One third of the season is in the books and things are going exactly as planned across the league! With such a predictable season, it should be little surprise that our Middle Infielder Rankings are stable…right? That could not be further from the truth. At this point, we are enjoying our first glance at the first place Marlins, the Cardinals have played a mere five games and the Astros look like a hot mess.
With so much change and outside influence, it should be no surprise that our rest of season rankings are going through a shakeup from top to bottom. With that movement comes a new #1 for our list: Trevor Story. Let us take a quick look at his hot start and why it is not just a hot start but the beginning of a bigger breakout and a chance to lay claim to the top spot the rest of the season.
When Story first entered the league, he was carrying a lofty 30+ K%. Through the first 18 games of the season, he has walked (10) nearly as often as he has struck out (11) resulting in a minuscule 13% K rate. So, are we seeing real improvement in his approach at the plate? Let us dig a little deeper
- He has improved his Contact% by more than 7-points against prior seasons
- Story’s Swinging Strike % has been nearly cut in half
- We see a 10-point drop in First Pitch Swing %
If we look at the flip side of the luck metrics, if anything, he has been unlucky. Story is carrying a BABIP over 50 points below his career average and has the lowest HR/FB% in the last three years. This metrics are certainly subject to the small sample size, but all arrows are pointing in the right direction for this story to continue.
Trevor Story – Did you skip above? The short story is we are seeing the start of something special here. I am all in and he gets extra points for all the pun fun.
Garrett Hampson – Two weeks ago I was writing about how Hampson had only played in 2 games all season and we could not trust Bud Black and the Rockies to give us any consistency. The last six games Hampson has been in the leadoff slot and has been running with the opportunity. Over a full season, Hampson has 15/20 upside and could deliver sneaky value over the rest of this season. Through nearly 50 plate appearances this year, he is showing much improved plate discipline and sits in the top 10% of the league in xBA. If he is sitting on the waiver wire due to frustrations over the first few weeks, snatch him up.
Ian Happ – David Ross has confirmed Ian Happ as the everyday center fielder going forward saying “he’s the real deal”. He has always had power going back to his rookie year when he popped 24 long balls in only 115 games. The question has always been about consistency and opportunity. With several players struggling to start this year, Happ and his new role jump up the list.
Jose Altuve – Nobody was sure how much impact the trash cans would have on the Astros. But at this point, I am starting to be convinced that Altuve was a serial cheater. Across the board his metrics do not look good whether we look at quality of contact or plate discipline. Maybe most notable, he is hitting just .174 on breaking balls and whiffing nearly 40% of the time! I bet he didn’t hear that coming…
Adalberto Mondesi – I was the low guy out the gate on Adalberto this year as I just did not trust his ability to get on base enough to leverage his speed. As the season was shortened, he started to move up the list as speed became even more valuable. But…I immediately regret that decision and will be putting him back where he belongs. To run, he must be on base and a BB% under 3 and a spot at the bottom of the lineup is not going to help. The risk just is not worth the reward.
Cardinals Hitters – There are really two ways to go here. Do we drop all the Cardinal hitters due to the general uncertainty around their ability to be on the field? Or, do we bump them up because they have the benefit of more games the rest of the season. I am going risk adverse here with the former option, but I do not fault anybody with being opportunistic due to the potential for more games over the rest of the season.
3 To Watch!
Cavan Biggio – Cavan!! Son of Craig!! Greek God of walks!! We know Biggio can fill up the stat sheet already accumulating 4 HR and 4 SB. The real question has been if he will be more aggressive in 2020. The jury is still out, but he does appear to be trading some walks for production. Moreover, he is hitting the ball awfully hard with a BABIP below the Mendoza line.
Jake Cronenworth – Jake Cronenworth has been jumping all around the San Diego lineup, but he been playing nearly every day. There is not much in his profile that screams breakout, but we cannot ignore the solid numbers so far. Cronenworth is worth watching, but I would be cautious before investing
J.P. Crawford – Seattle’s leadoff hitter is a once top prospect who is still just 25 years old. He has shown some early season improvements by cutting down on strikeouts and really pulling up the runs. I need to see more power, but Crawford’s trends place him squarely on the watch list.
|2||Fernando Tatis Jr.||SS||SD||3|
|5||Ketel Marte||2B, SS, OF||ARI||-1|
|6||Alex Bregman||3B, SS||HOU|
|9||Whit Merrifield||1B, 2B, OF||KC||2|
|12||DJ LeMahieu||1B, 2B, 3B||NYY||4|
|14||Gleyber Torres||2B, SS||NYY|
|17||Cavan Biggio||1B, 2B, OF||TOR||2|
|19||Max Muncy||1B, 2B, 3B||LAD||-1|
|20||Manny Machado||3B, SS||SD|
|21||Jeff McNeil||2B, 3B, OF||NYM|
|23||Mike Moustakas||2B, 3B||CIN|
|25||Eduardo Escobar||2B, 3B||ARI|
|29||Nick Solak||2B, 3B, OF||TEX||4|
|30||Jonathan Villar||2B, SS||MIA||2|
|31||Ian Happ||1B, 2B, 3B, OF||CHC||9|
|32||Tommy Edman||2B, 3B, OF||STL||-5|
|35||Garrett Hampson||2B, SS, OF||COL||16|
|36||Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||2B, OF||TOR|
|38||Brandon Lowe||1B, 2B, OF||TB||4|
|41||David Fletcher||2B, 3B, SS, OF||LAA||8|
|42||Ryan McMahon||1B, 2B, 3B||COL||-5|
|43||Howie Kendrick||1B, 2B, 3B||WSH||3|
|44||Danny Santana||1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF||TEX||-9|
|48||Jake Cronenworth||1B, SS||SD||NR|
|49||Donovan Solano||2B, 3B, SS||SF||NR|