MLB Position Power Rankings for Every Team's Projected Second Basemen
Second base is often a position of flux in MLB, but there seems to be a higher rate of new faces in different places in 2020.
The top five guys—Ozzie Albies, Jose Altuve, Keston Hiura, DJ LeMahieu and Ketel Marte (not necessarily in that order)—didn't go anywhere, but 17 of the 30 teams have a projected starter who played fewer than 500 innings at second base for them in 2019.
Some of them are just a product of positional shuffling. Marte was primarily an outfielder last year, but he should be almost exclusively a second baseman now that the Diamondbacks have the other Marte (Starling) to play center field. Guys like Tommy La Stella (Angels), Gavin Lux (Dodgers) and Scott Kingery (Phillies) are likewise figure to transition from part-time to full-time at second base.
Then you have Mike Moustakas, Starlin Castro, Cesar Hernandez, Jonathan Schoop and Jurickson Profar, each of whom looks to be the clear best option at second base for his new team.
And then there are the bottom-of-the-list teams who are handing the reins to rookies because they lost their starter either to free agency or ineffectiveness.
This isn't a ranking of the best second basemen for fantasy baseball, where home runs and stolen bases reign supreme. We also considered batting average/on-base percentage and fielding.
These rankings primarily rely on perceived value of each team's projected starter, but depth and flexibility at second base (or lack thereof) was also a small factor that bumped some teams up or down a few spots.
30. Isan Diaz, Miami Marlins
Diaz had impressive power in the minors. He hit .305 with 26 home runs in 102 Triple-A games last year before getting called up. However, that did not translate to Miami in the slightest, where he had a slugging percentage of .307 and a batting average of .173 in 201 plate appearances.
Maybe he'll be better this year, but we aren't in the business of giving benefit of the doubt based on minor league stats.
29. Tony Kemp/Franklin Barreto, Oakland A's
Oakland basically has two copies of Isan Diaz.
Kemp hit well over .300 throughout most of his rise up the minor league ranks in Houston's farm system, but he hasn't been anything special at the MLB level yet. He hit only .212 last season. And while Barreto had a combined total of 63 home runs and 65 stolen bases in the minors from 2016-19, he has a career MLB batting average of .189 in 80 games.
If they both continue to flounder in 2020, it might be time to give Jorge Mateo a shot. The middle infielder had 19 home runs and 24 stolen bases in Triple-A action last year.
28. Nicky Lopez, Kansas City Royals
Whit Merrifield spent about half of his time at second base last year, but the Royals have been gradually transitioning him into a full-time outfielder. He made 131 starts at 2B in 2017, 107 starts in 2018 and 76 starts last year, and that number should continue to decrease in 2020.
That's good news for Kansas City's outfield prowess, but the jury is still out at second base, as Lopez only batted .240 with a minus-0.2 FanGraphs WAR as a rookie. Early returns are that he's a plus-defender, so at least he's providing some value. However, a repeat of last year's rates at the plate—two home runs, one stolen base and 18 walks in 402 plate appearances—isn't going to get the job done.
27. Shed Long Jr., Seattle Mariners
Long easily has a top-five name among second basemen, but we need to see a bit more from him at the MLB level before promoting him out of the bottom five in these rankings.
Long had a respectable start to his big league career in 2019. In 42 games, he hit .263 with five home runs and three stolen bases. Extrapolate that to a full season, and he's slightly below 20 home runs and 12 steals. His defensive rating wasn't great, but it was a fairly small sample size.
26. Mauricio Dubon, San Francisco Giants
Dubon is another unproven youngster, but at least he batted .274 in 30 games last year and has hit better than .270 at every stop in his career, excluding his brief stint of rookie league ball in 2013. And when he gets on base, he's a legitimate threat to swipe a few more. He stole at least 30 bases in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017 in the minors.
It's hard to argue with San Francisco's backup plan if Dubon struggles, too. The Giants signed Wilmer Flores to a two-year deal after he hit .317 last year with Arizona, and Donovan Solano batted .330 for the G-Men in 2019. It might be a conglomeration of all three, but don't be surprised if "San Francisco 2B" finishes the year with something in the vicinity of a .300 batting average with 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases.
