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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 7


It has been a particularly interesting week in terms of attention-grabbing storylines, to say the least. Addison Russell made a controversial return to the Cubs lineup to a crowd of mixed feelings, Mike Fiers embarrassed the Cincinnati Reds with his second-career no-hitter, and another MLB game was curiously delayed due to a massive swarm of bees. It can be difficult to stay fully tuned in to the baseball season as the beginning of the summer months arrives, especially with the NBA and NHL playoffs heating up; luckily, plenty of players are making ample noise. It's already been a 2019 campaign of surprising starts, shifting lineups, coming-out parties, and widespread offensive explosion that makes you question what's in the water. The moving pieces may add a degree of challenge, but we can all likely agree that it adds all the more fun to the equation.

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 7.

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

39% Owned

Chris Taylor has been a big part of several Dodgers postseason runs, and established himself as a power/speed force to be reckoned with over the last two seasons with 38 home runs and 26 stolen bases, as well as OPS of .850 and .775. That couldn't prevent him from getting off to an ugly start for the 2019 regular season, producing a sub-par slash of .171/.263/.257 in 70 AB through the month of April. It was just about time for people to consider adding Taylor to the droppable-list when he began to flourish at the plate and exhibit his familiar power/speed skill set to the tune of two homers, two swiped bags, and a slash of .303/.343/.606 in 33 May AB.

While Taylor is walking slightly less at a clip of 8.7%, he has limited his strikeout rate from 29.5% to 24.3%. That is a vital shift to consider when taking into account the fact that he led the league in total strikeouts last season with a disappointing 178. There is also the issue of Taylor's suspect batted ball contact-quality. While his GB/FB ratio of 1.06 is something to work with, he is pulling the ball at a rate of just 31.6% with just 25% hard contact (down from 38.4% in 2018). However, that risk is diminished by Taylor's low rate of soft contact (14.5%) and the fact that his speed has traditionally proven capable of getting him to base and sustaining a high BABIP at 28.8 feet per second.

Taylor's utility role sees him making starts all over the field, and the Dodgers prefer to use him against LHP; against whom Taylor has produced all three of his HR and a .831 OPS in 49 AB this year. Getting into the lineup is already a huge victory when you play for a Los Angeles squad putting up a team OPS of .801 with an MLB second-best 221 runs to this point. With the tide starting to turn for Taylor with the added benefit of improving plate discipline, he should start to rake in home runs and steals at his usual pace.

 

Derek Dietrich (1B/2B/OF, CIN)

38% Owned

Prior to the 2019 MLB campaign, the Cincinnati Reds signed Derek Dietrich and Jose Iglesias as backups in the infield, just in case. After Scooter Gennett was transferred to the 60-day IL, those signings became key assets for the remainder of the season (good health allowing) and we can now find peace in the fact that Dietrich's spot in the lineup won't be challenged anytime soon, especially with the Herculean start he's having. In his first 83 AB of the year, he has already blasted ten home runs and produced a .241/.360/.639 slash. While there has been plenty of talk surrounding Dietrich's explosive start, few should be too surprised, and few should be surprised if his fantastic work on offensive continues.

If you take a look into Dietrich's past, you may notice that he has finished every season with OPS between .751 and .802 since 2015, also accumulating 46 HR across varied AB totals during that period. This year, he has handily improved several areas of weakness while adapting smoothly to his new environment of Cincinnati. His plate discipline got marginally better as evidenced by his 10% walk rate and 18% strikeout rate (down from 25.4% in 2018). He also has been knocking pitches into the air far more often as illustrated by his 0.62 GB/FB ratio, which has helped propel balls out of Great American Ball Park in conjunction with a 45.5% pull rate and career-high hard contact clip of 37.9%.

One issue is an unusually high soft contact rate of 27.3% which could easily explain his difficult BABIP of .179. Though with an ISO of .398, that seems more like an issue in the rear view mirror instead of an obstacle up ahead that would cause one to slam on the brakes. With such sturdy work, Derek Dietrich has transformed his stat-line to that of a dynamic, well-rounded batter with power upside. With the window of opportunity finally allowing him a full helping of plate appearances for a season, the Cleveland native looks like a rock-solid candidate to grace your infield moving forward.

 

Tommy La Stella (2B/3B, LAA)

13% Owned

The Cubbies can always get use out of a good utility-man, but Tommy La Stella has really blossomed in his first season for a more in-need club in the Los Angeles Angels. In only 96 AB for the 2019 season, the man nicknamed "3 A.M." has already blown past his previous career-high with nine home runs and a fantastic line of .260/.360/.563. He hasn't slowed down of late either even though his playing time has seen some deviations, with two dingers and a 1.036 OPS over the last two weeks. Thankfully, his work at the plate has gotten better for a plethora of reasons other than a suspicious upswing in power.

La Stella continues to pull the ball at an encouraging rate of 42.7%, while his plate discipline has been tightened up to an eye-popping extent as his walk rate jumped to 10.5% from 8.9% last season and his strikeout rate has fallen a full 8% from 14.1% to 6.1%. He has also made significant shifts in his GB/FB tendencies, dropping his ratio from a grounder-heavy 2.27 in 2018 to a much more manageable figure of 1.00 this year. What stands out the most is his improvement in the area of batted ball contact-quality, going from a hard/soft contact split of 31%/20.4% last season to a potent 43.8%/15.7% to kick off this campaign, pairing with his increased volume of flyers to culminate in a career-high .302 ISO.

