MLB Position Power Rankings: B/R's Final Top 25 Second Basemen of 2017

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterOctober 9, 2017

MLB Position Power Rankings: B/R's Final Top 25 Second Basemen of 2017

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    Bleacher Report's final positional power rankings for the 2017 Major League Baseball season now heads from behind the plate to the middle of the diamond, starting with second basemen.

    Second base wasn't as star-studded in 2017 as it was in 2016, which was potentially the best year ever for the position. There were nonetheless 25 players worthy of inclusion in the final 300.

    Here are the ground rules: 

    • Players must have logged the majority of their games at second base.
    • Players were ranked both on the quantity and the quality of their work.
    • Hitting, defense and baserunning fell under the "quality" umbrella.
    • As a general rule, second base is not home to MLB's best hitters, defenders or baserunners. But the position has players who satisfy all three categories and were treated as such.

    The rankings were a simple judgment call. Baseball Reference's version of wins above replacement was useful in this respect but was treated more as a guideline than the word of the baseball gods.

    Lastly, this was neither a far-reaching retrospective nor a gaze into the future. Only what happened in 2017 counted.

A Few Statistics to Know

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    In the year 2017, it's ill-advised and arguably irresponsible to talk about players in detail without using statistics to contextualize their talents and shortcomings.

    So, be warned: There are indeed statistics in these rankings.

    Many stats will simply be alluded to via links that go to relevant data at Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball and Baseball Prospectus. But a few to know are...


    Wins Above Replacement (WAR): As a stat that puts a number on a player's hitting, baserunning and fielding contributions, WAR is a good go-to in any circumstance.

    On-Base Plus Slugging Plus (OPS+): This takes a player's OPS, adjusts it for league and ballpark factors and puts it on a scale where 100 represents average. It shows how well a hitter performed relative to his peers.

    Defensive Runs Saved (DRS): It sounds like a measurement of a player's defensive quality, and that's what it is. It's the main defense component for Baseball Reference's version of WAR. Some play multiple positions, but the DRS listed for them here is that of their primary position.

    Launch Angle: This Statcast specialty measures the angle of the ball off a hitter's bat. It provides a snapshot of the shape of a hitter's swing—i.e. whether it's flat and tailored for ground balls and line drives or lofty and tailored for fly balls. The MLB average in 2017 was 11.1 degrees.

    Exit Velocity: Another Statcast specialty that measures the speed of the ball off a hitter's bat. As you'd expect, there's a strong correlation between high speeds and hitting success. The MLB average in 2017 was 86.6 miles per hour.

    Plate Discipline: Although they'll rarely be mentioned explicitly, Swing% (percentage of swings at all pitches), Z-Swing% (in-zone swing percentage) and O-Swing% (out-of-zone swing percentage) paint a picture of a hitter's approach. These figures are found at FanGraphs.

    Pull Percentage (Pull%): Also from FanGraphs, this shows the rate at which hitters pull the ball—to left field for righties and to right field for lefties. Pulling the ball is a double-edged sword: It can make a hitter vulnerable to shifts but is also by far the best avenue to power.

25. Chase Utley, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Age: 38

    Key Stats: 127 G, 353 PA, .236/.324/.405, 92 OPS+, 8 HR, 6 SB, 1 DRS

    WAR: 1.0


    2017 Player Report

    Chase Utley is far from his former MVP-caliber self, but his advancing age isn't robbing him of his usefulness.

    Some of that has to do with how the Los Angeles Dodgers deploy him as a part-time player who only sees at-bats against right-handers. But Utley still has tricks up his sleeve.

    In 2017, an old one was a selective approach that ensured he'd be a tough out. A new one was an increase in batted balls to left field, which helped quell the shift onslaught he saw in 2016. That wasn't a cure-all for his hitting, but it helped keep his bat relatively close to league average.

    Utley still runs well for a guy who's pushing 40, sprinting faster than the league average of 27 feet-per-second, and continues to have energy to burn on defense. Even if it's far from its vintage form, said energy kept his defensive range from drying up into nothing.


    Honorable Mentions: Rougned Odor (TEX), Ben Zobrist (CHC), Yoan Moncada (CHW), Ozzie Albies (ATL), Ronald Torreyes (NYY)

24. Eric Sogard, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    Key Stats: 94 G, 299 PA, .273/.393/.378, 104 OPS+, 3 HR, 3 SB, 5 DRS

    WAR: 1.9


    2017 Player Report

    Eric Sogard wasn't known for his bat during his six seasons with the Oakland Athletics, so it was never likely that his hot start with the Milwaukee Brewers would last. Sure enough, it didn't.

    It's nonetheless fair to say he advanced his offensive game. After missing 2016 with a knee injury, he returned with a more disciplined approach. His BB% ballooned to 15.1, and swinging at better pitches permitted him to make more frequent hard contact.

