The Sporting News has been doing various rankings in recent weeks. I don't think I'm going out on a limb in saying the folks around here are at least as smart as the Sporting News. Anyway, here's my cut at it:
Carlos Delgado, Jose Valentin, Jose Reyes, David Wright
There might be three future Hall of Famers in that infield. Reyes is among the most electric players in the game and Wright is one of the best young hitters int he game.
Albert Pujols, Adam Kennedy, David Eckstein, Scott Rolen
Two guaranteed Hall of Famers in this IF. Eckstein is a complete pest. Kennedy is functional.
Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Wes Helms
Hard to believe Helms will produce as a regular for a full season, but Howard's a megastud and Utley is one heck of a nice player. Rollins basically has to play all the defense. He also should be allowed to skip the month of April (career .694 OPS that month).
Adrian Gonzalez, Marcus Giles, Khalil Greene, Kevin Kouzmanoff
Gonzalez arrived last year, Giles will rebound with a vengeance and the team flat out plays better when Greene's in the lineup. Kouzmanoff? Who knows, but he should be at least as good as Wes Helms.
Nomah, Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, Wilson Betemit
Nomah could spend the year injured and Kent could finally show his age (though he's been worlds better in his 30s than he was in his 20s), but those two guys and Furcal could also carry a team. Betemit's yet another question mark at 3B.
Conor Jackson, Orlando Hudson, Stephen Drew, Chad Tracy
Potentially the steadiest hitting IF in the league. Defense is shaky (mostly thanks to Jackson being a complete boob in the field), but Hudson can cover a lot of ills on that front.
Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, Corey Koskie
Bill Hall's supposedly heading to the OF, but if these guys can stay healthy there's a lot of danger in there. Fielder and Weeks could be on the verge of major star turns.
Nick Johnson, Felipe Lopez, Cristian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman
Guzman hurts, a lot, but the other three guys can wear out a pitching staff. Even if Felipe doesn't take all that well to 2B this should be a pretty solid defensive unit too.
Todd Helton, Kaz Matsui, Troy Tulowitzki, Garrett Atkins
Matsui seemed to rediscover the guy who set the Japanese leagues on fire once he got out of New York. Atkins had a phenomenal season in 2006. If Helton rebounds and Tulo's the real thing this is a solid, if slightly underpowered, unit.
Mike Jacobs, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera
There's some serious potential for the middle IF to regress a bit and it's an open question as to whether Cabrera should play 3B. He's sort of Bobby Bo over there. Still, I can't get enough of saying the word Uggla.
Scott Thorman, Kelly Johnson, Edgar Renteria, Chipper Jones
Obviously a lot hinges on Jones playing a full season. Renteria's still got a shot to collect 3,000 hits in his career. Johnson and Thorman massive question marks, both at the plate and in the field. It's possible Johnson will slide over to 1B and Willy Aybar, who seems to be a baseball player, could win the 2B job.
Scott Hatteberg, Brandon Phillips, Alex Gonzalez, Edwin Encarnacion
If EdE can harness his fielding talents, this could be one of the better fielding IFs around. Yet Gonzalez is an out machine and Hatteberg is almost a lock to drop off from what he did last season. The two young guys will have to hold up the offensive end of the bargain.
Derrek Lee, Mark DeRosa, Cesar Izturis, Aramis Ramirez
Lee's more likely to play like his career average (.863 OPS) than his 2005 career year (1.060 OPS). DeRosa will lose his starting job by Independence Day. Between Izturis and Ramirez you've got one wonderful player and one guy who can't do anything right.
Adam LaRoche, Jose Castillo, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez
They'll field well, but Wilson and Castillo could have a .300 OB between them. Sanchez doesn't walk, has no power and he's not hitting .344 again. LaRoche will help, but he's not nearly enough to cover for the offensive holes in the rest of the IF.
Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio, Adam Everett, Morgan Ensberg
Sure Berkman's got MVP ability. Yet Biggio's game is in ruins and Everett is as bad an offensive player as anyone in the majors (and he's not likely to repeat his defensive career year). Ensberg's game looked like it was falling apart last season. Mark Loretta will help a bit, but if Berkman gets injured this IF could turn into a super volcano of suckitude.
Rich Aurilia, Ray Durham, Omar Vizquel, Pedro Feliz
Word is this group just signed to the Swan Song label.