B/R's MLB 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Second Basemen in 2020

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2018

B/R's MLB 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Second Basemen in 2020

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Baseball is a tough sport to predict day in, day out, and it becomes exponentially more difficult to project when looking years into the future. But that's exactly what we're going to be doing here.

    Back in the summer of 2015, I wrote a series dubbed "B/R's MLB 20 for '20" wherein I predicted who the top 20 players would be at each position when the 2020 season rolled around.

    Three years later, it's time for an update.

    In this editionwe look at the second base position, where rising youngsters like Gleyber Torres, Ozzie Albies, Nick Senzel, Scott Kingery, Yoan Moncada, Javier Baez and Luis Urias are all chasing Jose Altuve for the No. 1 spot.

    Before we dive into the top 20, we'll take a look back at that original list with the benefit of hindsight and also shine a light on a few prospects who could be making waves two years from now.

    Enjoy.

            

    Previous 20 for '20 series entries: Catchers, First Basemen

The Original List (Published: July 14, 2015)

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    Alen Hanson
    Alen HansonJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Original Top 20 Second Basemen List

    1. Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals
    2. Yoan Moncada, Boston Red Sox
    3. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
    4. Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants
    5. Alen Hanson, Pittsburgh Pirates
    6. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
    7. Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins
    8. Forrest Wall, Colorado Rockies
    9. Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins
    10. Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays
    11. Jose Peraza, Atlanta Braves
    12. Tony Kemp, Houston Astros
    13. Darnell Sweeney, Los Angeles Dodgers
    14. Micah Johnson, Chicago White Sox
    15. Rob Refsnyder, New York Yankees
    16. Dilson Herrera, New York Mets
    17. Avery Romero, Miami Marlins
    18. Cory Spangenberg, San Diego Padres
    19. Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
    20. Scooter Gennett, Milwaukee Brewers

          

    Hindsight Breakdown

    Not having Jose Altuve penciled into the No. 1 spot might seem like a glaring mistake. However, he was a poor defender at second base early in his career and had not yet shown the power outburst that has taken his game to another level when this article was first written.

    After finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2014 after tallying 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases, Kolten Wong appeared to be headed for big things; the Cardinals agreed, signing him to a five-year extension prior to the 2016 season. Unfortunately, his development has stalled and he could be running out of opportunities.

    Alen Hanson hit .280 with 21 doubles, 12 triples and 11 home runs at Double-A during the 2014 season and looked like a long-term piece for the Pirates. He stalled out in the upper levels of the minors, though, and is now playing for the Giants.

    Fellow prospects Forrest WallTony Kemp, Darnell SweeneyMicah Johnson, Rob Refsnyder, Dilson Herrera and Avery Romero have also failed to carve out roles at the MLB level.

    Wall has since moved to the outfield and still possesses some intriguing upside in his third season at High-A. While he's still just 22, he needs to get moving back on track.

    The second base position as a whole is tough to predict. It often winds up being a landing spot for prospects who begin their careers manning shortstop, and it's tough to predict who will make that switch, since it has as much to do with roster construction as individual tools.

Projected Top 20 Second Base Prospects for 2020

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    Jahmai Jones
    Jahmai JonesNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Before we get into predicting who will be the top 20 second basemen at the MLB level in 2020, let's take a look at who might be topping the position's prospect lists two years from now:

         

    1. Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers (2020 Age: 23)

    Hit .442/.567/.693 with more walks (50) than strikeouts (38) during junior season at UC Irvine. Best pure hitter in the 2017 draft. Limited to second base, where he has a chance to be a solid defender. Could be a perennial .300 hitter with plenty of gap power.

         

    2. Jahmai Jones, Los Angeles Angels (2020 Age: 22)

    Played outfield exclusively during first three pro seasons. Impressive tools across the board, including 55-grade hit tool and 60-grade speed. Position change makes him the clear heir to Ian Kinsler, who is a free agent at season's end.

          

    3. Esteury Ruiz, San Diego Padres (2020 Age: 21)

    Acquired from Royals last summer after signing for $100,000 as part of the 2015 international class. Won Arizona League MVP with a .350/.395/.602 line that included 35 extra-base hits and 26 stolen bases. Significant offensive upside entering full-season ball at the age of 19.

