The Game Day Report’s Top 10 Second Basemen Entering 2018

Welcome to another edition of The Game Day Report’s 2018 MLB player rankings!

In this edition, we will be taking a look at baseball’s top 10 second baseman. Second base is in baseball generally has a variety of players that have different skill sets. Some second baseman are power hitters, while some are more contact hitters that still grade out to be elite level hitters. Then, there are of course the all-around second baseman that are among the game’s elite, and we have a pretty widespread of variety in these rankings.

Here’s a quick look at when the rest of our rankings will be released to the public:

Third base: March 24

Shortstops: March 25

Left fielders: March 26

Center fielders: March 27

Right fielders: March 28

Without further delay, here are our rankings of the top 10 second baseman in baseball entering the 2018 season:

1: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Age: 27

2017 stats: 8.3 WAR, .346/.410/.547, 24 home runs, 81 runs batted in, 32 stolen bases, 3 defensive suns saved

Jose Altuve is the best second baseman in baseball, and it’s not really a debatable.

That is not a knock on any other second baseman either, as there are very few players better than Altuve overall in all of baseball. 2017 was also the best season of Altuve’s career, and there figures to be more of the same for Altuve in the coming years, which is why Houston decided to extend Altuve’s contract until 2024 last week.

Altuve has had four straight seasons of 200-plus hits, and has hit 24 home runs back-to-back seasons, as he continues to show his increased power. Wouldn’t it be something if Altuve, who is one of the shortest players in baseball at 5’6, ended up cracking 30 homers in one season? It could be very possible in 2018, as Altuve will continue to be in the prime of his career.

Manager A.J. Hinch often batted Altuve third in Houston’s lineup last season, and it’s likely that will be the case once again this year, with George Springer likely to bat leadoff once again, and Alex Bregman will hit second, keeping the Altuve and Carlos Correa in-tact and third and fourth in the lineup.

2: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports

Age: 32

2017 stats: 2.8 WAR, .322/.384/.543, 23 home runs, 93 runs batted in, -15 defensive runs saved

While Daniel Murphy will begin the 2018 season on the disabled list, it’s impossible to dispute how good of a place Murphy is in right now.

The veteran is entering the final year of a three-year deal that he signed with the Nationals back in December 2015, and once he hits the open market again this off-season, he will likely exceed his average annual salary of $12.5 million.

In my mind, Murphy is the closet we have to Altuve, but of course there is a very large discrepancy, and no one is going to dispute that. I see several similarities between Murphy and Altuve, however, as they both increased their power when no one expected them to ever throughout their careers. The New York Mets certainly didn’t expect Murphy’s power to be real, as they let him walk away to their National League East rivals even after Murphy went on a home run binge for New York during their World Series run.

While the Mets continue to search for their second baseman, the Nationals will be comfortable having the player they let walk away for less than market value. Still, there’s a very good chance they could lose Murphy, especially if the team doesn’t make a serious run at the World Series this year. This could potentially be the last year the Nationals will have to compete for a World Series with their current core in place, as Matt Wieters, Bryce Harper, Gio Gonzalez, and Ryan Madson will all be free agents after this season.

You can’t blame Murphy for the Nationals lack of winning when it matters most in the postseason, even though his strong suit is not defense. Murphy’s elite-hitting makes up for all his shortcomings on defense, as he has been the best hitting second baseman in the National League the last three seasons.

3: Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Age: 30

2017 stats: 4.5 WAR, .271/.359/.498, 34 home runs, 93 runs batted in, 16 stolen bases, -4 defensive runs saved

The Minnesota Twins surprised us all last season, and star second baseman Brian Dozier was at the center of turning around the team’s fortunes.

Dozier has established himself as perhaps the best power-hitting second base in baseball, as he followed up his career-high 42 home runs in 2016 with 34 in 2017. It’s not far-fetched for Dozier to join the 20/20 club for the second-time in his career this season with 20+ home runs and 20+ stolen bases in a single-season, as he was four stolen bases away from doing it last season. He did it 2014 with 23 home runs and 21 stolen bases, but has became a much better hitter since that time period.

While he didn’t grade out well in terms of defensive runs saved last season, other defensive metrics suggest that Dozier was a good defender, and that was put on display when Dozier was award his first career Gold Glove Award. He figures to be in the conversation once again this season, but he will for sure have a lot of competitive with Altuve and others in the running in the American League.