25. Nico Hoerner, Chicago Cubs
Second base was one hell of an adventure for the Cubs last year. Seven different players—Addison Russell, David Bote, Daniel Descalso, Ben Zobrist, Robel Garcia, Tony Kemp and Ian Happ—made at least 12 appearances at the position, but they collectively batted .220/.301/.383 from that spot.
They still have Happ, Bote and Descalso on the roster, and they signed Jason Kipnis to a minor league deal in case things go sideways again. However, the hope is that 2018 first-round pick Hoerner will lock down the job. He spent only 89 games in the minors before appearing in 20 games with the Cubs in September. He hit .282 with three home runs during that brief audition.
24. Tommy La Stella, Los Angeles Angels
La Stella bounced between second and third base last season, slashing .295/.346/.486 with 16 home runs in 80 games during a breakout year. Now that the Angels have Anthony Rendon in tow, second base should belong to La Stella on a regular basis.
The Angels also still have Luis Rengifo and David Fletcher when they feel like mixing things up, but neither one provides the type of pop at the plate that La Stella can. However, if he regresses in the power department to his less-than-mediocre MLB numbers from 2014-18 (10 home runs in 947 plate appearances), the Angels might have to take a page from the Cubs' 2019 playbook, desperately trying anything and everything at second base.
23. Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh Pirates
At least there aren't any surprises with Frazier. He batted .278 in 2019, .277 in 2018 and .276 the year before that. He also hit exactly 10 home runs in each of the past two seasons, though it took him 256 more plate appearances to reach that mark in 2019.
Of course, knowing to expect C+ production isn't anything worth getting excited about. Pencil Frazier in as a guy who isn't going to hurt the Pirates, but one who isn't going to help them much, either.
22. Hanser Alberto, Baltimore Orioles
Rangers fans watching Alberto bat .305 with 12 home runs last year must have been wondering where the heck that was from 2015-18. During his time in the majors with Texas, he batted .192 and didn't have a single home run in 192 plate appearances. But in seven games against the Rangers last year, he hit 13-for-33 (.394 BA).
He still isn't a great asset at the plate, but he's at least serviceable enough to justify getting his glove into the field on a near-daily basis. According to FanGraphs, Alberto was the fifth-most valuable defender among qualified second basemen in 2019.
21. Robinson Cano, New York Mets
Cano is getting up there in age. He turned 37 in October, and he started to look like it in 2019, posting the worst marks of his career in both batting average (.256) and strikeout rate (16.3 percent). Among players who received at least 400 plate appearances, his 0.8 FanGraphs WAR ranked 165th out of 207.
He did have a three-HR game in late July, though, and had an OPS of .880 in his final 40 games (compared to .654 in the first 67 games). The Mets can only hope he has something left in the tank, as they owe him $81 million over the next four years.
20. Jonathan Schoop, Detroit Tigers
Schoop has hit at least 21 home runs in each of the last four seasons, topping out at 32 in 2017. Aside from that career year, though, his value added has been marginal.
Despite nearly 1,000 plate appearances (with three different teams), he has a FanGraphs WAR of only 1.8 since the start of 2018. Of the 25 players denoted as second basemen with at least 900 plate appearances during that time, only Dee Gordon (0.4) received a worse grade.
Schoop's on-base percentage (.284) was deplorable in those twos easons, but that has been the case throughout his career. He hardly ever draws walks, he swings for the fences, he's just OK in the field and he has only eight career stolen bases.
It's a weird balance, but it's good enough for teams to want him at a position where power has always been a bit scarce. He has signed one-year deals worth $8.5 million, $7.5 million and $6.1 million over the past three years, respectively.
19. Jurickson Profar, San Diego Padres
It took more than a half-decade for Profar to finally deliver on some of his immense potential, but he did hit 20 home runs in each of the past two seasons.
While the recent surge in power has been nice to see, he still slashed only .218/.301/.410 last year. Even worse, he did quite the Chuck Knoblauch impression, committing 11 throwing errors from second base. No player made more than 13 such errors in 2019, and every other player with at least 10 throwing errors did so primarily as a shortstop. The next-worst mark from a second baseman was six.