         

    4. Shed Long, Cincinnati Reds (2020 Age: 24)

    A 12th-round pick in 2013 who turned in a breakout offensive season in 2016. Generates good power despite a 5'8" frame. Began his pro career as a catcher and is a work-in-progress defensively. Bat will carry him to the majors, where he has a chance to be an above-average producer at the position.

         

    5. Anderson Tejeda, Texas Rangers (2020 Age: 22)

    Average range will likely lead this shortstop to make the full-time move to second base before he reaches the majors. Overall approach needs work after he hit .247 with a .309 on-base percentage in full-season debut last year. If hit tool develops, has significant raw power and the glove skills to be an above-average defender.

         

    6. Max Schrock, St. Louis Cardinals (2020 Age: 25)

    Acquired from Oakland during the offseason. Hit .321/.379/.422 over 457 plate appearances at Double-A last year. Outperforms his physical tools and could develop into a .300 hitter at the next level, albeit with limited defensive value and fringy power.

         

    7. Daniel Brito, Philadelphia Phillies (2020 Age: 22)

    Approach took a step back last season after strong stateside debut in 2016. Needs to avoid selling out for power and get back to consistently barreling up balls. Plenty of room to add strength to his 6'1", 170-pound frame. Something of a boom-or-bust prospect.

         

    8. Isan Diaz, Miami Marlins (2020 Age: 24)

    Traded for the second time this offseason as part of the Christian Yelich deal. Showed his significant offensive upside in 2015, when he hit .360/.436/.640 line in rookie ball. Walked at a 13.6 percent clip last season at High-A, even in a down year overall. If everything clicks, he could be a long-term piece in Miami.

         

    9. Samad Taylor, Toronto Blue Jays (2020 Age: 21)

    A 10th-round pick by the Indians in 2016, traded to the Blue Jays last summer for reliever Joe Smith. Plus athlete who might get a chance at shortstop if the organization wasn't stacked at the position. Possesses good present hit tool and is an emerging base-stealer with 12 thefts in first 30 games this year at Single-A.

         

    10. Brett Netzer, Boston Red Sox (2020 Age: 24)

    A third-round pick last year out of UNC Charlotte. Hit .351/.428/.497 in three seasons as a starter and earned a quick promotion to Single-A in his pro debut. Limited athletically, but has the hit tool to carve out an MLB job. MLB.com compared him to Adam Kennedy and Tommy LaStella.

         

    Honorable Mentions

    • Cavan Biggio (TOR)
    • Bryson Brigman (SEA)
    • Vidal Brujan (TB)
    • Riley Mahan (MIA)

Honorable Mentions and Notable Veteran Omissions

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    Dawel Lugo
    Dawel LugoMark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Next Five

    Mauricio Dubon, MIL
    Lourdes Gurriel Jr., TOR
    Dawel Lugo, DET
    Ketel Marte, ARI
    Kolten Wong, STL

         

    Excluded Due to Age and Expected Regression

    Asdrubal Cabrera, NYM
    Logan Forsythe, LAD
    Scooter Gennett, CIN
    Josh Harrison, PIT
    Ian Kinsler, LAA
    Jason Kipnis, CLE
    Jed Lowrie, OAL
    Whit Merrifield, KC
    Eduardo Nunez, BOS
    Dustin Pedroia, BOS
    Ben Zobrist, CHC

20. Kevin Kramer, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 26

    Kevin Kramer received plenty of exposure during his junior season at UCLA playing alongside future first-round pick James Kaprielian, eventually going in the second round of the 2015 draft himself.

    Kramer hit .297/.380/.500 with 26 extra-base hits in 234 plate appearances at Double-A Altoona last season, although his breakout season was cut short when he suffered a broken hand in June.

    He'll need to continue hitting to secure an everyday role, especially with Cole Tucker and Kevin Newman also vying for a future spot up the middle in Pittsburgh.

    With Josh Harrison under control for two more seasons, it will take a trade to open up the keystone spot for the Pirates. That said, Kramer's ability to also play shortstop could mean he starts his big league career in a utility role.

19. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 37

    Robinson Cano entered the season with five years and $120 million remaining on his contract.

