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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 10

We have finally steamrolled into June, and I hope everyone had a relaxing Memorial Day weekend, because the start of this month is jam-packed with important baseball information. The College World Series is underway and showcasing many of the next young professionals of the sport, many organizations will decide their club's course of action for the foreseeable future tonight in the MLB Draft, and we have now had about two months of play to put under the microscope when making decisions moving forward this season (not to mention an entertaining start to the NBA Finals between the Raptors and Warriors, if you were interested). It's funny that with how long term of a process it is for a player to make it from the draft to the majors, who is selected in tonight's draft (and each one after that) will seriously impact how we feel about players all across the board and how their career trajectory now stands. It's also a stimulating time to be looking for middle infielders, with several key assets back into consideration and others expanding their game and adding tremendous value where we once couldn't expect it.

As always, the second base and shortstop positions are notoriously lacking in waiver wire depth and are therefore quite fickle to navigate. Each week of the season, we are going to be taking a look at a slew middle infielders who are worthy of acquisition (or strong consideration at the very least) and are owned in less than 50% of Yahoo Leagues. Staying on top of the injury, roster, and statistical trends regarding the middle infield positions will ensure that your team has year-long robust depth and is ready if a crisis situation were to arise.

With that, let's have at it and take a look at a fresh batch of second base and shortstop waiver wire targets for Week 10.

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Pickups for Most Leagues

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (2B/SS/OF, TOR)

47% Owned

The Toronto Blue Jays have had a frustrating time filling the hole in the middle infield this season with an onslaught of injuries and performance issues, deploying the likes of Freddy GalvisEric Sogard and recent call-up Cavan Biggio. However, there is another young Jay who is starting to get it together at the plate, 25-year old former top-1oo prospect Lourdes Gurriel Jr. On the year, Gurriel has hit four home runs, stolen two bases (in three tries), and produced an OPS of .853 in 72 AB. That all sounds pretty good right? Well, it pales in comparison to the fact that he has hit all four of his blasts to the stands, stolen a base, and hit for a slash of .375/.394/.875 over the past two weeks.

Gurriel has a few peripherals that invite skepticism. He strikes out at a pretty high rate (26%) while walking at a rather infrequent one (5.2%), which historically isn't a particularly inspiring combination. He also hits a high volume of grounders (44.2%) and is dangerously producing a 28.8% soft contact rate in his effort to sustain a .313 BABIP. There are, however, a few key saving graces. Even with the frequent grounders, his GB/FB ratio is still just 1.05, and he is applying 34.6% hard contact to a robust 42.3% fly balls in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre for an ISO of .278. While the middle infield slots have been filled by those mentioned above most recently, Gurriel has still been consistently starting at left field, so his defensive versatility has allowed him to find time on the field amid the Blue Jays struggles in the outfield. With his bat starting to slap, he's yet another young player in Toronto with something exciting to offer.

Didi Gregorius (SS, NYY)

45% Owned

All year long, in reference to the New York Yankees lineup, we have been saying, "They are going to have some tough decisions to make once (insert player name here) gets back from the IL." Up until now, they had avoided some of those tough decisions when Miguel Andujar was ruled out for the season, but now Didi Gregorius is slated to return on Friday against the Cleveland Indians. With Giovanny Urshela, Gleyber Torres, and DJ LeMahieu all performing from admirable to phenomenal, no one is expecting any future lineup formations to be easy calls to make. Although I have to say, I like the odds for the guy with Gregorius's recent track record, even if he is coming back from Tommy John Surgery.

"Sir Didi" has combined for 72 home runs and 20 stolen bases (in 28 attempts) since 2016, and finished in the top-20 for AL MVP voting over the last two years. His total OPS also improved with each season from 2016 to 2018 from .751 to .829, as did his home run totals, culminating in an eye-popping (for a shortstop) 27 knocks to the stands in 2018. All he needed to make that happen was a 36% hard contact rate on a 0.93 GB/FB ratio in offense-frenzy Yankee Stadium, even with modest plate discipline figures and a 22.5% soft contact rate. To put a proverbial cherry on the sundae, Gregorius racked up a career-high ten stolen bases last season, and scored a career-best 89 runs. With that level of statistical potential in a returning star with such widespread availability, whether the path is sprinkled with uncertainty or not, it's a return you want to involve yourself in.

Howie Kendrick (1B/2B/3B/OF, WAS)

42% Owned

Initially, the biggest issue for former All-Star Howie Kendrick was whether he would be able to see consistent playing time for the Washington Nationals that would make him worthwhile, not even focusing on the question of whether he could sustain his level of play at age 35. Fast-forward to today, the Nats still have lingering injury issues and Brian Dozier has played his way out of a good chunk of playing time. Kendrick has hit for two dingers and a slash of .355/.364/.613 over the last two weeks, giving him a season home run total of nine with a cumulative slash of .324/.362/.581 in 136 AB.

