MLB Position Power Rankings 2018: B/R's Top 30 Second Basemen
Ahead, we've set out to identify the top 30 second basemen in the league heading into the 2018 season.
A few things to consider before we get started:
- League averages: For the sake of reference, the league average triple-slash line for a second baseman last season was .268/.332/.421.
- Eligibility: To be considered for inclusion, a player must have played at least 300 innings at second base last season. Exceptions were made for an expected position change (Asdrubal Cabrera) and prospects (Franklin Barreto, Scott Kingery and Gleyber Torres).
For draft fans, think of this as a big board of the position if the entire league were doing a redraft for one all-or-nothing season in 2018.
Someone like Yoan Moncada has more upside than Jason Kipnis going forward, but is he going to be better this coming year?
Let's find out.
30. Yangervis Solarte, Toronto Blue Jays
2017 Offensive: 94 OPS+, .255/.314/.416, 39 XBH (18 HR), 64 RBI, 49 R
2017 Defensive: -2 DRS, -1.2 UZR/150, 0.7 DEF
Yangervis Solarte spent significant time at second base (79 G), shortstop (28 G) and third base (22 G) for the San Diego Padres last season before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays this winter.
While he doesn't have a clear path to a starting job, the oft-injured duo of Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki could open the door for him to see regular playing time if they end up on the disabled list again.
Honorable Mentions: Carlos Asuaje (SD), Dixon Machado (DET), Brad Miller (TB), Chris Owings (ARI), Luis Urias (SD), Chase Utley (LAD), Jonathan Villar (MIL)
29. Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
2017 Offensive: 65 OPS+, .204/.252/.397, 54 XBH (30 HR), 75 RBI, 79 R
2017 Defensive: 3 DRS, -4.8 UZR/150, -2.9 DEF
No second baseman has hit more home runs prior to his age-24 season than the 88 launched by Rougned Odor over parts of four seasons with the Texas Rangers.
However, he's as one-dimensional as any player in the league.
His 4.2 percent walk rate and .287 on-base percentage over the course of his career take a major bite out of his offensive value and his minus-24 DRS at second base speaks to his defensive shortcomings.
Youth is still on his side, but he has a lot of work to do to become a complete player.
28. Asdrubal Cabrera, New York Mets
2017 Offensive: 107 OPS+, .280/.351/.434, 46 XBH (14 HR), 59 RBI, 66 R
2017 Defensive: -6 DRS, 3.6 UZR/150, 1.4 DEF
The arrival of shortstop Amed Rosario and signing of free-agent third baseman Todd Frazier will push veteran Asdrubal Cabrera over to second base for the upcoming season.
He's hit .280/.343/.455 while averaging 31 doubles, 18 home runs, 60 RBI and a 1.9 WAR in the first two years of a three-year, $25 million contract, leading the New York Mets to exercise his $8.5 million option during the offseason.
While he originally balked at the idea of switching positions last season, Cabrera now seems to be welcoming it with open arms, telling Kevin Kernan of the New York Post: "If I had the opportunity to pick a position, I would pick second base."
27. Franklin Barreto, Oakland Athletics
2017 Defensive: N/A
Franklin Barreto started the 2017 season on fire, hitting .357/.414/.561 over his first 25 games with Triple-A Nashville.
He eventually made his MLB debut on June 24, and while he struggled to a .197/.250/.352 line with 33 strikeouts in 76 plate appearances in the big leagues, his future is still incredibly bright.
Jed Lowrie is currently blocking him at second base—the position he's likely to play in the majors despite spending the bulk of his time in the minors at shortstop—but it won't be long before Barreto arrives in Oakland for good.
26. Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays
2017 Offensive: 88 OPS+, .259/.291/.438, 23 XBH (5 HR), 24 RBI, 22 R
2017 Defensive: 3 DRS, 4.5 UZR/150, 2.4 DEF
If only Devon Travis could find a way to stay healthy.
A .292/.331/.462 career hitter in parts of three seasons, he's yet to play more than 101 games in a season and a season-ending knee injury limited him to just 50 games and 197 plate appearances last year.
