Fantasy Free Agents: Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Javier Báez

Exploring the fantasy impact of Texas and Detroit's rehauled infield

 

Before the MLB landscape froze into a mosaic of gray silhouettes, the Rangers signed two of the off-season’s prized free agents in Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to deals totaling ten years, $325M and seven years, $175M, respectively. Not to be outdone, the Tigers inked Javier Báez to a six-year contract worth $140M. Let’s take a look at the potential effect for the upcoming 2022 fantasy season.

Team wOBA and wRC+ Ranks 

 

 

In review, we can see how the teams involved stacked up offensively last year. Nothing shocking here – if you played DFS last season or found yourself rummaging around for pitchers to stream in your leagues, the Blue Jays and Dodgers were two teams to steer clear of, and conversely, your eyes probably lit up when the Rangers and Tigers were on the schedule.

The biggest impact from the signings might just be making the Rangers a team that you might be a little more hesitant in streaming pitchers against. In the second half last year, after trading away Joey Gallo, the Rangers’ offense hit rock bottom with a .281 team wOBA, dead last behind the Angels at .288. Their team leader in home runs last season, Adolis García with 31, slashed .211/ .256/ .370 in the second half. Both Semien and Seager should help the Rangers and their league-worst team OBP of .294.

Javier Báez played in two lineups last year that both underperformed with the Cubs in the first half and the Mets following the trade at the deadline. Robbie Grossman led the Tigers last year with 23 home runs, followed by Eric Haase and Jonathan Schoop, both with 22. While Báez should help add some much-needed power, considering his 33.6% K rate last year, he might also exacerbate their struggles with strikeouts (25.3% team K rate, 3rd highest last year).

Last Year’s Starters

The Rangers’ primary second baseman last year, Nick Solak, got off to quite the start last season, producing a .390 wOBA through the month of April. But then the rest of the season happened: a .273 wOBA in 399 PA. The Semien signing will push him to the outfield, where he should split time with Willie Calhoun. The Rangers also signed Kole Calhoun to a one-year deal worth $5.2 M as another option in the corner.

The Seager signing is also significant for Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, who was the Ranger’s primary shortstop last season. He ended up with 20 steals last year while hitting .271, so he certainly was a useful player for fantasy purposes; however, his playing time could be in jeopardy this upcoming year as he’s projected for just 338 PA by Steamer. He figures to get most of his playing time at 3B this upcoming year, but he could eventually be challenged by the Rangers’ top-hitting prospect Josh Jung, who was shelved last year with foot surgery.

El Mago might not be the perfect player offensively, especially with his K rate on the rise for four straight years now and a career .307 OBP, but there is no denying the upgrade he is over the cast of characters that the Tigers pieced together last year at short. Niko Goodrumwho is now a free agent, led the group with a less than robust .286 wOBA.

The BAT Park Factors

2022 Steamer Projections and NFBC ADP

 

Ignoring his rough couple of months during what was the 2020 season, Semien has transformed into one of the league’s premier power threats in the middle of the infield with 78 home runs over his last two full years. Even more remarkable, he’s been an iron man playing in all 162 games in 2019 and 2021. Now, we can’t expect a repeat of last year’s 45 home runs, easily a career-high. His 2021 seems like an outlier that may have been boosted by hitting in the middle of a loaded Blue Jays lineup along with home parks that all favored power. Semien’s pull rate and flyball rate both climbed to career-highs last year, and so too did his HR/FB rate.

That, along with having the ninth-highest wOBA-xwOBA differential on pulled fly balls last season (500 PA min), might indicate that he fell on the positive side of variance last year. Not that it’s surprising given that some things had to have gone right for him to put together such a remarkable season, but coming off what might have been a career year, his ADP inside the top 30 now carries significant opportunity cost.

Steamer is forecasting 30 home runs next year for Semien, a big drop relative to his output last season, but for context, it’s also tied with Francisco Lindor for their second-highest home run projection at shortstop behind, of course, Fernando Tatís Jr at 46. Speaking of Lindor, his NFBC ADP is sitting at a comparatively modest 49.91, and Steamer has him projected for 30 HR, 90 R, 90 RBI, 13 SB, and a .252 batting average. He looks like an option to consider if you are targeting a shortstop with similar output as Semien at a more reasonable price.

Báez did buoy his stock by posting an excellent .299/ .371/ .515 slash with the Mets last year (186 PA), but overall there are some concerns. He has seen his K rate climb up for four straight years now, peaking at 33.6% last year, and he’s headed to play half his games at Comerica Park, where he might lose a few home runs. His low OBP and lack of support behind him in the lineup might make his run total a little on the light side, too; Steamer has his run total at 71, so plan accordingly if he’s a target of yours. His projected .244 batting average would also be, disregarding 2020 and his rookie season, the lowest of his career.

Seager, unlike Báez and Semien, doesn’t bring stolen base potential to the table, but he does, however, bring what should be an excellent batting average. Steamer’s projected .290 batting average for Seager, and Trea Turner is just behind Bo Bichette at .292 for the top mark among shortstops. If you mash together Seager’s last two seasons, which comes out to 641 PA across 147 games, you get a .391 wOBA with a .306 batting average, 31 HR, 92 R, and 98 RBI, hinting at his upside. He doesn’t have the benefit of hitting in Dodgers Stadium anymore, but Seager still is a hitter with a high floor that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with his ADP being deflated after last year’s injury-shortened season.

Photos by Brian Rothmuller & Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG)

Ryan Amore

Writer for PL, artist, DFS enthusiast, and occasional Yankee fan. Once won a GPP with Henderson Alvarez. A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club. Appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

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