Earlier today, Jay Jaffe covered the league’s first basemen. Now, Leo Morgenstern examines the state of the keystone.
Second base is going to be a fascinating position to watch this season. Under the new rules limiting defensive shifts, teams must have “at least two infielders completely on either side of second base,” and those players “may not switch sides” within an inning. Consequently, second basemen will no longer have help from a shifted shortstop or third baseman, making defensive range all the more important at the keystone. On the other side of the ball, second basemen could have their best offensive season in years. While excellent bat-to-ball skills aren’t a requirement to play the position, the two often go hand in hand. Second basemen are consistently the best contact hitters (and some of the worst power hitters) in the sport. This means their performance is more dependent on BABIP, so with the distinct possibility that league-wide BABIP will rise this season, second basemen could stand to benefit quite a bit.
And it’s not just about the new rules! Second base is projected to have the most even distribution of talent, from the Rangers at the top to the Nationals at the bottom. It’s the only defensive position where no team is projected for more than 5 WAR, and yet 28 teams are projected for at least two wins. The bottom-ranked Nationals are still projected for 1.8 WAR – the highest among last-place teams at any position.
The top names here all come with question marks. Marcus Semien can be hot and cold, and at 32, age-related decline could start at any time. Andrés Giménez has to prove he’s more than a one-hit wonder after his phenomenal breakout season. Brandon Lowe has to get back to full strength and stay on the field for a full, healthy season. Even Jose Altuve, typically solid as a rock, will miss at least two months. At the same time, the names at the very bottom of these rankings still have promise. Luis García is a former top-100 prospect and is still only 22 years old. Elvis Andrus is a former All-Star coming off a 3.5-WAR season. Jonathan Schoop was arguably the best defensive player in the sport in 2022. Thus, there’s bound to be plenty of movement up and down the second base power rankings as the year goes on. Like I said, this is going to be a riveting position to watch.
2023 Positional Power Rankings – 2B
Marcus Semien isn’t a five-tool player, but he is a triple threat. He projects to rank in the top five at his position at the plate, in the field, and on the bases. No other primary second baseman can say the same.
Semien is a unique type of hitter. He doesn’t hit for a high average or walk a ton, nor does he tear the cover off the ball. What he does is put the ball in play, hit it in the air, and spray it to all fields. That approach has worked well, and Semien has been an excellent offensive contributor in three of the last four seasons. He wasn’t quite himself over his first two months with the Rangers, but he found his stride in time, posting a 132 wRC+ from June 5 through the end of the year.
As good as he is with the stick, Semien is equally talented on the other side of the ball. Changing positions has proven to be an excellent career decision for the veteran. His glove never stood out at shortstop, but he’s terrific at second base. Semien has great range, rarely flubs a play, and his weak throwing arm is no longer a liability.
Ezequiel Duran and Josh H. Smith will make for a solid pair of backups. Duran is a natural second baseman with big power potential. Smith is a plus defensive shortstop who shouldn’t have trouble handling second. Both were top 100 prospects before graduating last season.
The Guardians have shot up these rankings, and it’s not because Tyler Freeman and Gabriel Arias made their big league debuts (although the depth certainly helps). It’s because Andrés Giménez, a 24-year-old rising star, had a phenomenal breakout season in 2022. He may not replicate his 140 wRC+, but he’s a good hitter with great wheels and a sensational glove. That’s the makeup of a perennial All-Star.
Giménez makes frequent contact and hits for moderate power, but much of his success last season came from a .353 BABIP. He has the skills to sustain a high BABIP going forward; just how high is the million-dollar question. Some regression is to be expected, but Giménez maintained his BABIP all year long thanks to 94th-percentile sprint speed and a low fly ball rate. The projections have him in the .310 to .320 range this season, but the higher that figure, the more productive he’ll be.
Meanwhile, his defense will be especially valuable under the new shift rules. Giménez was a shortstop in his prospect days, and now he is essentially Cleveland’s second shortstop on the right side of the infield. What’s more, as a left-handed contact hitter and a bona fide speedster, Giménez should benefit from the rule changes on the other side of the ball too.
If Giménez needs a day off, Freeman is a capable replacement. He isn’t a standout defender at any position, but he has handled second base in the minors. His elite bat-to-ball skills are his carrying tool, and the projections see him as a league-average bat.