If he continues to struggle at the plate and/or can't get those yips under control, at least the Padres have a fine insurance policy in the form of Brian Dozier. He's nowhere near the 42-HR guy that he was in 2016, but he has hit at least 18 round-trippers in each of the last seven seasons.
18. Cesar Hernandez, Cleveland Indians
After seven years in Philadelphia, Hernandez has moved a few hundred miles west to become Cleveland's second baseman. He should be an improvement upon what the Indians were getting out of Jason Kipnis over the past few years, though not by much.
Durability might be where he provides the most help. Kipnis always seemed to be banged up, missing an average of more than 40 games in the last three years. But Hernandez played 161 games in each of the past two seasons, hitting a combined 29 home runs with 28 stolen bases during that time.
Hernandez has also hit better than .270 in four of the last five seasons, while Kipnis spent the last three years at .245 or below. If he gives Cleveland around .280 with 10 homers and 10 stolen bases, that will be an upgrade.
17. Nick Madrigal/Leury Garcia, Chicago White Sox
Yolmer Sanchez was a great defensive second baseman. He even won the AL Gold Glove in 2019. But he was such a black hole in the lineup (.252/.318/.321 with two home runs in 555 plate appearances) that the White Sox released him and will now try their luck with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Madrigal batted .341 in Double-A, .331 in Triple-A and had a combined minor league total of 35 stolen bases last year. And he hardly ever strikes out. We're talking 21 whiffs in 705 plate appearances over the past two years. That's a sub-3 percent strikeout rate, which is unheard of these days. Even if it ticks up to 10 percent once he starts facing major league heat, he'd still rank among the best in MLB in that category.
He doesn't hit for power, but if he can regularly get on base and steal bases, it'll be a drastic improvement over what the White Sox had for the past few years. And if the 23-year-old struggles, the Sox could always turn to their trusty utility man. Garcia has hit .270 or better in each of the past three seasons while playing basically anywhere they need him.
16. Luis Arraez, Minnesota Twins
If you're looking for home runs or stolen bases for fantasy purposes, you'll want to search elsewhere. Over the past four years—most of which he spent in the minors—Arraez has only 10 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 1,583 plate appearances.
But if you're in need of batting average in your roto league, Arraez could be a huge help.
He hit .334 in 92 games as a rookie last year, and it was hardly unexpected. He also hit .347 in 2016, .310 in 2018 and hit better than .340 last year at both Double-A and Triple-A before getting the call to Minnesota. For good measure, he went 5-for-11 (.455) in the ALDS against the Yankees while the rest of the Twins went 17-for-90 (.189).
Keep an eye on his defense, though. He struggled in that department last year, but the Twins also had him bouncing all over the place. Arraez saw action at second, third, shortstop and left field in each of Double-A, Triple-A and the majors last year. If the Twins commit to him at second base, perhaps he'll be able to improve.
15. Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox
We know Chavis can hit for some power. He had 18 home runs in 95 games last season as a rookie and hit 31 in 126 games in the minor leagues in 2017.
The unknown variable is whether he'll be able to cut down on the strikeouts and start hitting for average.
Even in Single-A ball back in 2015, he hit only .223 and struck out more than 30 percent of the time. Some stops along his journey were more promising than others, but the .254 average and 33.2 percent strikeout rate last year hardly looks like an anomaly. Unless he starts clubbing 40 homers per year, those numbers are going to put a serious cap on the amount of value he's able to provide.
There isn't much of a backup plan in place here, either. The Red Sox signed former Cincinnati Red Jose Peraza, but he had a negative FanGraphs WAR in two of the last three seasons. And it certainly doesn't seem like Dustin Pedroia's return to the lineup is imminent.
14. Starlin Castro, Washington Nationals
Similar to Jonathan Schoop, Castro has never been an OBP specialist thanks to a pithy walk rate. Even when he hit .300 with the Yankees in 2017, his on-base percentage was only .338. And that's better than usual. He has been at or below .300 in OBP in three of the past five seasons.
