Author Archive

Taylor Motter: More Than Just a Great Head of Hair

If you follow great hair in sports as closely as I do, you already know about Taylor Motter. In Spring Training, he unleashed a hair flip so fantastic that it spawned the Mariners’ new between-innings “Hair Flip Cam.” Sadly, when I looked for footage of the Hair Flip Cam, I only found a handful of Twitter mentions. Trust me when I say that it exists and is awesome.

Acquired in a relatively minor trade with Tampa in November, Motter is a 27-year-old without a whole lot of prospect pedigree. Here at FanGraphs, Motter slotted in as the No. 11 Rays prospect pre-2016, and Seattle’s No. 18 guy this year. In short, he’s not the type of player you’d expect to be the subject of a fantasy column in April.

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Arrows Up: Early-Season Middle Infield Trends

One week into the season, it’s obviously too early to place much weight on any player’s performance thus far. In these early days of the season, I like to instead take a look at situational trends that alter players’ fantasy potential going forward. From position battles to lineup placement, there’s plenty to talk about from a fantasy perspective, without looking too much into small-sample statistics.

I identified three middle infielders whose fantasy arrows are pointing up, two of whom are widely available on waiver wires. (Position eligibility and ownership percentages from Yahoo.)

Marcus Semien – SS – 47% owned

When this season opened, it didn’t look like much changed for Oakland’s starting shortstop from the start of last season. Semien worked his way up the batting order as last season went on, bouncing around between the No. 2 and No. 7 spots from mid-May onward, and even saw 16 starts in the leadoff spot. However, 2017 started with the 26-year-old right back down at the bottom of the lineup, batting ninth twice and eighth once in the team’s first three games.

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Scott Strandberg’s Ten Bold Predictions for 2017

Spring is here, and with it comes a renewed sense of optimism for yours truly. The never-ending cold rain and oppressive grayness of my first winter in Seattle is giving way to slightly warmer rain and a lighter shade of gray, and the sun even made an appearance last Tuesday. I’m more excited for baseball season than ever, seeing as I finally live in a major-league city for the first time in my life. Also, WrestleMania and Opening Day — objectively the best two days of the year — land on consecutive days in 2017.

Unfortunately, this time of year also means I get my annual opportunity to make a fool of myself with my Bold Predictions column. The last time I did well with these, I was still in my twenties and The Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak was intact. I’m not saying that turning 30 (or 31…or 32…) definitively altered my ability to make borderline-crazy-yet-somewhat-possible baseball predictions. However, right around that same time, I developed a bald spot on the top of my head. Without the protective layer of hair, a great many thoughts started escaping my head, and I became much less smart.

What’s changed now? I’m so glad you asked. I recently discovered the incredible Thought Screen Helmet! Originally intended to shield your brain from alien mind-control waves, it turns out that the Thought Screen Helmet not only keeps the aliens out, it also helps keep your thoughts in! Furthermore, the Thought Screen Helmet sports a great track record, with “Only one failure since 1998.”

With my Thought Screen Helmet firmly strapped in, I’m ready to unleash my new and improved Bold Predictions, now featuring occasional accuracy! Hopefully.

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Speculating on Speedsters: Quinn, Granite and Allen

As Paul Sporer noted last week, stolen bases are getting expensive in this year’s drafts. With players like Jose Peraza and Jarrod Dyson shooting up draft boards, it’s clear that fantasy owners are more than willing to pay for steals in 2017.

Personally, there is nothing I love more than a good bargain. I spent a good two minutes doing price comparisons on hot dog buns at the grocery store yesterday, before finding some off-brand buns for just 89 cents on the bottom shelf. I don’t care who you are, you don’t need to be spending big on hot dog buns.

This is the same approach I take to speed-only players in fantasy baseball (great transition, Scott). I don’t like to spend on speedsters in my leagues, partially because I know steals are probably going to be available on the waiver wire. There’s usually a handful of undrafted bench players or minor leaguers who end up swiping a significant number of bags.

Last year, Travis Jankowski stole 30 bases in 383 plate appearances. Keon Broxton swiped 23 in 244 PA. Dyson was another example, stealing 30 bases in his 337 PA. The aforementioned Peraza picked up 21 steals in 256 trips to the plate. It’s no coincidence that Dyson, Peraza and Broxton were the top three players Sporer mentioned last week when discussing rising ADPs.

I got to thinking about who those guys will be next year; the players who go undrafted in fantasy leagues this year, but end up in high demand in 2018 due to gaudy smallish-sample steal totals. I identified three players to keep an eye on for steals as the season progresses, or perhaps slot into a reserve or minor-league spot, if your league has those.

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2017 Second Base Tier Rankings – March Edition

It’s hard to believe this is my fourth season writing these monthly tiered rankings for second base. As the old adage goes, time flies when you’re forming position-specific tiers of real baseball players for fake baseball purposes.

