Welcome to the 2022 Fantasy Baseball: Undervalued Middle Infielders!
In several of the early drafts that I have done, my strategy has been to wait on middle infielders. In one draft, I drafted my first middle infielder in the 12th round, and in another, I drafted my first middle infielder in the 13th round.
There are some interesting mid to late-round middle infield picks and I have found that getting early-round studs in other positions while getting a large number of middle infielders in the middle to late rounds works well.
In this article, I will discuss a number of middle infielders that I am targeting. I like to play in Draft Champion Leagues (15 teams with 50 rounds) so these picks are geared to that format.
2022 Fantasy Baseball: Undervalued Middle Infielders
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Early Picks Targets (First 10 Rounds)
Trevor Story (SS FA ADP 40.09)
Story is not coming off a great season in 2021. He battled injuries, had some bad luck, and was confused that he was not traded to a contender at the trade deadline. This presents a buying opportunity.
It is difficult to understand why the Rockies did not trade Story and Jon Gray at the 2021 trade deadline. Both were free agents to be at the end of the year and the Rockies were going nowhere. Baseball players are humans and it was clear that Story was unhappy at the end of the year and it had some impact on his performance. Story had 17 steals in the first half of the year and just three for the remainder of the season.
There is the unknown of where Story will be playing in 2022 and what the impact on his production will be of not having half his games at Coors Field. However, I believe Story will be in a better emotional state on a different team and highly motivated. This is a perennial first round pick that is now going in the third round in a 15 team league. A .270 batting average with 25 homers and 25 steals is realistic and would be great value for where he is going.
Francisco Lindor (SS FA ADP 49.39)
Lindor went from a comfortable situation in Cleveland to being the center of attention in the biggest media market when he was traded to the Mets. The spotlight was even brighter after he signed a humongous $341 million contract.
In 2021 Lindor got off to an awful start, had a publicized dispute with Jeff McNeil, missed about 35 games with an oblique injury, gave the Mets fans a thumb down and had by far the worst year of his career.
With the Mets signing a new batch of high priced free agents to get the media attention this year, Lindor should be settled in and back to the player he was in Cleveland minus a few stolen bases. He is going in the early fourth round in a 15 team league where I expect Lindor to return second round value.
Jorge Polanco (2B/SS Min ADP 83.o6)
Polanco has always had a ton of talent. He had a nice year in 2019 where he showed improved power with 69 extra base hits. After a mediocre sprint season in 2020, Polanco took it to the next level last year with 33 homers and 11 steals.
In his prime at age 28, I am confident Polanco can duplicate his 2021 year and perhaps improve his batting average with better luck. Polanco's BABIP was .282 in 2021 despite being in the 73 percentile in sprint speed.
Polanco is a safe pick and as a bonus has dual eligibility.
Dansby Swanson (SS ATL ADP 125)
A reliable, steady player who is in prime at age 27. Swanson, the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, has the potential to have a career year one of the years especially if he hits leadoff.
If you miss out on one of the marquee shortstops, Swanson represents a nice consolation that could be available in the 8th round in a 15 team league.
Later First Half of the Draft Middle Infield Targets (Rounds 11 to 25)
Jean Segura (2B Phi ADP 205.81)
A boring veteran that keeps producing. Segura will be 32 years old before the season begins. A solid five category performer. Segura has been remarkably consistent the last five years. Count on a .280 average with 15 homers and 10 steals with runs and RBIs dependent on where he bats in the lineup. This is good value for a pick around 200.
The Phillies' third base role is unsettled and Segura could end up at the hot corner. This would provide additional value. It is always nice to have players with both middle and corner eligibilty.
Gavin Lux (2B/SS LAD 222.09)
A former top prospect that has not had the instant success many expected in his brief major league career, Lux represents a nice buy low opportunity. Lux showed a ton of potential in the minors.
The Dodgers were quiet before the MLB lockout and their depth chart is much shallower at this point than what it has been in previous years. The Dodgers may make a bunch of moves once the lockout ends, but as of now, Lux should have a regular role. The possibility that Max Muncy misses time and the designated hitter comes to the National League would mean the Dodgers would have more opportunities.
The 2022 season appears to be a make or break season for Lux at least in a Dodgers uniform. At his current ADP, Lux is a worthy gamble.
Andrés Giménez (2B/SS Cle ADP 262.43)
When the 2020 minor league was canceled, the Mets surprisingly called up the then 21 year old Giménez to the majors. Giménez had previously had limited success in AA. Although it was only 132 plate appearances, Giménez impressively held his own at the major league level in 2020.