At least he generally has a solid batting average, though. In his 10 years in the majors, he has more seasons at or above .300 (three) than he has years below .270 (two). Castro has also hit at least 10 home runs in nine consecutive seasons, including a career-high mark of 22 last year.
And like Cesar Hernandez for the Indians, Castro should give the Nationals durability at second base. He has played at least 150 games in seven of the last nine seasons and didn't miss a single game in 2019. If he doesn't, at least the Nats will have a fair amount of flexibility with Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera on the bench.
13. Scott Kingery, Philadelphia Phillies
As previously noted, we're assuming Kingery will man second base while Jean Segura holds down the fort at third. But either way, the Phillies should be in good shape.
Kingery hit .258/.315/.474 last year with 19 home runs and 15 stolen bases. In all five categories, he made significant improvements over his rookie season, especially in the slugging department, in which he ended the 2018 campaign at a paltry .338.
And though he has switched between six positions on defense, he has generally been valuable in the field. Much like Arraez, he should further improve by virtue of repetition at the same position every day.
12. Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
Over the past four seasons, Odor has averaged 28 home runs and 13 stolen bases, including at least 18 and 11, respectively, in each year. Aside from Brian Dozier in the 2013-18 range, you don't often see second basemen putting up those numbers on a regular basis.
However, Odor also strikes out a ton and goes through stints where he can't hit his way out of a wet paper bag.
He batted .205 last year and .204 in 2017. It should be impossible for a guy to hit 30 home runs and slug below .400, but Odor pulled it off in 2017. And according to Baseball Reference, he's the only player in MLB history to do so.
He isn't a great fielder, either, having committed at least 15 errors in four of the past five seasons.
Because of the homers and steals, it feels wrong to rank Odor outside the top 10. But because of everything else, it feels wrong to rank him inside the top 15. No. 12 feels like a reasonable compromise.
11. Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays
Is it a bit aggressive to put a guy who batted .234 in 100 games as a rookie just outside the top 10?
But Biggio hit 26 home runs and stole 20 bases at Double-A in 2018, had a combined total of 22 home runs and 19 stolen bases between Triple-A and the majors last year, and it doesn't hurt that his dad (Craig Biggio) is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Also, the low batting average is forgivable when you realize he draws walks at an incredible rate (16.5 percent) and had an on-base percentage of .364. Only three players with at least 300 plate appearances had a higher walk rate than Biggio last year: Mike Trout (18.3), Yasmani Grandal (17.2) and Alex Bregman (17.2)
That propensity for drawing walks is nothing new, either. Biggio had even higher rates in Double-A (17.8) and Triple-A (19.5), so it's fair to assume he'll continue getting on base a lot. Combine that with good speed and power, and you have a star in the making.
10. Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals
Wong just had the best season of his career. He matched his best-ever batting average at .285 and set a new career high in slugging at .423. He also had a personal-best 24 stolen bases after swiping 21 bags in the previous three years combined. He finished 20th in the NL MVP vote and won the NL 2B Gold Glove.
He also stayed healthy for a change. Wong appeared in 148 contests after missing at least 35 games in each of the previous three years.
If Wong plays close to a full season again, he's easily a top-10 second baseman. He isn't much of a slugger, but ask most general managers whether they'd take a second baseman who bats .280, steals 20 bags and plays plus defense and they might sign a blank check to get him.
However, he's one more injury away from being regarded as a worse version of Troy Tulowitzki, who was a no-brainer All-Star when healthy but was almost never healthy. We're willing to put "Cardinals 2B" in the top 10, though, because they have Matt Carpenter and Brad Miller as more-than-viable backup plans.
9. Mike Moustakas, Cincinnati Reds
Moustakas has hit 101 home runs over the past three seasons while batting at least .250 in each year. It took a long time for him to start consistently delivering on his hype as the No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft, but at least he got there and got a four-year, $64 million deal from the Reds for it.
Moose didn't even dabble in the art of second base until this past season. He has spent almost his entire career at third base. But the new spot in Milwaukee fit him well. He still played mostly at third, but he had a fielding percentage of .993 at second base, committing only one throwing error in 151 fielding chances.
