A Fantasy Spin on the Hot Stove

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening –whichever is applicable to you. The leaves on the trees have fallen, there is a crisp feel to the air, pumpkin is the universal flavor, and my wife has Hallmark Christmas movies on loop. These sights and sounds of the season can only mean one thing… the beginning of the Hot Stove season is upon us.

With 93 days before pitchers and catchers report, those of us consumed by the sport still have plenty of lonely nights to battle through. For us fantasy owners we battle our grief head on, taking advantage of this downtime to begin our prep for the 6-month grind that lies ahead. It is at this particular point in the offseason in which the prep can be found to be most difficult. With Free Agency in it’s infancy, the outlook for all 30 teams is rather unclear at the moment. While this particular free agency class may not be the strongest we’ve seen, they still ultimately play a big part in what lies ahead. As fantasy owners, we are all too aware as to the domino effect that accompanies each free agent signing and or offseason trade.

Time can certainly be a limited resource. On many days during the long offseason it can be difficult to assess each MLB transaction and how it will affect the rosters of said team. We here at the Fantasy Assembly sympathize with your situation because we’ve all been there. As always, our goal is to provide you with the best possible information we can to better prepare you for 2017 and beyond.  With that in mind, each week I will post a weekly recap of offseason moves and the potential fantasy impact that may come with them. Given the ebb and flow within the MLB offseason some weeks may contain additional topics, but all will be focused on free agency and the potential trade market.

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Los Angeles Angels acquire Cameron Maybin from the Detroit Tigers for RHP Victor Alcantara. The Angels minor league system could be the worst in baseball. This issue obviously makes it difficult for the them to improve via trade. In a perfect world Maybin gets 550 PA, hitting .270 with 10 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 85 runs scored.  When healthy Maybin can certainly achieve these numbers, but with Maybin the health must certainly be questioned. As for the Tigers, Alcantara will provide some minor league pitching depth for the moment, but enough talent is there for him to hold the prospect tag. Paul Hartman covered the Tigers OF situation (post Maybin) earlier this week. Given his expertise I’ll defer to his outlook and I recommend giving it a read.

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Pat Neshek acquired by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Houston Astros for PTBNL. Typically there’s not much fantasy value to be had with same hand specialist middle relievers. Neshek could, however, be one of those under the radar acquisitions that could pay off at some point in 2017. While Neshek has become more of a righty specialist the last couple of years, his numbers vs LHH are not brutal. Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris would figure to be the front-runners for the closers job heading into 2017. Gomez really struggled down the stretch and was ultimately removed from the role. Neshek would be a veteran presence who could ultimately save the Phillies money in arbitration with both Gomez and Neris.

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Seattle Mariners acquire catcher Carlos Ruiz from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Vidal Nuno. It’s rather easy to dismiss Ruiz as nothing more than a veteran backup addition. If that is the case then why would a team part with a LHP who’s posted two consecutive seasons of success and has yet to turn 30? That leads me to believe the Mariners aren’t quite as smitten with  Mike Zunino as I am. I still believe Zunino is the guy – it just means a .185 April average won’t be accompanied by a chance to hit out of it. As for Nuno he provides the Dodgers with a LHP who’s at least a rotation consideration. Nuno has posted two consecutive seasons of good K and BB ratio’s. Factor in the move to the NL and home games at Dodger Stadium and you could have something worth looking at.

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Boston Red Sox announced Blake Swihart would return to catcher in 2017. He was an appealing catcher option heading into 2016. I feel Buster Posey is to blame – after all, doesn’t it seem as though every first round catcher who was known for his bat gets saddled with the Posey comparison?  Swihart’s offensive profile may have been overrated from the start. Posey at  his best is a good hitter. Swihart at his best will be a decent hitting catcher. The issues thus far have been more glove related. Those issues prompted a move to outfield last season where his good hitting catcher bat wouldn’t play. Gone from the 2017 Red Sox is David Ortiz, and with him is a big part of the offense from 2016. If the offense isn’t up to par I believe the move to Swihart will be an easy call. Otherwise it will take a Sandy Leon repeat or improved glove play for Swihart to return to the primary catcher. Either of those scenarios are entirely plausible. Swihart’s potential emergence could easily have top 10-catcher value.

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St Louis Cardinals announced Matt Carpenter would move to first base for 2017. The move does nothing for Carpenter’s value in 2017, with the exception of adding 1B eligibility. Moving forward the potential loss of 2B and 3B will hurt his value somewhat, but ultimately his bat will still play as a first base. The move likely puts Matt Adams on the trading block. At 28 Adams may not meet the prospect expectations once bestowed on him, but with 16 home runs over 327 PA in 2016, a 25 home run middle of the order bat could certainly be there if given the opportunity. With Carpenter’s move, the party of 5 MI/3B depth chart is now a party of 4 with Jedd Gyorko, Kolten Wong, Aledmys Diaz and Jhonny Peralta battling for at bats. Ideally Wong would be dealt as I feel a change of scenery would do him well. If not I see Gyorko in the Utility role, but still getting 4-5 starts per week.

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St Louis Cardinals announce Trevor Rosenthal will be stretched out this winter. The presumption is Rosenthal will be stretched out for a rotation spot, but the Cardinals currently have a surplus of rotation options. Wainwright, Martinez, Leake, Wacha, and Alex Reyes all would figure to be rotation locks. In addition the Cardinals brought back Jamie Garcia, and Lance Lynn should be healthy to begin Spring Training. Could it be Rosenthal is being stretched out for a two-inning relief role or a spot as a long reliever? The long reliever mop-up duty doesn’t sound appealing, but an effective 6 inning a week reliever could very well be. The bottom line is if Rosenthal is effective then there will be value to be had somewhere.