After the 2020 season, Giménez was dealt to Cleveland in the package for Francisco Lindor. Giménez was handed an everyday job with the Guardians but struggled and was demoted to AAA. In 52 games at Columbus, Giménez hit 10 homers and has a 123 w RC+.
Giménez was called back up to the majors on August 7th and finished the year on a high note. The 15 homers between AAA and the majors were a career high. Giménez has stolen 19 bases in 20 attempts in a 117 major league games. He should begin the season as the Guardians' second basemen and at 23 appears ready to establish himself in the majors.
With speed a scarcity, Giménez is a good option to take a chance on at his ADP. In Draft Champion Leagues when I have selected Giménez, I have handcuffed him with Richie Palacios and Owen Miller very late in drafts.
Nick Madrigal (2B CHC ADP 296.36)
There have been several issues with Nick Madrigal so far in his major league career.
He has no power and that is unlikely to improve. Madrigal has also missed significant time with a shoulder injury and a torn hamstring.. Obviously, he needs to stay healthy to have value.
Madrigal has proven he can hit for a high average. However, with limited power, he needs to contribute with stolen bases and runs. I think the trade to the Cubs will help Madrigal in these categories.
The White Sox do not run much. Yoan Moncada had great stolen base numbers in the minors but has never even attempted more than 18 stolen bases in a season. This is also why I do not like Luis Robert at where he is currently going.
With the White Sox, it was unlikely that Madrigal was going to hit at the top of the order. There is the potential for Madrigal to hit leadoff for the Cubs which would add to his production.
Second Half of the Draft Middle Infield Targets (Rounds 26 to 40)
Jeff McNeil (2B/ OF, NYM ADP 314.79)
McNeil is going late because he does not appear to have a regular role with Mets. Either through trade or injury, expect McNeil to get more plate appearances than projected given his versatility and previous production.
While 2021 was not a great year for McNeil he had a 136, 144 and 131 wRC+ the three years prior to 2021.
Adam Frazier (2B Sea ADP 321.56)
It was a tale of two seasons for Frazier in 2021. Frazier has a .324/.388/.448 slash line in 98 games with the Pirates before being dealt to the Padres. He struggled along with the rest of the Padres down the stretch hitting just .267/.327/.335 in 57 games.
Frazier was traded to the Mariners in December and has the second base job heading into the season. I look for Frazier to be closer to the player he was with the Pirates than the Padres in 2022. While Frazier does not stand out in any category, he should have a regular role the whole season and it is good to have some of these safe players in deep leagues.
J.P. Crawford (SS Sea ADP 330.65)
Frazier's new double play partner is a similar fantasy value. Crawford was a long time top prospect in the Phillies organization that did not get an opportunity for a regular role until being traded to the Mariners in the Jean Segura deal.
In 2021 Crawford paid in 160 games, the first time in his career that he played more than 100 games. His excellent defense helped him to have a 3.8 WAR in 2021. While his defense does not help in fantasy, it does help to keep him in the lineup.
Crawford does not have much power or speed which limits his fantasy value but he often hits leadoff and he finished the year with 89 runs. Crawford may be a boring fantasy player but if he repeats his 2021 season, he is a nice value at this price.
Josh Harrison (2B, 3B, OF FA ADP 381.05)
There are only four players that have eligibility in middle infield, corner infield, and outfield (Harrison, Luis Arraez, Tyler Wade, and Jace Peterson).
At 34, Harrision has been counted out several times. In 2021 he had a nice rebound year and actually set a career high in plate appearances. Harrison does a bit of everything. While Harrison is a free agent, he should be able to find a role with semi regular playing time coming off his strong 2021 season.
In Draft Champion Leagues, avoiding zeroes is important and with Harrison's versatility, he is a nice player to have especially if your team is hit by injuries.
Wilmer Flores (1B, 2B,3B SFG ADP 391.02)
There is a lot of uncertainty with the MLB lockout and the collective bargaining agreement to be negotiated. However, one item that will likely change is the addition of the designated hitter to the National League.
The DH in the NL should ensure that Flores receives at least as many plate appearances as he had in 2021 (438). Flores has been a consistent professional hitter for a number of years. In fact, he has a wRC+ above 100 for six years in a row.
At near pick 400 getting a player with eligibility at three positions that you can pencil in for a .260 batting average and homers in the teens in a solid lineup is a strong pick.
