MLB Player Rankings for Top 25 Second Basemen of 2021 Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2021

MLB Player Rankings for Top 25 Second Basemen of 2021 Season

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    Cole Burston/Getty Images

    Welcome to Bleacher Report's final positional rankings of the 2021 MLB season!

    Throughout the year, we released monthly updates to our position-by-position power rankings, selecting the top 10 players at each spot. Now it's time to finalize those rankings while expanding the list out to the 25 best at each position on the diamond, which means each position is going to get its own article.

    Just like the regular-season rankings, players are ranked solely on the 2021 season. Past production and future expectations played no part in deciding the order.

    To qualify for inclusion, a player had to have at least 200 plate appearances. Each player was included in the rankings at the position where he played the most innings.  Notable players who spent time at second base but saw the bulk of their action elsewhere include Trea Turner (shortstop), Javier Baez (shortstop) and Enrique Hernandez (outfield).

    Let's keep our 2021 MLB Player Rankings series rolling with a look at the top 25 second basemen.

        

    Catch up on the 2021 MLB Player Rankings series: Catchers, First Basemen

Nos. 25-21

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    David Fletcher
    David FletcherIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    25. Jeff McNeil, New York Mets

    A 5.1 WAR player in 2019 and a solid offensive performer once again last year, McNeil took a significant step backward at the plate this season. The 29-year-old hit .251/.319/.360 for an 88 OPS+ with 27 extra-base hits in 426 plate appearances, though he did remain one of the tougher players to whiff with a 13.6 percent strikeout rate.

        

    24. Cesar Hernandez, Cleveland Guardians/Chicago White Sox

    Hernandez already had a career-high 18 home runs when Cleveland traded him to the Chicago White Sox at the deadline to fill the void created by Nick Madrigal's season-ending injury. The 31-year-old hit only .232/.309/.299 for a 69 OPS+ following the trade, which took a significant bite out of his overall value. He finished with 0.4 WAR in 149 games.

          

    23. Abraham Toro, Houston Astros/Seattle Mariners

    With club control through 2026, Toro has the potential to be a long-term piece in Seattle after the Mariners acquired him from the division rival Astros at the deadline in exchange for reliever Kendall Graveman. The 24-year-old hit .252/.328/.367 with 16 extra-base hits and 0.9 WAR in 60 games following the trade as he saw regular action for the first time in his career.

          

    23. Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics

    After playing only nine games over the course of a two-year, $20 million contract with the New York Mets, Lowrie returned to Oakland on a minor league deal this past winter. The 37-year-old played his way onto the roster and split his time between second base and designated hitter, posting a 101 OPS+ with 28 doubles, 14 home runs and 69 RBI.

          

    21. David Fletcher, Los Angeles Angels

    Among the 132 hitters who qualified for the batting title in 2021, Fletcher was one of only two with a strikeout rate below 10 percent. However, he also had the lowest average exit velocity (82.3 mph) among that group while hitting a punchless .262/.297/.324 for a 71 OPS+ with 32 extra-base hits. He makes a ton of contact and plays solid defense, but his impact offensively is extremely limited.

Nos. 20-16

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    Josh Rojas
    Josh RojasNorm Hall/Getty Images

    20. Nick Solak, Texas Rangers

    Solak had a .910 OPS with seven home runs in April, and he appeared to be on his way to a breakout season. The 26-year-old struggled in the coming months, though, hitting .196/.260/.277 in 259 plate appearances over the next two-and-a-half months before he was demoted to the minors. He returned a month later and was productive down the stretch, but he's still working to establish himself as an everyday big leaguer.

          

    19. Donovan Solano, San Francisco Giants

    Solano hit .328 in 431 plate appearances between 2019 and 2020 as a true diamond-in-the-rough find for the San Francisco Giants front office. The 33-year-old's production dipped a bit this year, but he still hit .280/.344/.404 for a 103 OPS+ while sharing second base duties with Tommy La Stella, Wilmer Flores, Mauricio Dubon and others. Free agency awaits this offseason.

         

    18. Josh Rojas, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Rojas was part of the prospect package that the D-backs acquired from Houston in exchange for Zack Greinke at the 2019 deadline. The 27-year-old played all over the diamond in a super-utility role, spending time at second base (55 games), shortstop (42), right field (37), left field (18) and third base (14). He hit .264/.341/.411 with 32 doubles, 11 home runs, 44 RBI and 69 runs scored.

         

    17. Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies

    The No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Rodgers was slowed by a hamstring strain early in the year, but he eventually settled into an everyday role for the first time in his career. The 25-year-old hit .284/.328/.470 for a 102 OPS+ with 21 doubles, 15 home runs and 51 RBI in 102 games. He's a candidate to replace Trevor Story as the everyday shortstop in 2022.

