The 2022 Substitute-Stage Killers: Third Base & Middle Area

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© Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports activities

Once more, the main focus of this collection stays on groups that meet the free definition of contenders (a .500 document or Playoff Odds of not less than 10%), and which have gotten about 0.6 WAR or much less to date, which prorates to 1.0 WAR over a full season. With most contenders fairly well-situated at third base, I’ve loosened the factors a bit for causes that may develop into clear. As famous beforehand, a few of these conditions are extra dire than others, notably when taken within the context of the remainder of their roster. I don’t anticipate each staff on these lists to improve earlier than the August 2 deadline, and I’m much less involved with the options – lots of which have extra transferring elements concerned than a single commerce — than the issues.

2022 Substitute-Stage Killers: Third Base

Crew AVG OBP SLG wRC+ Bat BsR Fld WAR ROS WAR Tot WAR
Twins .265 .312 .436 110 4.5 -5.3 -7.7 0.6 1.2 1.8
Phillies .266 .306 .382 90 -4.5 0.0 -3.0 0.8 1.1 1.9

Statistics via July 26. ROS = Relaxation-of-season WAR, by way of our Depth Charts.

Twins

After by no means hitting a lick in elements of his first three main league seasons with Cleveland and Toronto, Gio Urshela donned the Yankee pinstripes and raked in 2019-20 (.310/.358/.523, 132 wRC+) whereas offering flashy protection that didn’t at all times translate to the metrics. After slipping to a 96 wRC+ with 0.7 WAR in 116 video games final 12 months, the 30-year-old third baseman was despatched to Minnesota as a part of the mid-March commerce that introduced Josh Donaldson to New York. To date, he’s produced at one thing nearer to his 2021 model, batting .265/.312/.422 (106 wRC+) with combined critiques on protection (1 DRS, 0.7 UZR, -5 RAA) whereas beginning 79 of the staff’s 97 video games.

The Twins, who at 52-45 lead the AL Central by 2.5 video games, may simply let Urshela maintain going, however they might have a extra productive various in-house already in Jose Miranda, a 24-year-old rookie who positioned eighty fifth on our Top 100 Prospects list this spring. A contact-oriented hitter with a compact swing, Miranda has slashed .271/.313/.457 (117 wRC+) with eight homers in 211 PA whereas enjoying extra first base (37 video games) than third (19 video games). As a prospect, he was thought-about bat-first; whereas he has expertise in any respect 4 infield positions, he’s tough across the edges defensively (grades of 40 current, 45 future). With the Twins’ nook infield image additional crowded by the return of Miguel Sanó from left knee surgical procedure, his emergence would permit the staff to commerce Urshela, who has yet another 12 months of management remaining, to fill different wants whereas giving Miranda the full-time job.

Phillies

Through the defensive metrics we use at FanGraphs, the Phillies clear the cutoff I often use for inclusion among the many Substitute Stage Killers. Nevertheless, the big selection of Alec Bohm’s varied defensive metrics (-1.5 UZR, -4 RAA, and -13 DRS in simply 679.1 innings) means that he and his staff most likely belong right here; the defensive inputs make up a lot of the distinction between his 0.6 fWAR and his 0.0 bWAR.

After hitting a scorching .338/.400/.481 (138 wRC+) in 180 PA as a rookie in 2020, Bohm sank to .247/.305/.342 (75 wRC+) in ’21 with a equally huge unfold in defensive metrics (-13 DRS, -1.0 UZR, -2 RAA) that even at their most conservative knocked him right down to -0.2 fWAR. He’s rebounded on the plate this 12 months, trimming his strikeout fee from 26.6% to 19.3% and his groundball fee from 52.7% to 45%, so regardless of a 2.2-mph drop in his common exit velocity (from 92.0 to 89.8) and about an eight-point drop in hard-hit fee (49.5% to 41.6%), his Statcast anticipated numbers are literally higher than final 12 months; his .449 xSLG is a 57-point enchancment. But along with his issues within the discipline, he’s nonetheless a legal responsibility.

The Phillies have used 4 different gamers at third base, probably the most skilled of whom is Johan Camargo. The 28-year-old utilityman homered 19 instances and produced 3.0 WAR because the Braves’ common third baseman (and occasional shortstop) in 2018, however netted -0.8 WAR from ’19-21. He hasn’t executed a lot to impress in Philadelphia, batting .242/.302/.322 (77 wRC+) general whereas enjoying 13 video games at third and 22 at shortstop, the place Didi Gregorius‘ play led to their inclusion among the many Killers.

