The Fantasy Baseball Buzz: Mookie Betts, still great at everything

By | April 4, 2024

Mookie Betts #50 of the Los Angeles Dodgers

Mookie Betts has been on a fantasy disaster this season. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The goal of each edition of The Buzz is to start with a high-profile baseball story and incorporate fantasy talk where it makes sense. It’s a reporter’s notebook, meant to be shared with anyone who loves baseball or fantasy baseball. This season we are buzzing every Wednesday.

The fantasy baseball buzz.  (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)The fantasy baseball buzz.  (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

The fantasy baseball buzz. (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

When Mookie Betts was traded to the Dodgers in February 2020, I texted an old friend of mine, a die-hard Dodgers fan. “You’re going to love Mookie. He’s good at everything.’

Fast forward to 2024. Markus Lynn “Mookie” Betts is still good at everything.

Have you scanned the Mookie Betts Baseball-Reference page recently? It is a dream. Mookie leads the majors in almost every offensive statistic. Totally absurd. First in at bats, first in runs, first in hits. First in triples, first in home runs, first in RBI. First in walks. First in all slashes (average, OBP, slugging), which of course makes him first in OPS. Also the first in total number of bases.

Okay, so part of it is a trick frame. After all, the Dodgers started the season early. They have played eight games. Most of the league is playing catch-up.

But Mookie’s teammates have also played eight games, and so have most Padres. Why don’t they lead the world in everything?

There is no hard work fantasy advice here as most of the drafts are completed. But I began to wonder if Betts was a remarkable bargain, relatively speaking, during migration season; he established himself as Yahoo’s 4.2 pick. I can’t blame anyone who pushed the Ronald Acuña Jr. button if he had the No. 1 overall pick. But should Betts have been the second selection in most leagues? He has three qualifying positions (second, short, outfield), he’s in a loaded lineup, he’s been durable throughout his career, and he’s in his age-31 season.

Perhaps this is the evergreen point to remember: Betts isn’t just part of a loaded lineup – he’s on the top of a loaded setup. While fantasy sports will always be largely about efficiency, volume is also an important consideration.

This theme is often mentioned with Marcus Semien, the reliable star at the top of the Texas lineup. Only with Semien it is sometimes dismissed almost in a belittling way, as if its fantasy value is artificially inflated by the volume. Semien has been a real rocker for several years, to the point that we can assume that he is a professional, takes care of his body and prepares for a full season. He wants to play every game, and the Rangers sign up for that. I took Semien in the third round, luckily, whenever I could.

Maybe you’re in a draft this week. Maybe you’re looking at slot #2, with Acuña off the board. Would you put Betts second overall?

You would have three covering positions. You would be the front man for a huge attack and daily appointments for a nice team. These are all good things.

Of course, I can’t blame anyone who favors Julio Rodríguez with that No. 2 pick. Rodriguez is eight years younger than Betts and is still on the escalator. But Rodríguez’s supporting cast is a major step backwards, and Seattle’s ballpark stifles the offense.

Corbin Carroll at number 2? Another youth card to play. Whenever Carroll wants a base, it’s his. But he’s only done it once, and Arizona’s lineup is also a step back.

Bobby Witt Jr. at age 2? Many of you have gone that way, and perhaps I have too. But the Royals offense lacks momentum. Witt is also no guarantee to help in the batting average column.

To be fair, Betts is a category 4.5 contributor these days. He picks his spot with the stolen bases, with 10-15 a reasonable projection. But he’s going to overwhelm the run production stats, he’s a good bet for 30-40 home runs, and even as the leadoff man last year he managed to rack up 107 RBI. I think getting the lead singer on the hottest ticket in baseball would be pretty good.

Betts, of course, started his career in Boston. I did that too. I’m in a daily text conversation with old friends from New England, and Mookie’s daily exploits are a regular topic. We’ve had a lot to share lately.

Mookie Betts may be on his way to his second MVP season. Luckily I have an unlimited data plan.

We had a better subhead, but Brice Turang stole it

Turang doesn’t have much in common with Mookie Betts, unless you want to talk about quality defense in the middle. Turang is a plus defender, and that kept him in the lineup last year despite a .218/.285/.300 slash line as a rookie. An OPS+ of 61 doesn’t feed the cat.

But Turang is also a young player, and young players are unfinished stories. The future is unwritten. Turang is off to a handy 7-for-14 start this year, with a walk. But what really impresses are his six steals in just four games.

We’ve always known that Turang can run. Last year he swiped 26 bags in 30 attempts and his sprint speed is in the 95th percentile. We’ve entered a new era of stolen bases in MLB, and Turang fits that bill perfectly, just like the glove in the Milwaukee Brewers logo.

And last year’s mediocre offense doesn’t have to be the final word on Turang’s upside. He hit a credible .270/.363/.478 in the minors, showing good fundamentals. The speed was always there: 100 swipes in 118 attempts. The Brewers will likely protect Turang from left-handed opponents, but again, that’s not a kill shot; it is primarily a right-handed world. And look at the upcoming Milwaukee schedule; it features nine right-handed opponents in the next 10 games.

Certain simple events require immediate action from fantasy managers. If you see a save, you’ll probably respond. If you see a 10 strikeout performance, you’ll want to consider a move. And if you see a guy running almost every time he gets on base – and he continues to succeed – you probably want to add that player, if possible. Stalks often occur in groups. Player development isn’t always linear or easy to predict, but what Turang has done in four games demands our attention.

As you might expect, Turang has been proactively added to several Yahoo competitions over the past 24 hours. I’m sitting with a few shares. But he’s still ready to go in 69% of Yahoo’s world.

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