Winter Meetings Update: Dodgers Trades Strengthen the Middle

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been quite busy this week. New GM Andrew Friedman has carved up the Winter Meetings and reshaped his now slightly less pricey roster. David Wiers wrote up the fantasy spin Matt Kemp’s departure, the highest profile piece of the Dodgers’ reshuffling, and Scott Barzilla handled the fantasy fortunes of LA’s primary trading partner, the Miami Marlins. Here, we’ll focus on the impact to the middle of the Dodgers defense, which is now stocked with four new starters.

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Winter Meetings Update: Rick Porcello for Yoenis Cespedes

cespedes land

Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America

There is nothing quite like the Winter Meetings in baseball. Sure, the NFL has the market cornered on amateur draft hype and the NBA has an advantage when it comes to a focus on free agency, but baseball does it right with the Winter Meetings. You get a little bit of everything rolled into one. If I wasn’t a working stiff and I didn’t have family obligations, I would be take the trip every year just to watch the spectacle of it all.

What baseball adds that the other sports do not have with their respective events is the majesty of the trade. You stick 30 general managers in the same place for four days and you are bound to get some deals done, and the 2014 Winter Meetings had more blockbuster deals than any Winter Meetings in recent memory. One of the more intriguing situations came down towards the end of the meetings with Yoenis Cespedes and the Boston Red Sox. [Read more...]

Winter Meetings Update: Miami Marlins Edition

Gordon land

Source: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America

When you think of the Miami Marlins a number of things come to mind. Most people think of one of the cheapest owners in professional sports. Others might think of fraud or other vaguely legalistic terms. I think of bulimia. No organization has been better at binging and purging over the years than the Marlins. Well, the 2015 version seems to be in full binge mode after a very active Winter Meetings.

In order to capture the full extent of their latest binge we must go back to the record contract given to Giancarlo Stanton.  The star right fielder will earn $325 million through the year 2027 or the apocalypse, whichever comes first. No one can doubt that Stanton was the best position player in the National League last year and he likely would have won the MVP award had he not been beaned in the head with a few weeks left in the season. Even with the slugger and a group of nice young players, no one saw the Marlins as a serious threat until they left the Winter Meetings yesterday. [Read more...]

Matt Kemp’s New Home

Matt Kemp

Via Alex Brandon, Associated Press

The San Diego Padres have completed a trade with their division rival the Los Angeles Dodgers for Matt Kemp. In addition to the star outfielder, the Dodgers are reportedly sending catcher Tim Federowicz as well, with the Padres parting ways with Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin. For now the focus will be on Kemp, as he is the prize San Diego was chasing.

Kemp is coming off of a very successful 2014 campaign, posting an impressive .287/.346/.506 line. He made it into 150 games after battling back from shoulder and ankle surgery. Add in Kemp’s hamstring issues and the 30-year-old outfielder has risk, despite his offensive upside. Note his declining stolen base attempts and success rates. For three straight seasons Kemp has not stolen double digit bags after posting an average of 32 steals from 2008-2011. He attempted 13 steals last year, however was only successful in eight of his attempts. Whether or not he trusts his legs again will go a long way in determining his fantasy value. If he can simply reach the 20 bag plateau, Kemp pushes himself into the top echelon of National League outfielders.

If we can’t count on his legs bringing value, what about Kemp’s bat? Dodger Stadium is no hitters heaven — the club led all of baseball with a 113 wRC+ on the road against a ninth place 108 wRC+ at home — but Petco is notorious for being tough on hitters. The pictures below highlight the differences between Dodger Stadium and Petco. (Click to embiggen in a new window)

parks

While the overall run variance is considerable for right-handed hitters, the worst news is about what we figured: the home runs. Kemp blasted 25 round-trippers last season with a 20% HR/FB rate, the third best mark of his career. Observe his three-year average fly ball distance in conjunction with his home run total and HR/FB%. Keep in mind both Kemp’s 2012 and 2013 seasons were limited due to a variety of injuries.

kempdistance

Kemp was in the top 10 for average fly ball distance and in the top 15 of HR/FB rate in 2012 and 2014. When healthy, Kemp’s power should play fine, even with the larger home park working against him.