Talking of which, I ought to have talked about Nick Maton in that context, however right here can even do for the 25-year-old former prospect, who exhausted his rookie eligibility based mostly on roster days final 12 months, although with fewer than 130 at-bats, some prospect lists included him this 12 months. Maton hit .256/.323/.385 (91 wRC+) in 131 PA for the Phillies final 12 months, however after spending April and Could at Triple-A Lehigh, he performed simply two video games for the large membership in early June earlier than struggling a proper shoulder sprain; after ending his rehab project, he was optioned again to Lehigh on Tuesday. He has 22 video games on the scorching nook in his minor league profession, however as a power-over-hit sort, might be higher suited to a bench position. If the Phillies wish to shuffle the deck chairs, possibly he improves upon what Bohm provides them, however a extra confirmed choice can be higher. The Reds’ Brandon Drury, who’s hitting .271/.330/.517 with 19 homers and stable protection, can be goal, and it wouldn’t be a shock if Urshela wound up right here.

2022 Substitute-Stage Killers: Middle Area

Crew AVG OBP SLG wRC+ Bat BsR Fld WAR ROS WAR Tot WAR
Phillies .201 .252 .293 52 -20.2 2.0 0.8 -0.4 0.9 0.5
Brewers .211 .270 .307 62 -16.4 2.2 1.8 0.2 1.0 1.2
Crimson Sox .231 .286 .369 80 -10.0 -0.2 -0.9 0.4 1.1 1.5
Padres .185 .277 .315 73 -12.6 2.8 -2.0 0.4 1.3 1.7
Rays .193 .262 .310 68 -13.5 5.2 0.5 0.5 0.8 1.3

Statistics via July 26. ROS = Relaxation-of-season WAR, by way of our Depth Charts.

Phillies

Each Odúbel Herrera and Matt Vierling have had their possibilities to stake a declare on the Phillies’ middle discipline job, however neither has performed properly sufficient to carry onto it. The 30-year-old Herrera, who missed the season’s first two weeks as a result of an indirect pressure, has began there 40 instances, however simply six of these begins have come after June 26. Together with his time within the outfield corners, the place he’s largely served as a defensive caddy for Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos (18 video games however simply 5 begins and 66 complete innings), he’s hit simply .240/.280/.389 (84 wRC+) with stable sufficient protection to web 0.6 WAR. Vierling, who has began 30 instances in middle discipline, has hit .227/.296/.333 (77 wRC+) with -0.1 WAR general whereas making 55 complete appearances on the three outfield positions plus 10 extra at three infield positions (all however shortstop). Mickey Moniak and Roman Quinn have each been even worse hitters in justifiably smaller samples; the latter is now a Ray (keep tuned).

Significantly given the (in)talents of Schwarber and Castellanos afield, an adept defender who may also hit can be an enormous boon for the Phillies. The Royals’ Michael A. Taylor is having an enormous 12 months with the bat (.276/.348/.400, 113 wRC+) accompanied by solid-to-good defensive metrics (7 DRS, 2 UZR and 0 RAA). The Cubs’ Ian Happ hasn’t performed the place a lot this 12 months (simply 12 innings) and is a bit beneath common there for his profession (-5 DRS, -4 RAA, -2.2 UZR in 1,626 innings) however could make an affect along with his bat (.282/.366/.446, 127 wRC+ this 12 months). Each have a 12 months of management and aren’t going to simply be given away; the previous is signed for $4.5 million plus incentives, whereas the latter has yet another 12 months of arbitration eligibility and stands to extend this 12 months’s $6.9 million wage.

Brewers

Age and accidents sapped the abilities of Lorenzo Cain, who began in middle discipline 40 instances however was 0.7 wins beneath alternative earlier than being designated for project in mid-June, simply after reaching 10 full years of service time. Each Tyrone Taylor and Jonathan Davis have performed a bit higher than Cain, which isn’t saying a lot. The 28-year-old Taylor has hit .227/.273/.424 (91 wRC+) with 0.7 WAR general whereas beginning 35 instances in middle and 25 on the corners; that’s an enormous step down from final 12 months’s .247/.321/.457 (106 wRC+), although his Statcast numbers are almost similar. The 30-year-old Davis has hit a really odd-looking .242/.365/.258 in 75 PA, which is not less than higher than his profession .187/.293/.250 (56 wRC+) line in 333 PA since 2018.

They’re unlikely to get Happ by way of an intradivisional commerce, however Michael A. Taylor is sensible, and with higher defenders within the corners than the Phillies (a Venn diagram which may embody 29 groups), the Brewers may add a extra questionable defender reminiscent of Oakland’s Ramón Laureano, who has hit .227/.310/.402 (108 wRC+) with ugly metrics in 24 video games in middle (-7 DRS, -3.0 UZR, -3 RAA) however higher ones in 51 video games in proper (3 DRS, 2.7 UZR, 0 RAA). He’s below membership management via 2024, however the A’s appear intent upon tearing down your complete operation, and given how skinny the market is for middle discipline upgrades, the 28-year-old fly-chaser appears prone to change uniforms.

Crimson Sox

In his first 12 months with Boston final 12 months, Enrique Hernández set a profession excessive with 4.1 WAR whereas bashing 20 homers, hitting for a 110 wRC+, and enjoying stellar protection. He has scarcely resembled that participant this 12 months, not less than on the offensive facet, hitting simply .209/.273/.340 (69 wRC+) earlier than happening the injured checklist with a proper hip flexor pressure on June 8. Whereas the Crimson Sox hoped the stint can be a brief one, Hernández needed to pause his rehab stint as of July 12, shortly earlier than receiving a PRP injection. Positioned on the 60-day IL, he’s sidelined till not less than August 7.

