Ranking MLB's 25 Best Second Basemen Since 2000
In recent weeks, we have been taking a look back at the best and brightest that Major League Baseball had to offer over the past 20 years.
Now it's time for the second basemen.
A player's peak performance, his full statistical body of work since 2000 and his postseason production were all factored when determining the final rankings.
While no single stat was the end-all, be-all, OPS+ and WAR/500 are two important ones to know.
OPS+ is simply a hitter's on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, adjusted to take into account the ballparks in which he is hitting. An OPS+ of 100 is league-average, while each number above 100 represents one percentage point better than the league average.
WAR/500 is a stat of my own creation. It's a hitter's WAR total divided by his total plate appearances and then multiplied by 500, thus giving us his WAR per 500 plate appearances. The idea is to make it easier to contextualize WAR totals across different sample sizes.
Let's kick things off with some honorable mentions.
These players received serious consideration for the final list but came up short:
- Ozzie Albies
- Roberto Alomar
- Ronnie Belliard
- Craig Biggio
- Marcus Giles
- Mark Grudzielanek
- Josh Harrison
- Kelly Johnson
- Adam Kennedy
- Mark Loretta
- Whit Merrifield
- Jonathan Schoop
- Rickie Weeks Jr.
- Kolten Wong
25. Aaron Hill
Stats: 6,217 PA, .266/.323/.417 (96 OPS+), 162 HR, 695 RBI, 24.4 WAR
Postseason: 24 PA, .263/.417/.421, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Aaron Hill posted a 96 OPS+ and 11.2 WAR over the first four seasons of his MLB career to establish himself as the Toronto Blue Jays' starting second baseman.
Then he elevated his game in 2009, posting a 114 OPS+ with 37 doubles, 36 home runs and 108 RBI in a 5.8 WAR season.
However, that production proved to be unsustainable, and he dropped off significantly in the years to come.
He did put together one more standout season in 2012, when he hit .302/.360/.522 with 44 doubles, 26 home runs and 85 RBI for the Arizona Diamondbacks to win NL Silver Slugger honors in a 5.1 WAR campaign.
His career was one of highs and lows, but at his best, he was one of the league's top second basemen.
24. Jose Vidro
Stats: 4,747 PA, .303/.366/.452 (111 OPS+), 114 HR, 560 RBI, 16.8 WAR
Jose Vidro took over as the Montreal Expos' starting second baseman in 1999 and immediately emerged as one of baseball's best offensive players at the position.
He hit .304/.346/.476 with 45 doubles, 12 home runs and 59 RBI in his first full season and then made his first All-Star team the following year when he batted .330 with 51 doubles and 24 home runs en route to a career-high 126 OPS+.
All told, he hit .315/.379/.491 (120 OPS+) from 2000 to 2004, making three All-Star appearances along the way, including starts in 2002 and 2003.
While he was never a standout defender, his offensive contributions alongside Orlando Cabrera up the middle gave the Expos one of the best double-play combos in baseball.
23. Dan Uggla
Stats: 5,509 PA, .241/.336/.447 (107 OPS+), 235 HR, 706 RBI, 18.2 WAR
Postseason: 5 PA, 0-for-4
Dan Uggla had hands of stone at second base, posting a brutal minus-64 DRS over the course of his 10-year career while memorably making three errors in the 2008 All-Star Game.
That said, in his prime, he was one best power hitters the second-base position has ever seen.
Selected by the then-Florida Marlins in the 2005 Rule 5 draft, he posted a 112 OPS+ with 27 home runs and 90 RBI to earn a spot on the NL All-Star team and finish third in Rookie of the Year voting.
From there, he rattled off five straight seasons with at least 30 home runs.
His 190 home runs from 2006 through 2011 ranked ninth in the majors, and he had a solid 116 OPS+ during that stretch while making a pair of All-Star appearances and winning Silver Slugger honors in 2010.
