Second base is a position that has some sneaky depth. To wit, on ESPN’s player rater the 3rd and 12th ranked second basemen are split by just 0.86 points on the scale. Conversely, it’s a 3.35 point split at first base at least 2.72 at every other position except for relief pitcher (but that’s not too surprising giving how little variance there is between RPs).
Despite this depth at the position, there aren’t a ton of building blocks at the position as the best are in their late 20s and already high-priced assets and the next cut is also filled with mid-20s guys with solid production, but nothing overwhelming that you would want as a primary keeper. Let’s take a look at the ones I did come up with, though.
Danny Espinosa (WAS, 24) – He just barely crossed the 100-game plateau for his career so there is a lack of track record, but it’s hard to argue with the across the board production even at the cost of batting average. He has a career .250 BABIP so far, though, so we could even see some growth there. I have been saying it since last year, but the Nats are really building something there in Washington and Espinosa will be a key part of the success.
Howard Kendrick (LAA, 27) – See what I mean? There’s nothing wrong with the actual depth of the position, but it’s thin on burgeoning talent. Even though he is atop of this list, if you combined the catchers, first basemen and second basemen, he’d be near the bottom. He is on pace for .308-16 HR-11 SB, but just 52 RBI (thanks to an inept supporting cast) and decent 81 runs scored, again because of his teammates. His price will vary from league to league, but considering that last year was his first full season and he already blew his shot at a second in a row this year, I doubt he’s too expensive anywhere.
Kelly Johnson (ARI, 29) – I have Johnson and Kendrick neck & neck here (along w/the next guy, to be honest). Johnson’s .215 batting average is no doubt ugly, but I am more focused on the 27 HR-18 SB-71 RBI-87 R pace and since we are focused on 2012, his batting average this year doesn’t mean much. He can be a .260ish or better hitter just as he was last year (.284) and in his two other full seasons (.287, .276). However, like Kendrick, even with an average at his career .264 he isn’t a prime building block.
Ben Zobrist (TB, 30) – Rinse and repeat from the first two guys. Zobrist has been an inconsistent, yet ultimately productive player the last two years and he is on pace for a season closer to his 2009 breakout when he was one of baseball’s best overall. While many believe 2008 to be his career year, his current pace is just 6 HR, 9 RBI and 1 SB behind. His runs are ahead by seven. The biggest difference is his batting average which by just over 3% (.297 to .265), but the counting stats production across four categories is more important than the average.
Neil Walker (PIT, 25) – A younger option than the last three, but I still have him as the lowest because he doesn’t produce across the board like the others and his power lags a bit, at least right now. He is doing his best work with runners on which has led to his gaudy RBI total, but we know it is hard to bank on that year-to-year and since that is his biggest category at this point I am reticent to rate too highly.