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That title make you tongue-tied? Well that’s nothing compared to how tongue-tied most fantasy players get about middle infielders. No positions have fewer bargains in the draft. This post is to make sure you don’t pay scalper rates.

Below is a comparison of middle infielder value comparing Average Draft Position (ADP) on MockDraftCentral.com vs our Point Share rank (+ means # of picks above estimated value, – means picked lower).

(For the full Point Shares rank and explanation, see here. This is based on PECOTA and Shandler projections.)

I’ve created three buckets – Fair Value, Undervalued, and Overvalued – with the cutoff on each side at 15 spots in the ranking (a player is ‘overvalued’ only if his ADP is 15 picks earlier that his Point Shares estimate is his value).

(MockDraftCentral ADP, Point Share Rank, +/-)

Fair Value (within +/- 15 in rank)
Hanley Ramirez (2, 7, +5)
Jose Reyes (4, 14, +10)
Jimmy Rollins (6, 12, +6)
Chase Utley (8, 9, +1)
Brian Roberts (33, 46, +13)
Carlos Guillen (49, 58, +9)
Robinson Cano (64, 74, +10)
Dan Uggla (103, 116, +13)
Placido Polanco (169, 178, +9)
Orlando Hudson (182, 168, -14)

Undervalued
Kelly Johnson (165, 129, -36)
Dustin Pedroia (176, 130, -46)
Khalil Greene (191, 166, -25)
Aaron Hill (192, 153, -39)
Ty Wigginton (214, 151, -63)
Felipe Lopez (219, 174, -45)
Freddy Sanchez (236, 140, -96)
Mark Ellis (264, 189, -75)
Luis Castillo (280, 227, -53)
Asdrubal Cabrera (303,194, -109)

Overvalued
Brandon Phillips (19, 42, +23)
BJ Upton (22, 80, +58)
Derek Jeter (35, 103, +68)
Troy Tulowitzki (45, 68 +23)
Chone Figgins (53, 83 +30)
Ian Kinsler (68, 107, +39)
Miguel Tejada (71, 117 +46)
Rafael Furcal (76, 108, +32)
Michael Young (80, 115, +35)
Edgar Renteria (99, 241, +142)
Rickie Weeks (106, 149, +43)
Howie Kendrick (118, 188, +70)
Orlando Cabrera (123, 211, +88)
JJ Hardy (128, 217, +89)
Jeff Kent (137, 193, +56)
Jhonny Peralta (173, 201, +28)
Kaz Matsui (193, 325, +132)
Stephen Drew (213, 235, +22)

After the first top four middle infielders, all but 4 of the next 14 are overvalued. I think this is because middle infielders are drafted based on upside more than any other position. Or, in other words, they are drafted at picks where they would provide fair value only if they hit their best case on stats vs. their likely case.

Drafting on 30/30, More Likely 20/20: Brandon Phillips, BJ Upton
Drafting to Improve vs. Last Year, More Likely to Repeat at Best: Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Kinsler
Drafting For Big Bounceback, More Likely to Repeat/Slightly Improve: Miguel Tejada, Rafael Furcal
Drafting On Hope, More Likely To Underperform vs. Expectation: Rickie Weeks, Howie Kendrick
Drafting on Yesteryear, More Likely to Produce a Lesser Tomorrow: Derek Jeter, Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera, Jeff Kent

Now I’m not going to invest time in the majority of these cases as at least there is a chance they might produce fair value. Here are three that I think will definitely not produce fair value based on their current ADP:

Derek Jeter – I’m a Yankee fan. Great player both on the field and in the NYC bars. But he’s hit 20+ HR once in the last 5 years. He’s stolen 25+ SB once in the 5 years. He’s hit 80+ RBI once in the last 5 years. Yes, he delivers runs and AVG but the former stat declined from 122 to 102 over the past 3 years and batting average is a slave to regression (good article on it here). Here are the projections I have for him this year: 93/10/66/13/.303. I think he has upside in all those categories but drafting him at #35 means you’ve got him at something much closer to 2005’s 122/19/70/34/.343. Chances he’ll hit that – I’ll say 5%. If you really want a Yankee MI, wait until the 6th or 7th round and take Cano – much better value.

Edgar Renteria – Renteria is an AWFUL middle round pick. He’s ‘Latin’ 32 this year (more likely 34), returning to the league that overmatched him in 2005, and is a prime candidate to see 40 points fall off his batting average (that .332 was a fluke due to a high increase in BABIP). Has hit 15+ HR only once in his career (2000) and hasn’t stolen more than 17 bases since 2003. Prediction: Fails to hit 12 HR or steal 12 SB. Will be on the waiver wire in many 5×5 10 team leagues by mid-season. I’d rather have DP mate Polanco and he’s going 7 rounds later.

