Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

What’s all this, then? For an explanation of this series, please read the introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position.

Due to an unfortunate data error, the numbers in this story did not include park factors upon publication. We have updated the data to include the park factors, and the data you see below is now correct. We apologize for the mistake.

The second base position across the major leagues is in a bit of disarray. Second basemen (.718 OPS) were outhit by catchers (.701 OPS) in 2012, the first time that had happened since 2006. Sure, there have been a bevy of young, talented catchers joining the league in the last few years, but no position is selected less for their offensive skills than the catcher — second basemen should outhit them every year.

So it seems fair to call it a down era for second basemen, at least at the plate. As such, there is a good amount of clustering in these rankings. 12 teams fall between 2.0 and 3.0 projected WAR per 700 plate appearances. If a team finds a breakout second baseman this year, it is an asset to be treasured. If a team already has a star at the position, it gives them a big advantage over the rest of the league.

To the rankings!

#1 Yankees


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Robinson Cano 630 .297 .358 .506 .366 23.9 -0.5 1.8 5.1
Corban Joseph 35 .250 .321 .380 .304 -0.4 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Total 665 .294 .356 .499 .362 23.4 -0.6 1.7 5.1

The ineffable Robinson Cano makes the Yankees a clear choice atop these rankings. Cano’s combination of contact and power skills is simply unmatched at the position. Observe:

canocontactpower

Above, the 201 qualifying second base seasons from 2003 through 2012 are plotted, with strikeout rate on the horizontal axis and isolated power on the vertical axis. The giant navy blue stars are Robinson Cano’s seasons. The green dots are everybody else’s. Cano dominates the upper left corner, where the best contact hitters and power hitters lie.

On 41 occasions has a second baseman recorded an above-average strikeout rate and an above average ISO for the position. Seven of those 41 (17 percent) have come from Robinson Cano’s eight qualifying seasons as a major leaguer.

The power/contact combination is the most potent a hitter can offer. The power hitter with contact abilities gets more chances to use his home run power in practice. Cano puts the ball in play often, and he puts it in play with vigor. He may not be the best glove at second base — that allows players like Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley to approach his level — but Cano’s bat is untouchable among second basemen at this point in his career.

#2 Red Sox


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Dustin Pedroia 630 .290 .365 .457 .354 16.3 0.2 7.2 4.9
Pedro Ciriaco 70 .263 .284 .358 .277 -2.5 0.1 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .287 .357 .446 .347 13.7 0.3 7.3 4.9

Somehow, Pedroia is just 29 years old, and as such, his dropoff 2012 season shouldn’t be much of a concern. He still hit .290/.347/.449 (113 wRC+), still brought an above-average contact-power combination, and still played solid defense. But it was a definitive step down — Pedroia posted wRC+ marks of 132 and 128 in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

But that just means Pedroia was merely an All-Star quality player instead of an MVP quality player. Pedroia only walked 7.7 percent of the time in 2012, a four percent drop from 2011. His plate discipline statistics don’t show any glaring warning signs, though — he didn’t start swinging at extra pitches out of the strike zone and he didn’t start swinging more often.

With the disaster of 2012 behind Pedroia and the Red Sox, there’s little reason to doubt a bounceback year from Pedroia. He has been one of the league’s best second basemen since he broke through in 2007, and there’s little reason to expect that to change at age 29.

#3 Phillies


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Chase Utley 420 .263 .363 .438 .347 10.7 1.3 3.9 3.3
Freddy Galvis 175 .253 .290 .370 .289 -3.7 -0.3 1.6 0.4
Kevin Frandsen 105 .276 .318 .377 .302 -1.1 -0.3 0.0 0.3
Total 700 .263 .338 .411 .326 5.9 0.8 5.4 4.0

Chase Utley is healthy in camp for the first time in three years. If he stays healthy, it’s huge for the Phillies. Utley projects just a hair behind Cano and Pedroia on a per-plate appearance basis, so even if he plays in just 60% of the Phillies games — roughly what he’s done the past two seasons, the Phillies still project as a top-3 team at the position.

Even in injury-limited seasons, Utley has shown the patience, contact and power skills necessary to keep up his performance. Neither his raw power nor speed are at their peak levels, but Utley has so far to fall stepping down a couple of rungs still leaves him near the elite.

Having two semi-competent backups helps. Galvis is a question mark coming off a PED suspension, but he isn’t expected to hit, merely to play solid defense. Frandsen, meanwhile, was shockingly good last season — a 127 wRC+ in 210 plate appearances — and if he maintains even a fraction of his improved production, he’ll bring value off the bench.

#4 Rangers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Ian Kinsler 595 .265 .348 .443 .344 8.8 1.6 2.1 3.6
Jurickson Profar 70 .255 .327 .399 .315 -0.6 0.0 0.2 0.2
Leury Garcia 35 .255 .296 .349 .281 -1.2 0.1 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .264 .344 .433 .338 7.0 1.8 2.4 3.9

Ian Kinsler’s days at second base could be numbered. Jurickson Profar’s play and pedigree are demanding playing time, and fast. Even in a down year last season, Kinsler hit .256/.326/.423 (99 wRC+), still league average and therefore well above the second base position average. He still sported decent patience (8.2 percent walk rate) and contact (12.3 percent strikeout rate) skills; the problem was a mere .270 BABIP. After a .243 BABIP in 2011 (offset by a .223 ISO), there may be some worry that Kinsler, now 31, is losing his singles stroke. A 14.2 percent infield fly rate (per fly ball) is a bit concerning.

However, Kinsler has always hit a few more infield flies than the league average. He still hit for good power in 2012 (.166 ISO, a touch under his .188 career mark, particularly when we account for the decrease in leaguewide offense since 2006). Kinsler posted wRC+ marks of 105, 114 and 122 in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively, and that’s enough of a track record to expect a bounceback in 2013.

