While fantasy baseball doesn’t pretend to fully reflect on-the-field value for individual players, there’s always a strange disconnect when a player objectively compiles a quality season and it’s not captured in standard fantasy formats. Often, that difference can be ascribed to defensive value, which is not accounted for in fantasy, but occasionally, a player pops up who provides solid offensive value for their team yet is marginally useful in fantasy.
This year, Marco Scutaro of the San Francisco is a perfect example of the value disconnect.
Scutaro is hitting .313/.373/.391 on the season and owns a +2.3 WAR. He was voted to the All-Star Game earlier this month. Furthermore, among second basemen who have accumulated at least 200 plate appearances this year, the 37-year-old veteran has the sixth-best wRC+ at 122. By almost any measure we utilize to describe value, Scutaro has clearly been an above-average player for the San Francisco Giants. It would be a waste of time to even debate that fact.
However, according to ESPN’s player ratings, he is the 18th-ranked fantasy second baseman this season. He even ranks behind utility man Mike Aviles, who doesn’t even play everyday for the Indians. As discussed above, his fantasy ranking lies in stark contrast to his obvious on-the-field value. It’s of the main reasons he has such high ownership rates (77.4% in ESPN leagues) compared to someone such as Brian Dozier (12.2%) — although Dozier has essentially had the same fantasy value to this point in the season. To push the point further, Scutaro even has a higher ownership rate than Kelly Johnson, who is the 11th-ranked fantasy second baseman in 2013.
So, the real question: how does a player with a .340 wOBA and a 122 wRC+ become a fringe fantasy producer?
Scutaro’s main strength lies in his ability to control the strike zone. He hits for great average and pairs that with a solid walk rate to post an above-average OBP. That’s obviously very valuable. However, he offers almost nothing in any of the counting categories. He doesn’t hit for any power, drive in many runs or steal many bases. Here’s how he ranks in each standard rotisserie category among second basemen with at least 200 plate appearances:
All of Scutaro’s value is tied up in a single category, and that’s not enough to be a useful fantasy player when the performance in the other categories is decidedly below-average. If he was anything but dreadful in the bottom-three categories outlined above, he would be a nice little mid-tier player in most fantasy leagues. As it stands, his faults more than outweigh his strengths.
That’s interesting to think about in the context of fantasy baseball. Although fantasy doesn’t claim to encapsulate the entirety of a player’s on-the-field value, it does hope to accurately capture their offensive value. That’s why guys like Marco Scutaro are intriguing outliers. But, at the same time, that’s why fantasy baseball is about more than just drafting the guy with the best wOBA or FIP. It’s important to understand how value is calculated in your league and view players through that lens.
And through most fantasy baseball lenses, Marco Scutaro is simply not very valuable this year.
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