    His weak arm is one nit to pick regarding his defense, but he gets good reads on plays and makes outs with his soft hands and quick, smooth actions. And while he's best at second base, he's competent enough at other positions to round out a versatile defensive profile.

    The only big knock against Sogard is that he wasn't an everyday player in 2017.

23. Brandon Drury, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    Key Stats: 135 G, 480 PA, .267/.317/.447, 89 OPS+, 13 HR, 1 SB, 5 DRS

    WAR: 1.6


    2017 Player Report

    As in 2016, Brandon Drury had ups and downs in 2017. But also as in 2016, he came out looking like a passable regular.

    The fact that he sees so many pitches in the strike zone indicates that pitchers aren't afraid of his power and means he can't squeeze many free passes out his patient approach. He finished with just a 5.8 BB%.

    Drury at least kept his power from deflating, however. He had been a more of a pull-power guy before. But in 2017, he sprayed his hits around and found himself enjoying line-to-line power production.

    In the baserunning and defense departments, Drury was more aggressive on the bases and played a solid second base after flopping as an outfielder in 2016. His deep positioning sometimes created trouble when he had to come in on the ball, but he made plenty of plays that he had to make.

22. Logan Forsythe, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    Key Stats: 119 G, 439 PA, .224/.351/.327, 82 OPS+, 6 HR, 3 SB, 5 DRS

    WAR: 1.8


    2017 Player Report

    It was easiest to notice Logan Forsythe when he was on defense in 2017.

    He made the leap from everyday second basemen to super-utilityman look easy thanks to a high motor and athletic tools that played wherever the Dodgers had him on a given day. That was second base and third base for the most part, and he played both positions well.

    It might look like Forsythe didn't do anything else of note, but his on-base percentage is worth a tip o' the hat.

    He swung only 32.5 percent of the time, easily the lowest rate in MLB. The wisdom of that can be questioned to a degree, but it's hard to argue with his 15.7 BB%. And while he didn't have much to show for it, his 88.8 mph exit velocity is good enough to wonder whether he deserved better when he did swing.

21. Yangervis Solarte, San Diego Padres

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    Andy Hayt/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    Key Stats: 128 G, 512 PA, .255/.314/.416, 94 OPS+, 18 HR, 3 SB, -2 DRS

    WAR: 1.3


    2017 Player Report

    Yangervis Solarte logged over 500 plate appearances for a third time in four seasons and was his usual self to some extents.

    As much as he likes to swing the bat, it was another year in which he was in control at the plate. His plate appearances typically ended in either a free pass (7.2 BB%) or a ball in play (11.9 K%). 

    Solarte's missing ingredient, however, was good contact. Like many hitters, he's upping his launch angle as the Statcast era progresses. But as his 85.4 mph exit velocity reflects, he doesn't have the pop to get the most out of an elevated swing. Many of his fly balls and line drives went out with a whimper.

    Solarte's limited athleticism holds him back on the bases and on defense. But with routine plays presenting no problems, his defense in 2017 was much like his offense: unspectacular but reliable.

20. Brandon Phillips, Los Angeles Angels

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    Age: 36

    Key Stats: 144 G, 604 PA, .285/.319/.416, 93 OPS+, 13 HR, 11 SB, -7 DRS

    WAR: 0.8


    2017 Player Report

    Brandon Phillips is an aging star who can't stop swinging at everything, is now one of MLB's slower second basemen and one of the softest hitters of any position.

    But if he was one of the X-Men, his power would be finding ways to remain relevant.

    Phillips hasn't lost his long-held ability to put the bat on the ball. His 12.1 K% from 2017 is one of the lowest of his career. And despite what his 84.5 mph exit velocity would suggest, he made contact with a purpose. He didn't hit it hard, but his all-fields talent was often an exercise in hitting it where they ain't.

    The veteran's diminishing speed didn't stop him from running the bases aggressively. And while his negative DRS is reflective of his defensive decline, his smooth hands and creative mind allowed him to remain more of an asset than a liability. In all, this is a case of WAR underrating a capable everyday player.

19. Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants

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    G Fiume/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    Key Stats: 130 G, 537 PA, .291/.351/.430, 107 OPS+, 10 HR, 4 SB, -11 DRS

    WAR: 1.3


    2017 Player Report

    An August stint on the concussion DL aside, Joe Panik largely managed to avoid the injury bug in 2017. That freed him to do the things he does best. 

    His top talent is making contact, as no qualified hitter beat his Contact% of 89.9 percent. With solid discipline also part of his skill set, he balanced an 8.0 BB% with a 9.4 K%.

    Although Panik's 84.5 mph exit velocity paints a fair picture of his power, not many can spray line drives in all directions like he can. That was a boost not just to his batting average, but also to his slugging percentage by way of 28 doubles and five triples.

    Alas, his defense did decline from its Gold Glove-winning form of 2016. He may have cost himself range with his ultra-shallow positioning. And with nine errors and a lower conversion rate on routine plays, he didn't fit the bill as sure-handed either.

18. Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    Key Stats: 108 G, 411 PA, .285/.376/.412, 109 OPS+, 4 HR, 8 SB, -1 DRS

    WAR: 1.9


    2017 Player Report

    Injuries killed some of Kolten Wong's buzz this season, as he missed time with elbow and triceps injuries and developed an achy back toward the end of the year.

    Other than that, though, 2017 marked a long-awaited step forward for Wong.

    He tried to do too much at the plate in years past. That was the case no longer in 2017, as he swung at fewer bad pitches and stopped trying to pull everything. He became more of a gap hitter, and benefited with 26 doubles without having to sacrifice what had been working before. Namely: his walk and strikeout rates.

    Wong's next step must be achieving more consistency on defense. His range and smooth actions can make him look like an elite fielder at times, but he was once again one of the worst at converting routine plays in 2017. Those count, too.

17. Starlin Castro, New York Yankees

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    Key Stats: 112 G, 473 PA, .300/.338/.454, 106 OPS+, 16 HR, 2 SB, -6 DRS

    WAR: 2.0


    2017 Player Report

    Normally a lock for over 150 games, Starlin Castro was off the field for a large chunk of 2017 due to hamstring injuries, which helped derail his production in the latter part of the year.

    On the bright side, he carried over the power surge he enjoyed upon arriving in New York in 2016. He managed 87.4 mph exit velocity and took an already elevated pull rate even higher. If he'd stayed healthy, he might've had a shot at 25 homers.

    However, Castro was the same player in more frustrating ways as well.

    He continued to swing his bat too often for his own good, leaving walks on the table. And while it's not as big a deal at second base as it was at shortstop, he's just not a good defender. The athleticism is there, but his iffy instincts and clunky actions continue to hold him back.

16. Neil Walker, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    Key Stats: 111 G, 448 PA, .265/.362/.439, 111 OPS+, 14 HR, 0 SB, -5 DRS

    WAR: 1.5


    2017 Player Report

    Neil Walker is getting up there in age and, just in roughly the past year, has had back surgery and missed time with a hamstring injury. So, forgive him for not running fast or hitting hard.

    But while you're at it, also give him credit for remaining a credible offensive threat.

    That's partially owed to an improved approach that had been trending toward excess aggression. That's where he got his 12.3 BB% and 17.12 K%. And despite his diminished pop, he kept his power afloat by keeping his launch angle up and putting plenty of balls in the air, often to his pull side.

    On defense, Walker wasn't known for being an athletic spectacle even before his physical issues. But he gets enough out of what he has and can at least be counted on not to boot routine plays. He was a better sum of parts than his 2017 WAR lets on.

15. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Age: 34

    Key Stats: 105 G, 463 PA, .293/.369/.392, 101 OPS+, 7 HR, 4 SB, -2 DRS

    WAR: 1.5


    2017 Player Report

    After a smooth 2016, Dustin Pedroia went back to a bedraggled, banged-up existence in 2017. It affected his performance, as he ran at slow speeds and no longer packed a punch with his exit velocity.

    The fact that he was productive anyway speaks volumes.

    Exit velocity is nice, but Pedroia proved he doesn't need it to be a dangerous hitter. With a selective approach and one of MLB's best contact habits, he drew about more walks (49) as strikeouts (48). His line-drive swing hasn't gone anywhere, and he once again got good results out of applying it to all fields.

    Defensively, DRS doesn't do Pedroia's glove justice. He's as sure a thing as there is on routine plays, and his diminishing athleticism is dragging down neither his instincts nor his effort level. His range is surviving because of it.

14. Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Age: 35

    Key Stats: 139 G, 613 PA, .236/.313/.412, 90 OPS+, 22 HR, 14 SB, 6 DRS

    WAR: 2.1


    2017 Player Report

    Ian Kinsler just finished off his worst offensive season.

    It wasn't because of his hitting style. He's been keeping the ball off the ground for a lot longer than most, and he's long maintained a below average K% despite doing so. And in 2017, he chose his swings carefully and worked an above average BB% for the first time since 2013.

    Pitchers just didn't give him much to work with. He saw few fastballs and his lowest strike zone percentage ever. It's no wonder his exit velocity took a step down from its 2016 perch.

    On the plus side, Kinsler remained aggressive on the bases and an ageless wonder on defense. With the latter, he was money in the bank on routine plays and maintained good range despite his age. Quick reactions and a high-running motor can have that effect.

13. Scooter Gennett, Cincinnati Reds

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    Justin Berl/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    Key Stats: 141 G, 497 PA, .298/.342/.531, 124 OPS+, 27 HR, 3 SB, -8 DRS

    WAR: 2.4


    2017 Player Report

    It seemed like the flukiest of flukes when Scooter Gennett hit four homers in a single game in June. Instead, that was the opening statement of a legit breakout.

    The fact that he averaged only 86 mph exit velocity, but he had ways of getting around that. Namely: a higher launch angle<