A Fantasy Spin on the Hot Stove

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening-whichever is applicable to you.  24/7 sports coverage is, more often than not, a wonderful thing. For me personally, some type of sport consumes about 80% of my existence. For people like me, the term “Too much exposure.” doesn’t really exist. The one negative about the constant coverage is all the build up it tends to create. Each and every sporting event can be built up, more and more often, to a degree in which only disappointment can be obtained. Upon occasion all the promise of intrigue and jaw-dropping moments are delivered; the 2016 Winter Meetings have shaped up into one of those moments. Blockbusters and small difference makers have shifted contenders to front-runners and fringe teams to both contenders and complete rebuilds.

Boston Red Sox send CI Travis Shaw, IF Maurico Dubon, RHP Josh Pennington and PTBNL to the Milwaukee Brewers for RP Tyler Thornburg. At one point in time just obtaining an everyday player for a RP would have been a complete steal. The three additional players emphasizes the value that  cheap and effective relief arms possess. Thornburg’s value is obviously affected as he will now be an 8th inning arm, but he will still be an excellent source for holds. Corey Knebel would seem to be the in-house favorite for saves in Milwaukee, but I could see them signing a veteran to alleviate potential arbitration cost that lie ahead.

As far as the influx of talent, Dubon posted solid numbers last season in A-Ball featuring a good average with speed. Josh Pennington achieved similar success on the pitching side of things. Travis Shaw will become the everyday 3B, moving Villar to the everyday 2B role and leaving Scooter Gennett as a bench option. Shaw is serviceable, but not spectacular. I can see 20 HR with a .260 AVG to go with it. The counting numbers will be lackluster as I see Shaw hitting around 6th or 7th in a lineup with plenty of questions. The biggest fantasy take for me involves Hernan Perez, who was a big favorite of mine as we approached 2017. I still value Perez the player, but he seems more like a Waiver Wire pickup at this point than a draft and stash.

*****

Boston Red Sox send RHP Michael Kopech, IF/OF Yoan Moncada, OF Louis Alexander Basabe, and RHP Victor Diaz to the Chicago White Sox for Chris Sale. The biggest blockbuster thus far of the 2017 offseason. Moncada and Kopech are both top-50 prospects (Moncada Ranks 1st in the majority of publications), Basabe was a top-10 option in the Red Sox organizational rankings, and Diaz profiles as a nice late inning arm at some point.

Basabe displayed a nice power/speed combo last season in A-Ball. Moncada and Kopech both will have limited value for 2017, but both should see their White Sox debut at some point this season. Long-term, the true talent of both will emerge and their ultimate failure or success will not be the result of the name on the front of the uniform. Point being, if you believe in both then stay the course.

Meanwhile, Sale trades his standard tube socks for the red-stripped variety. It’s hard to imaging much changing with him. Neither park is an ideal pitching venue which removes the park factor. The improvement in teams would figure to improve Win potential, yet Sale managed 17 wins last season; it becomes difficult to project more than that. While I am a Sale fan, two items have me somewhat worried. Was his K rate a true designed method to extend himself in games, or was it a convenient explanation for decreased velocity? (career high Contact%, big decline in first pitch strikes% from the previous 2 seasons). One other notable item to consider is how he will handle the Boston media compared to a team that played second string to the Cubs in Chicago? If the Edward Scissorhands uniform  experience taught us anything, it’s safe to say Sale isn’t the most stable individual at times. Sale’s arrival likely leaves last seasons wonderful find, Steven Wright, without a rotation job to begin the 2017 season unless another move is in the works.

*****

Boston Red Sox sign Mitch Moreland to a 1 yr, 5.5 Million dollar deal. Red Sox, Rangers, Phillies, or Mariners matters not, Mitch Moreland will be a 20 HR bat. The real question and value gauge will be the batting average –  .233 was his 2016 total, .278 was his 2015 mark. His career 1.061 OPS over 14 games at Fenway provides hope that .260 is obtainable. Moreland has value, but that value is primarily in larger formats and the league only variety. Moreland’s addition should leaves Hanley Ramirez as the primary DH more often than not, and with a career 1.014 OPS over 155 plate appearances that might be for the best.

*****

Tampa Bay Rays sign Wilson Ramos for 2 yr, 12.5 Million with incentives. I’m not aware of the entire Rays franchise history, yet I’m rather confident that Wilson Ramos is the first Rays Catcher who’s possessed any ability with the bat. Recovering from injury, Ramos will not be available behind the plate initially so expect his playing time to be somewhat limited to DH duties to begin the season (maybe 4 starts per week). His .327 BABIP seems inflated, but the corrective eye surgery from last offseason leaves me believing his 2015 .229 batting average will not be repeated. There’s no reason Ramos should not be a top 5-10 catcher.

*****

Arizona Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to 1 yr, 2.75 Milllion dollar deal. The Diamondbacks wasted no time tabbing Rodney as the closer for 2017 post signing. Rodney’s not a good pitcher – the growing walk rate is a recipe for disaster, but he has the job, was 25 of 28 in save attempts last season and his K mix combined with HR avoidance make him a decent bet to be effective enough to (unfortunately) retain the job all season long.

