BBE 2018 Positional Rankings: MLB’s Top 15 Second Basemen

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Over the offseason, the team of contributors at Baseball Essential voted upon every position on the diamond, compiling our comprehensive Top 15 countdowns for the 2018 season.

Major League Baseball is overflowing with youth and skill, but don’t forget about the rugged veterans we all know and love. These Top 15 rundowns will feature a splendid mix of young, exuberant athletes, and the aged, mature individuals who mentor them. As for the positions, we will unveil the top 15 starting pitchers, relievers, catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, left fielders, center fielders, and right fielders, as well as the foremost designated hitters, utilitymen, and managers, over the next few weeks.

Our voting format is simple. The team of writers and analysts at BBE were given ballots a few weeks back for their top 10 individuals at each spot. A first-place vote is worth 10 points, second-place is good for nine, and so on.

As the spring training season starts to get underway, you will see these countdowns published prior to the beginning of another exciting MLB season. To keep track of the Top 15 lists you might have missed, stay posted to the Top 15 tag on the site.

In the rundown, we list the player, their position among the list, and how many points they have received in the voting. Now, you’re ready. Here are MLB’s Top 15 second basemen for the 2018 season.

Honorable Mentions:

Two second basemen received votes from our panel, but couldn’t beat the 15 in front of them. Those two men are National League West rivals Joe Panik of the San Francisco Giants (2) and Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers (1).

Dustin Pedroia – 15th (5)

We know what Dustin Pedroia can do when he’s healthy: the former American League Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, and four-time Gold Glove winner has lit the Boston Red Sox infield aflame for over a decade. Pedroia, however, has not played a full season since 2013 and will start the 2018 season on the disabled list.

Nonetheless, the 5’9” righty plays splendid defense, always works the count well at the plate, and packs a massive punch for an undersized hitter. The two-time World Series champion is a dugout mentor and a dangerous two-way force when he’s healthy, and for a potential postseason return at Fenway Park, the Sox will need the services of their veteran second-bagger. The career .300 hitter slashed .293/.369/.392 in 105 games last season.

Yolmer Sanchez – 14th (5)

The criminally underrated Yolmer Sanchez is a sabremetrics darling and a core piece of a youthful Chicago White Sox squad. One of the most average players imaginable at the plate, the switch-hitting Sanchez’s claim to fame is his superb defense, from which came his 1.7 defensive WAR (Baseball-Reference) and his six defensive runs saved — both marks good for a top- 10 position in MLB.

Sanchez hit .267/.319/.413 with 12 home runs and 59 runs batted in in 2017, playing 141 games and appearing at both second and third base. His eight triples led the White Sox during last year’s continuation of a long rebuild — a rebuild that, with 25-year-old Sanchez at the helm, is nearing its end.

Dee Gordon – 13th (7)

One rule we voted with that makes this player interesting: we must vote for players by their predominant 2017 position. Dee Gordon played second base last season for the Miami Marlins, and following a trade to the Seattle Mariners, he will play center field. Nevertheless, his unparalleled athleticism will effortlessly translate to the outfield, and the M’s should not be discouraged.

Slashing around his career averages in 2017 at .308/.341/.375, the lefty hitter and right-handed fielder led the National League in stolen bases for the third out of four seasons. It’s clear that his speed and his respectable plate presence is there, all that Seattle needs is a seamless transition from the infield to center-field for the former Gold Glove and batting title winner.

Jed Lowrie – 12th (7)

Jed Lowrie has quietly had himself a pretty solid career in MLB, and 2017 was a great example for the Oakland Athletics second baseman. Lowrie hit .277/.360/.448 with 14 home runs, 69 RBIs, and 73 walks last season, posting the second-most doubles in the American League (49).

The switch-hitter is a strong two-way asset for the A’s, as the veteran had the second-best fielding percentage at second base in the AL (.991). With top prospect Franklin Barreto waiting for his time to shine at second base, the 33-year-old Lowrie will be as good of a mentor as anybody in the game.

