Posts Tagged ‘Ian Kinsler’

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After a few years of being one of the weaker positions in the game, there has been a renaissance of sorts at second base in the past year. Part of it has been younger players making their mark in the game, while another part has been old standards continuing to carry the torch. But all things considered, second base is once again home to a variety of impact-level talents around the game.

This proves in splitting the hairs of the position and assigning ranks. While it gets a bit easier at the top, the upper-middle class of the position is very tightly knit. In some cases, it breaks down to what you may be looking for. Is it middle of the lineup pop….or elite glove work? Is it a pure speed threat to mix things up…or on-base threats that set the table for their more powerful teammates?

Regardless of what it is, it can be found on the list below. So let’s have a look through the best of the best at second base headed into 2016.

To get caught up on where this list stood headed into last spring, click here.

 

10. Logan Forsythe, Rays (Not Ranked in ’15)

2015: .281/.359/.444, 17 HR, 68 RBI, 69 runs scored, 9 stolen bases, .804 OPS

Last 3 Years: .251/.323/.388, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 41 runs scored, 6 stoletn bases, .712 OPS

A breakout 2015 sees Forsythe inch his way onto the list. He was a much needed source of offense for the scattershot Rays lineup. He played in 153 games and posted the second highest WAR among AL second basemen, totaling a 5.1 win figure. Amongst his teammates in Tampa, Forsythe finished second on his club in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI and total bases, while leading in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.

This was due to him hitting the third most home runs, third most RBI and working out the second highest on-base percentage among all AL 2B’s.

 

9. Brandon Phillips, Reds (Not Ranked in ’15)

2015 Stats: .294/.328/.395, 12 HR, 70 RBI, 19 doubles, 69 runs scored, 23 stolen bases, .723 OPS

Last 3 Years: .274/.315/.389, 13 HR, 75 RBI, 23 doubles, 64 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, .704 OPS

Don’t call it a comeback, but after a few seasons of decline, Phillips posted a vintage-like year in 2015, posting his first over .290 average/70 RBI season since 2011. He also topped 20 stolen bases for the first time since 2009 as well.

What had not tarnished was his sterling defense at second base, which still remains at a top tier level in all of baseball. He made the third fewest errors of all National League second basemen, while posting the second best defensive WAR (0.9) of all full-time NL 2B’s.

 

8. Brian Dozier, Twins (#10 in ’15)

2015 Stats:  .236/.307/.444, 28 HR, 77 RBI, 101 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, .751 OPS

Last 3 Years: .240/.322/.425, 23 HR, 71 RBI, 95 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, .747 OPS

Dozier has been the low key engine that has pushed the revival of the Minnesota Twins towards some legit competitive waters entering 2016. He made his All-Star debut a year ago, and in all actuality it was a year later than it was due.

Dozier finished with 23 home runs, 71 RBI and 21 stolen bases in his breakout 2014 season. He proved it was no fluke year the following season by upping his homers to 28, RBI to 77 and topping 100 runs for second straight year as well. Those 28 long balls led all MLB second baseman, making it the second year that he has led the MLB in the category at the position. All in all, only Ian Kinsler and Jose Altuve have posted a higher collective AL 2B WAR over the past two years than Dozier.

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7. Ben Zobrist, Cubs (#5 in ’15)

2015: .276/.359/.450, 13 HR, 56 RBI, 36 doubles, 76 runs scored, 3 stolen bases, .809 OPS

Last 3 Years: .274/.356/.413, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 35 doubles, 79 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .769 OPS

Known more for his versatility, perhaps it would be more apt Zobrist to be noted for his stunning consistency. He regularly posts premier on-base figures to go with strong extra base hit totals as well— he has posted at least a .350 OBP to go along with 34+ doubles and 10+ home runs annually since 2011.

This strong penchant for finding base helps him have a purpose in every lineup (his offseason move to Chicago will be his fourth team in the last three years), but also be able to make an impact as well. Zobrist was one of the final pieces the Royals acquired in their successful push for a World Series title, and he held his own in October as well. He posted a .303 postseason average, while scoring 15 runs and of course, reaching base at a .365 clip.

 

6. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (#4 in ’15)

2015: .291/.356/.441, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 19 doubles, 46 runs scored, 2 stolen bases, .797 OPS

Last 3 Years: .291/.356/.408, 9 HR, 60 RBI, 31 doubles, 70 runs scored, 8 stolen bases, .763 OPS

It was certainly a quality over quantity year for Pedroia, as he played in his fewest amount of games since 2010, but still found a way to out-homer himself from his single-season totals the previous two years (9 and 7, respectively).

