Boy, has my infield depth improved over the past week. You know why? Because I keep landing up-and-comers like Bryson Stott, Jake Burger and Luis Garcia.
I'd venture to say you haven't. They're rostered in only 37, 22 and 21 percent of CBS Sports leagues, respectively. Part of it's because, well, not everybody plays in the sort of league where infield depth is beneficial. Maybe it's so small that quality replacements can always be found on the waiver wire. Maybe it's so slanted toward pitching that stockpiling arms makes more sense. I'm not saying everyone could use Stott, Burger or Garcia.
But everyone with a need at second, third or shortstop could, as could everyone with an interest in upside. I'd say the bigger reason why they haven't been widely added yet is because people look at what those three have done in the majors so far and presume they're small potatoes. Let's see if I can convince you otherwise.
Jon Gray SP
TEX Texas • #22 • Age: 31
Sunday marked the second double digit-strikeout game in three for Jon Gray, and even though the opponent was the White Sox, it was a legitimately dominant effort. He had 19 swinging strikes, including eight on the fastball and 10 on the slider. His velocity was even up about 1 mph on both. It would seem like a big step forward if not for the start in between in which he allowed five runs with four walks vs. only three strikeouts. Still, we liked his chances for a breakout leaving Colorado, and a couple early injuries may have prevented him from finding his groove. If nothing else, he seems to be trending in the right direction.
Bryson Stott SS
PHI Philadelphia • #5 • Age: 25
Bryson Stott added another home run over the weekend, giving him four since he entered the lineup for good June 1. The rookie is batting .333 (12 for 36) in those 10 games, walking four times compared to just six strikeouts. The plate discipline is notable because it was his most impressive attribute during his time in the minors, furthering the idea that he's found his rhythm with everyday at-bats. "Obviously, it helps getting those at-bats every day and kind of just grinding through it," Stott said last week. "Just getting more comfortable and being more relaxed." He's eligible at second base and shortstop and worth adding if you have a need at either.
Tanner Houck RP
BOS Boston • #89 • Age: 26
Turns out the Red Sox's much sought-after closer may have been hiding in other roles all this time. Tanner Houck of course began the year in the starting rotation and has spent most of his professional career there, but he transitioned to long relief toward the end of April and has more recently gotten a look as a high-leverage reliever late in games -- late as in the ninth inning both Friday and Sunday. Whenever a pitcher records back-to-back saves for a team in desperate need of a closer, you have to treat it as the start of something. Houck might be best suited for the role, featuring nothing but hard stuff, which includes a wipeout slider.
MIN Minnesota • #19 • Age: 25
How hot does Alex Kirilloff have to get before the Twins call him back up? At the very least, he's hot enough for us to anticipate it and put in a claim before interest spikes. So how hot is he? He homered three times again over the weekend, twice on Saturday and once on Sunday, to give him seven in his past nine games and nine overall at Triple-A. He's batting .355 with a 1.083 OPS down there. We still haven't seen a fair representation of the 24-year-old's abilities at the major-league level seeing as his time last year and this year was marred by wrist pain, but he appears to be over it now.
Jake Burger 3B
CHW Chi. White Sox • #30 • Age: 26
Between Yoan Moncada's continued struggles and Gavin Sheets' demotion to the minors, Jake Burger appears to have settled into a regular role in the White Sox lineup. Actually, it's more like he's seized it, batting .433 (13 for 30) with four homers in his past eight games. It brings his full-season numbers up to a .277 batting average and .842 OPS, which is better than you're probably used to seeing at third base. His strikeout rate is still up near 30 percent, which brings with it considerable risk, but the former first-round pick has always rated high for quality of contact and is in the 96th percentile for maximum exit velocity. His recent production could be legit.
Luis Garcia SS
WAS Washington • #2 • Age: 22
The lack of enthusiasm for Luis Garcia, who was ranking among the top 100 prospects even as a teenager, is disappointing but presents an opportunity. Yes, we had already seen him in the majors for 370 at-bats prior to this year -- 370 futile, punchless at-bats -- but he was 20 and 21 years old at the time and clearly rushed to meet a need. Who knows how high he would have climbed in the prospect rankings if he hadn't exhausted his eligibility? Things continue to go better for him in this latest look in the majors, including a 7-for-13 performance over the weekend to bring his batting average to .372. This is after he hit .314 with an .899 at Triple-A.
Tanner Scott RP
MIA Miami • #66 • Age: 28
Just like the Red Sox appear to have found their new closer in Tanner Houck, so have the Marlins in Tanner Scott. The left-hander has recorded each of the team's past three saves, including on back-to-back days Thursday and Friday. He was often teased as a closer-in-waiting for the Orioles, though control issues (and possibly his left-handedness) prevented him from getting an honest look in the role. His walk rate remains high with the Marlins, but he hasn't issued one in his past seven appearances and may miss enough bats (13.9 K/9) to make up for it anyway.