A Fantasy Spin on the Hot Stove

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening – whichever is applicable to you. Last installment I anticipated the Hot Stove to be placed on Simmer during the Holiday season. While the Hot Stove was certainly not boiling over, the hand full of transactions and the impact from a fantasy perspective put it on much more than a simmer.

While I highlighted the impact signings and trades, Minor League contracts become a popular topic as teams begin preparing themselves for Spring Training. The overwhelming majority of these offer nothing more than a 24th or 25th man, but on occasion there is some sneaky value to be had. Here are some notable Minor League Transactions.

Cleveland Indians sign Chris Colabello. A steroid suspension all but ended his 2016 season, but he did hit .321 with 15 HR over 360 PA back in 15. He is 33 years old so don’t count on Colabello for much, but he could be in league only consideration if he makes the team out of spring training.

*****

Arizona Diamondbacks sign Oswaldo Arcia. In need of a LH bat, Arcia will have to play his way off the roster. For what it’s worth, Arcia managed to do just that 3 times last season while managing a .214/.289/.369 slash line. The D’Backs OF is crowded; the chance of making an impact is slim, but at 25 and with a 20 HR season under his belt, tis the season for eternal hope.

*****

San Francisco Giants sign Michael Morse. With questions left unanswered in the Giants OF it’s not impossible for Morse to work his way onto the roster. Familiarity with the Giants organization would seem to improve his chances as well. I’m not really sure what the upside is, but a strong Spring will force us to consider it.

*****

Kansas City Royals sign Jonathan Sanchez. Typically a three-year hiatus isn’t a path to success, but attempting a comeback with the Royals is a good start. The Royals feature a track record of rebuilding pitchers values and have concerns themselves at the back-end of the rotation. If nothing else, Sanchez should be given plenty of chances to prove himself.

*****

Oakland Athletics sign RHP Norge Ruiz. This was a straight Minor League Contract as Ruiz signed for 2 Million. He was the #3 rated International Prospect. At 25, Ruiz should need limited Minor League work before his expected major league debut. The ground ball specialist projects as a back-end rotation type.

*****

Pittsburgh Pirates sign RHP Daniel Hudson for 2 yr/11 Million. Hudson was one of several arms in the free agent class who you could envision earning a Closer role somewhere. Clearly the Pirates like him given the 2-yr deal coming off a 5.22 ERA season. Watson did fine in the closer role to end last season, but he could be their most desirable trade chip if/when McCutchen is dealt.

I feel Hudson will gain momentum by draft time and his ADP will ultimately be reflective of him being the Closer. His K rates have improved from his days as a SP, but an 8.65 K/9 is actually below the MLB average for relievers. The Pirates success with Pitchers could very well mean marked improvement for Hudson. That improvement could very well mean Hudson will be good enough to take and keep the closer role, but I’m not buying he becomes a top-10 option at the position for fantasy purposes.

*****

Philadelphia Phillies send 2B Joshua Tabias to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Clay Buchholz. For the Red Sox the move serves as a salary dump as Tabias should be nothing more than organizational filler at this point. For Buchholz it’s time to squat or get of the pot. Ron Shandler has been quoted as saying “Once a player shows a skill he owns it.”. No player has tested that theory more than Clay Buchholz. Most have abandoned him and deservedly so. but I fully plan on being on board one more time in 2017.  

In 2015 Buchholz posted a 8.50 K/9; that total was 6.01 in 2016. His BB/9 in 2015 was 1.83 (a career low); last season that mark was 3.55.  Can the move to the NL move those numbers closer to the 2015 Clay? As a person who will target Buchholz late in drafts I’m hopeful they will. Look no further than his new Phillies rotation mate, Jeremy Hellickson, as a player comparison. I could see Buchholz mirroring Hellickson’s 2016 with more K potential.




San Diego Padres re-sign LHP Clayton Richard for 1 year, 1.75 Million.  Monitoring Richard’s whereabouts is tip-toeing the line of fantasy relevance, but back-to-back seasons of with a sub-4.00 ERA deserves a mention. With the current state of the Padres rotation it’s entirely possible we could see 20+ starts this season from Richard. The potential workload alone puts him in league only consideration as well as deep mixed and streamers delight. There is no K potential to be had, but if his control can return to his 2015 rates I can see him sustaining some limited success.

