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In honor of the Twins taking an infielder with the first overall pick in the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft (congrats to Royce Lewis), this week’s Fantasy Baseball Five will focus on infielders that can make an impact on your Fantasy team before the All-Star Break.
Certain players are being given a new opportunity to contribute, others got off to a sluggish start, and some keep filling up the box score but are simply going unnoticed. These infielders can help you in enough standard categories that their ownership percentages should rise quickly, if and when they continue to produce.
Here’s a first, second, and third baseman, along with a shortstop and a utility guy who can help you push through the upcoming dog days of summer. Let’s go around the horn with these infielders who can make an immediate impact on your Fantasy team.
Braves 1B Should Supply Power
Matt Adams was acquired by the Braves to ease the pain of losing their best player, Freddie Freeman, to a fractured left wrist. And all Adams has done since joining Atlanta is mash.
With another big game on Monday (two hits, two runs, a homer and two RBI), the slugger now has 10 round-trippers in his first 111 at-bats with the team. For perspective, he hit just one with the Cardinals in 48 at-bats before the trade. Since joining the Braves, Adams is batting .306 with 27 RBI and 21 runs scored to go along with the aforementioned 10 jacks. That’s not so far off from the numbers of the man he was brought in to temporarily replace — Freeman was batting .341 with 14 homers and 25 RBI in 135 at-bats.
Regular playing time has clearly worked wonders for Adams, and those consistent ABs won’t be going anywhere for at least another six weeks (likely longer as long as he keeps hitting). The veteran’s Fantasy value should remain high in his full-time role in the meat of Atlanta’s batting order and he’s tracking to set new career highs in homers (17) and RBI (68). Add Adams before he has another big game, as his overall numbers don’t show his high-end power production since becoming a member of the Braves.
Merrifield Makes A Nice Middle Infield Addition
When a player gets thrust into the leadoff hole on a quietly hot team, I take notice. One such player is the Royals’ Whit Merrifield.
Since his move up in the order, Kansas City has won nine of 13 games, including seven of their last eight games with Merrifield leading off. While the Royals keep winning, the second baseman keeps hitting with five multi-hit games in those seven victories. Merrifield has also racked up six runs, seven RBI, and a stolen base during that span. Overall, he’s proven to do a little of everything with six homers, seven steals, 24 runs scored, and 25 RBI to go along with a .292 batting average in 52 games. He also owns the majors’ longest hitting streak this season, a 19-game stretch in which he batted .409.
Merrifield is an infielder with legit 20-20 potential, and a second baseman who bats leadoff with that ability should be owned in far more than 40% of CBSSports leagues and 25% of Yahoo! leagues. It seems as though name recognition and not production remains the ownership issue here. I say get to know the name Whit Merrifield, as the newly minted leadoff man should become a part of your Fantasy team’s plans moving forward.
Shortstop Anderson Likely to Sizzle This Summer
Tim Anderson likes hitting in the summer months. After being called up last June, Anderson was consistent, to say the least. Between June and September, the shortstop had between 26 and 32 hits, scored between 11 and 17 runs and had two or three steals and homers each month. That consistency led to a .283 batting average, nine homers, 10 steals, and 57 runs scored in 99 games.
It’s those numbers that led many experts to include Anderson on lots of “lists” prior to the season. The shortstop then had a really rough April during which he batted just .204, prompting many Fantasy owners to abandon ship. Yet those owners who stayed patient with the 23-year-old were rewarded with a May that included a .319 batting average, four homers, one steal, and 20 combined runs and RBIs in 23 games.
Anderson has been somewhere between those two extremes for much of June, hitting safely in nine of his last 10 games while bouncing around the White Sox batting order. It seems like Anderson might just be turning the corner and he’s the type of player that I won’t (can’t) give up on due to his first-round MLB Draft pedigree and what he did in limited at-bats last season. As the temperature continues to heat up, expect the same from Anderson, a post-hype sleeper who will end up with 15 to 20 homers and steals by season’s end.
Davidson Definitely Deserving of Roster Spot
It seems like Matt Davidson has quietly hit 15 home runs this season. Yes, five have come in the past week, but Fantasy owners could have seen this coming — if they were to look at his Minor League stats.
The third baseman’s power is legit. He racked up 133 homers over parts of eight seasons in the minors, including five straight seasons with at least 20. Now, in his first real taste of the majors, Davidson is on pace for 35 jacks and 85 RBI. I don’t expect him to keep up that pace, but 25 and 75 isn’t a reach.
The 26-year-old has clearly found his power stroke, plus he has four multi-hit games over the past week. Let’s ride out this hot streak as the third baseman should supply many more home runs before the All-Star Break.
Don’t Wait on Adding Wilmer
In the past week, the Mets lost both their starting shortstop and second baseman which opens up more playing time for Wilmer Flores. Even before those injuries, it looked like Flores had already hit his way into a full-time gig at third base, but now he’s going to get reps at second, short, and third with Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker on the shelf.
That’s also shifted the utility infielder into the two-, three- or four-hole in the lineup, which is where Flores’ upward-trending Fantasy value really lies. He’s already batting .289 with six homers, 22 runs scored, and 20 RBI in just 52 games this year, and now he’ll be hitting in front of, next to, or between Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce. Now that’s a healthy place to bat to add to those statistics.
This is the season that Flores tops his career year of 2015, when he set highs in home runs (16), runs (55), and RBI (59). All it takes is playing time for him to be Fantasy relevant, and he will have that for the foreseeable future. Consider adding the 25-year-old in NL-only and deep mixed leagues as his power potential should finally pay off this season.