#5 Rays


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Ben Zobrist 350 .261 .363 .441 .348 11.2 0.0 1.6 2.7
Kelly Johnson 175 .226 .313 .376 .303 -0.8 -0.1 -0.5 0.5
Ryan Roberts 105 .232 .311 .365 .297 -0.9 -0.1 0.1 0.3
Sean Rodriguez 70 .232 .310 .380 .303 -0.3 0.0 0.4 0.3
Total 700 .245 .337 .407 .325 9.2 -0.2 1.6 3.8

In 2010, 28-year-old Kelly Johnson hit .284/.370/.496 with 26 home runs, good for a 129 wRC+ and 5.8 WAR. I was excited. He combined patience and power in a way we almost never see from middle infielders (at least, outside of Robinson Cano/Dustin Pedroia/Chase Utley types). His peak was still in front of him. It was easy to see a couple of All-Star appearances in his future.

Whoops.

Johnson lost the ability to make contact in 2011 and 2012 as strikeout rates exceeding 25 percent led to wRC+ marks of 92 and 86 respectively. He still has power — he’s hit 37 home runs over the past two years, seventh among second basemen — and he can still draw a walk. If he can improve his contact rate at all, the 31-year-old can make a pretty nifty left side of a platoon.

Johnson will likely share the platoon with Ryan Roberts. Roberts struggled mightily in 2012 but owns a .259/.341/.434 (105 wRC+) line against left-handed pitching and should hit for a bit more power this year.

The Johnson/Roberts pair will open the season at second base, most likely, with Ben Zobrist manning right field until Wil Myers is ready (read: his service time clock is held back enough) for the majors. Zobrist, of course, is a known commodity. He hits, he fields, and he runs. With the second base crop in a relatively weak state, half a season of Zobrist and half a season of the Johnson/Roberts platoon looks like one of the better second base units in the league.

#6 Pirates


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Neil Walker 665 .272 .337 .432 .332 11.1 -0.5 -1.2 3.6
Josh Harrison 35 .262 .303 .380 .298 -0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .271 .335 .429 .330 10.8 -0.5 -1.3 3.6

One can be forgiven for finding Neil Walker a boring, if consistent presence. Pittsburgh will take it. Observe, seasons by a Pirates second baseman over the past 25 seasons (minimum 400 PA) by wRC+:

pirates2Bwrc

And by WAR:

pirates2Bwar

Neil Walker just keeps chugging along. Just three years — and 8.1 WAR — into his career, it’s clear he’s the best second baseman to suit up in Pittsburgh since Johnny Ray held the keystone in the early 1980s.

#7 Reds


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Brandon Phillips 630 .278 .329 .427 .327 4.5 0.3 4.1 3.4
Jason Donald 70 .240 .308 .368 .299 -1.0 0.0 -0.3 0.1
Total 700 .274 .327 .421 .324 3.5 0.3 3.8 3.5

“Every night it’s Brandon Phillips!”

Home announcer excitement aside, Brandon Phillips is clearly an excellent fielder — a +4 run projection likely shortchanges his abilities. However, his .327 projected wOBA is less impressive given the inflating effects of Great American Ball Park.

Still, even above average hitters at second base are hard to find these days. Despite a lack of patience at the plate — Phillips walked in just 4.5 percent of plate appearances last year — he remains productive by putting the ball in play. Phillips struck out in under 13 percent of plate appearances last year, making him one of just eight players to do so (and qualify for the batting title) in each of the past four seasons.

#8 Indians


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jason Kipnis 630 .259 .332 .404 .321 5.2 0.7 -0.5 3.0
Mike Aviles 70 .260 .296 .392 .299 -0.7 0.0 0.3 0.2
Total 700 .259 .328 .403 .319 4.6 0.8 -0.2 3.2

Kipnis’s season was a tale of two halves. He burst onto the scene in the first half as he hit .277/.345/.419 (113 wRC+) with 11 home runs and a tremendous 20 steals in 21 attempts. Neither the power nor the speed held up into the dog days. Kipnis mustered just a .233/.322/.328 (86 wRC+) line in the second half and was caught in six of his 17 stolen base attempts.

The question, then, is which Kipnis to believe in for 2013. Was Kipnis merely exhausted by the rigors of his first full major league season? Did pitchers adjust in the second half? Can he adjust back?

Regardless, Kipnis showed enough in his excellent first half and over his minor league tenure to put him in the league’s upper third of a weak second base class. He put up a 130 wRC+ at five different minor league levels and in a 36-game stint in the majors in 2011 before last season, and that’s a track record worth believing in.

#9 Padres


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jedd Gyorko 525 .262 .320 .417 .319 6.4 -0.4 -0.5 2.6
Logan Forsythe 175 .242 .330 .355 .304 0.0 0.1 -1.3 0.6
Total 700 .257 .323 .402 .315 6.4 -0.2 -1.8 3.2

Logan Forsythe was a sharp stopgap second baseman last year. As a 25-year-old, he hit .273/.343/.390, good for a sharp 110 wRC+ thanks to Petco Park. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but he was effectively average (or slightly above) in the four key hitting rates (K%, BB%, ISO and BABIP).

But it looks more and more like the Padres’ second base job will go to converted third base prospect Jedd Gyorko. Forsythe, as such, will be relegated to a utility role — a role in which he should be very efffective.

Gyorko hit well in Double-A and absolutely mashed (.328/.380/.588, 24 2B, 24 HR) in 92 games at Triple-A Tucson. He’ll find a chance in San Diego at some point this season. He has good patience and has shown solid power for a middle infielder in the minors. Will it translate to Petco Park? Will his rather average contact rates hold up in the majors? Those are the questions he’ll have to answer, but he’s an exciting prospect, and as such the Padres are looking good according to the projections.