Considering the Reds already have a third baseman who hit 49 home runs last year (Eugenio Suarez), second base figures to be Moustakas' new permanent residence. If he continues to hit as well as he has been lately, he's going to receive plenty of votes to represent the National League as a second baseman in the All-Star Game.
If we disregard the depth-chart consideration, Moose is a borderline top-five guy on this list. He's definitely better/more established than the guys we have at Nos. 8-6. But if he goes down for any length of time, the Reds have to decide between Josh VanMeter and Alex Blandino, which would be trouble. Aside from suffering a torn ACL in 2016, though, Moose has been relatively healthy. (Knock on wood, Cincinnati.)
8. Ryan McMahon/Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies
McMahon is going to be the starter whenever the 2020 season begins. He earned that right by hitting 24 home runs last year, including four multi-homer games. He hit one dinger for every 22.5 plate appearances, which was a night-and-day improvement from his rate of 45.2 over the previous two seasons.
But how long will the Rockies wait before turning to Rodgers, MLB.com's No. 1 second base prospect?
They tried to hand him the reins last year, but it didn't work out. They called him up in mid-May and bounced him back and forth between second base and shortstop for about a month, but Rodgers only batted .224, slugged .250 and didn't hit a single home run prior to suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in late June.
It was a far cry from the guy who mashed his way through the first month of the season at Triple-A, but it'll become impossible to deny him a spot in the starting lineup if and when the 2015 No. 3 overall pick regains that form.
7. Gavin Lux/Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are hoping that Lux will be their guy. The then-21-year-old hit .392 with 13 home runs in 49 games at Triple-A last year and hit .324 and slugged .514 throughout his 2018 time in the minors.
Things didn't go quite as well during his September call-up, though. He hit only.240, although he did have a home run in Game 1 of the NLDS against Washington.
He should be better this year. If not, the Dodgers could do far worse than having Taylor as a Plan B. He hit .268 with 50 home runs and a total of 165 extra-base hits over the past three seasons. He hasn't spent much time at second base in his career, but he's a chameleon in the field who's able to fit anywhere.
And in case of absolute emergency, the Dodgers could always put Max Muncy back at second base. He's supposed to be their first baseman this year, but he made 62 starts at second in 2019. They could slide him over, put Joc Pederson or Cody Bellinger at first base and open up a spot in the outfield for AJ Pollock.
Either way, they should be able to figure out a rock-solid middle-infield situation.
6. Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays
Like the Dodgers, the Rays have a bit of an unknown at second base, but they have options.
Lowe should be the starter. He hit .270/.336/.514 with 17 home runs in only 82 games last year. He finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year vote despite barely playing in 50 percent of Tampa Bay's games. There were an awful lot of strikeouts along the way, but he's a 30 HR/100 RBI type of guy at full strength.
If Lowe battles through a sophomore slump, Joey Wendle is the next man up. Injuries limited him to only 75 games last year, but Wendle was a .300 hitter with 16 stolen bases as Tampa Bay's primary second baseman in 2018. The full-time job would've been his last year had he not pulled a hamstring before the end of March.
And if both young guys flounder, the Rays have one of the top second basemen in the minors in Vidal Brujan. He stole 48 bases in 99 games last year and swiped 55 bags in 2018. He isn't much of a home run hitter, but Brujan will be ready to run like Usain Bolt if he gets the call.
5. Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers
After hitting .329/.407/.681 with 19 home runs in 57 games at Triple-A, Hiura got called up to Milwaukee and hit another 19 home runs in 84 games in the big leagues.
That's a combined total of 38 home runs in 141 games in 2019, not to mention 16 stolen bases.
While Rougned Odor is the rare second baseman who's capable of combining 30 home runs with 15 stolen bases, Hiura is even more unique. He did it with a batting average more than 100 points better than Odor's.
It was only one season. Heck, it was barely half of one season if we ignore the minor league production. But he'll be an All-Star this season if he's even 80 percent as good from Opening Day.
There is one major issue, though: defense.
Hiura committed a staggering 16 errors in 679 innings at second base with a fielding percentage of 94.9. There were 23 players who logged at least 600 innings at second base in 2019, and Hiura was the only one with a fielding percentage below 96.8.
