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 2019 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 spring training season comes to a close, 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 2019 season.
15. Asdrubal Cabrera, Texas Rangers (Last year: not ranked)
Cabrera is the perfect type of player for a transitioning franchise. The veteran can be a clubhouse leader amid the youth on the roster and will produce at a high level, providing the front office with a trade chip come the annual MLB trade deadline. More on that subject if you click here.
Cabrera also raked last season, playing for both the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. The switch-hitter slashed .262/.316/.458 with 23 home runs, 75 RBIs, and a 112 OPS+, adding in defensive versatility in that he can play all four infield spots.
14. Brian Dozier, Washington Nationals (Last year: 2nd)
Coming in at second place in last spring’s countdown, Dozier’s fall-off has a lot to do with his surroundings and less to do with his own personal skill. We know that Dozier, who signed a one-year deal with the Nationals this offseason, can hit, as he corked 42 home runs in 2016, but the constant shuffling in and out of the lineup by Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts didn’t help. He had only 170 plate appearances with L.A. after the Minnesota Twins traded him there at last season’s trade deadline.With the 2019 season coming up, the @BB_Essential team voted on the top 15 second basemen in the major leagues. Here is @bytomdorsa with the rundown.Click To Tweet
Dozier otherwise had a decent season, but still experienced a deep drop from his past hitting prowess. He slashed .215/.305/.391 with 21 home runs, 72 RBIs, and 70 walks over 632 times at the dish between the Twins and Dodgers. He will have consistent playing time with Washington in 2019 and should see his production improve.
13. Jonathan Schoop, Minnesota Twins (Last year: 3rd)
Like Dozier, Schoop had a miserable 2018 season and dropped considerably from last year’s rankings. The 2017 All-Star and American League Most Valuable Player Award vote recipient hit .293 with 32 homers and 105 RBIs that season, but failed to follow it up, hitting .233/.266/.416 with 21 home runs, 61 RBIs, and 115 strikeouts to just 19 walks in a 2018 season split with the Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers.
Schoop has a ceiling of a top-five player at his position, but endured an off-year in 2018. A new addition to a reloaded Twins lineup, the right-handed hitting 27-year-old will have a chance at climbing back up the pyramid.
12. Dee Gordon, Seattle Mariners (Last year: 13th)
In the absence of Robinson Cano, Gordon played second base again in 2018 for the Mariners after shifting over to center field temporarily. Gordon was fine in doing so defensively, but had one of the most fascinating offensive seasons ever. The swift and stringy infielder hit .268 with four home runs, 36 runs batted in, and stole 30 bags, but drew just nine walks in 588 plate appearances and had an on-base percentage of .288.
The left-handed batter is still capable of providing positive value with hitting for average, stealing bases, and being a mobile and intelligent defender. The Mariners will certainly need it in 2019.
11. Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees (Last year: not ranked)
The hype surrounding Torres over the last few years was validated by his 2018 performance as an All-Star and AL Rookie of the Year Finalist. The smooth and skilled second baseman became an instant star in the Bronx, slashing .271/.340/.480 while totaling 24 home runs and 77 RBIs.
Aside from the occasional lapses of judgment on defense (which should be expected out of a 21, now 22-year-old), the righty had a masterful 2018 campaign and will be a fixture in a loaded Yankees lineup for years to come.
10. Joey Wendle, Tampa Bay Rays (Last year: not ranked)
A 28-year-old rookie last season, Wendle bursted onto the scene for the Rays. Playing five different positions and hitting all around the batting order, the left-handed hitter slashed .300/.354/.435 with seven home runs, 61 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, 37 walks, and a 4.3 Baseball-Reference WAR.
Given his age and presence in an improving Rays roster, what the future holds for Wendle remains to be seen, but the Tampa Bay second baseman is finally blossoming after years of dominating the minor leagues in the Cleveland and Oakland systems. Regardless of whether his success is sustainable, his story is inspiring nonetheless.
9. Robinson Cano, New York Mets (Last year: 4th)
Cano has an argument for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame after retirement. A career .304 hitter with a 69.3 bWAR, Cano has been a generational star at his position from his rookie year to his abridged 2018. Oh yeah, about that 2018 campaign, the eight-time All-Star missed half of it because of a suspension for the use of performance enhancing drugs. It puts a damper on his overall rhythm and reputation to the Hall voters.
However, he remains a very productive and valuable player and will be as such for the revamped Mets this season. In his limited time in 2018, Cano slashed .303/.374/.471 with 10 home runs, 50 RBIs, 32 walks, a 136 OPS+, and a 3.2 bWAR. Second base was the left-handed hitter’s primary position in 2018, but he played a bit of first as well and could hold his own at each spot with New York in 2019.
8. Daniel Murphy, Colorado Rockies (Last year: 5th)
One of the most talented contact hitters in the game is moving to Denver, the home of the infamously hitter-friendly Coors Field with its big outfield and thin Rocky Mountain air providing a boost to everyone who steps into the plate: it should be a match-made-in-heaven for the Rockies.
