Top 10 Second Basemen for 2020
Youth leads the charge at second base for this season and years to come
WALTON, Ky. -- Over the past few weeks, Rob and I have embarked on the journey of ranking our top 10 players at each position on the podcast. This is a written version of my rankings along with my explanations for each ranking. Today, we are looking at second basemen. So far, I have covered catchers and first basemen. If you missed our podcast discussing second basemen then you can check that out here.
To evaluate the players for my list, I looked at the standard stats like home runs and the AVG/OBP/SLG slash line, as well as some more advanced stats like Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) and Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). To evaluate defense I looked at Defensive Runs Saved Above Average (DRS) and Statcast's Outs Above Average (OAA); if you want to learn more about OAA and see the full leaderboard for second basemen, you can look here. Also want to note that a lot of the players on this list play many different positions, DRS and OAA listed will be their totals for all positions unless otherwise noted. Now, let us get into the top 10:
10. David Fletcher (26) - Los Angeles Angels
Baseball Twitter's favorite player, David Fletcher, slots in at number 10 on my list. The utility man has played two seasons so far and has excelled on the defensive side of the game. In 2019, he appeared at 2B, 3B, SS, LF, and RF, putting up 8 OAA and 23 DRS. Offensively, Fletcher is nothing to write home about, with a 99 wRC+ and a .318 wOBA he is roughly league average. A lot of his offensive shortcomings can be attributed to his lack of power. In 2019, Fletcher only hit 6 HR and slugged .384. Despite the lack of pop, David Fletcher put up 3.6 fWAR. His league-average offense, when paired with his above-average defense is enough to land him inside the top 10.
9. Cavan Biggio (25) - Toronto Blue Jays
One of three Hall of Famer's sons in Toronto, Cavan Biggio broke into the big leagues in 2019 with teammates Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Even though Biggio didn't have quite the prospect prowess of Bichette and Guerrero, he finished highest among them in Rookie of the Year voting, finishing fifth. Biggio slashed .234/.364/.429 with 16 HR in 100 games. Despite the low batting average, Biggio showed a lot of tools to work with moving forward. His .364 OBP was 130 points higher than his average, showing his discipline and ability to control the plate as a rookie. While 16 HR isn't crazy, since it was only in 100 games, Cavan could build on that number moving forward. He also showed the ability to steal bases, swiping 14 bags without getting caught. Biggio got things done defensively as well, putting up 7 OAA, placing him 4th among qualified second basemen. At 25 years old, Biggio has a chance to become a centerpiece for the young Blue Jays core for years to come.
8. Brandon Lowe (25) - Tampa Bay Rays
Coming in at number eight is one of Biggio's AL East counterparts, Brandon Lowe. Lowe appeared in 82 games in 2019, hitting .270/.336/.514, good for a 125 wRC+ and a .354 wOBA. The left-handed second basemen slugged 17 HR and accumulated 2.6 fWAR. Two things held Lowe back from being higher on this list, defense and sample size. Lowe posted a -5 OAA, meaning he was on pace for roughly a -10 OAA over the course of 162 games. Defensive Runs Saved didn't like Lowe either, having Lowe at -4 for the season. It is hard to evaluate a player based on an 82-game season without a previous track record, and since he didn't put up the offensive numbers a later entrant on this list did (see #5), I didn't want to move him further up the list. Although, if he can carry this offensive production through next season, then he will likely find himself jumping up a spot or two on next year's list.
7. Kolten Wong (29) - St. Louis Cardinals
Kolten Wong lands himself at seven on this list mainly for one reason, stellar defense. Widely regarded as the best defensive second baseman in the league, Wong lived up to the hype again last season. In 2019, Wong brought home the NL Gold Glove while posting 19 DRS and 10 OAA, which was second amount qualified second baseman. Wong also posted, arguably, his best offensive season to date, hitting .285/.361/.423 with a .334 wOBA and 108 wRC+. Those numbers don't pop off the page, but when a player plays excellent defense like Wong, slightly above average offensive numbers are just icing on the cake. The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) felt Wong deserved to be in the conversation for MVP, as he received enough votes to finish 20th in the NL voting. At this point in his career, we know the type of player Wong is, and unless his offense or defense really falls off, he will likely find himself on this list over the next few seasons.
