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2012 fantasy middle-infield review
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In 2012, second base was a disgrace, but the position looked divine compared to its middle-infield counterpart, shortstop, which was essentially a plague of .270 hitters with 10-homer pop.

Among regular second basemen, only three players had an OPS above .800 in 2012, and zero had 100 RBIs. There weren't even that many steady speed options at the position -- just two players stole more than 21 bags.

Just one full-time shortstop posted an OPS above .800, and none had more than 78 RBIs.

The two positions were so awful that they don't even deserve their own review column. Since they tormented most of us as a duo in 2012, they'll have to share.

Here are the top 10 second basemen of 2012, followed by the top 10 shortstops (to qualify, players had to play the majority of their games in the field at that particular position).

Second base

1. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees - Cano was a king among court jesters with 33 homers, 105 runs and a .929 OPS, all career highs. He also chipped in a .313 batting average, 94 RBIs and 48 doubles. The Yankees star probably decided more than a few fantasy championships with his torrid finish -- in his final nine games, Cano hit .615 with three homers, 14 RBIs and a 1.654 OPS.

2. Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks - Hill rose from the ashes in Phoenix in 2012 after fizzling out north of the border. In 2012, he had a career-best .302 batting average and .882 OPS, 26 homers, 85 RBIs, 93 runs scored and 44 doubles. Hill added 14 stolen bases and notably hit for the cycle twice in the span of 11 days.

3. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays - Though he became Tampa Bay's regular shortstop in the second half, Zobrist still played the majority of his games at second base, where his .270 average, 20 homers, 74 RBIs, 88 runs, 14 steals and .848 OPS measure up nicely against the rest of the competition. Zobrist was only hitting .199 on June 7 but he hit .306 with 14 home runs, 55 RBIs and a .923 OPS in the final 103 games of the season.

4. Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds - I've always considered Phillips one of the more overrated players in fantasy baseball. Owners draft him expecting his 2007 season (.288, 30 HRs, 94 RBIs, 32 SBs) but he hasn't been anywhere close to those numbers in any of his other six full years with the Reds. Still, .281 with 18 home runs, 77 RBIs, 86 runs scored and 15 steals are enough to place him fourth on our list.

5. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox - Pedroia posted the worst OPS of his career (.797) in an injury-plagued 2012, but managed to blast 15 home runs, drive in 65 runs, score 81 runs and steal 20 bases in 141 games. Pedroia also hit .290, and that career-low OPS I mentioned still ranked fourth at the position.

6. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers - Kinsler was a quiet bust in 2012. I say quiet because his numbers still looked good when compared to most second basemen. Kinsler did raise his average by one point but he hit 13 less homers, drove in five less runs, scored 16 less runs, stole nine less bases and had an OPS 83 points lower despite playing two more games. The Rangers second baseman finished with a .256 batting average, 19 home runs, 72 RBIs, 105 runs scored, 21 steals and a .749 OPS.

7. Marco Scutaro, Colorado Rockies/San Francisco Giants - Someone tell this guy that players are supposed to get better when they enter Coors Field. Scutaro did the opposite, batting .271 with a .684 OPS in 95 games with the Rockies. Perhaps the thin air was keeping his bloops in the air too long. When he went to San Francisco, the second baseman hit .362 with three homers, 44 RBIs, 40 runs and an .859 OPS in 61 games to finish with a .306 average, 74 RBIs, 87 runs scored and a .753 OPS.

8. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros - Possibly the only player you can name on the Astros currently, Altuve was a nice free agent find for fantasy owners. Despite standing at just 5-foot-5, Altuve hit .290 with seven homers and 37 RBIs. His most impressive contribution was his 33 stolen bases, though he also scored 80 of Houston's MLB-worst 583 runs.

9. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians - Kipnis seemed like a fantasy star in the making early on in 2012. He started out hitting .284 with 11 homers, 41 RBIs, 46 runs, 17 steals and a .794 OPS in his first 65 games, but hit just .235 with three home runs, 35 RBIs, 14 steals, 40 runs and a .650 OPS in the final 87. Overall, he finishes as our No. 9 2B with a .257 average, 14 round-trippers, 76 RBIs, 86 runs and 31 steals with a .714 OPS.

10. Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates - Walker was hitting .294 with 14 homers, 67 RBIs, 60 runs and an .818 OPS after going 5-for-5 on Aug. 12, but he had just 11 hits in his final 61 at-bats of the season following that five-hit game. Walker suffered a dislocated pinkie several days later and then had his season cut short by a herniated disc in his back. And even that wasn't enough to knock him off this list.

Shortstop

1. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals - Desmond was the class of the shortstop position despite missing the end of July and half of August with a torn oblique. In 130 games, Desmond hit .292 with an .845 OPS, 25 homers, 73 RBIs and 72 runs scored, all career bests. He added 21 steals to strengthen his resume.

2. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies - Rollins may be on the decline but he still recorded his best fantasy season in five years with a .250 average, 23 home runs, 68 RBIs, 102 runs, 30 steals and a .743 OPS. With Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back in the lineup, Rollins hit .243 with 15 big flies, 36 RBIs, 54 runs, 16 stolen bases and a .780 OPS in 72 games following the All-Star break.

3. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees - The Yankees captain continues to defy age. Jeter's .316 average and .791 OPS were his highest since 2009, and his 15 homers were his second most in the last seven years. He also scored 99 runs and collected 216 hits but failed to steal double-digit bases for the first time in his career.

4. Jose Reyes, Miami Marlins - April wasn't kind to Reyes in his first season with the Miami Marlins -- he hit .216 with three RBIs and six steals in his first 23 games -- but he turned things around after that. In his final 137 games, Reyes hit .298 with 11 long balls, 54 RBIs, 79 runs, 34 steals, a 47/51 K/BB and an .804 OPS. Reyes finished with a .287 batting average and .780 OPS, 60 extra-base hits and 40 steals.

5. Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs - For the first time in his three-year career, Castro failed to bat .300, but he did post career highs in homers (14), RBIs (78) and steals (25) so fantasy owners will take the 24-point drop in batting average.

6. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians - Cabrera declined in every major fantasy category and yet still ranks sixth on our shortstop list. That note speaks more about the shallow nature of this group than it does about Cabrera's 2011 season being unrepeatable. Though he did up his doubles by three and walks by eight, Cabrera's homers dropped from 25 to 16, RBIs fell from 92 to 68, runs scored declined from 87 to 70 and OPS slipped from .792 to .762. He also stole eight less bases.

7. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers - Like his double-play partner Kinsler, Andrus also experienced a bit of a decline, especially in his bread-and-butter categories. Andrus did increase his average and OPS from .279 and .708 to .286 and .727, respectively, but his steals decreased from 37 to 21 and he scored 11 less runs despite playing eight more games. He also produced a typical three homers and 62 RBIs.

8. Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals - Escobar was nearly statistically identical to Andrus, hitting .293 with five homers, 52 RBIs, and a .721 OPS. Escobar stole 14 more bases but scored 68 runs, 17 less than Andrus.

9. Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox - Ramirez is a curious case. One year after a posted a career-low seven steals, Ramirez swiped a career-best 20 bags but saw his homers slip from 15 to nine. He also had a career-low .651 OPS and 59 runs scored in 2012, though he did drive in 73 runs. If he could only reconcile his 20-steal and 15-homer seasons he would be one of the top shortstop options in fantasy.

10. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles - Yuck. If you were starting Hardy in fantasy this season you probably didn't go very far. Yes, he had 22 home runs, 68 RBIs and 85 runs scored but his .238 average and .671 OPS likely stifled many owners. Believe it or not, he was the 10th best option among full-time shortstops.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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