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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 8


In the blink of an eye we find ourselves well into the latter-half of May, and as always, we are still trying to find answers and long-term truths. While it wasn't necessarily a week of attention-grabbing headlines, you may have noticed that I have continuously remarked about the surprising starts for the season, so let's talk some examples. I'm not sure that any of us entered draft day with the notion that guys like Josh Reddick, Jorge Polanco, Michael Brantley, Jeff McNeil, or Melky Cabrera would be among the league batting leaders. I'm not sure anyone had the confident foresight to predict that Cody Bellinger would be the most valuable player in the MLB to this point, or that Josh Bell would kick off 2019 looking like the Incredible Hulk; or that less-assuming starters like Tyler Glasnow, Brandon Woodruff, Chris Paddack, Spencer Turnbull, Domingo German, or Caleb Smith would be looking like such unstoppable forces. This is why it is so important to take a few moments every week to re-familiarize oneself with the environment and make the distinction between tide-turning acquisitions and assets added in wasteful haste.

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 8.

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Keston Hiura (2B, MIL)

48% Owned

Although the Milwaukee Brewers are a championship contending squad with a crowded infield, the injury of Travis Shaw opened up a window of opportunity for 22-year-old Keston Hiura to start at second base for the major league club over the last six contests. The consensus top-20 prospect and former ninth-overall selection in the 2017 MLB draft has consistently warranted unbridled giddiness for his arrival through each level of professional baseball. He has recorded 28 home runs, 21 stolen bases, and a slash of .316/.380/.534 in 781 minor league AB, and particularly flourished at Triple-A San Antonio so far this season with a 1.106 OPS, eleven homers, and four steals (in six attempts), in 129 AB.

The fast-tracked native of California is going through a bit of a feeling-out process in his limited sample size for his MLB charter trek, although he did blast a pitch into the stands today against the Atlanta Braves, that is no reason to let the good vibes fizzle away. Travis Shaw's return may be impending with his rehab assignment scheduled to start later this week, but there is still no certain timetable for return, meaning Hiura has the freedom to get his land-legs beneath him at the MLB level in a batting order ranked among the league's elite at the plate.

Not only that, but Shaw was struggling tremendously prior to hitting the IL with a .548 OPS and just four HR in 135 AB, meaning Hiura may have a chance to earn further playing time down the road with a display of what people tend to agree make him a special player. That would be his already proven ability to hit for consistency and power with bag swiping to boot, and he heads the crew of middle infield prospects gracing our discussion this week with their respective call-ups.

 

Brendan Rodgers (SS, COL)

35% Owned

Next in line for the cream of the crop prospect arrival show is fellow consensus top-20 middle infield prospect and 22-year-old Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers arrived in the Rockies organization with a bit more fanfare, being selected with the third-overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft behind Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman, but the newly minted major league infielder will have to fight through some more competition if he doesn't want a ticket back to Triple-A. Though Garrett Hampson appears to have worn out his welcome, for the time being, Ryan McMahon isn't going down without a fight, and there isn't exactly wiggle room in Colorado between Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. Although Rodgers has gotten off to an easy to understand slow start in his first handful of games since getting the call, things could blast off in a big way if he soon starts to find his stroke in Coors Field.

Rodgers can do a little bit of everything on offense, but is more strongly characterized by being a force to be reckoned with as a power-hitting infielder. He has corked 66 home runs, stolen 24 bases (in 36 tries), and put up a .296/.353/.505 slash in 1,518 AB across five minor league seasons. More recently, he has recorded nine homers and a 1.065 OPS so far in 2019 for Triple-A Albuquerque to answer the age old question of, "What have you done for me lately?"

More importantly, he appears to have been working through a few of the holes in his game, bringing his strikeout rate from 22.2% last year in New Mexico to 16.4% this year and improving his walk rate from a meager 1.4% to a robust 9.2%. Though he will have to fight his way past a few obstacles, the rewards that this guy's successful emergence are far too great in a ballpark where pitches seem to enter orbit with anomaly-like ease.

 

Marwin Gonzalez (1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, MIN)

34% Owned

From a bird's eye view, Marwin Gonzalez wouldn't appear to be having a great first year outside the city of Houston. In 140 AB he has managed only four home runs, a single stolen base, and a slash of .250/.327/.364, while already finding a spot in the starting lineup in a plethora of positions. That perspective is misleading though because Gonzalez has turned things around in a big way over the last two weeks to the tune of two homers and a .357/.449/.548 slash in 42 AB. That kind of turnaround is a big deal when you play for one of the most offensively unconscious crews in baseball.

The problem thus far has been his increased strikeout rate (24.4%), and his 1.86 GB/FB ratio and 8.5-degree launch angle putting him in poor position to hit for power. The good news is that, besides those subsiding issues, Gonzalez has been making high-quality contact (in fact, some of the best of his career) and taking high-quality AB. His walk rate has remained strong at 9.6%, and he has been hitting for a career-best hard contact rate of 40.2% and a tuned-in soft contact rate of 15.7%.

That adds to the fact that he has been hitting for an above-average exit velocity of 91.5 MPH and above-average home run distance of 408 feet. His recent one-eighty at the plate has been one of the many moving pieces in the Minnesota Twins' early success, and his warming up to Target Field has come at an opportune time. Even with Miguel Sano back taking a share of the work at third base, Miguel Gonzalez's defensive versatility will help keep him on the field to keep the ball rolling.

