BBE 2019 Positional Rankings: MLB’s Top 15 Utility Players

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 the spring training season comes to a close and the 2019 MLB season begins, you will see these countdowns published in conjunction with 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.

This is for the guys who play all around the diamond and hit up and down the order with ease. Here are the top 15 utility players in MLB for 2019.Click To Tweet

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 utility players for the 2019 season.

Honorable Mention:

Tampa Bay Rays utilityman Daniel Robertson received a vote, but did not accumulate enough points to appear in the Top 15.

15. Jurickson Profar, Oakland Athletics (Last year: not ranked)

ANAHEIM, CA – SEPTEMBER 24: Jurickson Profar #19 of the Texas Rangers celebrates after hitting a two run home run in the sixth inning of the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on September 24, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Profar was once the top prospect in baseball, but injuries and overall inconsistency with the Texas Rangers dropped him from the top of the totem pole to the very bottom. Now, Profar has a new beginning with the Athletics, where he has been playing mostly as a second baseman, but retains the capacity to appear anywhere on the diamond.

Last season the switch-hitter did a little of everything with Texas, playing 24 games at first base, 10 games at second, 51 games at third, and 68 games at shortstop, hitting .254 with 20 home runs, 77 RBIs, 10 steals, and a 106 OPS+.

14. Jeff McNeil, New York Mets (Last year: not ranked)

McNeil quickly became a sensation in Queens, appearing for the Mets in 63 games last season and burning the National League up in the process. Early in 2019 the lefty is still soaring high. After hitting .329 with an .852 OPS in 2018, the 27-year-old has slashed .424/.485/.542 for New York this season.

And his production has not had a change of course despite his defensive assignments often changing. After playing predominantly second and third base in 2018, McNeil has split his time between the hot corner and left field this season, providing the positional versatility needed out of a utilityman.

13. Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies (Last year: not ranked)

Desmond has been far from what the Rockies wanted when they signed the now 33-year-old to a five-year contract in December of 2016, but he isn’t complete trash and is still a valuable player. Even if his offense isn’t there, he filled in at first base, shortstop, left field, center field, and as a pinch-hitter last season, displaying his versatility and usefulness.

The two-time All-Star slashed a poor .236/.307/.422 with 22 home runs, 88 RBIs, 20 steals, and eight triples in 2018 and has not yet rebounded in 2019, hitting .164 in 61 at-bats. However, a lot of that can be attributed to a leg injury, and if he returns to full health soon, his numbers will ascend a bit.

12. Yangervis Solarte, San Francisco Giants (Last year: not ranked)

Solarte is easily one of the most underrated utilitymen in the sport. Though he is no offensive powerhouse, the switch-hitter has long been a consistent and versatile utility infielder and is providing the Giants with that exact value this season. After hitting .226 with 17 home runs and 54 RBIs with the Toronto Blue Jays last season, Solarte is hitting .200 with three runs driven in and three walks in 44 at-bats with San Francisco so far in 2019.

His multifaceted defensive presence has been on full display, appearing at second base, third base, shortstop, and left field early this season. The 31-year-old has done this his whole career and could perhaps be a trade-deadline acquisition by a contender in the summer.

11. Hernan Perez, Milwaukee Brewers (Last year: not ranked)

In addition to being an impossibly well-versed defensive wizard during Milwaukee’s exciting 2018 campaign, Perez was a serviceable hitter and invaluable presence in the postseason for Brew Crew manager Craig Counsell. Perez slashed .253/.290/.386 with nine homers, 29 RBIs, 11 steals, and 122 total bases in 2018, which was solid, but merely a footnote on his unparalleled defensive season.

Year Tm Lg G GS Batting Defense P C 1B 2B 3B SS LF CF RF OF DH PH PR
2018 MIL NL 132 66 132 122 3 0 6 51 22 20 17 3 27 44 1 27 4
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/19/2019.
Look at the right-hander’s Baseball-Reference appearances chart for 2018. That’s unbelievable, and makes Perez a super utility player.

10. Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh Pirates (Last year: not ranked)

In 2018 Frazier was one of the best offensive utility players in baseball. Hitting up and down the lineup for the Pirates, the lefty hitter slashed .277/.342/.456 with 10 home runs, 35 RBIs, 29 walks, 23 doubles, and a 118 OPS+.

The 27-year-old played second base, left field, center field, right field, and served as a pinch-hitter in 2018, making him a manager’s best friend. Defensive reliability at multiple challenging positions and a consistent force in the batter’s box is Frazier, who is hitting .274 for Pittsburgh early on in 2019.

9. Eduardo Nunez, Boston Red Sox (Last year: 4th)

Once regarded as the New York Yankees shortstop of the future, Nunez instead settled into being an extremely reliable and likable player across the major leagues. In 2018 his versatility and infectious attitude was spent with the Red Sox, where — in a utility player role — he assisted mightily in the Red Sox conquest of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

Last season the righty hit .265 with 10 home runs, 44 RBIs, seven stolen bases, and frequent play at second base, third base, designated hitter, and on the bench as a pinch-hitting/running option. His ability to impact games in spite of an ever-changing role was on full display when he put away the pivotal Game 1 of the World Series with a three-run, pinch-hit blast off Alex Wood.

8. Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs (Last year: 7th)

On just about any other major-league team, Happ would be a starter and potential All-Star at that, but on a Cubs team loaded with position-playing superstars, the switch-hitter plays the utilityman role. It helps when you do it as brilliantly as the 24-year-old does.

In 2018 (when he went yard on the very first pitch of the MLB season) Happ slashed .233/.353/.408 with 15 home runs, 44 RBIs, and eight steals while having his hands full on defense, playing at every position besides catcher. The former first-rounder was used specifically as a late-game defensive replacement 16 times last season, which is admirable in itself. Joe Maddon has an absolute keeper in the utility player spot.

7. Charlie Culberson, Atlanta Braves (Last year: 13th)

In 2018, Culberson set career highs in games played and plate appearances which culminated in his best offensive season to date. The Braves utilityman, after spending 2017 with the NL-champion Dodgers, slashed .270/.326/.466 with 12 home runs, 45 RBIs, 32 extra-base hits, and a 112 OPS+.

The right-handed fan-favorite appeared at every position besides center field and catcher in 2018, all while giving the NL East champions a good offensive boost from anywhere in the batting order. He also threw 94 mph as an emergency relief pitcher.

6. Enrique Hernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers (Last year: 2nd)

Hernandez will forever be a folk legend in Los Angeles for corking three home runs and seven RBIs against the Cubs to clinch the 2017 NL pennant for the Dodgers, but the right-hander showed last season why he is more than just a cult favorite. He responded to Dave Roberts‘ deployment of a career-high in games played and plate appearances by hitting 22 home runs, 52 RBIs, an .806 OPS, and 103 hits.

Hernandez did so while playing at the pitcher spot, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, right field, and pinch hitter. In case you’re keeping track, the 27-year-old played every spot besides catcher in 2018.

5. Eduardo Escobar, Arizona Diamondbacks (Last year: not ranked)

PHOENIX, AZ – AUGUST 08: David Peralta #6 and Eduardo Escobar #14 of the Arizona Diamondbacks high five after Escobar hit a sacrifice run allowing Peralta to score in the third inning of the MLB game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Chase Field on August 8, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

Escobar was an invigorating presence in the Diamondbacks lineup down the stretch in 2018 as a trade-deadline acquisition from Minnesota. The utility infielder played exceptionally well, hitting .268 with eight home runs, 21 RBIs, 11 doubles, and 18 walks in 198 at-bats while being a serviceable defender at third base, and early in 2019, second base.

Though he has been limited to second and third base responsibilities with the D-Backs, Escobar has experience and demonstrable skill all around the diamond. He has appeared at every spot besides first base in his nine-year MLB career, even catching for the Twins in 2017.

4. Brock Holt, Boston Red Sox (Last year: 6th)

The lefty has been known for his positional versatility and attitude, but like a lot of Red Sox players can say after 2018, Holt is coming off a career-best offensive season. The Fort Worth, Texas native slashed .277/.362/.411 with a 110 OPS+, seven home runs, 46 RBIs, and 37 walks. The former All-Star did so with a pretty large sample size of 367 plate appearances.

And in the process, he exhibited his defensive value as well; Holt appeared at first base, second base, third base, shortstop, both corner outfield spots, and DH in 2018. A championship team always has a lovable role player, and Holt is undoubtedly that guy.

3. Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs (Last year: 3rd)

Zobrist, a three-time All-Star, has had a career that spans 14 seasons purely out of success from the super-utility player role. His MLB tenure is defined by his ability to play all over the field and remain a lethal offensive option, no matter where he’s playing or hitting in the order.

The 2016 World Series MVP has posted a 44.9 bWAR throughout his career, and in that span has played more than full season’s worth of games at four different positions, while appearing in total at every spot on the diamond besides pitcher and catcher. The switch-hitter is coming off another fine offensive season that featured a .305 average, nine home runs, 58 RBIs, 28 doubles, and 55 walks.

2. Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers (Last year: 9th)

Taylor is that special kind of utility player that is so valuable at the plate that you have to find a spot for on the diamond, and luckily, he has no trouble fitting in anywhere. In 2018 the Dodger appeared at second base, shortstop, left field, and center field, and played all spots wonderfully, in addition to giving L.A. that desired offensive output.

The 28-year-old slashed .254/.331/.444 with 17 home runs, 63 RBIs, 35 doubles, eight triples, nine steals, and a 110 OPS+. Though he fell off a bit from his breakout 2017 campaign, Taylor remained an integral part in the Dodgers capturing their second consecutive pennant.

1. Marwin Gonzalez, Minnesota Twins (Last year: 1st)

HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 18: Marwin Gonzalez #9 of the Houston Astros hits a solo home run in the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 18, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

When the Twins signed Gonzalez to a two-year, $21 million contract this past offseason, many wondered if it would be a steal down the line. Though his early results have been underwhelming, the super-utilityman is still the best in the game at his role of playing multiple positions with ease and clobbering the ball whenever his ever-changing spot comes up in the order.

With the Astros in 2018 the switch-hitter slashed .247/.324/.409 with 16 bombs, 68 RBIs, 25 doubles, 53 walks, and a 102 OPS+, but his offensive ceiling is much higher after a 2017 season that featured a .303 average, .907 OPS, 23 home runs, and a World Series champion team-leading 90 RBIs. Oh yeah, last season he was tasked with appearing at every position besides the battery spots, playing 24 or more games at four different positions.

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