Once attached, labels sure stick in baseball. Once you’re a non-prospect, you’re a non-prospect. Once you’re a journeyman, you’re a journeyman. Once you’re off the fantasy radar, you’re basically invisible.
That doesn’t mean some players can’t flip the script. Nelson Cruz did it, wound up being the No. 1 home run hitter of the 2010s. Whit Merrifield became a late-blooming star for the Royals. Mike Yastrzemski had a nifty debut for the Giants last year, and has been a god in 2020.
Maybe Seattle utility man Dylan Moore is adding himself, on some level, to this unexpected breakout list.
Moore finally had an MLB audition in his age-26 season last year, and little came of it. A .206/.302/.389 slash gets you laughed off the field. He did hit nine home runs and steal 11 bases (although caught nine times) in 113 games. Nonetheless, no one had Moore queued up in their summer drafts.
Small sample caveats apply, but Moore has been fantasy royalty through 12 games. He’s slashing .333/.388/.689, with four homers and three steals. He qualifies at four different Yahoo positions — second, short, third, outfield. In the crazy shape of Fantasy Baseball 2020, availability is almost as important as ability. Guys like Moore help you fill out the lineup sheet every night.
Moore’s settled in nicely at the No. 2 slot, right behind previously-discussed J.P. Crawford. Moore had a couple of steals in last week’s series against the Angels, homered on Sunday against Colorado, then had a 4-3-3-3 party at Texas on Monday, including his fourth homer.
When we mention Crawford, we think of a post-hype sleeper. Moore was a no-hype sleeper. He wasn’t selected until the seventh round of the 2015 draft, never appeared on any prospect lists. The Rangers originally drafted him, then traded him away. Atlanta released him. A stint in the Milwaukee system didn’t take. Moore even had an undistinguished run in the Mexican Pacific Winter League.
Okay, so the passport is getting plenty of use, and he didn’t show anything previously. None of that matters much now. We’re in a microwaved season, and we need guys healthy, versatile, and producing. At the moment, Moore checks all of those boxes.
Let’s also recognize that the Seattle organization wants to be aggressive on the bases. Stolen bases are as much a “want to” stat as they are a skill stat. Several teams generally eschew the tactic, preferring to sit back and wait for the home run. The median for stolen bases among clubs this summer is a modest six, and eight teams have stolen three or fewer.
On the flip side, some teams embrace a go-go attitude. The Padres have 20 steals, the Mariners and Rangers have 17 each, the Royals have taken 12. Keith Hernandez believes almost anyone in the majors could steal double-digit bases, if they simply wanted to. These are four teams that want to.
Moore only has two walks against 15 strikeouts, and I understand if that makes you nervous. But he’s made his own luck when he makes contact. He currently ranks 96th percentile in exit velocity, 94th percentile in hard-hit rate, and 97th percent in barrel percentage. While his slash line might be a little fortunate, he holds a .294 expected batted average — off his two-week profile — and a .664 expected slugging percentage. A lot of the under-the-hood stats are in his corner.
You should know by now how these things work. When we see plausible upside, fantasy managers should act. If Moore quickly pumpkins in subsequent games or weeks, you can always add somebody else. The category juice alone has me interested, not to mention the favorable lineup real estate. Moore has been a waiver-wire darling in recent days, but still remains available in 54 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Tyler Alexander starts for surprising Detroit
The Tigers are a plucky 9-5 through their opening stretch, a record that surely is a fluke. Detroit is a modest 13th in runs scored — despite exploding for 17 in a game last week against Pittsburgh — and an undistinguished 24th in ERA. The Tigers are merely +4 in run differential — that suggests their record is not validated — and Fangraphs odds maintain Detroit, at 39.7 percent, is unlikely to make the expanded playoffs.
Still, every MLB club offers some fantasy value, so long as they can get on the field. JaCoby Jones is off to a stunning five-homer start, with a .333 average. Victor Reyes has three steals. C.J. Cron (four homers) has been the affordable power source we expected. Nico Goodrum qualifies at four positions and has been adequate.
I’m curious if left-handed pitcher Tyler Alexander can add his name to this list. He’s been lights out in relief — 7.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 13 K. Normally when you see anyone with that type of K/BB ratio, you can add them without any additional information.
Alas, the Tigers are changing Alexander’s role. After watching him dominate in the bullpen, they want to see how he fares as a starter. He draws an intriguing assignment Tuesday, at home against the White Sox.
Some fantasy managers can take a wait-and-see approach. Others might add Alexander on spec but not immediately start him. What makes me interested is the soft-landing of the Central Division opponents. Six of the worst offenses in the majors right now — judging off team OPS — are found in the NL or AL Central. (and no, the Tigers are not one of the six).
So if Alexander turns into anything interesting, the matchups could be favorable. At minimum, let’s put him on the Tuesday night scouting radar. He’s rostered in 18 percent of Yahoo leagues.