Pedroia, Kinsler and others climb the collecting ladder
By Eric Meliton
The American League has had its fair share of elite second basemen. The Baseball Hall of Fame has a couple of examples in Rod Carew (inducted in 1991) and Nellie Fox (inducted in 1997) as prime examples. However, many fans of the game today are too young to remember these great second basemen of the American League.
Although it is too early to start predicting who may eventually enter the Baseball Hall of Fame as an American League second baseman, the 2009 Major League Baseball season has provided us with examples of some of the current greats of the game. All debates aside, Tuff Stuff decided to expand the discussion with various insightful references to come up with the top five second basemen of the American League, based on the current MLB season.
1. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
Pedroia’s popularity stems from a combination of being an integral member of one of the league’s most popular teams, combined with being a part of a clever video game marketing campaign, not to mention his 2008 MVP award. Even without those attributes going for him, Pedroia is a solid second basemen, both defensively and offensively. Pedroia is a consistent player and contributes professional at bats, able to work the count and limit strikeouts.
According to Darryl Johnston, a media correspondent from www.soxteaparty.com, “Dustin Pedroia swings like a man twice his size and has arguably been the best in the American League in the last two seasons. Pedroia provides outstanding defense up the middle and a surprising amount of pop for a man his size.”
From a collectible standpoint, playing for the Boston Red Sox provides Pedroia with a large fan base. Red Sox nation spans the globe and his collectibles will continue to fly off the shelves. “Red Sox players are cherished by their fans and Pedroia will be in the spotlight every season. Pedroia cards are very popular, especially his autograph and game-used jersey cards or patch cards,” mentioned Steve Mandy of Attack of the Baseball Cards. Mandy mentioned that despite his store being located in Yankee country, Pedroia has a strong national pull.
Key Rookie Cards:
• 2004 Hot Prospects Draft #109 Auto
• 2004 SP Prospects #340 Auto / 400
• 2004 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #262 Auto / 1114
2. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
Ian Kinsler is one of the driving forces behind the success of the Texas Rangers this season. With the team starting to contend in the American League, more people will begin to take notice of the team’s star second baseman.
Kinsler is an immense talent and a strong middle infielder that is just entering his prime. Having Kinsler in the lineup puts tremendous pressure on opposing pitchers and defense, as his lethal combination of speed and power are a constant threat. At the time of publication, Kinsler was in line to enter the 30/30 milestone of home runs and stolen bases – an elite club for balanced offensive players.
Brandon Wilson, media correspondent for www.homeoftherangers.com provided his insight into Kinsler’s presence on this list. “Kinsler’s defense is improved this year and his defense is a big reason the Rangers’ pitchers look as good as they do. If he has a hot end to the season as he was in April, he will not only blow through the 30/30 mark, but will be a legitimate MVP candidate; especially if the Rangers manage to sneak into the playoffs.”
Due to the fact that Kinsler is playing in Texas instead of high profile cities such as New York, Boston, or Los Angeles, Kinsler is continuing to garner attention. With a solid combination of youth, power, and speed, Kinsler will continue to be a mainstay for fantasy sports enthusiasts, which may in turn generate popularity in the sports collectibles industry.
Mike Payne, Brand Manager for Panini America, had this to offer, “Kinsler was a defensive liability last season, but has turned that part of his game around significantly this season (2009). He’s also shown some versatility in the batting order, handling lead-off duties and middle-of-the-order duties when called upon.” This versatility with the Rangers could lead to an increase in his long-term cardboard and collectibles, but another season in the limelight will help in the end.
Key Rookie Cards:
• 2005 Bowman Chrome #171
• 2005 Bowman’s Best #95
• 2005 Topps Chrome #214
3. Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays
Playing in relative obscurity in Toronto, Aaron Hill has put together a stellar season. After recovering from a devastating concussion, which consumed his 2008 campaign, Hill has returned to be the most valuable player on a mediocre Blue Jays squad. Like Kinsler, Hill has not garnered much attention in the hobby, as only regional fans have followed Hill throughout 2009.
A solid combination of offensive fundamentals and all-around defensive capabilities, Hill could move up in rank if he is able to post consistent results in 2010. He is considered to have one of the strongest arms on this list, as he is a natural shortstop converted into a second baseman. Hill has already set single-season team records for home runs by a middle infielder and may become the first middle infielder to lead the Blue Jays in home runs and RBIs.
Despite a low profile, Hill was an injury replacement starter for the American League during the 2009 All-Star Game and regular appearances in the mid-summer classic are bound to continue. According to Jordan Bastian, correspondent for the Toronto Blue Jays on MLB.com, “Hill has a consistent swing and it seems likely he could continue to put up these types of numbers year in and year out. Off the diamond, he is an affable person who could easily become one of the faces of the franchise. Playing in the All-Star game helped Hill’s cause, but he will always be at a disadvantage playing north of the border.”
