Friday, December 19, 2014

Hot Stove Junkie: Over Dose at the Winter Meetings!

posted by Jon Williams
The Winter Meetings seem like an eternity of moves ago at this point. But the impact of these moves is still being evaluated as these moves have been followed by even more moves. This is the second post about the moves of the last couple of weeks and my third version of this article due to some stupid glitch with my save function. Yes, it is agonizing, thanks for asking. Not as many links as usual because honestly I did not save them and I do not feel like searching for them again. The next post will include the most recent moves as of this weekend and I will finally be up to date.

Your Pal 

Jon

Dee Gordon and Dan Haren Traded to the Miami Marlins

There has been a lot of pessimism expressed online regarding Dee Gordon's ability to be a even a productive  player going forward and even the most optimistic views often suggest that Gordon might be okay hitting at the end of the lineup rather than leading off. The silly part is a lot of this is based almost entirely on Gordon's second half walk rate and slumping down the stretch. Gordon had a very long season. He played winter ball before the season, and then came into the 2014 season fighting for a job. This was his first full season in MLB. He had a career high in plate appearances after the shortest offseason of his career. Fatigue is a bitch.

The Steamer Projections I see quoted often do not give Gordon any credit for his minor league and career babip levels. Gordon bunts for hits and uses his speed to great advantage and that has almost always led to higher than average babip levels. He also takes walks. No, he isn't the African American God of Plate Patience but he is not some ultra aggressive three percent walk guy either. Gordon was a good prospect who almost always performed well in the minors. His major league debut in 2011 was fantastic which made the 87 game audition in 2012 look all the worse. He went back to the minors in 2013 and rocked it. He fought back to the majors in 2014 and he rocked it. I am betting he rocks it in 2015 as well. He was a 40 dollar player in 2014. Even if you expect quite a bit of regression, the anticipating playing time alone should make him worth 25 or so. I bid 30 without a problem.

The Dodgers were dumping Dan Haren and the Marlins were only too happy to accept the possibility of adding him to their rotation for free. If he retires they use the money to sign a first baseman or a different veteran starter.he's probably a safe pick at 5-8 dollars, assuming he doesn't retire.

What the Marlins Gave Up

What shocked me most about this deal is that the Dodgers were the ones trading for prospects. In fact they paid the entire salary of both Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to the Marlins (and they get this money even if Haren decides not to play). The prize prospect of the group was Andrew Heaney. The Dodgers also received Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes and Chris Hatcher.

Andrew Heaney projects as a solid mid-rotation starter and some evaluators see him as a potential front-line starter. He has a solid low to mid-90's fastball and two other solid pitches. He should excel in a pitcher's park in front of a good defensive team. Though that will not be with the Dodgers, as you probably know by now. He will probably cost you more than I would be willing to pay for a rookie starter in an AL-Only league but given a full shot I think he will be at least league average this season for a pretty good team. He'll get wins to go with solid strikeouts.

Enrique Hernandez is a 24-year old who can take a walk and has a strong contact rate. He does not have much power or speed but looks like he could become a decent role player or lower tier starter at second base. He might have been a solid $1-3 sleeper in NL-only leagues with the Marlins. If he remains a Dodger he will be a reserve at best and unlikely to get enough at-bats to give him value in most fantasy leagues.

Austin Barnes has split time in the minors between catcher and second base. His offense looks nice, really nice. He walks a lot. He makes excellent contact and has solid power (even if he is not really a homerun hitter) and has more speed than the average catcher. If nothing else he should be a solid and versatile reserve for the Dodgers at some point and that moment could be relatively close. I'd take him as a one-dollar second catcher in a deep NL-Only.

Chris Hatcher will be 30-years old soon but does not have a ton of major league experience. He did however have an excellent season in the Marlins bullpen in 2014. He was a catcher until the 2011 season when he switched to pitching. He has a good arm and I see him becoming a valuable piece of the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen which needed some more depth. He isn't likely to have a ton of fantasy value but if Jansen went down with an injury it would not shock to see him as a closer possibility.

Despite some underrating of Dee Gordon, I don't think anyone would argue this isn't a pretty good haul of prospects for him. Andrew Friedman was known for building his rosters from the bottom out in Tampa Bay. It was very important to him that he had strong reserves and depth in place and obviously the Dodgers are adopting that philosophy as well.