           

    16. Josh Harrison, Washington Nationals/Oakland Athletics

    An All-Star during his peak in Pittsburgh, Harrison enjoyed a career renaissance with the Nationals. The 34-year-old hit .294/.366/.434 with a 120 OPS+ in 90 games with the Nats this year before they traded him to Oakland at the deadline along with Yan Gomes. His versatility should help land him another MLB contract this offseason.

Nos. 15-11

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    Jazz Chisholm Jr.
    Jazz Chisholm Jr.Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    15. DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees

    LeMahieu became the first player in MLB history to win a batting title in both leagues last year, tallying 3.1 WAR in 50 games while finishing third in AL MVP voting. The 33-year-old saw his average fall by nearly 100 points, with a .268/.349/.362 line and 97 OPS+ on his way to 1.5 WAR in 150 games, and he now has five years remaining on a six-year, $90 million contract.

        

    14. Jazz Chisholm Jr., Miami Marlins

    A dynamic power/speed threat with the tools to be a star for the Marlins, Chisholm tallied 20 doubles, 18 home runs, 23 steals and 2.4 WAR as a rookie in 2021. The 23-year-old needs to improve his 6.7 percent walk rate and 28.6 percent strikeout rate, but his quick-twitch athleticism and raw power give him tremendous upside.

        

    13. Tony Kemp, Oakland Athletics

    With 0.1 WAR in 323 games over the first five seasons of his MLB career, Kemp was not expected to be anything more than a versatile bench piece for Oakland. The 30-year-old instead put up 3.4 WAR in a career-high 131 games, thanks in large part to his on-base ability. He tallied more walks (52) than strikeouts (51) en route to a .382 on-base percentage, and he finished with a 126 OPS+ in 397 plate appearances.

         

    12. Kolten Wong, Milwaukee Brewers

    In the first season of a two-year, $18 million contract, Wong played his usual stellar defense at second base while providing a 108 OPS+ with 32 doubles, 14 home runs, 50 RBI, 70 runs scored and 12 steals in a 3.3 WAR campaign. The contract now looks like one of the best bargains of the 2020-21 offseason.

        

    11. Tommy Edman, St. Louis Cardinals

    Tasked with replacing Wong as the Cardinals' everyday second baseman and leadoff hitter, Edman turned in a 3.7 WAR season. The 26-year-old hit .262 with 41 doubles, 11 home runs, 56 RBI, 91 runs scored and 30 steals in 35 attempts. He was the NL Gold Glove winner at second base after spending the last two seasons in a utility role.

10. Jean Segura, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    An everyday shortstop when he joined the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019, Jean Segura shifted to second base last year to accommodate the addition of Didi Gregorius in free agency.

    The 31-year-old was his usual productive self this year, hitting .290/.348/.436 for a 111 OPS+ with 27 doubles, 14 home runs, 58 RBI and 76 runs scored. He primarily hit out of the No. 2 spot in the Phillies batting order, ahead of Bryce Harper.

    A below-average defender throughout his career at shortstop, he tallied 5 DRS this year at second base, and the keystone figures to be where he calls home for the remainder of his career. He is entering the final guaranteed season of his five-year, $70 million contract in 2022.

9. Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals

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    Ron Schwane/Getty Images

    After bouncing around between the outfield and second base over the past few seasons, Whit Merrifield again settled in as the Kansas City Royals' everyday second baseman in 2021.

    He hit a career-low .277 this year, but he was still an offensive catalyst atop the lineup. He led the AL in doubles (42) and stolen bases (40) while finishing third in the league in hits (184) and 11th in runs scored (97).

    He more than made up for any value that he lost from a dip in his batting average with a career year defensively, and his stellar metrics (14 DRS, 5.0 UZR/150) earned him a place among the AL Gold Glove finalists. He did all of that while earning an extremely team-friendly $6.75 million base salary.

8. Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh Pirates/San Diego Padres

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    Ralph Freso/Getty Images

    A surprising bright spot for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first half of the season, Adam Frazier hit .330/.397/.463 with 34 extra-base hits in 388 plate appearances before the break to earn the starting nod at second base for the NL in the All-Star Game.

    With one more year of arbitration remaining, the Pirates solid high at the trade deadline, shipping him to the San Diego Padres in exchange for a trio of prospects headlined by infielder Tucupita Marcano.

    Frazier hit just .267/.327/.335 for an 86 OPS+ in 57 games following the trade, but he still finished with a .305 average on the year to rank fifth in the NL batting title race.

    With Jake Cronenworth and Fernando Tatis Jr. expected to occupy the middle infield spots in 2022, he could shift to the grass and serve as San Diego's primary left fielder with Tommy Pham headed for free agency.

7. Jonathan India, Cincinnati Reds

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Jonathan India was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 draft after he hit .350/.497/.717 with 21 home runs during his junior season at the University of Florida.

