A lot can change between now and July 31, whether due to trades, injuries or a shift in a team’s set of goals for the remainder of the season. That can have an impact on shortstop playing time, and for those who play in deeper leagues and/or those with a middle infield roster spot, playing time surges at the margins kind of force their way onto the radar.
What follows is a brief look at the potential value of a handful of names who could see more playing time coming out of the All-Star break.
Boston Red Sox – Stephen Drew, Mookie Betts
The Red Sox have received the league’s No. 9 wOBA from the shortstop position, but that number is heavily inflated by the 229 plate appearances of Xander Bogaerts at the position. Stephen Drew is the guy now, with Mookie Betts hanging on the bench for extra playing time. Meanwhile, Will Middlebrooks has struggled at Triple-A (and now jammed up a finger), so the idea of him returning and Bogaerts sliding back over probably isn’t realistic.
The issue, then, is that Drew’s been atrocious so far, with a wRC+ of just 24 in 101 plate appearances. For fantasy purposes, owners should probably just be hoping that Drew puts things together out of the break, as the other options here don’t have quite the upside of Drew’s mid-double-digits power. Should he continue to stumble, though, Betts could provide some low-end stolen base value. Brock
Holy Holt would be even better for owners, but it’s tough to see the Sox committing to him in one spot when he holds value as a super-utilityman. The Sox are also probably also far enough out of the race – they have a projected record of 78-84 – that acquiring a shortstop wouldn’t make a lot of sense.
Minnesota Twins – Eduardo Escobar, Danny Santana
The Twins have received middle-of-the-pack production from their shortstops, but for them it’s been a balanced set of contributions, not one player solidifying things. Who gets the most playing time from here on out is anyone’s guess.
Eduardo Escobar has had a solid season, pushing to a league-average mark at the dish. For the Twins, they also need him at third and for spot duty around the diamond, but the job seems to be his once again right now. Unfortunately, Escobar’s league-averageness doesn’t carry over to the fantasy realm, where he’s not a threat to contribute much beyond runs.
Fantasy players would probably prefer Danny Santana get the gig back when he returns from a knee injury sometime after the break. Santana stole six bags in 37 games earlier in the year, and while his .328 average was well above where he’ll settle in, he has easy 20-steal potential over a full slate.
Pedro Florimon, once thought to be a power-speed fantasy asset in the making, isn’t even getting it done at Triple-A any longer, while Eduardo Nunez has somewhat limited value given he’s a multi-position backup if Santana returns.
Detroit Tigers – Eugenio Suarez
Has Eugenio Suarez now done enough to take the job and run with it, beating out Andrew Romine as the official Jose Iglesias replacement? With nine starts in 12 July games, that seems to be the case. Unfortunately, there’s not a ton to be excited about for fantasy. Over a full season, Suarez could maybe be looked at optimistically as a 10-10 candidate, so if he’s going to get 200 plate appearances down the stretch, he’s worth keeping an eye on, at least.
Of course, the Tigers could be in the market to acquire someone to fill the role, too.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Didi Gregorius, Cliff Pennington, Chris Owings
There has to be a pretty good chance that one of these names gets moved to a team looking for a reserve shortstop at the deadline, as the Diamondbacks have little use for all three. Unfortunately for the team, two are on the disabled list, limiting their flexibility in that regard.
Gregorius was initially thought to have the highest long-term upside, so it would make sense for Arizona to give him extended run to find out for sure since they’re out of the race. Projection systems aren’t optimistic that it would move the needle much for owners, though, as Gregorius’ seven home runs last season seem like an outlier and he hasn’t stolen many bases since 2011. Cliff Pennington is on the shelf after thumb surgery, but if he found his way to any late-season playing time, he can steal a base.
Chris Owings, also on the disabled list, forced the team’s hand early in the year and was playing pretty well before his shoulder injury. He’s the best fantasy player of the bunch, the only one who can really offer a speed-power combo, so cross your fingers that Gregorius is the one who gets moved and Owings can return in short order.
Chicago White Sox – Marcus Semien
If the White Sox were to move Alexei Ramirez, or even Gordon Beckham, Marcus Semien could find his way back into the mix. Capable of playing four positions and having torn off a solid 40 games at Triple-A since his demotion, he’s probably deserving of a second look from the club as is. For fantasy owners, Semien offers a nice power-speed combo, one that ZiPS sees providing five home runs and five steals if he were to get into 50 games down the stretch. The average will hurt, but he’s one of the best bets on this entire list to contribute in the counting categories.
Javier Baez has hit just .240 with a .305 OBP in the PCL, but he’s got 14 home runs and 15 stolen bases. If the Chicago Cubs were to unexpectedly move Starlin Castro, Baez would be a must-add on speculation. In a similar vein, Arismendy Alcantara could hang around the big club, and he’s shown appreciable wheels at every stop, with a bit of pop to boot. Tyler Saladino is no longer a prospect, but if the White Sox either made multiple moves or passed on a Semien promotion, Saladino has flashed power and speed through the minors, though not always at the same time. It’s hard to imagine the Pittsburgh Pirates risking the service time issue, but Alen Hanson has been solid at Double-A and the NL Central hopefuls are 24th in wOBA from their shortstops and 23rd in WAR. Hanson probably isn’t major league ready just yet, but his power-speed profile would make him a spec add.
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