The Determinator: Second Base: #10-6 + Honorable Mentions
The Determinator continues! We’ve finished up our first base and catcher rankings from last week.
Today I will reveal the #10-#6 second Basemen in the MLB as well as some honorable mention second basemen from across the league. Tomorrow, I will announce the #5-1 second basemen in the MLB. For a background about The Determinator, see my article about my methodology, changes for 2021, and schedule, here.
The Determinator: Second Base-Specific Information
To easily work through and cut-down the list of 207 different players who played any amount of time at second base during the past two seasons, I set-up two boundaries to keep it as close to having only starters:
They must’ve had at least 350 PA’s over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
They must’ve had at least 750 innings at second base over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
This limited the number of second basemen down to 27.
However, without further ado, let’s get to the first half of the Top-10:
If a first baseman led a statistic, it will be bolded.
Number 10: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
Top-5: HR, wRC+
Top-10: AVG, SLG, wRC, Off, WAR, Innings
Top-15: OBP, SB
Total Score: 30Embed from Getty Images
I don’t typically root for players to do poorly (well, unless they are playing the Yankees that day) but I have made an exception of this for Jose Altuve. Once potentially seen to be a future Hall of Famer, a mid-Summer 2019 article from Crawfish Boxes wrote that, “Something highly unexpected would have to happen for Jose Altuve to not make the Hall of Fame.” I think we can all agree that something unexpected happened. Combined with a 2020 season that was outside of the norm for the second baseman, we have seen a trend in his BABIP falling dramatically each year from a high-water mark of .370 in 2017 (I wonder why?) to the .250 it was last season. His 48 games played provided his first season of negative offense (-5.5) and defense (-0.1) since the 2013 season, and while he is entering his age-31 season he still should be in his peak years. By no stretch of the imagination, 2020 was Altuve’s worst season in the MLB and his #10 ranking is lucky for him to hold, being just 1 point above #11 (Jonathan Villar).
Number 9: Adam Frazier Pittsburgh Pirates
Top-5: Games, Fld, Innings, UZR, Def
Top-10: wRC, DRS
Top-15: AVG, OBP, WAR
Total Score: 34Embed from Getty Images
A defensive-first second baseman, Adam Frazier is an interesting inclusion on this years Top-10 list given an already questioned offensive profile and a season in which he took a step back with hitting. He is held up by an almost league-average 2019 season with the bat and should be expected to return close to form after running into some bad luck with a BABIP that was much below his career norm (.246 to .303). If he can improve to be a .275/.350/.450 hitter in his last two years of team control, Frazier could find his way into a nice payday. However, as a player who was considered to be on the trade market, many are looking to him as a utility option.
Number 8: Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays
Top-5: OBP, SB, wRC+, BsR, Off
Top-10: wRC, WAR
Top-15: SLG, HR, DRS, UZR, Def
Total Score: 36Embed from Getty Images
After missing out on The Determinator rankings last year, Biggio took a good step forward during his sophomore season. While his value is mostly held up in his offensive game, Biggio did improve upon 2019 defensive metrics, which helped him gain some points on the back-end. Going into his age-26 season, Biggio is a likely candidate to hold a Top-10 second baseman ranking for a number of years, especially if he can continue to make some small improvements to his overall game. After two years of play, while he is lacking in AVG (.240), which has hindered his SLG (.430), his ability to draw walks (16.1%) has set him up with a great OBP (.368). He runs into good BABIP luck (.310), so it would seem if he can put the ball more in play, he could find himself a Top-5 second baseman soon.
Number 7: Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals
Top-5: Games, AVG, SB, wRC
Top-10: OBP, SLG, wRC+, Off, WAR
Top-15: HR, BsR, DRS
Total Score: 38Embed from Getty Images
One of the most consistent hitters in the MLB coming into 2020, Whit Merrifield took an unexpected step back in his performance. While he has been criminally underrated in his career due to his playing in a small market with little success since his inception in the league, the Kansas City Royal is surprisingly entering his age-32 season this year. The second base (and MLB) leader in games played these past two seasons (222), Merrifield doesn’t hold a lot of innings in the infield as he is often used as an outfielder which has led to some interesting defensive metrics do likely undervalue what he provides. While I’m a big fan of Merrifield, he does hold flaws in his game that is keeping him from keeping him atop this leaderboard, and while productive, he could continue to slowly fall down as he did this year from the #5 spot.
Number 6: Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays
Top-5: OBP, SLG, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR
Top-10: AVG, HR
Top-15: SB, wRC, Fld, DRS, UZR, Def
Total Score: 42Embed from Getty Images
Another new member to the Top-10, Brandon Lowe just missed out on last years list after ranking 12th. However, this was largely due to his playing only 82 games in 2019, which kept him from ranking high on accumulation statistics. After 2020, however, Lowe still doesn’t have a great amount of games played, but when he is on the field he does do extremely well. With +2.4 WAR last season, Lowe was just one of 21 players who hit that mark with large help to great offensive (+16.8) numbers like wRC+ (150) and a BABIP that should be maintained (.309). Alongside this, Lowe had positive defensive value (+1.4), which helped him sneak on a bunch of points at the end. If he gets to play a full season in 2021, expect him to shine when people realize what he can do.
Below is a selection of second basemen who led statistics but did not place in the Top-10 rankings, notable veterans, any former Yankees players, and the Yankees player/s who qualified for the position if they failed to rank in the Top-10.
Jonathan Villar – Second Base leader in SB (56) and BsR (+11.1), Ranked #11 with 29 points
Keston Hiura – Ranked #13 with 25 points
Jurickson Profar – Ranked #16 with 19 points
Rougned Odor – Second Base leader in HR (40), Ranked #17 with 18 points
Jason Kipnis – Ranked #19 with 14 points
Robinson Cano – Ranked #20 (tied) with 13 points
Starlin Castro – Ranked #22 with 10 points
Brian Dozier – Ranked #25 with 8 points
The Determinator is a way I used to determine the best players at each position. Like any metric or formula, I am sure it has flaws. No statistical compilation is perfect. That being said, The Determinator, seems pretty effective at assigning player values. I’m pleased with what I have found using this method and hope this is a conversation starter for many.