Other than that, it was frustrating year for Pedroia as the Red Sox’ struggles continued and he battled a bad hamstring himself. But when he was on the field, he was the same mix of hustle and impact he always has been. He had the third-highest on-base percentage among AL second basemen and of all players at the position that were good for at least two Wins Above Replacement, Pedroia did so with the second fewest at-bats (Devon Travis).

 

5. Jason Kipnis, Indians (#9 in ’15)

2015: .303/.372/.451, 9 HR, 52 RBI, 43 doubles, 86 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, .823 OPS

Last 3 Years: .277/.351/.414, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 35 doubles, 78 runs scored, 21 stolen bases, .766 OPS

With most of his injury issues of 2014 behind him, Kipnis returned to All-Star form a year ago and put together another fantastic season, topping .300 for the first time. This campaign was highlighted by 51 hit outburst in May, where he joined none other than Ty Cobb and Al Simmons as the only American Leaguers to ever hit the half-century in hits level in one month.

Overall, his power and speed numbers were down some from where they were a few years ago, but he still pumped out 43 doubles, good for second in the AL. Toss in another career high in triples (9) and a vastly reduced strikeout rate, and Kipnis showed that he is rounding into one of the top overall producers at the position.

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4. Robinson Cano, Mariners (#1 in ’15)

2015: .287/.334/.446, 21 HR, 79 RBI, 34 doubles, 82 runs scored, 6 stolen bases, .779 OPS

Last 3 Years: .305/.366/.471, 21 HR, 89 RBI, 37 doubles, 80 runs scored, 6 stolen bases, .838 OPS

It is certainly fair to say that Cano had a down year last season. However, the notion that he has fallen all the way off into irreversible tailspin of a career, has many eluded to during his first half struggles last year, is far off the mark.

After a pre All-Star performance that was lowlighted by a 6 home runs, a .290 on-base percentage and a .250 overall batting average, Cano went instant vintage in the second half of the year. In his final 70 games, he hit at a .330 clip, popped 15 home runs and scored 44 runs, while producing a .926 OPS, which was by and far the best in all of baseball at the second base position. The old standard bearer still has more than enough punch left in him.

 

3. Dee Gordon, Marlins (Not ranked in ’15)

2015: .333/.359/.418, 4 HR, 46 RBI, 24 doubles, 88 runs scored, 58 stolen bases, .776 OPS

Last 3 Years: .306/.340/.391, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 63 runs scored, 44 stolen bases/.731 OPS

Gordon, whom the Marlins swindled away from the Dodgers prior to the 2015 season, has become the most dynamic leadoff hitter in the game today. Over the past two years, he has twice led the National League in stolen bases, stealing 122 bags over the time. During the same time period, he has 20 triples, has scored 180 runs and reached base at a .342 clip.

Yet he made his biggest stride forward in being an on-base terror when he hit .333 last season and won the National League batting title. During the course of doing so, he also ran up an NL-best 205 hits and took home a Silver Slugger as well. And top it all off and prove he’s not just two trick pony, he grabbed his first Gold Glove award as well in his second season season as a full-time second baseman.

 

2. Ian Kinsler, Tigers (#2 in ’15)

2015: .296/.342/.428, 11 HR, 73 RBI, 35 doubles, 94 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, .770 OPS

Last 3 Years: .283/.330/.420, 14 HR, 79 RBI, 35 doubles, 93 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, .750 OPS

When considering what an “All Underrated Team” might look like for the MLB over the past five years, Kinsler would be firmly entrenched at second base. This is because there is no other leadoff hitter in the game that impacts run production at a strong rate than he does.

In each of the past five years, Kinsler has driven in 70 runs, scored at least 85 (with three seasons over 100), reached double digits in home runs and topped 30 doubles. And while his speed has tailed off some in recent years, Kinsler made up for that by increasing his batting average to its highest level in seven years last season.

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1. Jose Altuve, Astros (#3 in ’15)

2015: .313/.353/.459, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 40 doubles, 86 runs scored, 38 stolen bases, .812 OPS

Last 3 Years: .313/.349/.426, 9 HR, 59 RBI, 39 doubles, 78 runs scored, 43 stolen bases, .775 OPS

425.

That is the number of hits that Altuve has run up over the past two seasons. That is a back-to-back season total that Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar, Eddie Collins or Nap Lajoie ever reached. So it should be appreciated the tear that Altuve is on throughout his first few seasons as an American Leaguer.