Last year was rough for Brandon Lowe. After earning MVP votes in 2020 and ’21, he was beset with injuries, and his power was severely depleted in the 65 games he managed to play. Nevertheless, the projections are bullish about his bat. A healthy Lowe is the best slugging second baseman in the game right now, and the projections bear that out.
If there was anything positive to come from Lowe’s 2022 campaign, it was his strikeout rate. His 22.9% K% was right around league average – significantly better than it was the year before. If he can revitalize his power while keeping the K’s to a minimum, he could reach new heights.
Power is his defining trait, but Lowe is surprisingly productive on the bases too. The projections always seem to lowball his BsR – perhaps because he isn’t all that fast – but Lowe has averaged 6.9 BsR per 162 games over the last four years. He’s not a stolen base threat, but he makes smart decisions and almost never grounds into double plays.
The Rays will be sure to give Lowe plenty of rest this season, both to preserve his health and to keep his subpar glove off the field. Taylor Walls, a first-rate defender, can fill in while Lowe gets reps at DH or takes a day off. If Lowe misses more time, Jonathan Aranda is another option to cover second. He isn’t much with the glove, but he’s a better offensive option than Walls.
The New York Mets have constructed a roster with tons of star power and ample depth, with their options at second base a perfect example. Jeff McNeil is a two-time All-Star and arguably the best offensive second baseman in the NL. He makes a tremendous amount of contact, yet he hits for more power than your typical contact hitter. He’s also grown into a capable defender, improving steadily over the past three seasons. The projections are still low on his defense, so another solid season with the glove could help him outperform his projected WAR.
Behind McNeil is Luis Guillorme, one of the better bench players in the game. He could easily be the starting second baseman for a handful of teams further down these rankings. Guillorme has excellent plate discipline and good bat-to-ball skills, while his glove looks outstanding at the keystone. He could see increased time at second if McNeil is called upon to cover an injury in the outfield.
Lastly, there’s Eduardo Escobar, who might play some second if Brett Baty steals his job at third. Baty is a top 100 prospect, and he’ll be knocking on the big league door eventually. If he forces his way into the everyday lineup, Escobar becomes another utility weapon at Buck Showalter’s disposal.
Gleyber Torres is watching his stock rise after a bounce back performance in 2022. While his on-base percentage took a hit, he rediscovered his power, smacking 24 home runs and 28 doubles. The key to his success? Hitting the ball hard. Like a hit Pixar movie, his Baseball Savant page turned red, and he finished with career highs in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate.
Torres also swung more often, a strategy he deployed back in his All-Star seasons but eased off of in 2020. Free-swinging isn’t always advantageous, but for Torres, it really seems to work. He barreled up the ball more than ever, and his extra power compensated for his lower OBP.
If Torres struggles, the Yankees have depth to call upon. DJ LeMahieu is floating in positionless limbo, so he’s an easy choice to slot back in at second if need be. Oswald Peraza is another option; he’s currently battling for playing time at shortstop with Isiah Kiner-Falefa and top prospect Anthony Volpe.
|Jazz Chisholm Jr.||14||.249||.313||.456||.333||0.3||0.0||0.1||0.1|
The Marlins have put together a roster full of second basemen, yet it’s Luis Arraez – who spent most the 2022 season at first and DH – who figures to get the bulk of the playing time at the keystone. Jean Segura, Joey Wendle, and Jazz Chisholm Jr. all have more experience at second, but Segua will play third, Wendle will take short, and Chisholm will try his hand at center field.
It’s an amusing set-up, but it’s not as if the Marlins are making the wrong decision. After all, they’re in the top 10 of these rankings, so I’m not here to criticize. Arraez isn’t going to win a Gold Glove, but his defense at second should be fine. More to the point, his offensive profile fits right in at the position. This section of the rankings has no shortage of contact hitters, and Arraez is the best of the bunch. He put the ball in play in nearly 85% of his PA last season, and he posted the lowest strikeout rate in the game. Arraez is one of only two players projected to bat above .300 in 2023.
Jon Berti played plenty of second last season (six games more than Arraez), and he’ll be back in a superutility role. Berti walks at a high rate and runs the bases better than anyone. Those skills are enough to make him an above-average offensive performer. With Arraez leading the charge, Berti standing behind him, and a ton of qualified backup plans on the roster, the Marlins are well equipped at second base.
