The second base is a position is one that hasn’t muster a whole lot of true star power relative to the other positions in baseball. When you think up a list of the greatest baseball players of all time you may only come across one or two second baseman in the bunch that belong in the conversation. This is particularly because second basemen are less flashy than other positions. They are singles and doubles hitters who score runs, tend to have speed on the bases and rarely display power. So let’s get it started.
Honorable Mention: Alfonso Soriano
Soriano only played 5 seasons as a second baseman before moving to the outfield. Had he spent more time at second then he would have been fairly high on this list. During those 5 seasons, Soriano displayed a rare combination of power and speed as he averaged 32 home runs and 33 stolen bases a year. He also averaged 39 doubles and 100 runs scored a year while batting .282.
15) Joe Gordon
Looking at Gordon’s career numbers doesn’t spark much awe when compared to all hitters. But compared to other second basemen he leaned more towards a power hitter. He drove in over 100 RBI four times in his 11 year career and hit over 25 home runs five times. He often had a low batting average, breaking .300 just once and never stole more than 18 bases in a season and only stole more than 12 just once.
14) Frankie Frisch
Frisch was more of what you would expect from a second baseman in terms of their offense. He led the league in stolen bases 3 times and scored over 100 runs 7 times in his 17 year career. Frisch had a 12 year stretch from 1920 to 1931 where he batted over .300 and stole more than 20 bases in every season except one. He did not hit for power, never hitting more than 11 home runs in a season and only slugged higher than .500 once in his career in 1930 when he hit a career high 46 doubles.
13) Jeff Kent
The first 5 years of Kent’s career were nothing to write home about, but he was able to find success when he landed in San Francisco in 1997. For the next 9 seasons Kent would average 28 home runs and 110 RBI a season while maintaining a .296 average. During his first five seasons his highs were 21 homers, 80 RBI and a .292 average. He was quiet on the basepaths, stealing double digit bases only 3 times in his career and scoring over 100 runs just three times as well.
12) Robinson Cano
Cano has fallen off his mark since joining Seattle, but while in New York he was one of the top second basemen to have played the game in recent years. He had a rough season in 2008, but was able to bat above .300 in each of his other 7 seasons with the Yankees while hitting 40+ doubles and 15+ homers each year. Since joining Seattle, he has only hit .300 once and has not matched his doubles output though he did have his best power hitting season while in Seattle in 2016 when he hit 39 homers.
11) Ryne Sanberg
Sandberg is recognized as one of the best defensive second basemen in the game with his .989 fielding percentage and 11 Gold Gloves. Though he was a great fielder, he was also quite capable with his bat. Though he wasn’t typically a power hitter he did have a surge of power in 1989 and 1990 when he hit 30, then 40 home runs before dropping back down to 26. Sandberg often hovered around the .300 mark, crossing it 5 times and batting over .284 another 4 times. His best season came in 1984 when he won the MVP with a league leading 114 runs scored and 19 triples. Along with his glove and a decent bat, Sandberg was a great baserunner consistently stealing 20+ bases a year and even stole as many as 54 in 1985.
10) Roberto Alomar
The 10x Gold Glover has had a great career was just as capable with the bat as his glove. He didn’t hit for average quite like some others on this list, but did bat over .300 nine times. He also only scored 100+ runs 6 times and stole 30+ bases 8 times. Throughout his career he only led the league in one category when he scored 138 runs in 1999. He was a very consistent doubles hitter though, hitting between 23 and 43 two-baggers in each of his first 16 seasons.
9) Jose Altuve
The reigning MVP, Altuve has grown into one of the premier players in all of baseball over the past 4 seasons. He has amassed over 200 hits in each of those seasons, leading the league every year as well while also leading the league in batting average 3 times and stolen bases twice. He has hit 39+ doubles in each of the last four seasons as well. Altuve has found some power in his swing in the last two seasons smacking 24 homers in each campaign. While the other aspects of his offense took a couple seasons to mature Altuve did establish himself as a baserunner from the beginning, stealing over 30 bases in each of his first 6 seasons in the Majors.
8) Joe Morgan
Though Morgan only batted over .300 twice in his career he made up for it with his high walk ratio leading to an OBP over .400 nine times in his career, leading the league in that category four times. When he got on base he was a menace to pitchers, averaging 54 steals a season during a 9 year stretch from 1969 to 1977. He is a 2x MVP winning the award in back-to-back seasons in 1975 and 76. 1976 was Morgan’s best season in terms of power as he had a career high 27 homers and led the league in slugging percentage while stealing 60 bases. In 1975 Morgan led the league with a .466 OBP aided by a league leading 132 walks. His high OBP was accompanied by a career high 67 stolen bases.
