Top 20 fantasy middle and corner infielders for 2011

Other 2011 fantasy rankings by position: Catcher || First Base || Second Base || Shortstop || Third Base

To remind everyone: These rankings are based on position eligibility. Players who are eligible at multiple positions will be ranked in comparison with others at each relevant position. You will also note asterisks next to the names of certain players. These indicate health risks. Health concerns have been taken into consideration, as have expected talent and expected playing time to yield expected production.

Position eligibility and evaluation criteria for these rankings are explained here.

For both the middle infielder (MI) and corner infielder (CI) rankings, I omitted the top 12 players at first base, second base, shortstop and third base. I assume that the top 12 players by position will likely be drafted in most leagues for their primary position. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Japanese batting champion signed this month by the Twins, also has been omitted from my middle infielders ranking (like my second base ranking) because I know nothing about him or projecting Japanese league players. Rank him as you feel appropriate.

Middle infield

Rank      Name              Team          Oliver Slash (2011)**
1         Brian Roberts*    Orioles       .274/.349/.408
2         Dustin Ackley     Mariners      .287/.378/.435
3         Neil Walker       Pirates       .251/.301/.422
4         Chone Figgins     Mariners      .263/.353/.320
5         Mike Aviles*      Royals        .276/.307/.398
6         Ryan Raburn       Tigers        .270/.333/.465
7         Danny Espinosa    Nationals     .241/.312/.403
8         Ian Desmond       Nationals     .261/.312/.399
9         Howie Kendrick    Angels        .280/.318/.414
10        Eric Young Jr.    Rockies       .238/.316/.313
11        Erick Aybar*      Angels        .267/.314/.358
12        Cliff Pennington  Athletics     .237/.322/.328
13        Miguel Tejada     Giants        .268/.302/.378
14        Alcides Escobar   Royals        .267/.310/.357
15        J.J. Hardy*       Orioles       .251/.313/.395
16        Jhonny Peralta    Tigers        .256/.315/.408
17        Yunel Escobar     Blue Jays     .273/.245/.374
18        Sean Rodriguez    Rays          .250/.324/.459
19        Juan Uribe        Dodgers       .258/.308/.432
20        Marco Scutaro     Red Sox       .256/.315/.408

*Assuming health (which means assuming the amount of health I expect from them).
**Oliver’s 2011 projections have been updated. Most of the projections are essentially similar, but for the most up to date projections, subscribe to THT Forecasts by clicking here. If you are unsure of whether to subscribe to THT Forecasts, you can read about why I love THT Forecasts by clicking here

Noting that 16 of the 20 names on this list are repeats from the bottom 40 percent of the second base and shortstop rankings, the shallowness of the middle infield becomes apparent. As with his second base ranking, I love Dustin Ackley but doubt he will get called up to the majors before May. His ranking here is solely based on total value due to playing time; I view Ackley as a top 10 second basemen once he gets called up to the majors.

Brian Roberts, Neil Walker and Chone Figgins are solid MI plays with upside, while Howie Kendrick and Mike Aviles are “safe” plays with minimal up or downside, offering all-around light contributions to every category sans RBI.

Given their heavy diet of strikeouts, Ryan Raburn and Danny Espinosa are high upside, moderate downside risks on this list. Both are capable of 20 home runs and double-digit stolen bases. Raburn’s proven more in the majors and is likely less of a batting average risk, but Espinosa is undoubtedly more balanced. Espinosa might also get better lineup slotting, though the Tigers seemed to like Raburn’s bat down the stretch last season. Both are quality $1 fliers in auction leagues and solid end-of-draft picks in snake drafts.

This list also includes four new names: Yunel Escobar, Reid Brignac, Juan Uribe and Marco Scutaro. Outside an AL or NL only league, there is no reason any of these guys should even be on anyone’s bench in 2011. They, along with Miguel Tejada and J.J. Hardy, are either on the wrong side of 30, the wrong side of being talented, or, in the case of Scutaro, both.

Considering that defensive ability is not a fantasy category, the retro movement toward athleticism has bled the middle infield dry of fantasy assets.