Ozzie Albies couldn’t catch a break last year, except when he did. Just days after returning from a broken foot, he fractured his pinky finger, putting an end to the most disappointing season of his young career. Following shoulder surgery in October, his body is back in good working order, and Albies looks strong and healthy so far this spring.
Over the first five years of his career, Albies was one of the better all-around second basemen in the game. He’s dexterous in the field, swift on the bases, and he hits for a surprising amount of power. That thump is the secret to his success, setting him apart from your typical contact-oriented second baseman. His power numbers took a hit last season, but the projections have him bouncing back.
One reason Albies saw his power decline in 2022 was that he didn’t get a lot of good pitches to hit. Opposing pitchers took advantage of his propensity to chase and didn’t throw him much of anything over the plate. Only 34.1% of pitches he saw were in the strike zone, the lowest rate of any player (min. 200 PA). Albies will need to adjust if this trend continues.
With the news that Orlanda Arcia is in line to be the starting shortstop after Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake were optioned Monday, Ehire Adrianza looks likely to fill the utility infield role on Atlanta’s bench. There was a time when Adrianza was a plus defensive player, but those days might be behind him now. Still, he brings some veteran leadership to a young Braves infield, and at least he knows how to draw a walk.
Ketel Marte spent nearly a third of the season at DH last year attempting to play through soreness in his left hamstring. Unfortunately, the injury seemed to wear away at his offense over time, and Marte posted a 54 wRC+ in August and September. The D-backs are counting on their former All-Star to turn things around; he posted a 130 wRC+ over the first four months of the 2022 season, and that’s the kind of hitter they need at the top of their lineup. It would also be nice for him to play more second base, where his offensive skills are far more valuable.
Josh Rojas will continue to play third, but with Evan Longoria in the mix, Rojas can cover at second as well. The keystone has been his best defensive position throughout his career, and his unremarkable offense plays better there too. Rojas gives Torey Lovullo a solid backup plan if hamstring issues continue to cut into Marte’s availability.
Jorge Polanco had the best year of his career in 2021, showing off never-before-seen power and leading the Twins in WAR. He took a vastly different approach this past season, hitting for less power but doubling his walk rate. For 2023, the projections have him somewhere in the middle: above average in both areas, but not elite in either.
The metrics aren’t crazy about Polanco’s defense, but he’s fast and athletic, and he’s only been a full-time second baseman for a couple of years. Perhaps with more practice, he’ll stop flubbing so many plays. Making fewer errors would make a meaningful difference, even if his range never improves.
Polanco missed significant time with injuries in 2022, including tendinitis in his left knee that ended his season in August. Nick Gordon filled in, playing 30 games at second down the stretch. Gordon is still around, but he’s mostly playing the outfield these days. Thus, if Polanco misses more time, his replacement might be top 100 prospect Edouard Julien. Julien earned a 40-man spot this November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, and he was impressive for Team Canada in the WBC. It remains to be seen if he sticks at second base, but his bat is going to make an impact wherever he plays.
Donovan Solano will also get some reps off the bench. At 35 years old, he isn’t an exciting option, but the journeyman hits quite well against left-handed pitching and second is his best defensive position.
Jose Altuve showed signs of decline in 2018 and 2019 before falling off a cliff in the pandemic-shortened season; he lost his place atop these rankings the following year. After a strong bounce back in 2021 and an even better performance in 2022, Altuve had reclaimed his throne – until an errant sinker from Daniel Bard changed the course of his season. Altuve is now expected to miss 8-10 weeks with a broken thumb. It’s a huge loss for the Astros and a terrible setback for the veteran second baseman. Missing so much time is bad enough, and even when he returns, he may not be at 100%.
Altuve hit for serious power last season, finishing with the sixth-highest ISO in the American League and the highest ISO+ of his career. He also improved his plate discipline, and it’s very likely Altuve’s patient approach played a role in his power surge. He was making better swing decisions, and those good decisions led to good results. Until Altuve regains full grip strength in his dominant hand, however, it’s hard to know if that power will return.
