Second base used to be a defense-first position but now those who play the Keystone Sack need to hit as well. Last year, 8 big-league second basemen hit 20+ home runs, led by Javy Baez who clubbed 34 round-trippers. Teams may put up with a good-field, no-hit shortstop but a second baseman who can’t contribute offensively won’t last long in the majors these days.
There aren’t any future superstars in this year’s crop of second base prospects but there are a few guys who should open the season in the majors with a handful of others who could make an impact beginning around mid-season.
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MLB Top Prospects: 2B
The Rays’ Brandon Lowe may not play much 2B this year in Tampa but he can certainly hit, and his positional versatility (2B, 1B, OF) should allow him to see regular playing time. In 43 big league games last year Lowe only hit .233, but he slugged .450 and has the tools to be an above-average hitter in the majors. Lowe isn’t a big guy, but a compact swing and plus bat speed allow him to hit for above-average power. He swung at too many pitcher’s pitches in his first taste of the bigs, but he should adjust as he gains more experience. His bat path can be inconsistent and he doesn’t have the hand-eye coordination to hit for a high average, but a .265 average and 20 home runs are very realistic numbers if he plays every day.
Garrett Hampson and Brendan Rodgers (No. 22 in our prospect rankings) opened camp as potential starters at second base for the Rockies, but both have been out-played by Ryan McMahon. Rodgers now looks certain to begin the season in the minors, but Hampson still has a shot to win the job.
Hampson is a polished hitter with the hand-eye coordination, pitch recognition, and bat speed to hit for average and post an above-average on-base percentage. He doesn’t have any power, but his carrying tool is his speed, which should make him a 25-plus SB threat if he plays regularly.
Rodgers isn’t the future star that the Rockies envisioned when they drafted him third overall in 2015, and although he’s been playing mostly short this spring, he’ll probably end up at second base given that Trevor Story is firmly entrenched at the six in Colorado. Still, he’s a hard worker who has gotten better each season. He also shows excellent offensive skills across the board, including plus bat speed, good lower body balance, and above-average raw power. He’ll return to Triple-A to open the season, but a hot start could get him a promotion by midseason. Long term, he should hit about .280 with 20-plus home runs over a full season.
Three other guys who could be playing second base in the majors by mid-season are Milwaukee's Keston Hiura (No. 24 in our prospect rankings), Toronto's Cavan Biggio, and the White Sox Nick Madrigal (No. 46).
The Brewers currently have a surplus of infielders which means that Hiura will certainly open the season in the minors. Like many skilled hitters, he’s used to being able to hit pretty much any pitch, so he’ll need to learn to be more selective to succeed against advanced pitching. Still, he’s one of the best pure hitters in the minors, with plus bat speed, great balance, and a compact swing path. A quick start could force the Brewers to find room for him in Milwaukee. Once he gets his chance, expect an average near .300 with moderate power (12-15 home runs) that could increase as he matures.
An adjustment to his swing path before last season turned Biggio from a contact-oriented hitter into a legitimate power threat. In fact, last year at Double-A he looked like a “three true outcomes” guy (26 HRs, 100 BBs, 148 Ks) rather than the speedy leadoff hitter he was in college. Biggio will need to be more consistent with his swing path and make more consistent contact to succeed in the majors, but he’s a skilled hitter who should adjust. He’ll probably open the season at Triple-A and could get a promotion to Toronto with a fast start. Long-term, he probably won’t hit for average, but his bat speed, raw power, and good plate discipline should allow him to hit around .260, post a high on-base percentage, and slug 20 home runs over a full season in the majors.
Madrigal has only played 43 games as a pro and will probably start the season at High-A but he’s already a polished hitter who should move quickly this season. As a pro, Madrigal has shown excellent contact ability (only five strikeouts in 173 plate appearances) and has played plus defense at second base (.994 fielding percentage). He doesn’t have any power and his above-average speed hasn’t translated to many stolen bases, but he’s an elite hitter who should post a .300 average in the majors. Don’t be surprised if Madrigal quickly flies through Double-A and is pushing for a big league promotion by midseason.