Shuffle Up: Splitting hairs with Ian Kinsler

This week's Shuffle Up assignment is the middle infield, everyone who qualifies at second base or shortstop in the standard Yahoo! game. If you're on the DL (sorry Tulo), you don't get a rank. If you're in the minors (no one misses you, Raburn), you don't get a rank. Those are the rules.

I'll let the ranks simmer and settle for a bit, then come back and add comments, tweak a few things. Assume a 5x5 roto context , as always, and what's happened to this point is merely an audition. The goal is to figure out who's most valuable going forward.

Don't sweat the actual dollar values; what matters is how the players relate to one another. And when players share the same price tag, they're considered even.

Preamble done. Let's rank this thing.

$29 Robinson Cano
$28 Hanley Ramirez
$25 Ian Kinsler
$24 Jose Reyes
$23 Asdrubal Cabrera
$22 Jason Kipnis
$21 Dan Uggla
$20 Starlin Castro
$20 Michael Cuddyer

In old school roto formats, where you set a weekly lineup and leave it be, you could never platoon someone like Ian Kinsler. You'd live with his home and road splits and be content in the bottom line you get when the year is done. But in a daily format with deep benches, maybe there's a case for roster tinkering.

Pop the hood and look at the splits. Kinsler has a .310/.395/.532 slash line for his career at home, but it fades to .242/.314/.444 on the road. The split has been even more pronounced this season: 1.015 OPS in Arlington, .621 OPS on the road. And to a lesser extent, he's always been someone who crushes against lefties, but it merely acceptable against righties.

Kinsler is still the No. 5 ranked Yahoo! middle infielder with respect to what's already been banked, so it's not like the sky is falling. And the Rangers schedule to this point is slightly slanted towards road games (26 Arlington, 32 away), a small but fun little tidbit to consider. And it's encouraging that Kinsler hasn't faced a major injury since the 2010 season; he used to be one of those "routinely hurt" guys but he's beaten the rap of late. Still, I can't help but think that somehow, someway, stats are being left on the table here. Does anyone have the nerve to rest him in San Francisco this weekend?

$19 Derek Jeter
$18 Elvis Andrus
$18 Brandon Phillips
$18 J.J. Hardy
$18 Dustin Pedroia
$17 Allen Craig
$17 Rafael Furcal
$17 Kelly Johnson
$17 Jed Lowrie
$17 Jose Altuve
$16 Michael Young
$15 Jimmy Rollins
$13 Mike Aviles
$13 Howie Kendrick
$13 Ben Zobrist
$13 Neil Walker
$12 Gordon Beckham
$12 Dustin Ackley
$12 Danny Espinosa
$12 Ian Desmond
$11 Kyle Seager

It's easy to see all those Kelly Johnson strikeouts (and his so-so batting average) and dismiss him quickly, but this is a very underrated offensive weapon. He's scored 32 runs, seventh among 2B-eligible players. He's knocked nine homers, second at the position. He's been solid with RBIs (28) and stolen bases (six), and that latter stat might be on the way up because Johnson didn't run at all in April. Make sure you see the full picture here. … My concern with Dustin Pedroia was covered in the special "All Thumbs" edition of Closing Time; see Wednesday's issue. Will Pedroia's power be compromised all year? Is the thumb issue the reason why he's shut down the running game since early May? You don't want to take a lot from a two-game sample, but Pedroia didn't appear to be swinging comfortably in the Baltimore series.

I fully expect the Allen Craig Fan Club to question his $17 tag, and I openly admit I really wanted to go higher on this one. But we're still talking about a player with a limited MLB resume, an injury history, and no obvious daily path to the lineup. Mind you, I fully expect the Cardinals to treat him as a regular, but there's just enough uncertainty that I have to keep him out of the $20 range for now. If you preferred Craig as an $18-19 bat, I'm certainly not going to wrestle with you over that. … I'm dying to see what a full season of Jed Lowrie numbers might look like (that Lowrie-Melancon trade might haunt the Red Sox for a while). Lowrie's numbers have been better at home (no surprise there), but his bias batting left-handed this year actually trends against his career path. You love that his walk rate has spiked while strikeouts are down, and Lowrie also has exceptional zone judgment: he's swung at a pitch outside the zone less than any batter in baseball.

While Michael Young hasn't been awful this year, he's been a disappointment based on where he was drafted in most leagues. He's had a problem against right-handed pitching, slashing .236/.263/.584; at least a .403 run against lefties has softened the blow somewhat. Given that Young is 35, we have to be concerned that at some point a bad start becomes a bad season. His walk and strikeout rates are headed in the wrong direction, too. Still, I've given him a $17 tag — it's not like I'm telling everyone to bail on the veteran. Just be realistic with your expectations.

$10 Omar Infante
$8 Alexei Ramirez
$8 Jemile Weeks
$8 Dee Gordon
$8 Jhonny Peralta
$7 Zack Cozart
$7 Rickie Weeks
$6 Dan Murphy
$5 Yunel Escobar
$4 Marco Scutaro
$4 Erick Aybar
$4 Alcides Escobar
$4 Aaron Hill

The struggles of Rickie Weeks were featured in last month's Middle Infield Shuffle, and not much has changed since then. Weeks grades out as the No. 51 second baseman in Yahoo! play over the last month (.148-8-2-7-2), the same horrific slump we were breaking down last issue. The puny .217 BABIP shouldn't surprise anyone — you can't have an outlier batting average (high or low) without an outlier hit rate. What worries me is the strikeout spike (he's up to 30 percent, a crazy number), the reluctance to run (just four stolen base attempts), and the logical assumption that Weeks will probably get hurt at some point later in the year (he's passed the 130-game mark just once in his career). If you can get Weeks for absolutely nothing and you ses a case for a rally, fine. But I wouldn't give up anything of value for him. Heck, he's only a .249 career hitter to begin with. … The Dee Gordon case hasn't changed all that much either. He's running occasionally (four steals in June), but otherwise he's been a mess: when you carry a .229/.273/.283 slash line and you're also a defensive liability, you really shouldn't be on the field for a team that fancies itself a World Series contender. And the Dodgers can see the Giants in the rear-view mirror; the lead is a modest four games into Friday's play.

$3 Sean Rodriguez
$3 Andrelton Simmons
$2 Darwin Barney
$2 Elliot Johnson
$2 Ryan Roberts
$2 Everth Cabrera
$2 Elian Herrera
$1 Willie Bloomquist
$1 Cliff Pennington
$1 Steve Lombardozzi
$1 Tyler Greene
$1 Brian Dozier
$1 Alexi Casilla
$1 Ryan Theriot
$1 Jerry Hairston
$1 Trevor Plouffe
$1 Jose Lopez
$.50 Logan Forsythe
$0 Orlando Hudson
$0 Robert Andino
-$1 Brandon Crawford
-$2 Brendan Ryan

I'm not someone who looks too far back with the shuffling exercise — any rank that's multiple weeks old is just about dead to me — but I know many of you want the look-back links, so here they are. I'll keep them parked at the bottom of future shuffles.

Previous Shuffles: Corners (5/31), Starting Pitchers (5/24), Outfielders (5/17), Catchers (5/14), Brady Bunch (4/10).

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