Groovin' with Govier: Fantasy Baseball Roundup (3/1)
FTN's Michael Govier dives in on the top news around fantasy baseball to find the actionable advice heading into the 2023 MLB season.
Mar 01, 2023, 8:20 AM EST
Welcome to the opening Spring Training edition of Groovin’ With Govier! If you’re new here (regulars: skip), I dissect various players and strategies related to the current fantasy baseball landscape. Don’t forget our 2023 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide is available right now. Save a couple bones with my promo code MJGOVIER when you sign up so you can get access to Eric Cross, Matty Davis, Vlad Sedler and many more FTN whiz-kids! Now let’s get our pump on without pulling a Musgrove.
Cold Cut Combo
With my ADP blackout in the rear-view mirror, your old bozo pal Govier finally broke the seal on the 2023 drafting season. I’m currently drafting in League 4 of the NFBC 15-team 50-round draft-and-hold Pallazzo Podcast Invitational. That means no in-season FAAB, plus it has an overall component included among all of the leagues no matter how many leagues we end up with (we’re currently filling League 6!). I was exposed early on to a draft conundrum that I found curious. The conundrum formed into two different sets of 2B and OF options at the turn to close round two (I have the number one draft slot). After starting my draft with two players for the price of one in Shohei Ohtani, I narrowed my options to Marcus Semien, Randy Arozarena, Luis Robert or Ozzie Albies. My personal rankings for these four players spit out the following hierarchy: Robert/Albies/Semien/Arozarena. After reviewing the board, I decided I would wait on another pitcher because I prefer not to spend too much early draft capital on more than one SP unless the opportunity is too great to ignore (always be willing to adjust on the fly). 20-plus years of fantasy baseball drafting experience hve taught me that. The omnipresent NFBC ADP had Semien at 35, Albies at 55, Arozarena at 39 and Robert at 49.
First, the 2B. Can you believe that after the power outage we witnessed in 2022, Semien cranked 45 dongs in his contract year with Toronto back in 2021?! We have been a party to two consecutive epic contract year performances with the elusive Aaron Judge topping Semien’s curtain call last year. Maybe there is something to this contract year dilly yo? Anyways, Semien is being treated like a 20/20 certainty with an improved lineup in Texas. Yet, 25 was by far the most steals he ever had in a season. The Rangers have earned their reputation as base thieves. They led the MLB pack in swipes twice since 2019. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! Meet the new boss: Bruce Bochy. Is he the same as the old boss? In his last season in 2019, Bochy’s Giants stole the third-fewest bases in baseball. Granted, this year’s Texas roster is much more equipped than that squad was. Yet it’s not a slam dunk that Semien is a lock for 20/20 this season. With Ozzie Albies, his unfortunate injury luck last year limited him to 269 PA. If you throw out the 2020 shortened bozo season, Albies hit 24, 24 and 30 HR over his last three full seasons prior to 2022. Another area that I love to exploit during drafts is the collective short memory of many fantasy managers that seems to be surviving solely by feasting on recency bias. Albies was also a top-20 pick coming into 2022! Now he’s not? What might have been lost during this time? I vividly remember sniping Paul Sporer at our 2022 NFBC Main Event draft in Las Vegas inside the posh Bellagio. The lanky fella burst out in animated frustration the moment I drafted Albies 14th overall in Round 1. Paul had the last laugh though, as I ended up doing him a favor (Paul finished fifth; I finished ninth). Albies was seen as being ready to take that next step to first round status as a borderline 5 category performer in a very tasty lineup. If injury is all that is stopping the masses from drafting Albies this year, I see no bona fide reason to minimize or devalue him. It’s a tight one, but what you see is what you get with Semien at 32 years old. The 26-year-old Albies still has another notch to level up to. That’s why I took Albies.
Next, the OF. I often do my sexy specs dance at the thought of Randy Arozarena. His explosive run in the 2020 bozo playoffs set a tone that was going to be hard to live up to. Remember when he stole home in the 2021 ALDS against the Red Sawks?! Randy has power and speed for days, but the power hasn’t quite gone to the levels I hoped for after that 2020 miracle mile. His 51% GB rate reminds me of his teammate Yandy Díaz. This is our concern, dude. Luis Robert though was the once and future king. The prophecy said he would bring balance to the force. Morpheus said he was the one. Gandalf was certain he could save Middle Earth. Did I miss any others? Hit me up on Twitter. Robert can do everything a fantasy manager wants a 5-tool player to do. Unfortunately, injuries happen. Poor managerial hires happen. Next thing you know, you’re 25 years old with a lot less to show for the last three seasons than you expected. Robert is training his mind with a renewed purpose for 2023 (cue the cliche about “best shape of my life” spring training bits). He recently expressed his entirely new approach for spring training to James Fegan of The Athletic. I am of the opinion that outside all the deep statistical dives we can clearly delineate from, there is the social and mental aspect of the game that is more challenging to squeeze into a spreadsheet. This is where the Tony La Russa angle comes in. His presence seemed to bring about a Swamps of Sadness feeling within the White Sox clubhouse. Now that The Nothing (also known as TLR) has been wiped away, I am bullish on Robert. To me it’s the ultimate combination of timing, talent, experience, variance and wisdom colliding as one to bring about the best that a baseball player can be. Injuries are a threat when drafting Robert, but he didn’t always have that tag. He is legitimately capable of being the number one asset in fantasy baseball! Arozarena will never hit for average like Robert can, but I admit the power and speed numbers may be comparable for both over a full season. And yes, Robert is the bigger risk between the two because of durability. For me it simply comes down to a new day for Robert. He can’t be limited every season of his career, can he? Cue the Byron Buxton bit! I took Robert, but I don’t think you can go wrong with Randy either. The combo of Robert and Albies has a higher ceiling to me, but the floor of Semien and Randy is a very safe, reliable place to be as well.