Jose Barrero (SS Cin ADP 437.62)
Barrero does not appear to have a regular role at the beginning of the year. However, I expect him to take over as the Reds every day shortstop at some point during the season.
With no minor league season in 2020 the Reds called up Barrero late in 2020 despite never playing in the upper minors and he struggled badly. However, Barrero was great in 2021 in 40 games at AA and was even better in 45 games at AAA. Combined Barrero hit .303 with 19 homers and 16 steals in just 85 games. He finished the year in Cincinnati but did not get regular playing time.
With the Reds potentially rebuilding it makes sense that Barrero gets a chance at some point over 31 year old Kyle Farmer who is better suited for a utility role. Barrero's power and speed potential is exciting even if it is only for 100 games or so in 2022.
Rougned Odor (2B, 3B Bal ADP 447.63)
There can be sneaky late value with position players on bad teams. For one thing, playing time is important and even bad teams field a full lineup.
Odor is a better fantasy player than real life player. He provides power and little else. Odor has a chance to play regularly at third base for the Orioles and has middle and corner infielder eligibility. While the batting average can hurt, Odor has value for where he is going.
Ramón Urías (2B, SS Bal ADP 469.38)
Outside of Trey Mancini at first base, the Orioles other infielder positions are very much up for grabs. Unlike his younger brother Luis, Ramón Urías was never considered much of a prospect but made the most of his opportunity with the Orioles in 2021 with a 115 wRC+ in 85 games.
While there is no guarantee of playing time for Urias, he has a chance to play regularly and if he performs close to how well he played in 2021, he makes a nice pick this late.
Luis García (2B Was ADP 494.33)
The Nationals have always been very aggressive with García. He appeared to be over his head in AA in 2019 but in 2020 with no minor league season he ended up playing 37 games in the majors.
In 2021 García had some nagging injuries at AAA but managed to hit 13 homers in just 37 games. Prior to 2021, he had hit just 14 homers in 345 professional games. The rebuilding Nats called García up the majors on July 29th and he hit .242 with six homers in 70 games.
At the major league level, García has walked just 4.2% of the time. While his low walk rate has a minimal impact on his value in a standard 5x5 fantasy league, it does impact his real life value. The Nats signed César Hernández who will begin the year at their regular second basemen,
Signing a veteran player was an odd move for a rebuilding team. García's low ADP reflects that he is unlikely to begin the year with a regular role. However, Hernández is unlikely to be on the Nats all year and García should be a regular again no later than the trade deadline. He should have value in the second half of the year.
Post 600 ADP
These players would be picked very late in a 15 team, 50 round draft and hold or deeper.
Michael Chavis ( 2B, Pit ADP 602.58)
Chavis showed potential with 18 homers in 95 games as a 23 year old in Boston in 2019.
He is on a bad team with plenty of playing time opportunities. While Chavis is only eligible at 2B to begin the year, he has played first base, third base and the outfield. Assuming the DH is used in the NL, that is another place where Chavis could get at bats.
At this point in the draft, every pick is just a lottery ticket and Chavis has a few things going for him.
José Iglesias (SS FA ADP 638.66)
While Iglesias does not currently have a job his outstanding defense gives him a shot at getting a regular role or he could be signed as an injury fill in.
In a 5x5 league where his low walk rate does not hurt you, Iglesias is not terrible offensively. In the last three years combined, Iglesias has hit .290 with 23 homers, 142 runs and 130 RBIs in 1,186 plate appearances.
Iglesias makes a decent insurance policy in a Draft Champion League.
Josh VanMeter (2B,3B Ari ADP 709.9)
VanMeter is an excellent minor league hitter who shows enough flashes in the majors to keep me interested.
He is in a good spot with the Diamondbacks. Third base is wide open. If Ketel Marte primarily plays the outfield again in 2022, there could be availability at second base as well. In addition, if the DH comes to the NL, VanMeter could figure in at DH as well.
Richie Palacios (2B Cle ADP 742.68)
Despite being a third round pick out of Towson University in 2018, Palacios had only played 20 games in full season ball prior to 2021. He missed all of 2019 with a torn labrum and of course, the 2020 minor league season was canceled.
in 2021 Palacios split the year between AA and AAA and showed enough to be added to the Guardians 40 man roster He projects as a super utility type that can play at second base and the outfield with strong on base skills and speed. A potential leadoff hitter.
Palacios is a worthy post 700 selection in very deep leagues.
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