Fantasy owners are constantly looking for the next big thing, but not every hyped play delivers on the promise. Let’s take a look at two young middle infielders and determine if they will breakout in 2020 or if they are better off being ignored:
Shed Long – Second Baseman – Seattle Mariners
Long has shown both power and speed as he worked his way through the minors and gave a sneak peek of what could be possible upon making his debut in ’19. Over 168 PA with the Mariners he hit .263 with 5 HR and 3 SB, while adding 12 doubles and 1 triple. With Dee Gordon remaining on the roster there’s a chance he takes some AB away from Long, though for a rebuilding franchise that makes little sense.
Instead we need to focus on what Long can do on the diamond, with the power (14.3% HR/FB) and speed there to post 20/10 seasons. The question comes in his approach, though he wasn’t abysmal last season with a 10.7% SwStr% and 27.3% O-Swing%. Of course he had a 12.0% SwStr% while at Triple-A, though these Whiff% in the Majors (albeit in a small sample size) gives further hope:
- Hard – 9.71%
- Breaking – 13.95%
- Offspeed – 20.43%
It was a small sample size and he only saw offspeed pitches 14.37% of the time. Considering he hit .150 with a .250 SLG against changeups it’s easy to envision opposing pitchers showing him more and more of them. That could lead to sophomore struggles and lost AB, especially in a sprint as opposed to a marathon season.
Verdict – Worthy of a Bench Spot (High Risk Though)
Nicky Lopez – Shortstop – Kansas City Royals
Lopez was never viewed as a high-end prospect, as we handed him a “C+” grade prior to the 2019 season. At that time we said:
While many of the Royals’ hitting prospects come with questions about their approach, Lopez is a different animal. Playing between Double and Triple-A he posted a 5.5% SwStr%, leading to a 9.0% strikeout rate and 10.3% walk rate. The problem is, what else does he bring to the table? In 504 AB he hit .308 with 9 HR and 15 SB, and while it’s possible he develops into a 10/20 producer from a middle infield spot that’s not quite a given. If he gets there he’s going to have some appeal, and that makes him worth monitoring.
He did continue to show that same type of approach at the highest level, including a 6.4% SwStr% and 31.6% O-Swing%, but he didn’t show anything to suggest the power and speed would play. Over 402 PA in the Majors in ’19 he managed just 2 HR and 1 SB. There is more upside in his SB total, assuming he starts to get on base more…
That’s a big assumption, however, as he simply didn’t hit the ball hard enough (25.4% Hard%) and owned among the worst Barrel% in the league (1.5%). Throw in an immense number of groundballs (62.2%) and bottom level exit velocities (83.8 mph) and it’s impossible to get excited.
Verdict – Hard Pass
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Savant
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: