Draft Day Decisions: Why You Should Pass On Addison Russell & Select Marcus Semien

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Addison Russell is going to be a hot commodity at fantasy drafts, and it’s not only because he posted gaudy numbers last season.  Instead it’s people looking towards the upside and the potential that he lives up to the hype that has often been bestowed upon him.  Does that necessarily make him a good selection?  With a current ADP of 135.20 in NFBC formats, making him the 8th shortstop coming off the board, an argument can be made against it.

Just look at the stat comparison with Marcus Semien, who owns a current ADP of 206.20, from last season:

Player
AB
AVG
HR
RBI
R
SB
Russell525.2382195675
Semien568.23827757210

Those numbers are similar, with each player having an edge in a category or two.  That means the disparity is caused by projection and hype as opposed to the actual skill set.  There’s nothing wrong in doing that, but can the argument be made that Semien’s upside is just as high?

Obviously the power is there, and you can argue that his mark is even more impressive than Russell’s considering the home ballpark.  Both players struggled with their average, and both should improve for various reasons (you can argue against Semien, due to his poor line drive rate in ’16, but since it rebounded to 21.4% in the second half, along the lines of his career mark, it’s not a concern).  Neither player is going to hit towards the top of the batting order, so runs scored aren’t something to count on, so that leaves the debate to two factors: RBI and SB.

Stolen Bases
While Russell swiped 21 bases at High-A in 2013, he hasn’t come close to that mark since.  Over the past three seasons he’s totaled 16 SB so it’s impossible to think that he’s going to make an impact in this regard.  Semien has stolen 10+ bases in each of the past two seasons.  His ability to go 20/10 shouldn’t be underrated, especially when picking between two similar power players as stolen bases around the league dry up.  Getting an advantage anywhere is going to help, which is why players like J.T. Realmuto are so highly valued.
 


Runs Batted In
In regards to RBI, it was clear that Russell had the edge in 2016.  While the Cubs lineup is deep you can argue that it’s unlikely he replicates that mark as he’s likely going to hit sixth or lower in the batting order (he had 332 AB in those spots last season).  It’s also not like he proved to be a great producer with runners in scoring position, hitting .251 yet driving in 71 runs.  He’s going to pick up RBI, but 90+ is a stretch.

Semien should hit in the middle of the batting order, given Oakland’s need.  It’s not as loaded of a lineup, which means he should have similar opportunities even if he hits cleanup.  At the same time he was actually a better producer with runners in scoring position, hitting .290 yet driving in just 49 runs.  It comes down to opportunities, as he had 124 with RISP compared to 167 for Russell.  All things being equal, we’d expect Semien’s RBI total to rise with Russell’s falling a bit.

Conclusion
While we do prefer Semien overall, even if you don’t agree with that it’s easy to argue that they are similarly valued players.  Considering the difference in ADP it’s not hard to bypass Russell, utilizing that pick on an upside starting pitcher (like Matt Harvey or Danny Salazar or Dallas Keuchel) and wait to select Semien a few rounds later.

What are your thoughts?  Do you agree or disagree with this draft day strategy?

Sources – Fangraphs, CBS Sports, STATS

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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catcher03/20/1702/28/17
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Shortstop02/13/1703/15/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
03/19/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
--
Relief Pitcher01/02/17--

4 comments

  1. Tim says:

    Some real interesting points, and the numbers don’t lie. However, it seems to me that you’re paying for last years stats. Russell could very well take a large step forward this year whereas Semien is who he is I think.

  2. Steve says:

    Kind of depends on what your future outlook is. If you are looking at just the 2017 then I’d go with the cheaper option. But at 23 years of age, Russell has so much potential that he is easily worth the gamble if your outlook is more than one season. I already own Russell and don’t plan on giving him up. He showed signs of figuring it out last season…now he just needs to be more consistant.

  3. bbboston says:

    The numbers suggest to me that Semien was injured in the first 1/2 of the year. In addition, it’s clear Semien had the “distraction” of learning his position in prior years. While I think his HRs were a surprise and unlikely to be repeated, I do think there’s a lot of circumstantial issues that negatively impacted offensive performance. So… I think yet to be seen offensive potential with Semien.

  4. Rotoprofessor says:

    I agree with the thought that Russell may have a higher upside long-term, but I’m still not sold that the difference between the two players is going to be this significant. Until Russell proves that he’s going to be able to hit .270+, something that I’m not sure he’ll be able to, he’s going to be on a similar level to Semien IMO.

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