Let’s be honest, the decisions at catcher and first-base weren’t what you’d call particularly taxing. Miguel Montero and Paul Goldschmidt were, far and away, the quality of the D-backs at those spots in the 2010s (with apologies to Clan Gosewisch!). But you can’t say the same at this position, where there are a number of candidates for whom a case could be made. Below is a chart showing everyone who started for the D-backs this decade at second-base. We’ll then take a look at the five leading candidates.
Aaron Hill (413 starts)
The longest-tenured candidate played in Arizona for half the decade, from 2011-15. He arrived in a post-waiver trade with Toronto, and hit .315 down the stretch, plus an .879 OPS in the NLDS. A free-agent that winter, he re-signed with the D-backs on a two-year, $11 million contract. He had a stellar 2012, winning the Silver Slugger and getting MVP mention, putting up 5.1 bWAR. After signing a three-year, $35 million extension before the 2013 season. Aaron had his hand broken by a pitch against (surprise!) the Pirates early on that campaign. The injury lingered; he never seemed quite the same thereafter, and was dealt to the Brewers in the Segura deal in January 2016.
Kelly Johnson (252 starts)
Our first regular second-baseman of the decade was signed as a free-agent just two days before the 2010’s began. Few players have got off to a faster start as a D-back, In April, Kelly has a slash of .313/.404/.750, for a 1.154 OPS, winning NL Player of the Month honors in his opening month with Arizona. Overall, Johnson batted .284 with 26 homer-runs in his first year with Arizona, including hitting for the cycle against the Giants on July 23. He was under control for 2011 as well, but Kelly wasn’t able to reproduce the fine form of the previous season. He hit only .209 before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in late August, bringing to Arizona both Hill and John McDonald.
Ketel Marte (150 starts)
Marte was initially a shortstop, and that’s how he began his career in Arizona, as an injury replacement for Nick Ahmed in June 2017. He made such a good impression that the following season, Ketel was kept in the line-up, but moved to second, displacing Brandon Drury. He started 105 times there for the Diamondbacks in 2018 (+ 27 more at short), batting .260 with a dozen home-runs, and led the league in triples (12). Last year, Marte was shifted again, playing mostly in center. However, he still had 45 starts at second-base, and 85 games in total. Marte ended up leading the team in fielding innings at both second-base and center, which has got to be an uncommon occurrence!
Chris Owings (144 starts)
CO ties with Hill, both men having started games at second in five separate seasons this decade for Arizona. It would have been a team-leading six for Chris, but his only appearance there in 2016 was off the bench. The previous year was Owings’s main season at the position, making 101 starts, on his way to what remains a career-high 147 games. But at the plate, Chris’s best year was the one before that campaign: an OPS+ of 95 in 2014, but in that season, he was mostly a shortstop. Few players have been as flexible as Owings. In 2018 alone, he started multiple games at five different positions for the D-backs: all three outfield spots as well as second- and third-base.
Jean Segura (133 starts)
I generally lean away from “one-year wonders” when looking for candidates. But Segura’s single season here was just so impressive, I had to give him the edge over Brandon Drury (121 starts, spread across parts of three years). In that one year, 2016, he led the league with 203 hits, batting .316 with twenty home-runs. At 5.5 bWAR, it tied Segura for the best single-season at the position in franchise history - with, of all people, Craig Counsell’s 2005 campaign. It netted Jean a 13th-place finish in MVP voting that year, just two places behind Paul Goldschmidt. But he was still shipped out to Seattle in November, in the first big move of the Mike Hazen era. Seems to have worked out okay though...
Writing up the above, one thing stood out. It’s funny how the chain of second-baseman has worked, covering almost the entire decade. Kelly Johnson was traded for Aaron Hill, who was traded for Jean Segura, who was traded for Ketel Marte. But anyway, it’s going to be interesting to see how voting goes here. For example, will Hill’s longevity counter Segura’s meteor-like flashing across the Arizona sky? I’m curious to hear how people decide who gets their vote, and as ever, that would be what the comments section is for...
Who is the Arizona second-baseman of the decade?
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