#10 Brewers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Rickie Weeks 560 .247 .342 .431 .337 10.0 0.4 -4.8 2.8
Taylor Green 105 .252 .317 .401 .311 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.4
Alex Gonzalez 35 .238 .280 .380 .286 -0.8 -0.1 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .247 .335 .424 .331 8.8 0.3 -4.7 3.2

The devastating ankle injury Weeks suffered in 2011 seemed to linger. Between his return for the 2011 playoffs and the first half of 2012, Weeks hit a brutal .197/.314/.347 from Sept. 10, 2011 through the 2012 All-Star Break.

But after the break, Weeks was more or less the same hitter he was in 2010 and before the injury in 2011 (his only All-Star campaign to date). Weeks hit .261./.343/.457 (118 wRC+) in the second half, just a tick under his 127 and 125 wRC+ marks from 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Weeks has one of the best bats at the position, and although a good chunk of his value is offset by a poor glove, he still ranks as one of the better players when healthy. And perhaps even his brittleness is a bit overstated — he’s played in at least 118 games in five of the last six seasons.

#11 Diamondbacks


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Aaron Hill 630 .269 .329 .443 .332 4.4 -0.3 1.9 3.1
John McDonald 49 .248 .294 .385 .293 -1.2 -0.1 0.2 0.1
Willie Bloomquist 21 .264 .304 .350 .286 -0.6 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .268 .326 .436 .328 2.6 -0.5 1.9 3.1

Aaron Hill was ruined for a couple years in Toronto after he hit 36 home runs in 2009 — he managed just a 77 wRC+ in both 2010 and 2011. But throughout that period, Hill continued to make contact — his career-worst strikeout rate is a still sharp 15.5 percent. As such, it was possible to envision a resurgence if only Hill could fix what had turned from a fly ball swing into a pop-up swing.

Hill couldn’t hit the high pitch for power in 2011 — he hit 100 fly balls off pitches in the upper third of the zone or higher and managed just two home runs, two doubles and three triples. In 2009, 2010 and 2012, Hill posted at least a 12.0 percent HR/FB on such pitches. If he can keep making powerful contact in the upper third of the strike zone, he should be able to maintain his resurgence.

#12 Angels


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Howie Kendrick 637 .273 .318 .408 .314 2.4 0.3 2.6 3.0
Andrew Romine 42 .244 .302 .319 .276 -1.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Bill Hall 21 .206 .269 .341 .265 -0.8 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .269 .316 .401 .311 0.5 0.3 2.3 3.0

Kendrick produced an exciting 2011. As a 27-year-old, he hit a sharp .285/.338/.464 (123 wRC+), and the future looked bright with his first All-Star game appearance in tow.

Prior to 2011, Kendrick was a solid if unremarkable second baseman for Anaheim, hitting for a mostly-empty batting average but knocking enough singles to outpace the majority of the second base crop. When the bottom fell out of the power behind his 2011 season, he reverted to the slightly above-average player he’s been for the bulk of his career.

It wouldn’t be shocking if we saw Kendrick regain some of his lost power as a 29-year-old, but given his 8.9 percent HR/FB both over his career and in 2012 alone, it seems unlikely he’ll ever show the 20-homer ability he flashed in 2011.

#13 Mariners


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Dustin Ackley 595 .246 .326 .374 .307 0.7 0.2 3.4 2.7
Robert Andino 70 .230 .295 .322 .275 -1.7 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Kyle Seager 35 .263 .323 .400 .315 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.2
Total 700 .246 .323 .370 .305 -0.8 0.2 3.1 3.0

Dustin Ackley‘s 2012 was a disaster. He hit .226/.294/.328 (75 wRC+) and in just one month (May) did he produce an above-average wRC+. He didn’t hit for power (12 HR in 668 PA; .102 ISO) and he didn’t hit for average (18.6 K%, .265 BABIP).

Adjusting for SafeCo Field helps, but projections for Ackley are still a bit disheartening compared to where we thought he’d be last season. There’s still room for hope, though. Ackley flashed the leather last season well enough to save him from complete uselessness. More importantly, he was sharp with the bat for 90 games in 2011 and has a solid minor league track record and pedigree to build on.

With the fences coming in at SafeCo Field this season and Ackley entering his age 25 season, excuses will be running out quickly. IF the potential the Mariners saw in Ackley shines through, however, the Mariners will be looking good in a bleak second base era.

#14 Nationals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Danny Espinosa 630 .237 .311 .400 .308 -3.1 0.0 4.7 2.6
Steve Lombardozzi 70 .265 .316 .367 .299 -0.9 -0.1 0.1 0.2
Total 700 .240 .311 .397 .308 -4.0 0.0 4.8 2.8

In truth, Danny Espinosa is a shortstop playing second base. At second base, he’s one of the best fielders around. His strong arm combined with vast range leads to multiple plays like the one above.

Espinosa has a major flaw: his inability to make contact. He swung and missed at 15.2 percent of the pitches he faced in 2012, a new career high, and he set a career high with a 28.7 percent strikeout rate as well. As such, he needed a .333 BABIP just to hit .247, and as such his offensive ceiling is limited despite average patience and good power.

But Espinosa has hit for enough power (.172 ISO) to be roughly average at the plate — 94 wRC+ last year, 98 career. And so between his semi-competent bat and shortstop-quality glove, the Nationals have themselves a solid, if occasionally frustrating, option at the keystone.

#15 Astros


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jose Altuve 630 .287 .333 .408 .323 4.8 0.8 -4.4 2.6
Tyler Greene 35 .236 .306 .394 .304 -0.2 0.1 -0.2 0.1
Jake Elmore 35 .256 .338 .331 .299 -0.4 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .283 .332 .403 .321 4.2 0.9 -4.7 2.7

The Little Hit Tool That Could proved it last season. Altuve posted a sharp .290/.340/.399 (104 wRC+) with 33 SB (11 CS). He probably won’t ever become a star — at 5-foot-5 and a dense 170 pounds, it’s hard to imagine him putting up too many double-digit home run seasons. Still, he’ll make enough contact to bang out singles, get on base, and use his speed to wreak havoc on opposing batteries.

