Second base seems to be one of the more unusual positions, because it has a variety of types of players. Over the years, you’ve seen everything from amazing fielders with limited offense (Mazeroski) to guys that were above average bats, but would never have been as heralded had they played any other position (Jeff Kent, Alfonso Soriano, etc.). Today, the position still has a variety of player types, but the offense expected from this position has certainly increased. However, defense and speed on the base paths are still important factors here. So, here’s MLB Network’s top 10:
1. Robinson Cano (.302, 28 HR, 118 RBI, .882 OPS)
2. Dustin Pedroia (.307, 21 HR, 91 RBI, .861 OPS)
3. Chase Utley (.259, 11 HR, 44 RBI, .796 OPS – in 103 games)
4. Ian Kinsler (.255, 32 HR, 77 RBI, .832 OPS)
5. Ben Zobrist (.269, 20 HR, 91 RBI, .822 OPS)
6. Rickie Weeks (.269, 20 HR, 49 RBI, .818 OPS)
7. Brandon Phillips (.300, 18 HR, 82 RBI, .810 OPS)
8. Dustin Ackley (.273, 6 HR, 36 RBI, .766 OPS)
9. Howie Kendrick (.285, 18 HR, 63 RBI, .802 OPS)
10. Dan Uggla (.233, 36 HR, 82 RBI, .764 OPS)
This might be the closest I’m going to come to agreeing with MLB Network’s list in its entirety. I may put a little more emphasis on fielding and baserunning than MLBN did, but even then I don’t think I’m going to stray much from their list. Since I’m going to add speed to the equation for this position, I’ll get rid of one of the other stats I’ve been using – and I’ll make that RBI. Normally, that’s a highly valued statistic, but too many guys at this position bat near the top of the lineup, and aren’t getting the same opportunities to drive in runs that others are. And, it’s not exactly a guy’s fault that there’s never anyone else from his team getting on base in front of him. Plus, the wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) statistic is going to give us a better idea of the kind of runs the guy is generating than simple RBI will. So, the categories will be: Avg., HR, OPS, ISO, wRC+, SB, WAR, DRS, and RZR (for full explanations, see my post on first basemen). Here’s my top 10 at 2B:
1. Dustin Pedroia – this debate will rage on for several years, as both Pedroia and Cano are just now entering their prime years. This is such a tough call. But, I’m going with Pedroia – does it mean I think he’s a better player than Cano? Not necessarily. Would I rather have him in my lineup than Cano? Not exactly. But, would I rather have him playing second base than Cano? A little bit. He’s just a half-step behind Cano in offense (top-5 in six categories), but is well ahead of Cano defensively, and on the base paths.
2. Robinson Cano – top-3 in 6 of 7 offensive categories, and while he’s not on Pedroia’s level defensively, he’s certainly not a liability.
3. Ian Kinsler – other than Pedroia, he’s the only one on the list to rank in the top 10 in all nine categories. An all-around talent, and he doesn’t turn 30 until June.
4. Chase Utley – if he stays healthy, he’s fantastic. It’s a toss-up between who the best fielding second-baseman is between him and Kinsler. And, even though his last two seasons have been cut short, he still ranks in the top 10 in 6 of 7 offensive categories. I place him here because he’s had some injuries, and is already 33.
5. Ben Zobrist – top-10 in 8 of 9 categories, and is excellent on both offense and defense.
6. Brandon Phillips – doesn’t rank in the top 3 in anything, but is in the top 10 in 8 categories, including 3 top-5’s. He’s won 3 of the last 4 NL Gold Gloves, and won his first Silver Slugger in 2011.
7. Howie Kendrick – another one who doesn’t have a top-3 ranking, but he does rank in the top 10 in 7 of 9 categories, and ranks 11th in the other two. He’s one of the better all-around fielders in the game, and is above average offensively.
8. Rickie Weeks – as my friend Nick has said, “you could put a trash can out there, and it’d play better second-base than Weeks.” That’s almost true. He’s certainly in the bottom 1/3 of the league in defense. But, he also ranks in the top 3 in HR, OPS, and wRC+. Once you get past those numbers, though, he drops back to more middle-of-the-pack. That, combined with him being a liability on defense pushes him down my list.
9. Kelly Johnson – the one new name I’d add to the list (see below for explanation), he’s in the top 10 in 6 categories. His offense is very good, and his defense is fine – as in, nothing to get excited about, but it certainly doesn’t hurt his team.
10. Dan Uggla – if Uggla hadn’t gone on the tear he did in the last half of 2011, I’m not sure he has a job in 2012, let alone makes the top-10 list. He was batting well below .200, and he may very well be the worst defensive second-baseman in the game. But, he turned things around, and ended up doing so well he has the most home runs the last two years, and second highest ISO of any second-basemen. But, his defense is the definition of “liability.”
MLBN added Dustin Ackley to their list, which I think is absolutely crazy. First of all, the guy has essentially played half a season. Secondly, it wasn’t like it was some amazing 90-game debut – just look at the numbers above. Even if you assumed he could uphold those numbers for an entire season (which you can’t, because pitchers make adjustments), he only projects to be middle-of-the-pack offensively. He could be a top-5 defensive guy, but that alone doesn’t get you on my list. Sorry, but I’ll need more than half of a season to be ready to put Ackley up there with the big boys. What do you think?