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Late-round middle infield options for deeper fantasy baseball leagues

23 AUG 2016: San Francisco Giants Second base Joe Panik (12) in action during the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers played at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
(Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Today I continue my quest in searching for talent and value outside the top-300. On Wednesday I presented several corner infield options for deeper leagues, some of whom might have some value in standard 12-team leagues in the near future. We now move on to the other half of the infield, looking at second basemen and shortstops for those in larger leagues.

Currently, there are 43 second base and shortstop eligible players being taken inside the top-300 in NFBC drafts. In a 15-team league that would basically cover every team including the middle infield slot. That means only those select few stragglers that waited until the very end will need to go fishing beyond this point. Still, injuries and slumps are part of the game, and things don’t always work out as planned with the players you draft.

The players below represent your fallback options. For those in leagues with 16 or more teams; this is what you have to look forward to if you wait too long. Not all of the names are pretty, and there are some that may not even have a major league job to start the season. However, they should all provide some level of value this season, even if you have to wait a few months for them.

*All spring training stats current through Tuesday night.

2B Joe Panik: Giants (NFBC ADP 318)

This isn’t a bad place to invest your money as a last resort. Panik has elite contact skills combined with a strong plate discipline. Some bad BABIP luck in 2016 masked his one true value – batting average. Panik is a .300 hitter, or darn close to it. With that average comes a prime spot in the lineup. Last year he had run and RBI totals over 60 with a bad average. I can see an increase in both this year. While he doesn’t have much power or speed, you will get an occasional contribution in both these categories.

If you invested in some low batting average power hitters, Panik could offset some of the damage.

SS Alcides Escobar: Royals (NFBC ADP 325)

Escobar is a zero-upside .260 hitter with speed. The downside is you will not get much more than 50 RBIs and a handful of home runs; the upside is you are guaranteed those RBI and home run numbers. You will also get at least 17 stolen bases, but there is a chance at 20 or more. Add on about 70 runs scored and you have a *yawn* stable middle infielder with job security and batting average that will not kill you. Sometimes you can’t ask for more than that.

SS Ketel Marte: Diamondbacks (NFBC ADP 348)

With a .275 spring batting average, I think we can safely put aside the shortstop controversy. Marte has done enough to earn an extended look. His spring batting average is right in line with the .272 he batted last year prior to the all-star break. Marte is also walking more this spring – one of the major factors keeping him from being a top of the order guy. Those extra bags should translate into more stolen base opportunities; a 20 stolen base season is realistic.

There is some risk with Marte – well, with any pick this late. Marte could be a younger version of Elvis Andrus, or he could tease us for years and become nothing more than Alcides Escobar.

SS Freddy Galvis: Phillies (NFBC ADP 355)

Poor contact, bad plate discipline; I could throw in a few “expletive deleted” terms of endearment others have used to describe Galvis. I get it; Galvis is not the best hitter in the world, and even the higher-ups on his own team don’t view him as a long-term option at shortstop. However, until JP Crawford arrives, and until Galvis is benched or traded, he has value – whether you like him or not.

Despite the lack of visible speed at the major league level prior to 2016, Galvis can run. He should get you at least 15 steals even with a low walk rate. The power he displayed is somewhat fictional, but it wasn’t all smoke. I can see a total in the 12-15 range. If the power and speed are there, that .240 average becomes less of an issue. Galvis is being unfairly discounted and I would be more than happy to settle for him as my middle infielder. JP Crawford has an ADP of 463 if you are looking for a handcuff and have the bench room.

September 24, 2016: Philadelphia Phillies Shortstop Freddy Galvis (13) [8264] can't recover from an error on a ground ball by New York Mets First base Lucas Duda (21) [7530], allowing him to reach first base during the fifth inning of the game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets at Citi Field in Flushing, NY. (Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)

September 24, 2016: Philadelphia Phillies Shortstop Freddy Galvis (13) [8264] can’t recover from an error on a ground ball by New York Mets First base Lucas Duda (21) [7530], allowing him to reach first base during the fifth inning of the game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets at Citi Field in Flushing, NY. (Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)

2B Raul Mondesi: Royals (NFBC ADP 388)

Many expect Mondesi to spend the majority of the 2017 season in Triple-A. Development wise it makes sense; there are plate discipline issues that need work. Looking at the Royals middle infield situation, though, Mondesi may have to do a little on the job training. Currently, he is a .250 hitter with limited pop and decent speed. But the talent is there for him to be a .275 plus hitter with 20 plus stolen base potential. How quickly that comes to fruition is up in the air.