The bigger question might be his defense. Both DRS and UZR hated his range in 2012, and defense was one of the sticking points for scouts slow to jump on the bandwagon.

Still, the answer to the defense question is the difference between Altuve being an average second baseman and a fringe All-Star type. Not a bad place to start for Houston on the long climb back to respectability.

#16 Braves


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Dan Uggla 595 .238 .338 .421 .331 8.1 -0.9 -4.9 2.5
Paul Janish 70 .231 .301 .320 .277 -2.1 0.0 0.4 0.1
Ramiro Pena 35 .238 .296 .310 .268 -1.3 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .237 .332 .405 .323 4.6 -0.9 -4.5 2.6

Dan Uggla has been good for a roughly half-season long slump each of the past two seasons. It’s all in the BABIP:

ugglababip

Last year, his power fell off a bit as well, as he hit under 20 home runs (under 27, for accuracy’s sake) for the first time in his career. Uggla’s patience and still-good power — particularly for a middle infielder — allowed him to remain a viable option, even if his strikeout (26.7 percent) and popup (16.9 percent of fly balls) heavy ways were infuriating.

Expect more of the same, except with a few more fly balls sneaking over the fence — Uggla is too strong to post an 11.4 percent HR/FB (his career low mark from 2012) again. Even with his myriad fielding issues (Remember the 2008 All-Star Game? It hasn’t gotten much better.), he should provide league-average or better production for Atlanta.

And he might be their worst position player, a scary thought for National League pitchers.

#17 Rockies


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Josh Rutledge 490 .286 .325 .459 .337 1.2 0.6 0.0 2.1
Reid Brignac 70 .238 .297 .337 .277 -3.2 0.0 0.2 0.0
Eric Young 70 .267 .343 .380 .318 -0.9 0.4 0.2 0.2
DJ LeMahieu 70 .292 .330 .377 .307 -1.5 -0.1 0.2 0.1
Total 700 .280 .325 .432 .326 -4.4 1.0 0.6 2.4

A .337 wOBA may sound high for Rutledge, 24-year-old who skipped Triple-A and has just 73 major league games under his belt. It may seem especially high when he posted just a 3.1 percent walk rate last season, with much of his value coming from the most unstable parts of offense, power (.195 ISO) and BABIP (.315).

But consider Rutledge destroyed the High-A California league as a 22-year-old (.346/.412/.513, 139 wRC+) and the Double-A Texas League (.306/.338/.508, 132 wRC+) as a 23-year-old. And also consider Rutledge’s .332 wOBA in the majors in 2012 translates to just a 94 wRC+ thanks to Colorado’s thin air and massive outfield.

Perhaps it’s a touch optimistic to think Rutledge can be a near league average hitter this season, but there’s also plenty of room for optimism above league average. There’s a lot of volatility in this projection, but given the state of second basemen in the league right now, volatility with upside ranks decently well.

#18 Mets


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Daniel Murphy 525 .285 .333 .405 .319 3.7 -0.4 -4.7 1.9
Justin Turner 140 .260 .323 .382 .310 0.1 -0.1 -0.9 0.4
Jordany Valdespin 35 .252 .290 .389 .295 -0.4 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .278 .329 .400 .316 3.3 -0.6 -5.8 2.4

Murphy owns a typical middle infielder skillset at the plate, based on lost of contact and little else. Murphy struck out in 13.4 percent of plate appearances last year, still a good total despite marking his worst mark since he became a major league regular in 2009.

Murphy hits enough line drives to be an effective bat up the middle. He doesn’t field well enough or hit for enough power to be anything more than average. He is the proverbial second-division starter. Similarly, Justin Turner is the proverbial second division backup. Jordany Valdespin merely hopes his genitals won’t be making any more news for the rest of the year.

#19 Giants


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Marco Scutaro 560 .277 .333 .377 .311 0.9 -0.7 -0.7 2.1
Joaquin Arias 105 .259 .294 .360 .282 -2.2 0.1 -0.3 0.2
Tony Abreu 35 .255 .289 .373 .289 -0.6 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .273 .325 .374 .305 -1.9 -0.8 -1.0 2.3

If ranking the Giants — and therefore, Marco Scutaro — 19th seems harsh, consider teams 12 through 24 on this list all fall between 2.0 and 3.0 projected WAR. If Scutaro (or, it should follow, anybody else near him on this list) outperforms his projections by just a little bit, he could easily be in the top half of the position.

Scutaro’s schtick is well known at this point: when he swings, he makes contact. Only Juan Pierre has a lower strikeout rate (min. 1000 PA) than Scutaro’s 7.5 percent over the past two seasons. He doesn’t have much power — especially not built for cavernous AT&T Park — and he isn’t overly patient. But he’ll hit enough singles and make enough plays to give the Giants plenty of stability at second base.

#20 Tigers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Omar Infante 595 .280 .316 .397 .309 -3.9 -0.2 2.7 2.2
Ramon Santiago 105 .249 .316 .347 .292 -2.2 -0.2 0.0 0.2
Total 700 .275 .316 .390 .307 -6.1 -0.4 2.7 2.3

Omar Infante was the less-heralded part of the Tigers’ trade to bring in Anibal Sanchez, but one could argue he was more important to the squad. The Tigers had absolutely nothing going at second base last season — non-Infante Tigers second basemen combined for -2.3 WAR in 604 PA.

Infante was actually pretty terrible at the plate himself — he hit .257/.283/.385 (78 wRC+), but that was still easily better than Ramon Santiago (53 wRC+ in 259 PA) and Ryan Raburn (28 wRC+ in 222 PA), and Infante appears to be a superior fielder to both players as well.