The Marlins traded him to the Atlanta Braves prior to the 2011 season, and he signed a five-year, $62 million extension. After a strong first two seasons with the Braves, he posted minus-2.0 WAR over his final three years in the league.
Nevertheless, his offensive peak was impressive enough to land him at No. 23.
22. Neil Walker
Stats: 5,111 PA, .267/.339/.427 (110 OPS+), 149 HR, 606 RBI, 20.0 WAR
Postseason: 38 PA, .086/.158/.114, 0 HR, 2 RBI
Neil Walker was originally drafted as a catcher with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2004 draft.
He eventually moved to third base before shifting again to replace Freddy Sanchez as the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting second baseman in 2010.
He hit .296/.349/.462 (119 OPS+) with 12 home runs and 66 RBI to finish fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting, and he spent six seasons as a staple in the Pirates lineup.
From 2010 to 2016, he posted at least 2.0 WAR each season, averaging 17 home runs and 68 RBI with a 115 OPS+.
He won the NL Silver Slugger award in 2014 with a career-high 126 OPS+ to go along with 23 home runs and 76 RBI, and he has continued to produce in a reserve role late in his career.
21. Jason Kipnis
Stats: 4,849 PA, .261/.333/.417 (102 OPS+), 123 HR, 529 RBI, 21.0 WAR
Postseason: 99 PA, .198/.222/.375, 4 HR, 9 RBI
In his second season as the Cleveland Indians' everyday second baseman in 2013, Jason Kipnis put up some of the best power/speed numbers in baseball.
He hit .284/.366/.452 (130 OPS+) with 36 doubles and 17 home runs while also swiping 30 bases in 37 attempts on his way to a 5.0 WAR season.
He was an All-Star that year and again in 2015, when he hit .303/.372/.451 (120 OPS+) with 59 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases.
Aside from those two peak seasons, he was also a key contributor for the 2016 team that reached the World Series, slugging a career-high 23 home runs and finishing third in the team with 82 RBI.
The 33-year-old was in camp with the Chicago Cubs this spring as a non-roster invitee, and he has a chance to break camp with the starting job, serving as a stopgap to prospect Nico Hoerner.
20. Ray Durham
Stats: 5,139 PA, .277/.354/.450 (107 OPS+), 132 HR, 579 RBI, 23.2 WAR
Postseason: 66 PA, .250/.354/.482, 3 HR, 3 RBI
Ray Durham was 28 years old with one All-Star appearance and 10.7 WAR under his belt when the 2000 season arrived, so he was already well-established as a standout second baseman.
He added a second All-Star nod in 2000 with the Chicago White Sox and hit .283/.359/.465 (112 OPS+) while averaging 33 doubles, 16 home runs and 15 steals over the first seven seasons of the new millennium.
In 2006, at the age of 34, he hit .293/.360/.538 (127 OPS+) with 30 doubles, 26 home runs and 93 RBI while in the No. 5 spot in the batting order behind Barry Bonds in San Francisco.
While he was never a bona fide star, Durham did a little bit of everything, and he did it well during his time with the White Sox and Giants.
19. Freddy Sanchez
Stats: 3,686 PA, .297/.335/.413 (98 OPS+), 48 HR, 371 RBI, 15.9 WAR
Postseason: 67 PA, .254/.277/.317, 0 HR, 3 RBI, WS winner
The Pirates acquired Freddy Sanchez from the Boston Red Sox at the 2003 trade deadline in the same deal that brought lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez to Pittsburgh in exchange for Jeff Suppan and Brandon Lyon.
Sanchez took over as the Pirates' starting second baseman two years later, hitting .291/.336/.400 (93 OPS+) with 35 extra-base hits and 3.3 WAR in his first full season.
While those numbers were solid across the board, no one would have predicted he would win the NL batting title the following year, when he hit a robust .344/.378/.473 with an NL-leading 53 doubles, 200 hits and 85 RBI.
