Top 10 Second Baseman For 2016
With the end of the NFL season upon us, the Baseball Hot Corner team brings back the Top 10 at each position series as we get closer to pitchers and catchers reporting. The first position to highlight is 2nd base, where the talent pool continues to get deeper and richer with talent.
These rankings aren’t purely based on fWAR. I take career numbers into consideration but mainly 2015 production.
15. DJ LeMahieu – Colorado Rockies: 1.9 fWAR
14. Kolten Wong – St. Louis Cardinals: 2.3 fWAR
13. Daniel Murphy – Washington Nationals: 2.5 fWAR
12. Ben Zobrist – Chicago Cubs: 2.1 fWAR
11. Howie Kendrick – Los Angeles Dodgers: 2.1 fWAR
10. Neil Walker – New York Mets
2015: 15 home runs, 71 RBI, .269 BA, .328 OBP, 108 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR
Neil Walker comes to the Mets after an off-season trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates straight up for Jon Niese. Walker has been the games steadiest second baseman since coming up with the Pirates in 2010. He has always been around a 2.5 fWAR or higher per season. He brings a nice bat for a second baseman as he mixes in power, average, and decent speed.
If there is a knock on Walker, it’s his glove. He consistently is in the negatives for dWAR except for 0.5 in 2012 and 0.6 in 2013. However, he does make up for in terms of production with the bat. Expect double digit home runs and 60+ RBI’s year in and year out for Walker. He will be very similar to Daniel Murphy but a bit better with the glove and about the same type of bat.
2015: 17 home runs, 68 RBI, .281 BA, .359 OBP, 126 wRC+, 4.1 fWAR
Logan Forsythe finally got his chance to prove himself as an everyday player in 2015 after a trade sent him from the San Diego Padres to the Tampa Bay Rays. Forsythe quickly rose up the ranks as one of the games best 2nd baseman and had a massive year posting a 4.1 fWAR.
Forsythe does a little bit of everything for Tampa. He can hit for power, average, and knows how to take a walk. He also doesn’t strikeout a whole lot either. He is good at putting the ball in play and in 2015, that led to a good year as he had a BABIP of .323. Was 2015 an anomaly? I don’t think so. I do believe this is the kind of player Forsythe can be the remainder of his time with Tampa Bay. Expect him to climb this list as the season continues.
2015: 21 home runs. 79 RBI, .287 BA, .334 OBP, 116 wRC+, 2.1 fWAR
After years of being the games best second baseman and a switch from the Bronx to the Seattle Mariners, the 33 year old Robinson Cano appears to be slowing down and his reign as the best second baseman in baseball is spiraling downward. The offensive outputs dropping aren’t much of a surprise going from hitter friendly New York to the cavernous Safeco Field.
What is surprising about Cano is how quickly his glove is going downhill. Cano has never been a terrific glove at 2nd, but he’s had good defensive years in the past. It appears age and ballpark factors could be catching up with Cano. For the Mariners, I think from here on out they’d take his 2.1 fWAR from 2015 again. But that doesn’t keep him in the top 5 second baseman anymore and perhaps even out of the top 10.
2015: 12 home runs, 42 RBI, .291 BA, .356 OBP, 116 wRC+, 2.5 fWAR
Injuries the past two seasons is the majority of the reason as to why Dustin Pedroia falls out of the top 5 second baseman on this list for me. When healthy, he produces both offensively and defensively. Health is the key though. For a small, gritty guy, Pedroia has massed lots of innings at 2nd and he is turning 33 in August of 2016.
Pedroia has the ability to hit for a decent amount of power, usually brings a batting average of over .300, and gets on base at a good clip. The toughest thing about Pedroia is the fact that he does not strikeout. He typically strikes out around the same amount as he walks which is an incredible accomplishment. If Pedroia proves he can stay healthy, there is a chance he climbs back into the top 5. However, another injury filled season has Pedroia in the same breathe that I have Robinson Cano.
6. Ian Kinsler
2015: 11 home runs, 73 RBI, .296 BA, .342 OBP, 111 wRC+, 4.2 fWAR
The Detroit Tigers have found a very productive and steady second baseman for the past two years when they acquired Ian Kinsler from the Texas Rangers for Prince Fielder. Kinsler has been one of the best second baseman in baseball since 2008 and often goes under the radar now since he has been so productive for so long.
