Rockies' Top 5 second basemen: Harding's take

April 7th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and 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. If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Thomas Harding’s ranking of the top five second basemen in Rockies history. Next week: third basemen.

1. DJ LeMahieu, 2012-18
Key fact: From 2013-18, his final season in Purple Pinstripes, LeMahieu tallied 44 Defensive Runs Saved, according to FanGraphs, most in the National League.

At the end of the 2011 Winter Meetings, the Rockies made a quiet trade with the Cubs. The deal featured onetime top Rox prospect Ian Stewart going to the Cubs for LeMahieu. Little did anyone know the Rockies had solved their long-standing instability at second base.

LeMahieu went to two All-Star Games and earned three National League Gold Glove Awards and a Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award.

An All-Star with the Yankees last season, LeMahieu isn’t strictly a glove man. According to Stats Inc., his .299 batting average and .353 on-base percentage from 2013, when he solidified a starting job, through 2018 were third highest in the NL over that period. LeMahieu won the NL batting title in 2016.

In 918 games, LeMahieu compiled a 16.1 bWAR -- 12th in club history and 10th among position players.

2. Eric Young Sr., 1993-97
Key fact: Young’s 180 stolen bases are the most in club history -- 51 more than the No. 2 player on the list, Charlie Blackmon.

Young represented the speed component of “Baylor Ball” -- the aggressive style of original Rox manager Don Baylor. Young’s 180 stolen bases in five seasons (1993-97) are a club record. Although he hit only 30 home runs in Purple Pinstripes, in an era when the ball flew, he’s most remembered for his long ball in the first home at-bat in the club’s existence, on April 9, 1993, off the Expos’ Kent Bottenfield.

In Rockies history, Young’s 413 games and 389 starts at second base are second to LeMahieu’s 877 and 849, respectively.

3. Kazuo Matsui, 2006-07
Key fact: In 136 games over two seasons, Matsui’s 3.9 bWAR was third best for anyone in club history who played at least half his games at second.

Matsui was a star shortstop in Japan before the Mets signed him. It took a trade to the Rockies for Matsui to land at his best Major League position. Matsui provided decent production (.300/.353/.426, 45 extra-base hits in 136 games) and speed (40-for-45 on stolen base attempts). Matsui is best remembered for his grand slam and five RBIs in Game 2 of the 2007 NL Division Series.

4. Clint Barmes, 2003-10
Key fact: Barmes played all but 14 of his 320 games at second base in a Rockies uniform.

Barmes, who just may show up on the top five list at shortstop (his primary position), had a .983 career fielding percentage at second base. Barmes played a career-high 139 games at second base in 2009, when the Rockies made the postseason. Barmes had a 9.3 bWAR for Colorado.

5. Jamey Carroll, 2006-07
Key fact: Carroll was a principal figure in one of the greatest moments in Rockies history. His 13th-inning sacrifice fly drove in Matt Holliday for the winning run in the 9-8 victory over the Padres in the 2007 tiebreaker game that sent the Rockies into the postseason.

Carroll, the starter for most of 2006 and a utility sparkplug in ’07, managed a 3.5 bWAR -- fourth highest among players with at least 50 percent of their games at second base. Not necessarily known for his offense, Carroll produced a .727 OPS and 45 extra-base hits in his 244 games with the Rockies.