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Dodgers: Analyzing Second Base Options

Dodgers

As the winter comes along, the Dodgers have a big question mark at second base. It’s not like they don’t have any options, but nobody held the position down in 2018.

It looked like Kiké Hernandez might have locked it down in September but his post-season might have changed more than a few minds. This article will analyze some of the in house, free agent and possible trade candidates for 2019.

Below is the list of second base candidates that will be considered sorted by Fangraphs WAR.

Note: ft/sec is sprint speed of feet per second.

Player Age Bat ft/sec WAR HR RBI SB AVG/OBP/SLG
Whit Merrifield 30 R 29.0 5.2 12 60 45 .304/.367/.438
Max Muncy 28 L 27.6 5.2 35 79 3 .263/.391/.582
Jed Lowrie 35 S 26.7 4.9 23 99 0 .310/.357/.490
Scooter Gennett 29 L 26.4 4.5 23 92 4 .294/.335/.439
Jean Segura 29 R 27.9 3.8 10 63 20 .304/.341/.415
Joey Wendle 29 L 28.3 3.7 7 61 16 .300/.354/.435
Kiké Hernandez 27 R 27.8 3.3 21 52 3 .256/.336/.470
Chris Taylor 28 R 28.7 3.1 17 63 9 .254/.331/.444
Starlin Castro 29 R 27.4 2.3 12 54 6 .278/.329/.400
Jason Kipnis 32 L 26.9 2.1 18 75 7 .230/.315/.389
D.J. LeMahieu 30 R 27.2 2.0 15 62 6 .276/.321/.428
Jonathan Villar 28 S 27.6 2.0 14 46 35 .260/.325/.384
Jonathan Schoop 27 R 27.5 0.5 21 61 1 .233/.266/.416

Top Choices

Whit Merrifield – Royals

Merrifield has only has 2 years of service, despite starting 2019 at the age of 30. He is a late bloomer who is the fastest of all the candidates. He’s slightly above average defensively. From a financial perspective, he’s still pre-arbitration-eligible, so his salary in 2019 would be close to the minimum. He does hit lefties well and seems to be close to the perfect candidate for the Dodgers. The Royals will want a lot, but the Dodgers should at least give them a phone call.

Dodgers
Jul 6, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett (3) hits an RBI sacrifice fly against the Chicago Cubs during the fifth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Scooter Gennett – Reds

After two standout seasons it is safe to say that the guy named “Scooter” is for real. He hits lefties and righties well, both home and on the road. At Dodger Stadium in 2018 he slashed .714/.714/1.214 (!) as he helped lead the Reds to a 4 game sweep over the Dodgers. He plays a little above average defense, and is entering the 2019 season at the age of 28. He is eligible for arbitration this off-season and free agency after the 2019 season. MLB Trade Rumors projects Gennett to earn $10.7 million in arbitration.

Jean Segura – Mariners

Segura played shortstop for the Mariners the last two seasons. He did play 2B for the Diamondbacks in 2016 and that’s when he caught my eye. Segura is a leadoff hitter with some pop who hits both lefties and righties well. One big reason Segura is a good candidate is that he is insurance at SS in case Corey Seager isn’t ready early in 2019. He’s a good fielder, and would be an excellent candidate to bat leadoff. He enters his age 29 season with 4 years left on his contract that counts as $14 million per year for luxury tax purposes.

Joey Wendle – Rays

Another late bloomer, Wendle isn’t available for arbitration until after the 2020 season. He can also play third base and the outfield and plays good defense at second. This is the type of guy I can see Andrew Friedman wanting on the team with his versatility. Wendle was acquired for practically nothing from the A’s before the 2018 season and was a surprise. He hits lefties and righties equally well and could be an excellent fit with the Dodgers. The Rays would be selling high on him and they should consider making a move with Wendle.