Josh Harrison – 11th (7)

After the Pittsburgh Pirates’ fire sale this offseason that shipped ace Gerrit Cole and former Most Valuable Player Andrew McCutchen out of the steel city, you can say this team belongs to Josh Harrison now. An All-Star in 2017, Harrison slashed .272/.339/.432 with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs in 128 games, posting a 3.3 bWAR in his abridged campaign.

The right-handed second baseman is somewhat of a super utility player, as he appeared at second base, third base, both corner outfield spots, and designated hitter in an AL ballpark in 2017. Always a sturdy defensive force, Harrison posted six defensive runs saved last season, and for the sake of sad Pirates fans, will hopefully continue his stellar play this year.

Javier Baez – 10th (11)

If you can call Javier Baez a second baseman, then the Chicago Cubs righty and former National League Championship Series MVP is one of the best at the position. Splitting time between second base (80 games) and shortstop (73), the 25-year-old slashed .273/.317/.480 in 145 games this past season while providing one of the flashiest and most entertaining defensive games in baseball.

That sizzling glove and quick hands allowed him to total five defensive runs saved at second and one at short. Baez, already a certified star, will continue to grow as time goes on for a Cubs team that looks prepared to continue their recent winning ways. Whether that’s at second base or shortstop, the youthfully exuberant Baez will get it done.

Whit Merrifield – 9th (14)

The 2017 season served as a coming out party for Whit Merrifield, a career minor leaguer who burst onto the scene and led the Kansas City Royals in doubles (six) and the entire AL in stolen bases (34) last season. Posting a 3.8 bWAR in his first full season in the big leagues, Merrifield slashed .288/.324/.460 with 19 home runs and 78 RBIs over 145 games.

At 28 years old after countless at-bats in the minors, Merrifield is already at an age where his full potential is being shown. If that’s speedy defense at second base with reliable right-handed power and batting average at the plate, then the rebuilding Royals are set at the position for years to come.

Cesar Hernandez – 8th (17)

Cesar Hernandez is a prototypical second baseman. Not a lot of pop, but respectable slash line averages coupled with excellent defense and solid speed. It helps that the Philadelphia Phillies switch-hitter is only 27 years old and displays constant improvement. One of more unheralded players at his position, Hernandez hit .294/.373/.421 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs in 128 games as one of MLB’s premier leadoff hitters.

The fleet-footed second baseman led the Phillies in batting average, on-base percentage, runs, triples, steals, walks, and bWAR amongst position players. He’s clearly this club’s MVP, and the rest of baseball must take notice of the under-appreciated yet superb Hernandez.

Ian Kinsler – 7th (18)

When Ian Kinsler can stay healthy and productive, the veteran right-handed batter is one of the most valuable second basemen in MLB. The Los Angeles Angels are hoping they get prime Kinsler and his tremendous 54.9 career bWAR after trading for him to round out an elite infield defense this season.

Kinsler, 36, had an uncharacteristically awful year in 2017, hitting .236/.313/.412 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs over 135 games with the Detroit Tigers. The four-time All-Star and former Gold Glove winner is, of course, subject to aging, but he should be able to bounce back on a far stronger Angels team this season.

DJ LeMahieu – 6th (33)

Though his stats at the plate are aided somewhat by the Coors Field effect, DJ LeMahieu is a calm and steady force at bat, hitting .310/.374/.409 in 2017 for his third straight .300 season (he’s hitting .319 since the beginning of 2015).

LeMahieu is not a pure slugger (eight home runs and 64 RBIs last season) but the model of consistency and control at the plate in addition to a splendid defensive game. Twice the winner of the Gold Glove at second base, LeMahieu saved eight defensive runs last season. The 29-year-old righty is good for .300, a hefty number of runs and plate appearances, and strong defense on a team with playoff aspirations; hitting near the top of the Rockies lineup, he’s about as valuable as any player on the squad.

Daniel Murphy – 5th (52)

Daniel Murphy’s health is in question to start the season after a right knee surgery in the offseason. Still, the Washington Nationals have the depth to succeed without him, and become even scarier with the former NL MVP finalist in the lineup. Murphy slashed a ridiculous .322/.384/.543 in the 2017 season, posting 23 home runs and 93 RBIs while leading the NL in doubles with 43. The lefty batter and righty thrower also set a career best in walks, drawing a base on balls 52 times.

The 32-year-old is a free agent after the 2018 season and could be even better this year with a hefty contract on his mind. Murphy is a heavily flawed defender whom advanced metrics despise, but he makes up for it with his 20-90-.310 yearly guarantee at the plate. It’s no coincidence that he has been an All-Star and the Silver Slugger at second base each of the last two years despite -24 defensive runs saved in that time.

Robinson Cano – 4th (52)

Robinson Cano edged the aforementioned Murphy thanks to a higher single vote. The left-handed batter with a cool swing and nasty, reactive hands has put together a brilliant career that screams Hall of Fame, and Cano is keeping it going at 35 years old. The eight-time All-Star (and MVP of the 2017 ASG) slashed .280/.338/.443 with 23 HR and 97 RBIs in 2017, leading the Seattle Mariners in hits, doubles, and intentional walks.

Cano compiled 3.4 bWAR last season, bringing his career total to 65.9 wins above replacement. With the Mariners seemingly loading up for a potential AL Wild Card run in 2018, Cano — a five-time Silver Slugger and twice the AL Gold Glove winner — will be a huge part of the transition from perennial disappointment to playoff dark horse.

Jonathan Schoop – 3rd (54)

Until 2017, the career arc of Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop was natural: gradually getting better year by year. Last season, Schoop discarded any traditional career trajectory and exploded onto the baseball scene in his first All-Star campaign. In 160 games, Schoop hit .293/.338/.503 with career bests 32 homers and 105 RBIs, leading the O’s (a club with Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Chris Davis, no less) in runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, and total bases.

He wasn’t a pure offensive force, either, as Schoop played decent defense at second with a .981 fielding percantage and one defensive run saved. His 5.2 bWAR was a career high by a country mile, and if his offensive stats are sustainable, he should be able to back it in 2018. The righty-hitting 26-year-old is one of the primary reasons as to why the Orioles are a potential postseason sleeper team in 2017.

Brian Dozier – 2nd (64)

The unequaled power and strength at the plate from Brian Dozier is redefining the second base position. The Minnesota Twins All-Star has knocked 76 long balls and 192 RBIs over the past two seasons and received top-13 MVP votes each year, despite being on teams without a single playoff victory. In 2017, Dozier hit .271/.359/.498 with 34 bombs, batting primarily from the leadoff spot in Paul Molitor’s lineup.

In addition to being a world class hitter, Dozier is sneakily athletic for a player with as much pop as he has; the Gold Glove winner in 2017 played solid defense and stole 16 bags. Fending off trade rumors for the bulk of 2017, Dozier led the Twins to a surprise Wild Card Game appearance with team highs in hits, home runs, RBIs, and walks. The 30-year-old righty is not under contract after this season and is poised for a career year in 2018 to boost his free agent appeal.

Jose Altuve – 1st (80)

This rundown is shaping up to be a 2,200-word piece, but I feel like I could write that much about Jose Altuve alone. It’s not for no reason that the defending AL MVP was a unanimous decision for first place on the second baseman list, as the 5’6” righty is coming off his fourth straight season of 200 or more hits while slashing .346/.410/.547 (that batting average led all of MLB). The five-time All-Star did not back down in the Houston Astros’ World Series run, hitting .310 with seven home runs and 22 hits in the 2017 postseason.

At 27, Altuve — who recently received a contract extension from the Astros — boasts a Hall of Fame resume. MVP, five-time All-Star, Gold Glove, four Silver Sluggers, three batting titles, and 1,250 hits with as many as 15 competitive seasons still left in him. Altuve, whose 8.3 bWAR was best in baseball last season, is not only one the clear top second baseman in MLB but a top-five position player in the world.

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