Fantasy

Dynasty Dugout: Middle Infield Risers and Fallers

Chris Owings

Last week we took a look at corner infielders trending one way or the other in dynasty league value. This week, it’s time for the middle infielders. There hasn’t been a whole lot of movement in the middle infield, but certain players are starting to show their true colors.

Trending Up

Chris Owings, Shortstop, Arizona Diamondbacks

No middle infielder has helped his dynasty league stock more in 2017 than Chris Owings. The 25-year-old Diamondbacks shortstop has thrived hitting mostly out of the second spot in the lineup. So far in 2017, Owings is hitting .311 with 5 HR, 8 SB, and a .838 OPS, which is easily the best mark of his young career. His current 21HR/33SB pace likely won’t continue, but a 15/25 season wouldn’t be a surprise.

Owings was never a highly regarded prospect up until 2013/2014 when he started cracking some top-100 industry lists. Power has never been a big aspect of his game, so if you expect him to hit 20+, you’ll be disappointed. He has some solid speed but isn’t what you would consider a burner. Expect home runs in the teens, steals in the mid-20’s, and a solid batting average in the .270-.280 range. His runs and RBIs should be respectable too, hitting mostly near the top of a solid Arizona lineup. With a lot of futility after the elite shortstops, Owings is approaching top-10 dynasty league status at the position.

Ian Happ, 2nd Baseman, Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs don’t have many spots in their lineup that are areas of weakness. At 2nd base, they’ve been using a combination of veteran Ben Zobrist and youngster Javier Baez. Neither player is entrenched at the position and has the versatility to play other positions on the field. That versatility is key because the Cubs #2 prospect is knocking on the door to the big leagues.

Ian Happ has been considered a top-100 overall prospect since the Cubs drafted him 9th overall in the 2015 MLB amateur draft. Entering 2017, MLB had him ranked as the #28 prospect in all of baseball. While he’s a solid defender, his offensive abilities are what makes him an intriguing prospect. Though 104 at-bats at Triple-A, he hit .298 with 9 home runs, 25 RBI, and a .977 OPS. Due to various injuries and ailments at the big league level, Chicago called Happ up last week. He wasted no time making an impact, hitting a home run in his very first MLB at-bat.

You can see the pure strength he possesses. That was a very good change-up from Carlos Martinez that Happ blasted over the bullpen in right field. Initially, this was only supposed to be a brief stint with Chicago, but if he continues to hit well, he might be up for good. If your dynasty team needs a 2nd baseman, consider making a deal for Happ now before his value shoots up to that of a top-10 dynasty league 2nd baseman.

Amed Rosario, Shortstop, New York Mets

Entering 2016, Amed Rosario was barely cracking top-100 prospect lists. He’s always been a plus defender but his lack of offense kept him from being an elite prospect. For more about him check out Ryne Milkin’s article. A superb offensive season in 2016 rocketed him into the top 10 of basically every prospect list entering this season. In 479 at-bats between Single-A and Double-A, Rosario hit .324 with five homers and 19 stolen bases. The Mets have been a train wreck this season and aren’t currently getting much production at short. It’s probably not going to be long before Rosario makes his debut in Queens. His statistical upside should be pretty similar to Chris Owings. Consider him a borderline top-10 dynasty shortstop upon his call-up.

Other Risers in Value

Yoan Moncada, 2nd Baseman, Chicago White Sox – The 21-year-old Cuban sensation is dominating in the minors, but a call-up isn’t imminent according to the White Sox. Moncada should be up by the end of June and will become an immediate top-5 dynasty league option at 2nd base.

Gleyber Torres, Shortstop, New York Yankees – There are not many other middle infielders whose value is rising right now, but with Gleyber Torres’ debut getting closer, I’ll add him in here. Torres has the skills to be a .300 20/20 player in his prime, but there’s no spot for him yet with the Yankees. He is an appealing target in dynasty leagues. I’d rather have him than guys like Aledmys Diaz, Dansby Swanson, or Addison Russell.

