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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 5

It was a good week to watch baseball if you were keeping your eyes peeled for assets of interest out of the middle infield. Some guys capitalized off of their hot starts and kept the ball rolling with another handful of games that support the surrounding hype, while others turned the tables and started getting their groove back (and right when we were ready to throw in the towel). It always seems that, right when we believe that we have the field narrowed down, a big injury, roster move, or prospect call-up comes along that shakes the fragile foundation of our waiver wire comprehension. The good news is that we are finally through a respectable sample size of AB for the 2019 regular season, and that means that a clearer picture of each player's true performance and projected future is starting to take form.

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 5.

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Week 5 Middle Infield (2B/SS) Waiver Wire

Carter Kieboom (SS, WSH)

33% Owned

The Washington Nationals have a couple of infielders dealing with injuries, most notably Trea Turner who will likely be out until at least mid-May. Perhaps they were getting jealous of all the Vladdy Jr. hype that Toronto is receiving, but they decided it was time to call up top-tier prospect (and Ed Norton look-a-like) Carter Kieboom. Despite making his MLB debut at the age of 21 in relief of one of the league's best shortstops, there's good reason to believe that Kieboom will make a fantastic first impression in this stint with the Nats.

This season at the Triple-A level he was manhandling opposing pitchers to the tune of three home runs, one stolen base, and a .379/.506/.636 slash across the first 66 AB. He strikes out a little more than a typical highly-touted shortstop usually does, taking the K at a clip of anywhere between 17.5% and 24.1% in each minor league run since 2017. That is, however, offset by the fact that he was able to take a walk at rates of 8.1% to 19.3% over the same period, while his power-hitting carries the share of Kieboom's burden with the bat.

Since 2016, he hasn't had a single ISO figure for a season lower than .133, while he accomplished ISO figures north of .200 in four separate stays with teams in the Washington farm system (.201, .207, .250, .258). Although it has been an extremely short sample of major league AB for Kieboom, he notched his first MLB hit in his debut against the Padres...which just happened to be a game-tying homer. With a slept-on speed game to boot (speed figures of 4.4 and 5.0 at Double-A and Triple-A), Carter Kieboom is one of the most exciting middle infield prospects in the game for ample reason.


Chad Pinder (2B/3B/OF, OAK)

24% Owned

I touched on Chad Pinder a few weeks ago, referencing his well-rounded offensive performance and clearer path to consistent playing time for the Athletics at left field and second base. Fast forward to today and Pinder continues to thrive at the plate while cementing his majority-share in the lineup, but few seem to have taken additional notice, so let's once again make his case. Over the last eight games, Pinder has made the start in six, with four appearances coming in left and two coming at second base. These aren't desperation starts or last-second injury replacements by any means: Pinder has earned his field frequency with a bat that refuses to quit.

Over the last 62 AB he has smacked three HR and produced a slash of .355/.385/.565. While his power-hitting has slowed down a bit over the last two weeks, his consistent hitting has not, and he has continued to tear left-handed pitchers apart with a homer and .969 OPS over 32 AB. His ISO of .190 is a considerable improvement from his work in 2018, which comes off the back of a solid 34.8% hard contact rate. The drawbacks on Chad Pinder are clear: he strikes out a little more than you'd like from a guy who takes infrequent walks, he isn't much of a base-running threat, and his GB/FB ratio has nearly doubled from last year to 2.06.

Even with these drawbacks in mind, Pinder remains a more-than viable option off of the waiver wire out of the middle infield. His BABIP of .349 is a little high and has perhaps fluctuated with his uptick in grounders, but he is a career-hitter for BA who holds a .314 BABIP average over his professional career, so torquing up lefties and finding the gaps appears to be in his DNA. Reaching base via base hit is valuable on an A's squad with a surprisingly high-ranking 136 runs scored, and Pinder's projections for 16 dingers, 50 runs, and a .722 OPS by season's end are worth a roll of the dice for a player so widely available and on a current hot-streak.


Cole Tucker (SS, PIT)

14% Owned

Of the recent prospect call-ups who have been highly ranked, Cole Tucker was not one of them despite 131 stolen bases in 1,828 minor league AB, mostly due to an underwhelming 20 total HR and .374 slugging percentage over that same time period. However, after racking up three homers, five steals, and a slash of .333/.415/.579 over the first 57 AB of the Triple-A season for Indianapolis, the Pirates opted to bring Tucker to the big show to fill in at shortstop for Erik Gonzalez who was sidelined for the remainder of 2019. Suddenly, for a guy who can't hit for power, he seems to be smacking pitches back with some surprising brute force.

Tucker has started all nine games for Pittsburgh since the departure of Gonzalez and in that time he has hit for a .720 OPS with zero swiped bags, but has hit four XBH on his way to a .444 slugging percentage. He's currently bashing for 47.1% hard contact and just 11.8% soft contact en route to a .222 ISO figure, and one of his four XBH went into the bleachers. The 22-year old's average exit velocity has been eye-opening to this point, particularly for a shortstop, at 91.3 MPH while that ball-gone-yard traveled a gargantuan 431 feet.