Mauricio Dubón is a good backup. He’s a versatile defender and second base is arguably his best position. That said, Houston is counting on him to play all over the diamond, so it’s unlikely he’ll be Altuve’s full-time replacement. Instead, David Hensley could earn a chance to start for the first two months of the season. Hensley was impressive in a late-season call-up last year, playing well enough to earn two starts in the World Series. He’s a natural third baseman but has started to play more second, and the Astros will surely be curious to see what he can offer.
By signing Dansby Swanson to play shortstop, the Cubs also got themselves a major upgrade at second base. Nico Hoerner was a breakout star at short last season, and his glove should remain elite as he moves down the defensive spectrum. His arm strength, which is unimpressive for a shortstop, will play better at second too.
Hoerner is another one of those second base contact machines, although he’d be a better hitter if he were more selective at the plate. He walked at an 8.5% clip in his first three seasons, but that number fell to 5.4% last year. On the plus side, Hoerner had a mini power surge in 2022, hitting 10 bombs in 135 games; he hadn’t hit a single home run in his previous 323 trips to the plate. The projections think his power is real, with our depth charts envisioning another 10 homers for him this season.
Nick Madrigal entered last season as the starting second baseman for the Cubs. He missed significant time with back and groin injuries, yet even when he was healthy, he was hardly productive. He no longer has a starting job, but his strong defense and great contact skills will make him an adequate backup.
Like the Marlins, the Padres are replete with middle infielders. As 2022 Gold Glove finalist Xander Bogaerts takes over at shortstop, 2022 Gold Glove finalist Ha-Seong Kim will slide to second, while 2022 Gold Glove finalist Jake Cronenworth moves to first. It’s going to be tough to get a ball past the Padres infield.
Kim has minimal experience at second base, but he looked excellent in a handful of games there in 2021. He’s such a wonderful athlete and gifted defender that he should take to his new position quickly. He can also hold his own at the plate, but Kim is one of the weaker hitters in San Diego’s stacked lineup, and he struggles against same-handed pitching. Thus, Cronenworth will get some reps at second when the Padres are facing a tough righty or Bob Melvin wants to use his best offensive lineup. Cronenworth isn’t quite the fielder Kim is, but he’s no slouch with the leather. San Diego will have Gold Glove-caliber defense at second regardless of who’s covering the position.
Rougned Odor (himself a Gold Glove finalist in 2018) is in camp on a minor league deal. He’s a good bet to make the roster as a utility infielder. Odor no longer projects to be a plus defender, but he won’t be a liability in a minimal role.
If any team can go toe to toe with the Marlins in terms of second base depth, it’s the Dodgers. This team could enter the season with six capable second basemen on their roster, and once again, it’s the guy with the least experience who’s in line for the starting job. Miguel Vargas is a top 100 prospect who’s going to get a real shot at a starting job in 2023. He’s also a natural third baseman, with only 28 games of professional experience at second base.
If Vargas struggles at the plate or in the field, the Dodgers have plenty of options behind him. For one, Mookie Betts has been working at second this spring. It’s been nearly a decade since he played the position regularly, but Betts is a strong enough hitter that he’ll be valuable anywhere on the diamond. Longtime Dodgers utilityman Chris Taylor will be around to fill in too, although his ability to play shortstop means he’ll get more playing time on the left side of the infield. Miguel Rojas and Max Muncy will be starting at shortstop and third base, respectively, but either could slide over to second if need be.
Finally, there’s top prospect Michael Busch, who ranks just ahead of Vargas on our Top 100. Busch is on the 40-man, so he figures to get some playing time eventually, even if he opens the season at Triple-A. Unlike Vargas, he’s been a second baseman throughout his minor league career, although it remains to be seen if he can stick there defensively.
|Tommy La Stella||35||.247||.306||.371||.299||-0.1||-0.1||-0.1||0.1|
Second base was a black hole for the Mariners in 2022. Adam Frazier was tolerable, but Abraham Toro struggled behind him, and overall the second basemen in Seattle finished with the third-lowest WAR in baseball. As the M’s look to contend in a highly competitive AL West, they can’t afford any replacement-level killers in the starting lineup.
Thus, Jerry Dipoto traded for Kolten Wong, perhaps the most reliable second baseman around. Wong has been an above-average player in each of the past six years, averaging 3.3 WAR per 162 games and 2.6 WAR per full season. He’s projected for another above-average campaign in 2023. His secret is that he’s skilled in every aspect of the game – offense, defense, and baserunning – and if he has a down year in one respect, his other talents can pick up the slack.
