Dynasty Performance Report: Minor League Middle Infielders 3.0

Middle Infielders seeing their dynasty value rise.

The middle infield position always feels like a top-heavy one. Routinely you see a handful of the top fantasy performers occupying a middle infield spot, especially shortstop, but then there is usually a significant drop off from there. Let’s dive in to see which MiLB players are trending up or trending down to start the year.

Be sure to head over to the Pitcher List dynasty page to check out other helpful articles such as the dynasty performance report for outfielders!


Dynasty Risers


Brice Matthews, SS, HOU


What a difference a month makes! Last month’s edition of this article listed Matthews as a faller in the honorable mention section. He was just on the verge of returning from a back injury and the 10 games that he did play prior to the injury weren’t encouraging – he had triple slashed .229/.364/.286. Since his return from injury on May 25, Matthews has been one of the best hitters in the minors. The shortstop played in 15 games and hit .407 with six home runs and eight steals. Yes, four of those games came at the Complex Level when he first returned, but most of his production came in his 11 High-A contests where he hit .391 and all six of the home runs.

The Astros were obviously impressed enough with Matthews’ performance as the 22-year-old is now at Double-A. How he performs here will be key. I had noted being down on him coming into the season due to question marks surrounding his contact ability, and that is more likely to be exposed at Double-A than High-A. Even still with his hot production at High-A, some of Matthews’ warts were on display. In his 21 games there this season, he still posted below-average contact rates and struck out north of 26%. It’s something to monitor going forward.

But there is no denying the upside here – Matthews has the power and speed to be a fantasy stud. There aren’t many players at any level that can compile six home runs and eight steals in a 15-game stretch, so if Houston is able to maximize talent, then Matthews is a breakout that is waiting to happen. He was a first-round talent for a reason, and while I still have my concerns about his ability to make contact as he climbs the minor league ladder, I am more in on Matthews and his potential to reach his ceiling than I have been at any point.


Luke Keaschall, 2B, MIN


At least to this point, Keaschall could be 2024’s biggest breakout.

The Minnesota Twins selected the second baseman with the 49th overall pick last July, so he’s far from a complete unknown, but given that this was one of the more hyped-up First-Year Player Drafts in quite some time, Keaschall flew a bit under the radar. It’s not too surprising for that to happen to a second-round pick, but Keaschall showed us signs of the hitter that he is in 31 professional games after the draft a season ago. In those games, which came between the Complex League, Single-A, and High-A, Keaschall hit .288 with three home runs and 11 steals.

But the 21-year-old has taken it to a completely different level in 2024. The second baseman kicked off the season in High-A where he triple-slashed .335/.457/.544 with seven home runs and 14 steals in 44 games. Oh, and he walked more than he struck out (15.2% walk rate compared to 14.7% strikeout rare). That earned him a promotion to Double-A, and Keaschall’s production hasn’t slowed down. In his first 19 games there, he’s hitting .333 with a home run and three steals.

It’s worth noting that Keaschall doesn’t really have a defensive home. He has seen most of his appearances as DH in 2024, though he has seen some time between second, third, and the outfield. This is one of those situations where Keaschall’s lack of defensive prowess could benefit dynasty managers down the line as he could up with eligibility at multiple positions as the Twins shuffle him around the diamond. No matter where he ends up, the bat looks good enough to play.


Honorable Mentions


Luis Pena, SS/3B, MIL: It feels like the Brewers have one or two international signees that pop immediately. It’s always difficult to get a finger on how legitimate these players are given the small sample size and level of play in the DSL, but Pena’s first 10 games are eye-popping. In those contests, the 17-year-old has triple-slashed .541/.605/.676 with one home run and 20(!!) steals. Depending on your league size, Pena could be someone to hop on now or someone to monitor a bit longer. It’s highly unlikely he can maintain that type of production, but if he continues producing at a similar level going forward he could be this year’s breakout DSL prospect. Pena signed for a $800,000 bonus this January, which was the third-highest deal by Milwaukee.

