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Four Hitters Who Changed Scenes - What Will That Mean?

In case you have been living under a rock, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are currently in the midst of a lockout. As a result, there can be no MLB transactions until the lockout is concluded, while the start of the regular season is now in doubt. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we just want baseball!

Anyways, with the sport at a stalemate right now, we have extra time to dissect the heavy amount of player movement that came prior to the lockout. Many players wanted to find their new team before the lockout occurred, which meant more free-agent activity than normal. In fantasy baseball, changing teams can have great implications for a player's value. When it comes to going to a different ballpark, the competitiveness of the new team they're on, where they'll hit in the batting order, and so much more, there are a lot of moving parts that can make them risky targets.

Today, we'll discuss four players who changed teams prior to the lockout. Is their stock trending in the right direction, or should they be potentially avoided in drafts? We discuss a lot of that here!


Starling Marte, New York Mets

Usually, you don't expect 32-year-olds to have their best season in their ninth year. However, that's exactly what happened with Starling Marte. With the Marlins and A's, he posted a career-high 134 weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+), as well as a career-high 5.5 Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR). Simply put, it was as strong of a season as Marte could have hoped for.

Due to his success, Marte earned a four-year, $78 million contract with the Mets. Surely, New York is expecting him to continue to avoid the typical aging curve. Should we expect the same? That's the million-dollar question we have to solve. In some aspects, there are reasons to be concerned about Marte. At the same time, though, there is a lot to be optimistic about.

Let us start with the good news. Marte posted a career-high .383 on-base percentage, which helped give him enough chances to steal 47 bases. The question is: is this on-base percentage sustainable? Yes and no. See, Marte made strong gains with his plate discipline last year:

Marte's 8.2% walk rate was over two percentage points higher than his previous career-high walk rate. Furthermore, he had a career-low 30.1% chase rate, which could be the key here. If he can maintain his stronger plate discipline, that will help him fight against the aging curves - those who chase outside the zone often tend to not age gracefully - while he'll have a stronger foundation for his on-base percentage. It's unclear if this will sustain, but he likely needs to in order to meet expectations.

See, Marte is still quite reliant on his batting average to drive his success. While he did have a .310 batting average, it came with a. .372 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), a mark that almost certainly won't be repeatable this year. His high ground-ball rate (56.3%) and lower-than-average pull rate (34.2%) will lead to a higher BABIP, but it is likely that he regressed back to the .316 BABIP he had from 2018-2020. If the walk rate suffers at all, he could be in serious trouble.

With the Mets, Marte will play for manager Buck Showalter. As the manager of the Orioles, his teams were never known for running much, but his teams often weren't built with much speed. Jonathan Villar managed to steal 21 bases in two months under Showalter's watch in 2018. Thus, while Marte might not steal 47 bases again, he should continue to accumulate plenty of stolen bases as a Met this season.

Citi Field isn't a hitter-friendly stadium, but neither was loanDepot park (Miami) or Oakland Coliseum. I'm worried about what happens if Marte loses any athleticism, as well as his likely BABIP regression. That being said, I don't think the move to the Mets does much to his fantasy value. You shouldn't expect to maintain his 2021 numbers, but he should still produce well in 2022.


Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, Texas Rangers

Even after winning just 60 games last season, the Rangers are certainly going for it this season. What better proof than them spending a combined $500 million on Marcus Semien and Corey Seager? We can argue if they now have the best middle infield in baseball, but it looks like they'll have the most expensive!

We'll start with Semien, who is a great example of why we should take 2020 statistics carefully. Let's take a look at Semien's production over the past three seasons:


  • 2019: .285/.369/.522, .237 ISO, 138 wRC+
  • 2020: .223/.305/.374, .152 ISO, 91 wRC+
  • 2021: .265/.334/.538, .273 ISO, 131 wRC+

Spot the outlier here? Now, Semien's way of producing was different in 2021 than it was in 2019- there was a lot more power on display. His .273 ISO was a career-high number, as were his 45 home runs and 9.8% barrel rate. Considering that this was by far the most home runs he had hit, and he overachieved his expected statistics, you may think that he is naturally bound to regress. However, there is a method to his madness.

