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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 14

We have now completed three months of the 2019 MLB campaign, and find ourselves reanalyzing our options on July 1st with baseball fresh off of its London debut. When I think of overbearing summer heat, I picture it coming in July, right as Jaws is making his way into Amity. With the arrival of July comes Independence Day festivities, the MLB All-Star break, and the arrival of a wide array of block-busting motion pictures. Even with the sunny disposition, there has been plenty of negative news around baseball whether it be Frankie Montas's untimely suspension, Giancarlo Stanton immediately returning to the IL until August, or Jordan Hicks needing Tommy John Surgery. Allow the unfortunate news to light a fire: July is a time for comebacks and refreshing oneself. We're about to see a lot of guys turn the tables, and a lot of teams decide to mix things up with their rosters and lineups. Three months have passed, but there are still three to go, so take a deep breath.

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 robust year-long depth and is ready if a crisis 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 14.

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Pickups for Most Leagues

Chris Taylor (2B/SS/OF, LAD)

46% Owned

Chris Taylor has been an effective fixture in the Los Angeles Dodgers' lineup for a few years now, but after an ugly start to the 2019 season, he has strung together two-straight months of absolute offensive devastation. "CT3" Hit three home runs, stole two bases, and produced a .904 OPS through 70 AB in May, and actually accelerated across 89 AB this month with four homers, three steals, and a slash of .315/.370/.573. That brings his dinger-tally to eight on the year, while he has converted on all six of his attempts at base thievery in 229 AB for the impressive Dodger squad.

Taylor typically struggles with strikeouts, and this year has been no exception even in the best of times, as demonstrated by his strikeout rate of 30.7% for this month. He has helped to balance the scales by improving his walk rate this month to 8.9%, and far more importantly, has been applying 50.8% hard contact and just 11.5% soft contact to a GB/FB ratio of 0.95 (29.3% line drives). This quality of contact on batted balls along with a sprinting speed of 28.8 feet per second have allowed Taylor to sustain BABIP of .367 and .429 over the past two months while simultaneously posting ISO figures of .257 and .258. Even with a sit every other day or two, there is tremendous value in just being a part of a batting order as top-tier as the Dodgers. With Chris Taylor's defensive versatility allowing him ample time on the field and his bat burning like the Olympic flame, he is a fantastic addition if you are seeking across-the-board contributions.

Keston Hiura (2B, MIL)

37% Owned

When top-rated prospect Keston Hiura was sent back down to Triple-A San Antonio in anticipation of a returning Travis Shaw, the common sentiment was that he would be back for the contending Brewers, and that it probably wouldn't take long. That projection has come to fruition, as Hiura's awe-inspiring Triple-A line of 19 home runs, seven stolen bases, and .329/.407/.681 slash has made an all too compelling case over the slumping Shaw. Now he is getting back to work at the MLB level for a heavy-slugging Milwaukee squad, where he has already done an encouraging level of damage displayed by five homers, one steal, and a slash of .271/.329/.500 in 70 AB.

Though there has been plenty of surrounding buzz, the former UC Irvine infielder is a bargain while still so widely available. His lack of experience has shown through in his lackluster plate discipline so far, but he has continued to rake with the help of a 41.3% hard contact rate and 17.4% soft contact rate applied to 63% combined line drives and fly balls. This inspires confidence that he can sustain his .341 BABIP, while his exit velocity (92.2 MPH) and average launch angle (15.4-degrees) are primed to reach a lot of lucky fans in power-friendly Miller Park. It's always exciting to buy in to what a prospect like Keston Hiura could potentially be, and he's giving us a pretty great glimpse with the ferocity with which he is sending pitches back.

Danny Santana (1B/2B/OF, TEX)

34% Owned

We've done plenty of reflecting on Danny Santana over the past few weeks, and it remains true that there is plenty of reason for skepticism: at 28 years old he has never come close to hitting for power like this (or hitting this well at all as a matter of fact) in his major league career, and the offensive might of the Texas Rangers paired with their depth in certain areas of the field have led to some limitations in playing time. This hasn't prevented Santana from producing bountiful rewards, as he has clubbed for five home runs and a .313/.333/.813 slash over just the past 32 AB while also nabbing two bags on the base-paths.

He doesn't take walks well, but he has at least managed to pull his strikeout rate down a whopping amount from 33.8% in May to just 21.3% in June. Given his M.O. prior to 2019, his .229 ISO for the year (.307 for the month) almost looks like some sort of clerical error, but the weight behind it is fully supported. Santana has been hitting for 45% hard contact and just 15% soft contact this month, netting a 90.6 MPH exit velocity which has been applied to a 0.96 GB/FB ratio on batted balls (25% line drives, 38.3% fly balls). Danny Santana has yet to have a bad month of work at the plate this season, and while his power hitting has come a bit out of left field (figuratively), it is a much-welcomed addition to the base-running that he provides with a sprinting speed of 28.2 feet per second. With such a strong foundation of high-quality contact being applied to pitches, it would be silly to fearfully dump your holdings.

Kevin Newman (2B/SS, PIT)

19% Owned

Former Arizona Wildcat Kevin Newman has been quite the mid-season gem in the Pittsburgh Pirates middle infield. Over the past two weeks the 25-year old rookie has hit three bombs, stolen one base, and hit for a slash of .391/.429/.696 in 46 AB, giving him a cumulative five home runs, five stolen bases (in seven attempts), and an .871 OPS in 195 AB. Despite his success across several statistical categories, there are a few holes in the picture being presented. First, Newman has walked at just a 6.6% clip so far this season with a declining rate of 5.9% this month. Also, even in his masterful work this month he has been hitting for an underwhelming 84.7 MPH exit velocity, 29% hard contact rate, and 24% soft contact rate on a dirt-heavy 2.20 GB/FB ratio.

