Shuffle Up: Ian Desmond puts it all together

The middle infield is the focus for this week's shuffle up, your 2B and SS options. Settle in for the usual rule disclaimers, and then we'll discuss some prices.

This blog contains how I'd rank the players if I were headed into a new start-from-scratch league today. What's happened already in 2012 is an audition, but what we're trying to figure out is what the players will do going forward. Don't obsess over the dollar amount in a vacuum; what matters is how the players relate to one another. Commodities at the same tag are considered even.

Your respectful disagreement is always welcome, and it will help me iron out this list. But you need to have a reason for your unrest; further the conversation, gamer. Remember the golden roto rule: a player doesn't spike in value 10-20 percent simply because you own him. Respect the room, respect yourself.

Players on the DL will not be ranked — sorry, those are the rules. If you want to know my likely price on your injured star, come up with your own price and then subtract 15-20 percent. I refuse to expect miracles from long-term injuries. I'm not going to wrestle with the Optimism Parade every week. Go back and read the Andre Johnson stories from last fall.

I'll add extensive comments later in the day, and move some ranks around. (Mission accomplished; the final ranks await you. Make the jump, have a look around.)

$30 Robinson Cano
$24 Ian Kinsler
$23 Jason Kipnis
$22 Ian Desmond
$21 Asdrubal Cabrera
$21 Hanley Ramirez
$20 Brandon Phillips
$20 Derek Jeter
$20 Allen Craig

One of the beautiful things about Robinson Cano is getting quantity to go with the quality. He plays an attrition position and yet doesn't get hurt (or plays through whatever nicks that come along). Take a look at his games missed by season, starting in 2012: 1, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2. That's ridiculous. And yes, to some degree, health is a skill. Sooner or later, this guy's winning an MVP.

The category juice isn't that surprising with Ian Desmond. We always knew he had pop and speed, with the ability to increase the numbers. But you're seeing all sorts of key improvements here: the strikeout rate is coming down, the line drive rate is going up, his fielding looks better in the advanced metrics (for whatever that means to you). Oddly, it hasn't been patience that's fueling the batting surge: Desmond's walks have declined and he's swinging at more pitches outside the zone this year. Alas, he's also connecting on more of those chase missions, so there's no reason to hassle it. Settle in, enjoy the ride.

$19 Jose Reyes
$19 Neil Walker
$18 Jimmy Rollins
$17 Aaron Hill
$17 Michael Cuddyer
$16 Elvis Andrus
$16 Dustin Pedroia
$15 Starlin Castro
$15 Ben Zobrist
$15 Trevor Plouffe
$15 Alcides Escobar

The month-by-month progression of Neil Walker mirrors the story of the Pirates. He didn't hit in April and neither did his teammates (the Bucs were the lowest scoring team in the majors through one month). But something's clicked with Walker over his last 71 games: he's posted a zesty .314-45-7-39-7 line over that span, and not coincidentally the Pirates are 43-28 during that run. Pittsburgh is also the top scoring team in the majors since June 1.

The majority of the credit in Steel City is going to Andrew McCutchen and the pitching staff, and that's deservedly so. But don't miss out on what Walker is doing. The former first-round pick tuns 27 in September, so it's a logical time for a breakthrough year.

Dustin Pedroia is one of the most difficult players to project at the moment. Boston's lineup has been a force all year even with the injury parade, and now Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford are back in the fold. But Pedroia's hand/thumb issue probably won't be completely healed until after the year, and it's the type of injury that can significantly drain a player of his power (and while Pedroia is a superb hitter, he wasn't exactly Mark McGwire to begin with). The only reason I didn't go lower on Pedroia is because of his environment: he should have respectable run-production stats merely by occupying a key slot in a deep offense. But the category juice might be lacking all year.

$14 Dan Uggla
$14 Jose Altuve
$13 Emilio Bonifacio
$12 Alexei Ramirez
$11 Howie Kendrick
$11 Mike Aviles
$11 Rafael Furcal
$11 Chase Utley
$10 Kelly Johnson
$10 Omar Infante
$10 Erick Aybar

On one hand I'm not too worried about the slumping Jose Altuve; almost anyone can hit .183 over a small sample (as Altuve is during July) and he makes too much contact to stay down long. But what's going to happen to his run production now that the Astros lineup has been gutted? At least he's continued to run during his recent funk, swiping four bags over 15 games. He's still one of my favorite players in the majors.

I can live with Kelly Johnson's batting-average fluctuations so long as the category juice hangs around. But over the last 40 games he has just one homer, and while the five steals are nice over that period, they don't overcome the other red ink here. It's a shame Johnson couldn't stick in the first or second slot in the order: in 50 games there, he collected 32 runs, nine homers, 27 RBIs and six steals. This Toronto lineup is a carnival. But he's been a different player, coincidentally or not, when slotted in the middle or bottom of the order, and he's been flat-out overmatched against southpaws (.198/.310/.314). You're killing me softly, KJ.

$9 Danny Espinosa
$8 J.J. Hardy
$8 Rickie Weeks
$8 Daniel Murphy
$7 Gordon Beckham
$6 Michael Young
$6 Elliot Johnson
$6 Jhonny Peralta
$6 Yunel Escobar
$5 Alexi Amarista
$5 Jemile Weeks
$5 Zack Cozart
$5 Kyle Seager
$4 Everth Cabrera

I can understand why Kyle Seager is a popular player: 11 homers, eight steals, multiple positions of eligibility. But a .243/.307/.419 slash doesn't make the angels weep — even in today's scaled-down offensive environment — and he's been particularly punchless at home (.167) and against lefties (.217). If you can dial him up on the road, only, maybe you're onto something good.

Michael Young turns 36 in the middle of October, so we have to accept that he might be in the middle of a cliff season. He's dropped 66 batting points, 77 OBP points and 123 slugging points from last year, and he's not moving the needle at all with the homers (a piddly three) and steals (2-for-4). What, is veteran leadership a category in your league? It's too late to write this off as merely a bad start; it's obviously a bad season. As my buddy Mike Salfino likes to say, the circus leaves town for everyone, eventually.

I really want to rank Everth Cabrera higher, but the Padres slot him low in the order on a fairly-regular basis, and he's not a guarantee to start on a night-to-night basis, either. Most part-time players are forbidden commodities in a mixed league.

$3 Marco Scutaro
$3 Darwin Barney
$2 Dustin Ackley
$2 Yuniesky Betancourt
$2 Jerry Hairston Jr.
$2 Stephen Drew
$2 Ryan Roberts
$2 Brian Dozier
$1 Willie Bloomquist
$1 Ruben Tejada
$1 Logan Forsythe
$1 Jeff Keppinger
$1 Eric Young

Like so many other Rockies, Marco Scutaro is solid at home and a joke on the road (11 runs, six RBIs — and that's in 41 games). … Jeff Keppinger is versatile and sneaky at a number of different things, Joe Maddon's type of player. But unfortunately his best skill is hitting left-handed pitchers (.332/.378/.486 for his career), and we live in a right-handed world. … Do people really think Dustin Ackley is coming out of his slump of late? He posted a .563 OPS in June and he's batting .185 in July. He should be in the minors right now, fixing his confidence and making some adjustments.

$0 Sean Rodriguez
$0 Pedro Ciriaco
$0 Ryan Theriot
$0 Maicer Izturis
$0 Mark Ellis
$0 Jeff Baker
$0 Jordany Valdespin
$0 Cody Ransom
$0 Josh Rutledge
$0 Skip Schumaker
-$1 Brandon Inge
-$1 Brandon Crawford
-$2 Ryan Raburn
-$3 Brendan Ryan