-1.5-1.01.5

García is stuck on the ground, and it’s holding back an otherwise promising offensive game. He has good raw power and outstanding bat control, but he’s wasting that power by hitting grounders at a huge rate. To make matters worse, he’s not doing as much as you’d expect when he does get the ball in the air. He sprays the ball to all fields, but he’s not barreling it up often enough to take advantage of that approach. When he gets into one, it really goes, but there are simply too many lazy fly balls to center and grounders to second in his batted ball mix.

He’ll get plenty of chances to fix that fatal flaw, because the Nats are desperately thin at the position. Lipscomb is a third baseman who has been roughly average offensively in the minors. Alu is a similar player, though he’s already had a cup of coffee in the majors. Vargas is 32 and has a career 75 wRC+; he’s not part of the long-term solution. Nuñez’s status is uncertain; if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he’ll return to the Marlins as a Rule 5 pick. That said, he doesn’t look like he’s ready to face big league pitching. In other words: García is by far the best option here.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Liover Peguero350.242.290.375.289-9.60.3-0.00.4
Jared Triolo217.247.328.353.303-3.5-0.10.90.5
Ji Hwan Bae70.248.318.353.297-1.50.1-0.30.1
Nick Gonzales56.234.310.379.302-1.0-0.1-0.10.1
Alika Williams7.238.300.344.285-0.2-0.00.00.0
Total700.243.306.366.295-15.90.10.51.1

This ranking feels too harsh to me, and I think I can explain why. This seems like the kind of situation that will work out better than the projections thanks to volatility. The error bars on all four primary options are huge. Gonzales raked in Triple-A last year, albeit with worrisome contact issues. Peguero has barely played above Double-A. Triolo looked interesting in the majors last year; I don’t think he’ll repeat his .440 BABIP, but I also don’t think he deserved a 30.1% strikeout rate, so maybe that’ll balance out. Bae was an intriguing prospect who struggled in his first year of big league action, and our two models rate him wildly differently: Steamer sees a 91 wRC+ in 2024, ZiPS a 75 wRC+.

Without getting into the specifics too much, one of these guys is probably better than their projection. That guy will probably take the job from the others, because no one here has a firm incumbent’s grip on it. I’m not sure who it’ll be – I’d take Gonzales if you held a gun to my head, but please don’t hold a gun to my head – but I like Pittsburgh’s chances of finding at least one useful second baseman in this group.

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Nicky Lopez273.244.316.316.284-7.50.22.20.5
Lenyn Sosa140.243.281.396.291-3.1-0.40.60.2
José Rodríguez98.239.273.374.279-3.1-0.00.00.0
Braden Shewmake84.223.273.359.275-3.00.10.40.1
Danny Mendick70.245.310.359.296-1.3-0.10.40.2
Zach Remillard35.222.296.315.273-1.3-0.00.10.0
Total700.240.296.350.284-19.2-0.23.71.1

Yeesh. The White Sox never managed to get value from second base even when they were good, and things are trending straight down right now. None of these guys are even close to average offensively; I’m not even sure this crew would be good hitters in Triple-A, with the possible exception of Lopez. Simply put, this is what the early stages of a rebuild look like.

I’ll give the White Sox credit for one thing, though: If you’re going to completely punt a position, you might as well put a good defender out there to help your pitchers. I haven’t seen proof of this, but I’ll always believe that playing in front of a porous defense early on messes with pitchers’ careers. Lopez is one of the best defensive second basemen in baseball, period. He might not drive in a ton of runs, but he’s going to ease a lot of minds, and for a team in Chicago’s position, that’s a great idea in my book.

source

Latest articles

Effectively Wild Episode 2154: Sliding Doors and Sliding Home

Amid a wave of pitcher injuries, Ben Lindbergh talks to Dr. Rich Nye (4:20),...

Francisco Alvarez To Undergo Thumb Surgery

6:49PM: Mendoza told reporters (including Mike Puma of the New York Post) this evening...

Red Sox’s Alex Cora gives update on Nick Pivetta’s return

Nick Pivetta threw a bullpen session Saturday, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora gave...

Some Potential Answers for Pete Fairbanks

This content is for Premium, Super-Premium, and Premium Monthly members only. Visit the site...

More like this

Effectively Wild Episode 2154: Sliding Doors and Sliding Home

Amid a wave of pitcher injuries, Ben Lindbergh talks to Dr. Rich Nye (4:20),...

Red Sox’s Alex Cora gives update on Nick Pivetta’s return

Nick Pivetta threw a bullpen session Saturday, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora gave...

Some Potential Answers for Pete Fairbanks

This content is for Premium, Super-Premium, and Premium Monthly members only. Visit the site...