In-House Options

Dodgers
Jun 28, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy (13) runs in a solo home run against the Chicago Cubs in the third inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Max Muncy – Dodgers

One of the best stories of 2018, Muncy is not a natural second baseman. In fact, he might be best as a DH but probably plays first base. During the season, and even in the playoffs, Muncy did play some 2B. He would definitely need some work to play more there in 2019, but still could severely weaken the overall infield defense. If the Dodgers don’t import another candidate, then Muncy could see some time there. If his defense was “good enough” then the offense gets a big boost by using 2B as a power position.

Kiké Hernandez – Dodgers

Kiké enters his 5th full major league season and plays all over the field very well. He had 2B locked up going into the playoffs, then had a horrid post-season. I’m assuming that he’ll be back as a guy who plays all over again. The Dodgers could decide to give him the first shot at the job. He does hit much better at home than on the road, but goes into prolonged slumps. He is still a valuable player whether he plays 2B full time or fulfills his full-time utility role.

Chris Taylor – Dodgers

Taylor is another versatile Dodger who played a lot of shortstop after Corey Seager was hurt, and before Manny Machado was acquired. The 2018 season saw CT3 end up with reverse splits, while developing a huge strikeout problem. I hope the new hitting coach works closely with him in spring training. Taylor has excellent speed and would be a strong defensive 2B, if he played there full time, but he may be an outfield candidate. He’s another versatile player who will be valuable whether as a full-time second baseman, or as a full-time utility player.

Free Agent Risks

Jed Lowrie – A’s (free agent)

At the age of 35 for the 2019 season, Lowrie is the oldest candidate listed. He is also coming off of his best season, statistically. However, he generally hits righties better than lefties, as his slugging percentage differential was around 90 percentage points. He’s a good defender, and has experience at 2B, 3B, and SS. This may be his final chance to get a good contract, so he might be a risky gamble given his age, injury history and possibly already having his best season.

D.J. LeMahieu – Rockies (free agent)

As reported earlier, the Dodgers seem to have interest in LeMahieu. He is one of the top defensive second baseman in baseball, but his offense has benefited a lot by playing in Colorado. DJL does put the bat on the ball and maybe the new hitting coach could get more out of him. As a free agent, it is unknown what the cost would be, but something like 2 years/$20 million would probably get it done. I’d rather stick with the internal candidates.

Low Cost Options

Jonathan Villar – Orioles

He was acquired from the Brewers at the mid-season trade deadline for Jonathan Schoop. He can steal bases and plays decent defense. It looks like he’d be pretty cheap and might be worth the a little gamble. MLB Trade Rumors has him projected to earn $4.4 million in arbitration. He would not be eligible for free agency until after 2020 and can play shortstop. If not a full-time second baseman he’d be a nice bench piece as he’s also a switch hitter.

Jonathan Schoop – Brewers (free agent)

Schoop was just non-tendered by the Brewers because of his possible arbitration-driven salary. He had a tough time with the Brewers, but has had a lot of success with the Orioles in the past. Another above average defender, he also possess some power. In 2018, his power was better against righties. If he can be signed for $2-3 million, then he’s worth a look. Too much more than that and I’d rather stick with the internal options.

Trade Throw-Ins

Starlin Castro – Marlins

I only include him in case of a trade for J.T. Realmuto where Castro could be used for balancing salaries. He’s not bad and might do better in a lineup that would surround him with better players. I’d prefer not to have him. He’d count as $8.6 million for luxury tax reasons and could be a free agent after 2019 if his option is not picked up.

Jason Kipnis – Indians

Kipnis is also included for the same reason as Castro. He is clearly on the downside as he has had some injury issues. He still has some pop in his bat and plays a decent 2B. Kipnis hit much better at home than the road. If the Dodgers were to acquire him it would only be to balance out some contracts in a trade for a starting pitcher. Hopefully, it won’t happen.

