Sunday, July 29, 2007

MLB Hall of Fame Projections: Second Base

Only Third Base and Catcher have fewer Hall of Fame members than Second Base. Most of the 16 Hall of Fame second basemen played in the first half of the 20th century. In fact, only Rod Carew, Joe Morgan, and Ryne Sandberg didn’t play before the 60s. There are at least two future Hall of Fame second basemen playing right now but both could be out of the league in two years. Assuming Jeff Kent is elected to the HOF, it could be a long time between Kent and the next second baseman elected. The position is still the least offensive-oriented position in the game but I think it is slowly being taken over by pretty good hitters much like what happened to the shortstop position in the 90’s. The days of a defensive-minded player with terrible offensive statistics making it into Cooperstown because his position isn't thought of as an "offensive" positon should be coming to an end. Omar Vizquel will get some pub but hopefully Ozzie Smith was the last member of that club.

I could put together a lengthy list of recognizable second basemen under the “not likely” category (i.e. Luis Castillo, Marcus Giles, Freddy Sanchez) but none of them are even close. It was a stretch to even include Placido Polanco and Jose Vidro in those categories but they were the best of the rest.

Here are the categories that I will be using to breakdown the candidates and a brief description of each category: The “Lock” and “Likely” categories will be counted as being projected into the Hall of Fame. There won’t be too many “Borderline” candidates but I’ll decide those projections on a case by case basis. I will not count players under 25 regardless of my opinion but I’ll identify players under 25 who seem to be off to excellent starts.

Lock: Barring steroid scandal, will be a Hall of Famer
Likely: Player is on the path based on career progression
Borderline: Pretty close to 50/50; or could make a charge
Not Likely: Almost no chance; would take an unexpected resurgence
Under 25: Players that have a good start to a potential HOF career

Active Hall of Fame Second Basemen

Locks (1)

Craig Biggio

Two years ago, I wrote this about Biggio:

“Bill James has Craig Biggio ranked as the 35th best player in baseball history. I think that’s probably a little high but when James says something, it’s usually more true than not. Biggio has been an outstanding second basemen. He’ll easily reach 3,000 hits. He has over 400 stolen bases. He’ll finish with over 600 doubles. He should finish with close to 1,800 runs. Biggio, along with Raffy, is one of the most unheralded player of the 90’s. The only question here is which ballot he makes it on.”

I can’t say anything has changed in how I perceive Biggio. It’ll be a sad day when he retires. Ever since I can remember, Biggio has been in the league.

Likely (1)

Jeff Kent

Kent is probably the greatest power-hitting second baseman ever. He has the most home runs of any second basemen in MLB history. If he plays 2-3 more seasons, he’ll have the most RBIs of any second basemen in MLB history. He’ll finish with 2,500+ hits and close to 600 doubles with a .290 batting average. His OPS is very good for the position at .861. In fact, Kent’s numbers dominate Ryne Sandberg’s numbers and Sandberg is in the Hall of Fame. It would take a steroid scandal to derail Kent’s path to Cooperstown.


Alfonso Soriano

If Soriano is remembered for being a second-baseman at the end of his career, then he’s a lock for the HOF. That’s probably why he fought the Nationals so hard when they wanted to move him to the OF. His niche was supposed to be as one of the greatest hitting second basemen of all-time—not as a decent-hitting outfielder. As an outfielder, he has almost no chance. To be fair, Soriano has played three times as many games at second base as he has in the outfield so he still should be grouped as a second baseman when his HOF chances are discussed. The problem is that he has only played five full seasons at second base. Over a 15-year career, five seasons won’t be enough to convince people he should be regarded as a second-baseman. I’m putting his chances right at 50/50—100% as a second baseman, .1% as an outfielder. If I had to make a guess, I would say no so I will not be projecting him in.

Chase Utley

Even though Utley is only 28, he is probably the best hitting second baseman that I have seen. His career OPS is .895 and rising. He didn’t play in more than 100 games until the age of 26 which will likely damage his final career totals. Fortunately for Utley, if there is a position where you don’t need to reach the famed career milestones, it is second base. Utley just needs to play 10-12 more years and he’ll likely have enough peak seasons to make it to Cooperstown. It’s a little early but if he stays healthy, I’m giving him a 50/50 chance but I'm not going to project him in because too many things still need to go right for Utley.

Not Likely

Jose Vidro

Seven years ago, I thought Vidro might be a Hall of Famer in the making. It doesn’t appear it’s going to turn out that way. From 1999-2003, Vidro posted batting averages of .304, .330, .319, .315, and .310. Since many of baseball’s best players have been peaking into their 30s, it was reasonable to assume that Vidro was just entering his prime. As it turned out, that was his prime. He’ll have to settle as being one of the best second basemen in baseball over that five-year period.

Placido Polanco

Polanco has only played more than 129 games in a season twice in his career which is amazing for a guy playing in his tenth season with a .303 career batting average. As one would expect after missing so many games, Polanco’s career numbers are underwhelming. He only has 1,200 hits at the age of 31. The chances of Polanco being selected to the HOF are about .01%. But, I would take him as my starting second baseman any day of the week.

Under 25 to keep an eye on:

Robinson Cano

Cano is only 24. Projecting 16 years into the future is a tall task. I’ll just say that he is about to finish his third full season in the majors with a career batting average of .313. He got an early enough start that if he plays long enough, he’ll be able to put up some impressive career numbers. His power numbers leave a lot to be desired but he’s playing the right position to be a singles and doubles hitter.

Final Projected Second Basemen (2)

Craig Biggio
Jeff Kent

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't see a place to comment on your top NBA players of all time. No way Shaq is in the top 10. Absolutely no way. He could dunk. That's about it. For a guy his size in an era with very few good big men shouldn't Shaq have averaged alot more rebounds than he did?
And reconsider Wilt. Check out his total assists and assists per game average. What other big man did what Wilt did?


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