After a few years of being one of the weaker positions in the game, there has been a renaissance of sorts at second base in the past year. Part of it has been younger players making their mark in the game, while another part has been old standards continuing to carry the torch. But all things considered, second base is once again home to a variety of impact-level talents around the game.
This proves in splitting the hairs of the position and assigning ranks. While it gets a bit easier at the top, the upper-middle class of the position is very tightly knit. In some cases, it breaks down to what you may be looking for. Is it middle of the lineup pop….or elite glove work? Is it a pure speed threat to mix things up…or on-base threats that set the table for their more powerful teammates?
Regardless of what it is, it can be found on the list below. So let’s have a look through the best of the best at second base headed into 2016.
To get caught up on where this list stood headed into last spring, click here.
10. Logan Forsythe, Rays (Not Ranked in ’15)
2015: .281/.359/.444, 17 HR, 68 RBI, 69 runs scored, 9 stolen bases, .804 OPS
Last 3 Years: .251/.323/.388, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 41 runs scored, 6 stoletn bases, .712 OPS
A breakout 2015 sees Forsythe inch his way onto the list. He was a much needed source of offense for the scattershot Rays lineup. He played in 153 games and posted the second highest WAR among AL second basemen, totaling a 5.1 win figure. Amongst his teammates in Tampa, Forsythe finished second on his club in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI and total bases, while leading in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
This was due to him hitting the third most home runs, third most RBI and working out the second highest on-base percentage among all AL 2B’s.
9. Brandon Phillips, Reds (Not Ranked in ’15)
2015 Stats: .294/.328/.395, 12 HR, 70 RBI, 19 doubles, 69 runs scored, 23 stolen bases, .723 OPS
Last 3 Years: .274/.315/.389, 13 HR, 75 RBI, 23 doubles, 64 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, .704 OPS
Don’t call it a comeback, but after a few seasons of decline, Phillips posted a vintage-like year in 2015, posting his first over .290 average/70 RBI season since 2011. He also topped 20 stolen bases for the first time since 2009 as well.
What had not tarnished was his sterling defense at second base, which still remains at a top tier level in all of baseball. He made the third fewest errors of all National League second basemen, while posting the second best defensive WAR (0.9) of all full-time NL 2B’s.
8. Brian Dozier, Twins (#10 in ’15)
2015 Stats: .236/.307/.444, 28 HR, 77 RBI, 101 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, .751 OPS
Last 3 Years: .240/.322/.425, 23 HR, 71 RBI, 95 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, .747 OPS
Dozier has been the low key engine that has pushed the revival of the Minnesota Twins towards some legit competitive waters entering 2016. He made his All-Star debut a year ago, and in all actuality it was a year later than it was due.
Dozier finished with 23 home runs, 71 RBI and 21 stolen bases in his breakout 2014 season. He proved it was no fluke year the following season by upping his homers to 28, RBI to 77 and topping 100 runs for second straight year as well. Those 28 long balls led all MLB second baseman, making it the second year that he has led the MLB in the category at the position. All in all, only Ian Kinsler and Jose Altuve have posted a higher collective AL 2B WAR over the past two years than Dozier.
7. Ben Zobrist, Cubs (#5 in ’15)
2015: .276/.359/.450, 13 HR, 56 RBI, 36 doubles, 76 runs scored, 3 stolen bases, .809 OPS
Last 3 Years: .274/.356/.413, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 35 doubles, 79 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .769 OPS
Known more for his versatility, perhaps it would be more apt Zobrist to be noted for his stunning consistency. He regularly posts premier on-base figures to go with strong extra base hit totals as well— he has posted at least a .350 OBP to go along with 34+ doubles and 10+ home runs annually since 2011.
This strong penchant for finding base helps him have a purpose in every lineup (his offseason move to Chicago will be his fourth team in the last three years), but also be able to make an impact as well. Zobrist was one of the final pieces the Royals acquired in their successful push for a World Series title, and he held his own in October as well. He posted a .303 postseason average, while scoring 15 runs and of course, reaching base at a .365 clip.
6. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (#4 in ’15)
2015: .291/.356/.441, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 19 doubles, 46 runs scored, 2 stolen bases, .797 OPS
Last 3 Years: .291/.356/.408, 9 HR, 60 RBI, 31 doubles, 70 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .763 OPS
It was certainly a quality over quantity year for Pedroia, as he played in his fewest amount of games since 2010, but still found a way to out-homer himself from his single-season totals the previous two years (9 and 7, respectively).
Other than that, it was frustrating year for Pedroia as the Red Sox’ struggles continued and he battled a bad hamstring himself. But when he was on the field, he was the same mix of hustle and impact he always has been. He had the third-highest on-base percentage among AL second basemen and of all players at the position that were good for at least two Wins Above Replacement, Pedroia did so with the second fewest at-bats (Devon Travis).
