The Hail Mary Hitters: SS, 3B, OF

Yesterday I started touring the diamond looking for low-cost assets capable of big second half performances well beyond their cost. These are guys who’ve shown the track record and/or skillset worth gambling on despite a brutal three months to open the 2018 season. Health is likely a major factor for many of the players on these two lists so part of the bet is that they’ll find some health and hit like we’re used to seeing. Here’s the rest of the infield and some outfielders:

Shortstops: Paul DeJong, Scott Kingery

DeJong is close to returning from a fractured hand with his rehab stint set to being soon and it’s hard to know how much the injury will linger and perhaps sap his power, but he’s shown basically zero falloff from last year’s electric second half pace. He doubled his walk rate to 9% and made his plate approach a lot more palatable. Last year he had a 0.17 BB/K ratio, but it’s at 0.32 this year with no cost to his fantastic power.

Kingery soared up prospect lists after a huge 26 HR/29 SB season at Double- and Triple-A last year and then signed a deal before debuting, which assured his playing time, but he’s yet to pan out on the hype. He’s held a reverse platoon (+138 pts favoring his work v. righties), but that’s only because he’s a nightmare v. lefties (.511). :chant: Prospect Growth Isn’t Linear! Prospect Growth Isn’t Linear! :chant:

Despite the awful 66 wRC+, his profile isn’t a total mess. It’s not good, either, but it’s salvageable. It looks a lot like his 2016 when he put up a 64 wRC+ in 166 PA at Double-A and then he adjusted his second time through the level in 2017. I could see him start to turn it around in the second half with a boost in power turning his 4% HR/FB and .298 BABIP up toward the .336 and 14% he showed last year. At least he’s running some (7 SB) and manager Gabe Kapler hasn’t lost confidence in the 24-year old.

Third Basemen: Justin Turner, Yolmer Sanchez

Turner is pretty straightforward so I’ll spare you a deep analysis. In fact, he’s even above average with the bat so far at 104 wRC+, but that’s well below his awesome 141 from 2014-17. The plate skills are nearly identical to last year. In fact, he’s striking out less often with an 8% mark, giving him more walks than strikeouts on the year. I still see a huge summer run coming.

Sanchez doesn’t quite fit the profile of the others here as he’s never really been particularly good, but I think there’s more here. He collects extra-base hits at an above average clip with 13 2B, 8 3B, and 5 HR in 313 PA. He’s greatly improved his stolen base rate this year, too, going 7-for-9 so far after an ugly 8-for-17 last year. There’s absolutely no reason for the White Sox not to play him and they bat him second so if you’re chasing volume in a deeper league, he’s your guy.

Outfielders: Tommy Pham, Ender Inciarte

It’s been a wild follow up to Pham’s amazing breakout last year. He had a 1.003 OPS through his first 33 games, pacing for 35 HR and SB apiece. He’s been unrecognizable since with a .534 OPS in his last 40 games, with a 21 HR/9 SB full season pace. With his degenerative eye condition always on the mind, it’s not unfair to wonder if that’s an issue, but a clearly dejected Pham believes it’s a mechanical flaw that has been plaguing him for six weeks. There’s no way you can’t command a serious discount here so if you believe he can correct the mechanics, this is an easy buy for a sputtering team looking to take on some risk for major upside.

I wrote up Inciarte’s part on Wednesday afternoon, but then he suffered an oblique injury in Wednesday’s game so keep a close eye on that. I’m terrified of oblique injuries as they often linger if they’re serious enough to require a DL stint.

Inciarte stole his 18th base on May 15th. He has 21 for the season. While his .705 OPS through that game represented a four-year low, it wasn’t so far off his .747 from 2015-17 that you couldn’t see a surge. However, he’s posted just a .609 OPS with those three steals in 37 games since May 16th. The one guarantee in his profile is usually batting average (career .290), but he’s down at .252 this year thanks in part to a career-worst .279 BABIP (career .322).

He’s spraying the ball less often with a career-high 41% pull rate (+11 pts v. ’17), but unless the surge is all pulled groundballs into a shift, it’s not enough to account for his dip in average. He was only hitting .258 into late-May last year, but then turned it around with a .320 over the final 116 games. We’re a month deeper into his AVG struggles this year, though he might already be coming out of it with a .300 AVG in his last 15 games. The 21 SBs jump off the page and will keep the price from tanking, but it’s definitely cheaper than it was a few weeks ago.

That completes our look around the diamond for distressed assets. Happy shopping!

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

Adrianza at SS could be worth a look. Having a great month (150 wrc)

3 years ago
Reply to  southie

Polanco about to come back and take his job back