Baseball is often won by teams that play great defense up the middle. With that in mind, teams often focus on glove strength and not offensive potential for the 2B and SS positions. In the early 1990’s, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra ushered in a shift to the offensive SS. Today, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Kipnis are proving that the new breed of offensive player mindset has shifted to 2B as well, while Troy Tulowitzski and Hanley Ramirez maintain the offensive SS mentality. Unfortunately for fantasy owners there is a limited pool of talent to go around. Late in your draft, with just a few bucks left and several roster slots to fill, where can you look to find some cheap MI production? Today we tackle that question.
Assumptions for the middle infielder end game:
- Xander Bogaerts and Marcus Semien are only 3B eligible (traditional roto rules)
- Ben Zobrist gets slotted at either 2B or SS; Alberto Callaspo gets slotted at 2B
- Emilio Bonifacio and Stephen Drew end up in the other league (for AL we assume they ends up in the NL and for NL we assume they ends up in the AL)
The last bunch in: Beckham, Y Escobar, Jeter, Ackley, Franklin, BAL 2B Good*, Forsythe, Sizemore/Roberts/Nunez (10th MI), Aviles, Iglesias, BAL 2B Bad*, Sogard, Izturis, Keppinger, Goins, Florimon, Ryan
What a list. Below are what we will have to watch shakeout during spring training:
- BAL’s second base situation- Schoop, Jemile Weeks, Flaherty and Casilla are all in contention for the second base spot.
- NYY’s second and third base situations- Kelly, Jeter (when healthy), and Ryan all appear to have set roles. Of interest are the roles of Roberts, Sizemore, and Nunez.
- CLE’s infield- it will be important to monitor how the C/3B/DH plays out with Santana, Gomes, Chisenhall, and Aviles (in this instance, we are interested in Aviles).
Starting with the top, if Schoop or Weeks wins playing time, then I will be interested; this scenario is listed as “BAL 2B Good.” If BAL decides to go with Flaherty and/or Casilla, I am disinterested (likely to return negative value); this scenario is listed as “BAL 2B Bad.” If either Roberts or Sizemore is healthy and in the 2B/3B rotation, then I am interested in either of them. Yes, they always get hurt, but neither will be asked to play full time, which should increase their chances of staying healthy. If both end up hurt and/or ineffective, then I would be interested in Nunez for a few bucks. Lastly, Forsythe and Aviles should both be getting the short side of platoons. I like either of them at $1, but prefer the younger Forsythe as Aviles skills appear to be diminishing. As not good as Iglesias is, he may be getting underrated. Is he going to hit .300 again? No, but he should be able to put up a batting average that does not kill you (like Casilla or Flaherty), while providing decent runs and RBIs for the investment.
Recommendation: Obviously, none of the potential $1 plays are optimal, but that does not mean that we will not find ourselves in this situation on occasion. I do like the AL middle infield end game plays more than I do the plays at corner infield. While it would not be optimal, I would be content scooping Forsythe, Aviles, Iglesias, or one of the Yankees, including Nunez, for $1.
Last bunch in: Kolten Wong, Freddie Galvis, Didi Gregorius, Skip Schumaker, Adieny Hecavarria, Dee Gordon, Scooter Gennett, Rickie Weeks, Josh Rutledge, Darwin Barney, Danny Espinosa, DJ LeMahieu, Donovan Solano, Tyler Pastornicky, Cliff Pennington, Daniel Descalso, Joaquin Arias, Clint Barmes, Charlie Culberson
Some NL assumptions: Rafael Furcal starts the season as the starting 2B in Miami, Ruben Tejada is the starting SS for the Mets, Jordy Mercer is the starting SS in Pittsburgh and Chris Owings is the starting SS in Arizona
Looks like slim pickings when you reach the end of your budget, but there could be a couple values:
- Danny Espinosa: In an IF with Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon, you figure that an injury will open the door for some at-bats for Espinosa. His batting average is terrible, but he is only a year removed from back-to-back near 20/20 seasons.
- Scooter Gennett: Gennett is not very good, but he will most likely end up in a platoon at 2B with Rickie Weeks, who is also not very good and is often injured. Gennett’s defense may get him some additional at-bats as well as his ability to hit against RHP. Expect a few homers and a few steals, but nothing too exciting.
- Charlie Culberson: The Colorado MI might appear crowded at the start of spring training, but when you consider that Troy Tulowitzski is the only true ownable player in fantasy there, Culberson might be worth a flier.
- Do any of the elite prospects break camp with the MLB team? There is certainly some elite talent at MI in the minors, but most guys are still a few seasons away from contributing at the MLB level. Javier Baez and Carlos Correa are both top 10 prospects. Alen Hanson and Corey Seager are 2 top SS prospects, while Wilmer Flores, who has moved around the infield in the Mets system, could be ready to hit at the MLB level soon.
Recommendation: In a 10-team league with a MI and UT slot, I am spending the money to get at least one of Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzski, Ian Desmond, Jean Segura, Matt Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko (Note: I had accidentally listed Jose Altvuve as a NL MI in an earlier draft). If I am looking at this end of the budget group, I will spend a few extra dollars to grab Kolten Wong, Skip Schumaker or Freddie Galvis. I really only want to be filling my bench with some possible upside from the $1 MI crowd.
Dollar Draft Series