 

Giovanny Urshela (3B/SS, NYY)

16% Owned

Not too long ago, we were talking about the difficult discussions the Yankees would need to have regarding Gio Urshela once Miguel Andujar returned from the IL. Fast-forward to the present: Andujar is opting for season-ending surgery, and Urshela appears to have the keys to the kingdom at third base thanks to some phenomenal hitting (and a clutch game-winning single). While he hasn't necessarily raked in power/speed statistics (two HR and one SB), he has been lighting it up with his bat over the last 70 AB with a slash of .386/.413/.543. Even though he has a 1.46 GB/FB ratio and 33.7% pull rate, the placement of Urshela's batted balls hasn't been an issue as long as he's making such high-quality contact as illustrated by his jacked 44.2% hard contact rate and 8.1% soft contact rate.

That hard contact has culminated in some impressive figures such as a 90.8 MPH exit velocity, 415-foot average home run distance, and 13.9-degree launch angle. Though the Yankees offense has been trending in the wrong direction since the turn of May, Urshela has been an igniting presence for a team that routinely benefits from breakout seasons. While the Miguel Andujar situation is unfortunate, at least Gio Urshela appears to be safe in the starting lineup at the hot corner, as the remainder of the Yankees IL-occupants are mostly outfielders while Troy Tulowitzki isn't a likely threat to playing time. While he isn't racking up a high volume of home runs and steals, he is still an asset of considerable value.

 

For the Sneaky and Savvy

Aledmys Diaz (1B/2B/3B/SS, HOU)

15% Owned

Though he is currently battling a hamstring strain that has put his status for the past couple of days in jeopardy, there remains plenty to be excited about when it comes to Aledmys Diaz. The 28-year-old Cuban national has tested out as a considerably above-average power-hitting middle infielder on the multiple occasions in which he has received a full helping of AB for a season (35 HR in 826 combined AB in 2016 and 2018), and is off to a signature start for the Houston Astros with five knocks and a .266/.307/.519 slash.

His defensive versatility has earned him 79 AB thus far into the year across the field for a world-class Astros offense that ranks second in the MLB in runs scored, making his time in the batting order all the more valuable. Look for him to keep this pace up also: he is netting career-best figures for strikeout rate (11.4%), hard contact rate (33.3%), soft contact rate (18.1%), and ISO (.253).

 

David Fletcher (2B/3B/OF, LAA)

15% Owned

This isn't the first time that I have touched on 24-year-old David Fletcher or his counterpart in the Angels infield, Tommy La Stella, this season. However, with Fletcher currently possessing a line of three home runs, three stolen bases (in four tries), and a hit-heavy slash of .306/.346/.438 in 144 AB and his ownership levels still dismal, it feels like a necessary reminder.

He has been heating up over the last two weeks with a .804 OPS and, while he struggles to find air with his 1.57 GB/FB ratio and 9.3-degree launch angle, he allows himself the maximum number of opportunities to record a hit or reach base with a dialed-in 5.9% strikeout rate and 36.3% hard contact rate. With solid plate discipline and power/speed characteristics (not to mention his above-average HR distance of 413 feet), he is a safe option for deployment in the competent Angels offense, though preferably against RHP as demonstrated by his .904/.592 OPS split when facing righties and lefties.

 

Nicky Lopez (SS, KC)

14% Owned

Prospect of interest Nicky Lopez has started every game at second base for the Kansas City Royals since May 14th against the Texas Rangers and has gotten off to a lightning-fast start in a talented crowd of young-guns with three doubles and a .841 OPS since his call-up. The 24-year-old former Creighton Blue Jay boasted an impressive line of three dingers, a fast nine stolen bases (in 12 tries), and a .353/.457/.500 slash in 116 AB for Triple-A Omaha, catalyzing his well-deserved promotion.

Though his major league sample size is still very limited, he is exhibiting all of the signs you want to see such as early plate discipline and minimization of low-quality contact (11.8%). With a bona fide spot in the track team-like Royals batting order, the projected high-volume base stealer appears ready to get down to business and cap off a titillating week of middle infield prospect summoning.

 

Just Checking In...

  • Though I missed the chance at covering him during his meteoric rise, I would be remiss if I failed to mention Michael Chavis, even for a brief moment. In just 81 AB this year, Chavis has clubbed seven homers, stolen two bases, and corked out a fantastic .296/.406/.580 slash. With this level of early performance, a sincere congratulations to those who managed to nab him in their respective leagues.
  • Completely out of the blue, long-time utility man Tommy La Stella has continued his torrid rampage in the Angels infield alongside teammate David Fletcher, and has smacked an uncharacteristic eleven home runs with a slash of .301/.388/.611. While it is always considered fishier than Gorton's when a guy starts hitting for power for the first time in his career at the age of 30, his performance is supported by the peripherals, and his defensive versatility made him a great add if you acted quick enough.
  • It has been a rocky feeling out process for the Toronto Blue Jays with the complication of several injuries and the fine play of Eric Sogard, but Freddy Galvis has surprisingly capitalized on his fast start with a steady ascension process following his return from the IL. Though his ownership levels have dropped below 50%, the fact that he has continued to hit for power in the Rogers Centre should inspire hope for the short-term future.

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