Murphy slashed .299/.336/.454 with 12 home runs, 42 RBIs, and 98 total hits in 351 plate appearances in a 2018 season split between the Nationals and Chicago Cubs. The one impediment to Murphy’s overall game is how incredibly awful his defense has been over the course of his career as someone who has been in the NL his entire career and never been masked at the DH spot. His -6.7 career dWAR will be put to rest with a move to first base to start 2019.
7. Jed Lowrie, New York Mets (Last year: 12th)
All last offseason, I kept thinking to myself: “Man, Jed Lowrie is going to be a great deadline acquisition for a contender.” He never got traded because of two factors: 1) The Oakland Athletics won 97 games and 2) Lowrie was one of their best hitters, and they probably wouldn’t have had that much success without him in their order.
Now a Met, Lowrie’s production will hopefully carry over to Queens in 2019. The veteran middle infielder slashed .267/.353/.448 with career-bests in home runs (23) and RBIs (99), 61 extra-base hits, 78 walks, a 120 OPS+, and a 4.8 bWAR as an All-Star for the A’s in 2018. He was dynamic at 34 years old, and on a two-year deal with the Mets, the switch-hitter will be solid with potential to be more.
6. DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees (Last year: 6th)
LeMahieu is a defensive wizard, as his three NL Gold Gloves, career 9.7 dWAR and 67 defensive runs saved at second base indicate. Though he is a below-average hitter for his career, he has exhibited a ceiling for immense success at the plate, however, with the assistance of Coors Field due to spending most of his career with the Rockies. He won the batting title in 2016 with a .348 average, 128 OPS+, and a .416 OPB, but last season hit just .276/.321/.428 with an 88 OPS+.
It’s difficult to see what kind of LeMahieu the Yankees will be getting in 2019, but in any case, he is a world-class defender and is rather consistent in his approach. He is a fine baserunner, will work the count, and can hit a dozen home runs. The Yankees don’t need the 30-year-old righty to be a superstar so much as a reliable role player, and they can count on the two-time All-Star for that.
5. Scooter Gennett, Cincinnati Reds (Last year: not ranked)
The Reds got some bad news recently when Gennett was diagnosed with a groin strain and sidelined for at least two months after a freak spring training injury. The good news is that when he returns, the Reds will get one of MLB’s premier hitters at second base, and with their offseason reinforcements, might get him back at the right time.
An All-Star last season, Gennett hit .310/.357/.490 with 23 home runs, 92 RBIs, 56 extra-base hits (out of 181 total knocks), and a 4.2 bWAR. The left-handed batter also did this.
4. Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves (Last year: not ranked)
An All-Star last season at just 21 years old, Albies is part of a core of young Braves stars that have revitalized the baseball scene in Atlanta. The switch-hitter emerged as one of the game’s best second basemen in 2018, slashing .261/.305/.452, hitting 24 home runs, 72 RBIs, and providing plus value on defense (1.2 dWAR and eight DRS at second base) with his quick feet and smooth glove hand.
This is the first time Albies has been on this list and certainly not the last. Just from a purely stylistic standpoint, he is reminiscent of a young Robinson Cano..
3. Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals (Last year: 9th)
Like the aforementioned Wendle, Merrifield quickly surfaced as one of MLB’s best at his position despite not arriving onto the scene until his late 20’s. The Royals infielder has an entertaining, 1980s-esque skill set of elite contact hitting and baserunning that few players in baseball can rival.
The righty batter slashed .304/.367/.438 with 12 home runs, 60 RBIs, and major-league bests in stolen bases (45) and hits (192). Out of those 192 knocks, 58 were good for extra-bases. He also plays stellar defense, highlighted by his eight DRS and .987 fielding percentage.
2. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs (Last year: 10th)
There are players in the major leagues with more talent than Baez, but there is arguably nobody with his flair and up-tempo playing style. He is an entertainer at heart, but I guess it helps when you’re an elite defensive infielder and one of baseball’s most electric power hitters. The runner-up in the NL MVP voting in 2018, Baez slashed .290/.326/.554 with 34 home runs, an NL-best 111 RBIs, 83 extra-base hits, an 126 OPS+, and 21 stolen bases.
A high-end athlete and the owner of a beautifully smooth swing, the righty won the Silver Slugger and made the All-Star Game for the first time in 2018. The 26-year-old will be vital for the Cubs as they shoot for redemption in 2019.
1. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Last year: 1st)
What Altuve did last season, after taking home the AL MVP and World Series crown in 2017, was nothing short of incredible. The 5’6″ superstar hit .316, provided 5.2 bWAR to the Astros, carried a 133 OPS+, hit 13 homers, stole 17 bags, and totaled 169 hits in 599 plate appearances. Oh yeah, he did most of it with a fractured right kneecap that would require offseason surgery. He is one of MLB’s best players when his health cooperates and still a dominant presence when he’s hurt.
Altuve’s career accolades give him the advantage over Baez, who is less accomplished but is coming off a better season. The Astros second baseman is a six-time All-Star (including each of the last five seasons), a five-time Silver Slugger, three-time Batting Title winner, and is well on pace for 3,000 career hits and a trip to Cooperstown.