Corner infield

Rank      Name              Team         Oliver Slash (2011)**
1         Billy Butler      Royals       .297/.365/.467
2         Lance Berkman*    Cardinals    .262/.374/.443
3         Paul Konerko      White Sox    .266/.345/.455
4         Pedro Alvarez     Pirates      .245/.330/.460
5         Michael Young     Rangers      .277/.328/.419
6         Ian Stewart       Rockies      .234/.321/.441
7         David Freese      Cardinals    .262/.322/.413
8         Casey McGehee     Brewers      .273/.325/.426
9         Buster Posey      Giants       .300/.376/.480
10        Mike Napoli       Rangers      .257/.338/.507
11        Ike Davis         Mets         .260/.335/.441
12        Aubrey Huff       Giants       .265/.339/.448
13        Gaby Sanchez      Marlins      .271/.336/.437
14        Derrek Lee        Cubs         .257/.339/.421
15        Chipper Jones*    Braves       .263/.373/.415
16        Scott Rolen*      Reds         .271/.343/.413
17        Chase Headly      Padres       .264/.333/.403
18        Michael Cuddyer   Twins        .270/.340/.449
19        Russell Branyan*  FA           .248/.330/.484
20        Chris Carter      Athletics    .250/.339/.489

*Assuming health (which means assuming the amount of health I expect from them), being tendered a contract.
**Again, Oliver’s 2011 projections have been updated from these figures.

Unlike the middle infield, there is plenty of fantasy value to be found in the corners.

As I noted in my first base rankings and in the 2010 preseason, first base is as deep as it gets in fantasy baseball. Accordingly, even most of the residual first basemen are better than even the best of the not-top-12 third basemen. Outside of David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero and Hideki Matsui, I imagine that most utility players will come from first base (with some coming from the outfield corners).

I love Chris Carter as a cheap Adam Dunn-type, but the A’s have given no indication of how they plan on using him next season. Given Daric Barton’s slick glove at first, the recent signing of Matsui and the trend towards athleticism with the A’s, Carter is currently blocked and jobless for 2011. If the A’s give him regular playing time, however, Carter instantly jumps ahead of Michael Young in my corner infield rankings.

I really like Ike Davis and I’ve swapped him for Derek Lee on my top 20 first basemen rankings, but I still have not been able to convince myself to rank him higher. Davis does not seem likely to hit more than 25 home runs. I view him most akin to a cheap version of Morales.

As I noted in my third base rankings, Chase Headley offers 15/15 upside and could make a solid $1 CI buy for deeper leagues, but, at 26, he’s not done much so far and he is now three years removed from being a “top prospect.”

Headly is not worth a starting third base job outside of NL-only fantasy rosters, but he might make a solid late-game gamble.

On a final note, I have updated my first base, second base, shortstop and third base rankings since their initial posting. Feel free to review them. As always, leave the love/hate in the comments.

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  1. this guy said...

    You found 12 guys to rank ahead of Kendry Morales? This on top of your ridiculous top 30.

    For your sake, may accountability and internet articles never meet.

  2. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @The Baltimoron,
    You are correct. I forgot to remove him from my 1B list, so I will take care of fixing that up now

  3. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @The Baltimoron,

    I like Davis, but I do not like him more than Huff. He’ll likely be worth less, at least in my estimation, than the people above him. I have him pegged for Michael Young like numbers with a lower BA

  4. The Baltimoron said...

    Swisher only had 9 ABs over six games last season at first, and is unlikely to be CI eligible in almost every league.

  5. The Baltimoron said...

    I’d have Ike Davis and Derrick Lee up at 7th and 8th.  Your 10th-13th MIs are the four worst on the list.

  6. buck turgidson said...

    I don’t think Carter is so much blocked as the A’s have determined that he needs another 300 or so AB’s in Sacramento.

    I know Barton mostly appeals to those in OBP leagues but you are wrong to not include him on this list.

  7. Jeffrey Gross said...

    He’s a good OBP league play, but a <20 HR 1B with .280 AVG ability is not a guy you want for fantasy. Borderline CI option

  8. Jeffrey Gross said...

    He’s a year-to-year, figuring it out sort. I do not like him long term, however. He is a short-term option for dynasty leagues waiting 2 seasons for Moustakas-types.

    He’s not flashy, but reliable right now, but on the verge of nothingness. 2011: .285/18-20/100 R/85 RBI/5 SB?

  9. xrayxtals said...

    verge of nothingness?

    He put up a very similar stat line last year that was worthy of 7th best 3B, behind the 4 studs and Beltre/Bautista…

    Michael Young is consistent… consistently underrated and consistently valuable.

  10. Doug said...

    Funny you mention dynasty leagues waiting for Moustakas-types.  I just traded for Michael Young in my SOM league because my 3B has been a blackhole (Blum) and I have Moustakas in waiting.  Nice call!

  11. Jeffrey Gross said...

    “For both the middle infielder (MI) and corner infielder (CI) rankings, I omitted the top 12 players at first base, second base, shortstop and third base. I assume that the top 12 players by position will likely be drafted in most leagues for their primary position”

  12. Sexy Rexy said...

    “they are on the wrong side of being talented” hahaha I love that line

    What other bets can I lure you into so you can eat more paper? Maybe one re: Michael Young?

  13. Jeffrey Gross said...


    I’m not confident enough on Young to bet. I’m just weighing the likely upside versus downside.

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