Hurting for a middle infielder? Of course you are! Look not further, I have come to your rescue.
Jorge Polanco | SS MIN | CBS 10% Owned
I didn’t realize it and you may not have either, but, Polanco is seemingly the new Twins starting shortstop. Eduardo Nunez was shipped off to the Giants and Eduardo Escobar has posted a paltry .286 wOBA, while posting a negative UZR. So the Twins decided to make a shocking decision — allow a player not named Eduardo to take over the shortstop gig. I’m sure it was a difficult one, but it was one that simply had to be done.
Polanco is just 23 years old and by our scouting ratings, doesn’t seem to possess any standout tools, especially those that could help drive his fantasy value. He owns mediocre power, at best, and average speed. But these are the types that typically slip under the fantasy radar. One doesn’t need to hit 30 homers or steal 50 bases to be useful. A 10/10 season is quite valuable, but doesn’t have the same allure as a performance concentrated in one category.
Polanco’s power surged during his time at Triple-A this year, as his ISO spiked from just .104 at Double-A in 2015 to .181 this year and he hit three more homers in 101 fewer at-bats. Simply based on his age, we have to take notice that this power surge is real. So suddenly he is perhaps a 10 to low teen homer guy, rather than a mid-to-high single digit one. That makes a difference, as it will trickle down to his other counting stats.
On the speed front, he has never been a burner, but did swipe 20 bags over several levels last season. He also stole 17 the year before. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been a very effective base-stealer, as his success rate may result in a red light on the basepaths. That he has always attempted two steals, and has been successful on both, is a positive sign.
Perhaps most exciting is his strikeout rate. He hasn’t struck out at an overly high clip in the minors, but given his limited power, you wouldn’t expect him to. At the moment, though, his strikeout rate stands at just 6.9% and his SwStk% is a microscopic 3.3%. Because of the elite contact ability, he’s hitting .317 with just a .328 BABIP. And he’s hitting line drives 39% of the time!
Polanco is doing everything right to be a bit of an all around contributor and doing so quietly. He should hold onto the shortstop job for the remainder of the season.
Nick Franklin | 2B TB | 2% Owned
Once upon a time, Nick Franklin was a top prospect in the Mariners organization. In fact, it was hard to differentiate between him and Brad Miller, who also played a middle infield slot and owned a similar skill set. After Miller disappointed, the Rays acquired him, and now he’s finally enjoying that breakout year we all expected of him. Sadly, Franklin has yet to follow. Franklin was acquired by the Rays as well, a year earlier, but has been up and down with the club as he has battled major issues making contact.
In fact, his Major League strikeout rate stands at an inflated 29.1%, which is far too high for a hitter that owns a mediocre .146 ISO. But he has been much better in the minors, and has shown some power paired with that improved contact ability. He just simply hasn’t been able to translate his minor league performance to the Majors. That’s obviously not unheard of as players bust all the time.
But Franklin isn’t just a one-trick pony. He has a broad base of skills, as he walks at an above average clip and has some speed (he stole 10 bases in just 270 Triple-A plate appearances this year), but things just haven’t come together.
Once again, he’s getting an opportunity to prove he’s ready to stick at the big league level. The Rays opened the season with like 47 OF/1B/DH candidates, but things have sorted themselves out thanks to the injury bug. So suddenly Franklin finds himself as the near every day left fielder in Tampa. If he hits, he’s going to play…somewhere. In his Major League career, he has played six different positions, plus, he’s even made an appearance on the mound! Along with Miller, Franklin gives the Rays two Ben Zobrists.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.