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Beyond the top two or three choices, middle infielders mostly tend to produce middling fantasy results, which makes them positions worth gambling on. Why not take a budding prospect over a consistent day to day contributor? You might just strike gold.
1. Jose Altuve, HOU.
Day to day one of the most consistent fantasy players - 200-hit seasons, of which he now has two straight, mean he's scoring points just about every day. HRs increased from seven to 15 last year and SBs declined from 56 to 38, so maybe still settling into a norm.
2. Dee Gordon, MIA.
Led all 2Bs with 205 hits, .333 BA and 58 SBs last year, and got a nice big new contract for his trouble. His hitting prowess was something of a surprise, but we're betting he's figured out the big leagues and can do it all over again while still dominating the basepaths.
3. Robinson Cano. SEA.
His 21 HRs last year were third highest among 2Bs, 79 RBI were good for second and 182 hits were fourth most, and what for anyone else would be a fantastic year was the second straight disappointing campaign for Cano, though an improvement on 2014.
4. Matt Carpenter, STL.
28 HRs last year were a huge shock (and two more than his career total before 2015), but we won't bet as much on that as his consistency as an RBI and run-scoring threat. 84 RBI and 101 runs last year, and both led all 2Bs in those categories.
5. Jason Kipnis, CLE.
Career-high .303 BA , .823 OPS, 86 runs, 43 doubles were the most intriguing things about his 2015 season. Failed to reach double-digit HRs for the second straight year (9) and SBs have declined four straight years from 31 to 12, but 15 of each wouldn't be a bad 2016.
6. Brian Dozier, MIN.
Makes a nice case to rank higher than Kipnis, with 28 HRs, 77 RBI and 101 runs to tie Carpenter for the 2B lead, but his .236 BA and surprisingly unimpressive (given the HRs) .751 OPS make him more a feast or famine choice than and everyday contributor.
7. Roughned Odor, TEX.
Got more at-bats in his sophomore season (426 total) and delivered 16 HRs, 61 RBI, six SBs and nine triples. Think about what we could get with 600 ABs - maybe 20-25 HRs, close to 85 RBI, a bushel of extra-base hits, if that's a thing.
8. Anthony Rendon, WAS.
Injury-marred 2015 season told us almost nothing, but 2014 season of 21 HRs, 83 RBI, 17 SBs and 111 runs was hard to forget, and we're betting on something close, if not quite as impressive, assuming he is much healthier this year.
9. Ian Kinsler, DET.
His .296 BA last year was somehow his highest since 2008. Diminishing returns in most other stat areas, but if he matches his 11 HRs, 73 RBI, 10 SBs, 94 runs from a year ago, that's nice fantasy value at this position.
10. Matt Duffy, SF.
Great rookie year of 12 HRs, 77 RBI, 77 runs and 12 SBs was the kind of symmetry we love in fantasy from the 2B spot. If his BA weren't .295 we'd question if he could do it again, but he seems to be adjusting to the big leagues pretty well.
11. Kolten Wong, STL.
Similar to Odor, he showed improvement in his second season and the arrow is still pointing upward, but a couple of major slumps gave us less consistent day to day fantasy value last year than you would expect out of 12 HRs, 61 RBI and 15 SBs.
12. Ben Zobrist, CUBS.
As we saw in KC and as the Cubs hope, he has a load of on-field value that doesn't translate to fantasy. A few years removed from being a 20-HR, 15-SB threat, but again, his 2015 numbers of 13 HRs, 56 RBI and .800+ OPS are decent numbers given his position.
13. Daniel Murphy, WAS.
Which side of his 2015 stats - 14 HRs, 73 RBI, .281 BA - will he end up on this year? No one is believing his postseason boom translates to fantasy rebirth, but I bet plenty of owners draft him anyway just in case.
14. Dustin Pedroia, BOS.
381 at-bats was his lowest since 2010, yet his 12 HRs and .291 BA were both higher than the previous two seasons, and .797 OPS was highest in four seasons. Assuming he's rested and ready for 2016, could we see a big comeback year?
