Few positions are as important as second base. A classic second basemen is a quality hitter, a plus defensive player, and a speedster on the bases. In lieu of MLB Network’s own Top 10 Right Now series, here’s Overtime’s Top 10 MLB Second Basemen.
10. Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Dodgers
Howie Kendrick’s consistency year in and year out keeps him in the top 10 as he enters his age-33 season. Kendrick is always a lock for a .290 average, 10 homers, a .750 OPS, and fine defense. The Dodgers liked what they saw in Kendrick in 2015, re-signing him to a 2-year, $20 million contract.
Kendrick hasn’t shown signs of aging yet, but his inevitable fall will come sooner or later. He has opened up to the idea of playing some third or first base if needed, which could prolong his career. But right now, few are more dependable than Howie Kendrick.
9. Neil Walker, New York Mets
Another player known for his reliability, Walker was traded to the Mets this offseason for Jon Niese. Walker in Pittsburgh went from an underrated player to arguably an overrated one, but he is still a top 10 talent. Figures such as a .270 average, 18 homers, and a .760 OPS are always within reach for Walker.
Walker fits nicely on the Mets’ roster. He is a nice placeholder at second base until Dilson Herrera gets a hold on the big league job, and can provide some leadership to the young Mets squad. Walker’s consistency is his greatest asset, and you can be sure that the Mets will count on him in 2016 and beyond.
8. Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins
A move from shortstop to second base in 2014 proved to be the lightbulb moment for the 5’11”, 170 lb Gordon. In his first year with the Marlins, Gordon was a classic table-setter: his .333 average was good for the NL batting title, he got on base at a .359 clip, and when he reached base he didn’t stay put for long, swiping a whopping 58 bases. And when you add in his “flashy” defense, Gordon was a well-deserved NL All-Star.
The Marlins and Gordon reached a 5-year extension this offseason, so it’s obvious that they expect even more growth from Gordon. His slugging percentage has improved each year, and a little more cheap power would send his status through the roof.
7. Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs
It is a known fact that Ben Zobrist can play any position except catcher, but the bulk of his work comes at second base year in and year out. The former Tampa Bay Ray won a World Series title with the Royals in 2015 before reuniting with his former skipper, Joe Maddon, in Chicago this offseason. The 4-year, $56 million pact he signed seems pricey for a 34-year-old utilityman, but the teams he plays for always maximize his value.
Zobrist had his best season in years in 2015, hitting a combined .276 with 13 dingers, an .809 OPS, and displayed his usual positional versatility. Zobrist will play a crucial role in the Windy City in 2016.
6. Joe Panik, San Francisco Giants
Boy, if only Joe Panik could stay healthy. His totals through a little over 1 MLB season (173 games) are staggering: a .309 average, 9 home runs, a .783 OPS, and a World Series title in 2014. The Yonkers, NY native has battled numerous injuries in his career thus far, but a little health could go a long way for Panik.
Panik plays excellent defense at second base and has room to grow at only 25 years old. He is a key piece on the Giants’ team, and they will need a healthy season from him if they want to challenge for the Commissioner’s Trophy.
5. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
Pedroia is one of those classic cases of a guy who didn’t do anything wrong except age and get hurt. The 5’9″ rascal actually posted his best statistical season since 2012, but only played in 93 games. Injuries always take away from Pedroia’s impact, which is why the Red Sox have Yoan Moncada groomed to take over second base in the near future.
But when Pedroia is on the field, he is still quite good. He hit .291 last year, popped 12 taters in only a half-season, and played his usual steady defense. One of the Red Sox’s best leaders, look for Pedroia to have a bounceback 2016.
4. Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers
Kinsler’s power has fallen into a dark place, but the rest of his game remains steadfast. A .296/.342/.428 2015 campaign will still get the job done, and his 10 steals, consistent glove work, and .770 OPS are nice bonuses. In fact, 2015 may have been Kinsler’s best year since 2012 or 2013.
Sure, Kinsler never took off to the top of the second base class like some expected of him, but he is still a winning player. Comerica Park sapped him of some of his homers, however his average, doubles, and triples are better than ever, and he rarely strikes out. You can do much worse than Ian Kinsler at second base.
3. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
This may seem like a very high spot for a guy two seasons removed from a disastrous .240, 6 homer, .640 OPS season, but Kipnis is definitely past those dark days. His bounceback 2015 season saw him hit .303 as the Indians’ leadoff hitter, swat 9 homers, and improve his OBP to a robust .372.
Kipnis is entering his age-29 season, so he is squarely in his prime. If he can solve left-handed pitching (.679 OPS vs. LHP last year) and get back to stealing bases (only 12 last year after seasons of 31, 30, and 22), Kipnis will be in the top 3 conversation.
2. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
Jose Altuve has made great strides throughout his Major League career. A 5’6″, 165 lb dynamo, Altuve has won a Gold Glove and 2 Silver Sluggers in addition to making the 2014 and 2015 AL All-Star teams. Altuve was a good player from 2011-2013, but he has absolutely skyrocketed over the last two years. The big thing for Altuve has been a major increase in hits (league-leading 225 and 200 in 2014 and 2015) and power (96 point increase in slugging from 2013-2015).
Altuve is one of baseball’s preeminent glove men, and he steals bases with the best of them (average 41 per year). If he is able to continue this production, it will only be a matter of time until he’s number 1. Houston sure has the MLB’s best middle infield with him and Carlos Correa manning the middle.
1. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
It was a very tough choice distinguishing either Jose Altuve or Robinson Cano as number 1, but I ultimately went with Cano. Even when we think that Cano is having a bad year, he is having a consistently above-average one. While his two years in Seattle haven’t been what he or the Mariners have expected, he remains the benchmark of all second basemen. His .287, 21-homer, 107-strikeout season is definitely his worst, but take a look at these splits: before June 20, he was hitting .245 with only 2 homers. But after, he hit .317, smashed 19 bombs, and had an .892 OPS.
June 20 was the date that Edgar Martinez took over as the M’s hitting coach. If Martinez can keep Cano in that post-June 20 statline, he is undoubtedly baseball’s top second basemen.