Fantasy Baseball Existentialism: An Introduction with Springer

Since 2009 when I started this whole “blogging” thing, I’ve had aspirations to write for FanGraphs. Now that I’m finally here, I don’t know what to say, so I’ll ramble for a bit and hopefully make some kind of point worth reading.

This is how LBJ must have felt when he finally became president: All those years of striving for something that seemed terribly elusive and just when you’re about quit on the whole endeavor, an opportunity arises. You are surrounded by “Harvards” and “Yales”—or in my case brilliant baseball minds—and you went to Southwest Texas State Teacher’s College—or in my case Dominican University of California—and you can’t help but imagine you are horribly inadequate and under-qualified. The good news is that, to the best of my knowledge, no one had to get assassinated for me to get here.

Think about how smart the average reader on FanGraphs probably is: you spend three hours per day watching your favorite team which you’ve done for most of your life, you’ve grown up reading about and playing baseball, and you spend a ton of free time reading about the game and poring over statistics. Add up all that mass of baseball interest and enthusiasm and love, and, well, I’m just one guy who watches the Giants a lot and has a mediocre fantasy baseball team and a fringe-to-perhaps-solid-average blog.

This column—which I’ve entitled “Fantasy Baseball Existentialism”—will be lighter on statistics and fantasy advice and heavier on…well, we’ll see how that develops. I’d kind of like to be the Hunter Thompson of fantasy baseball reporting, but my attorney says that this is a family website and to take it easy for now. But we can go just about anywhere with this thing! I’d like you, the reader, to be an integral part of the process since without readers, what would the point of writing be? Without fans buying cable packages and tickets to games, where would baseball be right now? Certainly it wouldn’t be an industry approaching $9 billion a year in revenue.

Recently, Craig Calcaterra wrote of comments:

“I like having a comments section. For all the jerks, there are still people who will point out my errors in respectful fashion and challenge me to rethink things on a regular basis…It helps to be challenged from time to time rather than assume that, because you got the job, you are an unquestioned authority.”

I couldn’t agree more. When I first started writing, I was always scared to death of comments because I couldn’t help but feel that my incompetence was going to be discovered. They were going to find me out and take away my pen! Well, my keyboard! Now that I’ve accepted that I know next to nothing about the infinitely complex and often absurd game of baseball, I’m extremely excited to read the comments—they might help me learn something!

Okay, enough with this blatant and temporizing delay; this is a fantasy baseball blog after all, so let’s get into fantasy baseball. The big news of the week was the Houston Astros calling up top outfield prospect George Springer, who ranked as Baseball America’s #37 prospect this winter. Springer has light-tower power, but I wonder if he’s going to have enough bat-to-ball to tap into his pop. Will he go the way of Brandon Wood or the less highly touted Brett Jackson? Springer fanned in nearly 30 percent of his plate appearances at Double-A in 2012 before cutting it down to below 25 percent in 327 Triple-A plate appearances. If he’s striking out 25-30 percent of the time at the upper levels of the minors, how often will he whiff against big league pitching?

Jeff Sullivan took a shot at examining Springer this off-season, and the closest comp he came up with was Justin Maxwell. Sullivan wrote:

“…it has to be emphasized that Springer is statistically extreme in several ways…This is why Springer is so fascinating. It’s not just that he swings and misses a lot — it’s that he swings and misses so much, and he hasn’t even reached the majors yet….Don’t listen to anyone who might suggest the contact struggles are a deal-breaker. A guy with contact problems just has to make up for them in other ways, and Springer has plenty of ways. Almost all of the ways. Speed, base-running, power, defense, whatever you want.”

My fantasy team desperately needs outfield help, however, so when I heard the news he was coming up, I made the waiver claim. Maybe he’ll catch lightning in a bottle at some point. He certainly has more tools and upside than anyone else you can find on the waiver market right now.

In conclusion, as I can hear the readers playing the music from the wrap-it-up box, I like to build my fantasy baseball team like a real baseball team. I’m an all-or-nothing person; I live in a black-and-white world with no shades of gray. There can be no separation of fantasy from reality: everything has to be real. Even though my league doesn’t have WAR or UZR as statistical criteria, it sure as hell should, so I built my team as if I was a real-life GM, which is why I don’t have any outfielders. I built my team with up-the-middle infielders and Evan Longoria who is basically an up-the-middle player because he’s so good defensively. Thus, by the time I went to build an outfield, there wasn’t much left.

