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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 19


Well, the trade deadline came and went, and as many of us sat glaze-eyed for hours endlessly refreshing the internet search results to view incoming deals, we found ourselves sourly disappointed until nearly the final hour. Even with blockbuster deals that saw the swapping of Zack Greinke, Yasiel Puig/Trevor Bauer, Shane Greene, Nicholas Castellanos, and many of baseball's top prospects, the market was mostly comprised of small, gap-filling acquisitions, and the middle infield market was no different. That being said, there was still enough action to open a few windows of advancement wide open for several players of impact, and a few guys have used their on-field performance to remain on our minds among the headlines over the past couple of weeks. With the start of August having finally arrived, there's not a moment to waste in identifying who is poised for a big finish.

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 19.

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Pickups for Most Leagues

Bo Bichette (SS, TOR)

45% Owned

Wow, call it bold, brazen, or exactly as many predicted, but Bo Bichette's confidence in his own abilities has translated to the major league playing field in an amazingly short time. After expressing his frustrations and readiness for promotion to the media and the Toronto Blue Jays organization, they finally cleared some room in the infield by moving Eric Sogard to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline, and the highly-ranked shortstop took his rightful place on the big league diamond alongside fellow highly-touted young Jays. He made a fantastic first impression too, as he has already crushed a ball into the stands while netting a 1.133 OPS over his first 30 plate appearances.

The 21-year-old native of Orlando, Florida has practically never stumbled since the start of his professional baseball career, posting 37 home runs, 73 stolen bases (in 96 tries), and a .321/.380/.515 slash in 1,302 minor league AB. Bypassing Double-A New Hampshire completely in 2019, Bichette cemented the inevitability of his call-up by raking at Triple-A Buffalo to the tune of 26 XBH (eight homers, two triples, 16 doubles), 15 stolen bases (in 20 tries), and a .275/.333/.473 slash in 222 AB.

If every nook and cranny of his minor league track record isn't enough to grab Bichette before it's too late, his Herculean 92.1 MPH exit velocity and 436-foot distance on his first MLB blast should cause internal alarm bells to go off. Maybe it is the guys with MLB lineage, but quick learning and adaptation is a pretty useful skill for a rookie in the spotlight to have, and it's what will cause Bo Bichette to finish the year on such a promising note.

 

Josh VanMeter (2B/3B/OF, CIN)

40% Owned

Josh VanMeter has been around for a number of years within the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds farm systems, and has gradually stepped his game up with each passing season and consequential promotion. It may have been a long, unheralded road for VanMeter, but he is still just 24 years old, and he has continued his trend of steady advancement towards by far the best campaign of his professional baseball career.

After excelling at Double-A Pensacola and moving to Triple-A Louisville during the 2018 season, he picked up right where he left off in Louisville with 14 home runs, eight steals (in eleven attempts), and a .348/.429/.669 slash in 181 AB. Several injuries and struggling players (like Jose Peraza) coaxed the Reds into promoting VanMeter to the majors, and from there, his emergent season continued in emphatic fashion with four home runs, three swipes in five tries, and a .286/.388/.488 slash in his first 98 MLB plate appearances.

There's nearly no room for complaint in his spectacular, albeit brief debut: his inflated strikeout rate reflects his rawness at 21.4%, but he also has walked at a tuned-in clip of 12.2%, and he has applied a crushing 49.2% hard contact rate and just 14.3% soft contact on batted balls. By also averaging a 90.3 MPH exit velocity and producing an air-heavy 68.2% combined line drives and fly balls, he is well suited for life in Great American Ball Park, and his skill set has laid the foundation for maintenance of his .339 BABIP and .202 ISO. With Scooter Gennett now out of the way and momentum on his side, Josh VanMeter is something surprising to be excited about in Cincinnati's present and future.

 

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

31% Owned

Yet another 24-year-old batter on the come-up, Ryan McMahon has truly made the most out of his recent opportunities at the plate. He will have an impactful volume with Brendan Rodgers out for the rest of the season and Garrett Hampson relegated to the reserves. While he has put up some roller-coaster numbers from month to month, and no one wants to add a player to their lineup with that level of surveillance required, he is finally starting to break that pesky cycle.

During the month of July, McMahon clobbered ten XBH (four home runs, one triple, five doubles), stole a season-high two bases, and produced a fantastic slash of .313/.371/.550 in 80 AB, and he has already crushed his first homer in his brief time at the plate in August. He continued to strike out at a high 28.1% clip this past month, but McMahon's best month of the year was spurred on by a good eye for the zone (as evidenced by his 9% walk rate). He also benefitted from a few key batted-ball peripherals that support "McDoogle" as a secure asset on offense for the remainder of 2019 in spite of his .404 BABIP for July.

He hits for a lot of soft contact (21.4% last month), but he applied a potent level of hard contact with 42.9%, and he produced an effective 32.1% line drives over that same period despite his GB/FB ratio sitting at a seemingly dirt-heavy 2.80. With a 91.3 MPH exit velocity and far-reaching 423-foot average home run distance, Ryan McMahon is tailoring his game for finding the gaps and the bleachers in notoriously liberal Coors Field. Even if the power subsides, he provides the safety net of steady base-hitting and has the physical ability to pepper in some sneaky steals as well (by the way, did you know his dad's name is Jim McMahon, but it isn't the Jim McMahon?)

 

Giovanny Urshela (3B/SS, NYY)

29% Owned

It's been an ideal coming-out party for previously little-known Gio Urshela, and at 27 years old, his ascent came at just the right time for a New York Yankees squad that found itself surprisingly short-handed in the left infield. The long-running sentiment on Urshela was that his run of offensive success would eventually come to an end or that his playing time would, and so far, neither has happened. In fact, the opposite occurred: the Columbia native has gotten more dangerous with the bat and his spot on the field, more secure, as the Yankees impending postseason draws nearer.

