As we approach the end of 2009 this week, it’s time to resume our countdown of the MLB Network’s Top 9 players at each position from the past decade. The focus now shifts to the second base position where a few interesting names find themselves on the list. Let’s get to it:
9. Robinson Cano – Cano started his career in 2005 with the New York Yankees and has been a solid performer for the team since his debut. He has done a respectable job playing a supporting cast role in the Yankees lineup, as most of his skills go unnoticed with names such as ARod and Jeter garnering much of the attention. For his career, Cano has a .306 AVG, 87 HR, and 394 RBI. He has done a great job of getting on base as he has scored 406 runs in his career, along with an OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging %) of .818. The 27 year old second basemen is about to hit the prime of his career with the hope of moving into the upper echelon of today’s second basemen.
8. Craig Biggio – Biggio is a no-brainer choice for this list despite his rather low ranking on the list. Biggio is most recognized for his play at second base, however, he originally came into the majors as a catcher back in 1988 and also had two seasons this decade as the everyday center fielder for the Houston Astros back in 2003 and 2004. For the decade, he finished with a .266 AVG, 139 HR, 469 RBI, 724 Runs, and a .766 OPS mostly from the leadoff spot in the lineup. Before retiring after the 2007 season, Biggio punched his ticket to Cooperstown when he became the 27th player in MLB history to log 3,000 hits in his career. He was truly a throwback player with his gritty play both on the offensive and defensive sides of the game and is possibly one of the last players we will ever see that starts and finishes his career with the same team.
7. Luis Castillo – Castillo had most of his success in the first part of the decade as a member of the Florida Marlins. He was a constant headache for opposing teams as he led the NL in stolen bases in 2000 (62 SB) and 2002 (48 SB). Castillo was also one of the premier defenders in the game in the early part of the decade.From 2003-2005, Castillo was the NL Gold Glove Award winner at second base for 3 consecutive seasons. However, after leaving the Marlins after the 2005 season, Castillo saw his production start to decline as he seemed to get on base less frequently and became less of a threat on the base paths. For the decade, Castillo finished with a .298 AVG, 276 SB, 823 Runs, and a .735 OPS.
6. Jose Vidro – This is by far one of the most questionable picks at any position by the MLB Network. Vidro is currently out of baseball due to poor production and was a mediocre hitter at best in the second part of the decade despite finishing with a good average. Vidro was one of the last good players the Montreal Expos franchise saw before they eventually became the Washington Nationals. From 2000-2005, Vidro was a 3-time All Star selection (mostly due to the Expos needing a representative) with his best season coming in 2000 when he finished with a .330 AVG, 24 HR, and 97 RBI. Vidro played at a time when the second base position was one of the weakest in quite some time. He would finish the decade with a .303 AVG, but doesn’t really deserve a mention on this list, especially ahead of a future Hall of Famer in Craig Biggio.
5. Brian Roberts – “BRob” is a doubles machine who became the all time single season leader in doubles for a switch hitter with 56. He has also led the AL twice this decade in that category and has 318 for his career. “BRob” is also a dangerous leadoff hitter as he is a consistent threat on the basepaths. For the decade, he finished with 256 SB with the most coming in 2007 (50 SB). Like many players this decade, “BRob” was not immune to the steroids controversy as he was listed on the famed Mitchell Report. After his steroid admission, Roberts has proven he is not a fluke as he is currently both one of the best leadoff and second basemen in all of baseball. For the decade, he finished with a .284 AVG, 77 HR, 443 RBI, 729 Runs, and a .776 OPS.
4. Dustin Pedroia – Pedroia finds himself on this list despite only playing 3 seasons this decade. He has built quite a resume in his short career as he started with a AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2007 with the Boston Red Sox. Not to be outdone, Pedroia would go on to win both the AL MVP and Gold Glove Award in only his second season in the league. That season he established himself as an elite second basemen with a .326 AVG, 17 HR, 83 RBI, 118 Runs, 54 doubles, and stellar defense. Pedroia scores one for the little guys as he stands at only 5’9″ tall, but puts up big time numbers with his hard-nosed play. The future is bright for this second basemen.
3. Alfonso Soriano – Before moving to the outfield in 2006 with the Nationals, Soriano was one of the premier hitting second basemen this decade. 157 of his 289 HR this decade came as a second basemen. The free-swinging Soriano possessed the rare combination of power and speed before becoming a member of the Chicago Cubs in 2007. He had 4 seasons of at least 30 HR and 30 SB and even became an exclusive member of the 40-40 club in 2006. Soriano put up these type of power numbers from the leadoff spot, which is generally meant for high OBP and singles type hitters. However, since becoming a member of the Cubs, Soriano has seen his skills decline progressively each year as he is no longer a speed threat and his defense has remained adventurous to say the least. Despite his disappointing tenure with the Cubs, Soriano is worthy of a spot on this list as he put on quite a show offensively as a second basemen.
2. Chase Utley – Utley is currently considered the best second basemen in all of baseball and is an excellent choice for the No. 2 spot on this list. Utley started his career in 2003, but didn’t truly establish himself until the 2005 season. Starting with the 2005 season, Utley has averaged 29 HR, 101 RBI, and 111 Runs a year. In addition to his consistent power numbers, he also provides a steady career AVG of .295. Over his career, Utley has provided solid defense at second for the Philadelphia Phillies and has built quite a double play combo with shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Utley added to his legacy in Philadelphia by having 2 multi-homer games in last seasons’ World Series against the New York Yankees. You can’t find much better in today’s game than Chase Utley, who will lead the current crop of second basemen into the next decade.
1. Jeff Kent – Kent would retire from the game of baseball after the 2008 season as the all-time home run leader for second basemen with 377 career HR. He was the first MVP (2000) hailing from the second base position since Ryne Sandberg won the NL MVP in 1984. For the decade, Kent hit at a .300 clip with 216 HR and 850 RBI, which are impressive numbers at any position. Kent is best remembered for his time with the San Francisco Giants where he was Barry Bonds protection in the Giants lineup. While not known as a flashy player by any means, Kent was a consistent run producer over the decade which helped him finish his career with some impressive numbers.
After going through this list, the type of players representing this position is quite diverse. You have power hitters such as Kent and Utley and you also have your leadoff hitters in Castillo and Roberts. The second base position isn’t known primarily as a big run producing spot on the diamond, which is why it is rare to find a player such as Chase Utley as the most recognized name at the position currently. It is great to see how the game of baseball continues to evolve and stay fresh over time and it will be interesting to see how we will look at the second base position in the next decade.
Up Next: Top 9 Shortstops of the Decade