A clear trend that formed over the last three years of writing this column is that second base keeps getting deeper and deeper. While there are elite options at the position, the list of players that I would be okay with rostering is plenty long.

With this in mind, I decided to implement a new feature to my tiers this year, motivated by a piece I wrote on Yahoo’s average auction prices a couple weeks ago. By including this data, I hope to help you identify where hidden value lies at the position. Whether your league does an auction or a traditional draft, understanding how your fellow owners value players is vital to any preseason preparation.

Without further ado, here are your preseason second-base tiers for 2017. As always, if you disagree with my rankings — or if I missed anyone who should be ranked — feel free to sound off in the comments section. (For reference, I’m using Yahoo’s position eligibility requirements).

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Why Is Matt Carpenter Getting No Love?

Last week, I wrote a reaction piece to Yahoo’s average auction values at second base. This exercise helped me identify some trends regarding underpaid and overpaid players at the position heading into the 2017 season. One such discovery was that of Matt Carpenter‘s budget-friendly $16.2 average auction price.

Considering Carpenter’s prodigious power production over the last two seasons, it surprised me to see that owners were spending more on 11 other 2B, all the way up to Jose Altuve‘s steep $49.0 price tag. Specifically, I’m wondering why Carp costs about ten bucks less than anyone in the Robinson Cano/Brian Dozier/Jonathan Villar/Daniel Murphy/Rougned Odor tier. All of those players are going off the board for $25-$28.

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Finding Second-Base Gems in Yahoo’s Average Auction Values

Yahoo launched their fantasy baseball site for 2017 over three weeks ago, which means that by now, there should be some solid trends to analyze in their average draft position and auction value data. There’s some surprises to be found in the early returns, so let’s dive right into the top 12 by average auction price. (When looking at the 2016 values, keep in mind that Turner and Gordon each played roughly half a season, and Carpenter dealt with an oblique injury.)

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Holding out Hope for Kolten Wong

Second base looks like a deep position heading into 2017. This is likely news to no one reading this column. However, something that goes overlooked a bit is how shallow the position is in NL-only leagues.

Taking a look at the average draft position for 2B, this becomes quite clear. After Nats teammates Trea Turner and Daniel Murphy, second-base options for NL-only formats grow thin in a hurry. Dee Gordon, DJ LeMahieu, Jose Peraza, Ben Zobrist, Jedd Gyorko, Logan Forsythe, Neil Walker and Josh Harrison round out the top ten. There’s a pretty big drop-off after Gordon and LeMahieu, both of whom I personally value significantly less than Turner and Murphy to begin with.

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Everyone Is Paying Too Much for Jose Peraza

This far out from the start of the season, most of the average draft position data we have available is largely speculative, and understandably so. Still, I find value in analyzing the returns from this uncertain period, as it helps us develop some early trends going into our own draft/auction preparation. Second base is my usual beat here at RotoGraphs, so the other day I found myself examining the NFBC ADP for the position.

There’s other surprises in that data to save for another day, but today I’d like to discuss Jose Peraza‘s position as the 12th 2B drafted. Peraza is currently going ahead of Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Jonathan Schoop, Devon Travis, Jedd Gyorko, Starlin Castro, Logan Forsythe and Neil Walker. I’m sure we all have our own arguments about which of those eight names should slot in above Peraza, but I’m also fairly confident most of us prefer at least one or two of them to Peraza. Right?

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Yasmani Grandal Rounds into Form

2016 was an odd year for catchers in fantasy baseball. Something that caught my eye was the ownership rates of the top-ranked catchers. Only two catcher-eligible players — Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey — ended the season above 90% ownership in Yahoo leagues. Gary Sanchez got close (87%, with those other 13% likely being dead leagues), as did Salvador Perez (also 87%), and Wilson Ramos was in the 80+% range for a while as well, before he was widely dropped following his late-season injury.

Regardless of the reasoning, the fact that only the top two catchers were owned in >90% of leagues is significant, seeing as shortstop was the position with the second-fewest >90% owned players, with seven. The weirdest aspect of this is that 2016 was a good year for catchers in fantasy; so good, perhaps, that it was too deep for some smaller one-catcher leagues.

While it’s worth noting that Rotographs is using an updated auction calculator this year, it’s plainly clear how much more productive the position was this year compared to 2015. Last year, just one player earned his fantasy owners more than $20 worth of production, and that was Buster Posey. This year, Posey was joined by Lucroy and Ramos above the $20 threshold. Furthermore, the value of this year’s No. 10 catcher — Brian McCann at $10.20 — makes it even wackier that A.J. Pierzynski was the No. 10 fantasy catcher last year, with a whopping $3.42 value.

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