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The best middle-infield duos in each division

@paul_casella
January 15, 2020

Leading up to the start of Spring Training, MLB.com is rolling out weekly division-by-division breakdowns of different position groups. After focusing on the best catchers last week, the attention now turns to the best middle-infield duos. Below is a compilation of the teams deemed by MLB.com beat reporters to have

Leading up to the start of Spring Training, MLB.com is rolling out weekly division-by-division breakdowns of different position groups. After focusing on the best catchers last week, the attention now turns to the best middle-infield duos.

Below is a compilation of the teams deemed by MLB.com beat reporters to have the best middle infielders, along with a link to the full team-by-team analysis for each division.

American League East: Yankees
Newcomer Gerrit Cole isn’t the only reason the Yankees are considered the best team in the AL East. A key part of New York's powerful lineup is its dynamic duo at shortstop and second base -- Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu, respectively -- that can do the job from both sides of the ball.

Torres split time between shortstop and second base last season, but he will take over at shortstop following the departure of Didi Gregorius. Torres, a two-time All-Star entering his age-23 season, hit .278 with 38 homers and 90 RBIs in 2019, joining Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio as the youngest Yankees to hit 30 homers in a season. LeMahieu, meanwhile, had an MVP-caliber season while being utilized all over the infield, though he is set to return second base in '20 -- a position where he won three Gold Glove Awards during his time with the Rockies. The 31-year-old had an incredible debut season in the Bronx, setting career highs in runs (109), hits (197), homers (26) and extra-base hits (61), while leading the Majors with 61 multi-hit games. More >

AL Central: Indians
Despite swirling trade rumors over the past few months, the Indians seem set to open the year with Francisco Lindor at shortstop. The four-time All-Star will be joined up the middle by newcomer César Hernández at second base. Along with his four consecutive All-Star selections, Lindor has also racked up a pair of Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger Awards during his five-year career. Though the production Cleveland has gotten from its 26-year-old shortstop has been consistent, the question mark surrounds Hernández, who will be taking over for Jason Kipnis at second base. Hernández hit .279 with a .741 OPS for the Phillies in 2019 while playing 161 games for a second consecutive season. More »

AL West: Astros
The AL West has plenty of talent up the middle, from Angels four-time Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons to Oakland's Marcus Semien, who finished third in AL MVP Award voting last season. Still, no team has a more dynamic duo than Houston's pairing of José Altuve and Carlos Correa. Altuve, a six-time All-Star, has won three batting titles and took home the 2017 AL MVP Award. Correa, meanwhile, was the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year and remains one of the top shortstops in the big leagues. More »

National League East: Braves
This was one of the toughest division battles to decide, but the edge goes to Atlanta's combination of Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson. Albies, who just turned 23 on Jan. 7, has established himself as one of the game’s top young players, producing some of the best offensive statistics ever recorded by a switch-hitter before turning 23. As for Swanson, he hit a career-high 17 homers last year, but he had his breakout season derailed by a right heel injury. The fact that the duo is entering its third year together helped Atlanta earn the nod for the top middle infield in a division that also includes Didi Gregorius (Phillies), Trea Turner (Nationals), Robinson Canó (Mets) and Miguel Rojas (Marlins), among others. More »

NL Central: Cardinals
The Cardinals are the only NL Central club without at least one new middle infielder in their starting lineup. Gold Glove Award winner Kolten Wong is returning at second base, while shortstop Paul DeJong will look to build on his All-Star campaign last season. That pairing is a big reason why the Cardinals went from worst to first in defense last year, as Statcast's recently unveiled infield defense metric ranked Wong second in the Majors with 10 Infield Outs Above Average, while DeJong ranked fifth with 13. Offensively, Wong led the Cardinals in on-base percentage (.361), while DeJong put together a 30-homer season in just his third year in the big leagues. More »

NL West: D-backs
Arizona has one of the game’s best defensive shortstops in Nick Ahmed, as evidenced by his Major League-leading 18 Defensive Runs Saved in 2019. Meanwhile, the D-backs had hoped to sign a center fielder this offseason to allow utility man Ketel Marte to entrench himself at second, but that has yet to come to fruition. Marte posted a .981 OPS and 6.9 bWAR (highest among NL middle infielders) en route to finishing fourth in NL MVP Award voting. Of course, if Marte must play center, Eduardo Escobar could fill the second-base role -- and would thus spark a debate between the Rockies, Dodgers and D-backs for this top spot in the West. More »

Paul Casella is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.