Altuve wears on the opposition unlike any other player in the game today. The self-confessed 5’5 Altuve has twice led the AL in stolen bases over the past two years and took home the 2014 batting title. A three-time All-Star (with an appearance in both leagues), if Dee Gordon is baseball’s most dynamic speed threat out of the leadoff spot, Altuve is easily the best overall player inhabiting the role today. His presence on the base paths gets the rest of the Astro lineup fed a steady diet of fastballs to feast on in the cozy confines of Minute Maid Park.

Toss in the fact he took home his first Gole Glove as a byproduct of carrying the highest fielding rating at the position in the game a year ago, and it proves his across the board impacts make him among the elite players in all of the game today.

 

Just A Bit Outside: DJ LeMathieu, Rockies; Daniel Murphy, Nationals; Joe Panik, Giants

Second base is always home to diverse spread of talents. From speedsters, to glove-first space swallowers and a few outright power conduits, there is something for everybody on second.

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With all things considered however, the position is experiencing a deeper than normal talent pool around the league. There will be several players that are both major award winners and even All-Stars from a year ago that struggled to make the final cut for this year’s top 10 or missed it altogether. Yet most likely, when I turn my attention to the overall Top 100 players in the game in March, there could be 10-13 second basemen that make it. It is just that deep of a talent pool right now.

So without any further delay, here are the top 10 second basemen in the game. With plenty of shake up, but still starting in the same place it annually does….

1. Robinson Cano, Mariners (#1 in 2014): He has been the best in the business at his position for the last half-decade, and one year into his tenure in Seattle and there are no signs of that changing yet. While his power numbers took the expected Safeco dip, Cano turned in his usual outstanding overall offering at the plate. He turned in his sixth-straight year over .300, while stealing a career high of 10 bases as well. He annually makes a 6+ level of Wins Above Replacement impact and shows no signs of wavering at age 32.

2-year average: .314 average/.868 OPS/20 HR/94 RBI/39 doubles/188 hits/.989 Fld%

2. Ian Kinsler, Tigers (#6 in ’14): He has long been one of the most productive second basemen in the game, but Kinsler turned in one of his finest performances to date in 2014. Atop the potent Tiger lineup, he set new career-highs in hits (188) and RBI (92), while scoring 100 runs, hitting 17 home runs and 40 doubles. Tack on a fantastic defensive campaign as well, and he solidly reaffirmed himself as the best non-Cano second sacker in the game.

2-year average: .276 average/.740 OPS/15 HR/82 RBI/36 doubles/15 stolen bases/.983 Fld%

3. Jose Altuve, Astros (#10 in ’14): The Houston’s mighty mite leader had a huge breakout campaign in 2014, leading the MLB in batting average (.341) and hits (225), while topping the AL in stolen bases with 56. He played a part in pulling the Astros out of the abyss they had sat in over the past three years and made his second All-Star Game over the span as well.

2-year average: .313 average/.756 OPS/6 HR/56 RBI/39 doubles/46 stolen bases/.986 Fld%

4. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (#2 in ’14): While his offensive took a slide in ’14, he remains perhaps the best infield defender in the game today. The rangy and fearless Pedroia took home his second Gold Glove in as many years, raising the overall total to four for the former MVP, Rookie of the Year and two-time World Champ. If he can uptick his batting average back up closer to his career average of .299, the BoSox will be in a much better place.

2-year average: .290 average/.752 OPS/8 HR/68 RBI/38 doubles/12 stolen bases/.995 Fld%

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5. Ben Zobrist, Athletics (#5 in ’14): The ultimate utility man has made his frequent home at second base over the past two years, so he’ll check in here once again. And while he does not have one particular area that he produces an eye popping result in, he does everything at a steady pace. He reached 150 hits, 30 doubles, 10 home runs, 50 RBI, 10 stolen bases and a .350 on-base percentage for the fourth straight year, and will bring a much needed steadying presence to his new home in Oakland.

2-year average: .273 average/.753 OPS/11 HR/62 RBI/35 doubles/10 stolen bases/.986 Fld%

6. Howie Kendrick, Dodgers (#8 in ’14): He will be switching sides of town from Anaheim to Chavez Ravine this summer, but it would be a safe bet to count on Kendrick to keep up the same steady—and annually underrated—level of play. He set a career-high in hits (181) and tied-RBI (75), while topping .290 for the second straight year.

2-year average: .295 average/.758 OPS/10 HR/64 RBI/27 doubles/10 stolen bases/.983 Fld%

7. Neil Walker, Pirates (Not Ranked): He swings a bat that is border line out of place at his position. Walker connected for 23 home runs and taking home the National League second base Silver Slugger. He became the Pirates cleanup hitter over the course of the year in response to his more powerful bat, and is also one of the most effective fielders in either league up the middle as well.

