While one second baseman had an MVP-caliber season last year, the other fouled a ball off his foot and wound up only playing in 75 games. Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia are two of the best second basemen in baseball. Winners of two of the last three Gold Gloves, both Cano and Pedroia regularly flirt with 200 hits, 100-110 runs, and batting averages over .300. Pedroia was the 2008 American League MVP while Cano finished third in voting last season. As both players enter 2011 healthy with high expectations, who is the better talent at second base?

Second Base:

Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia (2010: .288, 12 HRs, 41 RBIs)
Yankees: Robinson Cano (.319, 29 HRs, 109 RBIs)

Red Sox Nation will definitely keep their eye on Pedroia’s left foot as Spring Training kicks off this week. The scrappy second baseman missed 87 games last year due to a broken bone is his foot. As the season wore on, the Red Sox desperately missed their pesky second baseman hitting at the top of their order. Since he took over the starting role in 2007, Pedroia has been one of the league’s most complete second basemen. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007, MVP honors in 2008 after collecting 213 hits, 118 runs, 54 doubles, and posting a .326 batting average, and a Gold Glove award. Pedroia is also a three-time All-Star and one of the most well-liked Red Sox.

After the Red Sox acquired Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, many began to speculate where Pedroia will bat in the order. Pedroia has hit second 85% of the time in his career. Newcomer Carl Crawford matches that total. Pedroia has only started 68 games as the lead-off hitter, so don’t rule that out just yet. Regardless of batting order position, if Pedroia can give the Red Sox 145+ healthy games, they can expect a batting average around .300, at least 100 runs, and a whole lot of gutsy, gritty plays at second.

Enter Robbie Cano. The smooth-fielding, strong-armed 28-year-old posted career highs in runs (103), home runs (29), RBIs (109), on-base percentage (.381), and slugging percentage (.534) in 2010. After walking only 30 times in 2009, one knock on Cano was his lack of discipline at the plate. Cano virtually doubled his walk out put (58) in 2010, showing poise and control at the plate. In addition to his impressive offensive output, Cano collected his first career Gold Glove award. Cano only committed three errors all-season long and regularly made flashy plays, displaying his above average arm strength and range.

In addition to his excellent regular season, Cano was simply on a tear during the playoffs. Cano went for 12 for 35 (.343) with four home runs and six RBIs against the Twins and Rangers. Without Cano, the Yankees would have gotten swept by the Rangers.

Last year, I wrote this piece where I projected Cano to hit .315, 27 HRs, 110 RBIs, which was pretty darn close to his actually output. The lineup protection is phenomenal and it doesn’t hurt when the hitters batting above Cano all have on-base percentages around .400.

Conclusion:

Edge: Yankees

Cano has emerged as the best second baseman in baseball. In my eyes, he has surpassed Chase Utley and has set the gold standard at the position. There’s no doubt that Pedroia is a special talent at second base, but fans need to see how well he responds from his foot injury. When Pedroia is 100% healthy, he can rival Cano.

Cano is finally hitting his full potential and may emerge as the most dangerous Yankee hitter in 2011. Add in the smooth fielding and superior range and you’ve got baseball’s best second baseman.

Yankees 3
Red Sox 0

Would you rather have Cano or Pedroia?

Check back tomorrow as we take a look at the shortstops.