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Draft Round Battles: Ian Kinsler vs. Dustin Pedroia

Two veteran second basemen in hitter-friendly ballparks, long acknowledged as two of the best at their position, and you can only choose one!  Who will emerge triumphant?! FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!...or, rather than have Ian Kinsler swing his arms like windmills while Dustin Pedroia kicks at the air, we can just break down this matchup stats-wise.

If you'd taken either Kinsler or Pedroia in a keeper league before the 2006 season, you'd have no complaints.  Here are both players' average seasons, Kinsler over 4177 career plate appearances and Pedroia over 3824 PAs...

Kinsler: 25 homers, 81 RBI, 115 runs, 27-for-32 steals rate, 72 walks, .272/.350/.460 batting line, 111 OPS+

Pedroia: 17 homers, 77 RBI, 106 runs, 19-for-24 steals rate, 66 walks, .303/.369/.461 batting line, 117 OPS+

Kinsler has the edge in steals and homers and Pedroia has the edge in average, but overall, both players are pretty similar at the plate.  In fact, they're exactly similar by one calculation --- according to Baseball Reference, both men have a value of 24.6 offensive WAR.

So can we say it's Kinsler by a nose and call it a day?  Not exactly.  While the Rangers second baseman has been the borderline better option from 2006-12, we're only concerned about the 2013 season, with the twist being that both players are coming off their worst full seasons in the bigs.

Pedroia hit .290/.347/.449 in 623 PAs despite being bothered by right thumb injuries all season that led to some DL time.  So still, while a "career-worst" for Pedroia, he wasn't too far off his career norms and he can reasonably expected to bounce back in 2013 now that he's at full health.

Kinsler, however, hit .256/.326/.423 in a career-high 731 PAs.  While his 5x5 counting stats were still good (19 HR, 72 RBI, 105 runs, 21 steals), he actually delivered a below-average (95 OPS+) offensive performance thanks in large part to that dropoff in OBP.  While Pedroia's slight dip could be blamed on his thumb, Kinsler's apparent good health makes his sharper decline all the more troubling.  His .270 BABIP points to a bit of bad luck, but Kinsler wasn't getting much pop on those balls put into play, as evidenced by a 14.2% infield fly percentage.

It already seems as if the Rangers are looking beyond the Kinsler Era at second base, though it will seemingly be another year before the club moves him to first, DH or a corner outfield spot to make room for Jurickson Profar.  Kinsler turns 31 this season and, as with any player getting into his 30's, you wonder if he is already into his decline phase, particularly if his only-okay ability to get on base throughout his career is waning.  Pedroia himself turns 30 in August but even the modest 14-month age gap between the two looms large when you consider how both men played in 2012.

Pedroia has thus far been the choice of fantasy managers at Mock Draft Central, with an average draft position of 37.85 (37th overall), well ahead of Kinsler's 48.78 (49th overall) ranking.  The two also happen to be the second- and third-highest drafted second basemen overall, well behind Robinson Cano (5th overall) but ahead of Jason Kipnis in the 58th overall slot.  While Pedroia should still hit well enough to justify going in the third or fourth round of your fantasy draft, I'd definitely exercise caution before picking Kinsler.  Not only would I pick Pedroia over Kinsler, I'd take the likes of Ben Zobrist or Aaron Hill as my second baseman before I took the guy who may replace Michael Young as the Ranger Infielder Who Texas Feels Obligated To Put In The Lineup Due To Salary And Tenure Despite Clear Signs Of Decline.

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