by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The impression already was that speed was a hard commodity to find, so the losses of Trea Turner and Jean Segura hurt that much more. Is there any cheap speed available on the waiver wire? Let’s take a look and see:
Taylor Motter – Outfielder – Seattle Mariners
Motter can play all around the diamond, stepped in for Segura yesterday and seems like the best option to play regularly while the team’s starter is out. While he’s not a blazer, he did steal 26 bases in 34 attempts at Triple-A in ’15 (went 19-for-23 in 88 games at the level last season) and went 5-for-6 during Spring Training.
It will be interesting to see if he’s given a shot at hitting atop the order, as he does have a minor league career .349 OBP (walk rates of 10.2% and 8.5% at Triple-A). Regardless of where he hits, the fact that he can steal a few bases and add some power makes him an intriguing short-term play if he’s getting regular AB. That’s no guarantee as Segura’s injury could prove minor, so monitor the situation.
Mallex Smith – Outfielder – Tampa Bay Rays
The question with Smith is whether or not he’s going to play, though for now he appears to be a lock in the lineup when there’s a right-handed pitcher on the mound. There’s certainly no questioning his speed, with 40+ SB for three straight seasons (2013-2015) including 88 SB in 2014. He’s consistently shown an ability to draw walks and get on base (.383 minor league OBP), which obviously allows him to tap into his speed.
He’s been hitting towards the bottom of the order, though for a team that doesn’t have significant thump he’s not glued to first base. He already has 3 SB on the season, proving that. For now he’s a viable option in weeks where the Rays draw mostly right-handed pitchers, though he could be sent back to Triple-A once Colby Rasmus is ready to return.
Wilmer Difo – Shortstop – Washington Nationals
In the first game without Turner the Nationals utilized Stephen Drew at shortstop. However would it be surprising to see Difo get an opportunity before long? He stole 49 bases at Single-A in ’14, has swiped at least 30 each of the past two seasons and offers more potential at the plate than Drew. With a good command of the strike zone and more of a groundball approach (1.21 GO/AO in the minor leagues), he fits the profile of a stolen base threat. Grabbing him would be a gamble, since playing time is hardly a given, but it’s something worth watching.
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com