Today, I’ll be covering the middle infielders position battles for second base and shortstop in our Last-Minute Draft Guide. (We hit the corner infielders earlier last week!)
Historically speaking, middle infielders have notoriously been black holes for Fantasy Baseball purposes. It has generally been a top-loaded position over the years with players like Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Ian Desmond, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins and Brandon Phillips.
After last season, a few new names – Jose Altuve and Anthony Rendon – have entered the elite group while others have fallen out.
Despite the lack of top-tier options at the position, middle infield still produces quite a few Fantasy stars on a year-to-year basis. And this year will be no different.
A ton of new faces have surfaced as starters for their respective teams and could potentially be in line for breakout campaigns. Hopefully, this article will help uncover the next Jason Kipnis, Brian Dozier or Dee Gordon in 2015.
2015 Position Battles: Middle Infielders — 2B and SS
I have created a last-minute draft guide to keep you updated on current position battles, so you can dominate your drafts.
Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox
Batting .333 with one homer, six RBI and three stolen bases over 45 at-bats this spring, Johnson is the leading candidate to win the second-base job. Carlos Sanchez, Johnson’s lone competition, is batting .357 this spring, but has done so over a span of just 28 at-bats – and has made just six starts at second base all spring.
While Manager Robin Ventura claims he won’t name the winner of the second-base job until the end of spring training, Johnson seems destined to take the field Opening Day.
As such, Johnson should be on your Draft Day radar, as he can hit for average and has the upside to steal 40 bags (let’s not forget, he stole 84 bases in the minors in 2013). Breakout players typically come in the way of talent meeting opportunity, and Johnson certainly has the skill set to breakout in a major way in 2015.
Brad Miller, SS, Seattle
Miller won the shortstop job by default this spring after his competition, Chris Taylor, broke his wrist and will miss four to six weeks.
The 2011 second-round pick is known more for his bat than his glove, but he has struggled mightily over his brief two-year career, batting just .221 over 367 at-bats last season. At age 25, Miller is far from an afterthought, but he will need to take advantage of his newfound opportunity if he wants to reestablish himself as a major-league caliber shortstop.
The Mariners’ lineup is loaded with talent and they should be able to score runs in bunches this season. If Miller can rediscover his stroke at the plate, he could be in line for plenty of RBI opportunities and runs scored.
Scooter Gennett, 2B, Milwaukie
With the demotion of 21-year-old Luis Sardinas, Gennett has officially claimed the role of starting second baseman for the start of the 2015 season.
Gennett should easily see another 400-plus at-bats, but that fact remains that he struggles against left-handed pitching – batting just .103 in 38 ABs last season. On the contrary, however, Gennett owns righties where he crushed all nine of his home runs and boasted a .307 average.
Gennett isn’t an elite player but one that is certainly capable of hitting for average with double-digit homers and steals.
Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings, 2B, SS, Arizona
The battle for the Diamondbacks’ second base and shortstop position finally seems to have some clarity. It appears that Ahmed will likely begin the season as the Diamondbacks’ starting shortstop. Ahmed is a glove-first player that doesn’t have much to offer for Fantasy, however, he does have some speed so he could be a sneaky source of steals in deeper leagues.
Chris Owings, who is returning from shoulder surgery, is still a candidate to win the second-base job over veteran Aaron Hill. Hill, who is 33 years old and has struggled the past two seasons, is no lock to be the Opening Day second baseman. In fact, it appears that Owings may have the upper hand with the season just one week away. If Owings were to win the job, he boasts a nice combination of power and speed from the MI position. If all breaks well, the 23 year old could easily put up a 15-homer, 15-steal season.
Johnny Giavotella, 2B, L.A. Angels
Giavotella has won the second-base job with the Angels, beating out Josh Rutledge and Grant Green. While Giavotella gets the first crack as starter, the second-base position could potentially be a revolving door all season. In the short term, however, Giavotella is a good contact hitter who is very sound defensively. In deep or AL-only leagues, he could carry some early-season value.