Supervisor Alex Cora has used Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jarren Duran to fill in for Hernández, however Bradley has been horrible offensively, “hitting” .169/.183/.220 in 60 PA as a middle fielder, and simply .210/.259/.319 (58 wRC+) in 276 PA general whereas enjoying 66 video games in proper discipline in addition to 26 in middle. Durran, a 25-year-old rookie, has hit .250/.301/.403 (94 wRC+), however he’s placing out 28.6% of the time, and as for his protection…

…it leaves one thing to be desired, to say the least. The identical might be stated for a staff that adopted up a 20-6 June that put the membership 10 video games above .500 (43-33) and into the highest AL Wild Card spot with a 6-16 July that has it again at .500 (49-49) and 4 video games out of the final Wild Card spot.

With a $220 million payroll and a expertise base that also provides them a 26.8% probability of constructing the postseason, the Sox must be pursuing a playoff spot, however there’s a rising probability they wind up selling instead of buying. In the event that they select to not promote, they may pursue among the controllable gamers listed to date in hopes of a lift this 12 months and subsequent; Hernández is a pending free agent, and received’t be an obstacle of their longer-term planning.

Padres

San Diego’s outfield has mixed for simply 2.3 WAR, with all people however left fielder Jurickson Profar netting a mixed 0.1. Trent Grisham, who has taken about 89% of the staff’s plate appearances as a middle fielder, seems to have forgotten the right way to hit after producing a 109 wRC+ and 4.4 WAR in 2020-21. He’s batting simply .188/.288/.334 (82 wRC+), and his protection has fallen off a bit as properly.

Given Grisham’s struggles and the stable job Ha-Seong Kim has executed at shortstop in Fernando Tatis Jr.’s absence, the Padres have mulled the thought of transferring Tatis to middle discipline once more; he performed seven video games there and 20 in proper discipline final 12 months after coming back from a bout of left shoulder irritation. Ultimately report, nevertheless, he had but to work out within the outfield, and solely on Tuesday did he progress to taking batting apply on the sphere. A rehab project, seemingly at Double-A San Antonio, may start later this week.

Tatis’ place as soon as he returns could be decided by what occurs on the deadline. The Padres are recognized to be all for buying Happ and catcher Willson Contreras, and so they’re regarded as a possible vacation spot for Juan Soto, maybe “as seemingly as the opposite 28 groups mixed,” as one govt just lately told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

If the Padres don’t land a middle fielder and don’t use Tatis there, their different inner choices embody 21-year-old rookie shortstop C.J. Abrams and 23-year-old speedster Esteury Ruiz. Abrams has hit simply .231/.280/.322 whereas enjoying shortstop, second base and even three video games in proper discipline, however he’s trending upwards with a .300/.313/.433 line in July. Ruiz was known as up earlier this month after hitting .333/.467/.560 with 13 homers and a minors-leading 60 steals (in 69 makes an attempt) in 77 video games cut up between San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso. After all, it’s additionally potential one or each kids are outbound in trades as a result of, hey, Padres.

Rays

Kevin Kiermaier has been the Rays’ common middle fielder since 2015, profitable three Gold Gloves and placing up stellar defensive numbers alongside the way in which. His offense was down (.228/.281/.369, 90 wRC+) earlier than he landed on the IL for the second time this season as a result of left hip irritation earlier this month; on Monday, the Tampa Bay Occasions‘ Mark Topkin reported that he had opted to endure season-ending surgical procedure to restore a torn hip labrum.

Kiermaier’s loss is only one of several injuries the staff is contending with. Catcher Mike Zunino is out for the 12 months as a result of surgical procedure to right thoracic outlet syndrome, Wander Franco is out till late August or in order he recovers from surgical procedure to restore a damaged hamate, and likewise for Manuel Margot as he recovers from a patellar tendon pressure and hopes to keep away from surgical procedure. Harold Ramírez is out with a damaged thumb and Francisco Mejía was simply sidelined by a shoulder damage.

Given these absences, the Rays have currently been utilizing Brett Phillips and Josh Lowe in middle instead of Kiermaier, however neither has hit a lick (.146/.227/.253, 43 wRC+ for the previous, .202/.260/.327, 69 wRC+ for the latter). Quinn, who was simply signed as a free agent after being launched by each the Phillies and the Royals, owns a profession 77 wRC+ and isn’t seemingly to supply the reply both. The Rays, who at the moment occupy the third AL Wild Card spot, are prone to pursue a extra substantial alternative, and given their accidents and the depth of their minor league system, they’ll have many paths open to them. With Kiermaier a pending free agent, it wouldn’t be a shock if their subsequent middle fielder is somebody who sticks round.


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