After a brief slump in June, Urshela exploded with an insane month of July, complete with 15 XBH (five home runs and ten doubles) and a .333/.360/.681 slash in 75 plate appearances, and he has kept the ball rolling through his brief sample in August with five total hits (one double and four singles). In a month of excellent at-bats and for a guy who strikes out so little (14.7% for July), Urshela drew a surprisingly low rate of walks at just 4%, but his power-game (once thought to be ultimately non-existent), helped to lift him to a new level of offensive proficiency since the end of June.

His .347 ISO and .339 BABIP last month seem lofty and a little naive, but it seems more than reasonable when taking into account that Urshela produced his first sub-1.00 GB/FB ratio of the campaign at the same time (65.6% combined line drives and fly balls), and he was applying a robust 42.6% hard contact (albeit, in conjunction with 21.3% soft contact) on batted balls. With a 90.7 MPH exit velocity and a 13.9-degree launch angle, Gio Urshela is starting to hit pitches out of the park on top of his artillery-like base-hitting. On an offensively astute club that will continue to call on him as they bulldoze towards the playoffs, that should translate to sizable statistical contributions across the board.

 

For the Sneaky and Savvy

Cavan Biggio (2B/OF, TOR)

26% Owned

Cavan Biggio's rookie slash of .212/.343/.373 in 193 AB for the young Blue Jays definitely carries some room for improvement, but his eight home runs and eight stolen bases (in eight tries) on the year have done more than enough to suffice through the rough patches. Thanks to the rebuilding efforts of Toronto, the Jays young-guns have a green light to play through the problems and develop at the big-league level for the remainder of 2019, and that is plenty of time for Biggio to catch heat again (and again, and again).

The occasional rough patches have popped up due to Biggio's high rate of strikeouts (27.7% for the month of July) and some waning quality of contact on batted balls (his hard contact rate fell from 59.3% in June to 38.2% in July with 20% soft contact). However, he has been able to take walks at an excellent clip all year while also avoiding grounders as evidenced by his 61.8% combined line drives and fly balls this past month. With a 19.2-degree launch angle being applied to pitches and an 89.5 MPH exit velocity, Biggio should be able to sustain a BABIP higher than his July figure of .264 moving forward and continue to hit for extra bases in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.

 

Gavin Lux (SS, LAD)

11% Owned

The Los Angeles Dodgers were unusually quiet at the trade deadline considering their drive for a World Series run and their apparent need of back-end bullpen help, and it was reportedly because the price tag attached to available closers like Felipe Vasquez was Gavin Lux. The Dodgers recently lost both Chris Taylor and Kike Hernandez to the IL and consequently made the move to bring in Jedd Gyorko from St.Louis as utility depth, but highly-touted Lux has been playing like a man possessed (and who wants the call-up) in the minors for 2019.

He hit for 13 home runs, stole seven bases (in ten attempts), and conjured up an .896 OPS in 259 AB for Double-A Tulsa, and most encouragingly has crushed nine pitches into the stands along with a ridiculous .458/.536/.856 slash in 118 AB for Triple-A OKC (he seems to be quite comfortable in Oklahoma). LA just called up top-rated Dustin May, and the concept of Gavin Lux's MLB arrival has been more and more trenched in reality as we enter the homestretch. Keep a focused eye on him, because you want to be a part of the welcoming committee when the Dodgers dial the 21-year-old blue chip.

 

Austin Nola (1B/2B, SEA)

8% Owned

Nobody, not even his ace brother Aaron, could've expected 29-year-old Austin Nola to arrive in the majors for the Seattle Mariners in this fashion. Do you know what Nola's career figures are for his time in the minor leagues? In 2,654 AB he stole more bases (32 swipes in 48 attempts) than he hit home runs (only 22 across all platforms) and produced a woeful slash of .252/.340/.339. You wouldn't exactly paint him as a candidate for late-blooming based on that line, and you certainly wouldn't believe that he had any inkling of power, but he has exploded for some very out-of-character numbers since the start of 2019.

He hit seven bombs, stole four bases (in five tries), and produced a .327/.415/.520 slash in 196 AB for Triple-A Tacoma, and has impressed tremendously over his first 87 MLB plate appearances with four dingers and a .966 OPS. Yes, we all can agree that this superlative play is very suspicious, but the home run hitting makes sense with Nola applying 34.4% hard contact to a 0.75 GB/FB ratio (with an ISO of .253). With this area of his game catching up to his base-running and traditionally competent BA/OBP, he is well worth a roll of the dice over the season's final months.

 

Just Checking In...

  • Dansby Swanson was recently placed on the IL with contusion in his left foot, and though he was expected to return as early as possible, some lingering discomfort appears to be delaying the process. That's highly unfortunate for the Atlanta Braves and fantasy baseball managers alike, as Swanson has put together the best season of his career with 17 home runs, seven steals in eleven tries, and a .798 OPS.
  • It took him most of 2019 to return from the IL, but Scooter Gennett was able to get back on the field (though he didn't do much in his time back) for the Cincinnati Reds before being dealt to the surprisingly contending San Francisco Giants at the deadline for cash. Gennett is likely going to be an improvement at second for the Giants over Joe Panik, and he was able to smack a double in his first showing for San Fran.
  • Another untimely IL transfer, Kike Hernandez had strung together several competent months of power-hitting for the Los Angeles Dodgers across nearly every defensive position on the field. With fellow defensively versatile infielder Chris Taylor also working back from injury, this was very likely a catalyzing factor in the Dodgers acquisition of Jedd Gyorko (not to mention their unrelenting reluctance to part with Gavin Lux).

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