Orlando Cabrera
– Vlad’s little buddy won’t be seeing as many fastballs and runs now that he doesn’t have the Impaler behind him. Wow that sounded gay. But what’s more distasteful is taking this guy anytime before, say, the 18th round. What’s to like? He hasn’t hit more than 10 HR since 2003. Has stolen 20+ SB the last three years but he’s 33 this year – can’t count on much more than 15 SB. His .301 last year was a fluke – his average the previous two years was .257 and .282. I suppose he’s picked higher based on familiarity but, in this case, familiarity should breed contempt. Another guy likely to find the waiver wire at some point this season in mixed leagues.

So here is my simple MI drafting strategy for you…don’t reach! There are a few guys in the first 7 rounds that you can get at close to fair value. After that, just draft other positions until the 13th round or so and start picking up some of the Undervalued guys (or if an Overvalued guy tumbles). There is enough depth out there that you could pick up guys in the 20th round (Sanchez, Ellis, Wigginton) who’ll likely outperform several of the MIs taken in the middle rounds.

  1. josh says:
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    great article as always, though I think it shows more how weak SS is this year than how weak middle infielders are in general. your undervalued section is loaded with good late-round 2b options like pedroia, hill, sanchez, polanco, and options like these don’t exist so much at SS.

    so I’m thinking at some point, we have to reach for a SS. if we wait until we’re getting fair value we end up with khalil greene or yunel escobar, who I’m assuming isn’t even ranked highly enough to be over- or underrated on the above lists. and personally, I feel that reyes and hanley are way overvalued, so I rarely end up with a SS unless rollins slips to 8 or so.

    the guys i’ve been targeting in mocks so far if i miss out on the big 3 have been tulowitzki, guillen, and furcal. I agree tulowitzki is a reach as high as he goes (I usually have to grab him in the 4th), but I think he stands out as the best option in a crop of overvalued players. you have guillen at fair value but he doesn’t go much later than Tulo, so usually my chance to get him is when I grab Tulo. and while I like Furcal, he’s a reach in the 7th. I take him if he’s around in the 8th

    so overall, I think everyone’s basically reaching for SS’s, and our choices are to jump on the bandwagon, or roll with Greene (or like option). right now I’m thinking the former is the best bet

  2. Hey Josh -
    Great point that almost all the undervalued players in the list are at 2B vs. SS.

    I think this would make me slightly more amenable to reaching on a SS but only so much. I’ve targeted Guillen in the 5th round and Furcal in the 8th/9th round as my best hopes for value but – truth be told – I got Khalil Greene in my only draft so far. But that was in the 14th round of a 12 team league and I feel like I got fair value for him. I like Peralta as a late SS pick as well.

    Taking Tulo two rounds too high (which would make him Tuhi vs. Tulo…) is too much. Is he really 10 rounds better than Khalil? I think extending to the 5th round is the farthest I’d go and if that means he’s gone, so be it. It means there’s some bargain to be had…probably a pitcher, maybe a cornerman or OF…

    As for the 2B/SS pick, the value plays all point to taking a 2B….

  3. Eric says:
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    Man my BJ Upton For Fantasy MVP 2008 sure misses the boat, doesn’t it?

  4. hey eric -
    my point shares are based 100% on projections. while he’s 80th in value (accounting for position), I could easily justify moving up in the draft given his upside. moving him up 58 picks, though, is too much for me….

    his K rate is just SO high. i want to say 33% of AB which rivals Ryan Howard. and while he should get RBIs this year, it’s hard to expect more than 20-25 SB for a middle of the lineup guy with below average OBP.

    but at least he has the upside which is more than i could say for the unjustified ADPs for jeter, renteria, and cabrera…

  5. I am a yankees fan as well, but agree that jeter has slumped. Heck, doesn’t matter if I really agree after all……..it’s in the number eh?

  6. Rudy, I guess you wouldn’t like my auction team very much. My two AL ss are Cabrera and Renteria…

    I am glad you agree on Jeter, I have discussed him ad nauseum. If his name were Derek Gamble he would be a tenth round pick!

    Keep up the good work!

    Patrick DiCaprio’s last blog post..Latest RotoTimes Article

  7. Pat K -
    Well, if there’s anyone in baseball that doesn’t need fantasy love, it’s jeter. he gets enough loving as it is…

    Patrick -
    Cabrera AND Renteria? Oy. But it’s an AL-only auction league so it’s a bit of a different best. Hope you didn’t spend too much on ‘em….

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