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Atlanta Braves sign RA Dickey. When Dickey was traded to the Blue Jays in 2013, much was made as to what effect Rogers Centre could have on his knuckleball. In 2016 Dickey posted an ERA of over 5.00 at home – that mark was 3.56 on the road. Go back to 2015 and the numbers are reversed with a home ERA of 3.11 compared to a 4.83 on the road. Overall, Dickey has fared better on the road than at home, but that could be just as easily explained by the ballpark itself than knuckleball efficiency. Ultimately Dickey will benefit by the move out of the best hitting division in baseball and into perhaps the worst. At 42 I can’t imagine Dickey holding roster value in any league shallower than 15 teams, but as a streaming option you could likely do worse.

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Atlanta Braves sign Bartolo Colon. If the Braves do nothing else this offseason, at least their average roster age will have increased. Colon has been effective over the last two seasons with the Mets. I see nothing to suggest that changes this season. 10 and 12 team formats are likely looking for higher upside plays, but Colon will find himself on many different rosters throughout the fantasy season.

From a baseball standpoint I love deals like these, and I’m often puzzled as to why more  rebuilding teams don’t take advantage of this. Both the Colon and Dickey moves have the Scott Feldman Project feel I wrote about last week. Should Colon or Dickey pitch effectively both offer a team friendly deal that would allow them to be moved for something at the deadline. In the Braves case they will join Josh Collmenter in greatly reducing the workload of the deep corp of SP prospects the Braves possess.

Aaron Blair,  Mike Foltynewicz, Tyrell Jenkins, Matt Wisler, William Perez, and Rob Whalen all figured to be in the mix for rotation spots. It would now seem as though Wisler will be the front-runner for the 5th SP spot while the others will be relegated to bullpen work and spot starts, ultimately saving their innings workloads for a below .500 team.

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Toronto Blue Jays sign Kendrys Morales. Morales was finally rewarded for rebuilding his value after an abysmal 2014 season. He has managed 22 and 30 home runs respectively the last two season playing his home games at pitcher friendly Kauffman Stadium. He now gets to call the Rogers Centre home. While this will not turn him into a 40 HR hitter, it should alleviate the doubt many likely had for a 2016 repeat. With that being said, the best part about Morales has been the value he’s generated with his picks. He won people leagues as an afterthought selection in 2015, and last season he was the 169th player off the board in NFBC draft.

Given the offensive influx in 2016, Morales’s stellar campaign rated him 162nd overall using Yahoo standard 5×5. While I suspect and offensive decline league wide, given his lack of speed, Morales will still fall short of top-125 in all likelihood. Free agency tends to boost perceived value – it will be interesting to see if Morale’s draft stock leaves him void of earnings potential for 2017.

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Toronto Blue Jays sign Lourdes Gurriel, the younger brother of Astros’s Yulieski. Lourdes is a IF/OF prospect who seemingly has more growing to do. While dynasty league owners need to take notice, nothing in his profile thus far would suggest an immediate add is needed at this time. Early expectations have Lourdes beginning in Double-A and playing shortstop. The Double-A assignment would at least indicate that a potential call up could be sooner rather than later.

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Los Angeles Dodgers send Howie Kendrick to the Philadelphia Phillies for Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney. Kendrick seemed to fall out of favor with the Dodgers last season, essentially becoming a platoon bat. Thus, the additional playing time in Philly will negate any loss in supporting cast he may encounter. Kendrick is a solid bat capable of hitting .285+ with double-digit power and speed. A Fangraphs post by Jeff Zimmerman even suggested 20+ SB could be in play. I’m still hesitant to put Kendrick on 12-team standard league radars at this point, but those with MI or multiple UTIL options should at least take notice.

As for the Dodgers, Ruf would seem to be the RH bat in a platoon with Toles. That could serve as a productive OF spot in real baseball, but outside of sim leagues and daily formats there’s little fantasy value to be had. Sweeney, on the other hand, could find some deep mixed league or league only value. He feels more like a long-term utility player, but he does have a little power speed combo, and more importantly, a potential path to playing time at the moment.

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Oakland Athletics send Danny Valencia to the Seattle Mariners for RHP Paul Blackburn. Valencia was finally given an everyday role last season and played well hitting 17 home runs while hitting north of .270. Valencia offers roster flexibility with the ability to play 1B, 2B, 3B, and OF. With Cano and Seager manning second and third respectively, the obvious paths to playing time are likely going to come from first base and outfield.

Daniel Vogelbach would appear to be the first baseman as it stands now. His minor league success make it seem he has little left to prove. It’s entirely possible Vogelbach and Valencia are placed in a platoon – that is the perceived scenario at the time of this posting per RotoWorld. Valencia, however, performed well last season vs RHP hitting over .270 in his first real exposure. Valencia could very well man a corner outfield spot full-time or find himself in a platoon with Seth Smith. In a full-time role Valencia is borderline ownable in a 12-team format with deep rosters. With a 4 or 5 start a week role you’re likely ignoring him, aside from league only or 15-team plus formats.

As for Blackburn, the A’s get a ground ball specialist with decent control, but the strikeout skill set may not be there.  Blackburn’s ability to avoid the HR has really produced solid seasons thus far despite not having elite stuff. He may not be a point of interest in dynasty formats at this point. Should strikeout improvements be made, then you could have something.

 

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Josh Coleman
Father of four SP1 children. Replacement level husband to a top tier wife. I love my family, value my friendships, and spend as much time as possible (too much according to the aforementioned Mrs. Coleman) dedicated to the pursuit, of another Fantasy Championship. I'm the oddball at the bar who prefers Fantasy Baseball to Fantasy Football.
Josh Coleman

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