*****

Pittsburgh Pirates re-sign RHP Ivan Nova 3 for 3 yr, 26 Million. In 11 starts for the Pirates, Nova posted 7 W’s with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. As one should expect, his return to Pittsburgh should help improve his fantasy outlook for 2017. Nova’s GB approach should work well with Ray Searage’s tutelage leaving me reason to believe Nova can follow in the same footsteps of JA Happ and Francisco Liriano.

Nova’s GB tendencies will likely lead to a higher AVG against so walk prevention will be the key to how successful he can be. Last season Nova posted a 1.56 BB/9, and his 11 start cameo with the Pirates featured only 3 walk in 64.2 IP.  If Nova can maintain a walk rate low enough to post a WHIP below 1.15 you could be looking at a 3.25 ERA option who could push 180 IP.

*****

Cleveland Indians sign 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion for 3 yr, 60 Million.  In the short-term I see no reason for panic with Encarnacion. His pull happy approach (5 straight seasons of a 50% or more pull rate) may not be best served at Progressive Field. Even so, you’re still looking at a 30+ HR hitter with a nice supporting cast hitting in front of him. Injury seems to be the only thing standing in the way of a third consecutive 100+ RBI season. Last seasons K rate spike is a concern; 19.7% is still a rarity for a HR threat such as Encarnacion, but a 4 percentage point jump shouldn’t just be brushed under the table. Could we see Encarnacion’s AVG drop into the .250’s? I see more of a .254/32/88/105 statline for 2017.  

One other item at least worth considering is the SB impact Encarnacion’s bat could have. The Indians had the 4th most SB in 2016. In 2015 they ranked 15th, in 2014 they finished 10th. Was this increase due to a full seasons worth of Jose Ramirez(22) and Francisco Lindor (19) or was it more out of a concern to score runs? Mike Napoli was excellent in 2016, but you’d be hard pressed to argue that Encarnacion’s name in the lineup doesn’t provide more comfort for a Manager. Does Francona give the green light a little less often with the impact bats of Encarnacion and Brantley in the heart of the order?

*****

Atlanta Braves re-sign OF Ender Inciarte to a 5 yr, 30.25 Million dollar deal. When Inciarte was moved as part of the Shelby Miller deal some anticipated his stay in Atlanta to be short-lived. This deal would leave you to believe that Inciarte could see this Braves rebuild through. Nothing to get overly excited by from a fantasy perspective, but Inciarte certainly has value in most formats.

With solid contact skills and decent speed, Inciarte is a good bet for a .290 AVG. His 7.8% BB rate is certainly not elite, but it’s an improvement by over 3 percentage points from 2015 suggests perhaps more growth potential. With 16 SB last season an improved BB rate, this could mean another name to add in the shallow pool of SB options.

*****

Los Angeles Angels sign OF Ben Revere for 1 yr, 4 Million. At this time last year Revere was the perfect picture I painted for Inciarte, but with more SB potential. Revere struggled mightily in 2016, but one has to wonder was it due to actual struggles or lack of faith by Nationals brass? Revere’s plate approach remained steady and his contact actually improved. Revere did have more weak contact last season, but at the same time his hard hit rate increased to the point that the effects should have been minimal. A big increase in FB was likely the biggest culprit last season, as Revere managed a career high 26.5% FB rate. At the end of the day, however, even with the change in his batted ball profile he deserved better than a .234 BABIP.

Revere is now with the Angels who seem to be putting a premium on defense this offseason. Will this afford Revere the opportunity at another 600 PA season? If Revere can return to the full-time player he established himself as in 2014 and 2015 you should expect a .250 hitter with 25 SB potential – even if last seasons batted ball profile remains. Should Revere return to his GB heavy approach then I see no reason to expect anything less than .290+ with a real shot at 35+ SB.

*****

Arizona Diamondbacks DFA OF Peter O’ Brien. O’Brien will resurface somewhere as he’s got nothing left to prove in the Minor’s and his power track record warrants a look. For the sake of Fantasy I hope O’Brien surfaces in a place who will give him a half-seasons worth of PA to prove himself. At best he’s a 30 HR bat who struggles to hit .240 – at worst he’s Mike Olt.

*****

Cincinnati Reds claim 1B/OF Richie Shaffer. Another obligatory Richie Shaffer mention as the Phillies become the latest team to cast him aside. The Reds feature a nice starting OF so Shaffer would now appear to be nothing more than Bench depth. Shaffer could serve as a RH bat platoon partner with Scott Schebler.

 

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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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