2-year average: .262 average/.784 OPS/20 HR/64 RBI/24 doubles/2 stolen bases/.990 Fld%

8. Chase Utley, Phillies (Not Ranked): He put the game on notice some a year ago that he still had it, and turned in the sort of well-rounded performance that is befitting of himself at this point in his career. Playing in the most games he has since 2009, Utley drove in 78 runs, posted 36 doubles and rebounded well from a horrendous 2013 in the field. In the process he reaffirmed the fact that while he no longer is the MVP-candidate he was early in his career, he still is at an All-Star caliber level.

2-year average: .276 average/.781 OPS/14 HR/74 RBI/30 doubles/9 stolen bases/.978 Fld%

9. Jason Kipnis, Indians (#4 in ’14):Injuries stole much of Kipnis’ thunder he carried coming in last season, but he remains a diverse talent capable of impacting a game in many ways. He has stolen 83 bases over the past three years and if he gets his power stroke back, Kipnis could be the final piece the emergent Indians need to return to the postseason.

2-year average: .263 average/.735 OPS/12 HR/62 RBI/30 doubles/26 stolen bases/.985 Fld%

10. Brian Dozier, Twins (Not Ranked): Dozier followed up a noticeable jump forward in his second season with a major one in year three. He joined the 20/20 club by taking 23 balls over the fence and swiping 21 bases, while scoring 112 runs as well. All in all, he is on the verge of beginning to push for All-Star notice, even within the current crowded second base scene in the AL.

2-year average: .243 average/.745 OPS/20 HR/68 RBI/33 doubles/18 stolen bases/.986 Fld%

 

Runners Up: Dee Gordon, D.J. LeMahieu, Brandon Phillips, Daniel Murphy

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Picking out the cream of the field at second base is always difficult, mainly because it is such a diverse position from a demands perspective. Some teams need pure defensive wizardry, while others lean for offense in a non-tradition place for it there. Some teams use it for a speed boost, while a select few get lucky enough to combine all of these factors into one.

The collection of second basemen around the MLB currently is a shining example of the hotbed for diverse talents that the position has become. And while the elite of years past are still firmly in their accustomed positions, there are more than a few up and comers that are pushing for their place within the ranks of the balanced and surprising deep talent collection.

As we continue to wait for two more voters to get a grasp on Craig Biggio, lets get a hold on the best in the game at his spot today. Here are the best at the second stop around the diamond…

10. Jose Altuve, Astros: The diminutive Houston leadoff hitter seems to be everywhere at once. He has topped both 30 doubles and stolen bases each of the past two seasons, and led all AL second basemen in double plays turned with 114.

9. Daniel Murphy, Mets: The steady Murphy has hit 78 doubles over the past two seasons, has hit below .285 only once in his career. His 188 2013 hits lead all NL second basemen returning to the position this year (Matt Carpenter is moving to third base in St. Louis).

8. Howie Kendrick, Angels: An owner of a .292 career average over 8 seasons, he’s a rightful member on the annual ‘All-Underrated’ squad, Kendrick hit .297 with 13 homers a year ago, which marks his highest power output in 3 years and top average in six.

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7. Omar Infante, Royals: He’s does enough of everything to be a threat at all times. His .318 average lead all AL second basemen and a career-best slugging percentage (.450). A jack-of-all-trades, he can chip in at five different positions, and stands to be a very versatile weapon in Kansas City.

6. Ian Kinsler, Tigers: The odd man out in Texas is Motown’s gain. As unique a blend of second base features as the game boasts, he topped 70 RBI for the third consecutive year, stole at least 15 bags for the seventh and raised his average up to .277.

5. Ben Zobrist, Rays: The game’s top utility man found a pretty steady home back at second last year, and continues to produce a fine all-around product. He committed only four errors on the season, while topping 36 doubles, finished in the top 20 in on-base percentage and made his second All-Star game.

4. Jason Kipnis, Indians: He took the step ahead in year three, reaching career-best in nine categories, including home runs (17), doubles (36) and RBI (84), while reaching 30 stolen bases for the second consecutive year. He is the axis that the resurgent Indians will build around.

3. Brandon Phillips, Reds: His average slid some and he isn’t an active base stealer anymore, but the decline of Dat Dude is overplayed. He topped 100 RBI for the first time in his career, and remains the top glove in the game at his position.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox

2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: With a healthy year on his side again, Pedroia once again showed why he’s one of the more indispensable players in the game. In addition to adding another Gold Glove to his trophy case, he sparked the World Champions with 193 hits, 42 doubles and 84 RBI, along with a .372 on-base percentage.