This season of explosive demonstrations of power is a far cry from Tucker's M.O. That isn't to say that it isn't a highly pleasant surprise, he has just always been a fantastic contributor of BA, OBP, and SB as opposed to being able to offer any worthwhile shred of strength. The main problem so far has been that even with a .313 BABIP as a product of his concrete contact, he has started off his MLB career with a 34.5% strikeout rate. With the quality that he is striking the ball with and his natural speed, his BA and OBP can be expected to round out in the coming weeks. You'll come to Cole Tucker for his proven ability to swipe bags in droves, but you'll stay for the anger he seems to be freshly unleashing on opposing pitchers.


Danny Santana (2B/OF, TEX)

12% Owned

Danny Santana has failed to finish a season with an OPS higher than .606 in the four seasons since his 2014 campaign that saw him hit seven home runs, steal 20 bases, and finish seventh in AL Rookie of the Year voting. Now 54 AB into his charter excursion with the Texas Rangers and he is off to a two homer, four steal, .315/.339/.537 start, and actually picking up steam. Wow, you think you know a guy?

Out of the blue, Santana is making high-quality contact on a high quantity of pitches. Though he appears to be taking more chances as evidenced by his worsened strikeout and walk rates of 26.3% and 1.8%, he has netted a career-high ISO of .222 behind another career-best figure for hard contact at 38.5%. He has surprisingly been beating the field of his position in terms of level of savagery unleashed on the ball, as his average exit velocity stands at 90 MPH and his long balls have been traveling an average distance of 411 feet.

This refreshed approach has resulted in even more XBH opportunities now that Santana is hitting for 64.1% fly balls and line drives combined, and he remains a potent threat to wreak havoc on the base paths now that he is reaching base with regularity (not to mention in scoring position). While he is still slapping for a large amount of soft contact (25.6%), he appears to have filled a gaping hole in his game by converting a considerable share of medium contact to hard contact, and he is finally able to hit for extra bases and able to sustain a high BABIP with his speed to carry him. How many statistical categories does a widely available shortstop have to contribute to just to get some respect? As unexpected as this has been, he has the peripherals to back up his production thus far, and that should ease many lingering concerns.


For the Sneaky and Savvy

Tommy La Stella (2B/3B, LAA) - 8% Owned

Something from "Space Jam" must have gotten into Tommy La Stella because in 72 AB he has already amassed a .905 OPS and seven HR which almost already qualify as his career-best across all levels of professional baseball. He is currently clobbering his way to a .306 ISO behind excellent hard and soft contact figures of 47.8% and 16.4%, and somehow still appears to be the victim of circumstance with a .183 BABIP on a much-improved 1.12 GB/FB ratio.

David Fletcher (2B/3B/OF, LAA) - 7% Owned

Speaking of Angels in the infield, 24-year old David Fletcher has been receiving consistent playing time and has made great use out of it over the last 50 PA with a .298/.340/.447. He produces grounders at a 47% clip and has a 1.63 GB/FB ratio, but he was a seasoned base-thief in the minors and he has brought his hard and soft contact rates up considerably to 37.3% and 18.1% respectively, so his .306 BABIP appears sustainable. Paired with his meager 4.3% strikeout rate, he is a solid candidate to keep raking in hits.

Eric Sogard (2B/SS, TOR) - 4% Owned

Between injuries to Devon Travis, Dalton Pompey, top-prospect Bo Bichette, and most recently Freddy Galvis, the Toronto Blue Jays can hardly catch a break in the middle infield (though I hear they're doing alright at the hot corner). Eric Sogard has literally and figuratively stepped up to the plate and has already hit two HR, two SB, and produced a jaw-dropping 1.132 OPS over the first 35 AB behind 45.2% hard contact on a 0.67 GB/FB ratio. For the meantime, that is a potent mix inside the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.


Just Checking In...

  • Since covering Jorge Polanco in Week 2, he has continued his torrid pace for the Twins and everyone seems to be taking notice, as his ownership percentage shot up from 23% to 55%. He is a must-own across the board at this point, and is likely on his way to a career-season.
  • Thankfully, Eduardo Escobar has exploded over the last two weeks en route to fulfilling our preseason expectations. He has recorded two dingers and a .378 BA over the last 45 AB since we covered him in Week 3, prompting folks to take their finger off of the "Panic Button" and buoying his ownership rate back to 50%.
  • Another Week 3 alumni, Andrelton Simmons, has continued to display the defensive dominance that keeps him on the field and the consistent stroke at the plate that has made him an add-worthy asset. Despite two bombs and a .351 BA over the last 57 AB, he remains static at 43% ownership. That may need to change with career-bests in hard contact (44.1%) and ISO (.168).

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