What a difference a year makes. Last January, the Yankees were gearing up for another season behind the best second baseman in baseball, Robinson Cano. As we approach 2014, Cano is on the other side of the country and the AL East second baseman rankings have drastically changed.
5. At the bottom of this list is the Baltimore Orioles platoon. Ryan Flaherty, Jonathan Schoop, and Alexi Casilla will combine to form the least intimidating right-middle infield in the AL East this season. Flaherty played 85 games last year at the major league level, hitting .224 with a little bit of pop. His OBP was below .300, but his fielding was pretty strong at second base. Schoop may actually end the year as the team’s primary second baseman. He’s young, just 22, and has decent minor league numbers. He only played in five games at the MLB level last year, but I expect him to start at Camden Yards by the All-Star break. Another option this season may be Jemile Weeks. After a great rookie year in Oakland in 2011, he was never able to replicate his initial campaign. He came to Baltimore in the trade involving Jim Johnson, and is still young enough that he may turn his career around in a new setting.
4. Brian Roberts is a massive gamble for the New York Yankees this season, both in playing ability and in playing time. A decade ago, Roberts was one of the better middle infielders in the game. However, time has not been kind to Roberts. He has a history of concussion problems, as well as other various injuries. He hasn’t played in more than 80 games in five years. Even if he has average numbers, knowing the Yankees are going to need others to step up when he cannot play drops his value tremendously. Adding in that Roberts just turned 36, look for the Yankees to have a long year at second.
3. Determining spots 3-5 on this list was a close battle. There is so much uncertainty and mediocre play that I wish I could give the last three teams the #5 spot. However, some were below average while others are borderline awful. At #3 in the AL East, we have Maicer Izturis for the Toronto Blue Jays. Last year was Izturis’ first year with the team after spending the previous eight seasons with the LA Angels. Offensively, Izturis was subpar past season, hitting .236 with no power behind it. Then again, he was never known for his power. Unfortunately, he only had one stolen base on six attempts last season. His legs are beginning to wear down on him. As he enters his age-33 season look for the Blue Jays to begin finding his replacement, because he is almost done.
2. Ben Zobrist peaked in 2009, but he’s still a solid plug at second for the Tampa Bay Rays. Last season he hit a respectable .275 with a .354 on base percentage. Defensively, he played 125 games at second last year with a .985 fielding percentage. At 32, he’s about to hit an age where his ability might start declining, but he should still man the right side of the field better than most of the AL East.
1. Dustin Pedroia is clearly the best second baseman in the AL East right now. Last year he hit .301, won his third career Gold Glove, and shows no signs of slowing down. Pedroia just turned 30 at the end of this season, so he clearly still has many strong years ahead of him. He’s won the MVP, and is one of the most consistent players in the game. As much as it pains me to say it, the Red Sox are the standard at second base coming into 2014.
There you have it. The Sox are in a position where they know who their second baseman will be for years to come. The Rays are in a pretty strong position, but may try to improve in a couple of years. The Blue Jays, Yankees, and Orioles are all in rough shape, and will be trying to improve during and after the 2014 season.