Middle Infield Shuffle Up: Ian Desmond makes good

Scott Pianowski
Middle Infield Shuffle Up: Ian Desmond makes good

Rest-of-season value is what we're after. What’s happened to this point is merely an audition.

Today, we rank all those eligible at middle infield (second base, shortstop).

Assume a 5x5 scoring system. Players in the minors or on the DL do not get ranked. I’ll add comments Friday, and reserve the right to make some changes. Win the discussion, win the rank.

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If you have disagreement, I’m all ears — so long as you have a reason. Remember not to add or dock value from the players just because you like them, dislike them, roster them, etc.

$30 Jose Altuve
$28 Xander Bogaerts
$28 Ian Kinsler
$28 Manny Machado
$26 Robinson Cano
$25 Carlos Correa
$24 Ian Desmond
$22 Ben Zobrist
$22 Daniel Murphy
$21 Francisco Lindor
$20 Corey Seager
$20 Jonathan Villar
$20 Matt Carpenter

Machado’s hitting metrics all look improved this year, but it’s a little sad to see him stop running. He was 20-for-28 on the bases last year; this season, he’s 0-for-3. But with shortstop eligibility in the bank and a lovely backdrop — he’s in the right division, park and lineup — it feels like nitpicking to say anything negative. He’ll be a lottery pick again next year, and could go as high as No. 1 overall if things fall right. 

Desmond lost a lot of fantasy support last year after a horrendous start — perhaps his defense was wearing on his confidence, or maybe his contract situation was gnawing at him. In any event, Desmond had a quiet and under-appreciated comeback in the second half, and the Rangers certainly hit the lottery with Desmond’s one-year, prove-it contact. If you run the stats over the last calendar year, here’s what Desmond has done: .272-88-24-88-24. Those are elite numbers, big-ticket numbers. 

I'd be careful going after Villar in a keeper league, because breakout seasons like this often don't carry over from year to year. Teams are going to adjust, use his aggressiveness against him. That .401 BABIP has a strong correction on the way, even with his plus speed. But we should give Villar credit for an improved walk rate and line-drive clip. I have no problem taking him seriously for the remainder of 2016, then we'll reevaluate. 

Carpenter is one of my favorite players, a smart hitter who's become more pull-conscious as he's grown into stardom. The line-drive rate is off the charts again, too. He can play multiple positions. The regression police were wrong to discount Carpenter's power spike last year, when it clearly represented a change in approach, and a player settling into his expected peak years. Enjoy the ride. 

$19 Eduardo Nunez
$19 Trevor Story
$18 Rougned Odor
$18 Dustin Pedroia
$16 Anthony Rendon
$16 Logan Forsythe
$14 DJ LeMahieu
$13 Steve Pearce
$13 Jason Kipnis
$12 Jonathan Schoop
$12 Jung Ho Kang
$12 Jurickson Profar
$11 Elvis Andrus
$11 Brian Dozier
$11 Neil Walker
$10 Jean Segura
$10 Aledmys Diaz
$9 Josh Harrison
$9 Brandon Crawford
$9 Joe Panik

I'm never going to be someone who blindly bets skills and ignores the roles and team context, but my price on Profar does assume that he'll stay in the lineup even when others get healthy . . . Crawford is probably the most underrated infielder in baseball, a vacuum cleaner at shortstop and a darn underrated hitter (I love how he hangs in against tough southpaws). He might never give us a pretty average, but he’s on pace for .263-60-15-89-7, which plays well at this position . . . The strongest Story endorsement is his power to all fields; this guy can hit them out anywhere. I can live with the fluctuations in batting average. He also should grow into 10-15 bags a year, if he decides it's worth the effort and wear and tear. On the thin air and power profile alone, I'm making him a major target in any keeper league; any steals are just gravy. 

$8 Marcus Semien
$8 Zack Cozart
$8 Jhonny Peralta
$7 Danny Espinosa
$7 Eugenio Suarez
$7 Addison Russell
$7 Devon Travis
$6 Jose Ramirez
$6 Brandon Phillips
$6 Whit Merrifield
$6 Tim Anderson
$5 Didi Gregorius
$5 Brad Miller
$5 Ketel Marte
$5 Alexei Ramirez
$5 Starlin Castro
$4 Johnny Giavotella
$4 Aaron Hill
$4 Chase Utley
$4 Howie Kendrick
$4 Matt Duffy
$4 Martin Prado
$4 Asdrubal Cabrera
$4 Alcides Escobar
$4 Derek Dietrich
$4 Scooter Gennett
$4 Jed Lowrie
$4 Brett Lawrie

The Merrifield stories are fun, when a low-pedigree player turns out to be better in the majors. The Royals obviously believe, kicking Infante to the curve . . . Gregorius is no star, but he's probably the poor man's version of Crawford. You get some offensive production, and the glove marks his spot in the lineup . . . Duffy's complete lack of collegiate power -- he didn't hit a single home run in college -- had me suspicious into this season, and I'd have no problem cutting him in a shallow or medium mixer . . . Speed isn't the issue with Anderson, but stealing bases is also about reading moves and knowing when to run. He also looks like someone who will get himself out a lot, being overzealous at the plate. I'm surprised the White Sox moved him to the top of the order so quickly, applying pressure immediately. Then again, Robin Ventura might be the worst manager in the majors. 

$3 Marwin Gonzalez
$3 Danny Santana
$3 Chris Owings
$3 Yangervis Solarte
$3 Javier Baez
$3 Cesar Hernandez
$3 Wilmer Flores
$3 Kelly Johnson
$2 Hernan Perez
$2 Jose Iglesias
$2 Tyler Saladino
$2 Stephen Drew
$2 Adeiny Hechavarria
$2 Rob Refsnyder
$1 Darwin Barney
$1 Freddy Galvis
$1 Nick Ahmed
$1 Jedd Gyorko