Kendrick has plenty of numbers to suggest that his contact on batted balls is high-quality and legitimate. With a hard contact rate of 43.2% and soft contact rate of just 11.9%, it largely offsets his 1.45 GB/FB ratio and 36.4% pull rate. His plate discipline isn't much of a weapon either with a 5.9% walk rate and tolerable 15.1% strikeout rate, but his power this year has been undeniable and notable even for the seasoned veteran. His ISO of .257 comes off the back of an exit velocity of 91.8 MPH and average HR distance of 409 feet, and his contact has been so on-point that he is currently producing a 22.5% HR/FB rate. Howie Kendrick has been raking like a middle-schooler desperately trying to make money for the Christmas shopping season, and that has allowed him to seep deeper into the fabric of the Washington batting order. With an efficient barrage of bombs and a well-rounded line, he can work wonders for those in need of a middle infielder.

Keston Hiura (2B, MIL)

39% Owned

Though Keston Hiura is another fellow who we discussed in previous weeks, a thriving top-tier prospect who plays for a World Series contending club is always worth another comb-through. In 60 AB with the big league Brewers this year, Hiura has hit five home runs, stolen a base, and put up an impressive slash of .300/.354/.567. With so little major league experience, it is already promising to see the eagerly awaited second baseman showcasing his power, speed, and plate prowess.

One aspect of his plate approach that has not flowed nicely since his call-up is his plate discipline, as he has cranked out uncharacteristically bad walk and strikeout rates of 4.6% and 33.8%. Thankfully, that is where the drawbacks seem to end. He is applying 39.5% hard contact to a 0.86 GB/FB ratio, while hitting for a manageable 18.4% soft contact. He has also corked out a 39.5% pull rate, 91.7 MPH exit velocity, and 403-foot average HR distance. That combination is good for traveling vast distances in hitter-friendly Miller Park, and his .267 ISO is evidence of this. His speed isn't elite, but it will get him where he needs to go at 27.7 feet per second, and along with his high-quality contact will go a long way to sustaining his routinely high BABIP. He is living up to the hype, don't be left wishing that you had gotten more out of the ride.


For the Sneaky and Savvy

David Fletcher (2B/3B/SS/OF, LAA)

37% Owned

I know that we have touched on David Fletcher a few times already, but with the continued success and general availability, it seems worth yet another touch. He has hit for four home runs, stolen five bases (in seven attempts), and produced an .820 OPS in 196 AB, and he has been heating up at a balmy clip. Over the last two weeks (47 AB) the 25-year old has hit a home run, swiped two bags in three tries, and swung for a sharp slash of .383/.473/.532. His defensive versatility has been a big deal in keeping him in the Angels lineup with regularity, and has been sporting some additionally supportive peripherals such as his 1.31 BB/K ratio and 35%/17.5% hard and soft contact figures. The ball keeps rolling for David Fletcher, so be a part of the bat that apparently won't quit.

Niko Goodrum (1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, DET)

18% Owned

After what seemed to be an appropriate length of time, I (along with many others) were ready to call it quits on Niko Goodrum. Even with the playing time allowed by his wide-ranging defensive versatility, he seemed to be dead in the water behind other rising utility men like Ronny Rodriguez. Then, Goodrum exploded over the last two weeks with three home runs (which all came in the past week), a stolen base, and a slash of .314/.352/.588 in 51 AB. Although he has been striking out at a 25.2% rate, he has been taking frequent walks at 10.7%, and he has been applying 41.2% hard contact and just 16.2% soft contact to a 0.88 GB/FB ratio. With an ISO of .181 and a team-leading sprinting speed of 28.9 feet per second, Niko Goodrum is an interesting option that you can plug in virtually anywhere, now that he seems to be back on track.

Willy Adames (2B/SS, TB)

16% Owned

While many of the numbers for 23-year old Willy Adames don't necessarily pop off of the page, he got in on plenty of the recent action perpetuated by the Tampa Bay youth movement. In 88 AB during the month of May, he hit for three home runs, one steal, and a hearty slash of .284/.357/.443, and went from 29 strikeouts and seven walks in April to 22 and ten this past month. Adames is another guy that strikes out a little more than you would like (25.9%), but his walk rate of 8.5% does an ample job of making up the difference, and he his hitting for a concrete 39.7% hard contact rate and 17.6% soft contact rate. Though his base-running has been light, he has the pedigree of a modest power/speed asset, while his 28.1 feet in sprinting speed per second reminds us of the athletic framework behind the formerly touted infielder. The Rays have been a blast to be a part of in 2019, and Willy Adames is another chance to do so and be rewarded in the process.


Just Checking In...

  • Brandon Lowe continues to be an huge spark for the young Tampa Bay Rays in his rookie season, ranking among team-leaders in nearly every offensive category. His ownership rate is high but there are still a lucky few who may be able to exploit his availability, and his spot in the lineup appears extremely safe at this point even with the impending return of several Tampa Bay infielders from the IL.
  • Scooter Gennett will be returning to action at some time in the somewhat-near future, but at this point, it is impossible to ignore Derek Dietrich's presence in the Reds lineup (and his ownership rate reflects that). Especially after an insane three-bomb barrage against the Pittsburgh Pirates, it appears that it was indeed better to get on the Dietrich-train earlier rather than later.
  • Despite high hopes from early-round takers, Jose Peraza doesn't appear to be getting it together at the plate in any way, shape, or form. While he has maintained a tolerable volume of power/speed figures, he has produced an OPS of .594 over the last week and an OPS of .591 for the season.

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