by Scott Strandberg
After one of the more eventful offseasons in recent memory, the potential fantasy values of many players have been altered by changes in roster construction going into 2013. In these pieces, I will go division-by-division, analyzing fantasy-relevant players who find themselves in new homes this season, as well as the ripple effects each team’s offseason moves could have on the club’s returning players. Before we begin, I would like to note that, as with every offseason, some teams changed much more than others. So, if I don’t have much to say about your favorite team, that’s why.
The D-Backs were quite busy this offseason, but whether the club’s moves actually helped the team is highly debatable. Let’s take a look at the fantasy implications of Arizona’s transactions.
Martin Prado, 3B
I honestly don’t see Prado’s fantasy value changing with his move to the desert. He was already going to be 3B-eligible in the vast majority of leagues, with his 20 starts at the position last season, and at this point, Prado is what he is; he’ll give you an AVG around .300, an OBP around .350, acceptable R and RBI totals, a handful of steals (he won’t repeat the 17 bags he swiped last year), and a dozen homers. He’s just not the type of hitter who will start putting up significant HR totals, even with the move from relatively neutral Turner Field to the thin desert air at Chase Field.
Brandon McCarthy, SP
It’s pretty clear that McCarthy’s fantasy value takes a hit with his move from pitcher-friendly O.Co Coliseum and its cavernous foul ground to hitter-friendly Chase Field. The 29 year-old made considerable progress on his fly-ball percentage in his two years with Oakland after being an extreme fly-ball pitcher in his stints with the White Sox and Rangers. His ground-ball, fly-ball and line-drive percentages (40.5% / 35.1% / 24.4%) in his 18 starts last season, however, were nearly identical to league average (44% / 36% / 20%) so it’s fair to say that the change in parks will have a detrimental effect, especially since he doesn’t put up big strikeout numbers.
Still, McCarthy’s low walk rate will temper that negative impact and his K/9 should see a slight bump with the move to the NL. I wouldn’t expect more than a half-run jump in his ERA. He won’t be the 3.30 ERA guy we’ve come to know with Oakland, but he probably won’t be any worse than 3.80 either.
Cody Ross, OF
Ross’s fantasy value doesn’t change with his trade from the Red Sox. Thirteen of his 22 HR last year came at home, and 11 of those 13 Fenway homers were shots over the Green Monster. In fact, Ross hit just one opposite-field HR all season in 2012. Sure, the thin air in Phoenix helps the ball carry better to all fields, but that likely will just balance out his power numbers from leaving a park with one of the shortest left-field porches in baseball. Take last year’s numbers and lather, rinse, repeat.
None of the three central acquisitions made by Arizona on the major-league level in the offseason significantly impact the rest of the team. What’s truly interesting is the departures. It’s no secret that the Diamondbacks sold off Trevor Bauer, Justin Upton and Chris Young for 50-60 cents on the dollar. Years from now, we could be looking back on these trades as examples of an impatient organization souring too quickly on their talented, young players.
Yes, Arizona got some quality pieces in return (Prado, Didi Gregorius, Randall Delgado), but those pieces didn’t come close to justifying what they gave away. Considering only 2013, trading away Bauer likely cemented Tyler Skaggs’ spot in the rotation. The team signed McCarthy four days before trading Bauer, which in hindsight was a move they likely made because they had already decided to trade Bauer. However, trading Young and Justin Upton opened the door for a freshly fantasy-relevant player.
Adam Eaton, CF
The departures of Young and Upton essentially assured Eaton’s role as the team’s everyday CF and leadoff hitter. There’s plenty to be excited about on a fantasy level. Over his three seasons in the minors, Eaton had a .355 AVG and .456 OBP.
For fantasy purposes, at the major league level, he should showcase elite plate discipline, an above-average hit tool and good SB totals. You can’t expect double-digit HR, but anyone in a keeper league or one that counts OBP should be salivating. He can easily provide a .350-plus OBP, and when you combine that with around 30 SB and the run totals associated with being a leadoff hitter, Eaton is absolutely someone to keep an eye on in your drafts. Don’t reach for him as anything more than your fourth or fifth OF, but his production could open a lot of eyes.
It’s hard to have a less-exciting offseason than the Rockies just did. Colorado was very quiet, and did almost nothing that makes a significant impact. Still, there’s a few minor items of interest.