Kinsler’s power has largely been zapped due to injuries and a massive Comerica Park, but that’s about all that has gone south with Kinsler’s game since coming to Detroit. He still gets on base at a nice clip and scores in and around 100 runs or more per season. He has also had a very good glove for years and that hasn’t dropped off either. The soon to be 34 year old should once again be a good table setter for a Tigers lineup that has only gotten better this off-season.
5. Joe Panik
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2015: 8 home runs, 37 RBI, .312 BA, .378 OBP, 138 wRC+, 4.2 fWAR
The San Francisco Giants have a great young infield with the likes of Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Matt Duffy, and Joe Panik. Panik really made a name for himself in the 2014 playoffs and the end of the 2014 season. 2nd base was a revolving door that year for the Giants and Panik has since taken that spot and has ran with it.
You won’t get much power out of Joe Panik but with a wRC+ of 138 in 432 games, Panik can contribute nicely offensively. Panik is primarily a glove first second baseman. He can really flash the leather at 2nd base. The Giants middle infield is solidified with Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik for the foreseeable future. This is a heck of a middle infield. Expect web gems.
4. Dee Gordon
2015: 4 home runs, 46 RBI, .333 BA, .359 OBP, 113 wRC+, 4.6 fWAR
The Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon got rid of his label as just a burner in a big way in 2015 with a fantastic season where he got a hit 33% of the time! Gordon’s speed on the basepaths is fearsome. He swiped 58 bags. Imagine he walked. Gordon only walked 3.8% of the time in 2015 and his OBP wasn’t much higher than his average. Walk more and he could steal upwards of 80 bases.
Gordon’s season netted him a 5 year, $50 million deal from the Marlins to be their second baseman for the next 5 years. The electrifying Gordon will continue to bat leadoff for years for the Marlins and if Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich decide to stay healthy, the Marlins offense could provide sparks with Gordon leading the way. Expect another season with upwards of 60+ stolen bases and a glove that just keeps getting better.
3. Brian Dozier
2015: 28 home runs, 77 RBI, .236 BA, .307 OBP, 103 wRC+, 3.4 fWAR
Brian Dozier probably has the most raw power out of all second baseman around the game of baseball. In 2013, Dozier hit 18 home runs. In 2014 he hit 23. Last year he hit 28. Can he reach 30 this year? I think he can. The big flaw with Dozier is his strikeouts and low batting average. He also doesn’t walk a ton either but his bat has plenty of power.
Dozier hits leadoff for the Minnesota Twins. He has the ability to put up a quick run with his power but when he gets on base, he always seems to come around to score. Dozier has scored 100+ runs each of the past two seasons and with a revamped Twins offense for 2016, I’d expect that trend to grow to 3+ years.
2. Jose Altuve
2015: 15 home runs, 66 RBI, .313 BA, .353 OBP, 120 wRC+, 4.3 fWAR
The Houston Astros second baseman, Jose Altuve was really the lone bright spot for the Astros for 3 seasons until 2015, the Astros grew quickly and made it to Game 5 of the ALDS against the eventual World Series Champions, the Kansas City Royals. Altuve has been one of the games top second baseman for the past few years and he can both swing it and pick it at 2nd.
Altuve reached double digit home runs for the first time in his big league career and with his good swing, I can see that continuing. Altuve doesn’t walk a ton but he also does not strike out. He is a tough out as he always puts the ball in play. With his speed, he can reach on infield singles. Altuve will once again be a centerpiece to the Astros success in 2016 but he finally has other pieces to help carry the team. Altuve and the Astros should return to the playoffs in 2016.
1. Jason Kipnis
2015: 9 home runs, 52 RBI, .303 BA, .372 OBP, 126 wRC+, 5.2 fWAR
Jason Kipnis takes top spot on my list for top 10 second baseman for the 2016 season. Kipnis had a monster season for the Cleveland Indians but is a second half that was underwhelming something to keep an eye on? Absolutely. Despite that, Kipnis takes top spot on my list.
Kipnis has the ability to do it all for the Tribe. He can hit for some power, a good average, he gets on base and flashes a good glove (2015 he did at least). The second base position is a talented one in baseball and in order to keep this top spot, Kipnis will need to sustain a full season of success. He has been one of the most valuable at second since arriving in the MLB and that will continue in 2016. If the Indians are to contend with their great pitching staff, Kipnis will need to lead the offense until Michael Brantley returns to help him. Kipnis is up for the challenge in my mind.