Years ago, second basemen were expected to have a solid glove and anything they contributed offensively was a bonus. Today’s game has changed that thought. Some of the top run producers in the league now play second base, and expectations have risen for players at the position.
Looking at the NL Central, there is a young core of second basemen who will be learning on the fly. Here is a ranking of the second basemen entering the 2014 season.
#1 Brandon Phillips-Cincinnati Reds
Over the past few seasons, Brandon Phillips has developed into one of the premiere second basemen in the game. Phillips does it all. The four-time Gold Glove winner, provides webgem type plays each night. His .988 career fielding percentage shows that he is one of the slickest fielding second basemen in all of baseball. Phillips is no slouch with his bat, either. He was a silver slugger winner and has hit 18 homeruns in each of the past four seasons. Last year, he showed the type of run producer he has become by driving in a career high, 103 runs. The ball just seems to jump off of his bat, and into the gaps at Great American Ball Park. There were rumors of the Reds trading him, but it appears the Reds have made the smart move by keeping him.
#2 Kolten Wong-St. Louis Cardinals
Kolten Wong has had very limited time in the major leagues, but he has all the makings of a star. At the end of last season, MLB.com rated Wong as the best second base prospect and the number two Cardinal prospect. He has hit for average throughout his short minor league career and he has gap power, shown in his 39 extra base hits in AAA last season. Like Philips, Wong brings a steady glove to the field each day. The Cards have shown confidence in Wong this offseason by moving David Freese to the Angels to free up a starting spot for Wong and many analysts view Wong as a potential Rookie of the Year next season.
#3 Scooter Gennett-Milwaukee Brewers
It appears that Milwaukee is ready for changes at second base. Scooter Gennett is expected to take over for the incumbent, Rickie Weeks. While Gennett does not have the same power potential that Weeks once showed, he is already a better field than Weeks was as a rookie. Gennett is a scrappy player who is ready to step in and be the Brewers new leadoff man. Last season, while filling in for the injured Weeks, Gennett batted .324 and even flashed some power by hitting six homeruns and totaling 19 extra-base hits. If he falters, Rickie Weeks is on the bench ready to win back his job.
#4 Neil Walker-Pittsburgh Pirates
As the 11th pick of the 2004 draft, Walker was expected to fill a void in the Pirates lineup, but Walker has yet to be able to put all of his skills together. Although he hit a career high 16 homeruns, he struggled for much of last season, especially against left handed pitching. Defensively, he has continued to perform well by maintaining a .988 career fielding percentage. When drafted, he was expected to be a force in the lineup, but it appears at the age of 28 that Walker is running out of time to be an offensive star.
#5 Darwin Barney-Chicago Cubs
Darwin Barney enters his fifth season as Chicago’s second baseman. He fits the mold perfectly for an old school second basemen with his dazzling glove and declining bat. Last season he had a career low .208 batting average, but he was able to keep his strikeout rate low by continually putting the ball in play. His defense is what has earned him his job. In 2012, he won the Gold Glove with an astounding .997 fielding percentage. In 731 chances, he had just two errors, and had an 141 game errorless streak. His career .990 fielding percentage is among the league’s best, too. Even with this great glove the Cubs are loaded in their farm system, so Barney will need to improve offensively to keep his starting job.
Statistics Compiled by Baseball Reference