As we all probably know by now, the National League East will be among the most competitive divisions in Major League Baseball. A good reason why is because the position player groups have been upgraded across the board. Last week focused on first base. This week it’s all about second base, where the player on perhaps the most team-friendly deal of all-time plays, Ozzie Albies.
Before we move on, to make these evaluations as accurate as possible, we need to look at not just offense but also defense and baserunning. It is also a wise idea to evaluate numbers that encompass multiple stats in one (DRS, UBR, WAR, etc.) to better show a player’s full body of work.
We all love Ozzie, so let’s start with him. He was injured and only played in 29 games last year. In his limited action, he slashed .271/.306/.466 — good for a 99 ops+. It is hard to judge him from just 29 games, especially when he was dealing with a wrist issue for a large portion of those games, but his career numbers are just slightly better — 107 ops+ in 404 games.
Defensively, being a converted shortstop, Albies is elite at second base. From 2018-19 he accumulated 3.5 defensive Wins Above Replacement, thanks to 29 Defensive Runs Saved. If you do the math, that is about 11.6 DRS per 162 games played. Ozzie also has 11.7 WAR for his career, averaging 4.7 WAR per 162 games played. If you want to look at his baserunning, his Ultimate Base Running (UBR) so far is 7.5. Needless to say, Ozzie brings more value than just his bat.
Albies has some competition at his position in the NL East, though. Jeff McNeil has averaged about 6.14 WAR per 162 games played thus far. He is undoubtedly one of the most underrated players in baseball, posting a 139 ops+ over his career with a slash line of .319/.383/.501. McNeil does not have the raw power of Albies (ISO of 182 to 195), but he still has had a better slugging percentage to this point. He is also not as good defensively. Some of his counting stats are a bit messy due to playing out of position, but so far, McNeil has only accumulated 1 DRS at second base in 774 innings. Oddly, in 245 innings at third, he accumulated 5. McNeil also lacks in the UBR department, thus far accumulating -0.6 UBR.
Jon Berti is the second baseman for the Marlins. He has a much smaller sample size than the previous two. So far, he averages about 3.61 WAR per season, with a 102 ops+ and a slash line of .269/359/391. His defense to this point seems to be slightly below average, as he has accumulated 0.3 dWAR, with a negative Ultimate Zone Rating and -2 DRS. He does, however, make up for it in the baserunning department, already accumulating 4.8 runs via UBR.
For the Nationals, ESPN has Starlin Castro slotting in as the starter, but there is definitely a chance that Luis Garcia will take over. For this exercise, we will go with Castro because he still has the leg up. Castro has been in the league much longer than any of the other guys in this position group, so let’s use 2019 and 2020 combined since age is catching up. He combined for a 93 ops+ and 1.8 WAR in those seasons, with a slash line of .270/.300./.437. His batting average is very deceiving because his OBP is so low. In fact, he’s only had only 31 walks to 124 strikeouts in his past 739 plate appearances. Oddly, Starlin has actually improved defensively with age. For his career, he has -47 DRS. But, since the start of 2019, it has accumulated a positive 5 mark. As far as baserunning goes, Castro is pretty league average. For his career, he has accumulated 0.6 UBR, with 0.2 since 2019.
Finally, we have Jean Segura of the Phillies. He has been in the league 11 seasons, and at age 30, is a bit past his prime. So, we will use the last two years as we did with Castro since we are not evaluating a player’s full career but where they stand now. Segura posted a 95 ops+ with a slash line of .276/.329/.421 over the last two seasons. He is terrific on defense, being a converted shortstop like Ozzie Albies, with 0.8 dWAR in his last 198 games. From a DRS standpoint, he has was not very good at shortstop in 2019 with -4, but in the shortened 2020 campaign, he had 3 DRS at second base. Looking at his baserunning, this is an area where he stands out. Segura has a UBR of 4.8 since the start of 2019, and oddly, has improved his baserunning with age. That typically does not happen.
So, if we were to rank them, taking into consideration where they stand now:
As much as it pains me not to pick Albies here as the best in the National League East, McNeil has outperformed him to this point. Now, if Ozzie can stay healthy, there is a chance this could change in 2021.
Let’s see your rankings in the comments!