He's shown flashes of being a dynamic table-setter with the ability to hit for a high batting average and double-digit home run power.
Shaking the injury-prone label won't be easy, though.
25. Ben Zobrist, Chicao Cubs
2017 Offensive: 79 OPS+, .232/.318/.375, 35 XBH (12 HR), 50 RBI, 58 R
2017 Defensive: 5 DRS, 8.5 UZR/150, 4.3 DEF
The Chicago Cubs gave Ben Zobrist a four-year, $56 million deal knowing full well his production was likely to decline before the contract was over.
The first year of that deal saw him hit .272/.386/.446 with 52 extra-base hits and 3.9 WAR as he was a starter in the All-Star Game and won World Series MVP honors.
His second season on the North Side was not nearly as productive, though, as he was hampered by a wrist injury and nagging back stiffness.
While the 12-year veteran will likely see his role shrink over the final two years of his contract, his defensive versatility and elite contact skills still hold value.
24. Scooter Gennett, Cincinnati Reds
2017 Offensive: 124 OPS+, .295/.342/.531, 52 XBH (27 HR), 97 RBI, 80 R
2017 Defensive: -8 DRS, -6.1 UZR/150, -1.3 DEF
Scooter Gennett was claimed off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers last March, and he responded by enjoying a power surge with his new team.
Was that breakout the real deal?
In the end, the arrival of top prospect Nick Senzel could push Eugenio Suarez over to second base and Gennett into a backup role.
23. Logan Forsythe, Los Angeles Dodgers
2017 Offensive: 82 OPS+, .224/.351/.327, 25 XBH (6 HR), 36 RBI, 56 R
2017 Defensive: 5 DRS, 9.2 UZR/150, 4.2 DEF
Logan Forsythe posted a 119 OPS+ and averaged 28 doubles, 18 home runs and 60 RBI during his final two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, quietly emerging as one of the better offensive second basemen in the game.
With a team-friendly contract that paid him $7 million in 2017 and $8.5 million in 2018, he was a hot commodity on the trade market last offseason and the Los Angeles Dodgers eventually acquired him in exchange for pitching prospect Jose De Leon.
Unfortunately, a fractured toe cost him roughly a month early in the season, and he eventually settled into a platoon role with Chase Utley.
That said, his strong defensive skills will keep him in the lineup, and his track record makes him a solid bounce-back candidate.
22. Scott Kingery, Philadelphia Phillies
2017 Defensive: N/A
It's only a matter of time before Scott Kingery takes over as the everyday second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies.
For now, he's blocked by Cesar Hernandez.
Kingery checks in as the No. 35 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, which is tops among all second base prospects—although Gleyber Torres is still lumped in with the shortstops.
After enjoying an offensive explosion between Double-A and Triple-A last season, he's gone 7-for-18 with three home runs so far this spring as he makes his case for a big league job.
21. Neil Walker, Free Agent
2017 Offensive: 111 OPS+, .265/.362/.439, 37 XBH (14 HR), 49 RBI, 59 R
2017 Defensive: -5 DRS, -2.1 UZR/150, -0.2 DEF
Is anyone going to sign Neil Walker?
"I'm certainly optimistic I'll find a spot, but it's certainly frustrating," Walker told Greg Joyce of the New York Post. "My track record kind of speaks for itself. When I've been healthy I've been a productive big league player. When I'm healthy, I know I'm a guy that can contribute."
Walker has been one of the most consistent offensive producers at the second base position since becoming a full-time player in 2010, posting a 114 OPS+ and averaging 25 doubles, 16 home runs and 65 RBI.
If anything, he boosted his stock down the stretch when he posted an .843 OPS with 12 extra-base hits in 38 games after being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.
20. Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals
2017 Offensive: 109 OPS+, .285/.376/.412, 34 XBH (4 HR), 42 RBI, 55 R
2017 Defensive: -1 DRS, -1.7 UZR/150, 0.3 DEF
The St. Louis Cardinals gave Kolten Wong a five-year, $25.5 million extension prior to the 2016 season in hopes he would emerge as a core piece.
