Second basemen have been easier to come by in recent seasons, but very few have sustained consistent production.
Top-tier talents such as Chase Utley (86 games), Dustin Pedroia (123), Ian Kinsler (150) and Rickie Weeks (204) have all missed significant time due to injury over the last four seasons; heck, even the likes of Brian Roberts, Aaron Hill, Freddy Sanchez and Carlos Guillen have missed time in recent seasons.
The only stalwart?
Over the same four-year period, the Yankees’ second baseman has missed a grand total of eight games.
Long gone are the days when Chase Utley ruled this position; Cano has finally gained the top ranking. In fact, he’s ranked No. 12 overall on my 2011 Big Board.
Despite the risk for injury, this position has major upside to offer. Six two-baggers collected double-digit home runs and steals in 2010. Two of them (Kelly Johnson and Rickie Weeks) posted a 20/10 line.
Of course, there’s also Ian Kinsler (30/30 potential), Dustin Pedroia (20/20), Brian Roberts (15/30), Brandon Phillips (20/20) and Ben Zobrist (15/25).
Even rookie Danny Espinosa has 20/20 upside and if Chase Utley makes a return before the All-Star Break, 15/10 could be in the works (though I wouldn’t bet on it).
If you’re lucky enough to land Cano with your second-round pick, you have a major advantage over your competition. Otherwise, your second baseman is probably going to come with significant risk.
1. Robinson Cano (2B - NYY): Has hit .297 or higher on five occasions (in six seasons) and sports a career .309 batting average.
His on-base percentage, slugging percentage, isolated power, fly ball percentage and HR/FB rate have all increased progressively over the last three seasons, and he’s missed a grand total of eight games over the last four years.
3. Dan Uggla (2B - Atl): Most HRs among second-basemen (154) since 2006. His 30-plus HRs finally came with a respectable average (.287) in 2010.
Given his new ballpark and loaded Braves lineup, a career-year could be in the works.
4. Ian Kinsler (2B - Tex): Three-year averages (92 runs, 19 HRs, 67 RBI, 24 SB, .285 BA) are mind-boggling, considering he’s missed a total of 118 games since 2008. Top 10 potential given a full season atop the Rangers’ lineup.
5. Martin Prado (2B/3B - Atl): Highest batting average among second basemen since 2008 (.309). Had 15 HRs, 100 runs in 2010 despite playing only 140 games thanks to a finger injury in August.
Entering his age-27 season as the Braves’ leadoff man with second base, third base and outfield eligibility.
6. Rickie Weeks (2B - Mil): Led league in plate appearances (754) and finished third in runs scored (112) last season. Tied for second in HRs (29) among second baseman and ranked third among his position in RBI (83).
Strikeout rate (28.3 percent), contact rate (75.0 percent) and DL stints in four of the last five seasons, however, raise red flags.
7. Brian Roberts (2B - Bal): Average season of 598 at-bats, 99 runs, 13 HRs, 64 RBI, 37 steals, .294 batting average from 2005 to 2009 before being limited to just 59 games due to neck and back injuries last season.
Back issues this spring foreshadow a possibly season-long problem.
8. Aaron Hill (2B - Tor): Lowest BABIP (.196) in at least 40 years and fifth-highest fly-ball rate (54.2 percent) last season yielded embarrassing .205 batting average.
Assuming he makes the necessary adjustments at the plate, 25 HRs and a .270 batting clip are reasonable.
9. Brandon Phillips (2B - Cin): Declining HR/FB rates and stolen base efficiency means he’s no longer a lock to post 20 HRs and 20 steals.
10. Ben Zobrist (1B, 2B, OF - TB): Advanced batting eye (14.0 percent walk rate) and fly-ball rate (38.1 percent) remained intact last year, but deflated HR/FB rate (6.0 percent) and unfortunate BABIP (.273) kept him from repeating 2009 line of 91 runs, 27 HRs, 91 RBI, 17 steals and a .297 batting average.
11. Kelly Johnson (2B - Ari): Wildly inconsistent last year, but still managed an impressive 93/26/71/13/.284 line. A more realistic BABIP (.339 in ‘10) will likely yield a 2011 batting average in the .270 range.
Still, the 29-year-old should push for 20 HRs and 10 steals from the left side of the plate.
12. Ryan Raburn (2B/OF - Det): Incredibly surprising line over last two seasons (in 632 at-bats) of 98 runs, 31 HRs, 107 RBI, seven steals and a .285 average.
Permanently installed as Detroit’s everyday left fielder and batting sixth behind Ordonez, Cabrera and Martinez mean RBI opportunities should be plentiful.
A line of 80/20/80/5/.280 should be well within reach. Second base eligibility makes him a potential steal.
13. Chone Figgins (2B - Sea): Blame his low run total (62) on the 2010 Mariners lineup, and his .259 batting average on an unusually low .314 BABIP (career .337).
His contact rate (88.1 percent) remained elite, and he’ll bat second behind Ichiro in 2011. Eighty runs, 40 steals, .270 average is within reach.
14. Gordon Beckham (2B - ChW): Regressions across the board last season despite more at-bats. Deflated and inflated BABIP in the first and second half respectively led to wacky season splits. Yet, his post-ASB line (.310/.380/.497) is especially encouraging.
Batting second in the White Sox’s lineup in front of Adam Dunn in 2011, a breakout season along the lines of 80 runs, 15 HRs, 10 steals and a .270 average should grace the 24-year-old.
15. Neil Walker (2B/3B - Pit): Impressive line for the rookie in just 426 at-bats last year, of 57 runs, 12 HRs, 66 RBI, two steals, .296 average.
Respectable strikeout rate (19.5 percent) and above-average contact rate (83.1 percent) are most encouraging, but his .340 BABIP suggests a bit of luck. As Pirates’ projected No. 2 hitter in 2011, expect a line around 80/15/80/8/.275.
The best of the rest: Juan Uribe offers 20-HR pop with second, third and shortstop eligibility. Don’t forget about him. Rookies Danny Espinosa and Tsuyoshi Nishioka have top 15 potential, so keep your eye on these two.
Howie Kendrick, Mike Aviles, Sean Rodriguez and Placido Polanco don’t offer anything special.
The Phillies have no idea how bad the injury is, but Utley is making it a goal to be back by the All-Star Break.
Assuming he’ll be out for at least the first three-and-a-half months of the season, there’s little justification for placing him on this list.
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