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A Fantasy Spin on the Hot Stove

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening – whichever is applicable to you. As the Winter Meetings came to a close the bookend day was not without its own news of notes. The closing ceremony of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft.

For those that don’t know I’ll save you from a Wikipedia filled version. The Rule 5 draft was designed to prevent teams from stockpiling talent in the minor leagues. Minor league players whom are not on their parent clubs 40 man roster within 5 years from draft date(4 for players who were 19 or older when drafted), become susceptible to be picked up by another team. The caveat; the drafted player must remain on the 25-man roster of the MLB team which selected him. Should the drafted player be omitted from the 25-man roster, then he will be returned to his original team.

Over the course of its history the Rule 5 Draft has kickstarted the careers of many notable players: Johan Santana, Bobby Bonilla, Jose Bautista, George Bell and Josh Hamilton. Notable success stories of late include Hector Rendon, Odubel Herrera, and Delino DeShields Jr.. This season 18 players were selected in the Rule 5 draft. Will 2017 provide another notable performer? Here are three players that are potentially worth monitoring.

IF Allen Cordoba, San Diego Padres – Going from 50 games of  Rookie Ball to MLB will be a tough task, but if there is a team that can afford patience at MI it would be the Padres. Cordoba has shown elite contact skills the last two season, posting a K% below 9 in both seasons. Cordoba lacks power, but success on 22 of 26 SB opportunities suggest he could be a contributor in the category if given the opportunity. In addition to the SB potential he could also be a nice AVG source given the contact rate.

Cordoba isn’t likely to break camp a starter, yet with little in front of him and a team in rebuild mode, you couldn’t ask for a better landing spot for a Rule 5 player.

*****

RHP Kevin Gadea, Tampa Bay Rays – Jeff Zimmerman of fangraphs and baseballheatmaps rated Gadea as the best prospect in the class. Gadea has posted excellent K and BB totals over the last 145 innings spanning two seasons in Rookie and A-Ball.  The biggest roadblock for Gadea in terms of fantasy relevance could be the Rays organization itself. The Rays are one of the few teams that has a number of starters already in the pen, which includes Matt Andriese who proved to be effective in the job last season.

Should Gadea remain with the Rays organization look for him to begin the season in a long-relief role, through with success and a few timely injuries, perhaps a path to a rotation spot will emerge.

*****

RHP Armando Rivero, Atlanta Braves – The 28-year-old RP features a big arm that has produced 3 seasons of a K/9 greater than 13.00 over 4 Minor League seasons. Rivero has been used primarily as a multiple inning RP during his tenure with the club. While his K totals are eye-popping, so to are his BB/9 having only once produced a season below 4 per 9 IP.

Atlanta  should offer Rivero a nice clean slate to operate from. Like most Rule 5 RP arms, the Braves will begin the season hiding Rivero in mop up duty when applicable. Should Rivero prove effective the opportunity for a more impactful role would certainly be in play. With Jim Johnson, Mauricio Cabrera or Arodys Vizciano likely to begin the season competing for the closer role, projecting struggles and an unknown fantasy commodity emerging is hardly out of question.



With the Winter Meetings in the books the Hot Stove continued on.
The following notable transactions occurred from 12/8 to 12/13

Chicago Cubs sign Koji Uehara. He may not be the pitcher he once was, but despite middling velocity Uehara still produces excellent K totals and low hard hit rates. Given Uehara’s dominance vs. LH hitters, his role will be of the “as necessary” variety. With this in mind, Rondon should be the first in line to replace Davis in the event of injury. This leaves Uehara’s value, in all but Hold leagues, to be rather minimal at this point.

*****

St Louis Cardinals sign Dexter Fowler for 5 yr, 82.5 Million dollars. His risk of taking a one year offer last year paid off. It’s not often that the leadoff hitter for a World Series winner could better himself elsewhere, but perhaps Fowler did just that. Injury and the occasional day of rest netted Fowler with 551 PA last season. With the Cubs roster depth, especially in the OF, Fowler would likely not have been a 150+ games guy. That will not be the case with the Cardinals, as Fowler should be expected for 650+ PA (health permitting) with nearly all of those coming from the top spot in another loaded lineup.

2015 should serve as a good projection point for Fowler as 15 HR, 100 Run, and .265-.270 seem rather safe bets. The Cardinals were one of the least aggressive teams on the base paths regarding SB last season. Going further, the Cardinals have the second lowest SB total over the last 5 seasons. Fowler won’t regress to a 5-10 SB guy, but he’s likely not to approach the 20 of 2015. He’ll serve as a 4th OF for most fantasy teams, given the new contract and World Series heroics, I do wonder if that ADP doesn’t approach OF 3 territory.

*****

Washington Nationals send MI Danny Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels for RHP Kyle McGowin and Austin Adams. McGowin is 25 and posted an ERA of 6.11 last season, Adams is also 25 and possesses an enticing K/9, accompanied by an ugly BB/9. Can we all just agree that this was Mike Rizzo’s way to ensure Baker no longer takes the veteran angle over Trea Turner?

Despite 24 HR, Espinosa was nothing short of terrible last season in his 601 PA cameo as an everyday player. A .209 AVG with a 29% K rate helped build up that -10.5 Offensive WAR. The Espinosa of 2011-2012 no longer exist; the power remains and the AVG could rebound, but despite his success rate Espinosa managed only 9 SB in 11 opportunities last season. Without the steals the risk in AVG simply isn’t worth it. His playing time alone will warrant league only ownership as well as 20-team mixed leagues. In all other formats, with the depth of talent at MI, Espinosa’s bat should be forgotten.

His glove work, however, should be noted. Espinosa and his 8.3 Def WAR will be paired with Andrelton Simmons forming quite the duo up the middle. Garrett Richards and his 52.8% Career GB rate as well as Tyler Skaggs at 45.6% should be the biggest benefactors in the Angels rotation.

*****

Stephen Strasburg to use the Slider less in 2017. Strasburg used the Slider a career high 17.1% of the time last season. He began using the pitch in 2014, but it was used very sparingly until last season. Strasburg blamed his late season arm issues on the pitch specifically, prompting the change in repertoire. The pitch wasn’t his most effective, but his 4.2 wSL value was better than his wCB value the last three seasons.

Strasburg’s health is the primary focus of perspective owners, but I’m left to question why a move to the Slider was made in the first place. Was Strasburg or Nationals brass somewhat concerned of the downward trend in CB effectiveness? Or was it simply a case where Strasburg felt more comfortable with the pitch thus prompting the change? I consider this nothing more than a footnote at this point, but this could be worth monitoring should Strasburg not pitch up to his standards.

*****

Los Angeles Dodgers resigns both Kenley Jansen (5 yr, 80 Mil) and Justin Turner (4 yr, 64 Mil).  Anyone ever ask a girl out, only to have her brush it aside as if it never happened?  Yeah, me neither. Should it have happened I could only imagine it felt rather similar to how the Marlins felt last week – having offered Jansen the better deal, only to have him crawl right back to that old familiar face. Regardless of uniform Jansen’s value wasn’t going to change.

While Jansen played the single bachelor for a month, Turner felt committed to the Dodgers during the whole process. I was very skeptical of Turners 2015 success, and as a result I had zero shares of Turner’s excellent 2016 season. Good contact rates and a three-year run of an AVG north of .270 makes Turner really safe batting average source. He posted a Run+RBI total of 169 last season, and that number could exceed 180 if the bats around him remain healthy all season. Going into 2016 I questioned Turners GB/FB rate of 1.00 in his 6 MLB stints prior to 2015; that number had never been below 1.45. Last season Turner managed an even more FB oriented approach, posting a .90 GB/FB rate resulting in a surprising 27 home runs.

Two consecutive seasons suggest to me a mechanical change took place and these numbers should now be considered more of the norm. I still feel Turner will be undervalued by most come draft day and I can only hope my shares will far exceed last season.

 

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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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