Kemp 14 Overlay

Another 35+ home run campaign may not be in the works, but he should clear 20+ home runs comfortably. What may hurt the most isn’t the home runs, but the lack of other counting stats. No longer a dependable source of steals, run and RBIs are now tied to Kemp’s value and the offense he is joining isn’t particularly strong. The Padres’ 535 runs last season was dead last in the majors, and their offense ranked last in AVG, OBP and SLG. Their collective .226/.292/.342 line equaled a team 82 wRC+, unsurprisingly the worst in the league. One man can’t revamp a lineup on his own, however Kemp’s power should remain largely unaffected by the new park. Whether or not he hits solo home runs is up to his teammates.

Athletics Trade Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox In Six-Player Deal

Prior to the official start of Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, rumors of a Jeff Samardzija deal from Oakland to Chicago began to surface. The rumors turned to fruition during the first full day of the Winter Meetings as General Managers Billy Beane and Rich Hahn engineered a six-player swap that landed the White Sox a right-handed starter they desperately needed.

The Deal:

To the White Sox: RHP Jeff Samardzija, RHP Michael Ynoa
To the Athletics: IF Marcus Semien, IF Rangel Revelo, C Josh Phegley and P Chris Bassitt

Samardzija is clearly the headliner of this deal, and although he’s only under team control for 2015, the White Sox brought the Indiana native back to the midwest because they needed a right-handed power arm to complement southpaws Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks. Presumably, those will be the three left-handers to start the season in the rotation, with Carlos Rodon making his way on to that list at some point during 2015.
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2014 Fantasy Baseball: Nelson Cruz In Seattle

cruz land

Source: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America

The Seattle Mariner’s hunt for power is well known at this point. Signing Nelson Cruz to a four year, $57 million contract gives them a big jolt of power in the middle of their lineup. Last year Cruz led the majors with 40 home runs and posted an impressive .271/.333/.525 line, owning the eighth highest slugging percentage among qualified batters. It was also his sixth consecutive season cracking 20 or more home runs. That being said, Safeco Field is easily the least hitter friendly park he’s called home. [Read more...]

2015 Fantasy Baseball: Generation Next — Catchers

zunino land

Source: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America

Fantasy baseball is forever changing. Of course, in the coming weeks we will see a lot of change. The annual Winter Meetings will commence before we know it and we will see a number of players changing uniforms. We’ve already seen quite a few blockbuster trades go down and the winter meetings haven’t even begun. Yet, this isn’t the kind of change that fantasy baseball players experience on an annual basis. Each position sees players fall down in the rankings and other players rise up the rankings. The players that are able to see those changes before they happen are the ones that hold up the championship trophies at the end of the season. The players that hold onto the memories of great players are the ones that end up in the Mike Trout sweepstakes the next season.

Catcher more than any other position is prone to these wild changes. There are a number of reasons for these changes that are unique to the catcher position. The defensive demands of the position dictate that catchers take longer to develop than any other position. Catchers rarely enter the big leagues ready to dominate. So, it can often seem like they are coming out of nowhere because they might not look like much right out of the gate. Of course, the flip side is also true. The physical demands of the position can zap a hitter of his effectiveness earlier than any other position. Many prominent offensive players have seemingly evaporated out of thin air in their early thirties. Therefore, at catcher, it pays more than any other position to pay attention to the younger players that may come out of nowhere. A look back at 2014 is proof positive of that fact. [Read more...]

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Disappointments — NL Starting Pitchers

fernandez land

Jose Fernandez
Source: Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America

The senior circuit certainly had their fair share of disappointments on the hill. In most cases, we are talking about pitchers that got hurt and underperformed because of that. Injuries happen, but when players build a track record of good health and performance then it is easy to be disappointed. The fact is that pitchers are more susceptible to injury as they get older. It is one of the many reasons why giving pitchers long-term deals is so risky. Yet, teams continue to do it to their own detriment.

Not all of the pitchers on the list are under long-term contracts or old, but if we have seen anything happening in baseball we have seen a sharp increase in the need for Tommy John surgery (ligament replacement surgery). It seems like every team has at least one major league pitcher or big time prospect that spends most of the season on the shelf. Some teams (like say the Atlanta Braves) have multiple guys on the shelf. Until the sport finds away to curb this trend, it would be wise to be wary of just about every pitcher on the board on draft day.