The hobby agrees with Bastien, as Hill’s key rookie cards are quite affordable, despite his offensive outburst in 2009. Despite these limitations to his exposure, it will be difficult to ignore consistency over an extended period of time – if Hill can accomplish this, acquiring his key rookies could be a strong long-term investment.
Key Rookie Cards:
• 2003 Bowman Chrome Draft #95
4. Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles
One of the few veterans on this list, Roberts’ inclusion comes from years of consistent offensive numbers posted for the Baltimore Orioles. Although many believe his offensive numbers are on the decline, Roberts is always a threat to steal bases and provide timely hits.
Now in his ninth season in the majors, Roberts may continue to decline in offensive output, but his history of success in Baltimore is difficult to ignore. Ray Flowers, Fanball Sports Network Sports Editor, agrees, “One of the least respected players in the game, Roberts is the only player, regardless of position, to have hit at least .285 with nine home runs, 55 RBIs, 85 runs scored, and 25 steals in each of the past four seasons from 2005-2008.”
Being on a youthful team such as the rebuilding Orioles, Roberts will be looked upon to be one of the veteran leaders to mold some of the impressionable players in the lineup. Flowers continues, “Does anyone outside of Baltimore even know his name? This is a prime example of a player who never gets his due for his talents on the field. The public is blissfully ignorant of the star from Baltimore. At 31 years of age, Roberts still has a few more years operating at all-star levels.”
Similar to Hill and Kinsler, Roberts’ overall popularity in the industry is limited by playing for a small-market team. Although he has posted steady offensive numbers in his career and has been a consistent defensive player, Roberts is not drawing much attention in the sports collectibles market. Despite this drawback, he does remain a solid regional player and if he continues his consistent play, many could warm up to his serial-numbered rookie cards.
Key Rookie Cards:
• 2001 Donruss Class of 2001 #118 / 1875
• 2001 Donruss Signature #236 / 800
• 2001 Fleer Authority #142 / 2001
• 2001 Leaf Limited #258 / 1000
• 2001 SP Authentic #234 / 1500
• 2001 SPx #194 /1500
• 2001 Topps Gold Label Class 1 #111 / 999
5. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
Playing behind superstars such as Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter, Cano’s profile and impact to the Yankees is overshadowed by the fact that his team is filled with elite players.
Cano is an exceptional talent and his defensive capabilities are underrated. Pundits believe that Cano’s defense at times seems lackadaisical, however, his .994 fielding percentage says otherwise. Since Cano has just entered his prime at 26 years of age (turning 27 in October 2009), Cano should be expected to improve on both his defense and offensive outputs in the near future.
Having the abundant fan base for the New York Yankees helps Cano’s popularity and overall ranking on this list. Not only is he a sought after player among current Yankees players, he’s a consistent player on the field, which should solidify his investment from the hobby. Craig Williams, media correspondent from www.theblogthatruthbuilt.com, focuses on the Yankees fandom and had the following comments, “With the core of Posada, Jeter, and Rivera getting older, Cano is going to be one of the leaders of the next generation. How he handles the extra responsibility could have a very positive impact on future Yankees teams, but for Cano’s legacy as well.”
If Williams’ prediction comes true, Cano could be a hot commodity in the coming years. As his key rookie cards are affordable in comparison to many of his Yankee teammates, now may be the time to stock up. Cano has a limitless ceiling at this point, both on the field and in the hobby, combined with playing for a high profile team, his collectibles are prime for an increase in value.
Key Rookie Cards:
• 2003 Bowman Chrome Draft #124
• 2003 Topps Chrome Traded #T200
Many of those interviewed wanted to include Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays, who has recently emerged as an everyday player at the position and a main cog for the Rays in 2009. However, with Zobrist coming from relative obscurity and being labeled as an utility player up until 2009, Zobrist will need to put up similar numbers in 2010 before anyone can take him seriously as a top five American League second baseman. Despite this lack of interest from some of the experts interviewed that cover MLB games, Zobrist could be a hobby sleeper in the short-term, as his cards are climbing in value and may stay there if he is able to solidify his footing at the position for the long-term.
Overall, this analysis of the top second basemen in the American League will always be a topic of contention among both hobbyists and MLB experts. As the 2009 campaign comes to a close, the players and respective teams that remain in the spotlight will have the biggest impact on the hobby for 2009 and leading into the off season. Only a long-term, consistent career can ensure sustained hobby relevance. SCM