It’s never fun when your starting middle infielder goes down and you’re choosing from the crap heap of those no-power, limited speed leftovers. If this has happened to you, it’s your lucky day. Here are a pair of middle infielders who might actually contribute.
Luis Cruz | LAD SS/3B | CBS 11% Owned
Cruz has been a career minor leaguer, racking up an astounding 4,891 plate appearances since debuting as a 17-year old back in 2001 as part of the Red Sox system. With a career OPS of just .690, it’s no surprise that he has only seen 316 plate appearances at the Major League level. However, the 28 year old is now seeing regular at-bats at third base with the Dodgers and is coming off his best season yet in the minors. He makes excellent contact, which should allow him to contribute in batting average with just a league average BABIP. He typically hadn’t shown a whole lot of power, but as we oftentimes see with minor leaguers (and even Major Leaguers) at his age, his power spiked this season. He posted a career high .211 ISO, which included 8 home runs in 289 at-bats. That’s not a great pace or anything, but a middle infielder freely available in a deep league who has 15 home run power is not easy to find.
Usually you expect at least some speed from your middle infielders. Unfortunately, Cruz somewhat lacks in that area, but he does have two steals in three attempts so far with the Dodgers. That prorates to closing in on double digits over a full season, which isn’t too shabby. A decent enough batting average, plus an upside pace of 15 home runs and 10 steals is solid value for a free agent find.
Johnny Giavotella | KC 2B | 5% Owned
Giavotella was a trendy deep sleeper heading into spring training this year, but surprisingly lost out on the starting second base job and has been up and down with the big club all season. Now with Chris Getz out for the year and Yuniesky Betancourt having been designated for assignment, it’s Giavotella’s chance once again. He was solid once again at Triple-A, making excellent contact and actually walking more than he struck out. Unfortunately, those contact skills have yet to carry over into Kansas City, as his strikeout rate has hovered around 17%, after having never been worse than 11.3% during his minor league career. With only mediocre power, he is going to need to make better contact to remain part of the team’s future plans and generate any fantasy value.
Speaking of his power, it has pretty much stagnated, as his ISO has remained nearly identical since 2010 at Double-A. Kansas City’s home park also won’t do him any favors. He also does have a bit of speed that could translate into 10-15 steals over a full season. The 25-year old is no hot young prospect, but he could contribute a bit in all categories and he’s young enough that rapid improvement is always a possibility. It’s possible this is yet another audition for a starting job next year and if he blows it, he might never get another chance to be an everyday player. His playing time seems pretty secure through the rest of the season though, so he’s a worthy add if you’re itching for MI help.
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.