When Robinson Cano signed his 10-year, $240 million deal with the Seattle Mariners, it validated two things: (1) that the going rate for players who can consistently put up +5 WAR is at least $200 million, and (2) a second baseman who can hit like a first baseman is extremely valuable. There aren’t a lot of second baseman in the league who have the 30-homer, .500+ slugging percentage, and .316+ ISO, seasons that Cano does.
Second baseman aren’t considered to be players who have an excess of power. You can make an argument for guys like Ian Kinsler and Dan Uggla. However, neither is the player he used to be. Uggla is a shell of his former self, who can run into a dinger every now and then, but he’s not going to return to the power threat that he once was. While Kinsler has shown some above-average power for a second baseman, most of that power can be attributed to the friendly confines of The Ballpark in Arlington. Kinsler’s power has also been waning over the past three years, as both his home run totals and slugging percentage have been in decline.
Kinsler’s Power Stats
2011: HR 32, SLG .477, ISO .223
2012: HR 19, SLG .423, ISO .166
2013: HR 13, SLG .413, ISO .136
Kinsler is obviously declining as a power threat, and the change from The Ballpark at Arlington to Comerica Park will probably not be kind to him, either. However, just because Kinsler is not hitting for above-average power doesn’t mean that he’s not a valuable second baseman. Kinsler can still hit for some power, and his glove is decent enough to make him one of the better second basemen in the game.
Uggla’s value is derived from his ability to draw walks and hit home runs. He has always had trouble making contact, which in return drove down his OBP, making power the main reason he was good.
Uggla’s Power Stats
2011: HR 36, SLG .453, ISO .220
2012: HR 19, SLG .384, ISO .164
2013: HR 22, SLG .362, ISO .183
Like Kinsler, Uggla’s power has declined. However, this is to be expected given that he is 34 years old. What is more concerning is Uggla’s decline in slugging percentage, as he has had sub .400 slugging percentages for the past two years. In both his 2012 and 2013 season, Uggla’s value derived solely from dingers. Uggla has become a one-dimensional player when it comes to his bat.
Despite that two of the most powerful second basemen in baseball are declining in power, there remains hope in the form of the San Diego Padres’ new, young second baseman Jedd Gyorko.
Gyorko has the potential power of a first baseman. Last year, he hit 23 home runs, had a slugging percentage of .444, and ISO of .200. Considering that he was playing in Petco Park, which decreases homers by 13% for right-handers, his 2013 campaign was very impressive.
ZiPS and Steamer project Gyorko to hit between 20-25 homers next year, and to be somewhere between a +2.5 – 3.5 WAR player. Even if Gyorko’s 2014 campaign mirrors conservative projections, he is still going to be a top-10 second baseman.
Gyorko does comes with flaws. There are definitely some holes in his swing, which make him prone to strikeouts. He also is not going to have a high OBP. Gyorko is going to be a powerful bat with a decent glove, which recalls Uggla. Uggla has certainly had his struggles, and it’s not looking like he will turn things around. However, previously he was similar to what Gyorko appears to be: decent glove, above-average power.
Many of those who follow baseball — front offices, fans, certain baseball writers — seem to have profiles for positions. First basemen, third basemen and corner outfielders are thought of as powerful. Shortstops, center fielders and second basemen are thought of as having quick hands and being speedy. However, a player like Gyorko is valuable because he sets himself apart from the typical second baseman profile. Instead of being speedy and hitting for a high average, he’s powerful. Second basemen that hit like first baseman are rare, and that’s why Gyorko is a special player.
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