This shouldn't freeze your feet though, there is plenty of reason to want to be a part of Kevin Newman's run even if you fully believe that the power figures will subside. Even with his high rate of grounders, he is still hitting line drives at a respectable 19.2% clip, while he has continued to maximize his chances in each plate appearance by bringing his strikeout rate from 25% in April to 10.1% in June. Newman is able to use his sprinting speed of 28.3 feet per second as a weapon, routinely sustaining high BABIP figures such as his .337 June mark as he sprays the gaps of the shallow outfield. Though there may be a slight luck factor connected to his slugging percentage at the moment, Kevin Newman has the wheels to beat out throws to first and rob his way into scoring position in the process. Take advantage of his torrid stretch of recent days and keep a close eye on him proceeding forward.


For the Sneaky and Savvy

Eric Sogard (2B/SS, TOR)

16% Owned

Unbelievably, Eric Sogard has continued to rake in 2019, and so the Toronto Blue Jays have continued to call on him in the middle infield despite a talented slew of young options to deploy around the field. Sogard has somehow managed to heat up and continue to produce power/speed volume over the past two weeks, hitting three home runs, stealing two bases, and raking in a .378/.442/.600 slash across 45 AB. He has remained consistent and superb in several key statistical areas from month to month, namely his 13.5% strikeout rate, 8.3% walk rate, 34.7% hard contact rate, and meager 9.3% soft contact rate. With a 0.76 GB/FB ratio and 20.5-degree launch angle, Sogard has used high-quality contact to make up for lack of raw power en route to hitting for extra bases. Though a call-up of Bo Bichette down the line might disrupt his playing time, Eric Sogard is an asset to take advantage of until any such disruption occurs with his bat still smoking.

J.P. Crawford (3B/SS, SEA)

15% Owned

J.P. Crawford has long been considered to be a phenomenally talented prospect who could bring a well-rounded bat and fielding skill to the infield. Currently 123 AB into the 2019 campaign for the Seattle Mariners, and his arsenal is finally culminating into an exciting major league product. Just over the last two weeks (50 AB) Crawford has hit a home run, stolen a base, and hit for a dialed-in slash of .360/.421/.560. He strikes out more than would be ideal at 23.2%, his natural power definitely has a hard cap, and he doesn't posses a game-changing level of speed despite his propensity to try the base-paths. However, he has remained disciplined at the plate throughout the year with a 10.1% walk rate, and even though his batted ball figures have been modest with 33.7% hard contact and 17.4% soft contact, his 31.5% line drive rate will go a long way towards finding a steady gap in the outfield. As a guy that can give you a little bit of everything, it means a lot that J.P. Crawford has been strumming to a steady rhythm.

Jason Kipnis (2B/OF, CLE)

14% Owned

Over the first two months of the season, Jason Kipnis actually looked well on his way to ending his ninth season in Cleveland with worse offensive results than he did in the previous two seasons. He gradually started to get his feel back as the 2019 campaign trudged on, and now the former All-Star and fellow University of Kentucky alumni has been scorching at the plate over the last two weeks (43 AB) with three knocks to the bleachers and a slash of .372/.429/.651. It's easy to see where the difference has come for Kipnis: he has brought his June strikeout rate down to just 13.8% despite a dip in his walk rate, he is hitting for a season-best hard contact rate of 36%, a stellar soft contact rate of 14.7%, and though his GB/FB ratio went up to 1.15, his line drive rate went from 8.3% in April to 21.6% this month. By striking out scarcely and allowing himself plenty of opportunity, this combination is starting to net a potent volume of extra-base hits and trips to first base. Though he isn't too fast, he has stolen four bases in five tries this season as well, once again making Jason Kipnis the complete package to fill the second base slot for those in need.


Just Checking In...

  • Scooter Gennett has finally returned to the Cincinnati Reds lineup from the 60-day IL, but with a 64% ownership rate, he is hard to get your hands on at this point. Reds fans and fantasy baseball managers alike will be excited to see the dynamic hitter back on the field, and although he is projected to be a big part of any potential postseason hopes for Cincinnati, it is important to hamper immediate expectations due to rust and contention for everyday AB.
  • Carter Kieboom definitely showed that he has a long way to go at the major league plate with his struggles through the first 39 AB he took for the Washington Nationals, but that's okay, because he continues to terrorize opposing pitchers at Triple-A Fresno. His 13 home runs, three steals, and 1.052 OPS have prompted owners in 4% of leagues to continue to hold on to him for the time being. At the moment, with the circumstances it would take to make that move worthwhile, there may be better prospects to buy stock in.
  • Speaking of which, top-rated prospect Bo Bichette is owned in just 9% of leagues. Even though he is fresh off of a hand injury and Toronto infielders Freddy Galvis, Eric Sogard, and Cavan Biggio continue to thrive, he is a much more likely candidate to see meaningful plate appearances by season's end. It could happen soon too, because the 21-year old shortstop has been on fire in Triple-A Buffalo where he has three homers, nine steals, and a .931 OPS in just 109 AB.

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