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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 17


The urgency is definitely picking up around baseball, and it tends to every year once the fun and fanfare of the All-Star break are in the rear-view mirror. You could smell the pungent aroma in the air over the past week. A few trades were completed, a few key players went down with injuries of considerable impact, and a few teams got hot just as their adversaries considered them to be dead in the water. The endless hypothetical situations that bounce around are going to occupy headlines of the sport until the last second before the trade deadline, and it reminds us that the fantasy baseball trade deadline is fast approaching in a majority of leagues. That means that with the proper maneuvers, you could find yourself with an entirely new lineup of stars and supporting cast in a push for the postseason if so needed and desired. At the three-quarters point of July, there is still plenty of time for a dramatic shifting of tides.

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 will 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 17.

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Pickups for Most Leagues

Kike Hernandez (1B/2B/SS/OF, LAD)

24% Owned

312 AB into this season for the offensively formidable first-place Los Angeles Dodgers, Kike Hernandez may be happy with his home run total of 16 but has produced a rather pedestrian cumulative slash of .234/.307/.429. That's because, after a booming start to the campaign with six homers and a .847 OPS in April, he followed it up with two consecutively horrendous months of work at the plate with OPS of .558 and .639 through May and June (though he still racked up seven dingers and his only two stolen bases on the year). Now, 47 AB through the month of July, and the last two months feel like ancient history as Hernandez has gotten back into top form with three blasts, a .340/.415/.574 slash, and an active nine runs and ten RBI within the Dodger batting order.

Hernandez' surge during the heat of July is a tick unusual when considering that he has been hitting for a season-high 24.3% soft contact rate and season-low 32.4% hard contact rate since the start of the month. This does not include a frustrating 23.5% frequency for infield flyers. Even with these lingering drawbacks to Kike's recent results, some of his adjustments to other areas of his batting approach have made all of the difference in turning things around towards sending pitches back with gusto and reaching base with consistency.

For July, Hernandez has struck out at a season-best clip of 18.9% and has skyrocketed his walk rate from 4.3% in June to a whopping 11.3%. Even with the degradation of his quality of contact on batted balls, he has still crushed his way to a .234 ISO by hitting for his highest line drive rate since April (18.9%), his lowest GB/FB ratio of the year (0.76), and a respectable 43.2% pull rate. With a 19.4-degree launch angle on batted balls throughout the season, Kike Hernandez is now hitting line drives at a rate needed to find the outfield gaps with regularity, while his eye for the zone is supplying him with the maximum level of opportunity to get involved on offense. With the natural power he possesses, he seems like a perfect fit for across-the-board statistical contributions down the stretch.

 

Ryan McMahon (1B/2B/3B, COL)

19% Owned

It has been a radical roller-coaster ride of a season for Ryan McMahon as he had to battle for a spot in the batting order with the likes of Brendan Rodgers and Garrett Hampson. His OPS jumped from .659 in April, to .896 in May, and back down to a miserable .632 in June, yet the 24-year-old infielder still holds a respectable ten home runs and .259/.329/.433 across 270 total AB this season. With Brendan Rodgers out for the rest of the season, the door opens up for "McDoogle" to see a more continuous string of playing time (which he earned over Hampson). He has exploited that opportunity to the fullest in the month of July with a sizzling-hot three home runs, one stolen base, and .313/.340/.625 slash through 48 AB.

There remain a few issues: plate discipline is not his forte by any stretch of the imagination. His walk rate has crept down from a robust 13.3% in May to a practically non-existent 4% this month, and even with a 6% improvement in his strikeout rate for July he is still taking a K at a 28% clip. Also, his power-stroke has been hampered by season-high figures for soft contact on batted balls (23.5%) and GB/FB ratio (2.67) on a 47.1% grounder rate that hardly takes advantage of the layout of Coors Field. That shouldn't conjure up any unwarranted skepticism, because he has sported measurable manifestations of his skill and talent that support the portrait portrayed by his .313 ISO and .387 BABIP for July.

While some of the ways McMahon has dealt with batted balls aren't tailored for life at mile high, his 41.2% hard contact rate this month, 91.4 MPH exit velocity, and 423-foot average home run distance are well suited for flying through the thin atmosphere. Also, while his 10.4-degree launch angle falls a little flat, his 35.3% line drive rate for July is destined to find the gaps of his home turf with great regularity. The Colorado Rockies batting order is always something you want to be a part of from game to game just for the laws of physics alone, and with Ryan McMahon putting proper location and contact quality together into the same package, he makes himself appear all the more enticing.

