If you follow great hair in sports as closely as I do, you already know about Taylor Motter. In Spring Training, he unleashed a hair flip so fantastic that it spawned the Mariners’ new between-innings “Hair Flip Cam.” Sadly, when I looked for footage of the Hair Flip Cam, I only found a handful of Twitter mentions. Trust me when I say that it exists and is awesome.
Acquired in a relatively minor trade with Tampa in November, Motter is a 27-year-old without a whole lot of prospect pedigree. Here at FanGraphs, Motter slotted in as the No. 11 Rays prospect pre-2016, and Seattle’s No. 18 guy this year. In short, he’s not the type of player you’d expect to be the subject of a fantasy column in April.
When Jean Segura strained his hamstring in Seattle’s home opener, Motter was pressed into everyday duty at shortstop, and he’s making the most of the opportunity. Seven of his nine hits so far went for extra bases (3 HR, 4 2B), and even though it’s an admittedly tiny sample, it’s never a bad thing to have the second-highest average exit velocity in the majors.
Behind only Miguel Sano’s 101.9 mph, Motter’s 99.47 mph exit velocity is more than two mph faster than anyone else in baseball. The eye test backs it up too. This guy is not getting cheated at the dish.
Initially, it seemed Motter was simply filling in for Segura, but so many Mariners are struggling at the plate that it’s getting harder to see Motter losing much playing time. For example, 32-year-old Jarrod Dyson is doing a great job of reminding everyone why he’s never been a full-time player. Danny Valencia (also 32) is hitting even worse than Dyson while also being a defensive liability, as always. Leonys Martin only reached base seven times in the season’s first two-plus weeks, but likely has a longer leash because he’s a younger, better player than Dyson or Valencia.
Point being, there’s at-bats for the taking in this lineup. Furthermore, Motter’s super-utility defensive capabilities render it essentially irrelevant where said playing time becomes available. Even if none of the aforementioned players lose their regular starting jobs, Motter could rack up semi-regular starts just by backing up pretty much every single position.
Since the start of last season, Motter played every position except catcher (yes, he pitched). Segura’s return could even boost Motter’s fantasy value, because it would likely lead him to gain eligibility at more positions. Even as the SS/OF-eligible player he is now, he’s worth a long look in AL-only formats.
His batting average will likely level off somewhere around .250-260, but he’s fully capable of hitting 15+ homers and swiping 15+ bases if he gets the playing time, and I think he will. He might hurt your AVG a bit, but he should contribute nicely in HR/SB/R/RBI.
Seeing as Motter’s only owned in 4% of Yahoo leagues, I’m guessing most people think he’ll simply vanish back to obscurity once Segura returns, which should be within the week. If you have a bench spot to play with in an AL-only league — or even a deep mixer with a MI slot — I wouldn’t hesitate to pick him up and see if he sticks in the lineup.
Given how poorly some of his teammates are playing, I think he’s assured at least semi-regular playing time.
Footnote: This has nothing to do with fantasy, but I’d like you all to join me in enjoying the wonderful sight of Jose Altuve playing with Motter’s hair.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.