After looking over my top 20 shortstops list i was very dissapointed in myself. I left off some key players who had injury issues but were better than the some of the players lower on my list. So i hope i will redeem myself on this list of the top 20 second baseman where i tried to look much deeper into the stats. Also i am not including guys who i consider utility players on this list as later i will do a ranking of the best utility players.
1. Chase Utley (PHI)
While he may be heading towards the downside of his career and injuries are starting to hit him, he is still the best all around 2nd baseman in the game. He missed some time last year but his bat is still good (.275/.387/.445 line in 425 AB) and he still plays great defense with a 10.3 UZR. Many people may think that Robinson Cano has passed Chase Utley up, and with the bat he has but Utley is still the all around better player specificaly when you compare their defense (Cano career -36.8 UZR, Utley career 80.1 UZR). But the gap is quickly closing as Utley is starting to regress and Cano is in his prime.
2. Robinson Cano (NYY)
As we discussed earlier Cano is the best offensive second baseman in the majors right now. He has some problems defensivly although he does have a good arm. Not a typical middle infielder as he hits for excellent average (career .309/.347/.489) and power but lacks great speed on the basepaths. Like Utley he is more of a middle of the order hitter but unlike Utley he is in the prime of his career with plenty of time to put up more awesome offensive numbers.
3. Dustin Pedroia (BOS)
He missed a lot of time due to injury last year but when healthy he is an elite second baseman. Unlike the 2 guys ahead of him he is more of a top of the order hitter (2 hole), he hits for a good average, has average power with good speed. He also plays good defense, maybe not as good as Utley but significantly better than Cano. He is good in almost every defensive category although he does lack a strong arm. He is a good all around shortstop who can be elite in terms of contact and defense but is average everywhere else.
4. Ian Kinsler (TEX)
Pedroia and him were neck and neck in my analysis but i gave the edge to Pedroia because he has an MVP to his credit. And similar to Pedroia, Kinsler was injured a lot last year but can put up elite offensive numbers for the position. Kinsler dosnt hit for as high of average as Pedroia but he does have more pop (career .281/.356/.466 line and in 09' he hit 31 home runs). Overall i like Kinsler's offensive game a little bit better than Pedroia's but Kinslers defense does not matchup to Pedroia at all. While Pedroia has a career 23.7 UZR, Kinsler has a -9.9 UZR. Kinsler does have more speed which gives him better range but hands are not as good as Pedroia and he is not as accurate. But all in all Kinsler is still and elite second baseman, he may lack great defense but he is an outstanding offensive secondbaseman.
5. Brandon Phillips (CIN)
The second tier was definitely the hardest to rank as all of the players are equally as good in my opinion. But in terms of all around ability and being a true second baseman Phillips is the best of the second tier. He has some issues offensively as he is not a great OBP guy but he does hit for a solid average and has some pop (career .267/.316/.430 line) and speed. What really sets him apart from the guys below him in this tier is his defense as he is the only one with a positive career UZR (8.1). As you are probably starting to see i tend to favor players who are skilled in multiple areas rather than big power guys or speed guys. The fans really like defense as his fan scouting ranks him as the top second baseman defensively, and he is not rated below a 70 (100 point scale) in any category.
6. Dan Uggla (ATL)
There were some players who put together all around better offensive numbers but none of them have put up those types of numbers consistently. Dan Uggla may not be a good fielder by any means and he may strike out too much but he is a consistent 30 HR power threat at a position that lacks that. He is in the heart of his prime years and so we will likely see this type of production for several more years. But as i said he is somewhat of a one dimensional player, his game revolves around power although he did put up a good average last year (.287/.369/.508 line in 10'). The biggest knock on Uggla's game is still his defense, i will always remember his 3 errors in his first all star game. The fans rate all of his defensive skills below 45 and he has a career UZR of -22. Uggla is a good power hitter but he probably should be playing third base.
7. Rickie Weeks (MIL)
He came back from injury in 09' to put up a career year as he hit .269/.366/.464 with 29 home runs. He is another slugging second baseman who struggles hitting for contact. But i would rate his defensive ability above Uggla's, while he has a career -24.8 UZR he did post a 1.8 UZR last season and has been around average the past few years. The only reason i rank Weeks behind Uggla is because Weeks has not consistently put up these numbers, but he is in his prime years so he may put up these numbers again.
8. Kelly Johnson (ARI)
Johnson is another guy who came out of nowhere to put up some pretty good power numbers. Johnson had put up solid numbers in 07' and 08' but fell out of favor in 09' with the Braves and was nontendered and the Diamondbacks signed him. He then went on to post a .284/.370/.496 line with 26 home runs. His numbers were way off from his career averages in terms of power so there has to be some regression but his strikeout numbers where higher than his career so he may have changed his approach (I havent watched him so i dont know). He also put up good fielding numbers last season (7.1 UZR) and is in the prime of his career so we could see some more years like this. But as with Rickie Weeks he has not put up these numbers consistently so i cant rank him higher than this.
9. Orlando Hudson (FA)
There is a significant dropoff after the second tier, not that Hudson is a bad ballplayer but he is nowhere near as good as the people ahead of him. Hudson has been a good hitter before but showed some regression last season as he has passed his prime years. He is still a guy who can hit around .270/.340/.370 and give you quality defense which can be hard to come by and somebody will give him some money for his skill. He still plays good defense as he had a 9.8 UZR last season and the fan scouting shows he is still a solid defender. The only major weakness in his game is his arm but everything else is near or above average. Hudson is a solid all around second baseman but is firmly in the third tier.
10. Brian Roberts (BAL)
He like Hudson is on the downside of his career but after coming back from injury he showed he can still play and seemed to get the Orioles offense going. He still provides a solid batting average, above average speed and a solid glove. He seems to have lost the power that he did have which is why is 10th on this list and really could go below him but his track record of success is what keeps him this high. As i have said before i think the most valuable guys are the ones that have the complete package and have a proven track record. Roberts defines all of those characteristics and at 33 I still think he has some gas in the tank to put up some solid seasons for the Orioles.
11. Aaron Hill (TOR)
12. Chone Figgins (SEA)
13. Mark Ellis (OAK)
14. Freddy Sanchez (SF)
15. Howie Kendrick (LAA)
16. Neil Walker (PIT)
17. Jeff Keppinger (HOU)
18. Gordon Beckham (CWS)
19. Ryan Theriot (STL)
20. Mike Aviles (KC)
Thats my top 20 second baseman and look out for my top 20 center fielders tomorrow. And if you havnt already please check out my other blog which will have our first podcast up over the weekend.