by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There was a time that the debate between Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia was to determine who the second best option in the league was. Coming off disappointing 2013 campaigns, both now find themselves well behind Robinson Cano and Jason Kipnis. In fact, depending on your viewpoint, even Matt Caprenter may be placed ahead of them (though that’s a discussion for another day).
Instead, lets take a look at these two second basemen and try to determine who is more likely to rebound in 2014:
Kinsler – He has hit above .275 four times and above .290 once. In other words, his .277 mark from last season was hardly the disappointing part of his line. That said, it came courtesy of a 23.6% line drive rate (the second time in his career he was above 20.6%, with the other coming in 2008). He has been known to get homer happy, at times, and also has been prone to popups the past two seasons (14.2% and 14.4%, respectively). In other words, average is never going to be the strongest part of his game.
Pedroia – Like Kinsler, his average wasn’t the issue as he hit .301. A career .302 hitter who has always made consistent contact (8.9% strikeout rate) and hit the ball hard (20.3% line drive rate), he’s always going to have .300+ potential.
Advanage – Pedroia
Kinsler – Seeing him suffer through a power outage is not a completely foreign concept (he hit 9 HR in 391 AB in 2010), but just 13? What’s worse is that it wasn’t like he was piling up the doubles (31). The fear here would be he starts swinging for the fences again, like in 2009 (54.0% fly ball rate) and 2011 (47.1% fly ball rate), but that would put his average further in jeopardy. A 4.4% HR/FB in the second half was the big issue (he did have 9 HR in the first half), so seeing him get back to the 18-20 range would be realistic.
Pedroia – Sure he’s hit as many as 21 in a season, but that’s looking more like an aberration as opposed to the rule. He battled a thumb injury all season, which would help explain his 9 HR and pathetic 27.9% fly ball rate. His ceiling isn’t as high as Kinsler’s, but a healthy Pedroia should return to 15-18 HR.
Advantage – Kinsler, due to a higher ceiling
Kinsler – He has stolen over 30 bases before, but had just 15 last season. The bigger concern is the amount that he’s been caught, now 20 times over the past two years (he had previously never been caught more than 5 times in a season). He did have 10 in the second half last year, so it’s still possible, but he had 6 in the second half of ’12 and 5 in the first half of ’13. At this point it’s hard to expect him to pick up more than 20, if that.
Pedroia – He had 17 and has never had more than 26 in a season. He’s not a big speed guy, but has routinely reached 20. Like Kinsler, that’s just his ceiling.
Advantage – Kinsler may have a slightly higher upside, but this is a draw
Kinsler – He has long benefited from a loaded lineup behind him, and spending a lot of time in the leadoff of spot help, but both of those may no longer be the case (while he hit leadoff a lot in ’13, they also have used Elvis Andrus there recently).
Pedroia – He does hit in a better lineup, at this point, produces a better OBP and primarily hit third in 2013. He may have only scored 90 in 2013, but the potential for 100+ is clearly there.
Advantage – Pedroia’s upside is slightly higher
Kinsler – If he’s hitting for power he can drive in runs. If he’s not? The upside is 70, especially hitting towards the top of the order.
Pedroia – He had 84 RBI last season and, if he sticks hitting third, the potential is there to pick up 90+.
Advantage – Pedroia
Kinsler has shown 30/30 potential in the past and still has the higher ceiling in regards to power and speed. However, it’s not like Pedroia is far behind him in either category at this point. Throw in a better average and the upside in runs and RBI and Pedroia does get the slight edge for me. That said, it is extremely close and I could easily see someone argue the other way.