Giants’ Top 5 at second base: Guardado's take

April 7th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans. With that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. We also asked fans to weigh in on Twitter:

Here is Maria Guardado’s ranking of the top five second basemen in Giants history. Next week: Third basemen.

1. Jeff Kent, 1997-2002
Key fact: Hit 351 of his 377 career home runs as a second baseman, a Major League record for the position

Kent played for six teams over his 17-year career in the big leagues, but he enjoyed his most prolific stretch during his tenure with the Giants. Acquired in a blockbuster trade that sent the popular Matt Williams to the Indians in 1996, Kent teamed up with Barry Bonds to give the Giants their most fearsome power duo since the Willie Mays-Willie McCovey era. Kent slashed .297/.368/.535 and averaged 29 home runs and 115 RBIs per season over his six years in San Francisco. He earned three consecutive All-Star selections from 1999-2001 and edged Bonds for the National League MVP Award in 2000, when he hit .334/.424/.596 with 33 homers, 125 RBIs and 7.2 WAR, all career bests. He became only the fifth NL second baseman to earn the award, joining Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, Jackie Robinson and Frankie Frisch.

2. Larry Doyle, 1907-1916, 1918-1920
Key fact: Accrued 47.1 Wins Above Replacement with the Giants, the most of any second baseman in franchise history, according to FanGraphs.

Signed for a then-record $4,500 out of the Minor Leagues, Doyle debuted with the New York Giants in 1907 and spent nearly his entire career with the club, batting .292 with a 127 OPS+ over 13 seasons. He served as team captain under manager John McGraw and helped lead the Giants to three consecutive NL pennants from 1911-13. Doyle captured the 1912 Chalmers Award as the NL’s Most Valuable Player and also won the 1915 batting title with a .320 average. His 1,591 games at second base are the most in Giants history.

3. Frankie Frisch, 1919-1926
Key fact: Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1947.

Frisch jumped straight to the Major Leagues after graduating from Fordham University in 1919, earning a contract with the New York Giants despite never having played in the Minors. He drew scrutiny after batting only .226 in his debut season, but he rebounded by hitting .280 in 1920. Frisch was even better the following season, batting .341 and stealing 49 bases, the most in the Majors. Overall, he hit .321 with a 116 OPS+ over his eight seasons with the Giants, propelling the club to back-to-back World Series titles in 1921-22.

Like Doyle, Frisch was appointed team captain by McGraw, though his relationship with his manager deteriorated as the Giants struggled to compete in subsequent years. After the 1926 season, the Giants traded Frisch and pitcher Jimmy Ring to the Cardinals in exchange for Rogers Hornsby. Frisch spent the final 11 seasons of his career in St. Louis, where he earned the 1931 NL MVP Award, three All-Star selections and two more World Series titles.

4. Robby Thompson, 1986-1996
Key fact: Leads all San Francisco-era players with 1,279 appearances at second base.

Thompson spent his entire 11-year career with the Giants, making two All-Star teams and winning the 1993 NL Gold Glove Award at second base. A first-round Draft pick of the Giants in 1983 out of the University of Florida, Thompson reached the Majors in 1986 despite not having played a single game above Double-A. He batted .271 with seven home runs and 47 RBIs, finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to the Cardinals’ Todd Worrell.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, Thompson became a fan favorite due to his grit and scrappiness on the field. He enjoyed a career year in 1993, when he hit .312 with a 136 OPS+ and 19 home runs to earn the NL Silver Slugger Award. When he retired following the 1996 season, Thompson was the all-time leader among San Francisco second basemen in most categories, including hits (1,187), doubles (238), home runs (119) and RBIs (458).

5. Ray Durham, 2003-2008
Key fact: Hit 26 home runs for the Giants in 2006, the second-highest single-season total by a switch-hitter in franchise history. J.T. Snow hit 28 homers in 1997.

A two-time All-Star with the White Sox, Durham joined the Giants on a three-year, $20.1 million deal ahead of the 2003 season. The veteran infielder battled several leg injuries over his six-year stint in San Francisco, but he remained productive when healthy, batting .276 with a 105 OPS+ over 734 games. His best season came in 2006, when he hit .293 with a career-high 26 home runs and 93 RBIs. The Giants re-signed Durham to a two-year, $14.5 million contract before dealing him to the Brewers at the 2008 Trade Deadline in exchange for Minor Leaguers Steve Hammond and Darren Ford.

Honorable mentions
Danny Richardson
spent seven seasons with the New York Giants and was worth 17.1 WAR, the sixth-highest of any second baseman in franchise history, per FanGraphs. ... Eddie Stanky earned an All-Star selection and placed third in NL MVP voting after batting .300/.460/.412 with 144 walks in 1950, his first season with the New York Giants. ... Joe Panik helped the Giants win the 2014 World Series after hitting .305 over 73 games as a rookie. He was named an All-Star in 2015 and also won a NL Gold Glove Award in 2016, becoming the first Giants second baseman to capture the honor since Thompson in 1993.