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A Fantasy Spin on the Hot Stove

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening – whichever is applicable to you. Some weeks this post can write itself. In the first and second installments I mentioned 12 and 14 transactions respectively. This week there were four newsworthy transactions that caught my eye. Weeks such as this one are part of the Hot Stove process. Yet after the rapid beginning, this weeks inactivity paired with the potential labor stoppage has me somewhat paranoid.

Some claim the sky is falling, while others are equally as confident that a resolution will be agreed upon. Baseball has more marketable young stars than I can ever remember, Playoff ratings were the best in two decades, and the almighty NFL has established a ratings decline – I can’t imagine either party willing to mess this up. I suppose we will find out in four days.

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Minnesota Twins sign  catcher Jason Castro to a 3 Year 24.5 Million dollar year. Castro’s name was attached to several teams two weeks ago as pitch framing is becoming the skill set de jour for catchers. Ultimately, this competition lead to Castro signing for 8 million per season and validating those concerns of inflation in America.

For Castro’s value, little to nothing changes. Minute Maid to Target Field is a downgrade, but additional plate appearances will counter the loss in terms of counting stats. Three consecutive seasons with a 29% K rate or worse suggest .220 is where the batting average will be. Castro could run into 15 home runs as he posted 18 and 14 respectively in his two seasons with over 450 plate appearances. He’s on the radar in 14-team or more with two catchers, but the nausea associated with his roster spot still remains.

If you believe in pitch framing, then it’s reasonable to expect maybe a handful of times per game Castro’s ability alters the count in the pitcher’s favor. Do these advantages alter the Twins rotation values for 2016 and beyond? Tyler Duffey and Jose Berrios could benefit the most having the most upside from my perspective. For what it’s worth, over the last three years among Astros catchers, Castro has not once posted the best ERA nor the best K to BB rate.

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Atlanta Braves sign Sean Rodriguez to a two-year 11.5 Million dollar contract. After failing as a high-end prospect, Rodriguez managed to carve himself a nice career as a bench/utility option. Last season Rodriguez posted career highs in HR (18), AVG (.270) and OPS (.859), while appearing in 140 games and totaling 342 plate appearances – his most since 2012. On a positive note, Rodriguez couldn’t have signed with a better place. Jace Peterson (2B) and Adonis Garcia (3B) are penciled in starters at this point. Neither have established any sustained success on a MLB level. Should either fail than Rodriguez could have an everyday role. The odds on either Peterson or Garcia proving ineffective is 2.5:5 on the morning line. While I’m rather confident on checking the plate appearance box for Rodriguez, I’m not confident that last season success will translate.

Four straight seasons with a K% north of 25% suggest last seasons .270 AVG was something of a fluke. A career high line drive rate of 24.4% and a HR/FB rate of 25% helped build a career high .344 BABIP. Those numbers shine some light on both the legitimacy of the average as well as the home run total. Another negative to consider with a potential full-time role for Rodriguez would be his career .224 AVG and .651 OPS vs. RHP. Combine the likely statistical regression from 2016 with established troubles when exposed to RHP and it becomes rather clear that extrapolating a full season of 2016 for Sean Rodriguez would be problematic.




Arizona Diamondbacks send  2B/SS Jean Segura, OF Mitch Haniger, and LHP Zac Curtis to the Seattle Mariners for SS Ketel Marte and RHP Taijuan Walker. As a fantasy baseball player, there is nothing I enjoy more than an offseason trade with the intent of making both teams better immediately. Chase Field to Safeco is an obvious downgrade for Segura, but unless you really expected another 20 HR season, I don’t see his value changing. I view Segura as more of a gap hitter with double-digit pop whose ultimate value will be determined by his stolen bases and runs scored. He’ll bat at the top of a very good lineup so another 100 run season is entirely possible. Ultimately a decline in BABIP will put the OBP more in line with 90 runs. I felt that before the trade, I feel better about it now. Segura was eligible at 2B and SS already, but for those in Dynasty formats it’s more than likely his 2B eligibility  will be gone after this season.  

OF Mitch Haniger seems like a throw in from a pure name standpoint, but there could be some value to be had. Haniger really established himself last year, drawing a double-digit walk rates in both AA and AAA. That plate discipline combined with good contact rates gives him the feel of a good OBP option down the road. His 25 HR between the two levels earned him a 34 game preview in 2016 in which he hit .229 but did hit 5 home runs in 123 plate appearances. Given the roster construction of the Mariners, it would appear Haniger is destined for a platoon split in the OF with either Martin or Seth Smith. However, the addition of Segura could alter the need for Ben Gamel to establish himself as a rare stolen base option for the Mariners – thus leaving Gamel and Haniger battling it out for an everyday job.

The departure of Walker from the rotation would likely put Nate Karns and Ariel Miranda into the rotation at this point. I would be shocked is more competition wouldn’t be added prior to Spring Training. Zac Curits has huge K potential and has shown solid control in the minors. Last year was a train wreck, but at 24 there could be a late inning relief role in his future. At the least a name to note in Dynasty formats.

Taijuan Walker was the best player in the deal in my opinion. I really see top-20 potential with top-10 upside. The NL move for pitchers always seems to provide a built-in boost in production. It goes without saying that Chase Field is much less pitcher friendly than Safeco. Walker’s career  41.5% GB rate will need to improve in order for him to reach my lofty expectations. At 24 his career profile has yet to be determined. If he could reach 30 starts for the first time then 200 strikeouts with a 3.30 ERA is certainly in play.

His addition to the rotation will ultimately leave some intriguing names without a rotation spot. Greinke, Walker, Miller and Corbin would figure to be locks/front-runners. This would leave Robbie Ray, Rubby De La Rosa, Archie Bradley, and Braden Shipley vying for one rotation spot. Clearly Robbie Ray and his 11.25 K/9 has the hearts of most fantasy owners, but his inability to consistently pitch deep into games (13 of 32 starts less than 6 IP) can be taxing for a bullpen. Perhaps a solid spring by someone other than Ray could leave the early 2017 poster boy without a job to begin the season.

Ketel Marte could be the biggest loser in the deal. Marte was the object of many’s affections last season, as he seemed to be the late round shortstop target going into 2016 drafts. Marte disappointed hitting only .259 with 11 SB in 466 PA. The hitting skill set doesn’t seem to be elite, but a solid minor league track record and his good contact skills make them seem legitimate. His GB approach isn’t built for getting the most out of Chase Field, but the DBacks were very active on the bases last season, potentially providing a little boost in Marte’s other skill set.

The biggest issue for Marte could be playing time. The clear favorite to start in Seattle, Marte now becomes another name for consideration. Marte is a better defender than Chris Owings, but if the DBacks put an emphasis on defense then Nick Ahmed will be the SS. Brandon Drury’s name can also be thrown into consideration for the two MI spots. With four players vying for two spots and a new regime, expect this positional battle to go well into the Spring.

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Alex Guerrero signs with Chunichi Dragons of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. A one year deal for Guerrero whose first stint as a MLB player can now officially be called a bust. While Guerrero’s approach left something to be desired, statistically speaking the results were there during the majority of his Minor League time. The reality is, in 243 plate appearances, one’s career is not defined. If he goes to Japan and plays well, he could find himself once again coveted by some major league organization.

 

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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.

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