Wong has dealt with various nagging injuries over the past two years, including a strained oblique and soreness in both legs. That being said, he has still come within 10 PA of qualifying for the batting title in both seasons, so his injuries have hardly been a major concern.
Dylan Moore posted a 126 wRC+ in 255 PA last year (he dealt with back and oblique issues), but he’s a 30-year-old without a set position who’s never played a full season. It doesn’t help that he’ll begin the year on the IL. Nevertheless, he projects to be a solid utility player for the Mariners, and he’s a better hitter than Wong against left-handed pitching.
After Tommy Edman took over as the primary shortstop last season, the Cardinals gave second base to Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman. It seems they’ll take the same approach in 2023, with Donovan filling a utility role around the diamond and Gorman working to further develop his bat at the big league level.
Gorman has long been a third baseman, but he’s just the teeniest bit blocked at that position in the Cardinals organization. Meanwhile, his offensive skill set looks more like that of a first baseman, but he’s kind of sort of definitely blocked there too. Thus, he’s been learning to play second base. He doesn’t field the position well, but if he reaches his offensive potential, he can stick there for now. Donovan, meanwhile, reached his full potential and then some last season thanks to excellent plate discipline and great bat-to-ball skills. He also won the first-ever utility Gold Glove, although the metrics are mixed and the jury is still out on his second base defense.
Gorman and Donovan don’t make a perfect platoon (they’re both lefties), but each brings different skills to the table. If the Cardinals need power, Gorman’s their guy. If they’d rather have a table-setter, Donovan is the way to go. Finally, if Oliver Marmol would rather field his best defenders, Paul DeJong or Tommy Edman can cover the keystone instead.
Trevor Story’s status remains up in the air as he recovers from offseason surgery on his throwing elbow. It’s possible he returns at some point down the stretch, but even if he does, it’s hard to gauge how he’ll perform. His arm strength has declined substantially over the last few years, and his defense has suffered as a result. It’s unlikely he’ll be throwing at full strength any time soon.
Thus, the Red Sox have had to prepare for the worst. Their solution was to trade for defensive whiz Adalberto Mondesi to help Christian Arroyo and Enrique Hernández cover the infield. Unfortunately, Mondesi is rather injury prone himself and has yet to take the field this spring (he’s recovering from a torn ACL). The Sox are hopeful he won’t miss much of the regular season, but he’ll be severely behind after missing out on Grapefruit League play.
Thankfully, Boston still has a capable second baseman in Arroyo. He’s been an average hitter since joining the Red Sox in 2020 (102 wRC+), and he projects to be much the same player in 2023. His defense is similarly passable, and he provides the Sox with a perfectly acceptable second baseman in Story and Mondesi’s stead. However, Arroyo is also a regular on the injured list. If he gets hurt, Boston could be down to their fourth-string option at second base.
But that’s the pessimistic view. The optimistic one involves Arroyo staying healthy and productive, Mondesi returning quickly and playing elite defense, and Story recovering in time to give the Red Sox a late-season boost. If this team lucks into good health, they could shoot up the rankings at second base. On the other hand, they could find themselves falling fast if anything more goes wrong.
Thairo Estrada broke out as a utility player in 2021, and he proved the breakout was real in a strong follow-up campaign. He’s no star, but he makes good contact, runs well, and has 15-homer pop in his bat. Thus, he projects to be the Giants’ most valuable position player in 2023, just edging out Mike Yastrzemski and Brandon Crawford.
Wilmer Flores will be the utility infielder in San Francisco, but he doesn’t play shortstop. Thus, he’ll see plenty of action at second while Estrada is covering short. Flores is a poor defender, but he’s just as valuable as Estrada at the plate – perhaps even more so. He hits for more power, and he has what is arguably the best plate discipline on the team.
David Villar looks like the starting third baseman, but he can handle second if Gabe Kapler wants to play mix-and-match in the infield. Don’t be surprised to see Villar at second, Flores at third, and Estrada at short when Brandon Crawford needs a day off. Isan Díaz is a former top prospect who has yet to figure things out in the majors. He’s had a strong spring, but after suffering a minor hamstring injury, he’s been optioned to Triple-A. His 40-man status puts him in a good position to earn a call-up eventually.