Whit Merrifield (listed below) should start the season as the starting second baseman. He showed enough to earn that right last year, and his spring numbers solidify the opportunity. However, Mondesi is 15 for 39 this spring and is making a case for himself as well. If Merrifield stumbles or becomes injured, the door is wide open for Mondesi. This is currently an add for AL-only or leagues with 20 or more teams.

2B/SS Tyler Saladino: White Sox (NFBC ADP 415)

The Yoan Moncada era may have to wait a little longer to begin. Brett Lawrie being released does expedite things, but the emergence of Saladino last season clouds the arrival time of Moncada. Focusing on Saladino, last year he hit .282 with eight home runs and 11 steals in just under 300 at-bats. This spring he has picked up where he left off; he is 15 for 39 at the plate with three home runs and a stolen base.

The batting average is a bit surprising considering what we saw from 2012 to 2015. Maybe he’s a late bloomer, or maybe the BABIP luck from last year will depart and expose him for what he really is. I say ignore what he could be and just play him for what he is currently doing. Saladino is a cheap power/speed source that can be had late and dumped without regret when he falls apart.

SS Jordy Mercer: Pirates (NFBC ADP 452)

Mercer is just as boring to own as Alcides Escobar. You can bank on a batting average in the .255 range, 10-12 home runs, and 50 or so runs and RBIs. That’s it; there is nothing left to say on the matter. He will not win you a championship, but he will play every day and will not sink your batting average (much).

September 27, 2016: Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (10) hits the ball during a MLB game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)

September 27, 2016: Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (10) hits the ball during a MLB game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)

2B Whit Merrifield: Royals (NFBC ADP 471)

Last year’s 283 batting average and eight stolen bases put Merrifield in the second base conversation. The .298 batting average and five stolen bases this spring have now solidified his role on the team. While the batting average appears to be improving, I expect some regression here. A .265 average isn’t bad, though, when you factor in the 20 plus stolen base potential and eight or so home runs.

Merrifield will never be a star, but he is a good enough hitter to stick in the majors and have some fantasy relevance in larger leagues. Someone will need to switch positions when the Royals deem Mondesi major league ready. Until that day comes, Merrifield is the man and should be owned in 20-team leagues and considered in some 15-team leagues as well.

SS/2B Franklin Barreto: Athletics (NFBC ADP 504)

Barreto has 10/30 power-speed upside, and he now has the word of Billy Beane that he will be in the majors at some point this year. It’s kind of hard not to say that when your top prospect is 13 for 27 at the plate this spring. I am sure the presence of the oft-injured Jed Lowrie played a part in the Beane proclamation as well. So, short of an epic meltdown, Franklin Barreto should be playing this summer in a theater near you (it’s a PG-rated film).

I would not expect much power at first, but the strong batting average and speed can give your fantasy team a nice midseason jolt. In 15-team leagues, you can play the wait-and-see game. Those in 20-team leagues need to draft and stash Barreto if you have a weak middle infield option. Just like winter in Game of Thrones, Barreto is coming.

2B Adam Frazier: Pirates (NFBC ADP 552)

This one is purely speculative on my part, but I think Frazier is a sneaky player to keep an eye on. He has great contact skills and plate discipline. The power is lacking, but there is enough speed in his game to steal 10-12 bases. In essence, Frazier is a speed version of Jordy Mercer, except Frazier is capable of hitting .300. A high batting average with the ability to draw walks could earn him a spot high in the order if given the opportunity.

A .442 spring average has secured a bench role to start the year, giving him the chance to show more. If he takes full advantage of ever at-bat I can see him pushing someone aside down the line. I don’t know if I would go as far as saying Frazier should be drafted in 20-team leagues, but at the very least he should be monitored closely.

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