6. Mike Moustakas (31) - Cincinnati Reds
Mike Moustakas became the highest-paid free agent in Cincinnati Reds history by signing a four year, $64M deal this offseason. On his way to his third All-Star selection, Moustakas hit .253/.329/.516 with 35 HR. Moustakas recently changed positions from third base to second while being a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. "Moose" will keep the second base position moving forward in Cincinnati. Despite the positional change, Moustakas still posted roughly average defensive numbers at -2 DRS and 0 OAA. Moustakas is predominately a flyball hitter, something that could play to his advantage in Great American Ballpark. Had the 2020 season played out in full, Moustakas had a good shot at 40 HR. The 2015 World Series Champion adds much needed postseason experience to a Reds team that has seen a lot of turnover since their last postseason appearance in 2013. The Reds will be hoping that his power can be sustained throughout his four-year contract and that he will be a big part of the middle of their order.
5. Keston Hiura (23) - Milwaukee Brewers
Keston Hiura burst onto the scene in 2019 for the Milwaukee Brewers. Appearing in 84 games, Hiura slugged 19 HR, while hitting .303/.368/.570. He also posted a .388 wOBA and a 139 wRC+, both numbers ranking second among the players on this list. Like Lowe, sample size holds Hiura back from being higher on this list. Hiura has a track record of being regarded as one of the top hitting prospects, and had better offensive numbers, allotting him higher on this list despite the sample size. The one glaring problem in Hiura's game is his defense; he posted -5 DRS and -7 OAA in 2019, but the Brewers shift a lot defensively, which may help to counteract his defensive shortcomings. Hiura will hope to build on his impressive rookie campaign and become one of the centerpieces of the Brewers lineup.
4. Ozzie Albies (23) - Atlanta Braves
Ozzie Albies put up the best offensive season of his career in 2019, leading the league in at-bats and hits. The 23-year-old switch hitter brought home a Silver Slugger award slashing .295/.352/.500. He rated above average offensively in wOBA (.354) and wRC+ (117) as well. The defensive metrics were split on Albies, he put up 11 DRS but also had a -2 OAA. At 23, Ozzie has already established himself as an All-Star caliber player, being named to the team in 2018. The Braves hope that Albies can continue to reach his potential as they compete in a tough NL East.
3. Jose Altuve (30) - Houston Astos
Trash cans, and buzzers, and bad tattoos, oh my! Jose Altuve has been at the center of controversy during the 2019 offseason. Robby and I have discussed it at length on the podcast and the YouTube channel so I'm not going to rehash it all here, but go check out those places to hear more about it. Altuve appeared in 124 games in 2019, hitting .298/.353/.550 with 31 HR, a .374 wOBA, and a 138 wRC+. Altuve missed the All-Star game for the first time since 2013, snapping a five year streak of being selected. From 2014 to 2018, Altuve finished in the top 13 of AL MVP Voting, bringing home the award in 2017 (Although that has been called into question given recent developments). Altuve was also a Gold Glove finalist in 2019 despite posting below-average defensive numbers. It will be interesting to see how the national spotlight, following what transpired this offseason, affects the play of Altuve, and the rest of the Astros, in 2020 and beyond.
2. D.J. LeMahieu (31) - New York Yankees
D.J. LeMahieu came to play in 2019, putting up the best offensive season of his career, subjectively. LaMahieu didn't take much time at all getting acquainted with the American League, mashing .327/.375/.518 with a 136 wRC+ and a .375 wOBA. In 145 games, LeMahieu accumulated 5.4 fWAR, good enough for his third All-Star selection and a fourth-place finish in the AL MVP Voting. LeMahieu found his power stroke, posting career highs in HR (26) and SLG% (.518). The veteran got it done defensively as well, putting up 6 DRS and 3 OAA, good enough to be a Gold Glove finalist, an award he has won three times in the past. LeMahieu established himself as a serious offensive threat in 2019 and looks to carry that forward in 2020 as part of a stacked New York Yankees lineup.
1. Ketel Marte (26) - Arizona Diamondbacks
Speaking of breakout seasons, Ketel Marte came into his own during 2019. In 144 games, he hit .329/.389/.592 with 32 HR, a 150 wRC+, and an incredible .405 wOBA. Marte's offensive breakout can partially be attributed to a change in approach at the plate; he has seen a significant increase in Hard Hit%, jumping from 21.5% in 2016 to 42.1% in 2019. Marte played well defensively, posting 7 DRS and 1 OAA while making appearances at 2B, SS, and CF. On his way to his first All-Star game and a 4th place finish in the NL MVP voting, Marte put up 7.1 fWAR, which was significantly higher than any other second baseman. Marte will likely spend most of his time at second base in the future since the Diamondbacks acquired Starling Marte this offseason to play centerfield. At 26, Ketel Marte has established himself as an MVP caliber player and is only beginning to enter the prime of his career.