NL Central Preview: Second Base

Moving on around the infield, it’s time to take a look at the NL Central’s second basemen.

It’s the first of the middle infield positions and one where offensive performance is rare. Usually teams prefer to have a better defensive player at second base rather than someone who is a pure offensive threat.

However, to that there are the rare exceptions, such as Atlanta’s Dan Uggla who is a second baseman by name only, his official position should read “Hitter.”

Let’s move onto the countdown, shall we?

6. Blake DeWitt, Chicago (.261, 5 HR, 52 RBI in 135 games between the Dodgers and the Cubs)
DeWitt is part of a very young Cubs middle infield, sharing it with Starlin Castro. He came over in a trade for Ryan Theriot and Ted Lilly at the trade deadline last season. It wasn’t too difficult to put him here though. His .265 batting average is the worst among my projected starters and his defensive numbers are about on par with that of St. Louis’ Skip Schumaker.

5. Skip Schumaker, St. Louis (.265, 5 HR, 42 RBI in 137 games)
“He can’t be any worse.” It’s a phrase uttered by many a Cardinals fan when they look at his 2010 defensive numbers. His .973 fielding percentage was among the lowest in the league for second basemen who had played as often as he had. However, I’m pretty sure I heard that same statement following his below average 2009 campaign as well. The disappointment to Cardinal fans rests on that batting average. Previously, Schumaker had posted two consecutive .300 seasons as the Cardinals in 2008 and 2009 only to slump with the bat this year. I felt that second base needed to be the Cardinals’ first position dealt with in the offseason, but the team decided that Schumaker was an acceptable player at second base and acquired replacements for the others. There’s no denying Schumaker’s hustle, but he’s an outfielder playing second base and after two years of it, he’s still an outfielder playing second base.

4. Jeff Keppinger, Houston (.288, 6 HR, 59 RBI in 137 games)
A natural second baseman, Keppinger first broke into the majors with Cincinnati playing 108 games at short stop in 2008. His second season in Houston was 2010 and he was given second base all to himself, and proved himself capable. His .288 batting average was second only to Neil Walker in the NL Central, while his .990 fielding percentage was second best as well. If he keeps the play up, he could definitely be a long-term second baseman in the major leagues.

3. Neil Walker, Pittsburgh (.296, 12 HR, 66 RBI in 110 games)
Walker had a very successful rookie campaign for Pittsburgh last season as he hit .296 in his 110 games for the Pirates. He also showed very good power for the position. Defensively, Walker is a solid player with his .985 fielding percentage and 4.59 range, though that is the lowest among NL Central second baseman. He might not have the range, but he usually catches what he gets to, which is really all you can ask from a player. If he’d had more games, he could have very easily moved up this list and he’s definitely a player to keep your eye on in the future. Not a bad building piece for Pittsburgh at all.

2. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati (.275, 18 HR, 59 RBI in 155 games)
Yes, that Brandon Phillips. Cardinals fans will never forget Mr. Phillips for his actions that fateful night, and unfortunately neither will Mr. Larue. Phillips put together another solid season, even if it was potentially the worst offensive season of his career. He was the best defensive short stop in the NL Central with his .996 fielding percentage and 4.81 range factor and it was recognized as he won the Gold Glove. He also scored his first All Star appearance this season as well.

1. Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee (.269, 29 HR, 83 RBI in 160 games)
In his sixth year since sticking with the major league team, Rickie Weeks finally stayed healthy for an entire season and the results showed. He led the league in Plate Appearances and At Bats and set career highes in a lot of categories. Weeks was superb offensively and solid defensively. He is my pick as the best second baseman in the NL Central.

And now with three positions ranked, here are the projections:

  1. Cincinnati — 14 pts
  2. St. Louis — 13 pts
  3. Milwaukee — 12 pts
  4. Pittsburgh — 10 pts
  5. Chicago — 9 pts
  6. Houston — 5 pts
Writer’s note: Apparently Houston signed Bill Hall to play second base since Keppinger will miss the start of the season with an injury. The good news though, is that Hall’s .247 batting average and 18 HR leave him right where Keppinger was so no change is needed to the point totals. St. Louis should find out what it’d take to get Keppinger. Do they want Schumaker to play the outfield? I’d take all the salary in that deal too.