    As of last season, he was still one of the most productive second basemen, as he posted a .791 OPS with 33 double, 23 home runs and 97 RBI en route to 3.4 WAR.

    That said, those numbers represented a significant regression from the .882 OPS and 7.3 WAR he posted in 2016, and things will likely continue to trend in that direction.

    A fractured hand landed him on the disabled list over the weekend, so he'll have work to do just salvaging this season. Still, he's one of the best hitters of his generation and a future Hall of Famer, so it's reasonable to think he can still be a top-20 guy at the position in two years.

18. Garrett Hampson, Colorado Rockies

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 25

    Garrett Hampson has done nothing but hit since he was selected in the third round of the 2016 draft out of Long Beach State.

    He hit .326/.387/.462 with 44 extra-base hits and 51 stolen bases in a full season at High-A Lancaster last season, and he's continued to hit while making the jump to Double-A this year.

    His 65-grade speed is his best present tool and the plus hit tool he's shown to this point during his pro career is the real deal, so a future at the top of the batting order looks like a real possibility.

    While he didn't have the arm to stick at shortstop, he could be a Gold Glove-caliber defender on the other side of second base.

    The question is where he fits into Colorado's long-term plans with DJ LeMahieu, Brendan Rodgers and Trevor Story also in the mix.

17. Nick Madrigal, 2018 Draft Prospect

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    2020 Age: 23

    Nick Madrigal has a chance to be the first college position player taken in the 2018 draft.

    The Oregon State star suffered a broken wrist this spring, but he's hit .449/.488/.590 in 18 games since returning.

    MLB.com wrote: "Analytics departments love him because of his approach at the plate that led to more walks than strikeouts in 2017, and while he doesn't have a ton of over-the-fence power, he makes consistent hard contact and is a legitimate extra-base threat. His speed and instincts should allow him to continue to be a base stealer."

    We've seen recent college infielders like Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman move quickly through the minor league ranks to reach the majors in short order, so a 2020 debut is well within reach for perhaps the most polished college bat in this year's class.

16. Starlin Castro, Miami Marlins

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    Eric Espada/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 30

    Starlin Castro posted a career-high .792 OPS for the New York Yankees last season, tallying a 2.0 WAR and earning his fourth career All-Star appearance.

    He was sent to the Miami Marlins as part of the Giancarlo Stanton deal during the offseason. It's not out of the question to think he'll be on the move again before his eight-year, $60.57 million deal is up at the end of the 2019 season. That pact also included a $16 million option for 2020.

    Castro will never provide much in the way of plate discipline, but he's a career .282 hitter and his 1,323 hits rank 46th among active players—a list he figures to climb steadily in the years to come.

    For now, he's one of the few established players on a rebuilding Miami roster.

15. Nick Solak, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 25

    The Tampa Bay Rays acquired Nick Solak during the offseason in the three-team, seven-player deal that sent Brandon Drury to the New York Yankees and Steven Souza Jr. to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    A second-round pick out of Louisville in 2016, Solak hit .297/.384/.452 with 26 doubles, 12 home runs and 14 stolen bases in his first full pro season.

    He also showed a strong overall approach, walking at an 11.7 percent clip while striking out just 100 times in 538 plate appearances.

    He's turned himself into at least an average second baseman defensively, and with his mix of speed, contact ability and instincts, he looks the part of an everyday player once he reaches the big leagues.

14. Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 29

    Joe Panik has posted a 104 OPS+ over parts of five MLB seasons while showing Gold Glove-caliber defense.

    The issue for him has been finding some level of consistency.

    He showed impact player potential in 2015 when he hit .312/.378/.455 to earn a place on the NL All-Star team and posted a 3.3 WAR.

    However, his batting line dipped to .239/.315/.379 the following season and he dealt with concussion issues for a good chunk of last season.

    Panik is just entering the prime of his career, and he's a player the San Francisco Giants can build around if they decide to commit to rebuilding in the near future.

13. Franklin Barreto, Oakland Athletics

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 24

    The Oakland Athletics acquired Franklin Barreto as part of a four-player package (which also included Opening Day starter Kendall Graveman) in the fateful deal that sent Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 2015 season.