Infante just couldn’t get singles to drop in as a Tiger — he recorded a .269 BABIP in his post-trade at-bats — but his overall season line — .274/.300/.419 — gives a good idea of his general quality. He makes a ton of contact, rarely walks, and will occasionally pop a home run. Infante is noothing special, but after enduring a practical black hole in the lineup at the position the Tigers will happily trot him out at second base every day this season.

#21 Cardinals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Daniel Descalso 420 .253 .324 .360 .298 -4.4 0.0 -1.6 1.0
Matt Carpenter 245 .264 .354 .397 .330 3.7 -0.2 -0.5 1.3
Ronny Cedeno 35 .241 .295 .355 .282 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .333 .372 .308 -1.6 -0.2 -2.1 2.3

Second base is one of the few question marks for the Cardinals. Long-term, it’s Kolten Wong‘s position. For now, it looks like a mix of Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter, depending on how Carpenter’s work at the position has gone over the offseason.

Descalso is the typical glove-first utility man. Over 302 career games, he owns an 80 wRC+, and his major asset is an ability to play third base and shortstop as well as second base. If he ends up playing the majority of the games at second base, he’ll be a hole in the Cardinals’ lineup, but one the rest of the big boppers can mask.

Carpenter, however, is intriguing. He has a good minor league track record and hit a sharp .294/.365/.463 (125 wRC+) in 114 games last season. But he has just 18 innings under his belt at second base between majors and minors (where he was almost exclusively a third baseman). If he can make the transition, his bat will play extremely well at second base. It’s just too early too say right now if his glove will allow the Cardinals to use him there full time, though.

#22 Cubs


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Darwin Barney 630 .270 .313 .364 .296 -11.5 0.8 7.8 2.1
Brent Lillibridge 56 .220 .283 .336 .273 -2.1 0.1 -0.1 0.0
Luis Valbuena 14 .246 .322 .381 .308 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .265 .311 .362 .295 -13.6 0.9 7.7 2.2

“There are so many things that could have gone wrong on this play, and he makes it look routine!” Cubs color announcer Bob Brently hits the nail on the head here. This play is so illustrative of the value Barney brings in the field; it shows both his excellent range and strong arm.

Barney isn’t much of a hitter. Although he makes loads of contact — he struck out in 9.9 percent of plate appearances last season — Barney can’t do much with it. He lacks power and has a tendency towards ground balls. His best hope is probably an empty batting average in the .270s or .280s — see his .276/.313/.353 (80 wRC+) line from 2011.

Still, if Barney really is the elite defender he looked like last season — +13 UZR, an absurd +28 DRS, and loads of plays like the one above — he’s worth a starting job in the major leagues.

#23 Dodgers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Mark Ellis 455 .250 .310 .350 .292 -6.1 -0.3 4.2 1.5
Skip Schumaker 175 .263 .325 .338 .292 -2.3 -0.2 -1.3 0.3
Nick Punto 70 .230 .323 .316 .288 -1.2 0.1 0.4 0.2
Total 700 .251 .315 .344 .291 -9.6 -0.5 3.3 2.0

For as much money as the Dodgers have spent, and for as many moves as the Dodgers have made, they still have holes. Second base is one of them. Mark Ellis‘s bat lacks punch. At 36 years old, it’s difficult to expect much out of him. He draws walks, but can he do enough to force pitchers to nibble? He’s had a good glove his whole career, but can his defense stay sharp through his late 30s?

Steamer and ZiPS both expect a bit of a drop-off from last year, when Ellis hit a respectable .258/.333/.364 (98 wRC+). It’s difficult to ignore Ellis’s 2011, when he hit .248/.288/.346 (68 wRC+) despite spending half of the season in Colorado.

Neither Skip Schumacher nor Nick Punto are exciting options off the bench. The Dodgers will need their trade hauls from other positions to cover this hole.

#24 Athletics


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Scott Sizemore 455 .239 .322 .370 .307 -1.7 -0.3 -2.2 1.3
Jemile Weeks 175 .253 .321 .351 .297 -2.0 0.0 -1.1 0.4
Jed Lowrie 70 .250 .330 .418 .325 0.8 -0.1 -0.2 0.3
Total 700 .243 .323 .370 .306 -2.9 -0.3 -3.5 2.0

The story for Oakland at second base is less about Scott Sizemore winning the job but more about the fall of Jemile Weeks. Weeks hit an atrocious .221/.305/.304 (73 wRC+) in 2012 and may open the season in the minors. It’s a stark drop for Weeks, who burst onto the scene in 2011 with a .303/.340/.421 line (110 wRC+) in 97 games as a 24-year-old.

Sizemore likely would have had a starting spot in Oakland last year — at third base — but he missed the entire season with an ACL tear. If he is back at 100 percent this year, he should bring a stable if unimpressive bat to the Athletics lineup. His patience (39.5 percent swing rate in 2011) leads to high walk and strikeout rates, with enough power to make him a roughly league-average bat.

Second base is Sizemore’s natural position, but he isn’t a highly regarded defender. Put it all together, and you get a slightly below average, if playable option.

#25 White Sox


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Gordon Beckham 560 .251 .316 .395 .312 -4.5 -0.6 -0.1 1.6
Jeff Keppinger 35 .285 .338 .400 .322 0.0 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Angel Sanchez 70 .261 .324 .344 .295 -1.5 -0.1 -0.3 0.1
Carlos Sanchez 35 .259 .314 .343 .290 -0.9 -0.1 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .254 .318 .388 .310 -6.8 -0.8 -0.2 1.9

In 2009, just one year after the White Sox selected him with the eigth pick of the 2008 draft, Gordon Beckham came up and hit .270/.347/.460 (109 wRC+) with 14 home runs in just 103 games. In the three years since, the White Sox have been waiting for that Gordon Beckham to show up again.

In the three years since, Beckham has posted wRC+ marks of 86, 71 and 79. The power he flashed has never materialized; his .137 ISO in 2012 was his highest since his .190 rookie mark.

