Spring Training is only one week away. Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to camp in just a few days, and in less than three weeks, Grapefruit League and Cactus League games will begin. We’re almost home.
So, with the offseason coming to an end, it’s time to look ahead to the upcoming season. And to do that, we’re going to break down the top 10 players at each position over the next several days. Some things to keep in mind:
- The players are ranked according to who we’d want for 2017 only. Contracts and salaries don’t matter. Simply put, if you are trying to win the World Series this year, who do you want at the position?
- These rankings are the result of voting by your four CBSSports.com baseball writers: R.J. Anderson, Mike Axisa, Dayn Perry, and Matt Snyder. We ranked the players individually and averaged them all together.
- These are not fantasy baseball rankings. You can find those here. It’s not just about offense. All-around play matters, especially here at an up-the-middle position.
Onto the second basemen.
Jose Altuve Houston Astros 2B
| It’s been fun to watch the player Jose Altuve has grown into. He was the diminutive Venezuelan with batting title potential back at the 2011 Futures Game. Now entering his age-27 season, he can do it all. He’s led the league in hits three times, steals twice and average twice. The doubles power has now translated to home run power without him actually losing doubles. He hit .338/.396/.531 with 216 hits, 108 runs, 42 doubles, five triples, 24 homers, 96 RBI and 30 steals while only striking out 70 times in 717 plate appearances last year. He’s a quality defender, too. Again, he’s good at everything. He was a unanimous pick here by our panel. |
Robinson Cano Seattle Mariners 2B
| After playing hurt through 2015, we got a look at still-prime Robinson Cano in 2016. He clubbed a career-high 39 home runs while driving home 103 and hitting .298/.350/.533 and scoring out very well on defense (+11 defensive runs saved, for example).|
The big question on Cano is when age-related decline sets in. He’s 34 now. Our four voters like him to remain at this level at least one more year, because we all voted Altuve first and Cano second, respectively.
Ian Kinsler Detroit Tigers 2B
| If you don’t play fantasy baseball or root for a team in the AL Central, you might not have noticed the quietly spectacular season Ian Kinsler had in 2016. The leadoff man got on base at a .348 clip and ranked fourth in the AL in runs. He had 29 doubles, four triples, 28 home runs, 14 steals and even drove home 83 (again, as a leadoff man). He’s still a great defender as well (+12 DRS). |
Daniel Murphy Washington Nationals 2B
| Uh oh. Get out the torches and pitchforks. |
Daniel Murphy hit .347/.390/.595 with 47 doubles, five triples, 25 home runs and 104 RBI last season for the Nationals, finishing second in NL MVP voting to Kris Bryant. He only struck out 57 times in 582 plate appearances and was a major reason the Nationals withstood a down Bryce Harper year to win the NL East.
A few issues:
1. These aren’t 2016 rankings. While there’s some confidence Murphy can again be a great hitter -- he is still ranked fourth, after all -- I’m not seeing him come close to that slash line again. Something around .310/.350/.480 is probably more reasonable.
2. This isn’t fantasy baseball and defense counts -- as previously noted, especially at an up-the-middle position. Murphy’s range at second base is bad (-9 DRS last year). It’s only gonna get worse as he turns 32 this year, too.
Still, note that this is far from an insult. He’s the top-ranked NL second baseman with some studs behind him.
Brian Dozier Minnesota Twins 2B
| The second half power surge of Brian Dozier was something to behold. After the All-Star break -- in 72 games -- Dozier hit 28 home runs with a .646 slugging. Overall, he ended up with 35 doubles, five triples, 42 home runs, 99 RBI, 104 runs and 18 stolen bases with quality glove work. The ever-so-small downgrade here comes from the fact that he was a career .240 hitter with a .314 OBP before last season and still only upped those figures to .268 and .340 even with a huge second half. |
Jason Kipnis Cleveland Indians 2B
| Thankfully, we’ve got some distance from that awful 2014 season (.240/.310/.330) and Jason Kipnis is coming off a .275/.343/.469 campaign with 41 doubles, a career-high 23 home runs and 15 steals. He was a fixture toward the top of the order for the AL champs, hitting .290 with an .893 OPS and five extra-base hits in the World Series. |
Dustin Pedroia Boston Red Sox 2B
| Health will remain a concern with Dustin Pedroia, especially as he enters a season in which he’ll turn 34. Still, he slashed .318/.376/.449 last season. He notched the second 200-hit season and fourth 100-run season of his career. We won’t see 20-plus steals anymore and one would expect the range on defense to start dwindling, but he scored out very well on defensive metrics last season. You could make an argument for fifth with Pedroia here, but that decline is coming at some point. |
Ben Zobrist Chicago Cubs 2B
| Ben Zobrist just won his second straight World Series ring, this time with the Cubs of all teams. That’s something. He also continued to show his worth in the locker room and on the field with his production and versatility. He’ll likely combine with Javier Baez at second and Kyle Schwarber in left field some as a double platoon guy (remember, Zobrist is a switch-hitter), only adding to his 2017 value. He’ll surely top 30 doubles (he has every year since 2010) with double digits in home runs and a quality triple-slash. Of course, Zobrist can’t stave off the decline forever. He’s turning 36 in May. |
Logan Forsythe Los Angeles Dodgers 2B
| Through his age-27 season, Logan Forsythe was a part-time utility player. In the past two seasons, though, he’s blossomed into a very good everyday second baseman. In those two seasons combined, he hit .273/.347/.444 with 57 doubles and 37 home runs. Last year, he hit 20 homers despite injury shortening his season to 127 games. Now he heads to the Dodgers. |
DJ LeMahieu Colorado Rockies 2B
| Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu comes off a season in which he won the batting title at age 27. So why isn’t he higher? Well, Coors Field is a factor (he hit .391 at home and .303 on the road), but so is the question of a repeat. He set career highs across the board. He was a career .284/.329/.370 hitter before leaping to .348/.416/.495 last year. Yes, there was progression with a .301 average and .358 OBP in 2015, but this still seems out of whack. |
That being said, LeMahieu is ranked here over some good players, so by no means is this a slight.