In the two years since, he's posted a 97 OPS+ while missing some time to injury, earning a demotion to Triple-A and sharing second base duties with Matt Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia at various times.
There's still time for everything to click, though.
If he can once again show the intriguing mix of power and speed he flashed during his first two seasons in the majors, while continuing to hit for a high average and walk at a 10 percent clip, he could climb much higher in these rankings.
19. Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics
2017 Offensive: 119 OPS+, .277/.360/.448, 66 XBH (14 HR), 69 RBI, 86 R
2017 Defensive: -2 DRS, -1.5 UZR/150, 0.5 DEF
Jed Lowrie quietly enjoyed a fantastic 2017 season.
The 33-year-old was also among the positional leaders in OPS+ (119, eighth), doubles (49, first) and total bases (254, seventh), and it came as something of a surprise that he wasn't moved at the deadline.
As good as his numbers were last season, there's a good chance he'll move into more of a utility role before the 2018 season is over with the impending arrival of prospect Franklin Barreto taking precedence for a rebuilding Oakland team.
18. Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees
2017 Offensive: 235 PA, .287/.383/.480, 23 XBH (7 HR), 34 RBI, 31 R
2017 Defensive: N/A
Even if he doesn't break camp with a spot on the 25-man roster, it's only a matter of time before Gleyber Torres is a member of the New York Yankees' everyday lineup.
A shortstop throughout his pro career who likely would have been manning the hot corner in New York last season if not for season-ending Tommy John surgery, his long-term home now looks to be at second base following the offseason trade of Starlin Castro.
Torres is one of the game's truly elite prospects, and while it may take him a few years to reach his ceiling, he brings legitimate superstar potential to a team that's already loaded with young talent.
MLB.com wrote of his offensive game: "He makes adjustments easily and also has hit for more power each year as well as he has gotten stronger, projecting as a hitter who can contend for batting titles while providing 20-plus homers annually."
17. Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants
2017 Offensive: 104 OPS+, .288/.347/.421, 43 XBH (10 HR), 53 RBI, 60 R
2017 Defensive: -11 DRS, -1.4 UZR/150, 0.9 DEF
Joe Panik saw his offensive game recover nicely last season, while his defensive game took a sharp downturn.
Meanwhile, his OPS spiked from .695 to .768 and he set a career high in hits (147), doubles (28) and total bases (215).
The potential is there for him to rank much higher if he can play up to his potential on both sides of the ball.
For the time being, his enigmatic past two seasons make it hard to slot him any higher.
16. Starlin Castro, Miami Marlins
2017 Offensive: 106 OPS+, .300/.338/.454, 35 XBH (16 HR), 63 RBI, 66 R
2017 Defensive: -6 DRS, -13.2 UZR/150, -4.3 DEF
Nick Stellini of Sporting News said it perfectly: "Poor Starlin Castro. It’s pretty rough to go from being one win away from the World Series to baseball’s island of misfit toys."
An All-Star last season for the fourth time in his eight big league seasons, Castro continues to be a high-average, low-on-base hitter who has already racked up 1,280 hits heading into his age-28 season.
He'll never be a standout defender at the keystone and his home run numbers will likely take a hit going from the hitter-friendly AL East to playing half his games in spacious Marlins Park.
However, he's still a safe bet for a .280 average with 15 home runs and 60 RBI, and that's probably his floor at this point in his career.
15. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
2017 Offensive: 81 OPS+, .232/.291/.414, 37 XBH (12 HR), 35 RBI, 43 R
2017 Defensive: -2 DRS, -3.3 UZR/150, -0.5 DEF
It's easy to write Jason Kipnis off after a disappointing 2017 season.
However, there might not be a better bounce-back candidate in the majors based on his age, track record and the injury issues he battled last year.
After missing time during spring training and early in the season with a shoulder injury, he never seemed to get to 100 percent, and a midseason move to center field further complicated things.
