(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)
There are two AL East shortstops who have been on fire lately, and while they have been some of the most added players in baseball over that time, they are still widely available. Everyone’s looking for waiver wire upgrades this time of year, so it’s time we take a deeper dive into two of the hottest shortstops in baseball. All ownership figures refer to ESPN leagues.
Willy Adames – 39 AB | 3 HR | 4 SB | .410 AVG | 1.134 OPS – 16.9% Owned
Let’s start by talking about the exciting rookie Adames. The Rays were hoping for this kind of production from him, as he’s been consistently listed as one of their organization’s top prospects. Our own prospect guru Brennan Gorman said we should expect batting average, home runs, and steals from him, and that’s hard to find on the waiver wire this late in the season. The most intriguing part of Adames’ game currently is his running, as he swiped a bag in four consecutive games. Tampa Bay is letting their players run (they are second in stolen base attempts since the All-Star Break with 29), so I expect Adames to keep getting the green light going forward. While I’m certainly not expecting a steal every game, I would expect a handful of steals moving forward, especially since half the battle of stealing a base is just attempting to do it. While there are certainly other speedsters readily available like Adalberto Mondesi or Travis Jankowski, they haven’t shown the bat skills or steady playing time that Adames has.
We should talk about his bat though. Over the past two weeks, he’s hit .410 with a 1.134 OPS, and slugged 3 home runs in that stretch. He’s hit .253 on the season so far with a .337 BABIP, a number that’s actually in line with what he did in the minors and isn’t too farfetched considering his speed. There are good and bad signs moving forward for Adames though. His plate discipline is pretty poor, posting a strikeout rate of 30%, much too high for someone who isn’t a power hitter (for reference, if he qualified for the batting title he would have the 5th worst strikeout rate in the majors, right between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton). He also has an xBABIP of .282, basically meaning that around 7 of his hits in play should have been outs, and he doesn’t walk enough to be able to make up that difference if his luck runs out. On the bright side though, his last pop up came on July 2nd, and his hard hit rate has skyrocketed in the second half, from 22% in the first half to 37.5% here in the second half. Those are the kinds of things that can turn a groundball out or a lazy flyball into a single through the hole or a double in the gap. With the Rays penchant for running, Adames is definitely someone I’d be willing to take the risk on, hoping that he can continue to hit well and subsequently get those steals. LEGIT
Aledmys Diaz – 70 ABs | 7 HR | .314 AVG | 1.024 OPS – 22.9% Owned
As for Diaz, he’s looking more and more like the 2016 version of himself, the shortstop who slugged .510 and hit 17 home runs in 111 games for the Cardinals. That Aledmys Diaz had a hard hit rate of 31.5%, leading to a HR/FB ratio of 12.6%. This 2018 Aledmys Diaz is doing almost exactly the same, with a current hard-hit rate of 32.3% and a HR/FB ratio of 14.4%. He’s also lifting the ball more as of late, posting a 45% FB rate since the All-Star Break that would represent a career high for him. Diaz has always made contact, never striking out more than above 14%, but last year he was plagued by weak contact more than anything else. He’s been more aggressive at the plate this year, lowering his walk rate all the way down to a pathetic 3.8%, so if you are in an OBP or points league you might want to think twice, but his ability to make contact and his increased exit velocity show that we could be looking at a shortstop is back to slugging over .500 for the rest of the season. He’s a smart risk at this point of the season for teams looking for extra pop, especially at a middle infield position. LEGIT