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Continuing our position by position ranking of the AL East, today’s focus is second base. If you missed last week’s make sure to check it out here. These rankings are a way to ramp up for the baseball season and to incite your own thoughts on the rankings. At the end of the piece feel free to comment of where you think we were wrong (and right!). So without further ado here are this week’s rankings.
1. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox: There really should not be much argument here, as Cano’s departure for Seattle makes Pedroia the de facto premier second baseman in the division. Pedroia is a leader at the plate and on the field and does not do anything halfway. While his hard play should be praised, it did lead to a thumb injury on the first game of the season last year, which led to a decline in power (only 9 home runs). With his thumb fully healed, expect Pedroia to be on top of his game this year.
2. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays: Zobrist saw time at second base, shortstop, DH, and all outfield positions last year, so to qualify him as a second baseman would be selling him short. Part of Zobrist’s value is his ability to play many positions at an average to an above average level. He is not the flashiest player, but he is adept at working the count and waiting for his pitch. A strong season from Zobrist would go a long way to helping the Rays compete.
3. Brian Roberts, New York Yankees: At this point there is a significant drop in talent from two to three and not much difference between three and five. Roberts gets the edge here because he has had the most successful seasons in his career. Unfortunately the last time Roberts played more than 60 games was in 2009 and he is now 35 years old. He does still have the ability to walk and a hit a few doubles, but at this point he is a shell of himself.
4. Jemile Weeks/Ryan Flaherty, Baltimore Orioles: Both 27 years old, neither of these players are particularly inspiring. Flaherty has a .221 career average and Weeks played all of 8 games at the Major League level last year. Flaherty has some power potential (10 home runs in 85 games) and Weeks is a speedster, but neither have shown the ability to consistently get on-base. Expect second base to be a problem area for Baltimore all season.
5. Ryan Goins/Maicer Izturis, Toronto Blue Jays: Maicer Izturis was a solid utility player for the Angels for eight seasons. His is an unspectacular everyday second baseman for the Blue Jays. He posted his lowest OBP since his rookie season in 2004 and at age-32 it does not look like he is going to improve anytime soon. Goins is likely to see some time at second base as well, but the 25-year-old second baseman was an average player in the minor leagues, so he’ll probably be below average at the majors.
1. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox: With Robinson Cano out of the AL East, the debate for best second baseman in the division is much easier to answer. Pedroia may have had less pop in 2013 due to an injury to a thumb ligament, but he still put up some solid numbers with a .301 average, 84 RBI and 42 doubles. The nine homers may have been a let down, but, with the ligament issue healing over the offseason, the 30-year-old should be able to be in double digits in 2014.
2. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays: It was a struggle for the Rays second baseman with a .275 average and only 12 homers and 71 runs driven in in 157 games. The plus side for the 32-year-old is that he can also play other infield positions as well as the outfield. If he makes more contact and hits in the middle of the order, then he should see better pitches throughout the season with a healthy Evan Longoria. Zobrist is a solid option, but does rank below Pedroia in the AL East debate.
3. Kelly Johnson, New York Yankees: The pop in Johnson’s bat is tough to come by in today’s baseball and that is what makes him one of the better second baseman in the division. He may have only hit .235 in 2013, but he did knock 16 balls out of the park from the left side of the batter’s box. Yankee Stadium should add to those power numbers with the short porch in right.
4. Ryan Flaherty, Baltimore Orioles: With Brian Roberts out of the picture with his deal with the Yankees, Flaherty should see a majority of the time at second for the Orioles in 2014. The 27-year-old is not much of an offensive threat with only a .224 average and 10 home runs in 85 games played for the Orioles. There are other options for Baltimore at second, but Flaherty has the edge of Jemile Weeks and prospects for now.
5. Ryan Goins/Maicer Izturis, Toronto Blue Jays: Toronto Blue Jays: Izturis is the veteran of this group, but is more of a flashy glove than an offensive threat. As for Goins, he is a rookie just getting his feet wet at the major league level. The platoon here is not strong enough to be a threat at second in the division.
1. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox: With Robinson Cano on the Seattle Mariners, there is no longer any debate as to who the best second baseman in the AL East is. Pedroia not only had the most productive offensive season compared to his AL East counterparts in 2013, but he also won his third Gold Glove award in the past six seasons. At 30 years of age, the California native is at the peak of his career.
2. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays: Zobrist is a very unique talent. Although he’s not your typical power hitter, he’s always a threat for a big hit. He wasn’t as efficient in 2013 as he has been in the past, but with a .354 OBP and 36 doubles, it’s safe to say he was still productive. More importantly, Zobrist has proven himself as a durable player as he’s played in at least 156 games for each of the past three seasons. There’s no doubt Zobrist has been a big part of Tampa Bay’s lineup and will continue to be in 2014.
3. Brian Roberts/Kelly Johnson, New York Yankees: While the Yankees will no longer have Robinson Cano turning doubles plays with Derek Jeter, they’ve put themselves in a good position to keep second base a position of strength in their lineup. Adding Brian Roberts gives the Yankees a seasoned veteran with a history of being able to get on base. Also, the addition of Kelly Johnson gives the Yankees some pop in the batting order. However, health is a huge issue as these two combined for just 195 games played in 2013.
4. Jemile Weeks, Baltimore Orioles: Weeks is definitely the weak link in an otherwise loaded Baltimore infield. After only playing in eight games in 2013, there are a lot of question marks surrounding what the 27-year-old will be able to contribute. However, based on a small sample size in 2012 where he stole 16 bases and scored 54 runs in 444 at-bats, there is some potential.
5. Maicer Izturis, Toronto Blue Jays: Entering the 2014 season, there doesn’t appear to be very much that Izturis is bringing to the table beyond experience. The nine-year veteran has proven he can contribute in a lot of different ways but hasn’t shown any consistency. After playing in just 107 games in 2013, contributions from second base will be minimal for Toronto.
It looks like all three of us are in agreement with how second base shakes out in the AL East as it is easily one of the most top heavy positions in the division. Be sure to check out next week’s rankings, which will focus on third base.
Tags: AL East, Baltimore Orioles, Ben Zobrist, Boston Red Sox, Brian Roberts, Dustin Pedroia, jemile weeks, Kelly Johnson, Macier Izturis, MLB, New York Yankees, ryan flaherty, Ryan Goins, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays