So, what about the 2015 season? Will Rollins start declining as he turns another year older? Will Kendrick build off from his career year in 2014? Let’s take a look at the 2015 Steamer projections for every middle infield in the National League:
|Team||Position||Player||Plate Appearances||Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+)||Wins Above Replacement (WAR)||Combined WAR|
Not surprisingly, both Rollins and Kendrick are due for a little regression in 2015. It’s nothing major, but keep in mind these are only projections. They can turn out to be wrong in either a positive or negative way.
However, they still amount to the third-highest WAR for any middle infield in the NL, only behind Colorado and Washington. Colorado mostly projects as the best because of Troy Tulowitzki, who is without a doubt the best all-around shortstop when he’s at full health. But say he doesn’t come close to reaching 601 plate appearances because he suffers another injury and doesn’t reach his maximum value; that severely dampens the Rockies’ middle infield value.
Washington, on the other hand, has an impressive combination of Yunel Escobar and Ian Desmond at the moment. As I mentioned earlier, Escobar was the worst-rated defensive shortstop in baseball last season according to UZR/150.
Escobar will be the Nationals’ starting second baseman, barring a possible Desmond trade. If Desmond is traded, as some are speculating, Escobar would move back to shortstop and replacing him at second base would presumably be Danny Espinosa, who doesn’t come close to Desmond’s potential.
Basically, if Tulowitzki goes on the disabled list for a significant amount of time or Desmond gets moved to another team, the Dodgers could very well have the best middle infield in the National League. Losing Ramirez’s bat will sting and not having Gordon’s speed in the lineup might hurt, but Rollins and Kendrick can more than enough make up for it.
They’re both average-to-above average offensively, play defense at a premium level, could still swipe 15-20 bags each, and offer a veteran presence in the clubhouse that some say is badly needed. Both players have also proven to be durable for many seasons and could be mainstays in the lineup. Rollins has averaged 151 games over the last three seasons, with Kendrick averaging 142.
For comparison, Ramirez averaged 93 games over the last three seasons, with Gordon totaling 329 in his brief four-year career to this point. The new front office has quietly put together one of the best middle infields in baseball with so much ease, and it should be fun to watch on a daily basis.