Other Considerations

One thing to keep in mind is that Gavin Lux could be ready by 2020. Right now he plays shortstop but very well could be a second baseman in the future.  Omar Estevez is another one that could be ready by 2021 so the future impacts will be factored in as the front office makes these decisions. Other options like Brian Dozier, a free agent, weren’t factored in. Unless the Dodgers think he is a rebound candidate, I don’t see him coming back.

More Numbers

The following table has their AVG/OBP/SLG slash lines for their overall numbers along with how they did verses lefties, righties and home and road  splits.

Player AVG/OBP/SLG vs LHP vs RHP Home Road
Whit Merrifield .304/.367/.438 .357/.406/.538 .282/.352/.398 .307/.370/.434 .300/.365/.443
Max Muncy .263/.391/.582 .255/.361/.529 .266/.401/.601 .259/.378/.624 .267/.402/.544
Jed Lowrie .267/.353/.448 .254/.327/.386 .273/.365/.477 .250/.344/.477 .282/.362/.522
Scooter Gennett .310/.357/.490 .294/.335/.439 .317/.368/.514 .299/.342/.485 .319/.371/.494
Jean Segura .304/.341/.415 .313/.361/.442 .300/.333/.404 .282/.301/.402 .325/.379/.427
Joey Wendle .300/.354/.435 .299/.373/.437 .300/.349/.435 .256/.306/.372 .335/.392/.485
Kiké Hernandez .256/.336/.470 .260/.335/.445 .252/.338/.495 .287/.352/.564 .227/.322/.382
Chris Taylor .254/.331/.444 .232/.327/.427 .265/.333/.453 .253/.347/.471 .254/.316/.419
Starlin Castro .278/.329/.400 .293/.359/.414 .274/.320/.395 .277/.342/.380 .280/.315/.420
Jason Kipnis .230/.315/.389 .222/.292/.354 .233/.323/.402 .255/.350/.483 .207/.280/.299
D.J. LeMahieu .276/.321/.428 .330/.360/.540 .249/.303/.373 .317/.360/.433 .229/.277/.422
Jonathan Villar .260/.325/.384 .267/.315/.414 .257/.328/.374 .260/.321/.384 .259/.328/.385
Jonathan Schoop .233/.266/.416 .238/.286/.361 .230/.257/.442 .235/.268/.433 .230/.264/.398

Final Thoughts

I do like the Dodgers internal options of Hernandez, Taylor and even some Muncy. However, getting an elite second baseman like Gennett or Merrifield or even Segura would improve the overall team. Being able to have a strong bat at that position while they might be very weak at catcher for offense, might warrant getting one of the elite players that might be available. One concern I do have is that the spotlight of LA is brighter than most places and we’ve seen some players not perform well.

The players available in trade are more appetizing than the free agents like Lowrie, LeMahieu, or Schoop. I do feel that the price tag on these free agents could be pretty low, so any one of them could be a viable option. All in all, there are some interesting options and it all comes down to counting the player cost and the salary cost.

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Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

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  1. To fill the hole and make a legitimate shot at winning the world series the Dodgers have to go all in. That sounds like trading for Whit Merrifield. The cost is not high when you consider we give equal value to get equal value, plus fill a position where we have a big need now and give up players that either aren’t ready now or not needed now. This one seems like a no brainer. If the Royals are interested in trading him I say, ” get ‘er done !”

  2. One other option for 2b is Corey Seager. I will not be surprised if Dodgers are very conservative with Seager’s rehab from TJ surgery and use him at 2b with occasional games at SS in 2019. Taylor or Hernandez at SS unless Dodgers acquire a player who can play SS and eventually move to 2b like Jean Segura. Segura would likely require Dodgers to include Gavin Lux in a trade package, or do Dodgers go with a stopgap counting on Lux in 2020? Dozier for one year?

    • I would think that Corey would end up at first if he can’t throw well enough. Just my own speculation. The stopgap option for Lux would be easily done with the in-house options. I would only consider Dozier on a very low base with incentives.