Jose Fernandez– Miami Marlins

(4-2, 51.2 INN, 2.44 ERA, 70 K, 0.948)

What Happened?

Obviously, the numbers are very good, but Fernandez didn’t even make it to June. He was shut down for the season and had surgery. Most pitchers in his situation are down for 12 months. His tale is a fairly common one. He had a brilliant rookie season in 2013 and therefore was one of the top five starting pitchers off the board. It is a cautionary tale that people should consider before drafting any of this seasons rookie pitchers high up in their draft. Hard throwers like Yordany Ventura are particularly vulnerable. We don’t know why exactly, but experience tells us it’s true. The road back for Fernandez is a bit cloudy because he likely will not be back in Spring Training. So, he might be a waiver claim later.

What about 2015?

If it takes Fernandez a calendar year to come back then he likely won’t be back until June of 2015. Four months of Fernandez is still pretty strong if he is able to approach 2013 numbers, but that isn’t likely based on past experience. Most of the time, it takes a pitcher two years to get back to where he was before the surgery. So, Fernandez might be the Fernandez of old in 2016. That’s good news for guys who have him in keeper leagues, but it does little for you if you are playing in a standard league. Fortunately, the Marlins are improving as a team, so he still might give you decent win and strikeout numbers once he comes back. [Read more...]

2014 Fantasy Baseball: The New Third Baseman In Boston

panda land

Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America

With the long rumored deal finalized, Pablo Sandoval will takeover the third base duties for the Boston Red Sox. The contract comes in at five years, and while the final details are yet to be released, it will apparently be in the range of $100 million. For a few hours Boston’s new third baseman was Hanley Ramirez as he is also joining the Red Sox with his four-year, $88 million deal (with a fifth vesting year for another $22 million).

Already having Xander Bogaerts ready to hold down either third base or shortstop before either of the big free agent signings, the managerial team in Boston now has a lot of talent and a limited number of positions in which to squeeze said talent. Probably the most likely scenario is for Bogaerts to become the everyday shortstop with Sandoval maintaining his solid defense at third base. So no position eligibility changes for next season there, but it is possible Hanley may not see enough time on the left side of the infield to maintain his 3B/SS eligibility in 2016.

Some are assuming HanRam will become the everyday left fielder for the BoSox, thus potentially cramping the style of Yoenis Cespedes, Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino and Jackie Bradley. Perhaps one or more outfielders will be moved soon — perhaps at the Winter Meetings taking place December 7-11 — but for now it appears as though the outfield situation in Boston is up in the air. Leaving the outfield for another day, Sandoval himself warrants a close inspection.
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2014 Fantasy Baseball: Disappointments — AL Starting Pitchers

verlander land

Justin Verlander
Source: Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America

Pitching in fantasy baseball is an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, pitching has never been more dominant at any time in fantasy baseball. Sure, they played some Stratomatic back in the 1960s, but fantasy baseball has only been popular in the internet age. In the internet age, hitting has always been king. That has changed fairly dramatically in recent seasons. The flip side of that trend is the fact that you can count as many as ten prominent pitchers to either get hurt or underperform each season. The end result is that most smart fantasy players have been loading up on position players and simply identifying solid pitchers to add to their rosters later.

Unfortunately, some pitchers still dominate the early rounds of most drafts and some of those guys had some hard seasons in 2014. Like with the position players, players can disappoint because of injuries or lackluster play. The upshot with pitchers is that they are also more susceptible to batted ball luck than position players. So, when we look at the disappointments we need to take special care to determine which category they belong (the injured, the underperforming, or the unlucky).

C.C. Sabathia– New York Yankees

(3-4, 46.0 INN, 5.28 ERA, 48 K, 1.478 WHIP)

What Happened?

C.C. Sabathia represents the downside of relying on pitchers early in the draft. Of course, few picked him that high this year because 2013 represented a down year for him as well. His ERA in 2013 ballooned to a robust 4.78, but he still hurled 211 innings and struck out 175 batters. He also won 14 games as well, so many fans still added him to their regular rotation with the expectation that he would hurl 200 or more innings since he had done it in every season since 2006. Unfortunately, he broke down in May and never came back. [Read more...]