We continue our look at the infield in preparation for spring training.
Today's position: Second base
As soon as Ian Kinsler came up to the majors in 2003, he was the club's starting second baseman and has stayed that way. Kinsler has moved around the lineup in various roles the last few years. He was the leadoff hitter and then moved to the sixth hole and other spots in between.
Over the past few years, he's hit for a high average (.319 in 2008) and put up solid power numbers (31 homers, 89 RBIs in 2009). Last year, Kinsler hit .286 with nine homers and 45 RBIs. But he played in just 103 games, the lowest total of his career.
And that's the biggest question for Kinsler and the Rangers going into 2011. He's had at least one stint on the disabled list in each of his last five seasons. Last year, he missed the first month of the season after suffering a high right ankle sprain during spring training drills on March 12. A left groin strain forced Kinsler to missed August as well.
But when Kinsler was in the lineup, he made a difference. He's decreased his errors the last two seasons (he had just 7 last year and 11 in 2009 after 18 in 2008) and teamed up with Elvis Andrus to form a formidable double-play combination. His speed was an asset as he was 15-for-20 on stolen base attempts and he was able to hit at various spots in the lineup.
The Rangers need Kinsler for most of the season. Manager Ron Washington will do what he can to guard against injuries by giving Kinsler some breaks when needed (that's one major advantage of having Michael Young in the DH/super utility role). Kinsler is a hard worker and he's done what he can this offseason to keep strengthening himself (like Nelson Cruz, Kinsler went to see Darren O'Day's brother, who focuses on running style and various methods to help athletes become more efficient and less injury prone).
Kinsler has been the steady member of an infield that has changed the past few years. Young moved over from shortstop to third base in 2009 and is now the DH/super utility guy. First base has been a revolving door since Mark Teixeira's departure, but Kinsler has always been in his spot at second base.
In the process, Kinsler has gone from a young member of the team to a veteran leader. He's one of the core members of the leadership group that helped foster a fun, but productive clubhouse in 2011. He's grown into that role and will continue to do so.
But the bottom line: They need Kinsler to be healthy in 2011.