Santiago Espinal built upon a solid 2021 season with an All-Star first half in 2022. He wasn’t quite as successful as the year went on, but all in all, he did enough to solidify an everyday role in 2023. Espinal has terrific range at second base, and his good contact skills will make him one of the best eight-hole hitters in the sport.
The veteran Whit Merrifield gives the Blue Jays another solid option at the keystone, but the amount of second base he plays will depend heavily on how often the Blue Jays need him in the outfield. Merrifield is the fourth outfielder on the roster, and given the injury-prone nature of George Springer and Kevin Kiermaier, that fourth outfielder gig could turn into an everyday role at any time.
Cavan Biggio showed real signs of improvement last season. He’s still valuable to this team as a left-handed infield bat, although he could see more playing time in the outfield. Top prospect Addison Barger is another left-handed option, but he’s still trying to find his full-time position in the minors. Barring an injury, the Jays have no need to rush him up to Toronto.
Second base will be a position of relative strength for the Athletics, with Tony Kemp taking most of the playing time. That being said, if Kemp is playing well, there’s a good chance he’s out of Oakland by the trade deadline. He’s a free agent after the season, and the Athletics certainly don’t have reservations about dealing away fan favorites.
The projections foresee a bounce back for Kemp, who had a poor season at the plate in 2022. If he can get his walk rate back up to where it was in 2020 and ‘21 (13.1%), he can be even more productive.
Behind Kemp, the A’s have Aledmys Díaz, who spent the last several seasons in a utility role with the Astros. He’ll take on a similar job for Oakland, but if Kemp is traded, Díaz is a good bet to take over at second down the stretch. Jace Peterson will get more playing time at third, but he has experience at second and can cover if the need arises. Zack Gelof is one of Oakland’s top prospects and could grab a cup of coffee in the second half, especially if Kemp is traded and a roster spot opens up.
The Orioles signed Adam Frazier in December, hoping to improve at a position that gave them all kinds of trouble in 2022. They finished last season with -0.2 WAR at second base, making them the only team with negative WAR at the position. With that in mind, Frazier is a massive upgrade. He’s a capable defender at the keystone, and he knows how to put the bat on the ball.
Frazier has been a bit of a yo-yo the last few years. He struggled in 2020 after posting a career-worst .246 BABIP and followed that up with the best season he’s ever had, fueled by a .339 BABIP. The 2022 season was another tough one for Frazier, as he finished with a .268 BABIP and some of the worst offensive numbers of his career. The most likely outcome for the upcoming season is a league-average BABIP and league-average production, but BABIP is hard to predict and Frazier is more BABIP-reliant than most.
Ramón Urías is technically the backup here, but he projects to put up more WAR than Frazier, splitting his time between second and third. He could steal more playing time at second if top prospect Gunnar Henderson entrenches himself at the hot corner. Terrin Vavra is another option to cover second, although he’s a left-handed contact hitter like Frazier, so his opportunities will be limited.
Brendan Rodgers is still hoping to return from shoulder surgery before the year is up, but the Rockies have a plan in place in the interim. Third baseman Ryan McMahon will slide over to second, where his excellent defense should translate quite nicely. Rodgers and McMahon are both glove-first players and average offensive contributors. Rodgers makes more contact, while McMahon has a more disciplined approach. Both have shown above-average power potential, but McMahon has done a better job tapping into that power thus far. All things considered, Colorado will hardly skip a beat at second base. Third is another story, but that’s out of my purview today.
Alan Trejo will make the roster as a utility infielder. He hasn’t done much to impress so far in his big league career, but he plays good defense and Colorado needs someone on the bench who can play the middle infield. Harold Castro can technically play the middle infield too, but his value comes more from his versatility than his talent at any one position. If McMahon needs to move back to third, Trejo or Castro can cover second. Trejo has the better glove, but Castro is a stronger offensive option.
Bryson Stott improved at shortstop as his rookie season went on, but his range will always be limited. He should be much more comfortable at second, where he looked like a natural last summer (3 OAA in 47 games). His bat is still a work in progress, but his offense also picked up as he gained major league experience. He posted a 102 wRC+ from June 1 through the end of the season, a big improvement from his -8 wRC+ in April and May. The projections think he’ll hit more like his second-half self, and he has the skills to take additional steps forward, particularly in the power department.