    • Castro has one year left and would be a good stop gap for a year if they believe Lux will be ready in 2020. I would rather they use in house options then get someone who would block Lux for 3-4 years. No Dozier, since we have Hernandez and Taylor.
      I don’t see Seager playing 2B, unless Machado were resigned, and I don’t see that happening either.

  3. They have Lux in a year or two in the wings plus others later. I like the internal guys with a mix of Taylor, Kike, Muncy and possibly Seager filling in there.
    They have pitching and OF talent they can and should trade. Segura would be a legitimate lead-off hitter and add much needed speed and can probably be obtained without trading a blue chip talent like Verdugo or Santana.
    Figure Lux is two years out although he ended up playing hitting well end of the year after moving up in Minor Leagues. Then a LeMaheiu makes sense for a two year contract. He is a Gold Glove 2nd baseman and MAKES CONTACT.

    • Love to have Segura, but doubt Dodgers can acquire him without giving up Lux and others, perhaps Kiké and Ed Rios. No thanks on LeMahieu, stats significantly effected by Coors Field.

  4. 2nd base should be Kiké’s to lose. Make him everyday player and stop f*cking around. Should have been done two years ago. Given the chance Hernandez could be a Gold Glover. This shouldn’t be an issue. It’s a Gawd damn made up issue. Save the money or the trade and put a proven player where he belongs.

    #CommonSense #CriticalThinking

    • I try to think how the front office works. I have opinions, including wanting Kiké to get more of a shot. Kiké had it locked up until his post-season disaster. Bummed for him as he is a personal favorite.

  5. For crying out loud, Muncy IS NOT a second baseman, in fact, the only thing he brought to the lineup is solo HR’s. I want to see him deliver offensively for another season before putting more stock in him. Hernandez should be given the opportunity to lock down 2B. No one plays harder all the time and brings more hustle to the game. His BA isn’t great but as long as the Dodgers are bent on analytics dictating every move every game every day, no one will bat .300 again. Looking at the stats of all the other options, remember that anyone with a good BA will falter with analytics employed. Good players need to be in the lineup every day or they will not perform up to expectations. Taylor is another option at 2B, even Seager should be considered after TJ surgery. IMO, analytics is a tool and nothing more. It destroys even the best of all players. Bury it with a shovel and then bury the shovel. Spend money on pitching and a catcher.

    • Guys like Muncy aren’t rbi guys they are rbi padders with their solo shots and sometimes 2 run homers which is great for the marathon of a season but in the playoffs you face good pitching every single game and guys like that often produce next to nothing when it matters most took them 18 innings to finally get the walk off homerun they stubbornly tried for that’s when good all around hitters come into play, in October when clutch hits are needed night in and night out unlike the season where you can just move on and say we were outmatched we’ll just feast off the easy pitcher the next few nights and we’ll win the series. Dodgers still don’t get this basic concept

    • I agree that Muncy is not a second baseman but the Dodgers keep rolling him out there. The Dodgers ended up giving Kiké the full time job by the end of the season. He wasn’t being platooned and was in the lineup every day. Playoffs may have changed that going into 2019. I’m a big fan of a steady lineup but the players need to prove themselves.

    • KC pretty much needs everything, I’d try packaging Muncy, Taylor and Wood to them for Merrifield and relief depth. All 3 are in their 20s and can fill spots on Royals. Bellinger can move back to 1B opening an OF slot for Verdugo.

  6. . Good players need to be in the lineup every day or they will not perform up to expectations. Taylor is another option at 2B, even Seager should be considered after TJ surgery. IMO, analytics is a tool and nothing more. It destroys even the best of all players. Bury it with a shovel and then bury the shovel. Spend money on pitching and a catcher.
    BleedBlueForever said it best above here. The over use of analytics were a big part of why Dodgers went home AGAIN WITHOUT A WS RING! And bottom line, 2nd base does NOT need to be a position of platooning but in any event no FA out there who is an everyday 2nd baseman will want to sign with Dodgers. Like SoCal, I would like Segura to be obtained IF the cost is not too high. If Taylor and or Hernandez are considered with Muncy, then here comes an everyday platoon at 2nd base again like last year and that is NOT the way to go for a middle of infield position.