Now he's back at the keystone and looking to return to his previous form.
As recently as 2016, Kipnis hit .275/.343/.469 with 41 doubles, 23 home runs, 82 RBI and 15 stolen bases for a 4.0 WAR.
14. Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox
2017 Offensive: 102 OPS+, .231/.338/.412, 18 XBH (8 HR), 22 RBI, 31 R
2017 Defensive: 6 DRS, -9.1 UZR/150, -1.5 DEF
It wasn't hard to see that Yoan Moncada was settling into life in the big leagues as the 2017 season progressed, following his call-up on July 19:
- July: 46 PA, .105 BA, .524 OPS, 3 XBH (1 HR)
- Aug: 76 PA, .238 BA, .781 OPS, 7 XBH (2 HR)
- Sept: 109 PA, .276 BA, .818 OPS, 8 XBH (5 HR)
Now, as he gets set to enter his first full season in the majors, expectations are understandably high for the Cuban phenom.
An .800 OPS and a 20/20 season is not out of the question in 2018, and his continued development is as important to the White Sox long-term plans as anything.
13. Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals
2017 Offensive: 105 OPS+, .288/.324/.460, 57 XBH (19 HR), 78 RBI, 80 R
2017 Defensive: 5 DRS, 0.8 UZR/150, 2.6 DEF
Whit Merrifield emerged as a solid utility option for the Kansas City Royals en route to 1.6 WAR as a 27-year-old rookie during the 2016 season.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. He took over as the everyday second baseman last season and exceeded even the wildest of expectations, posting a 105 OPS+ with 32 doubles, 19 home runs, 78 RBI, 80 runs scored and an AL-leading 34 stolen bases.
There are some red flags going forward.
His 4.6 percent walk rate ranked 135th among 144 qualified hitters, and that's going to make it easier for pitchers to attack him going forward.
He also never hit more than nine home runs in a season in the minors, so his power surge has to be taken with a grain of salt until he backs it up.
Still, it's hard to rank him any lower than this.
12. Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves
2017 Offensive: 112 OPS+, .286/.354/.456, 20 XBH (6 HR), 28 RBI, 34 R
2017 Defensive: 1 DRS, 11.7 UZR/150, 4.4 DEF
Twenty years old for all of his rookie season, Ozzie Albies made as smooth a transition to the big leagues as anyone could have hoped.
At 5'9" and 160 pounds, he's never been much of a power threat, so his six home runs in 244 plate appearances were a pleasant surprise.
The tools are there for him to be a 10-homer, 40-steal player as soon as the upcoming season, and with solid on-base skills and a terrific hit tool, he looks like the prototypical leadoff hitter.
As for his defensive game, he would still be a shortstop if not for the presence of Dansby Swanson. With that in mind, he has as much range as any second baseman and could develop into a Gold Glover once he gets better acquainted with his new position.
11. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
2017 Offensive: 103 OPS+, .273/.317/.480, 49 XBH (23 HR), 75 RBI, 75 R
2017 Defensive: 5 DRS, 3.4 UZR/150, 1.5 DEF
In terms of pure athleticism, few players rival Javier Baez.
The former No. 9 overall pick split his time between second base (80 G) and shortstop (77 G) last season with regular shortstop Addison Russell battling injury, and once he finally settles in a full-time second baseman he figures to be a perennial Gold Glove contender.
A slight uptick in his walk rate (3.3 to 5.9 percent) speaks to his improving approach, though there will likely always be a good deal of swing-and-miss to his game.
It's tough to nail down what his ceiling might be as he gets set to enter his age-25 season.
That said, a 30-homer season with double-digit runs saved and a shiny Gold Glove for his trophy case is not out of the question in 2018.
10. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
2017 Offensive: 101 OPS+, .293/.369/.392, 26 XBH (7 HR), 62 RBI, 46 R
2017 Defensive: -2 DRS, 9.7 UZR/150, 7.5 DEF
Offseason knee surgery will keep Dustin Pedroia sidelined until at least the end of May, so that costs the Boston Red Sox staple a few spots in the rankings.
