Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at the best players at each position. Much like the shows airing on MLB Network, there are many different ways to rank players. Mick and I both will look at different stats as well as what we have seen to come up with our lists. The next position that we will be taking a look at is Second Base.
10. Marco Scutaro, SF 2.7 fWAR, 111 wRC+, .297/.357/.369, -7 DRS
Scutaro was a key piece to San Francisco’s World Series run in 2012. After hitting .500 in the NLCS, Scutaro had the game-winning hit in Game 4 of the World Series to give San Francisco its second title in three years. In 2013, Scutaro put together another solid season at the plate. Scutaro’s strength is his ability to make contact. Last year, he only struck out in 6.2% of his at bats, the second best rate in all of baseball. In today’s game where strikeouts are frequent, having a guy with the ability to make contact can be so important for a line-up. Entering his age 38 season, look for Scutaro to continue to be an asset in the 2-hole for the Giants.
9. Jedd Gyorko, SD 2.5 fWAR, 110 wRC+, .249/.301/.444, -1 DRS
Jedd Gyorko had a strong rookie season for the Padres in 2013. Gyorko led all NL second basemen in home runs with 23. Finishing 6th in NL Rookie of the Year voting last year, Gyorko will look to continue to establish himself as a power threat for the Padres in 2014. If the Padres are going to have any chance to contend in a tough NL West, Gyorko’s power will be play a big role.
8. Neil Walker, PIT 2.7 fWAR, 114 wRC+, .251/.339/.418, +9 DRS
Walker has established himself as one of the more reliable second basemen in the National League. He is a player that doesn’t do anything outstanding, but does everything really well. Walker’s .251 batting average can be attributed to a .274 BABIP, well below his career .312 BABIP. Look for Walker to be a consistent presence in the Pirates lineup in 2014.
7. Ian Kinsler, DET 2.5 fWAR, 105 wRC+, .277/.344/.413, +11 DRS
Ian Kinsler enters an important year in his career. Entering his age 32 season, Kinsler has had two consecutive years where his OPS hasn’t been above .757, in comparison to his first six seasons where his average OPS was .822. On top of the slight decline in production, Kinsler will enter 2014 with a new organization, as Texas traded him to Detroit in a November blockbuster that saw the Rangers acquire left-handed slugger Prince Fielder. Will the change of scenery help? Will the bigger ballpark lead to a bigger decrease in production? There is no question about it, this is a big year for the thee-time all-star.
6. Aaron Hill, ARI 2.0 fWAR, 124 wRC+, .291/.356/.462, -9 DRS
Hill had a solid season in 2013, but was a bit unfortunate as well. Hill suffered a broken hand a couple of weeks into the season, costing him more than two months of his 2013 season. Despite only playing in 87 games, Hill had a strong season at the plate. If he can stay healthy in 2014, look for Hill to have a strong offensive season for the Diamondbacks.
5. Chase Utley, PHI 3.9 fWAR, 126 wRC+, .284/.348/.475, -4 DRS
Over the last four seasons, Utley has not played in more than 131 games in a season due to various knee injuries. It really is a shame, because Utley is one of the best left-handed hitters in the game when he is on the field. Entering his age 35 season, it will be interesting to see if Utley can play in 125 games. If he can stay on the field, he will give the Phillies a dynamic bat in a lineup full of question marks.
4. Ben Zobrist, TB 5.4 fWAR, 115 wRC+, .275/.354/.402, +7 DRS
I wasn’t sure if I was going to include Zobrist on this list because he plays all over the diamond. But considering he played 125 games at second, I think I had to include him. Zobrist is the ultimate weapon for Manager Joe Maddon, giving him the roster flexibility that he needs to get the best lineup on the field for that given day and matchup. Not only is Zobrist extremely versatile in the number of positions he can play, but he is also extremely productive. Since 2011, Zobrist ranks sixth among all hitters in baseball with a 17.5 fWAR, just behind the likes of Votto, Cano, McCutchen, Cabrera, and Trout. Though he may not get mentioned among those names, Zobrist is truly one of the most valuable players in all of baseball.
3. Jason Kipnis, CLE 4.5 fWAR, 130 wRC+, .284/.366/.452, -1 DRS
Kipnis put together a strong 2013 season for the surprise 92-win Cleveland Indians. Batting third for the majority of the season, Kipnis lead the Indians in hits, runs, runs batted in, and stolen bases. Though only average with the glove, Kipnis is one of the most productive second basemen offensively, ranking fourth among all second basemen with a 130 wRC+. Look for Kipnis to build off his strong 2013 and have the Indians in the hunt for another wild card berth.
2. Dustin Pedroia, BOS 5.4 fWAR, 115 wRC+, .301/.372/.415, 15 DRS
To me, Pedroia is the ultimate gamer. The guy just loves to play the game of baseball. In last year’s World Series, I will never forget the play Pedroia made before the controversial obstruction call that ended game three. The dive, the abiity to pick the short hop, the ability to get up and make the strong throw to home. It’s a shame that his effort on the play gets overlooked because of the chaos that ensued shortly after. The heart and soul of the Red Sox, Pedrioa had a very solid season last year despite the torn ligament in his thumb that occurred on opening day. Look for Pedrioa to continue to be Pedrioa in 2014, grinding out at bats, taking major hacks, and playing the best defensive second base in all of baseball.
1. Robinson Cano, SEA 6.0 fWAR, 142 wRC+, .314/.383/.516, 6 DRS
There are not many smoother things in all of baseball than Cano’s left-handed swing. Since 2010, Cano’s wRC+ has been 143, 134, 149, and 142 in each of those four seasons. In addition to the offensive production, Cano is also one of the best defenders in the game, making some of the toughest plays look so easy and effortless. It will be interesting to see how the change of scenery affects Cano. Will he have enough around him to continue to get pitches to hit? Will he be able to resurrect a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 2009 and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2001? Will Cano be able to maintain a place in baseball’s spotlight outside of New York, or will he be a forgotten man playing on the West Coast? Only time will tell, but it will be interesting to see what happens this summer in Seattle.