Under normal circumstances, the 2020 Major League Baseball season would be rounding into its first full month of action. However, these are far from regular times and due to the global shift in the norm, whether Opening Day is delayed — or even outright canceled — is anybody’s guess.
Therefore, since the trivial is more necessary than ever, here is a look at the (currently anticipated) MLB top 10 players, by position, for the 2020 campaign.
In recent seasons, the role of the second baseman is following suit with many others around the game-changing with the times. However, the movement of second basemen has been a more robust one, where the lean towards becoming a more power-inclined role has been balanced by it also featuring some of the most versatile athletes in the game.
Here’s a look at one of the most varied collections of talent in the game today…. led by a superstar that is at a fork in the road of his career.
1. Jose Altuve, Astros
By his lofty standards, 2019 wasn’t a personal high point for Altuve. A first-half hamstring injury caused him to miss his first All-Star Game since 2013 and tapped significantly into the speed portion of his game. He also hit ‘just’ .298 on the year, after owning a .334 average over the previous three years.
So, despite all of these incremental setbacks, how is it that Altuve still reigns supreme among his peers? Mainly it because he was so impactful at reinventing himself along the way. His 31 home runs and .550 slugging % were both career highs, as he replaced the lost impact his speed and baserunning with more power. Also, while his overall numbers declined, as he regained his form in the second half, Altuve hit .325 in the second half with a .995 OPS. In the postseason, Altuve shined brightly, hitting .328 with a 1.022 OPS across all three rounds and won ALCS MVP.
Altuve’s next at-bats could be the most vital of his career, as he was the most prominent Astro present during their sign-stealing scandal. If he continues at the Hall of Fame pace that had become the norm of his career, it could quiet some skeptics. If Altuve can put together his newly found skill set with additional tools from his past, he should easily be able to do just that.
2. Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks
After making 89 starts in center field in 2019, Marte will move back to second base (where he started the NL All-Star Game in 2019) full-time following the addition of Starling Marte. Ketel’s breakout of recent years became undeniable last season, when his 7.2 WAR was the third-best in the National League. He frequently made strong contact, finishing fourth in both total bases (337) and runs created (134), and seventh in extra-base hits (77).
Over the past two seasons, the Diamondbacks’ second bagger’s 11.8 WAR is by far the most of any player with at least 200 games played at second.
3. DJ LeMahieu, Yankees
After initially appearing as more of a depth addition to a crowded Yankees infield, LeMahieu surprisingly emerged as the most dependable part of the AL’s top offense. He posted his traditionally strong contact and on-base numbers, but in the process took his power to a new level as well. In the process, LeMahieu set career-highs in home runs (26), doubles (33), runs scored (109), slugging % (.518) and drove in 36 more runs than he ever had previously, with 102.
When the dust settled, LeMahieu finished fourth in AL MVP voting, while making at least 40 starts between second, third and first base.
4. Ozzie Albies, Braves
After hitting a wall during his breakout sophomore season the year before, Albies stayed consistent throughout 2019 and put up an exceptional overall season. His 189 hits and 640 at-bats led the National League, while he finished in the league’s top three in doubles (43) and triples (8).
Albies also showed exceptional growth in the field as well, leading all NL second basemen in fielding % and putouts. Add in his undeniable enthusiasm along with his chemistry with Ronald Acuna, Jr., and the 23-year-old is one of the biggest joys to watch in the game on a daily basis.
5. Kolten Wong, Cardinals
On the heels of another brilliant showing in the field, Wong has now become the biggest defensive difference-maker in the game at the position. His 2.2 defensive WAR ranked sixth in the NL, while he led the league in assists, range factor and defensive runs saved by a healthy margin. This resulted in him claiming the first Gold Glove Award of his career.
In the process of perfecting his craft with the glove, Wong also put up his most productive season at the plate as well, hitting .285 with 24 stolen bases. In the second-half, Wong’s .342 average was the best in baseball.
6. Mike Moustakas, Reds
After making 47 starts at second in Milwaukee last year, Moustakas signed with Cincinnati to inherit the role full-time. It is a bold decision that is symbolic of how deploying the shift has changed the strategy of working in offensively-inclined bats into the role, where defensive importance is lowered. If this works, it gives the Reds a huge offensive bump at the position in comparison to opponents: Moustakas owns a .929 career OPS during starts at second base.
7. Keston Hiura, Brewers
Milwaukee’s top prospect since being taken with the 9th overall pick in 2017, Huira made a substantial impact upon arrival. He hit .303 with 19 home runs and a .938 OPS over 348 plate appearances as a rookie. Only Ketel Marte was more productive at the position, with at least 80 games played on the year.
The only black mark on Hiura currently are his severe defensive limitations, as he led NL second baseman with 16 errors in just 81 games in the field. This leads to questions about if he can stick at the position long-term.
8. Luis Arraez, Twins
After being promoted in mid-May, Arraez became a pleasant surprise in Minnesota's lineup, like going to Comeon Casino and hitting the jackpot. He hit .334 over 325 at-bats and showed a surprisingly strong sense of maturing at the plate, drawing 36 walks compared to just 29 strikeouts. This allowed for him to ascend to the top of the lineup for the AL Central champions, where he proved more than capable of being a fitting table setter for their power-laden lineup.
9. Jean Segura, Phillies
After moving back to his original position of shortstop during his first season in Philadelphia, Segura will move back to the right side of the infield with addition of Didi Gregorius. His offensive numbers took a downturn some last season, as Segura failed to hit .300 for the first time in three seasons. However, his run production and power numbers remain steady (242 total bases were his most since 2016) and his defensive prowess has always been best at second in comparison to shortstop.
10. Brandon Lowe, Rays
Durability has not been his friend over the first two years of his career, as he has been limited to just 125 games since debuting in August 2019. However, when he is on the field, his impact is hard to miss. 46% of his career this have gone for extra base hits thus far and has done so while contributing at five different positions. He played in only five games after the All-Star break last season, but still finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Left on Deck: David Fletcher (Angels), Hanser Alberto (Orioles), Cavan Biggio (Blue Jays),
Top Prospects: Gavin Lux (Dodgers, #2), Brendan Rodgers (Rockies, #29), Nick Madrigal (White Sox, #40)
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