That knee was clearly an issue last season, when he was roughly a league average hitter and failed to tally 2.0 WAR for the first time since his 31-game audition in 2006—the lead-in to his winning AL Rookie of the Year the following season.
That said, he showed what he's still capable of when healthy in 2016 when he hit .318/.376/.449 with 36 doubles, 15 home runs and 74 RBI en route to 5.7 WAR.
Father Time is not on his side, but it's hard to drop him any lower than this based on his reputation and fairly recent productivity.
9. Cesar Hernandez, Philadelphia Phillies
2017 Offensive: 112 OPS+, .294/.373/.421, 41 XBH (9 HR), 34 RBI, 85 R
2017 Defensive: -2 DRS, 3.1 UZR/150, 4.5 DEF
Cesar Hernandez might be the most underrated second baseman in baseball.
While many fans are already clamoring for the Philadelphia Phillies to hand the starting second base job to top prospect Scott Kingery, the team already has one of the league's best second basemen manning the position.
Over the past two seasons, Hernandez ranks among the leaders at the position in batting average (.294, seventh), on-base percentage (.373, fifth), hits (311, 10th), triples (17, first), stolen bases (32, fifth) and WAR (6.4, 10th).
With a reasonable $5.1 million salary this season and team control through 2020, the asking price will be high if the Phillies decide to shop him.
8. DJ LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies
2017 Offensive: 94 OPS+, .310/.374/.409, 40 XBH (8 HR), 64 RBI, 95 R
2017 Defensive: 8 DRS, 3.4 UZR/150, 6.0 DEF
DJ LeMahieu is the perfect example of how batting average is not the best gauge of a player's overall offensive value.
His .319 average over the past three seasons—which includes a .348 average and NL batting title in 2016—ranks third among the 119 players with at least 1,500 plate appearances during that span.
However, his 104 OPS+ during that same span is tied for 84th among that same group and paints him as a slightly above-average hitter.
And that's exactly what he is.
Throw in his stellar defensive work, and it's enough to earn him a place inside the top 10, but anyone pointing to his batting average as a reason he should be ranked higher needs a crash course in how to analyze offensive value.
7. Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates
2017 Offensive: 101 OPS+, .272/.339/.432, 44 XBH (16 HR), 47 RBI, 66 R
2017 Defensive: 6 DRS, 0.0 UZR/150, 1.4 DEF
Josh Harrison was one of the lone standouts amid a trying season for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
An All-Star for the second time, he hit a career-high 16 home runs and showed modest improvement in his approach at the plate by raising his walk rate from 3.4 to 5.2 percent.
A utility player early in his career, Harrison has settled in nicely at second base, where he's posted 14 DRS over the past two seasons.
It remains to be seen how much longer he'll be playing in Pittsburgh after Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole were shipped out this offseason. He'll earn $10.25 million this season and has reasonable team options of $10.5 million and $11.5 million in 2019 and 2020.
6. Ian Kinsler, Los Angeles Angels
2017 Offensive: 90 OPS+, .236/.313/.412, 50 XBH (22 HR), 52 RBI, 90 R
2017 Defensive: 6 DRS, 7.5 UZR/150, 8.1 DEF
Elite defense and 20-homer pop—even in a down season overall offensively—are enough to land Ian Kinsler the No. 6 spot in these rankings.
Can he bounce back with a change of scenery?
When the the 12-year veteran calls it quits, he'll be in elite company.
His 55.0 WAR ranks 18th all-time at the position, and he's well within striking distance of Jeff Kent (55.2) and Hall of Famer Joe Gordon (57.1) for the upcoming season.
He's also one of just six second basemen with 200 home runs and 200 stolen bases, joining Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio and Brandon Phillips.
5. Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
2017 Offensive: 136 OPS+, .322/.384/.543, 69 XBH (23 HR), 93 RBI, 94 R
2017 Defensive: -15 DRS, -4.0 UZR/150, -1.0 DEF
Daniel Murphy's bat makes him a top-five second baseman.
