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April 12, 2013

Roto Restart

Re-ranking the Middle Infielders

by Paul Singman

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Although the season began a little over a week ago, for the purposes of this column, we’re going to pretend it starts today. Any stats a player has accumulated thus far are worthless to the extent that they don’t shift our perception of him going forward. This early in the season, that change shouldn’t be too large. But injuries, playing time shifts, and outlier performances should be considered, even as early as April 11. I give credit to Yahoo’s Scott Pianowski, whose excellent Shuffle Up series inspired much of the format of this piece.

Today, I’ll handle the middle infielders, and throughout the season I’ll cover all positions. To help both those in mixed and -only leagues, the distribution of dollar amounts will reflect AL and NL-only league settings. In this way, bunching around the $1 mark won’t occur, and marginal differences between lower-ranked players can be appreciated.

Here are the updated MI ranks:

The top-tier players have all gotten off to quick starts and appear primed for productive seasons—health permitting, of course. Cano is a perfect example of not overreacting to the first week. This year, he has a respectable eight runs, three homers, and seven RBI. In his last two games, he has scored six times, blasted three homers, and driven in seven. Things change quickly this early in the season. Meanwhile, the move to Toronto has been much favorable to Reyes than to R.A. Dickey.

Castro’s power game hasn’t shown yet, but I still like him for about 15 homers again. Zobrist is surprisingly productive in the three-spot of Tampa’s lineup, with added value coming from his position flexibility. Rollins has shown no signs of slowing down, swiping three bags already. I’m not jumping off Kipnis’ ship just yet, but combined with his lackluster finish to 2012, it will only take a couple more weeks  for me to consider moving him down a tier.

Escobar has done a little bit of everything so far in 2013; a repeat of his valuable 2012 season is coming to fruition. Aybar seems to have avoided major injury with his heel, but his number-two spot in the lineup is in jeopardy. So far, Utley has been tremendous, but it’s still a long shot for him to last the whole season. Despite the slow start, I still think we’ll get a typical Walker campaign. Segura has looked good so far, and with the Brewers injuries has been able to move up in the order. As long as he’s not batting eighth, I’m happy to own him.

Simmons returned to batting leadoff last night after sitting out due to a thumb sprain. As long as he’s heading the Atlanta lineup, the runs should come in bunches. Espinosa’s shoulder injury will keep me worried about him all year, and his slow start is doing nothing to alleviate that. It would still be a miracle for Lowrie to avoid injury, but at least his power translates to the Oakland Coliseum. A preseason injury kept Murphy under the radar, and now his quick start has him all over people’s radars. I don’t expect too many more homers, but he can hit .300 with good gap power. He’s someone I’m buying into.

A lot of these guys have struggled to begin the season. If you drafted one in a deeper mixed league, don’t be afraid to drop him for a hot starter. Luckily, I don’t own any Ackley shares, but my patience with him is already thin.

Gonzalez has earned his increase in playing time; the only issue is he plays for the Astros. Solano is intriguing because the Marlins are letting him bat second in most games. He doesn’t offer much power or speed, though.

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