The Phillies have been hesitant to start Stott against left-handed pitching, so the righties Josh Harrison and Edmundo Sosa will each have their chance to shine. The 35-year-old Harrison is a solid all-around backup, while the 27-year-old Sosa is a versatile, elite defender. Harrison has skillfully handled second the past two seasons (11 OAA in 192 games), so he should be Stott’s primary platoon partner unless his age catches up to him. Sosa is the best defensive weapon at Rob Thomson’s disposal, so he’ll play all over the place, but he may get the most opportunities at second, especially if Harrison struggles.
The Angels don’t have a perfect option at second base, but at least they have options; Brandon Drury, Luis Rengifo, and David Fletcher all have plenty of experience at the position, and each brings his own special skills to the mix. Drury hasn’t been a full-time second baseman in six years, but he’s been an above-average hitter the past two seasons, and he’s turned into a legitimate home run threat (32 HR in 656 PA). Fletcher has no power to speak of, but he’s excellent infielder, and second base is his best position (17 OAA in 286 games). Rengifo, meanwhile, offers a combination of skills. He’s a stronger hitter than Fletcher and a better fielder than Drury, and as a switch-hitter, he provides Phil Nevin with added lineup flexibility.
Drury will get the bulk of the starts at second, while Fletcher and Rengifo rotate between second and short. Thus, Nevin can go with his best offensive middle infield (Drury and Rengifo), his best defensive unit (Rengifo and Fletcher) or the best of both worlds (Drury and Fletcher). As I said, it’s not going to be perfect, but in the absence of a perfect solution, at least it’s nice to have choices.
Jonathan India pulled a hamstring last April and his season unraveled. He would miss nearly eight weeks, and when he returned, he simply wasn’t the same. India had impressed in his rookie season with a high walk rate and above-average power. That combination made him an excellent hitter, making up for his defensive shortcomings. In 2022, his walk rate and power numbers sank, and his defensive metrics were somehow even worse. He was barely above replacement level in 103 games.
As a result of India’s sophomore slump, the Reds have tumbled down these rankings — they were sixth last season. And while India projects to be much better than he was last year, he no longer looks like one of the top 10 second basemen in the game.
The Reds, however, are counting on India to bounce back. He still projects to be the best position player on the roster, and the team doesn’t have a whole lot of depth behind him. Kevin Newman is a strong fielder with a weak bat. He’s mostly going to play shortstop, but he could play more second if Jose Barrero steals his job at short. Meanwhile, Chad Pinder is an NRI in his early 30s who has played a grand total of 21 games at second in the past three years. Lastly, top prospect Elly De La Cruz deserves a shout-out. The Reds aren’t going to rush him, and they’d rather he stick at shortstop, but he’s a name to keep in mind as the year goes on.
The Royals are giving Michael Massey the chance to prove himself after an uninspiring big league debut. He tore the cover off the ball at Double- and Triple-A last season, eventually earning a call-up to the show. Unfortunately, the high quality of big league pitching quickly caught up to him, and Massey didn’t make enough contact or hit the ball as hard as he needed to. Nevertheless, the Royals are interested to see what they have in Massey, enough to move stalwart defender Nicky Lopez into a bench/utility role. Lopez has been around for long enough that it’s clear he’s never going to hit especially well. At the same time, he’s a Gold Glove-caliber fielder, so he’ll still get plenty of playing time around the diamond.
Massey and Lopez are both left-handed, leaving room for the righty Samad Taylor to get in some games against left-handed pitching. Taylor doesn’t project to be much of a threat with the bat (much like Massey and Lopez), but at least he gives the lefty-heavy Royals a different option.
As things stand, Luis Urías looks to be the Opening Day second baseman for Milwaukee. However, top prospect Brice Turang is nearing his big league debut. When Turang proves he’s ready, Urías can slide to the left, while third baseman Brian Anderson takes a role on the bench.
The Brewers have big plans for Turang, which they all but confirmed by shipping Kolten Wong off to Seattle. Turang, a shortstop since high school, is blocked at his natural position by Willy Adames, so he’ll transition to second on the fly. Milwaukee will need him to make the adjustment swiftly, because his glove is his most valuable tool. His .288 projected wOBA is the lowest among all the primary second basemen on this list.
