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A look at position production up the middle

ESPN.com's Christina Kahrl took a look at the skill positions up the middle and their offensive production last year. As you can imagine, when you're talking about catcher, second base, shortstop and center field, the Texas Rangers are mentioned.

One interesting note: Has second base passed third base in terms of offensive production? A quick part of Kahrl's blog:

Do you really want to bet against Cano, Pedroia and Ian Kinsler? What if Jemile Weeks and Dustin Ackley break out as sophomores? What if Dan Uggla, Kelly Johnson and Aaron Hill all have great bounce-back seasons? What if Rickie Weeks and Chase Utley were healthy all year? But that last point is part of the problem for sustained greatness at the keystone: It’s a physically demanding position, and being a great player for any length of time at second base requires a huge element of skill and a little bit of luck when it comes to staying healthy.

Now, if they all come through, then sure, we could see a multiyear run for second base to wind up as a bigger impact offensive position than third base. But I’ll believe it after we see it.

Kahrl also noted, offensively, that there's depth behind the plate at catcher right now:

Or, consider this another reason to not pardon the Angels for handicapping themselves with Jeff Mathis all these years, because there’s a difference between respecting a good receiver and ignoring his other responsibilities to playing baseball. (While we’re at it, there’s even less excuse for Drew Butera.)

Admittedly, being able to get Mike Napoli away from that kind of decision making and putting him in Texas is one way to improve matters. But keep in mind, with Victor Martinez moving out from behind the plate while Buster Posey and Joe Mauer missed big chunks of the season, catchers overall did a better job of contributing on offense in 2011 than they had in any year since 1997, so the overall depth behind the plate looks pretty good.

Folks might still swear by Johnny Bench, but here again, we’ve got a lot of legitimate star-level talent out there; not just Posey and Mauer and Napoli, but also Brian McCann, Alex Avila, Miguel Montero, Carlos Santana and Yadier Molina. Then you can add in the durable catch-and-throw guys from the Jim Sundberg set, useful contributors at the plate and good receivers behind it: Carlos Ruiz, Matt Wieters, Russell Martin, and even Kurt Suzuki.

Put all of that together, and while we haven’t punched up this generation’s reputations with any special mystique, they can let their production be our guide. This may well be the deepest generation of catching talent in the history of the game, and there’s more coming, even with prospects like Wil Myers and Jesus Montero moving out from behind the dish. We still haven’t seen Jarrod Saltalamacchia really bust out. Austin Romine, Wilin Rosario, Derek Norris and Tony Sanchez are all on the way. If you love catching, you should love the present.

Again, you can read the entire story here.