St. Louis Cardinals: Kolten Wong is the best second baseman in the Central
Continuing our positional rankings, we find that the St. Louis Cardinals’ second baseman, Kolten Wong, is the best second baseman in the NL Central.
It’s been a couple of days, but it is now time to look at one of the strongest positions in the NL Central, one where the St. Louis Cardinals reign supreme.
There is a common cliche in baseball that defense up the middle of the field is the most important. Catcher, second base, shortstop, and center field. The cliche does make sense because those positions cover the most ground.
At second base, a ton of defensive versatility is needed. Not only is there plenty of dirt to cover, the continued creeping of the shift into everyday life means that second basemen have to play in short right field more than ever before. At the plate. second basemen rarely are big hitters, but look around the NL Central and you will some.
So, without further delay, what do the second base rankings for the NL Central look like?
5. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs and their tandem of Nico Hoerner and David Bote find themselves last on this list for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is strictly because of uncertainty. The Cubs no longer employ Ben Zobrist and after cutting Addison Russell, David Bote and top 100 prospect Nico Hoerner are their top options at second base.
In 2019, Bote filled in solidly, with a .362 OBP and 11 homers in 127 games. This was good enough to net him a 1.5 fWAR, but on this list, last is where these land him.
Hoerner got a little bit of action in 2019, hitting three homers in 20 games, but he was clearly pressing to just make contact (3.7% walk rate and 13.4% strikeout rate). Hoerner could be a big surprise in 2020, but because he’s a question mark, I can’t rank the Cubs highly.
The Cubs signed 32-year-old free agent Jason Kipnis, but he is not listed on the current active roster.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
This is one of the few places on these lists where the Pirates don’t rank last. At second base, they have the quiet stud Adam Frazier. The 28-year-old batted .278 with a .753 OPS and 33 doubles in 2019. All his efforts amounted to just a 97 wRC+, but Frazier’s true worth came from his defense.
His 2.2 fWAR in 2019 was built upon his 11 OAA at second base and even though he had -1 DRS, he had a solid 2.9 UZR.
3. Milwaukee Brewers
Keston Hiura had a stellar rookie year with the bat in 2019. Playing in 84 games, Hiura put up a .303 batting average and a .938 OPS while hitting 19 homers. This came together for a near-elite 139 wRC+. However, there are cracks in the foundation of this stellar year.
First off, a 30+% strikeout rate will come back to bite Hiura in the long run. Along with that, a BABIP of more than .400 suggests he was lucky. Heading over to Baseball Savant, that may be wrong as Hiura ranked in the 88th percentile by xSLG.
Where Hiura really is a problem is on defense. With a -7 OAA, -5 DRS, and a -8.2 UZR, he’s got some work to do. However, if he keeps batting as he did in 2019, his defense won’t matter much.
2. Cincinnati Reds
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As the most recent NL Central team-traitor, Mike Moustakas has a chance to have a huge year playing in Great American Ballpark with the Reds. Last year, with the Brewers, Moustakas hit for 35 homers and an .845 OPS, all good for a 113 wRC+. Take that power into a smaller ballpark, and the 31-year-old may hit 40 homers.
Defensively, Moustakas did a fine job at second base with 0 DRS, +2 OAA, and a .2 UZR. His defense holds his own while his offense excels, and his 2.8 fWAR puts him at second place on this list.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
Kolten Wong put it all together in 2019 and it finally won him the Gold Glove in the NL. While his defense is his best attribute, his bat was good too in 2019. With a .285 batting average and a .361 OBP, Wong hit 11 homers and stole 24 bases. His offensive value added up to a 108 wRC+.
Back to that defense, Wong had 10 OAA, an amazing 19 DRS, and 5.2 UZR. Wong’s glove was already hot this spring but it all comes down to how his bat keeps up in the coming year. It was a fantastic year for Wong and he deserved all the praise he received, including this.
This is one of the only places the Cardinals lead the NL Central, so while we may not see many more of these lists ending with the Cards in first, they certainly earned it after sticking through Wong’s growing pains up until this point in his career.