    Barreto hit .290/.339/.456 with 19 doubles, 15 home runs and 54 RBI in 510 plate appearances at Triple-A Nashville last season while seeing semiregular playing time at second base for the first time in his career.

    Despite struggling to a .197/.250/.352 line with 33 strikeouts in 76 plate appearances in his first taste of MLB action last year, Barreto has the tools to be a star.

    With Marcus Semien entrenched at shortstop and Jed Lowrie headed for free agency at the end of the season, all signs point to him taking over as the everyday second baseman in 2019.

12. Cesar Hernandez, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 30

    Cesar Hernandez has quietly been one of the most productive second basemen in the game the past two seasons, hitting .294/.372/.406 while posting 6.3 WAR.

    The emergence of Scott Kingery has brought his long-term future in Philadelphia into question, but for now, Hernandez remains the everyday guy at second base.

    Under team control through the 2020 season and off to another strong start this year, Hernandez could become a valuable trade chip or a long-term piece for a Phillies team on the rise.

    His $5.1 million salary this season also makes him one of the better bargains at the position and only adds to his value if he is shopped around.

11. DJ LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 31

    Since taking over as the Colorado Rockies' everyday second baseman in 2015, DJ LeMahieu has been one of the most consistent offensive performers at the position.

    He won the NL batting title in 2016 after hitting .348, and he's posted a combined .317/.381/.432 line and 104 OPS+ since the start of 2015.

    On top of his offensive production, he also has 53 DRS and a 3.3 UZR/150 at second base in his career and won his second Gold Glove last season.

    LeMahieu is a free agent at season's end, and with Brendan Rodgers and Garrett Hampson quickly making their way through the minor league ranks, there's no guarantee the Rockies will make a strong push to re-sign him.

    It will be interesting to see where eventually he lands.

10. Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 33

    After becoming just the fourth second baseman in MLB history with a 40-homer season in 2016, Brian Dozier posted a 128 OPS+ with 30 doubles, 34 home runs and 93 RBI for a playoff-bound Minnesota Twins team last year.

    The homegrown slugger is a free agent at season's end, and with Joe Mauer's contract coming off the books, the Twins should be able to make a competitive offer to keep the former eighth-round pick.

    On top of his impressive power, he's also averaged 16 stolen bases per season over the past five years while also developing into an average defender and a leader in the clubhouse.

    The four-year, $20 million extension he signed prior to the 2015 season will go down as one of the best decisions in franchise history.

9. Luis Urias, San Diego Padres

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 23

    Blessed with a 70-grade hit tool, Luis Urias looks like a star in the making for the rebuilding San Diego Padres.

    He's a career .307 hitter in the minors with more walks (177) than strikeouts (161). He's done that while being pushed aggressively through the system, reaching the upper levels of the minors as a teenager.

    MLB.com simply said: "Overall, Urias has the ingredients to hit atop a lineup while manning a middle infield position for a long, long time."

    He saw extended action at shortstop for the first time last season and showed the ability to play there at Double-A.

    However, with top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. expected to be the long-term guy at shortstop, Urias should eventually settle in on the other side of the bag.

8. Scott Kingery, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 26

    It was Kevin Newman whom scouts were flocking to see at the University of Arizona leading up to the 2015 draft, and he eventually went No. 19 overall.

    However, fellow Wildcats infielder Scott Kingery—a second-round pick (48th overall) that yearhas since overtaken him in prospect circles while also beating him to the majors.

    Kingery announced himself as a top prospect last season when he hit .304/.359/.530 with 29 doubles, 26 home runs, 65 RBI and 29 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A.

    The 24-year-old is filling a super-utility role, with Cesar Hernandez still lining up as the everyday second baseman. That's expected to change, though, as Kingery has legitimate star upside.

7. Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 28

    Jonathan Schoop showed some intriguing power potential during his first three seasons as the Baltimore Orioles' starting second baseman before exploding for one of the best offensive seasons in baseball last year.

    He hit .293/.338/.503 with 35 doubles, 32 home runs and 105 RBI for a 5.2 WAR and a 12th-place finish in AL MVP voting.

    Was that performance legit?

    Schoop is hitting just .250/.281/.413 this season, and his mediocre on-base skills mean his power production will need to be the driving force behind his offensive value.