Beckham did take one definitive step forward in 2012, though, as he set a career best with an 8.3 percent swinging strike rate. He struck out in just 15.3 percnt of plate appearances, in line with his 2009 rate. A .254 BABIP prevented it from translating into better results, but this improved contact is the basis behind his projected .251 average (and the improved on-base and slugging the extra singles provide). It isn’t what was hoped for when Beckham first broke into the majors, but if Beckham can keep making contact, he’ll be semi-useful for the White Sox this year.

#26 Blue Jays


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Maicer Izturis 350 .266 .330 .368 .307 -2.7 0.3 -1.0 1.0
Emilio Bonifacio 350 .256 .321 .336 .291 -7.1 2.1 -2.0 0.6
Total 700 .261 .325 .352 .299 -9.8 2.4 -3.1 1.6

It still isn’t clear who will get the bulk of the second base playing time in Toronto between Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio. Bonficacio is certainly the more exciting player — he has 70 stolen bases over the past two seasons despite playing just 216 games — but his only above-average hitting season needed a .372 BABIP. Izturis, meanwhile, is more of the boring utility infielder type. As with many of the players on this list, Izturis makes a ton of contact but doesn’t add much power or patience.

Neither is likely to hit much. Both are exceptionally versatile and add value to a bench. Both are switch-hitters. The decision, realistically, shouldn’t make much of a difference in the Blue Jays’ fate. If one of them jumps out to a hot start in April, he’ll probably win the job long-term.

#27 Royals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Chris Getz 315 .261 .317 .332 .288 -7.0 0.7 -0.5 0.5
Johnny Giavotella 315 .272 .327 .372 .306 -2.6 0.2 -1.5 0.8
Miguel Tejada 35 .255 .292 .336 .269 -1.3 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Irving Falu 35 .266 .309 .351 .289 -0.8 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .266 .319 .351 .295 -11.6 0.7 -2.0 1.4

The Royals hope this can be Johnny Giavotella‘s year. It was supposed be 2012, but Giavotella tanked during spring training and hit a putrid .238/.270/.304 (55 wRC+) when he got a chance at the majors later in the year. He was productive at Triple-A (.323/.404/.472, 130 wRC+) in 89 games, so he should have another shot at it this year.

If not, the Royals are stuck with Chris Getz. Although Getz has major league ability — he has great contact skills, as he struck out in just 8.1 percent of his 210 plate, and he can run — he’s limited to the point where he’s best suited as a utility player, not a starter. He simply doesn’t have any power — he hasn’t homered since 2009 as a member of the White Sox.

#28 Twins


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Brian Dozier 420 .249 .299 .353 .286 -9.6 -0.2 -0.8 0.5
Jamey Carroll 245 .267 .341 .330 .301 -2.6 -0.3 0.5 0.7
Eduardo Escobar 35 .242 .285 .337 .273 -1.1 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .255 .313 .344 .290 -13.4 -0.5 -0.3 1.2

Brian Dozier struggled in his debut season last year, and the result appears to be a shift from shortstop to second base. If he’s going to stick at second base, he’ll need to improve drastically with the bat. He was below average in three of the four major hitting rates (BB%, ISO and BABIP) and scarcely above average in the fourth (K%). He’ll need to find his form from Double-A in 2011, his best professional stint — in 78 games (351 PA), he hit .318/.384/.502 (145 wRC+).

Jamey Carroll is expected to bounce between shortstop and second base this year. He doesn’t have the bat for second base — he hit just .268/.343/.317 last year, the sixth straight season his OBP has outpaced his SLG — but he makes contact and will play solid defense when given the chance.

#29 Orioles


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Brian Roberts 280 .249 .316 .372 .302 -3.9 0.2 -2.5 0.4
Alexi Casilla 280 .249 .306 .339 .283 -8.0 0.9 -0.7 0.3
Ryan Flaherty 140 .235 .289 .369 .284 -3.9 -0.2 0.1 0.1
Total 700 .246 .307 .358 .291 -15.8 0.9 -3.0 0.8

There are two problems with the Orioles at second base: we don’t know if Brian Roberts will stay healthy, and we don’t know if he’s still any good. Roberts has taken just 513 plate appearances over the past three seasons and he has hit just .244/.308/.340 (78 OPS+).

The three years prior, Roberts hit .290/.370/.444 (114 OPS+), so it’s understandable for there to be some excitement in Baltimore surrounding his return to the opening day lineup. However, at age 35 and with a three-year history of injuries and ineffectiveness, it seems overly optimistic to expect much out of Roberts.

Twins castoff Alexi Casilla and second-year player Ryan Flaherty don’t add much off the bench. The pair combined for a .268 wOBA last year, although Casilla at least brings a quality glove to the equation.

#30 Marlins


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Donovan Solano 525 .258 .304 .341 .283 -13.5 0.4 1.4 0.8
Nick Green 175 .238 .290 .357 .280 -5.0 -0.2 -1.1 0.0
Total 700 .253 .301 .345 .282 -18.4 0.2 0.3 0.8

You could do worse than Donovan Solano in 2012. He hit .295/.342/.375, stole seven bases without a failure, and played a competent second base. But looking at his peripheral numbers, it’s hard to see a repeat. He didn’t show patience (6.6 percent walk rate), exceptional contact skills (18.4 percent strikeout rate) nor power (.081 ISO). His year was propped up by a .357 BABIP, and that’s where our pessimistic projection is derived.

Solano will be backed up by Nick Green. The former Red Sox member is a career .236/.303/.347 hitter, and lest that make you feel optimistic, keep in mind most of those plate appearances came in the more offensively robust seasons of the mid-2000s.



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AC_Butcha_AC
Member
AC_Butcha_AC
3 years 3 months ago

Nice article. I think there is a typo in you second sentence “Second basemen (.718 OPS) were outhit by catchers (.701 OPS) in 2012 for the first time since 2006” that doesn’t make any sense.

