We’re heading over to the middle of the infield for our second set of 2017 MLB positional rankings.
15. Logan Forsythe, Los Angeles Dodgers
2016 stats: .264/.333/.444, 20 HR, 52 RBI, 3.4 WAR
Logan Forsythe was a key addition for the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason as he filled their void at second base. LA’s primary target was Brian Dozier, but they snagged Forsythe when trade talks with the Twins fell apart. Forsythe is no Dozier, but he’s certainly no slouch either. The 30-year-old enjoyed his second-straight productive season as he emerged as one of the only real threats in Tampa Bay’s lineup. He should fit perfectly into this Dodgers team.
14. Neil Walker, New York Mets
2016 stats: .282/.347/.476, 23 HR, 55 RBI, 2.4 WAR
Losing Daniel Murphy hurt the Mets, but Neil Walker did a decent job filling in for him in 2016. Walker had the most productive offensive campaign of his career and should once again be a key part of New York’s lineup.
13. Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays
2016 stats: .300/.332/.454, 11 HR, 50 RBI, 2.9 WAR
It’ll be interesting to see if Devon Travis can take the next step in 2017. He boasted an impressive stat line in the 101 games he played last season, but it’s just a matter of whether Toronto’s talented 25-year-old can stay healthy. A breakout year from Travis would be exactly what the Blue Jays need, especially after losing slugger Edwin Encarnacion to Cleveland in free agency.
12. Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins
2016 stats: .268/.305/.335, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 30 SB, 0.8 WAR (70 games)
Dee Gordon’s PED suspension early last season undoubtedly threw him off all year. His 2016 numbers shown above are misleading. Make no mistake, Gordon is still among the best second basemen in the game. He’ll have plenty to prove in 2017, but it’s pretty tough to doubt a guy who can swipe 50+ bases with ease. He most likely won’t be his 2015 self, but I’m banking on a bounce-back season for the 28-year-old.
11. Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers
2016 stats: .271/.296/.502, 33 HR, 88 RBI, 2.4 WAR
If you’re easily impressed by power numbers, then you’re likely impressed with Odor’s 2016 season. It was somewhat of a breakout campaign for Jose Bautista’s arch-nemesis, but he has to work on his plate discipline if he’s ever going to be a star or anything close to it. Odor walked just 19 times last year while striking out a whopping 135 instances. That ratio needs to improve.
10. Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers
2016 stats: .285/.369/.457, 19 HR, 63 RBI, 62 SB, 3.9 WAR
What a season 2016 was for Jonathan Villar. It was a quietly great one considering he’s stuck playing in Milwaukee, but still remarkable nonetheless. He led the league with 62 stolen bases, but speed wasn’t the only dimension of his game. That, combined with his .826 OPS, makes him one of the most underrated players in baseball.
9. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
2016 stats: .273/.314/.423, 14 HR, 59 RBI, 3.4 WAR
Javier Baez has been a well-known prospect in the Chicago Cubs’ system, but he really started to gain notoriety during of the 2016 postseason. Baez’s impeccable defense along with his aggressiveness at the plate make him an insanely exciting player to watch. That aggressive mentality comes back to haunt him at times, but if he can cut down on the strikeouts and be more patient at the plate he could be an absolute stud.
8. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
2016 stats: .275/.343/.469, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 4.1 WAR
Jason Kipnis’ success was a major reason why the Indians made it as far as they did last season. The 29-year-old posted his career-high in homers and is primed for another productive campaign in this talented Cleveland lineup.
7. D.J. LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies
2016 stats: .348/.416/.495, 11 HR, 66 RBI, 5.2 WAR
Last year’s batting champ isn’t flashy like most of Colorado’s stacked lineup. He won’t hit a ton of homers, even at Coors Field, but it’s incredibly difficult to keep the guy off the base paths. His 2016 season was a coming out party of sorts as he posted an eye-popping OPS of .911 and finished 15th in MVP voting. You have to believe some regression is likely in 2017, but he’s primed for another solid season in a Rockies offense that’s bound to do a lot of damage.
6. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
2016 stats: .318/.376/.449, 15 HR, 74 RBI, 5.6 WAR
What’s there to say about Pedey that hasn’t already been said a billion times? No one plays the game harder, no one makes people “oooh” and “ahhhh” more defensively, and his consistency year after year at the plate is astounding. As Boston’s undisputed leader with David Ortiz gone, it’d be foolish not to expect another phenomenal year out of Pedroia.
5. Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers
2016 stats: .288/.348/.484, 28 HR, 83 RBI, 6.1 WAR
At age 34, Kinsler had one of his best all-around seasons in 2016. His standout year at the plate came with a gold glove as well. He’s sort of an enigma offensively as one year he’ll hit 30 homers and the next he’ll hit 10. But regardless, Kinsler remains a top-tier second baseman in the latter part of his career.
4. Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
2016 stats: .347/.390/.595, 25 HR, 104 RBI, 4.6 WAR
Daniel Murphy’s amazing 2015 postseason performance turned out not to be a fluke after all. The Nationals’ second baseman raked his way to a second-place NL MVP finish with an OPS of .985. Will he match that stunning number in 2017? Probably not. Even if he doesn’t, it’s safe to say his 2016 was convincing enough for him to be near the top of this list.
3. Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins
2016 stats: .268/.340/.546, 42 HR, 99 RBI, 6.5 WAR
Brian Dozier’s unreal second half of 2016 propelled him over the 40 home run mark for the first time in his five-year career. His prior career-high was 28 in 2015. I’d bet on Dozier regressing to the mean this year since many of those homers were hit in such a short timeframe when he was scorching hot at the plate. Even so, Dozier’s mean is still pretty damn good.
2. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
2016 stats: .298/.350/.533, 39 HR, 103 RBI, 7.3 WAR
Robinson Cano was back to Robinson Cano form in 2016. He had a down second season in Seattle by his standards , but last year he was good enough to finish 8th in MVP voting. Needless to say, Cano will be once again be a major key to the Mariners’ playoff hopes, which are actually pretty high this time around.
1. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
2016 stats: .338/.396/.531, 24 HR, 96 RBI, 30 SB, 7.7 WAR
Duh. You knew Altuve would top this list as soon as you read the headline. I suppose one could make a case for Cano, but I have to give love to the little guy. If it weren’t for that meddling Mike Trout, you could form a serious argument for Altuve as the best all-around player in MLB. He’ll be an AL MVP front-runner again this year if he stays healthy.