    Even if he comes back to earth a bit, Schoop's still capable of being a top-10 player at the position and he'll still be in the prime of his career two years from now.

6. Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 25

    The Boston Red Sox gave Yoan Moncada a $31.5 million bonus that came with a matching tax penalty prior to the 2015 season. Two years later he was traded to the Chicago White Sox as the centerpiece in the Chris Sale blockbuster.

    All the tools that made him such a hot commodity on the international market are still present, and he has a chance to develop into a true cornerstone piece for the rebuilding Pale Hoses.

    However, his transition to the big leagues has come with its share of growing pains.

    Moncada is hitting .263/.359/.509 with eight doubles and six home runs in 132 plate appearances this season, but he's also striking out at a dizzying 37.1 percent clip.

    There's a good deal of room between his floor and ceiling, but that ceiling is superstar-caliber.

5. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 27

    Serving in a super-utility role last season, Javier Baez posted a 102 OPS+ with 24 doubles, 23 home runs, 75 RBI and 10 stolen bases on his way to 2.9 WAR.

    His highlight-reel defensive ability across the infield and plus power have made him a valuable asset for Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs, and he's really coming into his own this season while manning second base on a more regular basis.

    The free-swinging Baez is hitting .283/.320/.623 while leading the NL with 34 RBI, and he's managed to trim his strikeout rate dramatically from 28.3 to 19.9 percent.

    How much more Baez can still improve remains to be seen given his limited on-base skills, but he's already a dynamic talent on both sides of the ball.

4. Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 23

    Ozzie Albies is the third-youngest player in the majors this season and he's off to an MVP-caliber start for the upstart Atlanta Braves.

    Known more for his speed than his power in the minors, Albies has hit .286/.354/.456 with 20 extra-base hits—including six home runs—in 244 plate appearances during his MLB debut last season.

    This season, he's taken his offensive game to another level.

    Over his first 39 games and 185 plate appearances, he's launched 13 doubles and 12 home runs to help the Braves to an NL East-leading start.

    A .304 on-base percentage and 4.3 percent walk rate shows he still has work to do refining his overall approach, but given his age and current level of production, he may just be scratching the surface.

3. Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 25

    Nick Senzel played shortstop at the University of Tennessee and moved to third base to begin his pro career after going No. 2 overall in the 2016 draft.

    Now, after Eugenio Suarez signed a seven-year, $66 million extension during the offseason, it looks like Senzel will eventually land at second base in the majors.

    While his eventual defensive home is up in the air, there's no question he has the bat to be an impact player.

    Senzel hit .321/.391/.514 with 40 doubles, 14 home runs, 65 RBI, 81 runs and 14 stolen bases between High-A and Double-A.

    MLB.com wrote: "Senzel uses a combination of strength, bat speed and an advanced approach at the plate to be an extremely dangerous hitter from the right side of the plate. He makes consistent hard contact, doesn't strike out a lot and draws walks, which points to a future of hitting over .300 and perhaps competing for batting titles."

2. Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 23

    Gleyber Torres would be the shortstop of the future in a number of organizations.

    However, with Didi Gregorius emerging as a legitimate superstar at shortstop, he's made the shift to second base upon reaching the big leagues.

    Torres has been miles ahead of the developmental curve throughout his pro career—his first taste of the big leagues included.

    MLB.com wrote: "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."

    He's hitting .319/.360/.493 with six extra-base hits and 0.9 WAR in his first 20 games, as he looks like another budding young star for a Yankees team that's loaded with high-ceiling talent.

1. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 30

    The first time this article was written, Jose Altuve was coming off his first AL batting title when he hit .341 and also led the league with 56 steals on his way to a 6.1 WAR in a breakout season.

    However, he was still largely a two-tool player.

    He had never hit more than seven home runs in a season and graded out as a poor defender (-7 DRS, -12.1 UZR/150) at second base.

    Three years later, he's now a legitimate power threat and an above-average defensive player.

    He'll somehow still be just 30 years old when the 2020 season rolls around, and at this point, he's an easy choice for the No. 1 spot at the second base position.

          

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted, and accurate through Sunday's games. A player's 2020 age refers to how old he'll be on July 1 of that year—roughly the midway point in the season.