Like most of the other positions on the baseball field, second base offers a wide range of outcomes for the Mets.
The version where Daniel Murphy stays healthy and can hold down the position defensively is actually a potential boon to the team on par with Johan Santana regaining his ace form or David Wright swinging like it’s 2007. His offense last year- a .320/.362/.448 line in 423 plate appearances- was as good as nearly any second baseman in the game. And his range has always been strong- only the ability to stay on the field is in question.
Anyhow, that all makes ranking the Mets at this position awfully difficult, so I’ve ranked them both if Murphy stays healthy, and if he doesn’t. That would leave the job in the hands of either Justin Turner or Ronny Cedeno, and the deficiencies of both will be reflected in that ranking.
1. New York Mets (with Murphy): I know, I’m as surprised as you are. But let’s say Murphy holds down the position adequately. His OPS+ was 125 last year, so even a small regression leaves him ahead of Dan Uggla’s 109. And Murphy would have to be so massively awful in the field to surpass Uggla’s futility, I think it is fair to assume to do so he’d have to pass out in May and lie prone at second base for the remainder of the year, only stopping balls physically hit into his body.
2. Washington Nationals: Danny Espinosa over Chase Utley? We’ll get to why in a moment, but first, Espinosa. He posted a respectable 102 OPS+ last year on a .236/.323/414 line, and he’ll be just 25 in April, so further improvement is distinctly possible. His defense is probably the best in the division at the position, too. Espinosa has a home on several of my fantasy teams. Shouldn’t you find a place for him, too?
3. Atlanta Braves: Dan Uggla does few things well. But one of them is hitting home runs, and that’s good enough to push his rate value up considerably. And the other is to stay on the field, which maximizes the total value his teams get from that rate. His play at second base probably induces nausea in Bill Mazeroski’s relatives. But no one said it had to be pretty, except possibly Joan from Mad Men.
4. Philadelphia Phillies: There’s an argument to place Utley last. The next guy, Omar Infante, is a fine fielder, due for a bounceback year, and is a year removed from a 111 OPS+ and an all star appearance. But I just can’t. Utley slipped to a 109 OPS+ last year, appeared in 103 games, and his general manager seems to have no idea if or when he’ll play this year. But from 2005-2009, Utley was probably the best player in the National League other than Albert Pujols, with an argument based on position to be made for Utley. And I have this feeling he’s got a Carlos Beltran 2011 renaissance in him if he gets back that will make this ranking look foolish. Otherwise, it’s Freddy Galvis, and Infante laps him in performance.
5. Miami Marlins: Like I said above, Infante is a solid second baseman. If the Marlins fail to reach expectations in 2012, it won’t be because of Infante.
6. New York Mets (without Murphy): Oh, it’ll get ugly. Turner does not hit well for a second baseman, and his fielding is deceptively poor. Cedeno’s OPS+ last year was 76, and is 68 for his career. To put that in perspective, Brooklyn Dodger great Don Newcombe’s OPS+ for his career was 85- and he was a pitcher.
I guess what I’m saying is, pray for Daniel Murphy.