The Hail Mary Hitters: C, 1B, 2B

We’re about to flip the calendar to July and many of us have teams that are floundering in the middle-to-low end of the standings. If there’s any hope to contend, not only will your current players have to turn it around, but you’re going to need some gems to emerge either off the wire or via trade. Acquiring elite assets will cost elite assets and if you had those, you wouldn’t be in this position in the first place so it’s time to take some gambles. Here’s a list of affordable assets who could perform well beyond their cost based on previous performance, skills, and/or improved health.

Catchers: Tucker Barnhart, Austin Barnes

Barnhart hasn’t been that bad, but I also don’t think he’d be that hard to acquire and I see some upside. The reigning NL Gold Glover has been about average with the bat (99 wRC+, 5 HR, 3 SB), but I really like as a volume play. He’s got the third-most plate appearances at the position this year and 10th-most since the start of last year. Barnhart consistently bats second for this solid Reds lineup (11th in wRC). I still think there’s some power upside here, too, if he can improve against righties.

Barnes was the wide-awake sleeper behind the dish this year as so many people were tabbing him as their sneaky guy that he wasn’t all that sneaky. He has ceded the job back to Yasmani Grandal thanks to a 79 wRC+ and Max Muncy has taken the 2B at-bats we though Barnes could get, but I don’t think he’s this bad. He now has 162 games if you add his 2017-18, posting a 120 wRC+ in 405 PA. It’s unrealistic to expect his 2017 line the rest of the way (142), but something in the 110-120 wRC+ range would be fine as a C2.

I wish I had better names, but the catchers we’re all starting are mostly terrible so trying to find some under-the-radar gems is damn-near impossible.

First Basemen: Ian Desmond, Josh Bell

Desmond is kinda having an awesome season with 16 HR and 7 SB, but his .217/.299/.438 doesn’t inspire confidence so I think there’s a buying opportunity. Just from my observations of the market at large, it seems those with Desmond are looking for a sell opportunity because they believe the slash line more than the HR/SB production. I understand the ridiculous 62% groundball and 43% HR/FB rates, but I don’t think he’ll continue to flail like this against righties (.591 OPS) so even as the HR/FB rate drops, his slash will improve. He doesn’t have to keep a 34 HR pace to remain useful; how about an .800 OPS with 12-15 HR and 7-10 SBs?

The big question on Bell was if the power could hold after a 26-homer explosion last year and so far it hasn’t (.137 ISO). His 96 wRC+ isn’t awful, but you need pop at first base. He’s actually hitting a few more flyballs than last year, but pulling less as he’s down eight points to 34%. The biggest difference is his 7% HR/FB rate, down from 19% last year. Just some natural regression toward his 14% career mark will help, but if he also gets back to his power again like last year, we could see a 15-homer summer.

Second Basemen: Brian Dozier, Jonathan Schoop

These are both just track record bets. Dozier will probably be the most expensive player to acquire in this entire list especially as he’s kind of known for second half surges. He has a .987 OPS and 49 HR in the second halves of 2016 and 2017. I still think it’s fair to demand a discount when buying a .221 AVG and .398 SLG, though, so even acknowledging the previous surges, Dozier shouldn’t be cost-prohibitive.

Schoop doesn’t have the length or heights of track record like Dozier, but he was a solid above average bat for three years coming into 2018 and yet he’s toting a 60 wRC+ through 58 games despite virtually the same skillset and batted ball profile. He’s at least a 100 wRC+ bat with ~15 HR the rest of the way with the chance to be much more if he finds his 2017 power stroke again.

Edit to add: as Chaco reminds me in the comments, Schoop had that oblique injury that he might still be recovering from as his hard hit rate is down quite a bit from last year. Obliques can linger and might even be a problem the rest of the year in some form or fashion. That should keep the price low on Schoop, but it will also make a rebound more challenging. Only consider buying him at a MASSIVE discount.

If your entire offense is floundering, I’d be most interested in Desmond and Dozier as they both offer power and speed and if they take off as I believe they can, their slash lines will be soaring, too.

We’ll cover 3B, SS, and OF tomorrow and then I’ll cover some underrated starting pitcher assets after I update my rankings next week.

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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3 years ago

In first place despite having both schoop and dozier so hoping big second halves from both can salt away a league win. Many thanks to Cesar Hernandez, Suarez,and markakis for making up for those 2 letdowns