  7. Tim, I would be Ok with Dodgers bringing back Dozier for another year or so, if for no other reason that if healthy, and he obviously was hurting during the later stages of the PS, he is good defensively and offensively and is good against LHP, which again will be a huge key for Dodgers again in 2019.

    • Dozier would need to be on a cheap incentive based contract. He also is not versatile so if he’s not the full-time second baseman then he’s a burden. Remember, the bench is only 4 deep.

      • The bench was only 4 deep because FO and Roberts felt they needed that extra BP arm, which if the SP’s were able to or allowed to be given more length in a game, they wouldn’t need an 8th reliever. Besides a bench being only 4 deep, Roberts on several occasions thus ran out of position players by the 7th inning. As far as Dozier is concerned, I would agree if he can be had on the cheap but wss.

  8. One other thing too, Muncy is NOT good 2nd base option, and he certainly would weaken the defense up the middle. Besides, other than the HR’s he hit in 2018 he struck out excessively, and would not play 2nd every day anyway, thus making 2nd base a full on platoon scenario all year long if no other moves are made. Again, IMHO 2nd base is NOT a platoon position.

    • The fact that Muncy got time at 2B during the World Series was the main factor I included him. I’m a big believer in pitching and defense. The Dodger defense was not very good last year and that hurts the pitching.

      • This may not be too popular with others but I would include Muncy in an impact deal to fill needs elsewhere, thus returning Bellinger to 1st base FULL Time. that would ease up the OF log jam.

      • 2B is a more pressing issue than 1B. Also, correcting previous statements by all…Muncy, by the numbers above, was not just an HR/Solo HR hitter. Look at his RBIs. That is nothing to discount. As for strikeouts, let’s be fair, and look at EVERY member of the Team, and how many times they had down streaks, some very long lasting. I think every member, including the great Mr. Belli was horrible with down streaks, even in the WS.

        Speaking of WS, I ask again, that you take a look at ALL members of the Team that did not bring their A game, in terms of both strikeouts and HRs. That includes reliables such as Turner, and even Freese (5) SOs? The WS was not lost on one player, and the Defense issues were not on Muncy…NOT ONE. No, I am not for Muncy at 2B, except part-time, but you all sure give him an unfair rap.

      • p.s. – Muncy’s sprint speed is in the top half of those listed, which is another area you sell him short on. And, from any base, he has a cannon arm, with accuracy, which has been proven beyond question. His first DP from 2B to 1B was a millisecond too late, but he more than made up for it on the next attempt. Even the broadcasters made mention of it. Muncy ended innings 4 & 7 of the final game at 2B, including a DP to 1B. We’re talking WS! And a position he had not played much in 2019. https://www.facebook.com/DodgersRecaps/videos/320573718530231/

      • Re: Pacificrk: Muncy hit many home runs and had very good RBI production but the vast majority of HR’s were solo shots. If you look deeper into his history, he has never had anything close to those stats, so to believe he will continue to do this is very premature and overly optimistic. I like Muncy but I sure want to see him produce those numbers for another season before I put more value to him. Nevertheless, he is no second baseman. With Hernandez, Taylor, Dozier, and Seager, we’ve got that position covered. But lets face reality here, when analytics are employed as extensively as the Dodgers used them in 2018, there were only three positions most frequently not impacted: 3B, SS, and catcher. So when we look to consider who is to become the second baseman, the short answer is: everyone. I dislike this approach more than anything in baseball. What non-Dodger player out there who plays 2B will want to sign with LA knowing he will be platooned? His offensive numbers will plummet. Analytics has a way of gradually homogenizing everyone to “non-star” status of just average performance.