He wound up making the NL All-Star team three times with the Pirates before Pittsburgh traded him to the Giants at the 2009 deadline with free agency looming.
San Francisco gave him a two-year, $12 million extension, and he helped them win a World Series title in 2010 before injuries limited him to just 60 games the following year in what would be his final MLB season.
18. Daniel Murphy
Stats: 5,623 PA, .298/.343/.458 (115 OPS+), 135 HR, 719 RBI, 20.8 WAR
Postseason: 112 PA, .309/.398/.588, 8 HR, 19 RBI
Daniel Murphy has always been a first baseman trying to play second base.
The defensive metrics (-73 DRS, -5.6 UZR/150) over the course of his 11-year career have made that clear.
While those defensive shortcomings drag down his overall value, there is no ignoring the fact that he was a legitimate NL MVP candidate during his offensive peak.
His coming-out party during the 2015 postseason saw him slug seven home runs in nine games during the NLDS and NLCS, and he parlayed that performance into a three-year, $37.5 million contract from the Washington Nationals.
In the first two years of that deal, he was one of the best offensive players in baseball:
- 2016: 155 OPS+, .347/.390/.595, 77 XBH, 104 RBI, 4.5 WAR, 2nd in NL MVP
- 2017: 136 OPS+, .322/.384/.543, 69 XBH, 93 RBI, 3.2 WAR, 19th in NL MVP
His production dipped from there, and his first season with the Colorado Rockies was a disappointment in 2019. But that brief run from the 2015 playoffs through the 2017 season is enough to vault him up the rankings.
17. Bret Boone
Stats: 3,613 PA, .277/.340/.474 (115 OPS+), 146 HR, 559 RBI, 17.5 WAR
Postseason: 43 PA, .200/.256/.350, 2 HR, 6 RBI
Bret Boone had enjoyed a modest career leading up to the 2001 season.
He was a one-time All-Star, one-time Gold Glove winner, and he had averaged 21 home runs and 77 RBI over the previous three campaigns.
That said, with an 88 OPS+ and a career-high of 24 home runs over his first nine seasons, no one could have predicted what was coming in 2001.
In his first year with the Seattle Mariners, Boone hit .331/.372/.578 (153 OPS+) with 37 doubles, 37 home runs and an AL-leading 141 RBI in an 8.8 WAR season.
All told, he averaged 35 doubles, 32 home runs and 122 RBI with a 135 OPS+ from 2001 through 2003, logging 19.0 of his 22.9 career WAR during that three-year stretch.
Peak performance to the extreme.
16. Luis Castillo
Stats: 6,260 PA, .295/.372/.357 (95 OPS+), 26 HR, 389 RBI, 26.5 WAR
Postseason: 95 PA, .220/.312/.268, 0 HR, 4 RBI, WS winner
Few teams in recent memory have had a more disruptive top-of-the-order duo than Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo during their time with the Florida Marlins.
After debuting at the age of 20 in 1996, Castillo took over as the team's starting second baseman in 1999, hitting .302 and stealing 50 bases.
The following year, he kicked off the new millennium by hitting a career-high .334 with a .418 on-base percentage, 101 runs scored and an MLB-leading 62 steals.
He ripped off a 35-game hitting streak in 2002 and hit .314 with a .381 on-base percentage and 99 runs scored for the 2003 team that won a World Series title.
Aside from his strong batting average and gaudy stolen-base totals, Castillo was also a three-time Gold Glove winner.
15. Orlando Hudson
Stats: 5,413 PA, .273/.341/.412 (97 OPS+), 93 HR, 542 RBI, 30.9 WAR
Postseason: 17 PA, .313/.313/.688, 2 HR, 3 RBI
A 43rd-round pick in 1997, Orlando Hudson ranks as one of the biggest draft steals in MLB history. To put that draft position into perspective, the current MLB draft format that has been in place since 2012 doesn't even have a 43rd round.