 

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

18% Owned

We have discussed Niko Goodrum several times throughout the course of 2019, and that is because he has found himself making a statistical sandwich. He produced three home runs, three stolen bases (in four tries), with a .238/.367/.450 slash in April, then followed up with miserable showings through May and June with OPS figures of .629 and .662, and is now red-hot 49 AB into July with three homers, four steals (in four tries), and a .306/.358/.510 slash. Inconsistent as he has proven to be during his young MLB career, there is one thing that Goodrum never ceases to do despite struggles on offense: steal bases, and likely match a home run for every bag he grabs with each passing month.

He has bounced back with the bat this month in big part to a 5.1% increase in hard contact on batted balls while at the same time maintaining a meager soft contact rate of 14.7%. Although he has been spraying pitches back for a 1.55 GB/FB ratio, Goodrum has applied high-quality contact to batted balls under the right circumstances, clubbing for an uncharacteristically high ISO of .204 and a .386 BABIP that could only be built on the foundation of elite speed like his 29.0 sprinting feet per second.

In going through the good times and the bad, one quality that has always earned Goodrum a spot on the field is the fact that he can do everything on defense besides pitch and play catcher (that we know of at least). The career sample that he has provided seems to suggest that the bad times are worth waiting out, because he often makes adjustment towards month-long stretches of superlative performance. Even if you find the wait difficult to tolerate, he has equally proved that he is incapable of going any extended stretch without going yard or stealing a few bases. Possessing the physical ability to capitalize off of all batted balls in play, even with high strikeout numbers, he actually is statistically safer that you might think at first glance.

 

Luis Urias (2B, SD)

13% Owned

We all knew that the San Diego Padres wouldn't toil with Ian Kinsler and company too much longer in the field. In a flurry of recent prospect call-ups that also included young pitchers Michel Baez and Adrian Morejon, they also rang up consensus top-25 prospect and second baseman Luis Urias to return to Petco Park. Urias might have needed a little refresher after his unsuccessful and extremely limited stint in the majors for 2019, but if that was the case, he looks to be coming back plenty refreshed. After his work at the highest levels of the minor leagues this season (which has made leaps and bounds over even his exemplary work of recent years), Urias joining the likes of Manny Machado and ROY contender Fernando Tatis Jr. which seemed like a delayed inevitability.

Even in some top-tier offensive seasons in the Padres farm system, Urias had mostly profiled as a great hitter for average with a focused eye in the strike zone and, though he was capable of hitting for power and running the base-paths, he had never hit for more than eight homers in a season (2018 in 450 AB for Triple-A El Paso) and struggled with efficiency in base-stealing (35 steals in 73 attempts prior to 2019). This season, in 295 AB at Triple-A for the El Paso Chihuahuas, the 22-year-old budding star has built on all of his strengths while virtually erasing all of his weaknesses with the bat and on the base-paths.

He has struck 42 XBH (19 doubles, four triples, 19 home runs), picked his base-running battles much better with seven steals in just nine tries, taken 36 walks in an impressive 339 plate appearances, and produced a robust slash of .315/.398/.600. With the shoring up of so many gaps in his game, it's easy to see why the Padres and fantasy baseball managers alike have been salivating at Luis Urias getting another shot in the big leagues. Even with his troubles in adjusting to the highest level of competition in the world to this point, he is one of the few acquisitions at this point in the year that offers such a lofty potential payout.

 

For the Sneaky and Savvy

Bo Bichette (SS, TOR)

12% Owned

I mean, you've got to love the competitive drive of a guy that expresses such stark frustration with his organization after not being promoted to the MLB at the age of 21 following so little time at the upper levels of the minors, but Bo Bichette has made it clear to the Toronto Blue Jays that he feels that he is more than ready for the call-up and he has done everything that they have asked of him in the minor leagues. To be honest, it's hard to argue with the top-10 prospect, even with the major league roster complications involving the likes of Eric Sogard and Freddy Galvis.

