Tonight MLB Network will fire up the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will start with the both the centerfield and second basemen shows. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air. This is not a fantasy list!!
This position isn’t nearly as crowded as centerfield. In fact I don’t even really see the need for detailed honorable mentions. I had Jose Altuve close and Jason Kipnis even a bit closer, but I was pretty set on this top 10.
10. Aaron Hill (ARI) – Kipnis could’ve taken this spot and for some, I’m sure he will. Kip’s first season started off nicely, but faded quickly and sputtered to the finish. Hill, meanwhile, has truly been all over the map since entering the league in 2005 sometimes looking like a superstar and other times barely deserving a starting role. Even at the times the bat has lagged, he has been pretty solid in the field throughout.
9. Chase Utley (PHI) – It’s not really about skill with Utley as he still has tons of it, but obviously the injuries have stacked up and conspired to limit him to just 301 games the last three years. That alone has him buried on this list.
8. Neil Walker (PIT) – You may not remember that Walker was a four-time top 100 prospect by Baseball America from 2005-2008, though that was a catcher then third baseman. He has settled in at second and really started to put together a nice career. He remains one of the game’s bests at the position, though somewhat overlooked as he doesn’t have that one standout skill.
7. Danny Espinosa (WAS) – The defense has always been there for Espinosa so being about a league-average bat the last two years has really heightened his overall value, though the Nats would no doubt love to see him swing-and-miss a good bit less. As is, the 26-year old remains a positive asset, but looking at his skills and seeing how good he can be when he’s on fire, it’s hard not to think there is more in there ready to be untapped.
6. Howie Kendrick (LAA) – While maybe he has failed against the lofty expectations that had him winning multiple batting titles, Kendrick is undoubtedly putting together a successful career. He finally appears to be past the injury bug and he delivers in all three facets of the game making him one of the best, but also most underrated second basemen in the league.
5. Ian Kinsler (TEX) – His struggles are clouded a bit by the fact that he was still a fantasy beast so you might not realize he was essentially league-average. His fielding and base running have been huge assets making him a complete second baseman and one of the best in the game.
4. Brandon Phillips (CIN) – The glove, oh man the glove. I love watching him play defense. His defense elevated him here, though he still has a quality bat and does tremendous work on the base paths. The biggest change in his game last year that led to a ho-hum offensive line was the drop in walk rate. He had established himself at the seven percent level for four years before dropping to 4.5 percent last year. Hopefully it’s an aberration.
3. Ben Zobrist (TB) – Baseball’s best Swiss Army Knife, Zobrist is usually pulling double or triple duty across the diamond for the Rays, but the addition of Yunel Escobar moves him to second on a more permanent basis. He may spend some time in the outfield, but with 189 of his last 313 games at second (60 percent), he is getting ranked at this position. Oh, and all that moving around the diamond has taken nothing away from his hitting as he has been one of the best players in all of baseball the last four years.
2. Dustin Pedroia (BOS) – What doesn’t this guy do well? He has it all: huge bat, amazing glove, and brilliant base running (including an 80 percent career success rate). When a 797 OPS is a “fade”, you know you’ve set the bar pretty high. He’s still better than all but one.
1. Robinson Cano (NYY) – Duh-doy! Seriously, do I really need to expound on it? He’s lapping the field with the bat all while continually improving his defense to an above average level. He’s so good and he is just turning 30.