Five years later, he was the Toronto Blue Jays' starting second baseman.
During a five-year span from 2005 to 2009, he posted a 103 OPS+ while averaging 30 doubles, 10 home runs, 59 RBI and 69 runs scored.
However, his defense was always his calling card, and he won four Gold Glove Awards during that stretch while earning a pair of All-Star nods.
While he was never a gaudy statistical performer, Hudson had six seasons with at least 3.0 WAR, including a career-high 5.2 WAR in 2004.
14. Mark Ellis
Stats: 5,728 PA, .262/.327/.384 (92 OPS+), 105 HR, 550 RBI, 33.5 WAR
Postseason: 93 PA, .253/.326/.373, 1 HR, 5 RBI
Since the start of the 2000 season, Mark Ellis leads all second basemen with 130 DRS, and he retired at the end of the 2014 campaign.
Yet he somehow never won a Gold Glove.
A ninth-round pick out of the University of Florida in 1999, Ellis took over as the Oakland Athletics' starting second baseman midway through the 2002 season, and he went on to post 2.7 WAR in 98 games to finish eighth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
His offensive peak came in 2005 when he hit .316/.384/.477 for a 128 OPS+, and two years later, he set career highs in home runs (19) and RBI (76).
All told, he posted 26.8 WAR in nine seasons with the Athletics, which trails only Eddie Collins (57.3), Max Bishop (35.4) and Danny Murphy (35.2) in franchise history among Oakland second basemen.
He remains one of the most underrated players of the last 20 years.
13. Brian Dozier
Stats: 4,884 PA, .245/.326/.442 (107 OPS+), 192 HR, 561 RBI, 23.6 WAR
Postseason: 34 PA, .154/.353/.269, 1 HR, 3 RBI, One-time WS winner
Few second basemen in MLB history have put together the kind of offensive season Brian Dozier did in 2016.
A year after making his first and only All-Star appearance, he posted a 134 OPS+ with 35 doubles and 42 home runs in a 5.8-WAR season.
Here's a list of all the second basemen in MLB history to post a 40-homer season:
- Rogers Hornsby: 42 in 1922
- Davey Johnson: 43 in 1973
- Ryne Sandberg: 40 in 1990
- Brian Dozier: 42 in 2016
That's the entire list.
He followed that up with a 34-homer season and Gold Glove honors in 2017, showing he's more than just a one-dimensional slugger.
The 32-year-old quietly had a solid season with the Washington Nationals in 2019, posting a 95 OPS+ with 20 doubles and 20 home runs in 482 plate appearances for the eventual World Series champions.
12. Brian Roberts
Stats: 6,253 PA, .276/.347/.409 (101 OPS+), 97 HR, 542 RBI, 29.5 WAR
If only Brian Roberts could have stayed healthy.
He was extremely durable during a six-year window from 2004 through 2009, playing 152 games per season and hitting .290/.365/.438 (111 OPS+) while averaging 46 doubles, 12 home runs, 62 RBI and 35 steals.
His 25.4 WAR during that stretch ranked 17th among all position players and trailed only Chase Utley (42.0) among second basemen. He was a two-time All-Star and peaked with a 7.3-WAR season in 2005.
Unfortunately, concussion issues derailed his career from there, and he averaged just 57 games per year over his final five seasons.
At his peak, he was an elite second baseman with plus on-base skills, great wheels and a solid glove.
11. DJ LeMahieu
Stats: 4,454 PA, .302/.354/.423 (98 OPS+), 75 HR, 451 RBI, 21.8 WAR
Postseason: 67 PA, .267/.343/.500, 3 HR, 7 RBI
DJ LeMahieu spent seven seasons with the Colorado Rockies, during which time he established himself as an elite defender with a standout hit tool.
He batted .299 with a .352 on-base percentage, but a lack of extra-base punch and the fact he was playing his home games at Coors Field limited him to a 93 OPS+.
