MLB Network's "Top 10 Right Now" series, looking at the best players at each position headed into 2017, will air two positions each Sunday night through Feb. 12. As each position is revealed, MLB.com's Mike Petriello, a participant in the show, will unveil his list along with the reasoning behind
MLB Network's "Top 10 Right Now" series, looking at the best players at each position headed into 2017, will air two positions each Sunday night through Feb. 12. As each position is revealed, MLB.com's Mike Petriello, a participant in the show, will unveil his list along with the reasoning behind it. Rankings were compiled with a combination of subjective and analytical data, and no, batting average was not considered. We'll also include the rankings of "the Shredder," the MLB Network research department algorithm based on player performance, which accounts for both offense and defense.
Position overview: Second base has become much more of a power position than it once was, as the keystone shattered the previous record for second base home runs in 2016. After a clear "Big Two" at the top and a breakout star at No. 3, there's a group of veterans who are similarly valuable and somewhat interchangeable at 4-8 before some uncertainty in the final two spots and beyond.
Eligibility notes: Players are eligible only at one position, and several players who saw time at second base in 2016 were considered in other spots for these rankings. They include Matt Carpenter (1B), Trea Turner (SS), Jean Segura (SS) and Howie Kendrick (LF).
1. Jose Altuve, Astros (Shredder rank: 1)
Altuve (.338/.396/.531, 150 wRC+ in 2016, the best hitting season ever by a Houston second baseman) has turned himself into one of baseball's most complete players, becoming a legitimate slugger in large part thanks to improving his plate discipline. Not only has he stolen 30 or more bases five years in a row, but his .531 slugging percentage was right up there with more celebrated power sources like Yoenis Cespedes and Edwin Encarnacion, all while doubling his walk rate -- and he's not 27 years old until May.
Gif: Jose Altuve homer
2. Robinson Cano, Mariners (Shredder rank: 2)
If it's possible to have a quiet career-high 39 homers, then Cano did just that in 2016, bouncing back from a somewhat disappointing second year in Seattle to live up to the preseason rebound expectations put upon him. Cano's .298/.350/.533 (138 wRC+) was actually better than his career line of .307/.355/.498 (127 wRC+), and there's little reason to think he doesn't have more great years left in him.
3. Daniel Murphy, Nationals (Shredder rank: 3)
Murphy's new pull-happy fly-ball approach, which first surfaced late in 2015 with the Mets, persisted into '16 with the Nationals, and it helped make him into a star. Murphy hit a massive .347/.390/.595 (156 wRC+), and that .595 slugging percentage wasn't just second-best in the Majors to David Ortiz, it was the second highest by a second baseman (behind Jeff Kent's .596 in 2000) since 1928. While his defense lags behind most of the others on this list, the fact that we've seen him maintain his new offensive level for more than a year -- remember the 2015 playoffs? -- inspires confidence "the new Murphy" is here to stay.
4. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (Shredder rank: 4)
The next five names on this list could arguably come in any order, because they're all veterans 29 or older who have put up star-level seasons, though in very different ways. Pedroia remains a top defender (tied for No. 1 in Defensive Runs Saved at the position with +12, according to FanGraphs), and he did it with a .318/.376/.449 (120 wRC+) line that makes for the fourth time in five years he's had a hitting line between 15 and 20 points above average. That's his highest OBP since 2011, by the way, and he's now entering the second decade of what may be a Hall of Fame career.
5. James Dozier, Twins (Shredder rank: 8)
While it may seem like Dozier's 42-homer outburst, the most by a second baseman since 1973, came out of nowhere, don't forget he had 23 and 28 homers the previous two years. Like Murphy, he's made the most of his power by elevating and pulling the ball as much as he can. Dozier ranks below Pedroia on this list because of Pedroia's superior on-base and fielding skills, but the margin is a thin one, and another year with this kind of power production could shoot Dozier up the list next year.
Gif: Dozier homers 3x , curtain calls vs KC
6. Ian Kinsler, Tigers (Shredder rank: 5)
Kinsler had something of a power outburst as well, putting up a .484 slugging percentage that was his highest since 2009, and he did it with fantastic defense, tying Pedroia with +12 DRS. You're starting to see why this middle group is so similar, because Murphy, Pedroia, Dozier and Kinsler all had between 5.2 and 5.9 FanGraphs WAR (though this list is not simply ordered based on that). Kinsler is sixth because his on-base skills are similar to Dozier's, but he's five years older without the same power. He has the fielding edge, though, so again, there's not a ton of value difference here.
7. Jason Kipnis, Indians (Shredder rank: 6)
Yet another middle infielder with a career-high power output, Kipnis hit 23 homers in 2016, the most by a Cleveland infielder since Roberto Alomar's 24 in 1999. He rebounded from a poor 2014 (.240/.310/.330, 82 wRC+) to put up a pair of very good years (.289/.357/.460, 120 wRC+ across 2015-16), and his defense has improved as well.
8. Benjamin Zobrist, Cubs (Shredder rank: 10)
Another year, another Zobrist season. Zobrist's .386 OBP was his highest since 2009, and he put up his fourth straight year with a wRC+ between 114 and 124. (100 is set as league average.) We awarded no extra points for being named Most Valuable Player of the World Series, but surely his production in October didn't hurt. Zobrist is here because his defense is a step below the non-Murphy players ahead of him, and because there's at least some question about how much second base he'll play in 2017, given the presence of Javier Baez.
Gif: Ben Zobrist is excited at 2B
9. DJ LeMahieu, Rockies (Shredder rank: 7)
What to make of LeMahieu? Entering 2016, LeMahieu had nearly 2,000 plate appearances of below-average offensive performance, totaling a line of .284/.329/.370 (75 wRC+), though with a strong defensive reputation. He then broke out with a huge .348/.416/.495 (128 wRC+), finishing third in the Majors in OBP and putting more balls in play at over 100 mph than Michael Trout or Mookie Betts. LeMahieu is No. 9 because of the relative lack of track record and the huge home/road splits (150 wRC+ at home, just 101 on the road), but another season like that and he'll be a lot higher next year.
10. Rougned Odor, Rangers
Rounding out our top 10 is Odor, who crushed 33 homers after hitting 25 in his first two seasons, yet still showed a total aversion to drawing walks (only 19 walks in 605 plate appearances) and had poorly rated defense (-9 DRS). When you show that kind of power as a 22-year-old middle infielder, you're rightfully going to draw attention. Odor will need to smooth out some of the rough edges to advance on this list, though.
Gif: Rougned Odor boogie
Just missed (in no order):John Forsythe, Rays (Shredder rank: 9); Neil Walker, Mets; Joe Panik, Giants; Baez, Cubs; Ryan Schimpf, Padres; Dee Gordon, Marlins; Jonathan Villar, Brewers
Walker's back surgery created enough uncertainty to knock him off the list, while Schimpf needs to prove his fantastic half-season debut as a 28-year-old rookie wasn't a fluke. Baez, for all his heroics with the glove, still has yet to put up his first full league-average hitting season and couldn't stop striking out in the World Series, though it's easy to see him making the leap in 2017.
Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com.