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Sneaky Fantasy Baseball Breakout Hitters - Middle Infielders On the Rise

bryson stott fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers waiver wire pickups MLB injury news

Hey, RotoBallers! Hope you're taking advantage of the warm weather! I happen to be writing up this piece at the perfect time. Summer is just around the corner, and the improving weather means playing outside until my legs are numb. On a more relevant note, Aaron Judge loves hitting in Toronto and Joey Gallo is pimping bombs that still haven't landed.

Today I will be taking a look at a handful of unsung heroes who play middle infield slots that are making notable contributions to their respective teams. With inevitable injuries piling on, which creates more at-bats for bench-ridden players, several of them have made a considerable impact. Most notably, there are a handful of middle infielders that deserve more credit for their efforts.

While the succeeding players are rostered in the vast majority of leagues, there are still a bunch of leagues that haven't picked them up. It's time to take a look at a bunch of middle infielders on the rise and attempt to pinpoint the roots of their success. Let's get into it!

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Middle Infielders On the Rise

Taylor Walls, TB, 2B/3B/SS (Yahoo: 66%, ESPN: 46%)

The Rays' offense is on pace to compile historical numbers if they keep on this trajectory. There are nine position players on the Rays roster that own a .800 OPS or higher. Despite Tuesday's mishap against the Blue Jays who put up a 20 spot, the Rays offense is scorching hot. One player in specific, Taylor Walls, a former top prospect in the Tampa Bay system, has had a huge turnaround at the plate, despite a sluggish start to his hitting career.

Walls is slashing .250/.356/.509 with a .865 OPS through 116 ABs this season. His fantasy value is inherently more enticing since he plays three infield positions, and is an asset everywhere he plays. At the plate, he's been hitting at a completely different tempo than last year and his bat has really come to fruition. Walls is producing louder contact which materialized into seven homers and a 37% hard-hit rate. The 26-year-old outperformed all of the preseason numbers, most notably his .389 xSLG (.509 SLG) and .235 xBA (.250 AVG). Although he's hit a recent slump at the plate, Walls is on pace for a career year if he maintains his excellence at the plate.

Ezequiel Duran, TEX, 2B/3B/SS (Yahoo: 70%, ESPN: 22%)

We saw a glimpse of Duran's aptitude in his 58-game stint as a rookie in 2022. Although, ever since Duran has seen increased reps at the plate, he's been hitting on a different level. He's played a big role in a roaring Rangers offense spearheaded by Adolis Garcia. He's played 40 games for Texas this season and is hitting to the tune of a .301/.340/.515 slash line along with a 140 wRC+.

Most of his success at the plate can be attributed to the quality of contact that Duran is producing, along with a more disciplined approach. He owns a 22.7% strikeout rate and his swinging choices are certainly an improvement from last year's 24.5% mark. In terms of the quality of his contact, Duran displays a 10.9% barrel rate and a 48.5% hard-hit rate. He's finding the barrel more consistently, which allows him to drive the ball at a more frequent rate. If he's still a free agent in your fantasy league, picking up Duran has to be on your bucket list.

Orlando Arcia, ATL, 2B/SS/OF (Yahoo: 56%, ESPN: 28%)

When Dansby Swanson walked away from Atlanta over the offseason, there was a large debate over who would step in as the starting shortstop. Through 28 starts at shortstop, Orlando Arcia has stepped up tremendously to fill Swanson's former role. His bat perked up as well, which could earn him more reps at shortstop if he continues to hit for a high clip. Arcia is hitting .313/.371/.510 with four homers and a 136 OPS+.

With Vaughn Grissom optioned to Triple-A a couple of weeks ago, it created more opportunities for Arcia to prove that he's a mainstay in the lineup. He cut down on his swinging habits (18.1% K rate) and is connecting with the ball more profoundly as demonstrated by his 10.4% barrel rate. From a fantasy perspective, a little less than half of all leagues have not picked up Arcia, which is honestly one of those "coulda shoulda woulda" moments. Submit a waiver request before your rival beats you to it!

Bryson Stott, PHI, 2B/SS (Yahoo: 57%, ESPN: 28%)

Stott wasn't much of a threat at the plate in 127 games as a rookie in 2022. He compiled a .653 OPS with an 83 wRC+ while hitting just 10 homers. Well, something clicked in his swing this season, that has molded him into a completely different hitter. Entering play on Thursday, Stott owns a .291 clip with half of the homers that he hit a year prior (5). He's making more consistent contact (.325 OBP) but his power numbers are mostly parallel to his production last season.

Stott is hitting line drives more frequently and even cut down on his fly ball rate (29.6%), which was one of the causes of his struggles at the plate last season. If he continues to hit at this pace, it could prompt the Phillies to offer Stott an extension. It's a big ask for Stott to maintain a .291 clip, but if you are a fantasy manager that is roaming the waiver wire, now would be the time to invest in some Bryson Stott Kool-Aid.

Miguel Vargas, LAD, 1B/2B (Yahoo: 45%, ESPN: 25%) 

Out of the plethora of young faces that are making an impact for the Dodgers, versatile infielder, Miguel Vargas has turned some heads early in the season. His plate discipline- 18% strikeout rate, and ability to put the ball in play (.341 OBP) have caught the eyes of the Dodgers front office. Despite hitting at a .237 clip, Vargas is scorching hot at the plate over the past seven games. In that span, the 23-year-old is slashing .296/.367/.407 with just four strikeouts. On the season, Vargas is slashing .237/.341/.423 with a 112 wRC+.

As an amateur prospect, Vargas was always highly touted for his abilities at the plate. He hit a bunch of homers throughout his stint in the minors and it's already translating in the big leagues. While he's hit just four homers this season, Vargas has a 40.3% fly ball rate, and it wouldn't surprise me if more of his balls clear the fence. At least for now, the Cuban native continues to impress the Dodgers as he embarks on his first full big league season. For fantasy managers, it's Vargas time!

That's a wrap, folks! Make sure to keep up with RotoBaller's year-long content!

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