Tommy La Stella hits just as good on the road (.924 OPS) as he does at home in Los Angeles (.921 OPS) for an Angels squad that has proven adequately competent at scoring runs thus far. His difference in performance against RHP as opposed to LHP may be what continues to limit his time on the field, as he has taken just 15 AB in 2019 against southpaws for a .714 OPS while he has racked up eight bombs and a .960 OPS in 81 AB when facing the former. Don't let that be the cause of missing out on this chance with La Stella, he is making by far the best quality of contact for his career while striking out so scarcely that his effectiveness is maximized.

 

Ronny Rodriguez (1B/2B/3B/SS, DET)

11% Owned

It seems like the Detroit Tigers are always looking for another defensively versatile asset to come in and stroke fire at the plate for extended stretches, and Ronny Rodriguez appears to be filling the void in his 66 AB to start 2019. "El Felino" (which I believe translates to: the feline) has been swinging for five HR, one SB, and a slash of .303/.347/.697. Despite mixed results across professional levels and organizations throughout his career, the 27-year-old always projected as a viable power/speed threat and demonstrated this ability with 36 dingers and 32 swipes in 1,190 Triple-A AB.

As of now, his only apparent issue seems to be his plate discipline, which has been lacking with an uneven 6.9% walk rate and 20.8% strikeout rate. In terms of contact-quality, Rodriguez is literally and figuratively knocking it out of the park. He has been producing above-average figures for exit velocity (89.6 MPH), average HR distance (407-feet, including a 454-foot smash), and launch angle (18.1 degrees). While his sprinting speed of 27.1 feet per second is a stone's throw away from elite, it is enough physical ability to support any future attempts to run the base-paths and stretch base-hits as far as they'll go, and his pull rate of 63.5% is a helping hand in finding the stands in Comerica Park (which scores middle of the road in hitter-friendliness).

With a hard contact rate of 48.1% applied to a 0.70 GB/FB ratio, it is easy to connect the dots to how Rodriguez has put up an ISO of .394. Now that he is seeing near-daily starts (mostly at shortstop, but at second and first base also), Rodriguez will have the chance to unleash his wrath with a much greater yield of reward for fantasy baseball managers quick enough to roll the dice early on him. We may have to hamper expectations for base stealing at this time while he's hitting for power, but that's a sacrifice we should be more than willing to make.

 

For the Sneaky and Savvy

Wilmer Flores (1B/2B/3B, ARI)

9% Owned

There are plenty of Arizona infielders we can speak well of, but Wilmer Flores wasn't one until rather recently. After a rough start, the 27-year-old Venezuelan finished the last two weeks with two home runs and a slash of .389/.421/.639. While his power may seem like nothing to brag about at this point in the season, his hard contact rate of 35.7% would currently stand as his career-high, while his soft contact rate of 20.4% is actually a 3.7% improvement from last season with the Mets.

This also carries more weight when considering that the defensively versatile Flores is hitting for 58.2% combined fly balls and line drives in hitter-friendly Chase Field. For a guy with a reputation as a streaky batter with consistent power totals, ride the wave if Wilmer Flores insists on going on a torrid month-long stretch.

 

Giovanny Urshela (SS/3B, NYY)

8% Owned

If you had asked a few weeks ago, Gio Urshela seemed like a flash in the pan, one-trick pony who would be gone as soon as one of the many guys out from the Yankees lineup with injury issues could replace him. Now, it doesn't look so simple, and Urshela has mostly complicated matters with a bat that won't slow down. He has hit for two HR, one SB, and a .349/.409/.518 slash across 83 AB, and his 12.9% strikeout rate conveys a refined image of plate discipline.

He has been hitting for high-quality contact on batted balls as evidenced by his fantastic hard/soft contact split of 44.4%/8.3%, and while his 26.4% fly ball rate explains the low home run total, his 29.2% line drive rate helps support the sustainability of his .386 BABIP. However, if he starts to hit more fly balls, his exit velocity of 90.2 MPH and his average HR distance of 415-feet in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium suggests that he is capable of even more.

 

Jose Iglesias (SS, CIN)

3% Owned

While "Candelita" is primarily known for his absurdity on defense at the shortstop position, the Reds have needed him to step up in a big way next to fellow infielders Jose Peraza and Derek Dietrich in the wake of Scooter Gennett hitting the 60-day IL, and Iglesias has delivered in a much-appreciated way. He has managed two home runs, a swiped bag, and a .282/.323/.410 slash in 117 AB while continuing to treat Reds fans to his dazzling glove-work, and he has done it off the back of some impressive peripherals.

He still strikes out with relative infrequency at 14.5%; and if you can believe it, his hard contact (29.3%), soft contact (20.2%) and ISO (.128) figures are all currently career-bests. He is producing a maintainable BABIP of .320 off of this improved batted ball contact-quality and a 27.3% line drive rate in spacious GABP. With playing time aplenty in the middle of the Cincy infield, Jose Iglesias is keeping himself on everyone's mind with his defense while making annual strides at the plate.

 

Just Checking In...

  • Ketel Marte continues to do his thing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, hitting for three homers, a stolen base, and a .286 BA over the last two weeks, causing his ownership percentage to reach an exclusive 81%. With the ability to run at lightning speed in conjunction with his high-quality contact, Marte is making everyone wish they had seized the opportunity when they had the chance.
  • While New York Mets surprising success Jeff McNeil continues to struggle to hit for consistent power, he remains among the top hitters in baseball at this point in time with a .346 BA over the last two weeks. Now that his spot appears to be secure and his skill set has been identified, his ownership has shot to 55% since we last discussed him.
  • It turns out that the return of Jed Lowrie may not shake things up in the Mets lineup as drastically as we previously thought, which is good news for defensive ace and one of the fastest men in the MLB, Amed Rosario. Despite a .313 BA with a dinger and two steals in the last two weeks, Rosario remains static with a 46% ownership rate across all leagues.

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