The Astros are counting on Springer to be a key cog in their eventual turn-around. My fantasy team doesn’t need him to be a centerpiece, but we’ll bring him in and see how it goes. There are no guarantees that the Astros will become relevant in the next few years despite the best intentions of a savvy front office. Springer tapping into that 80-raw power would be a giant step in the direction the Astros want to go. Most of us sabermetric junkies are rooting for their grand experiment to work, and now my fantasy team is involved. I’ve got skin in the Astros game now. That is ultimately what fantasy sports are about: creating new-found excitement where it wouldn’t otherwise exist. A team that’s lost an average of 108 games a year over the past three seasons is producing box scores I’m much more inclined to read now.

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Mark Reynolds graduated from Dominican University of California in 2008 with a degree in Political Science. Since graduating, he's been "blogging" about baseball and other topics.

27 Responses to “Fantasy Baseball Existentialism: An Introduction with Springer”

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  1. Bobby C says:

    Man, I got offered CarGo for Springer in my keeper league. I can keep Springer for a 27th round pick for the next 4 years, and CarGo can’t be kept. I’m torn!

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    • murph3699 says:

      That’s a tough one. In the offseason, I acquired Springer (29th round for 4 years) and Cano in a deal that cost me Scherzer (2 yrs 3rd round) and Holland (2 yrs 27th). I later flipped Cano for Miggy. I’d probably pull the trigger if another player could be added to the deal

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    • tough call. I’d probably do it for the (fantasy) team control.

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    • jdbolick says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      If your league uses OBP then keep Springer. If it doesn’t and you’re in a position to contend, go ahead and take Gonzalez but it wouldn’t hurt to ask for a sweetener. People have been comparing Springer to Mike Cameron when the reality is that Mike Cameron never ever had a Z-Contact% even close to as bad as Springer.

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    • Iron Mikey says:

      Trust your instincts. Take the deal.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Do it! I’d expect more out of CarGo this year (fantasy wise) than I’d expect out of Springer over the next four.

      (Of course, I really don’t think Springer will ever be more than Mike Cameron without the average or OBP).

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  2. J says:

    Also worth noting is that Springer has been inserted into the 2-spot in the lineup. So should pick up extra plate appearances, runs, RBI, etc.

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  3. Chippchipp says:

    Welcome Mark! You have a great name for a baseball writer :)

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  4. bird3478 says:

    “I’m extremely excited to read the comments—they might help me learn something!” – You suck.

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  5. bird3478 says:

    (Just kidding) looking forward to your pieces.

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  6. thals says:

    Great article…nice intro to Springer

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  7. fantasyn00b says:

    Id day tell your commish to start using higher level stats but it sounds like your league is for posts anyway.

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  8. Fenderbelly says:

    Don’t stop here. This is bat country.

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  9. Spa City says:

    Excellent article Mark. I am looking forward to many more. As a fellow owner of mediocre fantasy teams (all OttoNeu), I appreciate your insight. I acquired Springer for all 3 of my teams, so I am “all-in” on the great experiment. With his speed, power and ability to draw walks, I suspect he will be at least somewhat productive. His defense and lack of competition will keep him in the lineup daily. And overall, I enjoy fielding an exciting team… I would rather play Springer than go a safer route and fill my team with mediocre outfielders.

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  10. theeiffeltower says:

    who says Springer has 80 power?

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  11. RIP Oderus Urungus says:

    Why has no one made a roto style league where WAR is the only stat? Don’t know how much fun that would be, but no one knows until someone tries it.

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  12. Aaron Trammell says:

    Sounds like you grew up like me; living and breathing baseball, and now trying to find an audience to write about baseball. Right now it’s limited to Reddit and the school newspaper, but you gotta start somewhere right? Congrats on making “the big time”.

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  13. Don Pardo says:

    I’m in a roto league that counts K’s as a hitting category just like RBI and HR, which puts a huge dent in Springer’s value for me.

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