4: Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore Orioles

Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Age: 26

2017 stats: 5.2 WAR, .293/.338/.503, 32 home runs, 105 runs batted in, 2 defensive runs saved

Just like I saw some similarities between Altuve and Murphy, I see some similarities between Dozier and Jonathan Schoop.

Dozier and Schoop are arguably the top two power hitters at second base in all of baseball, and once Schoop becomes a free agent, Schoop will surely get paid like it. It’s likely that Manny Machado will leave the Baltimore Orioles after this season, and it appears Schoop could soon be out the door.

Schoop is currently scheduled to become a free agent after the 2019 season, and the fact that the Orioles and Schoop have yet to get even close to an extension in any fashion is alarming. All aspects of Schoop’s game are put together, and you likely aren’t going to develop a player better than him any time soon, let alone sign someone better or comparable to him as well.

Where Schoop runs into trouble is when he ends up letting his approach at the plate get the best of him. He doesn’t get on-base nearly as much as he should for a player who puts up 30+ home runs and 100+ runs batted in, but the fact that he is able to still bat above .290 while be a known free-swinger is impressive.

The 27-year-old Schoop has already taken steps towards improving his plate discipline, as he stopped swing at so many pitches out of the strike zone last season. If he could improve his walk rate, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see Schoop second on this same list next season.

5: Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Age: 35

2017 stats: 3.4 WAR, .280/.338/.453, 23 home runs, 97 runs batted in, 0 defensive runs saved

Sure, you can argue Robinson Cano has lost a step, and while you could be right in way, you are still most likely wrong in a way as well.

Cano has such a sweet swing that it’s hard to ever see his hitting stats dipping to below average levels, and when you combine it with everything Cano has seen throughout his lengthy in MLB career, there aren’t too many fastballs and curveballs Cano hasn’t been thrown.

Perhaps a problem the Seattle Marniers could run into is Cano’s contract situation, as he still has six years left on his deal with the team, and over $110 million guaranteed on that pact. Still, that shouldn’t be an issue to worry about right now while Cano is still playing at an above-average, especially when you factor in him being on an American League All-Star roster three times in the last four years.

They say defense declines with age, but Cano still checks just alright in the defensive department as well. Don’t be surprised if Cano ends up making Major League history in the next couple of years either, as ESPN notes that Cano’s 289 career home runs ranks second all-time among all second baseman in MLB history. Only Jeff Kent with 351 career homers has more than Cano.

6: DJ LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies

Getty Images

Age: 29

2017 stats: 2.9 WAR, .310/.374/.409, 8 home runs, 64 runs batted in, 8 defensive runs saved

DJ LeMahieu is one of the best hitters in the National League, but doesn’t get enough publicity because of his lower power numbers.

2017 marked the third straight season were LeMahieu batted over .300, and he remained one of the best on defense at second base last season as well. Plus, he is consistent when it comes to games played, as he hasn’t played under 145 games in a season since 2013.

An interesting free agency process should approach LeMahieu after this season, as he will become a free agent for the first time in his career at age 30, which is regarded as the common age most MLB players become a free agent. LeMahieu provides an interesting case because while he once again doesn’t hit for power, he can stabilize any lineup immediatley, and that is what he currently does for a Colorado Rockies team that features Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado as their top two overall hitters, and power hitters as well.

It’s likely that Colorado would love to keep LeMahieu in the organization, but the list of suitors will sure be long for the two-time Gold Glove Award winner.

7: Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals

Getty Images

Age: 29

2017 stats: 3.8 WAR, .288/.324/.460, 19 home runs, 78 runs batted in, 34 stolen bases, 3 defensive runs saved

It was a rough off-season for the Kansas City Royals who lost Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain in free agency, but they at least were able to retain Mike Moustakas on a team-friendly contract. Plus, they still have Whit Merrifield, who morphed himself into one of the best all-around players at second base in baseball.

Merrifield’s rise in Kansas City is really remarkable, especially when you consider that he was even the favorite to be the team’s second baseman of the future. That title was likely to be Raul Mondesi‘s, but Mondesi wasn’t able enough to be productive enough at the plate to seize his golden opportunity. Instead, Merrfield will be the second baseman going forward, that can also play third base and the outfield, an added-plus for manager Ned Yost.