7) Eddie Collins
Eddie Collins was a second baseman who scored a lot of runs, stole bases and had a ton of singles. Collins never hit more than 6 homers in a single season and only had 47 for his career. However he did have 12 seasons in which he hit over 10 triples. Collins ranks 11th all time in hits with 3315, 1st among 2nd basemen. Of those 3315 hits, 2643 were singles ranking him 3rd all time behind Ty Cobb and Pete Rose. Collins was also a master on the bases. Though it only lasted for one season, Collins set the modern (after 1900) single season mark for stolen bases in a single season in 1910 when he swiped 81 bags. Cobb would swipe 83 the following season. Collins’ career total of 741 stolen bases still ranks him 8th all time.
6) Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson most known for breaking the color barrier and leading the Dodgers to a World Series Championship was also one of the best 2nd basemen to play the game. Breaking into the league at the age of 28, Robinson led the league in stolen bases with 29. While he clearly possessed the ability to steal bases, he would only reach that mark one other time in his career in 1949 when he led the league with 37 steals and won the MVP. That season Jackie also led the league with a .342 average. He was a very consistent hitter throughout his career, lacing 30+ doubles in 6 of his 8 seasons and hitting between 12 and 19 homers each year. He also scored 99+ runs in 7 of those 8 seasons and batted over .296 in all 8 seasons.
5) Craig Biggio
Biggio was a prolific doubles hitter throughout his career and his total of 668 ranks him 3rd all time. He led the league in doubles 3 times while hitting over 40 in seven separate seasons. Along with hitting doubles he also hit 20+ homers 8 times. He never drove in over 100 RBI, but has scored 100+ runs 8 times in his career. He didn’t hit for average often, having only batted over .300 four times in his career. An interesting statistic for Biggio is that he is 2nd all time in Hit By Pitch and has led the league in that category five times.
4) Rod Carew
Rod Carew was a great fielding second baseman with a career fielding percentage of .991, but his true talent was with the bat. Like most second basemen, Carew was not a power hitter. In fact he only cracked 10 homers in a single season twice in his career compared to 5 seasons with 10+ triples. He was capable of stealing bases, though he didn’t steal as frequently as others on this list. He did have one season with 49 swipes, but over his 19 year career he only stole over 20 bases 7 times. But when it came to earning a high batting average, Carew was among the best. He batted over .300 in 15 seasons, leading the league 7 times.
3) Charlie Gehringer
Gehringer is the face of consistency when it comes to second basemen. During a 14 year streak from 1927 through 1940 Gehringer was as consistent as they come. He scored over 100 runs in 12 of those seasons with over 130 in 6 of them. He had one season in which he batted under .300, a .298 in 1932, and 8 seasons over .325. He also had 29+ doubles in all but one season during that span with 7 seasons over 40 and topping out with a league leading 60 in 1936. He also managed between 10-20 homers in 11 of those seasons. While he did get on base and score runs, he was not much of a baserunner. He did lead the league in steals in 1929 with 27, but never broke the 20 steals mark again in his career.
2) Nap Lajoie
The first star of the American League, Lajoie dominated during the inaugural season of 1901. That season Lajoie led the league in almost every major category winning the Triple Crown with 14 homers, 125 RBI and a .426 average while also leading the league in runs scored, hits, doubles, OBP and slugging percentage. Lajoie was often in the running for the batting crown, leading to heated rivalry with Ty Cobb. He went on to bat over .350 nine times. He had some speed, but didn’t steal as often as others on this list, consistently stealing between 10 and 25 bases a season throughout his career.
1) Rogers Hornsby
Arguably the best hitter of all time, Hornsby led the league in batting 7 times in his career. Of those 7 times Hornsby batted over .400 an amazing 3 times while also having another season in which he batted .397. Throughout his career he batted over .350 8 times. He did not steal bases, only stealing more than 10 in 6 seasons. But he did have more power than most second basemen, hitting 42 homers in 1922 while having another 2 seasons with 39 and hit 40+ doubles 7 times. Though he didn’t score 100+ runs or drive in 100+ RBIs very often, 6 & 5 times respectively, he did have over 120 in each occasion and topping out with 156 runs scored and 152 RBI.
Check back on Monday for our take on 3rd Basemen.