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Double Play Depth: Hanley is Who We Thought He Was

Hanley wants you to know that he will lead you to the promised land.
Hanley wants you to know that he will lead you to the promised land.

After a one-week hiatus, Double Play Depth is back and better than ever (hopefully!) I'm not going to lie, if I were tasked with writing the Closer Report (which is covered by our own smokeymcpots) or the Hot Corner Patrol (which doesn't exist) then there would be a lot more news-worthy items. But while middle infield hasn't seen the same rash of injuries or crazy swings in performance, there's still a lot to be learned here.

The Spotlight

For those of you who still think that Hanley Ramirez has been a huge disappointment so far in 2012, it's time to look past the batting average. Despite hitting .228, Hanley has been a stud in all other categories. Let's first take a look at what he's on pace for. From 2006-2010, Hanley averaged 152 games per season, so we'll use that as a baseline. So here's what it looks like:

.228 AVG, 31 HR, 110 RBI, 89 R, 31 SB

As of Sunday's games, Hanley was the 5th rated SS, the 33rd overall hitter and the 44th overall player on the ESPN Player Rater -- and that only went up last night as he went 2-4 with his 6th HR.

Put simply, Hanley Ramirez will not finish the season with a .228 average. In fact it was only the middle of last week when his average was below the Mendoza line (.196). Right now, Hanley's BABIP is .247, which would be 28 points lower than the worst BABIP season he's ever had (2011) of .275. It's also 89 points lower than his career BABIP of .336 -- so while he may have a slightly elevated strikeout rate this season compared to previous seasons, there's nothing in his underlying numbers to suggest that he should not be able to get back to that level again.

So find the Hanley Ramirez owner in your league and test out how much he believes. All it takes is a couple of minutes. I still am firmly of the belief that Ramirez will finish in the top-10 overall for fantasy in 2012, and if he were hitting .290 instead of .228 (which would be in line his with career BABIP), he'd be right around #10 overall.

More after the jump..

Other DPD Notes

* Rafael Furcal is not messing around so far this season. He added his 2nd HR of the season Monday night to his already impressive 2012 resume to go with 5 steals and an average over .330. But most importantly, if he can keep up his 10% BB rate, he could continue his 115-run pace. Of course, he's still likely to get hurt.

* If you thought the two middle infielders who would be ranked within the top 7 on the ESPN Player Rater through five weeks of the season would be Starlin Castro and Derek Jeter, you probably got some funny looks. Castro is one of only four players with double-digit steals (though he's slowing that pace with only one over the last 7 days) along with a .350 average. Jeter, on the other hand, leads all of MLB with a .397 average and a surprising 5 HR. That power won't last, but he looks severely rejuvenated at the dish.

* I was not a believer in J.J. Hardy's power that he showed last year, but he's doing his best to prove me wrong. Of course, it's also coming with a .217 batting average (driven by an ugly .202 BABIP). The biggest reason why I didn't see Hardy hitting for the same sort of power this year was last year's career high FB%, but he's following that up with an even higher FB% this season. Oh well, the same comment I made for Furcal applied here as well -- he's still likely to get hurt.

Short-Term Planning

These are the five best and five worst performers from the past week (Monday to Sunday) in standard 5x5 categories.

Who's Hot:

1) Jason Kipnis (.455, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R, 2 SB in 22 AB)

2) Rafael Furcal (.391, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 7 R, 2 SB in 23 AB)

3) Jed Lowrie (.476, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R, 0 SB in 21 AB)

4) Kelly Johnson (.296, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 5 R, 1 SB in 27 AB)

5) Jose Reyes (.310, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 6 R, 4 SB in 29 AB)

Who's Not (min 10 AB):

1) Ryan Raburn (.077, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB in 13 AB)

2) Ryan Theriot (.125, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB in 16 AB)

3) Erick Aybar (.125, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in 24 AB)

4) Alberto Gonzalez (.118, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in 18 AB)

5) Brandon Phillips (.100, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in 20 AB)

The Bandwagon

Here is where I will keep the unabridged list of bandwagons I am currently on here in the world of middle infielders. The categories show how strongly I feel about them - ranging from "driving!" (a bandwagon I feel super strong about) to "about to jump!" (a bandwagon I'm pretty sure is on fire and requires my swift departure). Nothing will get erased from this list over the course of the season, so the "Evacuated" section will be there to remind us all of the crazy, crazy bandwagons I've supported over the course of the year. All new bandwagons for the current week are starred.

The Good:

Hanley Ramirez will finish 2012 as a top-10 overall player (driving!)

Derek Jeter will be more valuable in 2012 than Asdrubal Cabrera (driving!)

Alcides Escobar will hit .280 or higher in 2012 (firmly on)

The Bad:

J.J. Hardy will hit fewer than 20 HR (firmly on)

Ryan Roberts will finish outside the top 15 2B in 2012 (firmly on)

The Ugly (Evacuated):

None yet. Whew.

Look Out Below!

Notes from future DPD occupants currently residing in the minor leagues:

* Since the last time I wrote this column on April 24th, Billy Hamilton has 13 steals. That's not a misprint. He's also 15-for-38 with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts. What he's not, though, is a shortstop -- at least according to scouts who have seen him. So while his future probably lies at either 2B or CF, his offensive upside and floor just seems to keep rising by the day.

* Francisco Lindor will not turn 19 until November of 2012. He's also currently hitting over .300 with 3 HR, 11 SB and a 18-10 K/BB ratio. He's been just as impressive in his first month at Low-A as Jurickson Profar was last year. Let's not understate what Lindor could be -- there's a good chance that he will not only be a top-20 prospect by the end of 2012, he could be in the top-10.

* One of this year's Low-A breakout stars, Alen Hanson of the Pirates, continues to hit and begin to make believers out of those in the scouting community. Right now, he's at .376 with 4 HR, 12 SB and a 1.040 OPS -- which is extremely impressive for someone who was 17th in the Pirates system according to Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus coming into the season.

What to Watch For

The biggest difference between Jed Lowrie's 2010 season (.287, 9 HR, .907 OPS in 197 PA) and his 2011 season (.252, 6 HR, .685 OPS in 341 PA) was his plate discipline. But so far in 2012, his BB/K rate of 0.87 looks a lot closer to the 1.00 number from his 2010 season, than the 0.38 rate from his 2011. If Lowrie can maintain these underlying stats, he's got the ability to put up a .285 average, 20 HR and solid counting stats in an apparently underrated Astros offense. So while his .333 average has nowhere to go but down, Lowrie is a player to keep an eye on for the next few weeks to see if he can maintain this plate discipline and become a solid option in deeper mixed leagues for more than just a hot streak.

Follow me on Twitter at @tfw_bret