Fantasy Baseball Sleeper and Busts: Middle Infield
We kick off our annual "Sleeper and Bust" series with the middle infield positions. Second base and shortstop are deep positions this season, so there are definitely some gems that you can find later in the draft, and Ryan and myself want to help you identify them. With it being so deep, it's also imperative not to take a guy early in drafts who may not give you much better production than someone you can draft five to ten rounds later. Below, we help you out so you make all the right decisions in your draft this season!
Second Base Sleeper - Steve
Logan Forsythe, Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers had a glaring hole at second base this offseason, and while they supposedly tried to land Twins slugger, Brian Dozier, they couldn’t quite make it work. Instead, they "settled" for Logan Forsythe. However, Forsythe may be an “under the radar” type of fantasy producer for you this season. He hit 20 home runs last season in Tampa Bay and according to Fangraphs, Tropicana Field has a home run park factor of 101. Now with the Dodgers, where they have a home run park factor of 105, he could potentially improve upon his power from last season. He should be able to hit .260-.270 and considering he will be hitting towards the top of a very good lineup, he could be a good source of RBIs and runs as well. He’s currently being drafted as the 17th second baseman off the board in NFBC drafts and has the potential to outperform that substantially.
Second Base Sleeper - Ryan
Ryan Schimpf, San Diego Padres. Sure, there are a lot of holes in his swing and even in the Minor Leagues, he didn't hit for a high average, but there are no questions about Ryan Schimpf's power. In every stop along the way in the Minor Leagues, Schimpf flexed his 20 home run power. Unfortunately, he also showed a propensity to strike out a lot, and his batting average has never been anything overly impressive. Sure, he was hitting .355 at Triple-A, but that was the Pacific Coast League, which is notorious for having a huge advantage for the hitters.
However, when he came up to the Bigs last year, he was impressive again and hit 20 dingers in just 89 games. Making it more impressive is that he had two streaks of 16 days and 18 days without homering, which means he hit a lot in a hurry. He has almost no competition for the job and although he isn't a big guy at 5'9", his bat has packed a punch everywhere he's been. His batting average certainly isn't going to do you any favors, but he's currently being drafted (if at all) as the 36th second baseman off the board. If he can get his batting average to .245-.250, Schimpf should have some nice value as a power bat up the middle.
Second Base Bust - Steve
Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins. Last season was a career year for Twins second bagger, Brian Dozier. He had a career year in batting average (.268), home runs (42) and runs (99) and while rumored to be on the trading block this offseason, the Twins couldn’t quite make it work and he’s set to return to Minnesota. Can he repeat his performance from last year? Nahhh. He’s an extreme pull hitter and before last season, he never hit above .244 in any season. With the shifts becoming more popular, I think his batting average returns back to his norm of .240. According to a great read from Fangraphs (you can find it here), they breakdown whether he can repeat his impressive 42 home run performance from last year. To summarize, he hit a lot of homers down the line and barely over the fence and he’s set for regression. Don’t get me wrong, there still value in a second baseman that can hit you 30 homers…just not enough to justify a third or fourth round pick. Especially with second base being so deep this year.
Second Base Bust - Ryan
Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals. I'm sorry, but nothing in Daniel Murphy's history gave us any indication that he was going to do THAT! Murphy lit up the National League pitching last year to the tune of a .347 batting average with 25 home runs and 104 RBIs. His average was up 66 points from the year before. His home run total was 11 more than his previous career high (that's nearly double!), and his RBI total was 31 more than his previous best. He's 31 years old and guys just don't transform like that at his age.
I assume he was playing angry after the Mets didn't give him the contract he thought he deserved, but I can't say that this is going to carry over. Sometimes they say a change of scenery helps a player, but to turn from a decent every day player with no glove into an MVP candidate??? That would have to be something good in the water in DC. I'm sure Murphy will have a very nice season again, but to expect him to duplicate ANY category from 2016 is just fooling yourself. In no world will I see him being worthy of a third round pick.
Shortstop Sleeper - Steve
Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics. It used to be that you punted power at the shortstop position and looked to load up on steals, but that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Several shortstops hit over 20 home runs last season and Marcus Semien was one of them, as he was third at the position with 27. Not only that, but he can get you double digit steals to go with his power. He’s not going to help you in average and he doesn’t play on a great team in Oakland, but if you decide to wait to draft your shortstop or middle infielder, Semien may be a nice guy to try and land.
Shortstop Sleeper - Ryan
Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers. Going into the 2016 season, both Baseball America and MLB.com had Orlando Arcia as one of their top ten prospects in the game. He was definitely known more for his glove than he was his bat, but the kid knew how to fly once he was on the bases. Unfortunately, a funny thing happened on his way to stardom...Arcia fell on his face in 2016. He was average at best at AAA as he hit just .267, after hitting .307 at AA the season before. He also stole just 15 bases and was caught stealing a ridiculous eight times.
When he finally made it to Milwaukee, things didn't get much better. In 55 games, he hit just .217 but was a perfect eight for eight on steal attempts. He is just 22 years old and the good news is that he finished the season fairly well. Arcia will be the starting shortstop for the Brewers and should have very little hesitation to steal bases for a team that is going nowhere this season. His current ADP is about 300th overall, and if you are late in your drafts and are in real need of stolen bases, I think Arcia is a great flier to take in the last round.
Shortstop Bust - Steve
Jean Segura, Seattle Mariners. Jean Segura benefitted from playing in Arizona last season as he hit a career high .319 with 20 home runs. He is now taking his talents to Seattle where the park isn’t quite so hitter friendly. He had never hit over .294 previously, and with an extremely high BABIP of .353, I think we see him come back to earth. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to expect a 40 point reduction in his batting average. Until last year, he had never hit over 12 homers, and with moving to Seattle, I think 10-12 home runs may be a realistic goal for him. He should be a nice source of steals, but he’s being drafted around the 50th player overall in the NFBC and that's a little too rich for my blood.
Shortstop Bust - Ryan
Trea Turner, Washington Nationals. Look at me, the Nationals hater! Listen, I'm sure the future is very bright for Trea Turner. I'm sure he will have a nice long career filled with many magical moments. And yes, he had an unbelievable 73 games in the Majors in 2016, with 13 homers and 33 stolen bases. Putting him on this list doesn't mean I don't like Turner or that I think he is going to be a bust. This is all about ADP. I'm not sure where this started, but somehow Turner is now being drafed IN THE FIRST ROUND, and his ADP is 11th overall! I know, crazy!
The dude has less than a half a season of experience in the Major Leagues and you are thinking about using a first round pick on the guy??? Do you really think you can extrapolate his 2016 numbers out and expect 26 homers and nearly 70 stolen bases? That ain't happening! He's not a power hitter, he's more of a speed guy. MAYBE at his best, I can see him hitting 15 home runs and stealing 40 bases, 45 tops. There is just far too much uncertainty for me to use a first round pick on him, especially with so many good shortstops out there this year.
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