Devon Travis, 2B, Toronto
Travis appears to be the winner of the Blue Jays’ second-base job. Travis has had a fantastic spring, batting .340 with six doubles, six RBI and four walks. In the minors, Travis has put together two consecutive seasons of double-digit homers and steals. He will now bat in one of the best lineups in baseball and could be in line to score a ton of runs. If you’re looking to fill your MI spot late in your Fantasy draft, you could do a lot worse than Travis.
Jace Peterson, 2B, Atlanta
Peterson, who was acquired from the Padres in the Justin Upton deal, is set to begin the season as the Braves’ starting second baseman. Peterson beat out Alberto Callaspo, and rookie Jose Peraza was sent to the minors.
Offensively, Peterson offers zero power, but makes up for it with good plate discipline and has the ability to hit to all fields. His major contributions for your fantasy team will come in the way of stolen bases, as he is a fantastic base runner, and has the ability to draw walks – he has a career OBP of .381 in the minors. While the Braves’ offense will likely be one of the worst in baseball this season, Peterson still qualifies as a nice sleeper pick at the MI position.
Javier Baez, 2B, Chicago Cubs
As of today, March 29th, there is still no clarity on who will be the Cubs Opening Day second baseman. Baez carries the most upside with his prolific power, but still strikes out at an alarming rate and could probably use some more seasoning in the minors.
Tommy La Stella and Arismendy Alcantara remain in the running for the starting second-base gig, however, neither one has the offensive upside of Baez. La Stella won’t offer much in the way of power and speed, but he can draw walks and could contribute in leagues that count OBP. He’s likely a better fit as the Cubs’ utility man rather than an everyday player.
Alcantara, on the other hand, flashed both power and speed in the minors last season, hitting 10 home runs and stealing 21 bags in just 89 games. His numbers didn’t translate to the majors after his mid-season call-up, but at just 23 years old, Alcantara has plenty of room for growth and offers much more upside than La Stella.
Jordy Mercer, SS, Pittsburgh
After the acquisition of Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, Mercer’s starting job appeared in jeopardy. However, after a solid spring where Mercer has hit .333 with two homers and three walks, he appears to have locked up the starting role.
Since homering in his first game of the spring, Kang has struggled to a .129 average in 31 at-bats, putting doubt in his ability to hit big-league pitching. The Pirates, however, feel it’s far too soon to pass judgment on Kang’s hitting woes, as they are still confident that his power at bat speed will play in the Majors. Whether he starts for the Pirates or not this season, Kang could still prove to be a quality player off the bench. But only time will tell if he can indeed hit at baseball’s highest level.
Spring Training Updates
These aren’t necessarily position battles, but it’s still some information you need to know about.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado
Tulowitzki was limited to just 91 games in 2014 after tearing the labrum in his left hip. While his injuries are a concern, Tulowitzki is healthy this spring and remains one of the best pure hitters in baseball. Through 27 at-bats, he is batting .370 with three homers and eight RBI. He has also started 11 games at shortstop – proving that he is fully healthy heading into 2015. If you’re risk averse, drafting Tulowitzki likely isn’t part of your draft plan. But if you want an elite player at a scarce position that could carry your Fantasy team, “Tulo” should rank high on your list.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, L.A. Dodgers
There isn’t much to report here as Rollins is entrenched as the every day shortstop, but I think it’s worth noting that Rollins has looked rejuvenated with his new team this spring and certainly looks like he’ll have a big impact on the Dodgers’ offense this season. At 36 years old, Rollins is clearly past his prime, but a 20-homer, 20-steal season could still be within reach.
Dustin Pedroia. 2B, Boston
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Pedroia, who had surgery on his left wrist last September, is 100 percent this spring and putting up solid spring numbers to prove it. Through 39 at-bats, Pedroia is batting .282 and has shown zero ill effects from the surgery. There are also reports that he lifted weights hard this offseason in preparation for a bounce-back campaign – something he wasn’t able to do in previous years. Everything looks good for Pedroia heading into the season, he’s healthy and in a fantastic lineup – and his checkered-health history should allow him to go for a bargain on Draft Day.
Hopefully, we helped you with your middle infielders and your team will be in shape for a 2015 Fantasy Baseball championship!
Scooter Gennett Photo Credit: Benjamin Krautkramer
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