  9. Many good comments in this thread. Platooning and analytics have a place in baseball, but when the entire lineup card is built around this approach all the time, I don’t believe it’s benefits outweigh it’s compromises. Learn small ball techniques and employ them as required. Be smart and learn to bunt successfully and make the opposing teams defense pay dearly when they use the shift. Stop swinging for the fence all the time…swing for base hits which will also cut down on strike outs. Drive the ball to the opposite field by going with the outside pitch. Let’s play all the angles to win games.

    • I concur BleedBlueForever, and as I said before the inconsistency is obvious, what with players in different spots in the order, and regulars being in and out of the lineup on a daily basis, not knowing if and when they will play. And correct about Muncy as far as solos go and all. Pitchers have and WILL adjust to him like they do for most players and Muncy IMHO is trade able towards filling 2nd base should Dodgers decide not to stay strictly in house. Again, 2nd base by NO MEANS should be a platoon position as Dodgers did last year. But that most likely was a result of guys having poor numbers against either LHP or RHP.

  10. Bleeds Blue Forever, as stated, I am not a fan of Muncy at 2B (although he does have a pre-2018 history there), except as a part-timer, reliever, etc. But FTR, I will defend his unexpected WS performance at 2B, with little prior 2018 time at 2B. He ended 2 WS innings with his plays at 2B, including a DP to 1B, both helping Kershaw. Granted, he was a millisecond late on his first DP to 1B, but he was spot on, and kicked up for the next one. The errors related to Defense in the Post-Season were not on Muncy. He has a cannon arm, with a perfect aim from all infield positions. And, Muncy’s sprint speed, which also gets a bad rap at times, is in the top half of those listed above. Even broadcasters have commented on how fast he runs, and slides. Stolen bases, not so much. Again, I am not a fan of Muncy at 2B, but he is available when needed, and does know the position. I’ve seen some replays of his 2B plays through the 2018 season, and they have been impressive.

    As for Offense, you are right about the perils of platooning, and not playing full time, or even full games, etc. Muncy hit 35 HRs with a total of 79 RBIs. If we were to call all of them Solos (which they were not), he would still have an additional 44 RBIs. Just imagine if he had been allowed more at-bats! I hear ya! 🙂

    • Pacificrk, I agree that 2nd base is a position of priority, but again it should not be strictly a platoon position. But if he (Muncy) is here in 2019 and no other moves for 2nd are made but to keep it in house, then they would platoon again there because of this obsession of L-R-L-R. It appears that Dodgers have this philosophy of believing the LHB in the organization never have or will hit equally well against LHP. They sure are not given much chances to. Then again, these players just may be those that are just only effective against the pitching of the opposite side. More than anything many including me would simply like to see Bellinger return to his gold glove position of 1st base full time thereby relieving some of the OF log jam.

  11. BTW, I also agree that the entire offense has to take the blame for the end result of this WS. Way too many K’s by everyone, especially showing no approach at all with 2 outs and RISP. But let me also say this…the pitching has almost an equal amount of blame for giving up HR’s at the inopportune times. Dodgers hit 6 HR’s in this WS but Boston hit 8, including 4 in winning game 5 and the WS altogether.

  12. BleedBlueForever makes a great point that I have basically talked about in the recent past:
    “What non-Dodger player out there who plays 2B will want to sign with LA knowing he will be platooned? His offensive numbers will plummet. Analytics has a way of gradually homogenizing everyone to “non-star” status of just average performance.”
    Concur and I will also suggest that most FA’s out there and even those players in line to be traded will NOT want to come to this team for fear of this platooning to obsession.

  13. Just to be clear: I am not saying that Muncy hasn’t the needed offensive and defensive skills the Dodgers need, but he’s never come close to 35 HR’s and 79 RBI’s in his career prior to coming to LA. I’d like to see him perform that way in 2019. Remember Bellinger’s rookie numbers when compared to 2018? We’re overstocked with players which indicates to me that analytics will raise its ugly head again in 2019…sad. How many .300 hitters did we have in 2018? There’s a reason for that.

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