15. Addison Russell, CUBS.
Started this list wanting to rate him higher, and while 12 HRs, 42 RBI, 29 doubles in 475 ABs is promising, he's still figuring things out, and it won't help his fantasy case much if he continues hitting in the nine spot after the Lester-Ross black hole every five days.
16. DJ LeMahieu. COL.
Career-best .301 BA, 61 RBI and 23 SBs last year was nice, but that's literally all there is to like, as he doesn't have extra-base power even playing half his games in thin air. Still, a decent back-up option who manages to avoid too many 0-fer days.
17. Neil Walker, NYM.
Came off his 2014 career highs of 23 HRs, 76 RBI to go for 16 HRs, 71 RBI last year. Still one of the top 10 run producers at the position, but had the kind of year that reminds you why he always seems more like a fantasy back-up option than a starter.
18. Brandon Phillips, CIN.
Had himself a nice comeback year with the pressure off the flagging Reds - 12 HRs, 70 RBI, 23 SBs and .294 BA - the latter two numbers the highest in several years for both those stats. Don't think he keeps it up unless he's traded, which is certainly possible.
19. Logan Forsythe, MIA.
Lurking here at the back despite hitting 17 HRs, tied for fourth most among 2Bs. 68 RBI help, too, though at age 29 you have to wonder if he has hit or is very near to hitting his stat ceiling.
20. Jonathan Schoop, BAL.
On the surface, you could find better in all categories last year than his .279 BA, 15 HRs and 39 RBI, but he did it in 305 at-bats. His value this year obviously depends on more chances, but he's looking like he's growing comfortably into long-held hype.
Sleeper: Devon Travis, TOR.
A really nice start last year with the most productive lineup in MLB was marred by injury, but we're hoping his eight HRs, 35 RBI. .304 BA and .859 OPS in just 217 ABs was for real - also hoping everyone else at the draft forgot what I just pointed out.
1. Carlos Correa, HOU.
Though No. 2 and No. 3 on my list are getting more No. 1 attention elsewhere, and Correa has less than 100 games under his belt, I saw enough in last year's stats - 22 HRs, 68 RBI, 14 SBs, .857 OPS - that I'm willing to gamble at a shallow fantasy position.
2. Manny Machado, BAL.
Also has eligibility at 3B, but gets the higher ranking at SS. Last year's 35 HRs, 86 RBI, 20 SBs show us a player who could lead SS in all three categories if he swipes a few more bases. Close to being my No. 1 - just love Correa's potential to be ever so slightly better.
3. Troy Tulowitzki, TOR.
Between COL and TOR he played 128 games last year was the most since 2011, and about what we can expect given his injury-prone nature. Totals of 17 HRs, 70 RBI, .280 BA included just five HRs, 17 RBI. .239 BA in TOR, but betting he's more comfortable this year.
4. Xander Bogaerts, BOS.
Rising star didn't have as much power as we expected and started off slow, but finished in a flurry. Seven HRs, 81 RBI, 10 SBs, 84 runs, .320 BA showed us plenty to like. Also, led all SS with 35 doubles, and had six games in which he collected four hits. Wow.
5. Corey Seager, LAD.
Had he played a few more games at the MLB level last year, we might view him on par with Correa. As it was we got a very small sample of just 98 ABs, but his four HRs, 17 RBI, two SBs, and more meaningful, .337 BA and lofty .986 OPS in the span are worth a gamble.
6. Francisco Lindor, CLE.
Another young stud at this position who probably gets a full season of ABs this year. In 2015, his 390 ABs featured 12 HRs, 51 RBI, 12 SBs, .313 BA, .835 OPS. He can really run, so we're conservatively expecting at least 20 SBs this year.