Yoeilin Cespedes, SS, BOS: Cespedes performed at a high level as a 17-year-old in the DSL back in 2023, triple-slashing .346/.392/.560 with six home runs in 46 games. So far in 22 games at the Complex Level, he’s more than backed up what we saw from him a year ago and Cespedes is becoming one of the quickest dynasty baseball prospect risers. In those 22 games, the 18-year-old  has hit five home runs while swiping three bags while triple slashing .338/.429/.675. That’s good for a 176 wRC+. Perhaps more importantly, Cespedes is walking at an 11.8% clip, compared to a 6.7% rate a year ago. Walk rates at the short-season levels can always be a bit wonky given the variance in pitching quality, but Cespedes is starting to look like the complete package.



Dynasty Fallers


Thomas Saggese, 2B, STL


Saggese was one of the biggest prospect risers in 2023, and with good reason. In his age-21 season, the infielder spent the bulk of the year with Double-A, hitting .318 with 25 home runs and 11 steals in 126 games. Many considered him to be the best player that the Cardinals had at the deadline, and that viewpoint was backed up as Saggese absolutely raked in his 33 Double-A games after the trade, triple-slashing .331/.403/.662 with 10 home runs. His overall performance earned him a late-season call-up to Triple-A where he struggled, but it was only 13 contests.

Unfortunately, those Triple-A struggles have carried over into 2024. Through 62 games, he’s hit just .234 and has a sub-.300 OBP. He has chipped in eight home runs and five steals so he is still doing some damage, but it has undoubtedly been a struggle for the player that many were hoping could make a push toward a big-league promotion at some point this season.

While Saggese’s start to 2024 has been slow, and maybe we got a little bit carried away with his immediate impact and long-term value this offseason, but this could be a nice buy window. Saggese’s stock has undeniably fallen since where it was two months ago, but he’s still only 22 years old and his BABIP is 100 points lower than where it was at Double-A. Maybe he’s not that .300 hitter that we saw a year ago, but there is still a decent bat here.


Edouard Julien, 2B, MIN


This is a minor league report and not a prospect report, so Julien technically applies. Julien was optioned to Triple-A back on June 3rd to make room for Royce Lewis. If you look at Julien’s season-long MLB stats, it might be a little bit surprising that he was the one to get the axe. Yes, his batting average was down to .207, but through 58 games his wRC+ sat at roughly league average (98) and he had compiled a 0.9 fWAR.

But things had been ugly for a little over a month. From April 28th on, the 25-year-old triple slashed just .169/.274/.181 in 95 plate appearances. He only had one extra-base hit in that span. He was also striking out nearly 40% of the time. That’s not going to cut it for any player, but it’s even worse for one whose bat is supposed to have thump in it. It was quite the cliff fall for Julien, who had a 152 wRC+ in his first 99 plate appearances. So all things considered, it’s not all that surprising that Julien was sent to St. Paul.

Unfortunately, things haven’t gotten much better there. In his first 14 games, the second baseman has hit just .170 and struck out nearly 31% of the time. If you’re looking for some optimism, Julien has at least hit two home runs. But all things considered, he’s still struggling, and it’s difficult to envision Julien making it back to the big league team without an increase in performance and an injury or two to the current roster. Long-term Julien could still be a prime Max Muncy-lite, but who knows when he will next be providing fantasy value.


Honorable Mentions


Roderick Arias, SS, NYY: Arias came into 2024 with a good amount of helium. In 2023, as an 18-year-old, Arias triple slashed .267/.423/.505 with six home runs and 17 steals in 27 Complex League games. Arias showed an incredible amount of pop for a teenage shortstop, and his walk rate north of 20% indicated a potential elite plate approach.

The 2024 season hasn’t been quite as kind to Arias. Through 62 Single-A games, he’s hitting just .209 with a strikeout rate close to 37%. Sure he is fairly young for the level, but that strikeout rate is alarmingly high. Unfortunately, he’s actually been worse in June, striking out 42.5% of the time. It’s something to monitor with the young prospect going forward, and if it doesn’t approve this season it wouldn’t be shocking to see him repeat the level in 2025.

Eric Brown Jr., SS, MIL: Brown Jr. was not necessarily considered a Top-100 prospect coming into 2024, but he was coming off a solid 2023 where he hit .265 and stole 37 bases in 63 High-A games. This year he’s been in Double-A and he has been overwhelmed by higher-level pitching. Through 46 games, the shortstop is hitting just .173. Brown Jr. doesn’t have much power, so if he’s not hitting for average and allowing his legs to provide some fantasy value, his floor is very low.


Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photo by Joe Robbins / Icon Sportswire

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