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Ultimate second baseman rankings: Do Robinson Canó and Chase Utley belong in Hall of Fame territory?

Mark Townsend
·Yahoo Sports Contributor
·14 min read
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Welcome back to our ongoing series aimed at determining the best of the best at each position in Major League Baseball.

Our goal here is two-fold. First, we determine each current franchise’s best ever player at a position. Then we rank those players 1-30 to determine how they stack up in MLB history.

The only caveat being that the selected player must come from the current incarnation of each franchise. But don’t worry, we’ll throw in bonus players when warranted as well. To make things more interesting, we also require that no player represents multiple franchises or multiple positions.

Today, we're looking at the cream of the crop at second base. What a fascinating group this is. Of the 30 listed, 13 are in the Hall of Fame. There’s also a tier featuring potential Hall of Famers, such as Robinson Canó, Chase Utley, Jeff Kent and Dustin Pedroia. That made the second third of the rankings quite difficult, but we embraced that challenge.

The talent dipped quickly toward the end, which was an entirely different challenge and led to the inclusion of several surprising names.

Here they are, the second basemen.

1. Rogers Hornsby — St. Louis Cardinals

With Cardinals: 13 seasons

Best season: 1924 (12.2 WAR, .424/.507/.696, 25 homers)

What can you say when a player wins TWO triple crowns and neither was his best season? Hornsby won six of his seven batting titles with St. Louis. He hit better than .400 three times. He led the league in hits and runs scored four times each. He won two MVP awards. Simply put, he was a hitting machine and is the easy choice to top this list.

2. Joe Morgan — Cincinnati Reds

With Reds: 8 seasons

Best season: 1975 (11.0 WAR, .327/.466/.508, MVP)

It's easy to forget Morgan spent less than 40 percent of his career with the Reds. Of course, Cincinnati is where Morgan was at his best. He won back-to-back MVPs as part of the "Big Red Machine" in 1975 and 1976. Morgan made eight of 10 All-Star appearances with the Reds and led the league in on-base percentage four times. His five Gold Glove awards further solidified his status as a Hall of Famer and an elite tier second baseman.

3. Jackie Robinson — Los Angeles Dodgers

With Dodgers: 10 seasons

Best season: 1949 (9.3 WAR, .342/.432/.528, 37 steals, MVP)

We can't possibly overstate how important Robinson was to the game of baseball. What we can do is reinforce just how good he was. After breaking the color barrier in 1947, Robinson went on to win Rookie of the Year. Two seasons later, he was the NL MVP. Over 10 seasons, he posted a fantastic .311/.409/.474 batting line while hitting 137 homers and stealing 197 bases. Worth noting, his entire MLB happened after he turned 28.

4. Nap Lajoie — Cleveland Indians

With Naps/Indians: 11 seasons

Best season: 1906 (10.0 WAR, .355/.392/.465, 48 doubles)

We're altering a rule here, because how many players had a team renamed after them? Before they were the Indians, Cleveland's baseball club was named the Bronchos. In between, they were renamed the Naps in honor of Lajoie himself. Perhaps they still should be. Lajoie's 79.8 career WAR remains the highest in franchise history.

5. Eddie Collins — Oakland Athletics

With A’s: 13 seasons (all in Philadelphia)

Best season with A’s: 1910 (10.5 WAR, .324/.382/.418, 81 steals)

Collins played 25 seasons, splitting his time almost evenly between the A's and White Sox. He actually had a higher WAR with Chicago, but his best overall seasons, including his breakout in 1910 and MVP in 1913, both came with the Philadelphia A’s. During that four-year stretch, the A's won three World Series titles, which helped Collins cement his Hall of Fame status.

6. Rod Carew — Minnesota Twins

With Twins: 12 seasons

Best season with Twins: 1977 (9.7 WAR, .388/.449/.570)

Carew's best seasons were with Minnesota. Of course, he couldn't beat out Killebrew at first base, but he's clearly the man at second. The Hall of Famer led the league in hitting six times with Minnesota. His Twins slash line was .334/.393/.448. He also hit .314/.393/.392 in seven seasons with the Angels.