Trending Down

Addison Russell, Shortstop, Chicago Cubs

Out of all the Cubs young players that have come up and become stars lately, Addison Russell isn’t one of them. Sure, he approached 100 RBIs last season, but that was more a product of a stacked Cubs lineup than anything else. After hitting .301 during his time in the minors, Russell has struggled in the majors to the tune of a .238/.312/.398 triple slash line. His average it trending in the wrong direction too, which shows he isn’t making the necessary adjustments to develop as a hitter.

Year AB BA OBP SLG OPS
2015 475 0.242 0.307 0.389 0.696
2016 525 0.238 0.321 0.417 0.738
2017 133 0.226 0.295 0.353 0.648

 

The pop he displayed last season has disappeared so far in 2017. Through 133 at-bats, Russell has only managed to hit two out of the ballpark. The Cubs will keep him in the lineup because he’s a solid defender, but his contact and on-base woes will keep him buried at the bottom of the lineup. It seems like just yesterday that Russell was being valued as highly as some of the now elite shortstops. That’s a distant memory now. He’s still young enough to turn it around but there have been no signs of that happening. This is no longer a guy you should want as your starting dynasty shortstop. If he starts to show signs of progression, that could change. For now, though, he should be nothing higher than a middle infield option or bench piece.

Jonathan Villar, 2nd Baseman, Milwaukee Brewers

There’s a good chance last season will end up being the best in Jonathan Villar’s career. His .285/.369/.457 slash line was way above his career rates entering the 2016 season.

Year G AB HR SB BA OBP SLG OPS
2013-15 198 589 10 42 0.245 0.309 0.362 0.671
2016 156 589 19 62 0.285 0.369 0.457 0.826
2017 38 153 5 8 0.222 0.287 0.359 0.647

 

His speed is legit but duplicating his 62 steals will be a stretch unless he can get on base at a solid clip again. Nothing about his minor league resume or first three major league seasons supports his 2016 stats. Don’t get me wrong, Villar is still an attractive dynasty piece due to his speed and position. However, he is not an elite option that people make him out to be. Value him as a back end top-10 option at 2nd base.

Dee Gordon, 2nd Baseman, Miami Marlins

I would love to see a 100-meter dash between Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon. That’s all I’d like to see out of them though. Gordon is cut from the same mold as Hamilton; lot’s of speed and not much else. His 2015 season, where he hit .333, seems to be an anomaly. Since Gordon has absolutely no power, he’ll never contribute in the HR and RBI categories. If you can only contribute in three categories, you better actually contribute in those categories. He does in the speed department, but average and runs have been okay at best the last two seasons since his breakout 2015. Gordon’s value should be in the same ballpark as Villar’s. A back-end top-10 option and a borderline starter, but nothing more.

Other Fallers in Value

Rougned Odor, 2nd Baseman, Texas Rangers – After posting 33 home runs and 14 steals at age-21, Odor entered the elite discussion at 2nd base. His dreadful start to this season shows that we all might have jumped the gun a little bit on him. Still a very talented player, but the contact woes will make Odor a frustrating player to own.

Trevor Story, Shortstop, Colorado Rockies – A lot of what was said about Odor can be said here. Story is young and very talented but strikes out a ton. His tremendous rookie season cannot be ignored, but he’s not an elite dynasty option at short.

Javier Baez, 2nd Baseman, Chicago Cubs – It’s becoming more and more apparent that Javier Baez is best suited as a super utility player. He’ll get enough at bats to be useful but not a desirable dynasty league starter.

Dansby Swanson, Shortstop, Atlanta Braves –  This kid should still have a productive major league career, but don’t forget he has very little power or speed. Swanson is a better real life option than fantasy option.

That wraps up the middle infield. Next week we shift our focus to the outfielders. Stay tuned.

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