The 29-year-old is also regarded as a plus defender and a plus base-runner. Merrfield led the American League with 34 stolen bases, and was among the league leaders in the defensive runs saved metric mentioned in his statline. If he is able to get on-base more in the future, he could even reach 40+ stolen bases, and all he needed was one more home run last season to reach the 20/20 club, so that should be easily attainable.

8: Cesar Hernandez, Philadelphia Phillies

Rich Kane/UPI

Age: 27

2017 stats: 3.1 WAR, .294/.373/.421, 9 home runs, 34 runs batted in, -1 defensive runs saved

While Cesar Hernandez faces an uncertain future with the Phillies in Philadelphia, we now have certainty about the player Hernandez is.

Hernandez is a very good hitter that won’t provide a whole lot of power, but is similar to LeMahieu in the aspect that both can stabilize a lineup while proving solid base-running. However, the Phillies indicated that they weren’t confident they had enough power in the lineup going forward, so they went out and signed first baseman Carlos Santana to a three-year contract.  Santana and Hoskins are the only clear sources of power on Philadelphia’s roster, but there will be potential for more power this season.

Second base prospect Scott Kingery will make the team’s opening day roster according to various media reports after receiving the largest guaranteed contract extension for a player who has yet to play at the Major League level in his career. Kingery being a second baseman obviously spells bad news for Hernandez, but Kingery will also play third base and shortstop, which could mean that the Phillies are considering keeping Hernandez and trading someone like Maikel Franco away instead.

Still, if the Phillies did elect to trade Hernandez, they would surely get a good return back and add to their young and intriguing core. It should be interesting to see how this entire situation plays out, but indications could be that perhaps Philadelphia is better with Hernandez on the team than without him.

9: Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

Age: 25

2017 stats: .273/.317/.480, 23 home runs, 75 runs batted in, 5 defensive runs saved

It seems like whenever Javier Baez is on defense he is making an amazing play, but his hitting is also could be on the way to be amazing as well.

Baez is still only 25-years-old, and has improved big time when you compare him to the strikeout machine he was when he began his MLB career with the Cubs in 2014.

Let’s take a quick peek at Baez’ strikeout rates since his MLB debut in 2014 in terms of single-season strikeout rate:

2014: 41.5%

2015: 30%

2016: 24.0%

2017: 28.3%

While Baez is always going to have his fair share of strikeouts, it’s just the player he naturally is. Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer can be happy about the fact that Baez is another one of their players who has cut down on the strikeouts considerably year-by-year.

Another added in bonus with Baez is his defensive versatility. Baez can handle third base and shortstop at an elite level defensively, and manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t be completely against having Baez in the outfield if he had to at sometimes. Many believe Baez could also have success in any spot in a batting order, but Maddon generally bats him in the lower-half of the order in the 6-8 range.

Chicago will have decisions to make on their young outfield soon enough though, and Baez could perhaps present the hardest decision for the organization to make. Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo is still locked-in on a team friendly contract, but Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Baez will all be making significant millions soon, and like they say you can’t pay everybody. The Cubs are already paying Bryant a significant arbitration-based salary, and have Yu Darvish, Jason Hayward, and Jon Lester on significant long-term pacts.

10: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Age: 30

2017 stats: 0.4 WAR, .232/.291/.414, 12 home runs, 35 runs batted in, -5 defensive runs saved

2017 was a nightmare for Jason Kipnis, but you can’t allow one poor season to define the two-time MLB All-Star.

Kipnis had trouble staying healthy, as his hamstring injuries became lingering issues all season long and started to alter his hitting in a negative way. Kipnis wasn’t hitting well in the first half of the season, but it’s believed that he was battling his hamstring injuries all year before finally going on the disabled list for the injuries later on in the season. He was limited to just 23 games in the second half of the season.

While we also have to keep from overreacting towards spring training performances, how can you not be encouraged by Kipnis’ after such a rough 2017? He dominated this spring for the Indians by slashing .360/.429/.800 with 6 home runs and 12 runs batted in across 57 plate appearances. He nearly walked more times than he struck out this spring too, as he walked six times and struck out just eight. projects Kipnis to be the team’s Opening Day starter at second base, which is good news for Kipnis, considering that there were several questions about what his role would be with the Indians after playing some center field last year when he was off the disabled list in the second half.

Honorable Mention:

Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants

Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates

Starlin Castro, Miami Marlins

Ian Kinsler, Los Angeles Angels

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Published by Tony Montalto

Twitter: @montalto_tony

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