As of 4/10, these middle infielders are all owned in less than 10% of ESPN leagues, and contingent on the context, I would conditionally own them all. And that’s how you alliterate league format dependency.
While they’re ranked by %ownership, I’ll furnish my zeal for each:
#1 – Kolten Wong (6.5%) – He’s only 23, so give him a little time. He’s already got a top-20 contact rate this year and has impressively walked more than he struck out. He’s batting .276 with a .382 OBP and 2 stolen bases. I’m not sure why he’s owned < 10%. Mark Ellis (DL/knee) and Daniel Descalso won’t consume that much time away from him. Very soon, he’ll be owned in over 10% of leagues, so make that happen sooner than later. 70+ runs near the top of that lineup with a 7HR-45RBI-20SB-.270BA is playable at MI.
#7 – Alcides Escobar (3.4%) – If you need cheap SB and are not in an OBP league, I still think he’s playable this year. I thought if he could average his 2012 and 2013 BABIP, he’d have a normal line this year, and by normal I mean a Kolten Wong-like 70r-5hr-25sb with a .260BA. Unfortunately, a slow start this year, driven by an elevated flyball% and horrendous pop-up% is killing his value.
#4 – Alberto Callaspo (2.3%) – Unlike Escobar from both a speed and on base perspective, he’s a good deep league option with enough PA’s. If you got Billy Hamilton on your team, don’t need speed at MI, and need to offset Hamilton’s OBP, here’s your guy.
#3 – Javier Baez (0.6%) – Let’s look at the Cubs’ second base and third base options: Michael Olt, Luis Valbuena, Darwin Barney and Josh Vitters. There’s no chance for the Cubs to be in the NL Central race, otherwise Baez would be up already. I don’t like him as much as other prospects that have a higher initial BABIP potential (Gregory Polanco, Oscar Tavares), but he’s also an infielder, which could provide immediate power in a fantasy baseball world that is lacking power. If you’re in a keeper/dynasty league, obviously he’s already owned, but I would consider holding onto him in redraft leagues for value June-onward…similar to Garin Cecchini at 3b who I mentioned in my Deep Impact: CI post.
#6 – Nick Franklin (0.4%) – I think he’s already got the Quad-A tag on him, but at the same time he’s raking in AAA right now: 1.00 K/BB ratio and 3 HR and 1 SB in only 21 plate appearances. Simultaneously, Brad Miller has basically struggled since his 3rd game of the season: 2 hits in his last 21 AB with a 8:1 K/BB ratio. I’m a Miller fan, so no way I’m selling, but it’s worth watching. Franklin has put up awesome numbers in AA & and AAA the 2nd time around. The average sucked due to the K-rate, but nothing else was that out of hand and he still walked over 10% of the time. I’d take the chance on him if an opportunity arises.
And the guys at < .2%:
#2 – Jonathan Schoop (0.1%) – His Spring won him a spot, has already hit a homer off Masahiro Tanaka and in my opinion can hold is own so long as he shows some discipline. I think the Orioles realize he’s not an uber-prospect, didn’t 100% care about his service time and want to win-now. Ryan Flaherty and Steve Lombardozzi won’t kill his PT and he seems like he’s heating up too. Deep/AL-only leagues…sc(h)oop him up.
#8 – Derek Dietrich (0.1%) – I pointed to Derek Dietrich as a deep sleeper in my “BGLIF” – xBABIP Approach to Sleepers because of his potential speed/power combination. He’ll need the combo to inflate the BABIP, but so far so good and he’s even walked 3 times to 4 K’s. Jeff Baker and Rafael Furcal is the issue here. Keep an eye on Dietrich if he can continue to consume 2b time.
#5 – Tommy La Stella (0.1%) – You won’t find La Stella on top prospect lists, but he’s in AAA, he’s 25 already and he’s already at a 2.0 BB/K ratio this year. Oh – and Dan Uggla is batting sub .200 with a K-rate approaching 30%. The Braves need to make a change and 2B could be one of the earlier changes that they make. I compared La Stella to Dustin Pedroia here.
I surprised myself by ranking Schoop #2 above, but the Orioles are in win-now mode, the opportunity is his and he looks to be heating up. Chances are Baez takes over the #2 spot on this list sooner than later. While you should be excited about Correa, Lindor, Russell and Betts below long-term, none of them should provide significant impact this year. On the other hand, I ranked Tommy La Stella with the above list as I do think he’ll see plenty of time.
Finally, here are the high impact prospects that should provide value by 2015:
1) Francisco Lindor – Already saw time in AA last year at 19 with a 2.0 BB/K ratio in almost 100 PA! The ratio was on its way up too. The contact rate in conjunction with the discipline makes him elite. Even if he’s not uber fast, the on-base% will ensure 20+ SB’s per year. All this, his fielding capability and the performance thus far by Asdrubal Cabrera (or his trade candidacy) could expedite Lindor’s arrival. Lindor is some more power away from being perhaps the #2 prospect in baseball next year.
2) Mookie Betts – Currently 21 in AA dominating early (1HR, 2SB, .458BA, 1.244OPS). I own him (and guys like Garin Cechhini and Stephen Piscotty) rather than spending big money on top prospects. I also trade my top prospects for win-now assets and then keep guys like Betts, Cecchini & Piscotty who will likely grow into their value based on their MLB-translatability.
3) Addison Russell – 20 in AA, Russell basically went 20/20 last year in A+ with solid discipline. He has much more power than Lindor and probably Correa for the near future.
4) Carlos Correa – Only 19 in A+ but he should be the #4 prospect as of 2015 with a big power jump this year. I just wouldn’t roster him until 2016 in redraft leagues.
Lastly – Dan Schwartz. You haven’t heard of him and he’s a bit chubby for a 30 year-old 2nd baseman, but he’s currently hitting 85 mph in batting cages prior to sweating profusely after about 27 swings while grown men hitting softballs and little-leaguers watch on. He’ll be the CI/2b/Util for the TCMABL MN Lake Monsters. He’s also Dano on Razzball.
You can follow me on Twitter @Rotobanter.