7. Charlie Gehringer — Detroit Tigers

With Tigers: 19 seasons

Best season: 1937 (7.7 WAR, .371/.458/.520, 14 homers, MVP)

Lou Whitaker can't catch a break. Not only has his strong Hall of Fame case been denied, he didn't make this list despite being among the greatest second baseman in MLB history. That's because Tigers history also includes Charlie Gehringer, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1949. Gehringer won one MVP, one batting title and earned six All-Star selections with Detroit.

CHICAGO:  Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs bats during an MLB game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  Ryne Sandberg played for the Chicago Cubs from 1982-1997. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
The sure-handed Ryne Sandberg set an MLB record by going 123 straight games without committing an error. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

8. Ryne Sandberg — Chicago Cubs

With Cubs: 15 seasons

Best season: 1984 (8.6 WAR, .314/.367/.520, 19 triples, MVP)

Sandberg could do it all. He was the all-time home run leader among second baseman until Jeff Kent passed him. He hit north of .300 in five times while winning seven Silver Sluggers. And boy could he play defense. The nine-time Gold Glove winner once went a record 123 games without committing an error. No wonder the Hall of Fame came calling in 2005.

9. Roberto Alomar — Toronto Blue Jays

With Blue Jays: 5 seasons

Best season: 1992 (6.6 WAR, .310/.405/.427, 49 steals)

For a Hall of Famer, Roberto Alomar sure did move around a lot. Over 17 seasons, he suited up for seven different teams. His longest stay was in Toronto. He was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in each of his five seasons with the Blue Jays. More importantly, Alomar was a key player on their back-to-back championship teams in 1992 and 1993.

10. Robinson Canó — Seattle Mariners

With Mariners: 5 seasons

Best season: 2016 (7.3 WAR, .298/.350/.533, 39 homers)

We're well aware that Cane made his name with the Yankees. We also know that having him represent the Yankees would bump Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri off this list and require the addition of Bret Boone. No thanks. In five seasons in Seattle, Canó hit 107 homers while posting a solid a .296/.353/.472 batting line. He also served an 80-game PED suspension in 2018, which slightly hurts his overall ranking.

11. Bobby Grich — Los Angeles Angels

With Angels: 10 seasons

Best season: 1979 (6.0 WAR, .294/.365/.537, 30 homers, All-Star)

Grich had big seasons in Baltimore, where he formed a classic double play combo with Mark Belanger. His offensive production was even bigger in Los Angeles. Of his 224 career home runs, 154 happened with the Angels. His 35.1 WAR is fifth-highest in Angels history.

12. Craig Biggio — Houston Astros

With Astros: 20 seasons

Best season: 1997 (9.4 WAR, .309/.415/.501, 22 homers)

You weren't expecting José Altuve, were you? Biggio was drafted and debuted as a catcher in 1988, but benefited greatly from a move to second base. He won four Gold Gloves at the position and was selected to seven All-Star teams overall. In 2007, he became the 27th member of MLB's 3,000 hit club. In 2015, he became the first player with an Astros cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Chase Utley's Hall of Fame case will be hotly debated. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Chase Utley's Hall of Fame case will be hotly debated. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

13. Chase Utley — Philadelphia Phillies

With Phillies: 13 seasons

Best season: 2008 (9.0 WAR, .292/.380/.535, 33 homers, All-Star)

Did we fully appreciate how good Chase Utley was? He was sometimes overshadowed by Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, but his numbers stack up well against his contemporaries. As MLB.com points out, only Albert Pujols (76.2 WAR) and Adrián Beltré (63.3 WAR) rated higher (62.0) during Utley's prime (2004-2014). The question now is whether he will make the Hall of Fame.

