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Stretch Run Middle Infielders

Before we do an early-early 2011 ranking for these positions, let’s do one last update on shortstops and second basemen around the league. We’re still playing 2010 ball, for another couple of weeks at least.

Ryan Raburn, Tigers (57% owned)
There’s probably no better way to inject some power into your shallow league middle infield than picking up Ryan Raburn and sticking him at second base. His current .207 ISO is impressive for a second baseman (qualifying second basemen average a .1396 ISO this year), and not far off of his career pace (.196). It looks sustainable, if only because he is again hitting most of his balls in the air (46% this year, 47.7% last year, 44% career). He’s also steadily cut down on his infield fly balls (8.6% this year, 12.1% career). He’s a flawed player – he strikes out too much (24.3% this year, 25.2% career) to really put up a nice batting average, and his UZR/150 at second base (-27.4) suggests that he’s no long-term solution at the position. But right here, right now, watching your league slip away from you – Raburn can give your team a short-term power boost at a tough position.

Jose Lopez, Mariners (37% owned)
You hit three home runs in one (major league) game and you’ll get a writeup in this space too. The amazing thing about how bad his season has been is that even with that outburst, he’s hitting .200/.218/.347 in September and .237/.267/.337 on the year. At least he’s predictable. Lopez has now had five seasons with below-average power and his career ISO (.134) is also sub-par. Because he also doesn’t walk (3.5% this year, 3.7% career), he’s left with one sole skill in his offensive bag of tricks (and it’s offensive for sure). He still doesn’t strike out (10.9% this year, 11.9% career). Also, his fielding is mostly rated as positive. But that’s not enough to start on a good team, so either Lopez will be starting for a bad team next year, or he’ll be a backup. For now, pick him up at your own peril. Honestly, those 37% of Yahoo owners must include about 35% of owners that have checked out on the season.

David Eckstein, Padres (2% owned)
It’s nice to know that fantasy owners are 98% immune to the guile of the average local baseball columnist – and that Fire Joe Morgan came back for a day to remind us how bad sportswriting about Eckstein can be. Even though his proponents might say that his skills don’t translate on paper, there is one nice thing about playing Eckstein in the final weeks of your deep league, and it does show up in the boxscore (on paper). He doesn’t walk (5.4%) or strike out (7.7%). Sure, he doesn’t have any power (.062 ISO), but he’ll make the most use of his at-bats in the fantasy sense. Walks and strikeouts can be largely negative things when you are looking for batting average and batting average alone. Play Eckstein if you are looking for an average boost because he’ll get the most of his at-bats in a box score sense – and his grission level is off the charts, too. With Jerry Hairston Jr out for the year, he should play every day too.