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Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Surprise position outlook: Second base

By Richard Durrett

Editor's Note: We continue our spring training preview with a spin around the infield.

Ian Kinsler
Ian Kinsler is coming off a tough season at the plate, so his spot in the lineup is up in the air.
Today's position: Second base

For the past seven seasons there's been little question about the Rangers' situation at second base. Ian Kinsler has held down that spot since being promoted to the big leagues in 2006. Earlier this offseason, the club talked about possibly moving Kinsler to first base to make room for Jurickson Profar. They even went so far as to talk about it with Kinsler, though they didn't make any firm decisions.

But on Monday, general manager Jon Daniels announced that Kinsler was staying at second base and that it was likely that Profar would start the season in the minors.

Kinsler, 30, is coming off a difficult season. He hit .256 with 19 homers and 72 RBIs as the club's leadoff hitter. It came one season after he was a 30-30 player (home runs-stolen bases) and scored a career-high 121 runs.

Kinsler still scored a gaggle of runs in 2012 -- 105 to be exact. That was tied for third most in the AL (Mike Trout scored a ridiculous 129 to lead the way). But the power numbers decreased (13 fewer homers and a .749 OPS as opposed to .832) and he stole nine fewer bases. With runners in scoring position, Kinsler hit just .226. He had 18 errors, the most by any AL second baseman, and his .970 fielding percentage was last among regular second baseman.

He knows it wasn't the season he wanted to have and is focused on bouncing back. His ankle bothered him for more than half the season and that appears to be fine now. It will also be interesting to see if Kinsler finishes 2013 at second base. Should Mitch Moreland struggle at first or if Profar gets off to a hot start in the minors, perhaps the club could revisit the Kinsler-to-first thought and slide Profar in at second base.

So where does Kinsler hit in 2013? His power gives him the ability to alter a game from the start. But he wasn't able to get on base as often last season as he has in the past. His on-base percentage was .326. Among players in the American League who led off at least 98 games, only Desmond Jennings had a lower percentage. Kinsler's 60 walks weren't bad, but they were 29 fewer than last year. That's one big reason that despite similar batting averages in 2011 and 2012, he had a better on-base percentage in 2011.

Before manager Ron Washington makes that kind of change, he has to have a suitable replacement. Perhaps Andrus could get a look there. But that's another question Washington and the Rangers will have to try to answer this spring.

Kinsler has become an important leader on this team and is a guy that wants to win badly. He'll look at every part of his game this offseason and in spring in an effort to improve. Remember, it was just two years ago that he hit .286, and even with the .255 batting average in 2011 he produced 32 homers and 77 RBIs. He can be a run producer on this club. And the Rangers need him to bounce back.

What kind of year do you expect from Kinsler?