In 1,274 AB in his minor league career, Bichette has earned every accommodate thrown his way with 36 home runs, 72 stolen bases (in 95 attempts), and a slash of .326/.384/.519. He appears to be a remarkably quick learner too as he has already earned seven homers, 14 steals (in 19 tries), and a .299/.354/.495 slash in 194 AB after being quickly bumped up to Triple-A Buffalo this season. Obviously, Bichette feels that his move to the Rogers Centre is long overdue, and the pressure is mounting for Toronto to bring their most prized prospect to the show. When that inevitably happens, don't be surprised if he continues his elite trend of fast adaptation. Even if it doesn't necessarily open with a bang or the proper volume of plate appearances, the possible future trades of Sogard and Galvis could open up just enough room to make it worth anyone's while.

 

Michael Brosseau (2B/3B, TB)

9% Owned

The Tampa Bay Rays have had no shortage of help on offense from emergent, young stars in 2019, but they may not have expected such a strong recent boost from largely unheralded prospect Michael Brosseau. After a collegiate career at Oakland University, the 25-year-old infielder established himself as a power-hitting, well-rounded bat with 35 home runs, 29 stolen bases (though he should probably quit running with twenty occasions caught stealing), and a .300/.380/.481 slash in 1,103 minor league AB. More recently, in his first 249 AB stint for Triple-A Durham, Brosseau earned his major league promotion with 15 bombs, two steals (in an ugly five tries), and a slash of .317/.408/.590.

Brosseau has made a triumphant first impression with nine XBH (four homers and five doubles) and a .309/.333/.618 slash, despite an admittedly limited 55 AB. Tampa Bay has a lot of upcoming roster decisions starting with the impending return of Rookie of the Year candidate Brandon Lowe could definitely put the kibosh on Brosseau's playing time. Brosseau's ability to play the middle and corner infield in combination with his white-hot start at the plate should bode well in making him a more long-term fixture. With 47.6% hard contact and a 50% fly ball rate on batted balls, it shouldn't be a shock if a good chunk of his .309 ISO lives on.

 

Brandon Crawford (SS, SF)

8% Owned

32-year-old Brandon Crawford has a pair of World Series championship rings, has earned All-Star and Silver Slugger distinctions in his time, and has consistently been regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game (and has been appropriately garnished with three Gold Gloves). 2019 has been a rough one at the plate for "Crawdaddy" with nine home runs, two steals (in four attempts), and a .235/.306/.387 slash in 310 AB for San Francisco, but much in sync with the heart of his club, Crawford and the Giants have turned things around in a big way in recent work at the plate.

If you paid attention lately, you may have heard about some career-best offensive performances by Brandon Crawford. He has accumulated a resounding four blasts to the stands, 11 runs, 13 RBI, and a slash of .324/.419/.703 in the 37 AB over the past two weeks. There are several key characteristics that explain his recent handy work and should inspire confidence in him proceeding into the final months of the season as one of the few safe members of the Giants, if they do indeed decide to sell. While he is striking out at a beefed-up 25% rate for July, he has also upped his walk rate to an astute 13.5% and has maintained 34.4% hard contact on batted balls while lowering his soft contact rate from 20.3% in June to 6.3% in July. Pepper in the fact that his pull rate is up from 23.4% to 43.8% and his GB/FB ratio down to 1.08 (59.4% combined line drives and fly balls) from 1.63, and Crawford seems far better suited to exploit the highs and lows of NL West ballparks.

 

Just Checking In...

  • Just after a run of success that caused his ownership rate to soar north of 50%, Chris Taylor landed on the 10-day IL with a non-displaced left forearm fracture, likely putting him out of commission until mid to late-August. While owners of Taylor can surely find a worthy replacement, it is more interesting to consider the effects that this will have for the Dodgers and whether they make a deadline move or promote Gavin Lux to fill an infield void down the stretch.
  • In another piece of unfortunate news, top-rated prospect and Rockies rookie Brendan Rodgers is done for the remainder of the season after having surgery on his torn right labrum. Rodgers spent his brief 2019 MLB stint competing with the likes of Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson for playing time in the Colorado infield, but eager owners will have to wait until 2020 to reap the potentially huge fruit of his talent.
  • On a more hopeful note, Aledmys Diaz played in his first of several rehab assignments and is still projected to return near the start of August. While he is owned in just 4% of leagues and has a mere 98 AB in 2019, Diaz return will certainly be worth keeping an eye on, considering that he has cracked five homers and produced a .286/.321/.510 slash in that time.

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