Still, he won three Gold Glove Awards, made two NL All-Star teams and captured the NL batting title in 2016 when he hit .348 in a 5.3-WAR season.
With a deep second base market and questions about how he would produce away from Coors Field, LeMahieu found limited interest in free agency last offseason and wound up settling for a two-year, $24 million deal from the New York Yankees to fill a super-utility role.
The 31-year-old emerged as the team's best player, hitting .327/.375/.518 while setting career highs in OPS+ (136), hits (197), home runs (26), RBI (102), runs scored (109) and WAR (5.9) to finish fourth in AL MVP voting and help keep a banged-up Yankees team afloat.
10. Howie Kendrick
Stats: 6,321 PA, .294/.337/.431 (109 OPS+), 125 HR, 710 RBI, 34.9 WAR
Postseason: 178 PA, .238/.267/.369, 4 HR, 18 RBI, One-time WS winner
Howie Kendrick hit .367/.406/.614 with 70 extra-base hits in 109 games between High-A and Double-A in 2005, and he began the 2006 season as the No. 12 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America.
He made his MLB debut that season and spent the next nine years in a Los Angeles Angels jersey, hitting .292/.332/.424 (108 OPS+).
He made the AL All-Star team in 2011 when he posted a 126 OPS+ with 18 home runs and 63 RBI, and he posted a career-high 6.1 WAR during his final season with the Angels in 2014.
That offseason, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for pitching prospect Andrew Heaney, and after posting just 2.3 WAR from 2016 through 2018, he enjoyed a resurgent season for the Washington Nationals last year.
Splitting his time between first base, second base and third base, he hit .344/.395/.572 (142 OPS+) with 23 doubles, 17 home runs and 62 RBI in just 370 plate appearances.
The 36-year-old returned on a one-year, $6.25 million deal during the offseason.
9. Brandon Phillips
Stats: 7,992 PA, .275/.320/.420 (95 OPS+), 211 HR, 951 RBI, 28.4 WAR
Postseason: 41 PA, .325/.317/.575, 2 HR, 8 RBI
Despite a strong aversion to on-base percentage, Brandon Phillips was one of the best offensive second basemen of his era.
Part of the infamous Bartolo Colon blockbuster trade that also sent Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee from the Montreal Expos to the Cleveland Indians, Phillips didn't establish himself as a star until he was traded again, this time to the Cincinnati Reds.
After a strong debut with the Reds in 2006, he exploded for a career-high 30 home runs and 32 steals the following year.
Over 11 seasons in Cincinnati, he hit .279/.325/.429 (99 OPS+) while averaging 17 home runs, 77 RBI and 18 stolen bases. During that time, he made three NL All-Star teams and won four Gold Glove Awards.
His offensive numbers are affected a bit by the fact that he was playing in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, but he was still one of the most productive players at the position for the better part of a decade.
8. Placido Polanco
Stats: 7,525 PA, .298/.344/.399 (96 OPS+), 102 HR, 693 RBI, 43.1 WAR
Postseason: 147 PA, .248/.313/.279, 0 HR, 13 RBI
Placido Polanco was a productive player with the St. Louis Cardinals (five seasons, 6.6 WAR) and Philadelphia Phillies (four seasons, 10.3 WAR) before taking his game to another level with the Detroit Tigers.
Acquired in a trade for closer Ugueth Urbina midway through the 2005 season, Polanco spent five seasons with the Tigers, hitting .311/.355/.418 (103 OPS+) and posting 19.2 WAR. The 2007 season was the best of his career as he hit .341/.388/.458 (121 OPS+) with 48 extra-base hits and 6.1 WAR to earn his first All-Star nod and Silver Slugger honors.
He won a Gold Glove at both second base (2007, 2009) and third base (2011) in his career and quietly finished with more than 40 WAR.
He was overlooked throughout his 16-year career, and he remains extremely underrated.