Reid Brignac is the team’s highest-profile position player acquisition, but that’s because he’s an excellent defender who can play pretty much play any position. He’ll probably see a decent amount of plate appearances because of his versatility, but this is a guy with a career slash line of .227/.268/.317. Nothing to see here.
Ryan Wheeler could get some playing time this season if Chris Nelson and Jordan Pacheco fall flat on their faces at 3B, and if Nolan Arenado’s development keeps hitting roadblocks. That’s a lot of ifs. Pass on him, too.
The one truly fantasy-relevant addition to the team, Wilton Lopez, is relevant only in leagues that count holds. With the departures of Matt Reynolds and Josh Roenicke, Lopez should get plenty of opportunities for holds, as he will likely pitch the 7th to set up Matt Belisle in the 8th and Rafael Betancourt in the 9th.
Honestly, nothing has changed on this team that affects the incumbent players. The entire projected starting lineup, starting rotation, and closer are returning players. There’s just nothing to analyze on a Rockies club that did about as little as a team possibly can in the offseason.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers made most of their fantasy-relevant moves during the 2012 season, acquiring Hanley Ramirez from Miami and Brandon League from Seattle in July, then acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett in their epic swap with the Red Sox in August. The Dodgers weren’t done, however, and made a big splash in the offseason as well.
Zack Greinke, SP
Greinke sure didn’t have to move far, as he went from the Angels to the Dodgers, signing a six-year, $147 million contract that made him the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in baseball history until the Mariners signed Felix Hernandez to a seven-year, $175 million extension. Moving back to the NL will certainly help the right-hander -- he posted a 4.36 K/BB rate with the Brewers in 2012, compared to 3.00 with the Angels.
The 29 year-old absolutely stunk in his first five starts with the Angels, posting a 6.19 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP before turning it around in his last eight starts, with a 2.04 ERA and a WHIP of 0.96. Clearly, Greinke took about a month to get re-accustomed to the AL after almost two years in the NL, which won’t be an issue moving back. On draft day, mentally discard those first five starts of his stint with the Angels and look for him to provide numbers very similar to those he posted with Milwaukee. He'll undoubtedly prefer his new home in LA to his previous one in Anaheim.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP
The Dodgers’ latest import is obviously a bit hard to project seeing as he’s spent his entire career in Korea. What we do know is that Ryu has been fantastic in the KBO and that the Dodgers signed him to a six-year, $36-million deal, on top of the $25.7 million posting fee. While some analysts say he profiles best as a reliever, no one spends an average of $10 million-plus per season for a pitcher they don’t expect to have in their rotation.
The scouting report on Ryu is that he’s more of a touch-and-feel lefty than a pitcher with elite stuff. His fastball is reportedly an average pitch, sitting around 90 mph, and he throws an average-to-below-average slider and slow curve. His claim to fame is his changeup, which should help him avoid bad splits against righties, as will his excellent command and control. The worry is that neither the slider or curve is good enough to be legit third or fourth pitches.
International pitchers always have an adjustment period with the move to MLB, but Ryu is in a good situation. He plays in a relatively pitcher-friendly park with what should be an above-average defense and a lineup that will provide him plenty of run support. Ryu will be 26 years old on Opening Day so he’s in the prime of his career. In short, don’t be afraid to spend a low draft pick or a couple auction dollars on him, even in mixed leagues, because he has the potential to be a solid back-end fantasy starter.
This is where things really get interesting for the Dodgers. The departure of Shane Victorino simply served to open up Crawford’s spot in the lineup, but the pitching acquisitions send seismic waves throughout the entire staff. Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, and Beckett are firmly entrenched at the top of the club’s rotation, and as I said before, they didn’t give Ryu that kind of money to be a reliever. This leaves just one spot in the rotation for Chad Billingsley (if healthy), Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly and Aaron Harang. Something has to give here. If Billingsley is healthy, the role is certainly his. If he’s not, its a total crapshoot between Capuano, Lilly and Harang for that #5 spot.
Here’s how I see this shaking out. Even if Billingsley isn’t healthy, it just doesn’t make sense to hold onto all three of the other guys. Having starting pitching depth is great, of course, but having eight starters on your team is a bit excessive. There are plenty of teams out there in need of starting pitching, and I would be shocked if the Dodgers don’t trade at least one of Capuano, Lilly and Harang. They’re all savvy, veteran starters that are more valuable to other teams than they are to the Dodgers.
