As we focus on the middle infielders who have new homes in 2016, Ian Desmond remains the highest profile shortstop still looking for a job at the time of this writing. Admittedly, there are plenty of reasons not to like Desmond as a Fantasy option for your team.
His poor plate discipline has resulted in three successive seasons in which his batting average has fallen and it seems that not even one of those life alert contraptions can help it get up. His K rate is up almost nine points since 2012, his contact rate has dropped just over eight points since 2011, and his hard hit rate is down five points since 2012. Desmond has already rejected the Nationals seven-year $107 million contract offer prior to last season, and their qualifying offer this offseason. He may now have to swallow his pride and accept a one-year deal from anybody who’ll have him.
Despite all of Desmond’s recent offensive shortcomings, he still had a good second half that saw him hit 12 homers and post a .777 OPS. Overall, he hit the third most home runs of any shortstop in baseball last season. If he is forced to agree to a one-year deal, it could motivate him to put together a big season, which might lead to a long term contract next winter. The Rockies, White Sox and Rays have all reportedly expressed interest in signing him. According to FantasyPros.com he has an ADP of 118, and if you can pick him up in the 10th round or later of your 12-team draft, you might get some good value at a very thin position.
Other middle infielders that have moved on this offseason include shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who was traded to the Angels as part of a deal that brought Erick Aybar to the Braves. Both have late round ADPs and very little Fantasy relevance. Aybar can give you a quick boost with his speed. He’s averaged just over 14 steals over the past three seasons. Unfortunately, Simmons has never again found the power he displayed when he hit 17 home runs in 2013.
It’ll be interesting to see how Alexei Ramirez fares in his new home in Petco Park. Ramirez slumped miserably for the White Sox last season and batted a career low .249. He still hit 10 home runs and stole 17 bases. While he may be on the down side of his career at age 34, he will be the Padres’ everyday starting shortstop. If his BABIP rebounds from his career low (.264), Ramirez could have a bit of a bounce back season.
We’ve already discussed the Fantasy implications of the Cubs’ signing of second baseman Ben Zobrist in this article. Here are some of the other more notable Fantasy baseball middle infielders who’ll be covering new ground in 2016:
Daniel Murphy, 2B, Washington Nationals
Daniel Murphy has certainly been one of the most consistent hitting middle infielders in baseball over the past several years. Even though he just about single handedly carried the Mets into the World Series with seven home runs in the first two rounds of last season’s playoffs, he’s still routinely overlooked in Fantasy Baseball drafts with an ADP of 171. We shouldn’t ever expect Murphy to approach that kind of production again, but he’s still great middle to late round value who’s eligible at both second and third base. Although Murphy, who is a .288 lifetime hitter, posted his lowest batting average (.281) since 2009, he made up for it by launching a career high 14 home runs last season. Playing his home games in hitter-friendly Nationals Park, where he has a .294 lifetime batting average, should help him raise his batting average closer to his career norm, and we should expect another season of double-digit home runs from him in 2016. Murphy has always been a disciplined hitter, but last season he cut his strikeout rate to the lowest percentage of his career (7.1), and also set a career high with his 92 percent contact rate. After three straight seasons with double-digit steals, Murphy finished last season with just two stolen bases. Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker has a reputation for restraint with the green light for baserunners, which should keep Murphy’s stolen base production numbers low again.
Neil Walker, 2B, New York Mets
Neil Walker is another safe bet as a Fantasy second baseman who often gets ignored in drafts. He’s not a flashy player. He’s just someone that you can rely on for 15 plus home runs, good run production and a batting average in the .265 to .275 range. In replacing Murphy with Walker, the Mets sacrificed a bit of the higher batting average that Murphy provided in return for the slight uptick in home run power that Walker has consistently demonstrated throughout his career. Although he has a .241 lifetime batting average at Citi Field, the high contact switch-hitting Walker does have a nice career .333 OBP when playing in the Mets’ home stadium. He has a 219 ADP and should be there for you in the later rounds of your draft.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, New York Mets
Sticking with the Mets, they made a somewhat surprising move in signing Asdrubal Cabrera to a two-year deal this offseason. The lack of depth at the position, has made the Mets’ starting shortstop an interesting option in Fantasy drafts this season. As the third Cabrera (behind Miggy and Melky), to be taken in Fantasy drafts, he can provide your Fantasy team with some decent pop at a very weak position. Although he may never approach the 25 home runs he hit in 2011, he has averaged just under 15 dingers over the past four seasons. He’s also still capable of stealing five to 10 bases this season. While his batting average has fluctuated a bit over the past few years, his .267 lifetime average suggests that he shouldn’t hurt your Fantasy team in that category. If you’ve decided to punt the shortstop position or just find yourself searching for a middle infielder in the latter part of your draft, with an ADP of 325, Cabrera could end up being one of those hidden nuggets that’ll help solidify your Fantasy roster.
Jean Segura, SS, Diamondbacks
Expectations were high for Jean Segura after a breakout 2013 campaign in which he batted .294 with 12 home runs, 74 runs scored and 44 stolen bases. Unfortunately, he hasn’t come close to matching those stats since then. Always a free swinger, Segura recorded the highest strikeout rate of his career (15.9 percent), and had just 13 walks in 584 plate appearances last season. His lack of walks has cut into his OBP, which dropped from .329 in 2013 to .281 last season; and if you’re not getting on base, you’re going to have a hard time stealing bases. Although he’s been blessed with good speed, Segura has averaged just over 22 stolen bases over the past two seasons, or just about half of his 2013 season total. We also shouldn’t expect another season of double-digit home runs again, since just under 60 percent of his batted balls are hit into the ground. The fact that Segura could see time at both shortstop and second base this season might up his value from his 190 ADP, but at this point it seems that his biggest asset remains his ability to steal 20 to 25 bases. He might be in line for a slight bounce back playing in the Diamondbacks’ hitter-friendly park, but his lack of plate discipline makes him a risky play this season.