7. Jeff Kent
Stats: 5,377 PA, .300/.371/.518 (130 OPS+), 216 HR, 850 RBI, 33.0 WAR
Postseason: 168 PA, .283/.345/.487, 7 HR, 21 RBI
The first eight seasons, 161 home runs and 22.4 WAR of Jeff Kent's career came prior to the 2000 season. Otherwise, he would have ranked higher on this list.
That said, he still had plenty of production left in the tank.
The 32-year-old won NL MVP honors in 2000, hitting .334/.424/.596 (162 OPS+) with 41 doubles, 33 home runs and 125 RBI in a 7.2-WAR season. While that proved to be his offensive peak, he continued to produce at a high level into his late 30s while spending time with the San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers.
It will be interesting to see if his Hall of Fame chances continue to increase in the years to come after his 27.5 percent support last season represented a new high-water mark in his seven years on the ballot.
6. Ben Zobrist
Stats: 6,836 PA, .266/.357/.426 (113 OPS+), 167 HR, 768 RBI, 44.5 WAR
Postseason: 253 PA, .241/.306/.377, 4 HR, 14 RBI, Two-time WS winner
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays acquired Ben Zobrist in the 2006 deadline deal that sent Aubrey Huff to the Houston Astros.
That goes down as perhaps the best trade in franchise history.
During his first full season in the majors in 2009, Zobrist hit .297/.405/.543 (149 OPS+) with 28 doubles, 27 home runs, 91 RBI, 91 runs scored, 17 steals and nearly as many walks (91) as strikeouts (104). He did all that while playing seven different positions, racking up 8.6 WAR on his way to an All-Star selection and an eighth-place finish in AL MVP voting.
His unique mix of defensive versatility, on-base ability, power and speed made him one of the most valuable players in baseball throughout the 2010s even though he rarely had an everyday defensive spot to call home.
Over his 14-year career, he has played more than 200 games at second base (911), shortstop (236), left field (223) and right field (466) on his way to three All-Star appearances.
He continued to produce after leaving the Rays, winning back-to-back World Series titles with the Kansas City Royals (2015) and Chicago Cubs (2016).
5. Ian Kinsler
Stats: 8,299 PA, .269/.337/.440 (107 OPS+), 257 HR, 909 RBI, 55.2 WAR
Postseason: 196 PA, .274/.369/.417, 4 HR, 23 RBI, One-time WS winner
Ian Kinsler brought a rare mix of power and speed to the second base position.
He had 30/30 seasons in 2009 (31 HR, 31 SB) and 2011 (32 HR, 30 SB), which is something that has only been done by a second baseman four other times in MLB history. Alfonso Soriano did so three times before moving to the outfield later in his career, and Brandon Phillips did it once.
Kinsler is also one of just six second basemen with 200 home runs and 200 steals for his career:
- Craig Biggio: 291 HR, 414 SB
- Ryne Sandberg: 282 HR, 344 SB
- Joe Morgan: 268 HR, 689 SB
- Ian Kinsler: 257 HR, 243 SB
- Brandon Phillips: 211 HR, 209 SB
- Roberto Alomar: 210 HR, 474 SB
Not bad company.
With his impressive offensive production, his glove was sometimes overlooked. But he was also an elite defender with 100 DRS in his 14-year career.
4. Jose Altuve
Stats: 5,458 PA, .315/.364/.463 (126 OPS+), 128 HR, 538 RBI, 36.7 WAR
Postseason: 226 PA, .290/.345/.527, 13 HR, 29 RBI, One-time WS winner
Go ahead and get your trash can jokes out of the way now before we get started.
Jose Altuve was the first piece of the Houston Astros' full-scale rebuilding efforts to fall into place, and he was an All-Star during his first full season in 2012, long before he was an MVP candidate.
He took his production to another level in 2014, and during the four-year stretch through the end of the 2017 season, he hit .334/.384/.496 (144 OPS+) while averaging 211 hits, 98 runs scored and 39 steals per campaign.