5. Jason Kipnis, Indians (#9 in ’15)
2015: .303/.372/.451, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 43 doubles, 86 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, .823 OPS
Last 3 Years: .277/.351/.414, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 35 doubles, 78 runs scored, 21 stolen bases, .766 OPS
With most of his injury issues of 2014 behind him, Kipnis returned to All-Star form a year ago and put together another fantastic season, topping .300 for the first time. This campaign was highlighted by 51 hit outburst in May, where he joined none other than Ty Cobb and Al Simmons as the only American Leaguers to ever hit the half-century in hits level in one month.
Overall, his power and speed numbers were down some from where they were a few years ago, but he still pumped out 43 doubles, good for second in the AL. Toss in another career high in triples (9) and a vastly reduced strikeout rate, and Kipnis showed that he is rounding into one of the top overall producers at the position.
4. Robinson Cano, Mariners (#1 in ’15)
2015: .287/.334/.446, 21 HR, 79 RBI, 34 doubles, 82 runs scored, 6 stolen bases, .779 OPS
Last 3 Years: .305/.366/.471, 21 HR, 89 RBI, 37 doubles, 80 runs scored, 6 stolen bases, .838 OPS
It is certainly fair to say that Cano had a down year last season. However, the notion that he has fallen all the way off into irreversible tailspin of a career, has many eluded to during his first half struggles last year, is far off the mark.
After a pre All-Star performance that was lowlighted by a 6 home runs, a .290 on-base percentage and a .250 overall batting average, Cano went instant vintage in the second half of the year. In his final 70 games, he hit at a .330 clip, popped 15 home runs and scored 44 runs, while producing a .926 OPS, which was by and far the best in all of baseball at the second base position. The old standard bearer still has more than enough punch left in him.
3. Dee Gordon, Marlins (Not ranked in ’15)
2015: .333/.359/.418, 4 HR, 46 RBI, 24 doubles, 88 runs scored, 58 stolen bases, .776 OPS
Last 3 Years: .306/.340/.391, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 63 runs scored, 44 stolen bases/.731 OPS
Gordon, whom the Marlins swindled away from the Dodgers prior to the 2015 season, has become the most dynamic leadoff hitter in the game today. Over the past two years, he has twice led the National League in stolen bases, stealing 122 bags over the time. During the same time period, he has 20 triples, has scored 180 runs and reached base at a .342 clip.
Yet he made his biggest stride forward in being an on-base terror when he hit .333 last season and won the National League batting title. During the course of doing so, he also ran up an NL-best 205 hits and took home a Silver Slugger as well. And top it all off and prove he’s not just two trick pony, he grabbed his first Gold Glove award as well in his second season season as a full-time second baseman.
2. Ian Kinsler, Tigers (#2 in ’15)
2015: .296/.342/.428, 11 HR, 73 RBI, 35 doubles, 94 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, .770 OPS
Last 3 Years: .283/.330/.420, 14 HR, 79 RBI, 35 doubles, 93 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, .750 OPS
When considering what an “All Underrated Team” might look like for the MLB over the past five years, Kinsler would be firmly entrenched at second base. This is because there is no other leadoff hitter in the game that impacts run production at a strong rate than he does.
In each of the past five years, Kinsler has driven in 70 runs, scored at least 85 (with three seasons over 100), reached double digits in home runs and topped 30 doubles. And while his speed has tailed off some in recent years, Kinsler made up for that by increasing his batting average to its highest level in seven years last season.
1. Jose Altuve, Astros (#3 in ’15)
2015: .313/.353/.459, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 40 doubles, 86 runs scored, 38 stolen bases, .812 OPS
Last 3 Years: .313/.349/.426, 9 HR, 59 RBI, 39 doubles, 78 runs scored, 43 stolen bases, .775 OPS
That is the number of hits that Altuve has run up over the past two seasons. That is a back-to-back season total that Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar, Eddie Collins or Nap Lajoie ever reached. So it should be appreciated the tear that Altuve is on throughout his first few seasons as an American Leaguer.
Altuve wears on the opposition unlike any other player in the game today. The self-confessed 5’5 Altuve has twice led the AL in stolen bases over the past two years and took home the 2014 batting title. A three-time All-Star (with an appearance in both leagues), if Dee Gordon is baseball’s most dynamic speed threat out of the leadoff spot, Altuve is easily the best overall player inhabiting the role today. His presence on the base paths gets the rest of the Astro lineup fed a steady diet of fastballs to feast on in the cozy confines of Minute Maid Park.
Toss in the fact he took home his first Gole Glove as a byproduct of carrying the highest fielding rating at the position in the game a year ago, and it proves his across the board impacts make him among the elite players in all of the game today.
Just A Bit Outside: DJ LeMathieu, Rockies; Daniel Murphy, Nationals; Joe Panik, Giants