Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: Wednesday 7/27/16

Marcus Semien has already blasted 21 home runs this season for the Oakland Athletics. What is his rest-of-season fantasy baseball outlook?

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Quite the timely question, given that Jedd Gyorko just homered in both halves of a doubleheader for the second time in a week. His recent batted-ball stats show that this run is completely legit, but even with that, the nod here still goes to Marcus Semien.

Gyorko has been phenomenal this year, and he has been getting better as the year has gone along. His hard-hit rate, fly-ball rate, and strikeout rate have all trended the right way since June 1st, and those are all stats that stabilize quickly. He's improving, but he has one major problem that will hurt his fantasy stock: playing time.

Both Matt Carpenter and Brandon Moss are likely to begin rehab stints soon. The team could obviously keep Gyorko at third base while using Carpenter at second and Moss at first to get them all in the lineup at the same time, but that's going to have an effect on his playing time. Once you toss Jhonny Peralta into the mix down the line, Gyorko's going to have some serious volume issues.

Even though Semien doesn't have batted-ball or strikeout numbers as tasty as Gyorko's, he's still a guy you may want to target in both re-draft and keeper leagues. His batting average on balls in play for the season is .254, a decent chunk below his career mark of .297. Part of that is due to an increase in his fly-ball rate, but even when you account for that, he's due to see improvements in his luck soon. That'll give him more chances to add to his nine stolen bases, and it'll increase his run and RBI potential.

In points leagues (and rototisserie, as well, but more so here), it's smart to put a heavy emphasis on batting order. Semien was stuck in the nine hole for most of April, but he has been bouncing around quite a bit recently. He has hit in the top two thirds of the order 16 times this year, and only three of those came before June 1st. It's not consistent yet, but it's enough to inspire a bump in your valuation of him going forward.

The final reason to potentially buy Semien is his improvements on the defensive end. His Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 innings (UZR/150) last year was -10.4, ranking dead last among all qualified shortstops. He has moved up to 13th of 27 qualified fielders in UZR/150 this year at 0.0, which is a big-time boon. Not only does this increase the likelihood he'll stick at shortstop going forward for dynasty leagues, but it means the Oakland Athletics don't need to take him out of the order to get a bump on the defensive end. Defense may not directly count for fantasy, but it does affect playing time, especially when you're as bad as Semien was last year.

It's fun to watch Gyorko do what he has done recently, and hopefully it keeps up. But until we have reason to believe his playing time is sustainable going forward, Semien holds the advantage, and he may be a guy to target in all leagues.

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