During that span, he won three AL batting titles and led the league in hits all four years.
He's a six-time All-Star and a five-time Silver Slugger winner, and he has some of the most impressive postseason numbers in MLB history. Throw in his 2017 AL MVP win and it's hard to argue against him securing a spot inside the top five.
3. Dustin Pedroia
Stats: 6,777 PA, .299/.365/.439 (113 OPS+), 140 HR, 725 RBI, 51.6 WAR
Postseason: 234 PA, .233/.313/.374, 5 HR, 25 RBI, Two-time WS winner
After he played a grand total of nine games over the past two seasons, it's easy to forget just how good Dustin Pedroia was in his prime.
The 2007 season when the Boston Red Sox won their second World Series title in four years was also Pedroia's rookie year, and he hit .317/.380/.442 (112 OPS+) with 48 extra-base hits in a 3.9-WAR campaign to win Rookie of the Year honors.
He hit .283/.348/.483 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 14 games that postseason at the age of 23.
The following year, he won AL MVP honors, hitting .326/.376/.493 (123 OPS+) while leading the AL in hits (213), doubles (54) and runs scored (118).
For the better part of a decade, he was one of the premier players in baseball, earning four All-Star selections, four Gold Glove Awards and one Silver Slugger while finishing in the top 10 of MVP voting three times.
He hit .307/.387/.474 with career highs in home runs (21), RBI (91) and steals (26) while adding 18 DRS in an 8.0-WAR 2011 season that represented his peak.
2. Chase Utley
Stats: 7,863 PA, .275/.358/.465 (117 OPS+), 259 HR, 1,025 RBI, 64.4 WAR
Postseason: 258 PA, .224/.364/.410, 10 HR, 27 RBI, One-time WS winner
At his peak, Chase Utley was one of the greatest second basemen the game has ever seen.
The decision to trade Placido Polanco during the 2005 season opened the door for him to take over as the Philadelphia Phillies' starting second baseman, and he seized the opportunity by hitting .291/.376/.540 (132 OPS+) with 39 doubles, 28 home runs and 105 RBI in a 7.3-WAR season.
That kicked off a string of five straight seasons in which he was worth at least 7.0 WAR.
During that stretch, he hit .301/.388/.535 (135 OPS+) while averaging 39 doubles, 29 home runs and 101 RBI. He was an All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner four times during that span, and his 39.7 WAR trailed only Albert Pujols (44.6).
Injuries became an issue from there, and he averaged just 100 games over the next three seasons, at which point he was 34 years old and on the downswing anyway.
Nevertheless, he belongs on any list of the best second basemen, and his Hall of Fame candidacy will be compelling.
1. Robinson Cano
Stats: 9,264 PA, .302/.352/.490 (125 OPS+), 324 HR, 1,272 RBI, 68.0 WAR
Postseason: 217 PA, .222/.267/.419, 8 HR, 33 RBI, One-time WS winner
Robinson Cano finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2005, then he hit .342/.365/.525 (126 OPS+) with 15 home runs and 78 RBI in 122 games to earn his first All-Star selection the following year.
That was followed by one of the most impressive stretches of durability and production that we've seen in recent MLB history.
During the 11-year stretch from 2007 through 2017, Cano played in at least 150 games every season. He batted over .300 seven times, topped 20 home runs eight times and eclipsed 100 RBI four times while making seven more All-Star appearances, winning four Silver Slugger Awards and adding two Gold Gloves.
All told, he hit .302/.355/.495 (128 OPS+) while averaging 40 doubles, 25 home runs, 95 RBI and 5.5 WAR during that span.
The 37-year-old has something to prove after a disappointing first season with the New York Mets, and he's still owed $96 million over the next four years. With 2,570 career hits, he's in line behind only Miguel Cabrera (2,815) for next to join the 3,000-hit club.