A Pair of Middle Infielders Worth Picking Up in Fantasy Baseball

It's tough to find middle infielders worth adding in fantasy. Here are two names worth checking out.

The middle infield position in fantasy baseball is a black hole, except for a few studs. If you don’t have one of the top guys, this has likely been a cause of frustration for you all season long.

Here’s where scouring the waiver wire can be highly beneficial. I found two players with low ownership percentages (25% or less according to Yahoo!) who should be easily available in your league. Let’s start with second base.

Sustainable Production

Over the past 14 days, Joe Panik has been the best second baseman in fantasy and the 14th best overall player (pitchers included). Only two players have more hits than his 20 over this period, and his 11 runs scored and 11 runs batted in are both good for sixth best. It’s safe to say that Panik has had a good two weeks, but can he keep the production up?

Panik is currently hitting .304/.375/.451 for the season, with a weighted on base average (wOBA) of .362, and a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 136, good for fourth and third, respectively, among all second basemen -- he’s been productive all year and not just over the past two weeks. He’s not a prolific walker (9.5 BB%), but he also rarely strikes out (12.4 K%), making his walk to strikeout ratio (BB/K) of 0.77 good for 20th best in baseball. Panik is starting to hit for power this year as well. His isolated power (ISO) is .147, good for sixth among second basemen, and his 17 extra-base hits have already surpassed his total from last season (13) in 85 less at bats.

Perhaps most telling is that Panik appears to be seeing the ball better this season. The percentage of pitches he swings at outside the strike zone (O-Swing%) is down 6.6% from last season, and his total of just 21.3% this season is 9th best in baseball. Basically, if Panik swings, he’s putting the ball in play based on his 88.4 contact percentage.

He’s not yet the type of star player that can win you a week, but considering he’s already Yahoo!’s 11th best second basemen and improving, he should already be owned in your league. None of Panik’s numbers suggest what he’s doing is unsustainable and he’s locked into the two-hole for the Giants, the fifth-highest scoring team in the National League. Luckily for you, Panik is just 23% owned, meaning it won’t cost you a dime (or much more) to scoop him up. Let’s check out the shortstop position.

Value at a Position That Lacks it

Nick Ahmed doesn’t have the same type of numbers as Panik, or hit high in the order (he bats eighth), but he does play in the third-highest scoring offense in all of baseball in the Diamondbacks, and has been a hot hitter as of late. You wouldn’t guess this based on his line of .226/.284/.336, with a wOBA of .274 and a wRC+ of just 67, but he may have turned things around -- 16 of his 31 hits have come over the past two weeks, including all of his home runs (3), 7 of his 11 RBI, and 8 of his 14 runs scored. This helped make him the best shortstop in fantasy over the past two weeks, but is it sustainable?

It will come as no shock that Ahmed will not end the year as fantasy’s best shortstop. However, he could prove to be a serviceable option at what is an incredibly shallow position. Over the past two weeks, Ahmed’s line-drive percentage (LD%) is 30.3%, a full 6% higher than his total for the season, and the balls that he hit with hard speed (Hard%) is up a massive 10.4%. He’s still striking out a ton and not walking, but he’s become more selective with pitches he swings at, as his swing percentage is 4.1% lower over the past two weeks than it is for the season. With an improved approach at the plate, and his ability to square up the ball improving, Ahmed’s abysmal start should be behind him.

Ahmed is as close to free as players get, with just 3% ownership in Yahoo! leagues. With guys like Alexei Ramirez, Elvis Andrus, and Xander Bogaerts all at least 71% owned, yet none with a ranking of lower than 340, Ahmed is worth a roll of the dice.