Another day, another baseball injury. Except this one is devastating. Especially for the Dodgers who have already been off to a rough start. One of the game’s young stars, Corey Seager, is set to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. Prayers up and here’s to a speedy recovery Corey.
If you are (were*) a Seager owner, you probably feel like you just found out you also need TJ surgery. He cost you a 3rd/4th round selection, and was one of the top players at one of the thinest positions. So his absence will surely leave a glaring hole at your SS slot unless you have a viable backup. For those of you that don’t you have probably been scrambling to find a replacement.
Here are some SS eligible players that may be on the waiver wire (<55% owned) that can help fill the void:
10/12 Team Leagues:
Peraza has never been great offensively, but has always had great speed and SB potential. After failing to contribute much on the base paths early on and even less at the plate, he has been finding his groove lately. Over the last 15, Peraza has hit .339 with 2 home runs, 12 runs scored, 8 runs batted in, and 3 stolen bases. This has brought his season slash line up to .296/.320/.400, while adding 18 runs scored and 5 stolen bases. Wait, a.296 average but only a .320 OBP? Yup, Peraza continues to avoid walks at all costs as evidenced by his lowly 2.4% rate. He only has a 3.5% career mark, so get used to that if you invest. However, his 11.1% strikeout rate is impressive and the more he puts the ball in play the more he gets opportunities to get on base. Getting on base is the key to his success, as his stolen base potential is his most valuable tool. He swiped 23 bags last year after swiping 21 in just 72 games in 2016. Hopefully with a rebuilding roster the Reds will allow him to run more freely on the base paths. He is batting in the top third of the lineup, which bodes well for his ABs and counting numbers. Most projections have him finishing with an average around .275, which would make for a solid clip. A .275 average, another 15-20 stolen bases, and placement in the top third of the lineup would allow him to return great value for the rest of the season. Peraza makes for a solid fill-in for your injured Seager, or an otherwise viable option for those seeking middle infield help.
If you drafted Seager, you planned on getting ~20 HR out of your shortstop slot. The bad news is that there likely aren’t many available SS eligible players with 20 HR potential. The good news is that Escobar hit 21 HR last year, is SS eligible, and is available in more than half of ESPN and Yahoo leagues. Though his .254 average was not close to Seager’s .295 mark, his counting stats were not too far off considering he played in 16 less games. Seager had 85 runs scored and 77 runs batted in through 145 games, while Escobar had 62 runs and 73 runs batted in through 129 games. He is one of the main playing time beneficiaries of Jorge Polanco’s PED suspension, and has been making it count thus far. Escobar is slashing .299/.344/.575 through 96 plate appearances with 4 home runs, 13 runs, 14 runs batted in, and one stolen base. His 21.9% strikeout rate and .344 BABIP hint that his slash line will fall closer to his .255/.303/.404 mark, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be valuable. He is on the same HR pace as he was last year (1 every ~23 PAs) and his isolated power is up from .195 to .276. He has been hitting mostly 4th or 5th for the Twins, and his current success at the plate should allow him to stay right in the middle of the order. He has been performing especially strong as of late, with 3 home runs, 7 runs batted in, and an OPS of .966 over the past 15 days. While he won’t give you Corey Seager’s batting average, Escobar has the ability to put up roughly equal contributions in the other 4 main hitting categories.
Last year, Robertson hit a meager .206 and struck out at a 28.7% clip across 254 plate appearances in his first crack in the majors. After making adjustments to his swing and allowing the barrel to stay in the zone longer, Robertson has taken a big step forward. Through his first 88 plate appearances, Robertson is slashing .314/.455/.529 to go with 14 runs, 3 home runs, 8 runs batted in, and one stolen base. He was filling in for an injured Matt Duffy, but his early success has left the Rays with no option but to keep him in the lineup. He hits in the middle of a Rays offense that is actually right in the middle of the pack in runs scored with 127. Robertson’s new swing and approach has allowed him to cut his strikeout rate from 28.7% down to 22.7%, while also seeing his walk rate climb from 11.4% to a robust 18.2%. His .430 wOBA and 176 wRC+ are not sustainable, but it shows just how locked in Robertson has been thus far. He will continue to play nearly every day as long as he continues to produce. And with the mechanical adjustment he made paying off greatly so far, we are looking at an improved hitter that should continue to get on base and produce runs. He should finish the season with 10-12 home runs, a .270 average, modest counting numbers, and a hand full of stolen bases. Considering he’s a middle infielder off the waiver wire, that makes for a solid replacement for Seager.
Deeper League Option:
Skilled with the glove, Nick Ahmed has never been much of a threat offensively. He has a career .229 average and .279 OBP through his first 1,118 plate appearances in the bigs. However, this is the year that Ahmed seems to have getting more comfortable at the plate. After hitting 6 home runs through 53 games last year, Ahmed already has 5 through the first 25 games this season. In addition, he is slashing .261/.337/.511 across 98 plate appearances, adding 13 runs scored and 17 runs batted in. He has been a big contributor for the bottom half of the red hot Diamondbacks, who have the 10th most runs in baseball with 132. He seems to have more pop this year, as he now has 12 extra base hits and has raised his ISO from .168 to .250. He has been heating up, going 13-for-46 (.283) with a .565 slugging percentage and .918 OPS over the last 15 days. His walk rate is up from 5.6% to 10.2%, and maintaining that patience could have a great boost to his fantasy value. Hitting .260/.270 with 15+ home runs is doable for Ahmed, and the fact that he is in a top offense means his end of the year counting numbers could be very impressive. He is a deeper league replacement for Seager, but don’t be surprised if he starts getting picked up in 10/12 team leagues if he continues producing like this.