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2016 Update

2016 Update, Second Base

robinson-cano-siSecond base may be the most stacked position in the game right now. We’re looking at a sure-fire first ballot type of guy, a SABR darling who may just be over the line now, an under-the-radar star who look like a HoMEr one day, a fan favorite who’s healthy and making a run, a Swiss Army Knife of a player who I’m not ready to count out, and a youngster who has a shot at 3000 hits.

I don’t think second base is often considered a sexy position, but it sure is spectacular right now. Please check out our past posts in this series: 1B, and tune in for the next few weeks to find out how your favorites around the game are doing in their quest for the HoME.

Robinson Cano
2016 BBREF WAR:
7.3

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 14
Eric: 15

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 9
Eric: 13

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Craig Biggio, Joe Gordon, Roberto Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, and Lou Whitaker
Eric: Craig Biggio and Joe Gordon

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Jackie Robinson and Bobby Grich
Eric: Ross Barnes, Lou Whitaker, Roberto Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, and Jackie Robinson

Current career trajectory:
Cano’s resurgence fueled a near-playoff season for Seattle, and it reset our expectations for a player who appeared to be entering a steep decline of one WAR per year. At 33, he’s due to start the downward slope that will bring his career to a close. With new rules against rolling into the bag on a double play, his days might carry less risk of traumatic injury. If he declines at 0.5 WAR a year, then he’s going to reach dizzying heights. It’s probably safer to say that he’s going to resume a steeper rate of decline. If it’s a Win a year once again, he’ll nonetheless end up ranking just ahead or just behind Joe Morgan. That’s some impressive company.

HoME Outlook:
He’s a made man, of course. That happened a year or two ago. It’s only a question now of what heights he can reach.

Chase Utley
2016 BBREF WAR:
2.0

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 22
Eric: 19

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 21
Eric: 19

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Hardy Richardson went down this year.
Eric: No one

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Tony Phillips, assuring Utley a spot in the HoME
Eric: Phillips and Billy Herman are within his reach, provided he stays around average again.

Current career trajectory:
He has to be almost done, right? I suspect he doesn’t have another 1.49 WAR left in him in his career. In a land where Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, and Willie Randolph are outside the Hall, it’s a surprise that he gets as much Hall love as he does. Still, it’s good to hear.

HoME Outlook:
Even though he’s pretty much done, Chase Utley is a HoMEr-to-be. He’s ahead of Jeff Kent, who we’ve already enshrined. It’s just a question of how quickly since we worry about the Hall inducting those they should.

Ian Kinsler
2016 BBREF WAR:
6.1

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 27
Eric: 27

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 24
Eric: 24

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Johnny Evers, Fred Dunlap, and Bobby Doerr
Eric: Johnny Evers, Tony Lazzeri, Fred Dunlap

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: This would be a huge jump, a jump into the HoME: Jeff Kent, Hardy Richardson, Chase Utley, Tony Phillips, Billy Herman Cupid Childs, and Bid McPhee
Eric: Hardy Richardson, Bobby Doerr, and Jeff Kent

Current career trajectory:
At 34, Kinsler posted his third most valuable season. His career is a marvel of consistency. My ratings show him between 4.4 and 6.4 WAR in nine of his eleven seasons. That’s very much in the vein of Lou Whitaker, Willie Randolph, and Bid McPhee. Should he fade gracefully, he’ll place somewhere among those three, something like 15th all-time at second base. Even if he ages rapidly, he could still end up in that same group. It’s really only if he goes off a cliff next year or the year after that he’s in trouble.

HoME Outlook:
And you know what, even falling off a cliff might not kill his HoME chances. If were to put up five more WAR in 2017–2018 then trail off into vapor, he’d still be ahead of Jeff Kent and right with Chase Utley. His outlook, therefore, is very, very optimistic.

Dustin Pedroia
2016 BBREF WAR:
5.6

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 35
Eric: 35

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 31
Eric: 28

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Max Bishop, Red Schoendienst, Gil McDougald, Lonny Frey, and Ben Zobrist
Eric: Jim Gilliam, Chuck Knoblauch, Red Schoendienst, Gil McDougald, Eddie Stanky, and Lonny Frey

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Dick McAuliffe and Del Pratt
Eric: Del Pratt, Johnny Evers, and possibly Ben Zobrist

Current career trajectory:
I’m shocked that Pedroia is only 32 years old. It seems like he’s been the heart of the Red Sox forever (and David Ortiz the soul). Of course, it all depends from here on how well he ages. His BBREF age-32 comps include some who did (Craig Biggio, Ray Durham, Barry Larkin, Paul Molitor) and some who didn’t (Jose Vidro and Edgardo Alfonzo). He’s been bitten by the injury bug a few times now, but his 2016 return to full health and productivity hit the reset button. A very gentle decline would leave him in the Billy Herman region, while a sharper decline might strand him in the Tony Lazzeri zone, just below the line. Like Kinsler, above, Pedroia has been remarkably consistent when healthy.

HoME Outlook:
Health is the biggest question for Pedroia, and he’s missed big chunks of three different seasons. Despite those injuries, his skills appear to be holding up well with perhaps a slight loss of foot speed. Even so, Petey’s arc is closer to Jeff Kent or Chase Utley’s than it is to Robby Cano’s. He can’t afford to lose much time or value to injury and age. I wouldn’t bet against this baseball rat, though, not when he’s made it this far despite being Altuveish in stature.

Ben Zobrist
2016 BBREF WAR:
3.8

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 36
Eric: 30

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 32
Eric: 27

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Zobrist got past Max Bishop, Red Schoendienst, Gil McDougald, and Lonny Frey.
Eric: Eddie Stanky and Lonny Frey, and he’d better watch out for Pedroia right on his heels.

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: One more season just like this one wouldn’t get him one step further. Zobrist would still rank #36.
Eric: Del Pratt and Johnny Evers

Current career trajectory:
Speaking of 36, that’s the age Zobrist turns next May. He’s still signed for three more years, even though there’s not a great chance he’ll be a good player at the end of the contract. It’s not like second basemen typically star at the age of 38. I think he’ll gain more ground. I think he’ll be a top-30 second sacker. But I’m not betting on a middle infielder in his late 30s to move much more.

HoME Outlook:
He wasn’t even a regular until he was 28. His Hall fate was sealed then. So was his HoME fate. Zobrist has three outstanding seasons and three others that were very good. I expect the decline to continue next year and for Zobrist to wind up outside the HoME.

Jose Altuve
2016 BBREF WAR:
7.7

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: outside the top-60 or 70
Eric: Unranked

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 57
Eric: I stopped counting after 64…

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: This is the first year I’ve charted Altuve. He hits the list at #58 among second basemen, ahead of only Fernando Vina, who we never should have charted.
Eric: Scads of no-names and zero heroes

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Even with another season like this one, he only gets past Bret Boone.
Eric: Maybe Davey Johnson

Current career trajectory:
It’s early for Altuve. He’s just 26, so there’s a lot of time in front of him. And he’s very well thought of in many baseball circles. However, he wasn’t nearly as good in the second half of this year as he was in the first. And he appears to be a dreadful defender. BBREF doesn’t pick up on this, but DRA does.

HoME Outlook:
I don’t like his chances at all. Having led the AL in hits three straight years and putting up 1046 through age-26, there’s a better shot he puts together a Hall-level career than a HoME-level career. Young men who don’t play good defense seldom become older men who can defend the position. I expect years of more hits. I expect a future batting title or two, or at least a fight for more titles. However, I don’t think there’s enough all around talent here for him to put up HoME-level value.

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