Spring training is underway! That’s usually an exciting time for us fantasy folk, but unfortunately not so much for Gavin Lux. He had to be carted off the field the other day after tearing his ACL running to third. Lux is toast for 2023. He notably beefed up in the offseason, adding serious muscle to his happening body. Who can say for sure if he was too jacked or if it was a fluke, but all we know now is his loss creates one more opportunity on the Dodger roster that needs to be filled. Cui bono? Who benefits? Well, the trade to bring in veteran Miguel Rojas pays off even more now that Lux is cashed out for 2023. Rojas isn’t much of a fantasy asset though. Never really wowed anybody at the office. Ya know? The hype around Miguel Vargas will only intensify now, but he’s a 2B at best and spent his brief time in the Bigs last year playing 1B, LF or DH. Yonny Hernandez is a 24-year-old speedster with little experience and no pop. Jorbit Vivas has promise with a recent appearance in the Arizona Fall League but needs more seasoning as he only played at High-A coming into 2023. For now it looks like Chris Taylor will participate more in drills preparing him to play SS, but it feels like a transaction for another veteran might be a good idea for Andrew Friedman and company.
2021 was a season of promise for Baddoo. 2022 was a season of sadness for Baddoo. 2023 will be … a season of redemption for Baddoo? It’s spring training so please take that warning seriously. The other night, Akil Baddoo led off against Luis Severino and the Yankees, going 1-2 with two runs scored. He also stole two bases! Baddoo’s splits against lefties weren’t as bad last year as 2021. He had 9 hits in 42 PA against LHP in 2022, with 8 of those 9 hits being singles. He only had 7 XBH combined against all pitchers in 2022. He was horrendous last year, but the splits show he was a weak hitter universally regardless if the pitcher was a lefty or righty. It’s a sliver of hope, but I am all about the silver linings. Excelsior! We all need to slow our roll here, but if Baddoo can return to his 110 wRC+ in 461 PA with 18 steals rookie form in 2021, we at least have to add him to our watch lists. Also, I wrote a fitting tribute to Baddoo back in his rookie year. Check it out!
I don’t want to give away my guys here, but this is the way. I’m here to serve you. In my service, I believe that Manuel Margot is destined to provide us all who choose to follow him with positive returns in 2023. Last year he had that dream weekend in Seattle with 3 homers in the road series. The heat was still on a month later when he hurt his knee, shelving him until August. At the time of his injury (June 20), he had a 132 wRC+. He only had 3 dongs, but it seemed he was providing multi-hit games every other day. I really thought the long-awaited promise on his prospect pedigree was coming to fruition ready to be unveiled to the masses. That didn’t happen. Yet, in a 14-2 thrashing of the O’s Monday, Margot hit in the 2-hole going 1-2 with a BB and 2 runs scored. I drafted him in round 20 of the Pallazzo Invitational. Low-risk. High return? I can tell you this with confidence: I am not fretting the likes of Josh Lowe, Ben Gamel or Mason Auer taking any playing time away. As long as Margot’s body stays true blue, we’re in business!
Are you familiar with my dude’s slide piece?! This is one of the nastiest pitches in the game! He had an unsustainable 70% whiff rate on the 63 SLD he threw last year. In 2021 he had a 37% whiff rate on 779 SLD he threw. Adbert lost almost all of 2022 to a lat injury that only allowed him to sample 2022 hitters with 13 IP in September. In those 13 innings he struck out 19 while only walking two. He pitched in multi-inning outings of 2-3 innings in his 6 appearances. The word around the Chicago campfire is Adbert Alzolay will be used as a multi-inning RP. But what if the Cubs realize he’s their best bet to close? I’m not saying he can’t be dominant in 3 innings of work, but from a fantasy perspective we should keep our eyes on any hints of him getting into that close out position. His 4FB/SLD combo is tailor made for closing games. Plus his current competitors in the Cubbies pen don’t wow me! Brandon Hughes had walk issues last year. Michael Fulmer went from ROY starter for my bozo Tigers to occasional closer who has rarely been reliable for a full season. The best part with Adbert is he can be fantasy worthy even if he doesn’t get saves. Think of Colin McHugh in 2021 with the Rays. He would pitch a couple innings with high K rates, snag a win on occasion and keep your WHIP purified. In 14-teamers and deeper, he is absolutely worthy of a roster spot in multiple formats.
I really had to think about this, because I cannot recall an effort from a leader like the one A.J. Hinch made recently when he traveled to Puerto Rico during the offseason to spend some quality time with Javier Báez. They engaged in no baseball activities. Hinch simply stated that he wanted to understand Báez better by spending time with him in his element. It’s difficult to say if this effort will pay dividends for Báez and the Tigers in 2023, but I have a hard time seeing this trip as a negative. Kudos to Hinch for caring this much about turning things around in Detroit. Seriously, who else has done anything close to this endeavor? It sounds like something a college coach might do. Hell yes A.J. Hinch!