7. Brandon Crawford, SF.
Breakout year in 2015 featured 21 HRs (third most among SS), 84 RBI (second most) and career-high .256 BA and .782 OPS. Great power from a position where you won't find much, though unless he boosts his OPS, he is really more of a feast or famine type.
8. Ian Desmond, FA.
Run of three straight 20 HR/20 SB seasons ended last year with 19 HR, 13 SBs and a pitiful .233 BA after what seemed like a season-long slump. Still hasn't signed anywhere, though has been linked with COL, which would boost prospects for a comeback year.
9. Addison Russell, CUBS.
Shallow depth at SS makes him a fantasy starter here, and his prospects to be around a 20 HR/20 SB/40 doubles player take on more value and seem more worth the risk of a sophomore slump.
10. Jhonny Peralta, STL.
Reliable, if one-dimensional moderate power threat. He had 17 HRs, 71 RBI last year, but has surpassed 20 HRs five times in his career and in a good year can finish around 80 RBI. 159 hits last year was his most since 2008.
11. Elvis Andrus, TEX.
Career-high seven HRs in 2015 isn't why we consider him. 25 SBs tied for lead among all SS. BA has slid four straight seasons to .263 last year, so SBs and decent RBI figure of 62 considering the position are the main reasons to buy in.
12. Jung-ho Kang, PIT.
Also has eligibility at 3B. Looking to build on 15 HR, 58 RBI, .287 BA, .816 OPS rookie year cut short by injury. If he increases SBs from last season's six, he could quickly move up the rankings.
13. Jean Segura, ARI.
Change of venue from MIL could help a guy who has yet to match his 2013 highlights of 12 HRs 44 SBs, and 10 triples. A family tragedy may have affected his performance in 2014 and 2015. Maybe 2016 is the year he's able to refresh a once-promising career.
14. Eugenio Suarez, CIN.
Probably will gain 3B eligibility early in the season, which will lead to more playing time and probable improvement on what we saw during 372 ABs in 97 games during 2015: 13 HRs, 48 RBI, .280 BA, 19 doubles, 42 runs scored.
15. Jose Reyes, COL.
Season is pretty much up in the air, since he likely will be suspended for some amount of time for violating MLB's domestic abuse policy. If the punishment is lenient, he still has fantasy value in his ability to steal 25-30 bases, though doesn't do much else.
16. Starlin Castro, NYY.
His late-season redemption story could continue in his new home, though his 11 HRs, 69 RBI last year is about the ceiling you can expect. Usually among the top 10 in hits at SS, could provide some minimal daily value in that sense.
17. Marcus Semien, OAK.
Left Chicago, became a full-time starter and results were promising: 15 HRs, 45 RBI, 11 SBs, 65 runs, seven triples (which led all SS) and 45 total extra-base hits. If he boosts RBI and runs and gets a few more SBs, we're looking at a fantasy riser.
18. Jedd Gyorko, STL.
An interesting speculative buy for your bench. His 16 HRs, 57 RBI last year were well short of his promising 2013 debut numbers of 23/63, but he moved from SD to STL, a home park, division and lineup that should help him boost his numbers a bit.
19. Brad Miller, TB.
His 11 HRs, 46 RBI, 13 SBs, 138 hits in 438 ABs were all career highs, though he still hasn't achieved what seemed like 20/20 promise a couple years ago. Could a few more ABs and a move from SEA to TB help?
20. Cesar Hernandez, PHI.
Definitely players will better 2015 stats available at this point, but his 19 SBs in 405 ABs is intriguing, and a stat I would look for at this position even if it comes with no power at all (one HR last year). If he plays more, he could prove a nice source of SBs.
Sleeper: Zack Cozart, CIN.
His 2015 campaign was derailed last June by a bad knee injury and surgery, but up to that point he was looking like a breakout candidate, with nine HRs, 28 RBI and a .769 OPS - like 2B Travis above, sleeper status is based on hope the fantasy world forgot him.
Previously in the Fantasy Fix Baseball Draft Guide:
* The (Tied At The) Top 40.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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