For a full breakdown on Semien's approach change, I recommend reading a piece I wrote about it in September. However, the main changes came with an elevated pull rate (47%), as well as a 36.7% fly-ball rate- both of which were career-high marks for him. As he goes to a tougher ballpark, that approach is going to be pivotal for him to maintain. Luckily, if he does, he'll have no issue with the AL West, as Mike Kurland demonstrated earlier this month:

The changes Semien made would appear to be rather intentional. I expect the same type of hitter next season, which will be great news for the Rangers. Then, there's Corey Seager- Texas' new face of the franchise. After a posting rather pedestrian 112 wRC+ (for his standards) in 2019, his first season back after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Seager has returned back to peak form with a vengeance. Since the start of 2020, he has a 148 wRC+, as well as a .306/.381/.545 slash line. Meanwhile, he has posted a 13.7% barrel rate, with just a 16.1% strikeout rate.

The combination of ability to hit for average and power makes Seager a consistently appealing shortstop option for fantasy, even if he doesn't use his legs much in terms of stolen bases. He's leaving Dodger Stadium, which was the fifth-most friendly ballpark for lefties in terms of home runs, but Globe Life Field is the 13th-most friendly. Thus, like Semien, I think the estimated decline in power by the park change is being overstated.

Where Semien and Seager could take a step back is in the runs and RBI category. Semien has the edge here based on his overall durability - he has exceeded 700 plate appearances in each of the past two 162-game seasons - but both are likely to be impacted negatively by the state of their new team. In 2021, the Rangers scored the third-fewest runs, in addition to the third-lowest wRC+. Coming from successful offenses, that can explain a drop in expectations, though if they fall too far in drafts due to these concerns, they could become a value. After all, they're still talented players, and they should adapt better to their new environment than many expect. That being said, I can understand the concern.


Clint Frazier, Chicago Cubs

Once upon a time, Clint Frazier was one of the top prospects in baseball. When the Yankees acquired him in the Andrew Miller trade in 2016, he was expected to emerge as one of the faces of the franchise for years to come. Clearly, general manager Brian Cashman felt the same, per nj.com:

"Frazier has an electric bat," Cashman said. "His bat speed is already legendary. He's got all the tools --he can run, he can hit, he can hit with power, he can play all three outfield positions."

That is quite the praise for a young player who had yet to play a big-league game. Due to an inability to get into a stacked starting lineup and injuries, Frazier was someone often discussed in trade rumors. However, the Yankees chose to hold onto him, and it seemed to all come together in 2020.

In 160 plate appearances during the shortened season, Frazier posted a 149 wRC+, as well as a .267/.394/.511 slash line. Overall, it seemed to be the coming-out party for an extremely talented player. In 2021, though, things came crashing down for him. The 27-year-old was limited to 218 plate appearances due to injury and wasn't very effective when on the field.

All in all, Frazier posted an 83 wRC+, as well as a very low .131 ISO, .186 batting average, and a negative 0.9 fWAR. Simply put, he was a liability when on the field. This led to the Yankees parting ways with him this offseason, though it didn't take long for him to find a new team- he signed a one-year contract with the Cubs. Now, the question is: can he rebound?

In my opinion, that answer is a resounding "yes." Despite posting a strong 10.2% barrel rate, he had just a 10.6% home run/fly ball rate, which is certainly on the low side. Meanwhile, his .257 BABIP was significantly lower than his .313 career BABIP, so his batting average should be viable. The same can be said if his 29.8% strikeout rate goes down. See, Frazier's 10.4% swinging-strike rate last season was actually the lowest it has been, but his passive approach (19% called strikes) can get him trouble. With a more aggressive approach, or simply naturally regression, we should expect the strikeout rate to come down.

The Cubs are a strong landing spot for Frazier. Wrigley Field is right on par with Yankee Stadium in terms of home-run friendliness for right-handed hitters, per Baseball Savant, but Frazier should also get something he's lacked throughout his career- the potential for everyday at-bats. Not every player is cut out to play in New York, after all, and he may see that Frazier just needed to get a change of scenery to get back on track.  Really, though, he just needs to have playing time to prove that last season was a statistical anomaly. He should get that in Chicago, making him the perfect late-round target in deep drafts.

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