Angels' Top 5 second basemen: Bollinger's take

April 6th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Rhett Bollinger’s ranking of the top 5 second baseman in Angels history. Next week: Third basemen.

1. , 1977-86
Key fact: 35.1 bWAR is fifth highest in club history

One of the most underrated players of his era, Grich was the first inductee into the Angels Hall of Fame in 1988, and many believe he has a strong case to be in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown as well. Grich played the final 10 years of his career with the Angels after seven seasons with the Orioles, as the Long Beach, Calif., native signed as a free agent with the club before the ’77 season. He was initially set to be the club’s regular shortstop, but he injured his back moving an air-conditioning unit that limited him to 52 games.

Angels' Top 5: First basemen | Catchers

Grich returned to second base in 1978 and was an All-Star in '79, '80 and '82 while also winning a Silver Slugger Award in '81. He was a plus-defender at second base and earned four Gold Glove Awards there while with the Orioles. During his time with the Angels, he hit .269/.370/.436 with 154 homers, 183 doubles and 557 RBIs in 1,222 games. His best year with the Angels was arguably in '79, when he batted .294/.365/.537 with 30 homers and 101 RBIs in 153 games. But he also led the American League with 22 homers and a .543 slugging percentage during the strike-shortened season in '81.

Grich helped lead the Angels to their first three postseason berths in club history in 1979, ’82 and ’86. He didn't fare well in the postseason, however, hitting .192/.271/.288 with a homer and six RBIs in 15 games. But he did have an extra-innings walk-off single in Game 4 of the ’86 AL Championship Series, and his final game was the club’s loss to the Red Sox in Game 7.

2. , 2006-14
Key fact: His 1,086 hits as a second baseman are the most in club history

The Angels discovered Kendrick almost by accident, as long-time scout Tom Kotchman was responsible for finding players in Florida and stumbled upon Kendrick at St. John's River Community College in Palatka after he had been cut by other junior colleges. The Angels took Kendrick in the 10th round of the 2002 Draft, and he had an incredible Minor League career, hitting .368 in '03, .363 in '04, .367 in '05 and .369 in '06, giving him a career average in the Minors of .358.

Upon his callup in 2006 as a 22-year-old, Kendrick kept hitting with the Angels, but he never was quite the batting champion that many predicted he would become. But he was a solid player, hitting .292/.332/.434 with 78 homers, 249 doubles, 30 triples and 501 RBIs in 1,081 games with the club over nine seasons. His best season with the club came in '11, when he hit .285/.338/.464 with 18 homers, 30 doubles and 63 RBIs and made the All-Star team. He also received MVP Award votes in his final year with the club in '14, when he hit .293/.347/.397 with seven homers, 33 doubles and 75 RBIs.

Kendrick played in one of the most successful eras of Angels baseball, reaching the postseason four times with the club in 2007, '08, '09 and '14. Kendrick, though, struggled in the postseason with the Angels, hitting .186/.197/.288 with a homer, a double, a triple and two RBIs in 16 games. He made up for that with his incredible postseason with the Nationals last fall that saw him win National League Championship Series MVP honors before becoming a World Series champion. Kendrick remains with Washington, and his next season will be his 15th in the Majors.

3. , 2000-06
Key fact: Hit three homers in Game 5 of the 2002 ALCS

A local product who grew up in Riverside and attended Cal State Northridge, Kennedy was acquired by the Angels along with right-hander Kent Bottenfield in a trade with the Cardinals that sent Jim Edmonds to St. Louis. While Bottenfield was a bust for the Angels, Kennedy helped make up for it by becoming a solid regular for the club for seven seasons. He finished sixth in the balloting for the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2000, and his best season came in '02, when he hit .312/.345/.449 with seven homers, 32 doubles, six triples and 17 stolen bases in 144 games.

But Kennedy's most memorable moment came in the 2002 ALCS against the Twins, clubbing three homers in Game 5 to lead the Angels to a 13-5 win and their first World Series appearance. He remains one of only 10 players to hit three homers in a postseason game. He had a strong postseason overall, hitting .340/.353/.660 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 15 games to help the Angels to their only World Series title. Kennedy batted .280/.334/.398 with 51 homers, 176 doubles, 353 RBIs and 123 stolen bases in 992 games with the Angels.

4. , 1964-69
Key fact: Four-time winner of the Angels MVP Award

Knoop was a slick-fielding second baseman for the Angels, who formed an impressive double play combo with shortstop Jim Fregosi, winning Gold Glove Awards in 1966, ’67 and ’68. He had some power for a second baseman, hitting 17 homers, 18 doubles and an AL-leading 11 triples in '66, which was his lone season as an All-Star. But he received AL MVP votes in '65 and '66, and he was generally regarded as one of the best defenders in the AL because of his athleticism and arm. On May 1, 1966, he set a Major League record with six double plays by a second baseman in a game. He also won the Angels MVP Award four times, which ties him for second with Garret Anderson and only trails Mike Trout.

The Montebello, Calif., native was originally selected by the Angels from the Milwaukee Braves in the 1963 Rule 5 Draft. He was later traded to the White Sox for Sandy Alomar and Bob Priddy on May 14, 1969. Knoop, however, returned to the organization as a long-time coach from '79-96 and again from 2013-18 before retiring prior to last season.

5. , 1969-74
Key fact: Angels all-time leader in steals by a second baseman

Alomar was acquired in a trade for Knoop and established himself as the Angels’ regular second baseman for parts of six seasons. He was an All-Star in his first full season with the club in '70 and led the AL in games played and plate appearances in both '70 and '71, appearing in 162 games both years.

Alomar was considered a strong defender and was also an aggressive basestealer, swiping 139 bags with the Angels, including 35 in 1970 and a career-high 39 in '71. But he didn't offer much offense, hitting .248/.296/.290 with eight homers, 79 doubles and 12 triples in 795 games with the Angels. His sons, Sandy Jr. and Roberto, both were successful Major Leaguers, with the latter being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

Honorable mentions
played four seasons with the Angels from 1996-99, hitting .288/.376/.427 with 27 homers and 128 RBIs in 283 games. His 27 homers are the fourth most by an Angels second baseman. ... Johnny Ray was an All-Star with the Angels in '88, hitting .306 with 42 doubles and 83 RBIs in 153 games. He batted .296/.331/.393 in 422 games with the club from '87-90. ... Billy Moran was a two-time All-Star in '62, batting .282 with 17 homers and 74 RBIs in 160 games. He hit .275/.318/.379 in 417 games over four seasons with the Angels ('61-64).