1. Robinson Cano, Mariners: Easily the position’s best and in the handful of the game’s best all-around talents as well. He topped 25 home runs, 190 hits, 40 doubles and a .300 average for the fifth straight year during his farewell tour in the Bronx. For much of the season, he held together a middling Yankee team and pushed them to a much more competitive effort than was to be expected. And he will be charged with the same task in his new home of Seattle—and should be well up to meeting and exceeding the challenge.

Just A Bit Outside: Marco Scutaro, Aaron Hill, Chase Utley

For more on the countdown series and the game in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For more content, head to  I70 Baseball and The Sports Fan Journal.

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In a very sudden fashion, the first blockbuster move of the MLB offseason made its presence felt, when the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers agreed on a swap of Prince Fielder (and $30 million) for Ian Kinsler. According to Rangers GM Jon Daniels, it was a conversation that started on Tuesday afternoon, and took less than a day to agree on the parameters. What comes of it is a trade that is both a textbook marquee move, as well as a direction changer for both teams involved.

On the Rangers End: It solves one of their immediate problems that was of the utmost importance to fill: finding a middle of the order bat. Since Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli left Arlington last winter, they had an order low on power and big on gaps to fill. Add in the potential loss of Nelson Cruz, who has topped 20 home runs each of the past five seasons, a possibility as well, the Rangers power down was hitting dangerous levels.

Picking up Fielder fixes that immediately. Despite a down year in 2013, until proven otherwise, it was simply just a down year, because his track record mandates this respect. He topped 30 home runs every year from 2007-2012 and does not turn 30 until next May. He instantly becomes the cleanup hitter to support Adrian Beltre, and is a reliable as they come (playing in every game since 2011). Also, the Rangers are receiving $30 million from the Tigers to offset the difference between Fielder and Kinsler’s contracts, which will be able to be actively applied towards keeping them in the free agent batter market.

On the Tigers’ End: For Detroit, the deal is not as much of a complete approach change as it is a chance to shift its focus. They were on the hook for another $168 million with Fielder over the next seven years, and had a definite need to cut tow on some financial luggage. Many of the Max Scherzer trade rumors came from the fact they did not believe they would be able to afford to resign the now Cy Young winner after next season, but now that will not be a problem.

Also, with Omar Infante testing the free agent waters, they had a clear need at second base, and acquiring Kinsler represents an upgrade at the position, as well as a chance to move Austin Jackson out of the leadoff spot and down the lineup where he would be a better fit.

Most importantly, the Tigers have an instant replacement for Fielder of the highest order, by moving Miguel Cabrera back to where he should be at first.

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Kinsler’s departure virtually insures Andrus stays in Texas for the long-term, and makes a clear path for Profar to fit in as well.

The Dominos: The aftermath of the deal finds the Rangers as grabbing a premier bat, as well as getting a few extra bucks to play the market with. Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran or Cruz all remain in play. Incumbent first baseman Mitch Moreland is coming off a good year, and with David Murphy off to Cleveland, could be in line for a move out to leftfield to replace him. But the most obvious benefit for the Rangers is the loosening of the tie around their collective infield neck, one that was on the verge of becoming a noose. Kinsler coming out of the mix allows for Jurickson Profar to take over at second, and ends any potential trade rumors of either him or Elvis Andrus.

In Detroit, the most obvious bonus is the freeing up of cash to give to Scherzer, potentially by Spring Training. There is also the freedom to more freely spend in the closer market among the solid class of Joe Nathan, Brian Wilson, Grant Balfour and Chris Perez, among others. They do have a void at third base now, but top prospect Nick Castellanos (.276, 18 HR, 76 RBI at Triple-A) is an immediate plug and play, as he is now unblocked at his natural position. Maybe the only worry point is that it does change the way that pitchers can approach Cabrera now, with the lessened protection behind him, but that with Cabrera there’s no such thing as an easy fix, so that’s not much to raise a flag against.

The Winner: Both teams come away with needs and concerns met, in a surprisingly even deal of All-Star talents. The Tigers make needed reshapes to their lineup, and get away from a burden-bearing contract early in the life of it and pre (serious) decline. The Rangers meanwhile inject a needed power source and big splash deal, on the heels of missing the postseason for the first time in three years.

There are no losers here, but the edge goes to the TIGERS, due to immediate gain of Kinsler, the lineup shakeup and both the long and short term financial flexibility.

For more in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For the rest of the works, head over to i70Baseball and The Sports Fan Journal.