The Fantasy Baseball Buzz: Why Mookie Betts is still great at everything

The goal with every edition of The Buzz is to start with a high-profile baseball story and weave in fantasy talk where it makes sense. It's the notebook of a reporter, intended to be shared with anyone who loves baseball, or fantasy baseball. We'll be buzzing every Wednesday this season.

When Mookie Betts was traded to the Dodgers in February of 2020, I texted an old friend of mine, a diehard Dodgers fan. "You're going to love Mookie. He's great at everything."

Fast forward to 2024. Markus Lynn "Mookie" Betts, still great at everything.

Have you scanned the Mookie Betts Baseball-Reference page recently? It's a dream. Mookie leads the majors in almost every offensive stat. Totally absurd. First in plate appearances, first in runs, first in hits. First in triples, first in home runs, first in RBI. First in walks. First in all the slash lines (average, OBP, slugging), which of course makes first in OPS. First in total bases, too.

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

But Mookie's teammates also have played eight games, and so do most of the main Padres. How come they're not leading the world in everything?

There's not a hard-hitting piece of actionable fantasy advice here, with most drafts complete. But I started to wonder if Betts was a curious bargain in draft season, relatively speaking; he settled in as Yahoo's 4.2 pick. I can't blame anyone who punched the Ronald Acuña Jr. button if they had the No. 1 overall choice. But should Betts have been the No. 2 selection in most leagues? He carries three positions of eligibility (second, short, outfield), he's in a loaded lineup, he's been durable throughout his career and he's merely entering his age-31 season.

And perhaps here's the evergreen point to remember — Betts isn't just part of a loaded lineup, he's at the top of a loaded lineup. While fantasy sports are always going to be largely about efficiency, volume is a major consideration, too.

This theme gets mentioned with Marcus Semien often, the reliable star at the top of the Texas lineup. Only with Semien, it's sometimes thrown out almost in a disparaging way, like his fantasy value is artificially inflated by volume. Semien's been a play-it-all rock for several years, to the point that we can assume he's being a pro, taking care of his body, preparing for a full season. He wants to play every game, and the Rangers sign off on that. I grabbed Semien in the third round, happily, whenever I could.

Maybe you're in a draft this week. Perhaps you're looking at that No. 2 slot, with Acuña off the board. Would you take Betts at No. 2 overall?

You'd have three positions of coverage. You'd have the frontman to a juggernaut offense, daily appointment viewing to a fun team. These are all good things.

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

Corbin Carroll at No. 2? Another youth card to play. Anytime Carroll wants a base, it's his. But he's only done it once, and the Arizona lineup is also a step downward.

Bobby Witt Jr. at 2? A lot of you went that route, and I might have, too. But the Royals offense has no buoyancy. Witt is also no guarantee to be helpful in the batting average column.

To be fair, Betts is a 4.5-category contributor these days. He picks his spots with the stolen bases, with 10-15 a fair projection. But he's going to overwhelm the run-production stats, he's a great bet for 30-40 home runs and even as a leadoff man last year he was able to collect 107 RBI. Getting the lead singer on baseball's hottest ticket sounds pretty good to me.

Betts started his career in Boston, of course. So did I. I'm on a daily text thread with old New England friends, and Mookie's daily exploits are a regular topic. We've had a lot to share lately.

Mookie Betts might be headed for his second MVP season. Good thing I'm on 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 up the middle. Turang is a plus defender, and that helped keep 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 nifty 7-for-14 start this year, with a walk. But what really moves the needle is six steals in just four games.

We've always known Turang can run. He swiped 26 bags in 30 attempts last year, and his sprint speed is in the 95th percentile. We've hit a new stolen-base era in MLB, and Turang fits it perfectly, 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 slashed a credible .270/.363/.478 in the minors, showing good on-base skills. The speed was always there — 100 swipes in 118 attempts. The Brewers will probably shield Turang from left-handed opponents, but again, that's not a kill shot; it's 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 for fantasy managers. You see a save, you likely react. You see a 10-strikeout performance, you want to consider a move. And when you see someone running almost every time they get on base — and they continue to succeed — you likely want to add that player, if possible. Steals often come in clumps. Player development is not always linear or easy to predict, but what Turang has done in four games demands our attention.

As you'd expect, Turang was proactively added in several Yahoo leagues the past 24 hours. I'm sitting with a couple of shares. But he's still ready to go in 69% of Yahoo's world.

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