The great baseball debate began last week when Sports Unbiased unveiled the first article in a series of debates that will encompass every position in Major League Baseball. The Best First Baseman in Baseball: The Best Of MLB Debate Series fired up the engines and the second baseman will keep all cylinders firing. Remember, every player on every team is fair game. Is Robinson Cano the best choice? Is there a dark horse that could replace the incumbent? The Core Three of baseball writers here at Sports Unbiased have weighed in. So who did Jen Rainwater, Adam Solowiei or Brian Reese select? Let’s get to it and find out.
Jen: Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
Sorry boys! I am going to win on this one! There is only one obvious choice for the best second baseman in baseball and we all know it is Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners. Cano’s defensive skills are unparalleled. He makes every play look like a walk in the park and no one gets the ball out of their glove more quickly than he does. His defense alone could make him the number one second baseman but let’s face there isn’t another second baseman in either league that hits for power the way Cano can. Last season he led all second baseman in home runs (27) and was second to only the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter with a .314 batting average. Cano may not have hit as many homers as he has in past seasons but he was still number one. No other second baseman has his kind of power and all parts of the park are fair game.
The 31-year old has hit .300+ in seven of his nine seasons in the big leagues and expect him to do so again this season even in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. Cano has driven in over 800 runs in his career and 107 last season alone. He has increased his number of walks having the drawn the most of his career in 2013 with 65. Plus, he is a workhorse averaging 162 games a year for the last nine seasons and is almost always injury free. The five time All-Star has won two Gold Gloves and four Silver Slugger Awards. There isn’t another infielder in the league like Robinson Cano making him number one by leaps and bounds.
Adam: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
In order to come up with a compelling argument against a talent like Robinson Cano is clearly a challenge. Cano has been a stud in New York for years and performs defensively as well as offensively. But he is 31 years old and just signed a 10-year/$240 million deal with Seattle which could financially strap the team for future growth while now playing 81 games in a park not conducive to the long ball. I am rolling the age clock back four years to the converted outfielder, now second baseman, Jason Kipnis of the Cleveland Indians. This choice is based on the full sight picture. Kipnis just signed a team friendly extension worth $6-years/$52 million making him a much more affordable option.
He carries above average positional power as a second baseman, hitting 17 home runs in 149 games last year. Where he excels compared to Cano is on the bases, stealing 30 and 31 bases in the last two years respectively. Since becoming a full time player in 2012, Kipnis has watched his average climb from .257 in 2012 to .284 in 2013 and saw his OPS climb from .714 to .818. If that trend continues, the 2013 All-Star will be the best all-around offensive threat at his position in all of baseball. From a value perspective, I like the age, upside and team friendly contract of Kipnis compared to the older player with a large contract in a very pitcher friendly park.
Brian: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
The Robinson Cano that tore up the American League between 2010-2013 was without a doubt the best second baseman in baseball. With his departure from the Bronx, Cano is headed west to the Mariners, but I suspect that his production at the plate will begin to head south. Enter Dustin Pedroia as finally being recognized as the league’s best second baseman.
The truth is that Dustin Pedroia has been one of the most consistent and productive players the past eight seasons. Whereas Cano excels at the plate in comparison to Pedroia, the life-long Red Sox is a superior defender. He has three gold gloves to Cano’s two, a .991 fielding percentage to Cano’s .986, has only committed 41 errors to Cano’s 90, and Pedroia is a two-time Fielding Bible Award Winner (I had to look this one up myself, but it’s been an annual award for the past eight seasons and goes to the best player at each position). He also has an AL MVP award in 2008 and has led his team to World Series Championships in 2007 and 2013 to Cano’s one championship in 2009. In their postseason experience, Pedroia has a .247 batting average with a .323 on-base percentage where Cano has a .222 average with a lackluster OBP of .267. Pedroia is a proven leader with the Red Sox. Cano goes to a new team with a monster contract with the expectation that he will continue his success from New York. But in a pitchers ballpark, Cano will almost certainly see dips in his offensive production. Pedroia is a career .302 hitter and the level of comfort he has at Fenway Park means he will continue being productive as long as he is in a Red Sox uniform.
Jason Kipnis is an interesting pick and may very-well be one-two with Jose Iglesias in a few years, but for now he plays for an average Indians team and doesn’t even stick out as the teams best player. Frankly, Pedroia being a proven leader and champion gives him the edge. He’s only a few years the elder of Kipnis, but is far more accomplished. It’s true that a teams most valuable player doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s the best player on the team. But when it comes to the leagues best second baseman, the experience and defensive prowess Dustin Pefroia brings each season puts him above any current player in baseball.
Jen: The Rebuttal
Both Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia are picks I would have gone with if I hadn’t had the opportunity to choose the best second baseman in Major League Baseball in Robinson Cano. Still neither of them can hold a candle to Cano. Kipnis is young and may have had a standout season in 2013 and was a first time All-Star. Yet he only batted .286 and besides he’s only been in the league for, not even, three full seasons. His experience and subsequent knowledge of the game cannot begin to compare to Cano. Pedroia should be more comparable to Cano being that he is has only one fewer year of experience yet he still couldn’t beat Cano’s batting average. I think Pedroia’s only in Cano’s league because he was surrounded by a better team.
Neither Kipnis nor Pedroia can compare to Cano’s power numbers. Cano has had five straight seasons with 25 or more home runs and while he hasn’t hit one yet this season, he is batting .326 when many predicted his numbers would drop playing games at Seattle’s Safeco Field. Kipnis and Pedroia are hitting .234 and .236 respectively in 2014. Cano has started 2014 with his new team and with a bang. He is by far the best second baseman in Major League Baseball.
The beauty of sports is the debate and here we believe that debate breeds understanding, excitement and eye opening insight. There you have it, the writers believe the best second baseman is either Robinson Cano, Jason Kipnis or Dustin Pedroia. Did any of their arguments sway you? Is there someone else you think should be considered the best? Vote and leave a comment below.