Tuesday, February 15, 2011

MLB Network's Top 10: Second Base

This is a continuation of a look at MLB Network's Top 10 by position:

Chase Utley has long dominated the category of best second baseman in the game and for good reason. But much to the likely dismay of Phillies fans, Utley was correctly dethroned heading into 2011.

10- Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates
9- Kelly Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks
8- Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles
7- Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers
6- Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
5- Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
4- Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves
3- Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
2- Chase Utley, PHILLIES
1- Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

The top three on this list are in a different category than the rest. After having a down season in 2009, by his standards, Utley really had a down year in 2010. He hit .275, 16 home runs, 65 RBI, 20 doubles, 75 runs scored, a .445 slugging percentage and an .832 OPS; all of which are career lows for a full season. Yes, Utley missed some time due to injury. But when he was in the lineup, he was still far less productive than he's ever been. He also made eleven errors in the field in 114 games, which is just one error fewer than 2009 when he played in 155 games. Clearly, Utley did not have a very good season.

It is likely that Utley will bounce back in 2011. Even if he doesn't return to his 2007, 2008 form, he'll still be one of the best in the game. But how could Cano not surpass Utley to be ranked number one after these numbers last year: .319 average, 29 homers, 109 RBI, 41 doubles, 200 hits, 103 runs scored, only 77 strikeouts, .534 slugging percentage and a .914 OPS. He also made just three errors all season. That's a spectacular season, certainly even MVP worthy. He is and should be the top ranked at his position entering 2011.

Pedroia is a small man carrying a big stick. After missing a large portion of 2010 due to injury, he's ready to return to a potent lineup in Beantown. A career .305 hitter, Pedroia hit 17 home runs and 54 doubles in 2008, and 15 homers and 48 doubles in 2009. He also stole 20 bags in each of those two seasons. Pedroia also plays spectacular defense; the little man really does it all for the Red Sox. He's the type of player who thrives when motivated with obstacles; he's been doing it his entire life because of his stature. Present him a challenge, and he'll far exceed it. Along with Cano and Utley, Pedroia rounds out three remarkably talented second baseman in MLB.

The Braves acquired a big bat in Uggla, who has terrorized the NL East during his time with the Marlins. Phillies fans were happy to hear Uggla was leaving Florida, until finding out he was only going to strengthen an already outstanding team in Atlanta.

After Phillips and Kinsler, the list drops off once again. The remaining four are good players, but don't compare to those listed above them. This is certainly a three-tier list, but second base is never one of the most stacked positions in baseball.

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