For 2023 Fantasy Baseball, the middle infielders are where you can find just about anything you are looking for and there are many undervalued players too. Want guys with a high average and lots of speed? They've got that covered. Want a 35-homer guy? You can find one.
While the early rounds are now littered with elite middle infield options like Trea Turner, Bo Bichette, Bobby Witt, and Jose Altuve, there are still a number of hidden gems waiting for managers after the eighth round. Here are my favorite undervalued middle infield options for 2023.
Average Draft Position numbers are taken from FantasyPros consensus ADP.
2023 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Middle Infielders
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Willy Adames, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (ADP: 89)
Going close to pick number 100 in NFBC drafts since January, it seems life drafters are overly weighting the .238 batting average from 2022 and not paying enough attention to the 31 homers, eight steals, 98 RBI, and 83 runs in just 139 games. That batting average is mostly a mirage since his .287 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) last season was about 50 points lower than his career average and every other season of his career shows an average in the .254-.278 range.
The other impressive thing about Adames' season last year is he continued to chop off points from this strikeout rate. In 2020, he struck out 36% of the time. It was 28% in 2021 and just 26% in 2022. That's not Tony Gwynn numbers or anything, but with a career-high 13% barrel rate last year, any time he makes contact good things often happen for Adames.
Entering his prime age-27 season, Adames has also lowered his ground ball rate in every one of his five seasons. He has mastered the art of putting the ball in the air and letting the friendly confines of American Family Field do the work for him. Last season, his fly ball rate was a career-best 46% as was the ground ball rate at 34%.
Projected to bat second and with an improved lineup around him in Milwaukee, Adames has a clear path to easily paying off this ADP in 2023.
Jonathan India, 2B, Cincinnati Reds (ADP: 182)
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After a breakout rookie season in 2021 where he slashed .269/.376/.459 with 21 home runs and 12 stolen bases, a litany of injuries in 2022 completely derailed the positive momentum India brought into the season. In only 103 games played, India completely went into the tank with a .249/.327/.378 line with only 10 home runs and three steals.
The hamstring injury he suffered lingered all year and sapped any speed that we hoped would accompany him last year. But now he is fully healthy and ready to once again bat near the top of the order in one of the best hitter's parks in the majors. Great American Ball Park is the second-best for overall offensive park factor the last three seasons and best overall for home runs. India's overall swing still is one that can take advantage of the friendly home confines.
His max exit velocity last year (111.3 mph) was higher than in his rookie season and he actually increased his launch angle from 13.1 degrees to 14.5 degrees. Most projection systems see this as a good thing, and have him gaining back the losses in homers and steals. Most projections call for India to finish around 17 home runs and eight steals with a very good .350 0n-base percentage.
The cost to acquire his services should be pennies on the dollar compared to what he can return in value if he can stay healthy and get another 600+ plate appearances like in 2021.
Thairo Estrada, 2B/SS, San Francisco Giants (ADP: 186)
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All of the talk about San Francisco Giants free agents this winter centered around the outfield. They were tied to Aaron Judge for a hot second but then settled on bringing in Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto, and Joc Pederson. They did nothing to address any infield positions, and in fact, they lost Evan Longoria, so Thairo Estrada's role at second base now looks absolutely secure.
As a 26-year-old last season, Estrada made "the leap" with 14 home runs, 21 stolen bases, 71 runs, and a .260 batting average almost out of nowhere. But the most interesting thing about those counting stats is that he did all of that in just 541 plate appearances. The Giants are known to mix and match and play the platoon game, but really who is left to platoon with Estrada? Wilmer Flores, J.D. Davis, and David Villar are all righties like Estrada. And even on days where they want to give Wilmer Flores a break, I bet Estrada ends up sliding over to third several times.
Once you get past pick 150, the opportunities are few and far between to grab a guy who can get you 20 steals. Add in another 15-20 home runs to those steals and you're looking at a guy who could be one of the best players in the league that's available at the back end of most drafts.
Ketel Marte, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks (ADP: 196)
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Another player who had a severe decline in production last season was Ketel Marte. Marte, despite playing in his most games since 2019, produced only 12 homers and five steals with a line of .240/.321/.407. His HardHit% plummeted by seven points last season and his barrel rate fell by almost 33%.
However, Marte is another player who had an uncharacteristically low BABIP (.276, .311 for his career). This occurred despite his walk rate (10%) was just about the best of his career. His contact rate (81%) was in line with his career average, and his outside the zone swing rate was exactly his career average. This tells me that he wasn't pressing in that regard.
He did deal with minor hamstring issues for a second straight season which caused him to miss 25 games. Marte also dealt with a mysterious illness toward the end of the season and was never able to consistently put any hot stretches together. But even though it seems like he has been around forever, Marte will be just 29 years old this season and still has the underlying profile of a hitter that can deliver with his bat and his legs.
An ADP after pick 200 is a severe overcorrection and someone to certainly target late for a MI or bench spot.
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