Once he’s up, Turang should get regular playing time. That being said, Craig Counsell would be wise to start Urías and Anderson against tough southpaws – the left-handed Turang is barely an offensive force even when he has the platoon advantage.
Most people don’t think of baseball as an extreme sport, but Jonathan Schoop might beg to differ. He had a year of extremes in 2022, leading the league in OAA by a wide margin but finishing dead last in wRAA. The projections foresee regression in both respects, with each canceling the other out. His 1.6 projected WAR is nearly identical to the 1.5 WAR he produced this past season.
The Tigers added César Hernández and Nick Maton this winter, and each could sub in for Schoop now and then. Hernández is an NRI, but he’s likely to make the roster in a utility infield role. Maton is currently penciled in as the starting third baseman, but the middle infield is where he’s spent most of his professional career.
This isn’t the strongest group, but the floor is relatively stable. The Tigers aren’t getting any favors from their second basemen, but the keystone is hardly their biggest problem either.
|Ji Hwan Bae||259||.255||.321||.374||.307||-1.0||0.4||-0.4||0.9|
Second base is still up for grabs in Pittsburgh, but Rodolfo Castro has the most big league experience and therefore the inside track for the job. He was perfectly fine in a utility role last season, playing adequate defense around the infield and showing off some genuine power. Castro is a switch-hitter, but he’s always done much better as a righty. His right-handed power stroke will come in handy for the Pirates; their best power-hitting options skew left-handed.
The other youngsters competing for the second base job are Ji Hwan Bae and Tucupita Marcano. Bae has a little more offensive upside, while Marcano is the better defensive option. Both are left-handed, so either one could platoon with Castro. However, Bae might have a slight advantage having played more second base last season; Marcano ended up playing more outfield. Regardless of who nabs the Opening Day start, all three of these guys will get their chance to shine this season – that’s the silver lining to playing on a rebuilding team.
It took several months, but Elvis Andrus ultimately ended up back where he started the offseason. The White Sox first picked him up last August to replace the injured Tim Anderson at shortstop. Andrus was excellent in 43 games for Chicago, one of the few bright spots on the field and in the lineup as the team stumbled down the stretch. With Anderson healthy, Andrus will slide over to second, the natural progression for a veteran shortstop entering his mid-30s. He has played just one game there in his pro career, but I’d imagine he’ll adjust quite nicely. As for his offense, the outlook isn’t so pretty. The projections think Andrus will resemble his first-half self (92 wRC+) more than his second-half self (120 wRC+), which would make him the worst-hitting everyday second baseman in the AL.
Behind Andrus on the depth chart are Romy Gonzalez, Lenyn Sosa, Leury Garcia, and Hanser Alberto. None of their offensive projections are any better than Andrus’, but they all have more experience at second base. Garcia has the worst projections of the bunch, but he comes with the most big league experience (and no minor league options), so he might have the best chance to make the Opening Day roster. Alberto has plenty of experience too, although he’ll have to earn a spot on the 40-man before he gets any playing time.
The Nationals are going to be bad this season, and things look especially bleak at second base. That’s not entirely Luis García’s fault – he projects to be the sixth-best position player on the team – but second base is deep this year, and it’s the only offensive position where the Nats rank dead last in these rankings. (The starting rotation ranks at the bottom, too, without a single arm projected for more than 1.5 WAR.)
García’s 2022 season was a mixed bad. His wRC+ improved significantly, but it was largely because of a 64-point increase in BABIP. In nearly every other way, García took a step backward. His walk rate dropped, his strikeout rate rose, and he hit for less power. On the plus side, García put more balls in the air and hit those fly balls harder than he had before. As for the balls he hit on the ground, he did a better job spraying them to the opposite side of the field. In other words, his high BABIP wasn’t just a fluke, and the projections are confident he can maintain a BABIP north of .300 going forward. The higher that BABIP can be, the better he’ll perform.
Ildemaro Vargas sits behind García on the depth chart. After switching organizations six times in two years, he settled in quite nicely with the Nationals last summer. His glove was sharp, and he put the ball in play like his life depended on it. Vargas can fill in for García against left-handed pitching or when Dave Martinez would prefer to have his veteran glove in the field.