Hejuk
Guest
Hejuk
3 years 3 months ago

Why is the average WAR so high for these? The 15th (median) team for every position so far has been above 2 WAR (2.6 for 1B and 2B, 3.3 for catcher), and with the top teams having higher WARs than the bottom teams have low WARs, the overall WAR must average considerably more than 2. Are these just particularly strong positions (catcher at least seems to be)?

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 3 months ago

I can think of a couple possibilities.

1) The projection systems are good on rates, but are overprojecting playing time for good players. Every season, good players get injured in unpredictable ways, and that holds league WAR down.

2) Teams at the lower reaches of the spectrum are expected to give a lot of playing time to sub-replacement level players, so higher than average expected production in the upper and middle reaches of the spectrum is offset. (But looking at the actual projections for teams in the low 20s, this doesn’t seem to fit.)

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 3 months ago

It is always said that the average WAR is 2.0. I don’t know what kind of average this is (weighted according to playing time?), but it is definitely not average for starters. That appears to be close to 3.

Tomcat
Guest
Tomcat
3 years 3 months ago

Josh Rutledge’s line in MLB looks even better when you realize he played hi last 4 weeks with a Lat injury, His first 155PA he hit .353/.368/.633(.374BABIP) with 13-2B 2-3B 7-HR 5-SB 0-CS then limped his way through a .181/.235/.276 final month.

Not saying he is Vlad Guerrero just that since changing his stance mid way through 2011 he has had legitimate power for a MIF and as his 94 wRC+ was the same home and road that I think .336wOBA is totally doable.

Anon
Guest
Anon
3 years 3 months ago

Matt Carpenter has played exclusively at second for the Cardinals during spring training. All indications from management and coaches are that his defense is acceptable and he will get the majority of playing time.

Anon
Guest
Anon
3 years 3 months ago

Also, Cedeno has a significant probability of being cut from the roster.

binqasim
Member
binqasim
3 years 3 months ago

I think so far Nationals hype and Nats players projections do not match.

MK
Guest
MK
3 years 3 months ago

These are the Nats worst three positions. At SS, 3B, CF, LF, SP, and RP they’ll be in the top ten. Also, while I get where the project comes from, this projects for Danny to have his worst season (by WAR) yet. He was worth 3.8 WAR last year and 3.5 the year before.

binqasim
Member
binqasim
3 years 3 months ago

That’s a fair point but I did not mean just positional power rankings. I am also talking about their individual projections. I don’t think anyone is crossing 30 HR or 100 RBI in any projection system. If I look at these projections without knowing player names, I wouldn’t think of a team with Nationals hype.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 3 months ago

30 HR and 100 RBI are important thresholds why?
The 2012 Nationals had one player reach 30 HR, LaRoche, and additionally, Ryan Zimmerman hit 20 HR in July-Aug-Sept. after recovering from injury. There’s also this Bryce Harper fellow who hit 22.

4233
Guest
4233
3 years 3 months ago

Also, Be on the Lookout for Rendon, who is starting the year at AA to get some more time in at second…If Espinosa doesnt produce, Rendon will be called up my guess around mid-summer and dude can just flat out hit….

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
3 years 3 months ago

Positionally, the Nats are just very solid across the board; there’s no position below average.

They might be lacking a “star” with 5+ WAR (though Desmond got there last year) but Harper is an obvious candidate for that role, and if Zimmerman is healthy he could return to his 6+ days.

Oh, and then there’s the rotation and the bullpen.

Tomcat
Guest
Tomcat
3 years 3 months ago

the key to being a great team is as much to avoid bad PA/IP as it is to have great ones. The Nats are hyped because they have several excellent players(Harper, RZ, Strasburg, JZ, Gio, Clippard)surround by a team of average to good players(Span, Storen, Esp, Desmond, Ramos, Werth) and no major holes barring major injury.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 3 months ago

2013 Cool Name Power Rankings: Second Base
1. Jurickson Profar
2. Jordany Valdespin
3. DJ LeMahieu
4. Darwin Barney
5. Leury Garcia
6. Jedd Gyorko
7. Irving Falu
8. Reid Brignac
9. Robinson Cano
10. Freddy Galvis
11. Steve Lombardozzi
12. Ben Zobrist
13. Dustin Pedroia
14. Maicer Izturis
15. Ian Kinsler

An extraordinarily deep position, with many truly outstanding names. Rich in colour, vibrancy and multiethnic flair. Positional flexibility is a factor, though, with some of the top names also qualifying at SS.

King of the Byelorussian Square Dancers
Guest

Agreed, “valdespin” is particularly mellifluous. I miss Tony Whoa-Mack, Delino Deshields, What, and Napoleon Lajoie.

bampton
Member
bampton
3 years 3 months ago

Emilio Bonifacio is upset at his exclusion.

scott
Guest
scott
3 years 3 months ago

I hope Uggla’s the Braves worst position player. Chris Johnson/Juan Francisco would have to have a big year.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
3 years 3 months ago

Less optimistically, Uggla could have a much worse year than what’s being predicted here, and the third baseman could pass him by default.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 3 months ago

But those are two players. Neither is better than Uggla nor likely to be better. Sure Uggla could collapse, but Francisco’s dreadfulness versus lefties makes him not as good a player as Uggla, and Johnson is basically a less good, third base version of Uggla.

Ivan Grushenko
Guest
Ivan Grushenko
3 years 3 months ago

I’d expect Lowrie to play more than Sizemore or Weeks….unless you’re projecting Lowrie to be injured all year or something. Yes, they said he’d play everwhere but 2B is the weakest IF position for the A’s.

Blofkin
Guest
Blofkin
3 years 3 months ago

My guess? Nakajima ends up starting regularly at 2nd with Lowrie taking over SS as long as he’s healthy. If the arm strength is the biggest issue with Nakajima at short, which it seems to be, I think he’ll do just fine slotting over at 2nd.