If Billingsley is healthy, Capuano, Lilly and Harang are all undraftable in fantasy unless they are traded, and even if Billingsley doesn’t come back 100%, one of the others will take the #5 spot, one will be a swingman long reliever and the third might not have a roster spot. Until more is known about the progress of Billingsley’s elbow rehab, all four are extremely risky fantasy commodities in any format. Keep an eye out for a trade to clear this situation up.
San Diego Padres
On a personnel level, the Padres were even quieter than the Rockies this offseason, with absolutely zero fantasy-relevant players arriving or departing. However, with the fences coming in at PETCO Park, its important to consider which hitters will benefit the most. Clearly, no one knows exactly how PETCO will play with the walls in left-center and right center coming in, and the wall in straightaway right being moved in and lowered. One thing can be said pretty safely: it won’t be as much of a pitcher’s park, but it will still be a pitcher’s park. The outfield will still be cavernous, but the changes made will help, especially for left-handed power hitters.
Chase Headley, 3B
Headley had a breakout 2012 campaign, which saw him post a slash line of .286/.376/.498 while nearly doubling his career home run total (31 in ‘12, 36 total from ‘08-’11). No one really expects to see the 28 year-old repeat that home run total, but one thing he’s got on his side is the fences.
The switch-hitter launched 20 of his bombs as a lefty last season, so he clearly stands to benefit from the lowered and moved-in wall in straightaway right. One thing that makes the case for Headley more interesting is how spread out his homers were in 2012. Sure, he had plenty of dead-pull homers, but he had plenty that weren’t too. Of his 31 HR, 11 were hit to straightaway left, three to left-center, three to dead-center, two to right-center and 12 to straightaway right. It stands to reason that Headley, being a switch-hitter capable of hitting homers to center, may be the only Padre who will benefit from all three alterations being made to PETCO’s walls. Do I think he’ll hit 30+ HR again this year? Highly unlikely, but for a guy who hit just 13 of his 31 HR at home last year, PETCO’s new dimensions could help him get closer than most people expect.
Yonder Alonso, 1B
Alonso disappointed in his first season as a Padre. Sure, the .273 AVG and .348 OBP were in line with expectations, but he slugged just .393, his worst mark by a mile at any level (except for his 19 AB stint in high-A ball in ‘08 and a 29 at-bat cup of coffee with the Reds in ‘10). He hit only nine home runs last year, and it’s very possible that his power potential just hasn’t translated at the major league level quite yet.
However, looking at those nine homers makes a good case for Alonso to considerably improve on his 2012 power numbers. On the road, he hit six HR and every single one was pulled to straightaway right. At home, he hit just three...and pulled none of them (two were opposite-field shots, one to center). Alonso still shouldn’t be viewed as an elite option at 1B, but he is absolutely a post-hype sleeper and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he doubled his HR total from last year.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants, like their division rival Padres and Rockies, basically sat on their hands this offseason. Unlike those teams, the Giants clearly made their team worse by letting Melky Cabrera walk. I understand fully the Giants’ desire to part ways with Cabrera after his PED suspension, but it would’ve been nice for Giants fans if they’d done something to address the loss of production. It’s pretty easy to see why the World Series Champs have become a prohibitive underdog to the Dodgers in their own division.
Remember when San Fran traded Andres Torres for Angel Pagan in December 2011, and he responded by being almost as bad in 2012 (.230/.327./337) as he was in 2011 (.221/.312/.330)? Well, for better or worse, he’s back, and he was the Giants’ most high-profile acquisition this offseason. What’s wrong with Torres other than the fact that he’s 35 years old and has only had one productive full season in his career? He’s projected to be a fourth outfielder on the short side of a LF platoon. Yes, the Giants offseason acquisitions are so boring that I just wrote an entire paragraph about Andres Torres.
The departure of Cabrera is a big hit to this lineup, and replacing him with the platoon of Gregor Blanco and Torres will slightly suppress the Giants’ offensive production on the whole.
Scott Strandberg lives in Norman, OK with his cat, Bea. He is a musician by night and a writer by day. In addition to writing for MLBDepthCharts, Scott writes for ProFootballRosters.com, co-hosts the ProFootballRosters Radio Podcast and writes weekly film reviews for the Arts section of NormanWeekender.com. You can follow him on Twitter @scottstrandberg.
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