Ranking of MLB’s 10 Best Infields: Blue Jays, Dodgers, Red Sox Compete for No. 1 After Final Moves

Over the weekend, the top two infielders left in MLB’s free-agent market found a home. Carlos Correa, CBS Sports’ best free agent overall, signed a three-year deal with the Minnesota Twins, which will allow him to opt out after the first or second season. Trevor Story, meanwhile, joined the Boston Red Sox on a six-year deal that also gives him the opportunity to return to free agency after his fourth season.

Those signings capped off a busy week for infielders. As of Monday, two of the best first basemen (Matt Olson, Freddie Freeman) and a potential third best baseman (Matt Chapman) also switched teams. In other words, you could put together an All-Star Game quality infield using just the names above.

Factor in deals made before the lockout – including those with Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Javier Báez – and the state of infields in the league has changed a lot since the last meaningful game.

So here at CBS Sports, we wanted to take this opportunity to dissect and rank the 10 best infields in the game for the 2022 season. We did that by mixing the subjective with the objective. We ranked who we think has the 15 best infields in the league — not counting catchers or reserves, mind you — and then used FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections to pinpoint the exact order of the top 10. A perfect science? No such thing. But this method saves us from difficult decisions, which is why it is good enough.

Now, on the ranking that will surely be met with universal agreement.

the cardinals just now past the Tampa Bay Rays for the final spot. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, the corner infielders, are responsible for 7.5 of the WAR projected by the Cardinals. ZiPS is optimistic about Tommy Edman and thinks Paul DeJong will enjoy a recovery attempt. Two other notes worth keeping in mind: 1) Edmundo Sosa, who had a surprisingly productive 2021, was not counted in the above number; and 2) it looks like at some point the cardinals will hand over the cornerstone to prospect Nolan Gorman. Gorman, a converted third baseman, has an almost elite brute strength.

No Correa, no top spot for the Astros. ZiPS likes Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, as you might expect, but the Astros are expected to have fewer than four wins from first base and shortstop. Top contender Jeremy Peña is slated for a league average production, which may prove optimistic as he has played above High-A in 30 games. Should Peña falter, the Astros would likely turn to Aledmys Díaz or Niko Goodrum; neither would improve Houston’s position on this list.

8. Minnesota Twins: 14.2 Projected WAR

And here’s Correa. Its projection alone accounts for nearly 40 percent of Minnesota’s projected infield WAR. We will point out that Jorge Polanco is probably one of the most underrated players in the game at the national level. According to FanGraphs calculations, he was worth about four wins in each of the last two full seasons. ZiPS has him around the same level this year. Perhaps the spotlight on Correa will help Polanco get the credit he deserves.

Put a star next to the projection of the Padres, as it depends on how much playing time is expected from Fernando Tatis Jr. ZiPS has knocked him out for 84 games, or just over half a season. If you think he’ll miss extra time after having wrist surgery, the Padres are slipping; if you think he will appear in more than 90 games, the Padres will rise. Intoxicating stuff, right? San Diego does have the advantage of employing CJ Abrams, top contender and defensive whiz kid Ha-Seong Kim, suggesting they are better positioned for in-field injuries than most teams.

The Rangers added more than 10 expected wins to their infield tally by signing both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien this outdoor season. Nathaniel Lowe is expected to be a hair above average, meaning the weak spot here is third base. Top contender Josh Jung will miss part of the season after shoulder surgery, leaving Andy Ibáñez the best internal option in the hot corner. ZiPS is higher on Ibáñez than you might suspect given his relative anonymity (1.8 wins), but it remains to be seen if he lives up to his projection. In other words, the Rangers may be overrated here.

The defending champions crack the top five. Understandably, Matt Olson will be the focus of this infield. It will be interesting to see if third baseman Austin Riley, who broke out last season with 33 home runs and 4.2 wins, can sustain that growth. ZiPS seems to think so, expecting 33 home runs and 3.6 wins. Top contender Braden Shewmake could compete if the Braves sustain an injury midway through, giving the Braves insurance against overexposure of reserve Orlando Arcia.

For domestic purposes, we placed Jeff McNeil at second base and Eduardo Escobar at third base. It’s possible the Mets will roll with Robinson Canó and JD Davis in those positions instead. That would change things as far as this projection goes, but it says the Mets have good infield depth. All eyes will be on Francisco Lindor as he tries to atone for a bad first season in New York. ZiPS sees him widely return to his old form, launching 28 home runs and racking up 5.3 wins, or the most he’s had since the 2018 season.

3. Boston Red Sox: 15.2 Projected WAR

Adding Story gives the Red Sox three different infielders expected to earn more than four wins. (The other two, predictably, are shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Rafael Devers.) The Red Sox’s weak spot is the first, where Bobby Dalbec is expected to take a little more than a single win. The good news for Boston is that top contender Triston Casas could make his big league debut sooner or later. Casas was more than 30 percent better than the average batter in Double- and Triple-A last season.

Believe it or not, we have a tie for first place, down to the decimal point.

The Dodgers have added Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner since the last trade deadline to make up for their winter loss to Corey Seager. The Blue Jays, for their part, now have Matt Chapman in tow after last week’s trade. Both teams’ strongest spot is from Turner and the Dodgers’ short stop; the weakest, on the other hand, goes to Cavan Biggio, Toronto’s expected starting second baseman.

The Blue Jays’ infield is arguably more exciting, given the presence of young stars Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. But if we had to pick one or the other, we’d give the Dodgers a nod for their excellent depth. The Dodgers can call on Chris Taylor and Gavin Lux, or top prospects Michael Busch and Miguel Vargas if necessary. Santiago Espinal did a decent job last season, but he’s not as established as Taylor. Toronto has quality prospects Jordan Groshans and Orelvis Martinez approaching the majors, although their next Triple-A level matches will be their first.

However you break the tie, there’s no denying that: The Dodgers and Blue Jays should both have excellent infields this season.

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