Sleepers and Busts: The Middle Infielders

For the past month, the Yahoo fantasy crew has offered up its player rankings for the upcoming 2014 fantasy baseball campaign. Now, with the season only a couple weeks away, we felt it was time to take a deeper dive into the rationale behind those rankings, specifically where each expert has most drastically veered from the group-think (Yahoo ADP) path. Below, each expert explains his dissenting opinion on a couple players he likes more than the Yahoo ADP and a couple players he likes less than the ADP. For this exercise, we'll call them our sleepers and busts at the middle infield positions. In case you missed them, here's our sleepers and busts in the outfield and at the corner infield.


[Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

Xander Bogaerts, Bos - I'm all in on Bogaerts. The 21-year-old has a nice minor league resume, but it's the eye test that has sold me. He definitely doesn't look like a kid. With a quick, patient bat and an ability to drive the ball to all fields, Bogaerts stepped up on the postseason stage last season and showed that he was up for the challenge, hitting .296 in 12 playoff games against the likes of aces Adam Wainwright, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and company. Those that are hesitant to buy in on Bogaerts this season will point to the fact that he's hitting down in the Boston lineup. But I doubt that lasts. After all, how long are we really expecting top of the order hitters Grady Sizemore, Shane Victorino or Dustin Pedroia to avoid the DL? I'm looking for Bogaerts to post a line similar to Manny Machado's from last season as he relentlessly peppers the Green Monster all season long. (Brandon Funston)

Brad Miller, Sea - No batting gloves. Knee-high leggings. I'm all about old school, and Miller definitely brings that type of flair to the game. But he also brings an ability to hit and run - upside for .280 with 15-20 home runs and steals. And he'll bring a scorching bat with him when spring training closes as you'd be hard-pressed to find a hitter who has had a better camp - hitting over .400 with four home runs, four triples and four doubles through 16 Cactus League contests. Andrelton Simmons is going, on average, 60 spots ahead of Miller in drafts and I, for the life of me, can't understand why. (Funston)

Jimmy Rollins, Phi - I usually have a thing for those Ibanez All-Stars, the boring, unexciting vets who come at a reasonable cost. Rollins is just one year removed from a 102-23-68-30 line, and perhaps the flap with Ryne Sandberg will motivate him. Even if Rollins is closer to last year's six homers and 22 steals, that's probably worth his current ticket. (Scott Pianowski)

Aaron Hill, Ari - You have to take a leap of faith with his health, but if Hill is on the field for 5-6 months, get ready for big numbers. Hill posted a monster season in 2012, his Arizona debut (.302-93-26-85-14), and he was an overlord with Toronto in 2009 and 2010. Age isn't a big concern; he just turned 32. Chase Field is another plus for Hill - his career slash is .306/.371/.534 there. The upside makes me willing to accept the DL risk in the middle rounds. (Pianowski)

Jhonny Peralta, StL – This is less of an endorsement for Peralta as it is more of an indictment on the alternative shortstops I rank below him. Still, he hit .299 with 21 homers and 86 RBI in 2011, and after a down following year, he batted .303/.358/.457 last season before he was hit with a PED suspension. While there's some concern there, I trust the Cardinals organization maybe more than any other in baseball, and they usually get the best out of their players. Peralta is s nice sleeper now in the NL. (Dalton Del Don)

Chase Utley, Phi – He changed his offseason routine and claims his knees feel better than they have in years. Maybe it's just noise, and I won't deny Utley remains an injury risk. But he posted a .284/.348/.475 line with 18 homers and eight steals in just 131 games last year, so he can still hit. On a per-game basis, he was the fourth most valuable 2B last season, ahead of Dustin Pedroia. Utley won't even cost you a top-150 pick, according to his most recent Yahoo ADP. (DDD)

Jonathan Villar, Hou - The first thing you have to like is that Villar's draft day price matches my colleagues' ranks, so you're not paying much for his services. He's hardly a multi-category asset, but those are rare at short. The kid has 40-plus steal speed, clearly. He swiped 18 bags in just 58 big league games last season. (Andy Behrens)

Jedd Gyorko, SD - As a rookie, he managed to hit 23 homers, despite missing a month of the season. The year before, the kid hit 30 bombs and drove in 100 runs across two levels in the minors, batting over .300. If he leads all middles in HRs this season, I won't be surprised. (Behrens)


Ian Kinsler, Det - Kinsler is all red flags at this point in his career. Leaving the Texas hitting environment for Detroit has to be considered a downgrade. We're also talking about a soon-to-be 32-year-old second baseman with a long DL history. And his power numbers are declining like someone who is exiting his prime - ISO and SLG% have landed well below his career averages in three of the past four seasons. Then factor in that he was thrown out in 11 of his 26 stolen base attempts last season, and he is going to a team that was last in steals in '13 (only 35!). I don't think you can count on anything more than a .275/15/15 type of season from Kinsler, which makes him way overpriced in my book given his 69.6 ADP. (Funston)

Asdrubal Cabrera, Cle - He's going at No. 148 overall in average Yahoo drafts, but I'm not sure what makes him that much more preferable than, say, Brad Miller, Xander Bogaerts, Jed Lowrie and Alexei Ramirez, guys that could easily hit .260-plus with 15 home runs and 10 steals, which is about what you should expect from Cabrera. And the other guys I mentioned will likely come 40-60 picks cheaper. (Funston)

Xander Bogaerts, Bos - Here's a case of wanting to see it before I pay for it. Bogaerts is just 21, and he's only played 78 games above Double-A. He'll be in the bottom third of the order. In 84 at-bats covering last year's cup of coffee and this spring, Bogie has 22 strikeouts. Sure, that's a small sample, but fantasy owners often trip themselves up trying to be too cute with young players. I'll step the side and let them do just that. (Pianowski)

Jean Segura, Mil - Did the National League figure out Segura in the second half? His numbers after the break (.241/.268/.315, just one homer) scare the hell out of me, and keep in mind he didn't have much of a power profile in the minors. Why not take Ian Desmond instead, gamers? (Pianowski)

Ben Zobrist, TB – Over the last five years, Zobrist has the third-highest WAR (29.7) among all players in baseball. He's a terrific asset to the Rays, but the ability to play multiple positions (and play them well) doesn't factor into his fantasy value much, and at age 33, I worry he's entering his decline phase. Zobrist has seen his steals drop in each of the past three seasons, and he has the disadvantage of hitting in an extreme pitcher's park. I like Zobrist, just not at where he's typically being drafted. (DDD)

Brian Dozier, Min – He had a nice year last season, hitting 18 homers and stealing 14 bags, but Dozier isn't much of a prospect (he has a career .409 slugging percentage throughout the minors) and will turn 27 years old in early 2014. Last year's "breakout" came out of nowhere, and it included a .244 batting average. I wouldn't bet on a repeat. (DDD)

Starlin Castro, ChC - I don't really get the love. Best case, he's a .300-ish hitter with little power or speed, and little willingness to walk. And he plays for a team that rarely scores. Not interested, thanks. (Behrens)

Kelly Johnson, NYY - Yeah, OK, you're chasing 18-22 homers. But I feel like we're paying a small Yankee tax here. This is a 32-year-old who's almost guaranteed to be a liability in AVG. Johnson isn't exactly an upside pick. (Behrens)

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