State of the Sox: Second Base
Over the next ten days I will be posting an overview of every position on the Red Sox. Today we will be looking at second base. Read the others here: First base
*Click here for an explanation of wRC+*
Second Base in 2019:
Second base was, without a doubt, the weakest position on the Red Sox in 2019. Brock Holt, Michael Chavis, Marco Hernandez, Eduardo Nunez, Chris Owings, Tzu-Wei Lin, Dustin Pedroia, and Christian Vazquez were worth a combined -0.2 bWAR while playing the position. Not only was that the third worst second base grouping in the league, it was the 18th worst position in all of baseball. There are 30 teams in MLB, each with eight position players (pitchers and designated hitters aren't being counted). That's 240 positions in baseball. And second base on the Red Sox was the 18th worst. In fact, Red Sox second basemen and Brewers shortstops were the only positions worth -0.2 WAR or worse on teams that finished above .500. Brock Holt (206 PAs), Michael Chavis (171 PAs), and Marco Hernandez (131 PAs) were the primary second basemen, with Nunez, Owings, Lin, Pedroia, and Vazquez combining for an additional 149 PAs. After seeing how ugly the overall performance of the position was in 2019, it may be surprising that both Holt and Chavis produced at an above average rate (at least offensively). Holt slashed .312/.369/.441/.810 with a 112 wRC+, while Chavis slashed .250/.333/.441/.774 with a 101 wRC+. Neither is a phenomenal fielder (although to be fair, Holt has to play 7 positions and Chavis was a third-basemen until splitting 2019 between first and second), but the true culprit(s) behind the horrible overall production was the performance of all of the part-time second-basemen. Look at these slash lines:
Eduardo Nunez (88 PAs): .198/.207/.244/.451
Chris Owings (29 PAs): .115/.207/.115/.322
Tzu-Wei Lin (16 PAs): .133/.188/.200/.388
Dustin Pedroia (13 PAs): .167/.231/.167/.397
Christian Vazquez (3 PAs): .000/.000/.000/.000
I genuinely don't know which individual statistic is the worst. Chris Owings' .322 OPS is ghastly, but it might be even worse that the team somehow gave almost 90 PAs to a guy who only had an on-base percentage of .207. Maybe the worst statistic is that Pedroia only had 13 PAs (and they were awful), but that's more sad than anything else. I personally think the worst stat of the bunch is that Eduardo Nunez managed to walk only two times in 88 trips to the plate.
Depth chart for 2020:
Brock Holt is still a free agent—and it wouldn't surprise me to see him back with the Sox—but as of right now he's not with the team. Hernandez is still in the organization, but has yet to show that he can stay healthy (and when he is healthy, he hasn't really shown that he's worth playing). Nunez is gone, having signed a minor league deal with the Mets, and Owings is with the Rockies. Right now, the Sox appear willing to go into the 2020 season with Chavis and the recently signed Jose Peraza. Jonathan Arauz and C.J. Chatham provide minor league depth. Pedroia is still trying to come back from his career-altering knee injury, and may be able to get into a few games, but we all know how that's going to end.
How second base can be better than 2019:
It would be extremely difficult for second base to be worse than it was last year. Chavis should be able to improve on his promising rookie campaign (read more of my thoughts on Chavis in the post about first base). Peraza showed pretty steady improvement throughout his career until last season, but he's still only 25 and should be able to bounce back and at least not be terrible. Arauz and Chatham are both technically shortstops, and neither is all that exciting (especially Arauz), but even if both produced at well below-average rates, they would still be an improvement on the utter garbage the team got out of their emergency second basemen in 2019. If the team signs Holt, that will help fortify the position.
How second base can be worse than 2019:
Though it is unlikely, it is possible for the Sox to get less production out of their second basemen than they did last season. Chavis could fail to make the necessary adjustments, and his performance could look like it did the last few months of 2019—which is to say, ugly. Peraza could have a repeat of 2019, a year in which he had an OPS of .631. Arauz and Chatham could fail to make the leap to adequacy, and the team could fail to sign Holt.
Pedroia returns and hits .300 with 15 homers.
Kidding, obviously. I am, however, confident that Chavis will adjust, and will perform at an above average level. I think Peraza's 2019 was at least somewhat unlucky, possibly due to a .268 BABIP, and that he will be more like the player he was in 2018—nothing special, but solid enough to play when needed. I don't love either Arauz or Chatham, and don't foresee either being a huge part of the team in 2020, but I do have a feeling that Holt will resign with Boston for cheap. As was the case with first base, I don't think that second base will be one of this Red Sox team's strengths, but it should be less awful than it was a year ago.