At least he has a solid backup (Brock Holt) to help balance the scales, but he might not be a top-10 second baseman if he remains that much of a liability in the field.
4. Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks
Whatever caused balls to fly out of the yard at a higher rate last season, Marte sure wasn't complaining.
In his first four seasons in the big leagues, Marte slashed .263/.324/.389 and had 22 home runs in 1,548 plate appearances. He was better than a replacement-level player, but an All-Star season and a fourth-place finish in the NL MVP vote hardly seemed imminent.
Nevertheless, his numbers spiked in 2019. He slashed .329/.389/.592 and had 32 home runs in 628 plate appearances—an almost unfathomable improvement from 70.4 PA/HR to 19.6.
If these rankings were based solely on last season, Marte would be the clear choice for the No. 1 spot. He had a FangGaphs WAR of 7.1, while the next-closest second baseman checked in at 5.4. However, we need to see whether this is his new normal or if it was a single-season anomaly like Brady Anderson in 1996.
Like everyone else in our top eight, at least the D-Backs have some options if Marte regresses. They could put Jake Lamb back at third and move Eduardo Escobar over to second, or they could call up Andy Young, who hit 29 home runs in the minors last year.
3. Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves
Over the past two seasons, Albies has been at second base for the Braves for 95.2 percent of outs recorded on defense. He has manned that position for 2,766.2 innings, which is at least 440 more than every other player in the majors except for Cesar Hernandez. (And Albies has proved to be a substantially better contributor than Hernandez.)
For some reason, second base seems to be where managers most frequently tinker with their lineup. There has been no need for that in Atlanta, though.
Albies has not yet won a Gold Glove, but it should just be a matter of time before he does considering he only committed four errors in 1,405 innings in 2019 (99.4 fielding percentage). And he did win the Silver Slugger this past season, hitting .295/.352/.500 with 24 home runs and 15 stolen bases. He also had 24 homers and 14 stolen bases in 2018, so it isn't like those totals came out of nowhere.
He's capable of more, too. During a 54-game stretch from June 9 through August 10, he hit .342 and was on pace for 33 home runs and 21 stolen bases. Those are numbers similar to what Mookie Betts put up (.346, 32 and 30) when he almost unanimously won the 2018 AL MVP.
2. DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees
File this one away under "makes no sense whatsoever," but after spending seven years in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field, LeMahieu left Colorado and suddenly became a power hitter.
He always hit well for average and was a considerably above-average fielder. He won the batting title in 2016 by hitting .348 and earned three Gold Gloves with the Rockies. However, his previous career high in home runs was only 15, and he maxed out at 66 RBI. No one was expecting him to go to New York and put up 26 and 102, respectively, yet he did exactly that while batting .327.
As a result, he finished fourth in the AL MVP race and should be considered the heavy preseason favorite to start at second base in the All-Star Game. A significant percentage of the population now considers the only other strong candidate in the American League (Jose Altuve) a cheater.
But was LeMahieu's surge a fluke, or should we be expecting a repeat of that slugging in 2020? We'll have to wait and see. Even if his home run total gets cut in half to 13, though, his batting average and defense are more than enough for a spot in the top five at this position.
1. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
You can argue Altuve wouldn't be a top-20 second baseman without the assistance of trash cans and alleged buzzers, but he has batted .327 while averaging almost 19 home runs and 30 stolen bases over the past six seasons.
Even if you don't buy the chest tattoo story, he's MLB's best second baseman for now.
The only second basemen who accumulated even 50 percent of Altuve's 32.4 FanGraphs WAR during that six-year span were Brian Dozier (21.5), Robinson Cano (21.4) and Ian Kinsler (18.4), each of whom is well beyond his prime at this point.
The 2019 season was arguably Altuve's least impressive of the six, even though he hit a career-high 31 home runs in only 124 games. But it wasn't bad enough to drop him behind guys like LeMahieu, Albies or Marte, each of whom have only had one or two impressive seasons in their careers. It merely opened the door for that group to potentially bypass him in next year's preseason ranking of second basemen.