Votebook: Usual suspects at 2B aim to heat up
Big names could give way to emerging stars after slow starts
It has gone from a position primarily about defense to one that is now very much about power.
But so far this year, the prevailing theme at second base has been little production from big names.
There's Chase Utley, arguably the best second baseman of the past decade, still looking to make his 2011 debut after dealing with knee tendinitis. And there's Aaron Hill, Orlando Hudson, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Brian Roberts and Dan Uggla -- all former All-Stars, all off to poor starts.
If you're a second baseman hopeful of starting the July 12 All-Star Game at Chase Field in Phoenix, the door is open.
Well, perhaps rather slightly if you reside in the Junior Circuit.
Robinson Cano still hasn't stopped hitting.
The 2010 American League Silver Slugger Award winner and AL Gold Glove Award winner continues to roll, but so have guys like Orlando Cabrera, Howard Kendrick and Ben Zobrist, and Brandon Phillips, Neil Walker and Rickie Weeks in the National League.
All seem worthy of your vote, but you can't discount the big names whose track records suggest they'll get going again.
Time is ticking, though.
The 2011 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Sprint is available online until 11:59 p.m. ET on June 30, with the AL and NL rosters being unveiled July 3 during the 2011 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS.
Can anyone beat out Cano, or is he just working on a run that will see him take over the All-Star votes for years to come? After a breakout season during which he earned his first start in the Midsummer Classic in 2010, Cano is hitting .291 with nine homers and 25 RBIs for the Yankees this season -- and has everybody raving.
"Robbie is one of those guys you can hit anywhere and I believe he's going to have success," manager Joe Girardi said recently. "I've been very pleased with his approach and the way he goes about his business every day."
But others are putting up some comparable numbers.
Like Zobrist, the Rays' utility man who's hitting .292 with eight homers and 27 RBIs -- eight of which came in one game -- and a Major League-leading 31 runs scored.
Or Cabrera, the under-the-radar offseason signing who's providing solid defense at a position he has little experience at while also contributing with the bat for the first-place Indians -- batting .279 with 21 RBIs.
Or Kendrick, the Angels speedster who sports a .320 batting average -- tops among Major League second basemen -- to go along with an uncharacteristic six home runs through his first 38 games.
"I think my goal before the season was 11 [home runs]," said Kendrick, who has never gone deep more than 10 times in a season. "So if I hit that, I'll be really happy."
While they're thriving, Hill (.225 batting average and homerless), Kinsler (.221), Roberts (.215) and Pedroia (.237) are still trying to get it together.
Any concern for "The Laser Show," who has been an All-Star each of the past three years?
"I've been around [Pedroia] long enough to know that he will get every bit as hot as he got cold," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said recently. "I know my job is to remain positive, but this is an easy one."
Perhaps it is in that case. But choosing a starting second baseman for the NL is anything but.
Utley has been on the mend and Uggla has struggled, but Walker has emerged. The 25-year-old -- a .296 hitter through 110 games last year -- is batting .287 with four homers and 21 RBIs while becoming the first second baseman to hit cleanup for the Pirates since a man named Bill Mazeroski.
Don't forget Weeks, who has lived up to his four-year, $38.5 million extension with the Brewers early on -- batting .288 with seven homers, and teaming with Yuniesky Betancourt to turn in one of the slickest double plays you'll ever see.
And don't forget about Phillips, who has a .370 on-base percentage and 19 RBIs while providing Gold Glove-caliber defense at second base.
You know, the old-school way.
"We forget that a second baseman's job, a shortstop's job -- their first job is to play defense up the middle," Hall of Famer and former Reds second baseman Joe Morgan said recently. "[Phillips] does a great job of that, and now he's being recognized as an All-Star because of having all the other stuff."
Uggla of the Braves (.205 batting average, though he does have six homers) and Hudson of the Padres (.245, though he has stolen 10 bases) also boast All-Star track records and are trying to turn a corner.
Utley, meanwhile, is just trying to play.
The Phillies slugger -- selected as the NL starting second baseman each of the past five seasons -- has been hampered by right knee pain since Spring Training. But in his second rehab game for Class A Clearwater on Thursday night, the 32-year-old homered, walked and struck out while playing five innings.
"It's all good so far," Utley said. "I was able to see some pitches, especially in that second at-bat [during the walk], so hopefully it's coming."
Coming in time to capture more All-Star votes than his counterparts once again?
That's your call.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.