14. Jeff Kent — San Francisco Giants

With Giants: 6 seasons

Best season: 2000 (7.2 WAR, .334/.424/.596, 33 homers, MVP)

Kent played for six different teams over 17 seasons, but truly peaked in San Francisco when he teamed up with Barry Bonds. Kent slashed .297/.368/.535 with the Giants and hit 175 of his 377 career home runs by the bay. His 351 home runs as a second baseman are a major league record, but so far that hasn't been enough to secure a place in Cooperstown.

15. Nellie Fox — Chicago White Sox

With White Sox: 14 seasons

Best season: 1957 (7.9 WAR, .317/.403/.415, All-Star)

This would have been a toss-up between Fox and Eddie Collins. Fortunately, we didn't have to make that decision. Fox earned Hall of Fame status during his 14-year run in Chicago. He won the AL MVP in 1959, was a 12-year All-Star, and remains second in franchise history with 2,470 career hits.

16. Tony Lazzeri — New York Yankees

With Yankees: 12 seasons

Best season: 1929 (7.7 WAR, .354/.429/.561, 18 homers)

Had Robinson Canó remained with the Yankees, he would own this spot. Instead, it belongs to a member of the Yankees' Murderers' Row squad from the 1920s and 1930s. That's right, though Lazzeri isn't talked about as much as Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, he is a Hall of Famer who was part of five World Series winning teams. He was also the first MLB player to hit two grand slams in a single game.

17. Dustin Pedroia — Boston Red Sox

With Red Sox: 14 seasons

Best season: 2011 (8.0 WAR, .307/.387/.474, 21 homers)

It's a literal toss-up between Pedroia and Bobby Doerr, who by the way is a Hall of Famer. Pedroia owns the slightest of edges by Baseball-Reference WAR (51.6 to 51.1), which illustrates how close they are and perhaps helps his own Hall of Fame case. Because of his contributions to two Red Sox World Series championship teams, we've sided with Pedroia as well.

18. Ian Kinsler — Texas Rangers

With Rangers: 8 seasons

Best season: 2011 (7.4 WAR, .255/.355/.477, 32 homers)

Don't sleep on Kinsler. He's not a top-15 guy, but he enjoyed solid runs in Texas and Detroit. In fact, he ranks top 10 in several offensive categories for the Rangers. Those include hits (1,145), runs (748), doubles (249) and home runs (156).

19. Bill Mazeroski — Pittsburgh Pirates

With Pirates: 17 seasons

Best season: 1964 (3.7 WAR, .268/.300/.381, All-Star)

We all know what Maz's most memorable moment was. In 1960, he launched the first and only World Series Game 7 walk-off home run against the Yankees. His 10 All-Star selections and eight Gold Glove awards would have had him in the Hall of Fame discussion. That home run sealed it.

20. Ben Zobrist — Tampa Bay Rays

With Rays: 9 seasons

Best season: 2009 (8.6 WAR, .297/.405/.543, 27 homers, All-Star)

Zobrist played all over the diamond during his Rays' tenure, but logged the most time at second base. His versatility was only matched by his consistency. Zobrist hit between .269 and .276 over his final five seasons in Tampa. He 35.3 WAR ranks third in franchise history.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Ben Zobrist #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates his walk off single with the bases loaded to score Logan Forsythe during the ninth inning of a game against the New York Yankees on September 15, 2014 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Ben Zobrist rose to prominence as part of the young core that carried the Tampa Bay Rays into contention, then achieved World Series glory with the Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

21. Frank White — Kansas City Royals

With Royals: 18 seasons

Best season: 1986 (4.0 WAR, .272/.322/.465, 22 homers, All-Star)

White's offensive numbers won't blow you away, but his eight Gold Glove awards and five All-Star selections speak to his value. For nearly two decades, White provided the Royals with consistency and reliability. He also helped bring a championship to town in 1985. That's a solid career.

22. Luis Castillo — Miami Marlins

With Marlins: 10 seasons

Best season: 2003 (4.4 WAR, .314/.381/.397, All-Star)

Dan Uggla was a stronger force offensively, but Luis Castillo has him beat thanks to his longevity and all-around skill set. Castillo was a three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner who still holds the team record for games played (1,128), hits (1,273), runs (675) and stolen bases (281).

