Reliable middle infielders have always been my white whale. I overvalue them on draft/action day and somehow always end up getting burned. Whether it’s Rickie Weeks‘ wrist or Dustin Pedroia‘s foot or Chase Utley’s knees, I always seem to wind up scrounging for infield help. This year I decided to cast a wide net in our staff league, loading up on various $1 options in addition to keepers Utley and Yunel Escobar.
One of those $1 players is Sean Rodriguez of the Rays. The 26-year-old will be Tampa Bay’s primary shortstop this season, or at least early in the season if Reid Brignac winds up being useful. Playing time is always high on my list of priorities when targeting bench players since they’re of little use to your fantasy team if they’re bench players in real life. Rodriguez started 108 games at various positions last season, giving him 2B, SS, and 3B eligibility this year.
As with most dirt cheap options, we’re dealing with a limited player. Rodriguez does — by far — his best work against left-handed pitchers, tagging them for a .369 wOBA over the last two years (not counting his first three games of 2012). He’s also stolen 24 bases (in 34 tries) during that time. That performance has produced 804.4 points in ottoneu’s linear weights scoring, split almost perfectly between 2010 and 2011. Another 400 points this year would probably be a conservative estimate given the expected increase in playing time.
Of course, the best way to maximize Rodriguez’s output would be to use him against southpaws only. Luckily the AL East features a ton of them, ranging from excellent (CC Sabathia) to very good (Ricky Romero) to sketchy (Felix Doubront). With multi-position eligibility, finding a roster spot to give Rodriguez a spot start shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Adding a .282/.383/.459 middle infielder with stolen base potential to the lineup every so often is some nice piece to have in your back pocket.
Rodriguez can’t hit righties — career .273 wOBA — and that really drags down his overall numbers, but there is value to be extracted here. In a deep league like ottoneu or an AL-only outfit, there’s a chance to get the Rays’ shortstop on the cheap and employ him in a way to yields big results. I’m currently using him in matchup situations, but at his age there is always a chance Rodriguez will be even more useful than expected.