Ranking the AL East second basemen is actually very tough. It's certainly harder than ranking the catchers and first basemen, although I got some hilarious hate mail from a Yankee fan for daring to suggest that Kevin Youkilis is a better defensive 1B than Mark Teixeira. My favorite part is where he wrote underneath his name "Bergen County, NJ: Yankee Country USA." My condolences to Dave and any other Camden Chatters who have to be surrounded by that nonsense constantly.
But back to second basemen. Ben Zobrist had a monster year in 2009 but it was his first full time year and he was 28 years old so it's hard to predict what he'll do in 2010. To a lesser extent the same issue applies to Aaron Hill. Brian Roberts, as good as I think he is, also makes for a tricky decision. I honestly think there isn't a bad 2B in the AL East and I think most of these guys would be at the top of the list in most other divisions (please note that's being said without any analysis, just off the top of my head).
1. Dustin Pedroia - Pedroia actually reminds me a bit of Brian Roberts. They're both little guys who get on base a lot, have a little bit of power, and score a lot of runs. They're both the types of players who get labeled "scrappy" or some similar stupid word. The biggest difference between the two, of course, is that Pedroia has been doing what he does since age 23 whereas Roberts didn't start putting up those kind of offensive numbers until he was 27 and had been in the league for 5 years. Currently Pedroia is also superior defensively than Roberts, but when Roberts was Pedroia's age I'd say they were comparable. Honestly I know that a lot of Orioles fans really can't stand Pedroia but he's the kind of guy I'd love to have on my team, and that has a lot to do with the Roberts similarities I already mentioned. I love Brian Roberts but time is passing him by.
2. Ben Zobrist - This is where things get tricky. I don't know that Zobrist is really the 2nd best second baseman. Based on his 2009 season he'd be number one easily but I'm not ready for that, and not only because he only played 91 of his 152 games at 2B in 2009. Zobrist put up just ridiculous offensive numbers in 2009, way above his career average. It was also the first season that Zobrist ever played more than 62 games in a year he was 28 years old. I just don't know what to think about the dude. I think it's nearly impossible that he'll put up the same line he did last year (.297/.405/.543 with 27 HR) but he had good numbers in limited playing time in 2008 as well so I believe he'll probably have another above average year in 2010.
3. Brian Roberts - I struggled with this pick as well, going back and forth between Roberts and Robinson Cano. My first instinct and what I really wanted was to put Brian in this spot but it's easy enough to make an argument for Cano. I didn't want to sound like a homer but ultimately I've determined that Roberts does deserve the three spot, at least for this year. Yes, Roberts will be 32 years old and he's declined a bit defensively, but offensively Roberts provides the production and stability to put him ahead of Cano. Brian Roberts puts up a healthy OBP every year, hits a ton of doubles, and steals bases at an 80% success rate year after year. The good thing about Roberts is that you know what you're going to get from him.
4. Robinson Cano - Cano has the potential to be a better hitter than Brian Roberts, but his weakness lies in his lack of plate discipline. In years when things go his way and he gets a lot of hits (see 2007 and 2009), Cano puts up a respectable OBP and that combined with his ability to hit about 20 HR lends itself to a successful year. Unfortunately for Cano he can't take a walk to save his life so if he ever has a less than great year, hits-wise, he's in big trouble (see 2008). Combine that with the fact that he's not a defensive marvel and he drops a notch below Brian Roberts. Still, he'll be just 27 in 2010 and could ultimately fall anywhere on this list.
5. Aaron Hill - Unlike Ben Zobrist, I don't see much chance of Hill following his very successful 2009 with an equally successful 2010. First of all, his 2009 was good but it wasn't outstanding. With the exception of his power surge Hill was pretty much in line with career averages. He'd had a pretty awful 2008 though so in comparison he really appeared to be on another level. Aaron Hill is a perfectly good second baseman, but even in his so called career year his OBP was a pedestrian .330 (worst on this list). And while his power did boost his value substantially, it doesn't seem likely to last. Aaron Hill has 64 career home runs in 5 big league seasons and 37 of them came in 2009. Sounds to me like an anomaly. Defensively Hill is above average but those numbers actually took a dip this year as his offense improved.