    A lackluster showing between High-A and Double-A in 2019 sent his prospect stock tumbling, but the Reds saw enough at their alternate site last year and in spring training this year to hand him the starting second base job on Opening Day.

    The 24-year-old wound up being one of the breakout stars of the year, posting a 113 OPS+ with 34 doubles, 21 home runs and 12 steals. His .376 on-base percentage served him well as Cincinnati's leadoff hitter, and he led the team with 98 runs scored.

    His 3.9 WAR led all NL rookies and trailed only Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena (4.2) among all rookie-eligible players.

6. Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Ozzie Albies was an All-Star in 2018 and a Silver Slugger winner in 2019. It's easy to forget that he's still only 24 years old and not yet in the prime of his career.

    He set career-highs in home runs (30) and RBI (105) in 2021, and his 77 extra-base hits ranked fifth in the majors as he continued to be one of the game's most potent bats at second base.

    At the same time, he also had a rather lackluster .310 on-base percentage due to his aggressive approach at the plate. The result was a 105 OPS+ that ranked 10th among qualified second basemen, which highlights where there is still room for improvement in his game.

5. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    With George Springer gone in free agency, Jose Altuve moved into the leadoff spot in the Houston Astros lineup and served as the catalyst for the highest-scoring offense in baseball.

    The 31-year-old finished third in the AL with a career-high 117 runs scored, and he also matched a career best with 31 home runs. That was quite the bounce back from an ugly 2020 campaign during which he hit only .219 with a 71 OPS+ in 48 games.

    Altuve remains a below-average defender (-3 DRS, -1.0 UZR/150) and is no longer a base-stealing threat, but he can still flat-out-hit. Despite those shortcomings, he was a 4.4 WAR player, marking the sixth time in his career he has reached at least 4 WAR in a season.

4. Jake Cronenworth, San Diego Padres

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    Jake Cronenworth was one of the biggest surprises of 2020 when he went from a throw-in in the Tommy Pham-Hunter Renfroe swap to the San Diego Padres' starting second baseman and the NL Rookie of the Year runner-up.

    The 27-year-old proved that performance was not a fluke this year by posting a 122 OPS+ with 33 doubles, seven triples, 21 home runs, 71 RBI and 94 runs scored to earn a spot on the NL All-Star team and finish third on the San Diego roster with 4.8 WAR in 152 games.

    A super-utility player for a good portion of last season, Cronenworth settled in at second base this year and posted terrific defensive metrics (5 DRS, 6.8 UZR/150). He then showcased his versatility once again late in the season when he shifted to shortstop in place of an injured Fernando Tatis Jr.

    While Cronenworth was a bit of a late-bloomer, he now looks like a cornerstone player for the Padres.

3. Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Very few players had a more productive second half than Jorge Polanco, who posted a .914 OPS with 21 home runs and 55 RBI in 70 games after the All-Star break.

    The 28-year-old shifted from shortstop to second base this season after the Minnesota Twins signed perennial Gold Glove candidate Andrelton Simmons. After tallying minus-42 DRS over the course of his career at shortstop, he also proved to be a better fit defensively on the other side of second base.

    The Twins owe him a team-friendly $13 million over the next two seasons combined, and they have club options for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. After a 33-homer, 4.9 WAR season, his stock may never be higher, so he could be a name to watch on the trade block this winter if the Twins decide to sell further.

2. Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    The highest OPS+ among qualified second basemen in 2021 didn't belong to Marcus Semien, who set the single-season record for home runs at the position.

    Instead, it was Brandon Lowe who led the way with a 142 OPS+ while tallying 31 doubles, 39 home runs, 99 RBI and 97 runs scored in 149 games for the Tampa Bay Rays.

    The 27-year-old has been a steady source of power production since finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2019, and he has averaged 31 doubles, 37 home runs and 104 RBI per 162 games in the early stages of his MLB career.

    After impressing in abridged seasons over the past two years, he was one of baseball's elite offensive performers and a 4.7 WAR player in his first full season of MLB action.

1. Marcus Semien, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Mark Blinch/Getty Images

    After Marcus Semien finished third in AL MVP voting in 2019, his production dipped in a contract year. Rather than sign a discounted long-term deal, he bet on himself last offseason by signing a one-year, $18 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    He has now put himself in position for a nine-figure payday.

    The 31-year-old posted a 133 OPS+ with 39 doubles, 45 home runs and 102 RBI as a force in the middle of the Toronto lineup. He even swiped a career-high 14 bases in 15 attempts for good measure.

    Semien also made a seamless transition to second base defensively, ranking third at the position with 11 DRS and registering the highest Defensive Value Metric (8.5) of any second baseman en route to AL Gold Glove honors.

    That all added up to a 7.3 WAR season, which trailed only Shohei Ohtani (9.1) and Zack Wheeler (7.7) among all players in 2021.

             

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

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