Ranking MLB's Most Electrifying Double-Play Combinations Entering 2013
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MLB middle infielders provide great entertainment with their all-around skills. Bleacher Report has selected and ranked the 10 most impressive double-play combinations entering 2013.
You'll see plenty of variance in terms of time spent playing together. Several second basemen and shortstops can practically read each others' minds. Those who have one year or less on the same team obviously lack the same rapport.
Age generally leads to loss in the "electrifying" factor, but a few 30-somethings are holding up pretty well.
Rather than examining the entire league, let's focus on the elite and exciting pairs.
All links lead to video highlights on MLB.com.
10. Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew (Boston Red Sox)
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
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These great middle infielders get the benefit of the doubt.
Every other pair to crack the top 10 has played together for at least one season. Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew, meanwhile, have yet to turn a double play together.
The former is obviously an elite individual. Sure-handed defense at second base has earned him two Gold Gloves. Moreover, elite offensive numbers atop the Boston Red Sox lineup fueled his AL MVP campaign in 2008.
Drew enjoyed several strong seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks until suffering a serious ankle injury. As 2013 approaches, however, there's confidence that he can return to above-average form.
9. Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera (Cleveland Indians)
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.
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Along with Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros, Jason Kipnis was one of just two players at his position to steal 30-plus bases last summer.
The baseball world is already quite familiar with Asdrubal Cabrera. He followed a breakout offensive year (.273/.332./.460, 25 HR) with comparable production in 2012 (.270/.338/.423, 16 HR).
Here's some of his fancy glove work.
8. Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond (Washington Nationals)
Shortstop Ian Desmond.
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Putting two lifetime shortstops together will always result in spectacular fielding.
Danny Espinosa accepted a move to the right side upon debuting in the majors three seasons ago. But when Ian Desmond missed 25 games with an oblique injury, he shifted back seamlessly and looked perfectly comfortable on this self-turned double play.
Desmond made effective use of his time on the field by more than doubling his career home run total. He earned a Silver Slugger Award for his efforts.
Watch the NL All-Star execute a difficult play in the eighth inning of a close contest.
7. Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia Phillies)
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
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This double-play combination used to be the best and most electrifying in Major League Baseball.
Now past their 34th birthdays, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins have been knocked down a few pegs.
Utley is still pretty dominant defensively, but his partner no longer has exceptional range. Each is adequate in the batter's box, though hardly intimidating.
Occasionally, we still see Rollins flashing the leather on pesky ground balls.
6. Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart (Cincinnati Reds)
Second baseman Brandon Phillips.
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Brandon Phillips, who just received his biggest-ever share of the NL MVP vote, picked up three Gold Gloves in the past five seasons.
His 2012 highlight reel is worth watching over and over and over again.
By comparison, 27-year-old Zack Cozart is relatively ordinary. His .246/.288/.399 batting line keeps the Cincinnati Reds representatives from breaking into the top five.
5. Howard Kendrick and Erick Aybar (Los Angeles Angels)
Shortstop Erick Aybar.
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The Los Angeles Angels had good reasons for locking up Howard Kendrick and Erick Aybar to big contract extensions last year.
The latter is among baseball's most underrated hitters. He's an accomplished bunter and efficient base-stealer who always gives himself a chance to reach base by putting the ball in play.
Aybar's defense was rewarded with a Gold Glove in 2011. Brendan Ryan of the Seattle Mariners stood in the way of a repeat.
Kendrick was a dominant .360/.403/.569 hitter in the minor leagues. Though he hasn't posted such otherworldly stats at the next level, he provides offensive consistency.
4. Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Reyes (Toronto Blue Jays)
Second baseman Emilio Bonifacio.
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Utility man extraordinaire Emilio Bonifacio has major league experience at six different positions. Odds are that he'll play second base, seeing as how the Toronto Blue Jays have established regulars elsewhere on the diamond.
He was literally recording a stolen base every other game through mid-May of 2012 before succumbing to a thumb injury. That kept him sidelined for eight weeks. After a spell of good health, Bonifacio re-sprained it.
Simply put, it was a frustrating year for fans who wanted to watch him run wild.
Jose Reyes loses a few points for his pedestrian defense, but epitomizes "electrifying" with blazing speed of his own. Here's a clutch triple where he slid in safely without a relay throw.
3. Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus (Texas Rangers)
Shortstop Elvis Andrus.
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Second baseman Ian Kinsler has the distinction of being the only active MLB player with multiple 30-30 seasons (2009 and 2011).
He's a gritty player like Dustin Pedroia, who excels in every facet of the game despite lacking elegance. Coincidentally, they started together at Arizona State University.
Kinsler and Elvis Andrus have a special rapport after four full summers and two World Series runs as middle-infield partners.
Aside from being an awesome defender, Andrus is gradually becoming a more disciplined hitter.
2. Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
Second baseman Robinson Cano.
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These big-boned superstars have the oldest combined age of any double-play combination. They also stole far fewer bases than any other top-10 pair.
Robinson Cano compensates with his rocket throwing arm, picturesque swing and elite power numbers. He finished sixth place or better in each of the past three AL MVP votes.
Meanwhile, the New York Yankees captain is coming off a campaign where he led the league in base hits. The 38-year-old Derek Jeter certainly won't be mistaken for previous versions, but he continues to be a difference-maker.
Eventually, Cano and Jeter will be remembered as two of the greatest offensive players to ever play second base and shortstop, respectively.
1. Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro (Chicago Cubs)
Shortstop Starlin Castro.
David Banks/Getty Images
With a middle infield of Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro, the Chicago Cubs could be contending again in the near future.
Most of Barney's value is tied to his ridiculousness as a second baseman.
You'll seldom see this ricocheted chopper converted into an out. Barney's quick release made it close and fooled the umpire.
Beyond athleticism and understanding of defensive situations, Barney has terrific hands. He went 141 games without committing an error, which tied a major league record at the position. Understandably, he was recognized with Fielding Bible Award and Gold Glove honors after the season.
Castro has accomplished so much prior to turning 23. He already hits for enough power to justify a spot in the heart of the batting order.
Like his teammate, this former top prospect possesses impressive range and agility.
The Cubs should be elated to have him under team control through 2020.