23. DJ LeMahieu — Colorado Rockies

With Rockies: 7 seasons

Best season: 2016 (5.3 WAR, .348/.416/.495)

Before taking New York by storm in 2019, LeMahieu was a pretty solid second baseman in Colorado for most of the prior decade. Sure, the Coors Field factor aided his batting title in 2016, but he was also a three-time Gold Glove award winner that probably deserved to win two or three more.

24. Brian Roberts — Baltimore Orioles

With Orioles: 13 seasons

Best season: 2005 (7.3 WAR, .314/.387/.515, 18 homers)

Bobby Grich had a better overall career in Baltimore, but he's already representing the Angels. Roberts owns the franchise record for games played (1,327), hits (1,452), doubles (351) and steals (278) among second basemen. He also admittedly used steroids after appearing in the Mitchell Report, which is one reason we couldn’t place him in the top 20.

25. Edgardo Alfonzo — New York Mets

With Mets: 8 seasons

Best season: 2000 (6.4 WAR, .324/.425/.542, 25 homers, All-Star)

Alfonzo split his time evenly between second base and third base. Of course, we know a certain captain has the latter on lock down, so second base it is. It's actually a weak position for New York considering that Daniel Murphy is the next best option. In eight seasons, Alfonzo launched 120 home runs while batting .292.

26. Daniel Murphy — Washington Nationals

With Nationals: 3 seasons

Best season: 2016 (4.5 WAR, .347/.390/.595, 25 homers, All-Star)

Funny seeing you here, Daniel Murphy. This is definitely awkward, We initially leaned toward José Vidro, whose 10-year run bridged the Montreal and Washington eras. Then we realized he posted a -0.7 WAR in a Nats uniform. Daniel Murphy it is.

27. Jim Gantner — Milwaukee Brewers

With Brewers: 17 seasons

Best season: 1983 (4.3 WAR, .282/.329/.401)

Gantner is the only player on this list without an All-Star selection. He's here mainly because of his longevity. His entire 17-year career, which only netted a 22.4 WAR, was spent in Milwaukee. The Wisconsin native only mustered 47 home runs during that time, but won over Brewers fans with his fierce competitiveness.

23 Sep 2001:  Second baseman Marcus Giles #24 of the Atlanta Braves swings while cather Mike Piazza #31 of the New York Mets crouches behind the plate during the Major League Baseball game at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York.  The Braves came from behind to defeat the Mets 5-4. Mandatory Credit:  Al Bello/Allsport
Marcus Giles may be the most accomplished second baseman in Braves history thus far, but Ozzie Albies is gaining on him rapidly. (Photo Credit: Al Bello/Allsport)

28. Marcus Giles — Atlanta Braves

With Braves: 6 seasons

Best season: 2003 (7.9 WAR, .316/.390/.526, 21 homers, All-Star)

On some teams, Giles might not even rank top five at second base. That's how shockingly thin the talent pool has been for the Braves at second base. Fortunately for Braves fans, that's in the process of changing now thanks to Ozzie Albies.

29. Jay Bell — Arizona Diamondbacks

With Diamondbacks: 5 seasons

Best season: 1999 (4.9 WAR, .289/.374/.557, 38 homers, All-Star)

Had Ketel Marte not spent most of 2019 in center field, his huge season would have tipped the scales in his direction. As for Bell, he spent most of his career as a shortstop in Pittsburgh, but found enough success as a second baseman in Arizona to qualify. Needless to say, the choices here were not great.

30. Mark Loretta — San Diego Padres

With Padres: 3 seasons

Best season: 2004 (6.0 WAR, .335/.391.495, 16 homers, All-Star)

Loretta suited up for five different teams over 15 seasons. His best two years came in San Diego, which was enough to bump out Bip Roberts.

Previously in this series:

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