Kinsler gets West nod at 2B over Kendrick

There are few positions in the American League West with as much upside as second base.

The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels have established stars at second in Ian Kinsler and Howie Kendrick. The duo has combined for three trips to the All-Star Game.

Seattle and Oakland don’t boast All-Stars at second, but both teams have former first-round picks that are coming off solid rookie seasons.

Here’s a breakdown of second base in the West with the rankings.

1. Texas – Imagine what kind of season Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler can have if he feels good for an entire year. He was a 30-30 performer last season despite still be bothered by an ankle he sprained in spring training of 2011. Kinsler had a procedure on the ankle in the offseason and has more mobility now. Kinsler is a rare blend of leadoff hitter, providing speed and power. He has the club record for leadoff home runs and added to that total with seven last season. Kinsler did not hit for average in 2011 (.255) but was fifth in the American League in walks with 89 to push his on-base percentage up to .355. The 32 home runs he hit was a career high as was his games played at 155. If Kinsler can remain healthy for a second-consecutive season, there’s no reason to believe he can’t repeat his 30-30 numbers and compete for a Gold Glove. He made 11 errors in 2011.

Team production in 2011: .271 average, 30 home runs, 86 RBI, .842 OPS

Expected production in 2012: .280 average, 30 home runs, 90 RBI, .850 OPS

2. Los Angeles – The only returning All-Star at second base in the division is the Angels’ Howie Kendrick. The trip was well earned as Kendrick had his best all-around season. He had 18 home runs in 140 games and also batted .285. He set a career high in runs scored with 86 and matched his career high with 14 steals. Kendrick only started 105 times at second base last season and also made 20 starts in the outfield and 11 starts at first base. Playing first won’t be necessary this year with Albert Pujols on the team now. Kendrick made just four errors in 482 chances at second base, which should help solidify the infield defense of the Angels. If Kendrick needs a breather, the Angels have the versatile Maicer Izturis to spell him. Izturis started 47 games at second last season and has played at least 20 at that position for the Angels every year since 2007.

Team production in 2011: .276 average, 16 home runs, 71 RBI, .762 OPS

Expected production in 2012: .280 average, 20 home runs, 75 RBI, .760 OPS

3. Seattle – Hope for the Mariners offense lies at second base in former first-round pick Dustin Ackley. The Mariners tried not to rush Ackley to the majors, but he proved he belonged last year in his first in Seattle. Ackley showed he could hit for average, batting .273 and he also showed a little pop with six home runs and 36 RBI.  He only played in 90 games but he managed to collect 29 extra-base hits. While that doesn’t sound like much on some teams, it was the second-highest total the Mariners got out of a regular in the infield. His average was the second-highest on the team. All you need to know about what the Mariners think of Ackley is where he hit the batting order from the middle of July on – third. He’ll likely hit second this year as Ichiro Suzuki will bat third. Ackley also figures to be a plus defender, as he made just six errors in 2011.

Team production in 2011: .273 average, 10 home runs, 59 RBI, .736 OPS

Expected production in 2012: .280 average, 15 home runs, 80 RBI, .800 OPS

4. Oakland – The Athletics don’t have a lot of exciting offensive players. That’s what makes Jemile Weeks stand out even more. Weeks, the younger brother of Milwaukee All-Star Rickie Weeks, gives Oakland with a little flash in its lineup. Weeks, a first-round pick, made his big-league debut last season and more than held his own. The switch-hitter batted .303 in 406 at-bats and had 36 RBI, which makes him a bona fide run producer for Oakland. He also stole 33 bases and scored 50 runs in 97 games. One area Weeks needs to get better is in the field. His 13 errors were the most committed by any second baseman in the AL.

Team production in 2011: .266 average, 3 home runs, 52 RBI, .672 OPS

Expected production in 2012: .275 average, 8 home runs,  50 RBI, .700 OPS