ALEastbound
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Anybody else think TBay was low with the presence of Zobrist?

Tomcat
Guest
Tomcat
3 years 3 months ago

with two other options at 2B Zorrilla won’t get enough 2B innings to swing that total much.

Cody
Guest
Cody
3 years 3 months ago

Considering Zobrist should be mostly in right field if everything goes right for TB, they are ranked pretty high.

Calvin
Guest
Calvin
3 years 3 months ago

I love the background audio when Barney makes the play.

King of the Byelorussian Square Dancers
Guest

Rutledge destroyed the High-A California league as a 22-year-old

Isn’t that old?

BTW, I haven’t seen this much usage of “sharp” since my last visit to the Society for Creative Anachronism (which, for avoidance of doubt, was never).

Tomcat
Guest
Tomcat
3 years 3 months ago

Not really Mike Olt is about 8 months older at those same levels and his 153wRC+ and 168wRC+ aren’t that much more impressive given positional value and age

King of the Byelorussian Square Dancers
Guest

Aaron Hicks, Jacky Bradley, Zunino, Villar, Gregorious, Carlos Sanchez, and a lot more seem to make it past Double AA before reaching 23. I’m no expert, though.

Pinstripe Wizard
Member
3 years 3 months ago

Not really. If a guy gets drafted as an 18 year old outta high school, spends one season in SS ball, one in A ball, one in high A, one in Double A, and debuts the next season at 23, he would never be considered old for his age.

Rutledge spent three years in college, played in SS ball after being drafted, and spent his first season in the Cal League. He played half a season in Double A and then debuted at 23.

dustin
Guest
dustin
3 years 3 months ago

I count 8 sharps, including two times in two sentences on the Padres write-up. It was annoying after the second or third usage.

English is such a rich language. Could you, as a professional writer, find no other word?

King of the Byelorussian Square Dancers
Guest

That’s sharp criticism!

White Blood Cells
Guest
White Blood Cells
3 years 3 months ago

Seriously, break out the thesaurus man! There are so many adjectives that are synonymous with “good”, why would you get stuck on “sharp”?

Surrealistic Pillow
Guest
Surrealistic Pillow
3 years 3 months ago

The author also clearly has no idea what the word “ineffable” means, so maybe he should be careful with the thesaurus…

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
3 years 3 months ago

Love the sprinkling of extras here: 3 charts (all different) and two video clips is just about perfect for 30 teams.

bookbook
Guest
bookbook
3 years 3 months ago

Highest positional ranking for the M’s thus far, at 18. And this one is probably overly optimistic.

Not filling me with warm fuzzies this morning.

Sarge
Guest
Sarge
3 years 3 months ago

I’m going to guess that the dot in the upper most right hand corner of the Robbie Cano graph is Adam Dunn. Who else could it be?

Calvin
Guest
Calvin
3 years 3 months ago

It’s only for 2nd basemen, so it had to be Uggla (and it is).

siggian
Guest
siggian
3 years 3 months ago

I’ll bet there’s a Kelly Johnson dot hanging out on the right margin of that graph

Ben
Guest
Ben
3 years 3 months ago

I love me some Neil Walker. He’s just so average.

wobatus
Guest
wobatus
3 years 3 months ago

I like Murphy to beat that projection. He beat it (slightly) last year in his first full year playing second. He played an adequate 3rd and 1st in 2011 and had 3.2 WAR in 2/3rds of a season playing all over the infield but ss. The projection matches his production last year but his career line is better than that. He’s had a little oblique issue this spring, but I think the Irish Hammer will surprise.

Love this series by the way. I’m sure overall these projections will beat my guesswork. I just like throwing out random predictions.

rustyspatula
Member
rustyspatula
3 years 3 months ago

I could see Schoop getting called up by the 28th-ranked Orioles, although a rookie getting a small fraction of the PAs is unlikely to move the needle much on their positional-value projection.

Oasis
Guest
Oasis
3 years 3 months ago

What I’d like to see is how Barney’s stats compare to Yadier Molina’s first few ML seasons …

skmd
Guest
skmd
3 years 3 months ago

Not sure how Darwin Barney with a 2.3 WAR and a gold glove gets ranked below guys with equal or lesser WAR’s and no gold gloves.

Josh M
Guest
Josh M
3 years 3 months ago

read the intro, the rankings are completely objective, gold gloves (which are completely subjective) have nothing to do with this.

jruby
Member
Member
jruby
3 years 3 months ago

Also, Darwin Barney hasn’t been “ranked” at all. This list ranks the teams by positional production, not players. So Barney and his 2.3 WAR hasn’t been “ranked below” Jedd Gyorko (2.1), 630 Barney PAs + 56 Lillibridge PAs + 14 Valbuena PAs is ranked below 525 Gyorko PAs + 175 Forsythe PAs.

Josh M
Guest
Josh M
3 years 3 months ago

Its amazing how 4 years since he last played a full season the Orioles still dont have a suitable backup plan for Brian Roberts. Maybe Schoop can be that guy but why not go after a veteran that maybe brings a little more to the table than Alexi Casilla.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 3 months ago

Question inspired by Scutaro:

In a head-to-head matchup between pitchers who pitch to contact and batters that hit to contact, who generally has the advantage? I know this involves many factors along BABIP and other lines, but is there a consensus?

Haven’t seen articles out there addressing this.

Bab
Guest
Bab
3 years 3 months ago

When this series is done and fully published, someone should compile all the rankings and average them out team by team. For fun.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
3 years 3 months ago

Yes, I would love to see a total by team at the end of the series. I’m too lazy to do it because the data is too spread out, but perhaps FanGraphs will do it.

Tommy C
Guest
Tommy C
3 years 1 month ago

I want to respect this but all things considered given the defensive and offensive ability of Brandon Phillips. His range his power his versatility he is the best second baseman in baseball hands down. As the best second baseman of all time has said he is the best defensive 3 he has ever seen.

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