Champ or Chump: Trey Mancini & Taylor Motter

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Every year, fantasy owners scour minor league rosters in an effort to find the next breakout star that no one is talking about. We always think that anyone with the slightest chance of mattering in fantasy is on our radar. Then, April rolls around and somebody we have never heard of does something extraordinary. Left with no other option, we ask "Who is this guy?"

Two such examples from 2017 are Baltimore's Trey Mancini and Seattle's Taylor Motter. Both have five homers already this season, commanding attention they did not during draft season. Will they fade back into obscurity or prove to have lasting fantasy appeal?

As always, ownership rates provided are from FleaFlicker formats.

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Trey Mancini (OF, BAL) 14% Owned

Mancini has a .256/.289/.651 triple slash line to go with his five jacks, making him a solid contributor thus far in fantasy. He also smashed three dingers in just 15 PA last year, giving him the appearance of a reliable power option. His minor league history points to a 20 HR guy with everyday playing time, however, so this power spike is unexpected. It is also unlikely to continue.

Mancini currently boasts a FB% of 29.6 percent, well short of the 40+% generally associated with sluggers. The year is young, but Mancini has consistently displayed low FB% rates in the minors as well. Mancini is another guy who would benefit from elevating the baseball, an adjustment he has not shown any signs of making yet. His power upside is limited without more airborne baseballs.

This is problematic, as Mancini has most of the problems associated with pure sluggers. He is currently striking out at a 35.6 percent clip, a rate that makes even a .256 batting average seem fluky. His 29.8 percent chase rate is slightly plus, but his SwStr% of 17 percent is ugly. This profile probably needs to hit 40 bombs for fantasy owners to care, a number well out of Mancini's reach.

The Orioles have Mark Trumbo, Seth Smith, Adam Jones, and Hyun Soo Kim to man the positions Mancini can play, likely relegating the latter to a start or two a week now that Smith is off the DL. They also bury him in the lineup when he does play, generally seeing him hit seventh. The result is a power bat who can not hit for power in limited playing time. His current ownership level is not high, but Mancini should not be owned in anything shallower than 15-team AL-Only leagues.

Verdict: Chump

 
Taylor Motter (OF/SS, SEA) 23% Owned

Motter's line (.235/.297/.559) is not as impressive as Mancini's, but the underlying skills are much more interesting. He hit 16 homers to go with 15 steals (seven CS) in 506 PA at Double-A Montgomery in 2014 before increasing his production to 14 bombs and 26 steals (eight CS) in 558 Triple-A Durham PA in 2015. Motter's 2016 at Triple-A was limited to 387 PA, but he nearly matched the previous campaign's power production (13 HR) while dramatically increasing his efficiency on the basepaths (19 SB in 23 attempts). Motter is not young at age 27, but he has a power/speed skillset fantasy owners crave.

Will it play in the majors? Motter historically derives his power from hitting a ton of fly balls, generally posting a FB% above 40 percent in each of his minor league seasons. This makes his current FB% of 46 percent easier to trust. His current HR/FB of 21.7 percent is bound to regress considering that his minor league career high is 11 percent, but he hits enough flies to produce 20 homers anyway. He is also pulling 60.9 percent of his flies, an approach that would be expected to produce a career high HR/FB if Motter can keep it up all year. The upside here could be 30 bombs if everything breaks right.

Motter's speed will require an OBP higher than his current .297 to make an impact, which brings us to his .244 BABIP. He popped out a ton in the minors, so his current IFFB% (4.3%) is likely to go up. He also has a LD% (24 percent) that is much higher than the below average rates he posted in the minors. With two primary drivers of BABIP currently in Motter's favor, why is his BABIP so low?

Motter has proven extremely susceptible to the shift (.125 average vs. the shift, .270 without it) in his brief MLB tenure. This has produced an .067 BABIP on ground balls, which seems odd considering that Motter can run a little and does not pull too many grounders (66.7 percent). I expect that bad luck is at least partially to blame for the weak performance of his grounders, giving him some room for BABIP growth even if his LD% and IFFB% revert to Motter's minor league averages. Motter won't be a plus BABIP guy, but he should do better than .244 moving forward.

Motter also has plus plate discipline. He is patient to a fault (43.7 percent Swing%), causing him to K more often than his underlying metrics (19.9 percent chase rate, 8.5 percent SwStr%) would indicate. Still, his current 24.3 percent K% seems a shade too high for somebody with a strong knowledge of the zone. His minor league history supports this claim, as Motter consistently combined strong K-rates with plenty of walks on the farm.

Motter also has positional versatility in his favor. He primarily played OF last year, giving him eligibility there. He has 13 games at SS this year, allowing him to qualify there in most formats. He has also appeared in two games at both first and third base, potentially giving him eligibility there at some point this year. Motter would then be eligible for every offensive position save second base and catcher.

Motter has 30/20 upside in an ideal world, with 20/20 and a .250 average being more realistic. His positional versatility makes him an ideal bench option, especially if your league allows daily lineup changes. He can fill in for almost anyone on your roster, allowing you to carry extra pitchers or category specialists with minimal regard to position. That is valuable enough to be owned in a lot more than 23 percent of leagues.

Verdict: Champ

 

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