Over the last couple of seasons in major league baseball, we have a demise in the impact bats at first base with improvement in the talent at second base, third base, and shortstop. Here’s a look at some sleeper options for the infield in 2017:
Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates
Bell is an interesting first base prospect in 2017. His resume in the minors (.303 with 44 HRs, 285 RBI, and 23 SBs over 1856 at bats) come up short in power, especially for a first base option. Josh did show growth this area in 2016 at AAA (.295 with 14 HRs and 60 RBI over 421 at bats). His walk rate (9.9) projects to be an asset with a favorable K rate (14.4). Bell has enough size (6’2” and 240 Lbs.) to be a power hitter, but he needs a better swing path (50 percent ground ball in his short stint in the majors). Viable corner option with some underlying speed.
Greg Bird, New York Yankees
Greg missed all of 2016 with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Over five seasons in the minors, Bird hit .282 with 48 HRs, 192 RBI, and three SBs in 1246 at bats. His K rate (20.9) was much stronger in the minors than his results in the majors (29.8) in 2015. He won’t have a clear path to full time at bats with Chris Carter added to the roster. Over the last six weeks of 2015, he hit .261 with 11 HRs and 31 RBI. Bird is a fly ball hitter (51.4) with early strength in his HR/FB rate (20.4). 20/80 type hitter when/if he earns 550 at bats.
Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays
I’m very interested in Travis as a backend second base option in 2017, but I don’t like his slow path to getting healthy from after having right surgery last November. Devon hit .317 in his minor-league career with 29 HRs, 148 RBI, and 42 SBs in 1072 at bats. Last year Devon played at a high level in June (.302 with five HRs and 17 RBI in 96 at bats). His swing was productive in batting average over the next three months (.284, .311, and .319) while offering no impact in the counting stats (36 runs, six HRs, 31 RBI, and three SBs over 290 at bats). His minor approach (12.2 K rate) points to an edge in batting average with enough tools to be a 20/20 player with 550 at bats.
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox
Anderson didn’t end up being the plug and play option in 2016 as many Fantasy owners hoped he would after being called up from AAA. He continued to hit for a high CTBA (.396), which was supported by his minor-league career. His approach at the plate still needs work (4.4 percent walk rate in the minors – 3.0 in the majors and 22.6 K rate in the minors and 27.2 in the majors). His swing path produces a high volume of groundballs (54.3) with better than expected success in his HR/FB rate (12.3) when looking at his minor-league resume. Over 1374 at bats in the minors, Tim hit .301 with 19 HRs, 127 RBI, and 94 SBs. Tim should improve in his second season in the majors while offering more upside in speed (49 SBs in 2015 in the minors). Possible 10/30 skill set with a top of the order opportunity.
Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves
Swanson was the first overall pick by the Diamondbacks in 2015. It took him less than a season to make it to the majors after being traded to the Braves last season. Over 494 at bats in the minors, Dansby hit .277 with 10 HRs, 66 RBI, and 13 RBs while playing at High-A and AA. His walk rate (11.2) gives him top of the order ability with above average K rate (17.2). He handled himself well in the majors over 129 at bats (.302 with three HRs, 17 RBI, and three SBs). Swanson took fewer walks (9.0 percent) with a step back in his K rate (23.4). His CTBA (.411) did overachieve in the majors when looking at his short-term success in the minors. His AVH (1.462) offers enough upside to deliver 20+ HRs in the near future. Dansby is a leader with top baseball instincts. His feel for the game give him a chance at 20+ steals as well. Nice building block for the Braves.
Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers
Over five years in the minors, Arcia hit .282 with 30 HRs, 247 RBI, and 104 SBs over 2074 at bats. His walk rate (7.3) was below the league average with a low K rate (12.1). Arcia struggled over 201 at bats in the majors in 2016 (.219 with four HRs, 17 RBI, and eight SBs). His power will improve when adds more strength (6’0” and 165 Lbs.). The Brewers are in rebuilding mode so Orlando should get a chance to play every day. Enough talent to be a 10/25 type player in 2017.
Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox
With no at bats in his career at AAA, Moncada is going to be a boom or bust pick in 2017. Over 711 at bats in the minors, Moncada hit .287 with 23 HRs, 100 RBI, and 94 SBs. His K rate (24.2) was plenty of risk early in his career in the minors with a top of the order walk rate (13.4) and speed to burn. He hit .277 over 177 at bats AA with 11 HRs, 28 RBI, and nine SBs before making the jump to Boston. It took the Red Sox about a week to figure out that Yoan wasn’t ready to hit major league pitching (4-for-19 with 12 Ks). The White Sox cleared the path for a starting job in the majors by releasing Brett Lawrie. Impact base stealer with his ability to make contact being the key to earning at bats in the majors.
Yulieski Gurriel, Houston Astros
Over 15 years while playing in Cuba and Japan, Gurriel hit .335 with 250 HRs, 1018 RBI, and 121 SBs over 4725 at bats. He defected from Cuba last February. The Astros signed him to a five-year $47 in July, which gives him a strong case to be a starting player in the majors. Over 130 at bats with Houston in 2016, Yulieski hit .262 with three HRs and 15 RBI. He’s taken more walks (611) than strikeouts (428) in his career in foreign leagues. Houston will pay him $14.4 million in 2017, which tells me he’ll have a lot of rope to earn his keep.