And his glove keeps him from ranking any higher than the No. 5 spot.
However, since joining the Washington Nationals prior to the 2016 season, he's emerged as one of the game's elite offensive threats.
In his two seasons with the team, he's hit .334/.387/.569 while averaging 45 doubles, 24 home runs and 98 RBI on his way to a pair of Silver Slugger awards.
If we were only accounting for offensive ability, he'd be securely locked into the No. 2 spot, but his defensive shortcomings make it impossible to rank him any higher.
4. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
2017 Offensive: 112 OPS+, .280/.338/.453, 56 XBH (23 HR), 97 RBI, 79 R
2017 Defensive: 0 DRS, 1.2 UZR/150, 4.0 DEF
Robinson Cano is four years into the massive 10-year, $240 million deal he signed in December 2013 to join the Seattle Mariners.
While he failed to match his MVP-caliber production from 2016, the 13-year veteran is still one of the most dangerous offensive second basemen in the game.
His home run total is largely tied to a wildly fluctuating fly-ball rate—2015 (25.3%), 2016 (36.1%), 2017 (30.6%)—which makes his production tough to predict.
With a .305/.354/.494 career line and 301 home runs and 1,183 RBI to his credit, Cano will continue building what should be a worthy Hall of Fame resume once his career comes to a close.
For now, he's just focused on getting the Mariners to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
3. Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins
2017 Offensive: 127 OPS+, .271/.359/.498, 68 XBH (34 HR), 93 RBI, 106 R
2017 Defensive: -4 DRS, -1.2 UZR/150, 0.9 DEF
It sounds like Brian Dozier can be added to the impressive list of names that will be testing the free-agent waters next winter.
"I don't want to touch too much on this, it's the thing that gets asked all the time, but at the same time, I will be a free agent this fall," Dozier told reporters. "That's the bottom line. You can only say you want to be here so much, and nothing gets done. That's just the way it is. I understand everything. At the same time, you're six months away from free agency. That's intriguing."
After posting a 134 OPS+ and slugging 42 home runs during the 2016 season, Dozier didn't regress to the extent that many were expecting.
With 34 more home runs last season, he's now hit 127 over the past four seasons. That's tops among second basemen and tied with Anthony Rizzo for 11th among all players during that span.
For good measure, he also improved his walk rate from 8.8 to 11.1 percent last year.
2. Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles
2017 Offensive: 123 OPS+, .293/.338/.503, 67 XBH (32 HR), 105 RBI, 92 R
2017 Defensive: 2 DRS, 0.1 UZR/150, 2.5 DEF
When we wrote this article last offseason, Jonathan Schoop checked in at the No. 17 spot in the rankings.
What a difference a year can make.
The young second baseman showed some potential in 2016 when he slugged 38 doubles and 25 home runs, but a .267/.298/.454 batting line and 98 OPS+ still left a lot to be desired.
A vastly improved hard-contact rate (26.6 to 36.1 percent) was perhaps the biggest contributing factor in his breakout performance, and that gives some hope that he'll be able to sustain that level of production going forward.
Jumping him ahead of Dozier, Cano and Murphy might be a tad premature after only one standout season, but his combination of youth and power was just enough to secure the second spot.
1. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
2017 Offensive: 164 OPS+, .346/.410/.547, 67 XBH (24 HR), 81 RBI, 112 R
2017 Defensive: 3 DRS, -2.6 UZR/150, 0.3 DEF
Who did you expect?
Jose Altuve won his third batting title in four years, swiped 30 bases for the sixth straight season and matched his career high with 24 home runs on his way to AL MVP honors for the World Series champion Houston Astros.
It's almost impossible to believe he's only 27 years old.
He's even improved his defensive game to the point of being slightly above average after posting a horrendous minus-18 DRS during his first full season back in 2012.
The gap between Altuve and the rest of the second base field is as wide as there is at any position, and he should be squarely in the AL MVP conversation for the foreseeable future.