Kelly Johnson: Ranking the Blue Jays Infielder Among AL East Second Basemen

Craig Amos@@CAABRMMAFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2012

Kelly Johnson: Ranking the Blue Jays Infielder Among AL East Second Basemen

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    The five starting second basemen the AL East will field in 2012 includes Brian Roberts (Baltimore), Dustin Pedroia (Boston), Robinson Cano (New York), Ben Zobrist (Tampa Bay) and Kelly Johnson (Toronto).

    Here, we will take a look at each player and assign him a ranking to see which teams enter the 2012 season with a positional advantage over their division rivals.

    The Blue Jays second baseman, Kelly Johnson, will look to return to form this summer after suffering through a miserable 2011 campaign.

5: Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles

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    At first glance slotting Roberts into the number five position seems pretty harsh, given the successful career the Orioles-lifer has had.

    However, the AL East is stacked with exceptional, all-star caliber second basemen, and Roberts' rash of injuries over the past two seasons, combined with his aging body, do little to suggest he will not be the least effective second baseman in the division in 2012.

    Roberts holds a career .281 AVG, .353 OBP, and has stolen 274 bags. He has shown flashes of power throughout his time in the bigs, but has only knocked seven homers in his last 393 at-bats.

    The North Carolina native will be 34-years-old this season, which could signify the beginning of the end of his most valuable asset, his speed. 

    Roberts could rebound in 2012 and move up a spot or two, but he enters the 2012 season as the least effective second baseman in the AL East.

4: Kelly Johnson, Blue Jays

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    Johnson has run hot and cold through his entire career. Most recently he has strung together an eclectic string of good, bad, good, bad campaigns.

    The Blue Jay has terrific power for the position and is capable of performing at an all-star level. He just has to do it.

    Johnson has collected 47 home runs over the past two seasons and has a career OBP of .343. After coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a midseason swap in 2011, Johnson hit .270, and got on base at a .364 rate.

    If he can keep that pace, he will be a tremendous asset to Toronto in 2012.

    Until he gets a full season of AL East ball under his belt, Johnson will remain an outsider looking in on the division's 'big three' second basemen. 

3: Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Zobrist is an extremely versatile ball player, but will likely see the majority of his 2012 starts come at second base. 

    The Ray is a five tool players that defends well, and hits for a combination of power and average.

    He also has good speed, which has allowed him to average 20 stolen bases per year over the last three.

    In most divisions in the MLB a third place ranking would be nothing short of insulting to the multi-talented Zobrist, but in the AL East he falls short of the two spot because of the competition he is up against.

2: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

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    Given the kind of production Cano amassed last year his position in the two-spot on this list is contentious.

    Cano put up a batting average over .300 for the third straight campaign and knocked 28 long balls in 2011. He was an all-star last year, and proved to be one of the most consistent, and best hitters at second base.

    If one were being picky, they could point out that Cano only garnered 38 base on balls last year. However, his high average compensates for that a bit, as he was able to maintain a solid .349 OBP.

    Cano would probably top the list in any other division in the game, but plays second fiddle to a certain former MVP in the AL East.

1: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

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    Pedroia's monster season in 2011 was overshadowed by the arrival of Adrian Gonzalez, the breakout year of Jacoby Ellsbury and the outright self-implosion suffered by the Sox in the final weeks leading up to the post-season. 

    Though he didn't receive the same type of publicity he got back in 2008 during his MVP season, Pedroia's all around numbers were actually better in 2011.

    Last summer Pedroia put up career highs in games played (159), triples (3), home runs (21), RBI (91), stolen bases (26) and OBP (.387).

    Heading into 2012, Pedroia will continue to be a terror at the plate. He could put up another 20-20 season as his power continues to develop. 

    The California native is also a perennial Gold Glove candidate, and will be in line to pick up his third in 2012.

    Pedroia's continual improvement, scorching offense and elite defense usher him into the position as the the best second baseman in the AL East heading into the 2012 season.

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