I used 10% Yahoo ownership as the cutoff for these selections. With these players available in nearly all leagues, boosting your middle-infield production isn’t as dire a situation as it may seem.
Derek Dietrich (9% owned) – With Dee Gordon suspended through July, Dietrich’s got a stranglehold on the second-base job in Miami for the next two months. For the most part, he’s been batting leadoff, although he’s hit in the No. 3 spot for the last two days, to accommodate a red-hot Ichiro Suzuki in the leadoff spot. Regardless, he’s hitting in the top third of the lineup, with a .293/.400/.485 slash.
The 26-year-old’s home-run power hasn’t shown up yet this year — with just two in 120 PA — but he’s got seven doubles and three triples. Don’t be fooled by that paltry ‘2’ in the HR column, because Dietrich has plenty of pop to get the ball over the fence. While his .355 BABIP suggests likely regression in his AVG, those of you in OBP leagues can reap the benefits of his 10.0% walk rate — and the fact that he’s strangely adept at being hit by pitches.
When I wrote about Dietrich last August, I pointed out his incredible ability to get himself plunked. As it turns out, he’s only gotten better at it. He’s currently tied for the major-league lead in HBP with seven, despite having 40-to-50 fewer PA than the three players he’s tied with (Starling Marte, Alex Gordon, Danny Espinosa). This is nothing new for Dietrich, who collected a whopping 28 HBP in 513 PA between Triple-A and MLB last year. The only full-time major-leaguer hit by more pitches last year was Anthony Rizzo (30), who received nearly 200 more PA than Dietrich.
Here’s some perspective on how uniquely good Dietrich is at getting pitchers to hit him: Other than Rizzo, only Brandon Guyer (24) broke the 20-HBP threshold in the majors last year. Two years ago, Jon Jay’s 20 HBP were good enough to lead the league.
Dietrich’s 10.0% walk rate is impressive enough, but when paired with his 5.8% HBP rate, that’s how you get a guy with a .400 OBP despite a sub-.300 AVG. Seriously, if you need middle-infield help in an OBP league and Dietrich is available, go grab him now. You can always finish reading the rest of this column later.
Jose Ramirez (7% owned) – Ramirez made his major-league debut back in 2013, which makes it easy to forget that he’s still just 23 years old. 2014 and 2015 told the exact same story for Ramirez, as he was shuffled back and forth between Triple-A and the majors. In both seasons, he produced in Triple-A, but floundered in the bigs:
- ‘14-’15 Triple-A (472 PA): .298/.358/.427, 34 SB, 8.9% BB, 8.3% K
- ’14-’15 MLB (621 PA): .237/.283/.342, 20 SB, 7.2% BB, 11.9% K
This year began with Ramirez bouncing around between LF and 3B — with appearances at 2B and SS — and hitting in every spot in the order except 3rd and 4th. Despite his “irregular regular” status, Ramirez’s offensive production looks an awful lot like his Triple-A stats:
- ’16 MLB (123 PA): .297/.352/.405, 2 SB, 7.3% BB, 7.3% K
Recently, his role seemingly solidified, as he’s spent the majority of the last week-and-a-half batting fifth and playing left field. While he’s not a big home-run threat — with just one this year, and nine total in his 758 major-league plate appearances — Ramirez is hitting a healthy amount of doubles. Also, the fact that he very rarely strikes out should give him plenty of RBI opportunities hitting behind Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Mike Napoli.
Despite being 2-for-4 on stolen-base attempts this season, Ramirez’s track record suggests a likely uptick in that category, and if he sticks in the top five in the Indians’ lineup, there’s some upside here. Plus, like I said before, the kid’s still only 23. Not a bad roll of the dice for your MI slot.
Brad Miller (6% owned) – Miller started the season in a horrific slump, hitting .185/.254/.354 in April. However, May is a different story entirely thus far, as the 26-year-old owns a .263/.323/.526 line this month. Furthermore, after batting anywhere between sixth and eighth in the Rays’ lineup for much of April, he’s now entrenched in the No. 2 spot.
He hit 11 homers and swiped 13 bags last year with the Mariners, and he’s got four dingers and two steals since moving to the two-hole on April 26. Miller still strikes out way too much to maintain a solid batting average, but his modest power/speed combo — paired with his favorable position in the Rays’ batting order — makes him a more intriguing fantasy commodity than his .221/.286/.434 season slash suggests.
Aaron Hill (9% owned) – Coming off two disastrous seasons (.289 wOBA in ‘14, .281 wOBA in ‘15), the 34-year-old is showing signs of life. Hill is quietly locked in right now, hitting a robust .313/.389/.525 since April 20. He’s doing a little bit of everything, with four HR, two SB, 15 RBI and 13 runs in that span. Considering his recent track record — and his age — it’s safe to assume he won’t keep up this level of production, but riding him while he’s hot isn’t a bad idea.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.