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Dynasty Dugout: Infield Sleeper Keepers

Last week we wrapped up my midseason keeper and dynasty rankings with the top 300 overall rankings. This week we dive deep into those rankings to find some keeper-caliber players that are flying a little under the radar.

With the fantasy baseball season winding down, it’s just about time to start looking at what players you’re going to keep if you play in those formats. Keeper leagues are all about maximizing future potential while trying to field the best lineup you can for the current season. If you’re a team near the bottom of the standings, you might want to take a little extra risk on high-upside youngsters and hope that some of them pan out and become fantasy stars.

When making the decisions on who to keep and who to cut, we’ve all gotten stuck before. The point of this article is to help give you another opinion if one of the below is a player you’re on the fence on. These names might not jump out at you as bonafide keepers, but they all possess high upside and could pay big dividends for you down the road.

Ian Happ (2B – CHC)

If you read my second base or top-300 dynasty rankings articles, you would know I’m very high on Ian Happ. Overall, I ranked him as the #55 overall player in keeper and dynasty leagues, which may seem a tad high. For reference, over on ESPN, they have him ranked 77th. There are a few reasons why I rank him so high.

Firstly, there’s a lot of ineptitude at the second base position in fantasy. Most of the long-time staples at the position are aging and have deteriorating skill sets. Happ has his own flaws to deal with, like his swing-and-miss tendencies, but his overall skillset and pedigree are sound.

Before the season, MLB ranked him as the 28th best prospect in the game. That ranking wasn’t because of his defense, either. Happ’s best tool is his plus power that has already been put on display with the Cubs this season. Through his first 250 major league at-bats, Happ has slugged 15 home runs to go along with 39 RBI, 37 runs, and seven stolen bases.

[the_ad id=”384″]It’s that power that is going to make him a desirable fantasy second baseman. Not many players at the position have the ability to approach 40 home runs annually. I can count them on one hand, and Happ is one of them. The average will probably never be higher than .270 or so, but the potential to put up 30-plus home runs and 15-20 steals is why I have Happ ranked as high as I do.

Ozzie Albies (2B/SS – ATL)

Albies might be a top 20 MLB prospect, but he doesn’t get as much buzz as most of the bigger power prospects do. Granted, he has a small frame that doesn’t generate much power, but he does other things very well. To put it simply, there are three reasons why you should consider Albies as one of your keepers for next season.

Elite Hit Tool

At every level he’s played at, Albies has been one of the youngest players in the league. That makes his career .304 minor league batting average even more impressive. In addition, he’s shown the ability to work the count and draw a walk if needed, evidenced by his career .365 OBP in the minors. If he can keep that same approach and continue to use his speed, you should see plenty of .300-plus seasons out of him going forward.

Elite Speed

He’s yet to steal a base since being promoted, but Albies possesses elite speed that will be a major asset to his fantasy value. Through 1,555 career minor league at-bats, he stole 102 bases in 130 attempts. That 78.4% success rate doesn’t jump off the page, but for a player as young as Albies is, it’s encouraging. Once he starts getting comfortable stealing bases in the majors, Albies should be a threat to steal 40 bags annually.

Ample Opportunity to Succeed

The Atlanta Braves might have a bright future, but at the moment, times are tough. They haven’t had a winning season since 2013 and haven’t eclipsed 70 wins since 2014. The starting middle infield for most of the season has consisted of veteran second baseman, Brandon Phillips, and young shortstop Dansby Swanson. Phillips is near the end of his career and Swanson, despite being a No. 1 pick, doesn’t appear to have as high of a ceiling as Albies does.

Long-term, he should settle in as Atlanta’s everyday second baseman alongside Swanson at short, but for now, he’ll have eligibility at both middle infield spots and will be in the lineup almost every day. His elite speed and hit-tool should turn him into the leadoff hitter on this team assuming he continues to hit well with Atlanta.

Orlando Arcia (SS – MIL)

With so many good shortstops around, a player like Arcia flies under the radar. His statistics this year aren’t even all that impressive, either. They’re fine, but nothing that’s going to make you think he’s a surefire keeper candidate. So why am I recommending him you ask? Potential, that’s why.

If he were to continue at his current pace, he would finish with a .284 average, 15 home runs, and 15 steals. Solid numbers, but again, not great. Based on his minor league track record, the average and power seem about right, but it’s the speed that’s been slow to catch on for Arcia so far in the majors.

During his time in the minors, Arcia stole 104 bases in 2,278 plate appearances. If you calculate that down to an approximate full season’s worth of plate appearances, that would give you a guy with around 30 steals. A .280 15-30 shortstop looks a little more appealing, doesn’t it? If Arcia can secure a spot near the top of the lineup, that would boon his fantasy value even more.

Obviously, it will all come down to how many guys you can keep on your team for next year. I wouldn’t advise keeping Arcia in leagues with a low number of keepers. But if your league is a little deeper and Arcia is in consideration, give him a chance.

Rhys Hoskins (1B – PHI)

If you go look at MLB’s top-100 prospect list, you’ll have to scroll all the way down to the seventies to find Hoskins’ name. The reason why? He can’t run and is an average defender at best. Since we’re talking about a fantasy baseball first baseman, those aforementioned two deficiencies don’t mean jack squat. You’re not rostering Hoskins for his defense or ability to steal bases. You want him for his power, solid batting averages, and run-producing abilities.

Since the start of the 2016 season, Hoskins has cranked 67 home runs over 899 minor league at-bats. He’s far from an all-or-nothing slugger, too. He has a .282 average, 173 runs, and 207 RBI to go along with all those home runs. Is that batting average sustainable playing at the highest level of baseball in the world? You bet your you know what it is.

Over his four minor league seasons, Hoskins’ highest single season strikeout rate was 21.2% in 2016. For his minor league career, he struck out in only 18.5% of his plate appearances. This season that number is down to only 15.8%. Need I say more? Hoskins profiles as a .280 hitter with the potential to hit 30-plus home runs annually. That could all happen as soon as next season. There might not be many bright spots for the Phillies these days, but Hoskins should shine brightly in Philly.

Thank you for reading another edition of Dynasty Dugout on Fantrax. I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Check back next week as we profile some sleep outfield keepers. Got a question about a player not covered here? Ask in the comments below or follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there.

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