*****

Texas Rangers resign Carlos Gomez for 1 yr, 11.5 Million. I wrote about the lost cause of Carlos Gomez somewhat early last season. Those thoughts were confirmed until his short run of success with Texas. I might expect a bounce back this season, but to what degree? The 2013-2014 version seems like a reach, but could Gomez reach 20/20 with .250? Absolutely. I do wonder if this sentiment will be popular to the point to where ultimately the draft day value catches up to the bounce back hope.




Chicago Cubs send Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for RHP Wade Davis. At this point in the offseason last year, Wade Davis was one of the top closers in fantasy. While most would kill for a 1.87 ERA over 43.1 innings, last season was a disappointment of sorts. With a thorough medical review that held up the deal, one must believe that fatigue, and not lingering injury, was the cause for Davis’s sub-par second half stretch. Assuming health, Davis should return to the upper-echelon. For Soler, the hopes of 600 PA is once again alive and well. As an avid Cubs fan I’ve been witness to the overwhelming majority of Jorge Soler AB’s. The power potential is real; his hard hit rate could generate some respectable batting averages from time to time, and his uniqueness compared to other Royal hitters should result in a prime lineup spot. .270 with 25 HR and 140-150 Runs+RBI is entirely possible.

*****

Miami Marlins sign Jeff Locke for 1 yr, 3 Million. Even irrelevant players sign contracts. Locke should be the favorite for the 5th spot of the rotation. Locke can still be ignored in all formats.

*****

Ian Desmond signs a 5 yr, 70 Million dollar deal with the Colorado Rockies. Early indications have Desmond playing 1B despite being a plus fielder. The position addition does nothing for his value, but it is a nice addition nonetheless. Desmond changed to some degree last season. His 23.6 K%, while right in line with his career mark, was a big decline from the 28.2 and 29.2 marks from 2014 and 2015. Desmond also had a high GB% last season, posting a 2.06 GB/FB rate compared to a 1.61 mark for his career. While that type of mark would not fully capitalize on the perks of Coors Field, it could very well lead to a plus AVG skill as a baseline for Desmond. Lineup placement will be the ultimate factor in Desmond’s value for 2017. Sandwich him near the top of that order and you’re looking at another 100 Run season. I could also see him hitting 6th or 7th and looking more like a 70 Run, 80 RBI threat. Tasting the Rockies is never a bad thing, but Desmond may not be the type of player who fully utilizes it.

*****

San Francisco Giants send Chris Heston to the Seattle Mariners for PTBNL. Heston doesn’t offer much in terms of fantasy, but he should compete for the final rotation spot with Seattle. He managed just 17  starts over 3 Minor League levels last season, but does feature a 177.2 IP season in 2015 with an ERA south of 4.00.

*****

Washington Nationals send RHP Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning to the Chicago White Sox for OF Adam Eaton. Regardless of what you think of Giolito, this really seems like a lot to give up for Adam Eaton. Giolito’s value has to decline some given the move to the AL and into a more hitter friendly park. Despite a much clearer path to pitch, Giolito will spend some time in AAA before making his White Sox debut. He’s certainly a player whose perceived value is creating a buying opportunity.

Lopez will also likely see some time this season on the South Side. Really broke out this season posting solid K totals in AA. I could see Lopez being used in more of a relief role at some point, whether this is long-term remains to be seen. Dunning was the Nats first round pick this season and showed really good K potential and control in his first 35 innings. Dunning wouldn’t appear to be a Fantasy option this season.

While WAR and defensive metric’s can be used to rationalize this move in real life, those are tough sales in fantasy. Make no mistake; Eaton is a fine player (solid batting average, double-digit HR pop, 15 SB). perhaps Eaton’s best value could be consistency. Aside from an uptick in HR from his first season, Eaton has been a copy and paste player the last three seasons. His value will ultimately depend on his Run totals. A .362 OBP suggests he should hit near the top of the order. 650 PA in the 1 or 2 spot in that lineup would net 100+ Runs scored. But with Dusty Baker at the helm, so many of baseball’s analytical aspects are tossed out in favor of what feels right. In today’s press conference, when asked about the lineup spot for Eaton, Baker mentioned the 7th hole as a possibility. That result would certainly change things.

The biggest concern will be how the Eaton acquisition will affect Trea Turner. Baker loves his veterans – I mean really loves them. Would a terrible spring prompt a Danny Espinosa over Trea Turner at SS? Hard to believe, but could Espinosa perhaps get two starts a week instead of the typical 1 for a backup? What about that aforementioned 7 hole. Assume Eaton is hitting 1 or 2, should Turner bat 1st, perhaps Anthony Rendon is dropped to 7th, perhaps Eaton is 1 and Rendon 2meaning Turner hit’s 7th? Young player – veterans all around – that sure sounds like a Dusty move.  Keep your eye on things this spring.

*****

New York Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a 5 yr, 86 Million dollar deal. Chapman’s return to NY does little to his fantasy value. While his status among closers could be nitpicked, he certainly wouldn’t drop outside the top-3. Sure, the K/9 has declined the last 2 seasons as has the K%, but with that was a career low BB% and BB/9. World Series fatigue could prove to be a problem once the second half roles in, but long-term, Chapman sure feels like he has another 4 years of elite level production. Obviously Dellin Betances’s value drops without the potential for saves, but K totals and good ratio’s still make him a nice RP target.

Catch up on the previous Hot Stove with updates on Yoenis Cespedes, Jaime Garcia, Derek Norris, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, and more…

 

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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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