Then the Dodgers shipped Heaney to the Angels for Howie Kendrick.

Howie Kendrick is a good player. He never developed into the batting champion that some saw in his future as a prospect but he hits for a solid average. He has solid but unspectacular power. He runs well but is not a prolific base stealer. He plays strong defense at second base. His game should not change much in the move to Dodger Stadium. I have a hunch he'll bat second in the lineup behind Carl Crawford so they can keep Yasiel Puig in more of an RBI spot. He is a 25 dollar player.


Rutledge is not that good. He received a certain amount of hype in Colorado but the 20/20 potential once thought possible for him never materialized and playing in Colorado didn't help. If he only managed a few dollars of value in Colorado how much will he be worth in Angel Stadium? Not enough for me to bid on him. He and Grant Green can battle it out for most useless starting middle infielder in fantasy. 

They Love This Trade in Colorado
Jairo Diaz is a Potential Closer for the Rockies

Diaz throws the ball hard! He seemed to put it together at Double-A in 2014. He has three solid pitches so I guess the potential to start is still there but he has the potential to be a devastating closer and the Rockies do not have an established closer of the future at this point. The strikeouts will be there, if the control sticks around he will be extremely popular this time next year. I plan to invest. I would not hesitate to spend 5-8 in keeper leagues, at the right time in an auction I could see going a few dollars further but not too much more than that.  

Brandon McCarthy Signs with the Dodgers

Brandon McCarthy is a very good pitcher when healthy. He has solid control and induces ground balls. He isn't an amazing strikeout artist but he gets the job done. The biggest issue he has is with health. He and the Dodgers seems to believe that a workout regimen has solved the shoulder issues, though his owners will need to hope his luck improves as well. Not just so that his results are closer to his skills but so that he can avoid balls to the face and other accidents of fate. Typically he has not been very valuable for fantasy purposes (usually less than 10 bucks) but his second half showed what could happen if the skills and results converge. I think the 10-15 area is a fair gamble but that embraces quite a bit of risk. 


Is Brandon McCarthy the Next Jason Schmidt?

Matt Kemp and Tim Ferderowicz were Traded to the San Diego Padres

Matt Kemp suffered through a couple of years of injuries to his shoulder, hamstrings and ankles before finally regaining his mojo during the second half of the 2014 season. Although he is clearly the best of the Dodgers offensive weapons when healthy, the new Dodgers management had a problem with his defense. Kemp has never been rated as a good center fielder (by the stats I mean) but there was a point not that long ago where you could probably project him as a solid defender on an outfield corner. This was not the case in 2014 but as his legs get back into shape and he is able to resume his workout routine I do not believe it is ridiculous to project him as a tolerable defender (or even better) on one of the corners. I mention the defense because there is a lot of talk about how bad the Padres outfield defense will be. I think that is being overstated a bit. (more on this on the next report - coming soon)


But for fantasy purposes I think the bat is back and minus the stolen bases I believe we will see Kemp's MVP form. If we could project his second half out to a full season he would be a clear first round pick. He walks enough. He may not walk more than he strikes out but that is not necessary. His career eight percent walk rate is just fine. This is especially true because Kemp has a career .292 batting average and .349 OBP with a career wRC+ of 128, and this is even with the lousy injury years included. His wRC+ was 140 in 2014 and that was with a lousy first half. In the low offense era his bat is worth even more. You can count on a good to great batting average and 20-25 homeruns. I have a hunch he will hit more homers but going from Dodger Stadium to Petco Field is a huge decline in hitting environment, especially as far as right-handed power is concerned. I would spend 25 on him in an NL-only without hesitation but I would not bid over 30 due to the park factors and injury history.

A Look at Matt Kemp's Defense

The Change to Kemp's Batting Mechanics

Tim Ferderowicz has been around a while but with little opportunity to play in the major leagues. He is just 27 years old and has a reputation as a solid defensive catcher who is also a patient line drive hitter at the plate. As a pitch framer however he is mediocre at best depending on which measures you use. Given the chance to play he would probably be a fantasy asset with his bat and would not hurt a pitching staff despite not receiving the bonus points that pitch framing provides. He projects as the major league back-up for the Padres and should receive more at-bats than he did with the Dodgers the last few years. I like him for a buck or two in the end game and probably qualifies as a sleeper given his length of service without fantasy value.

Yasmani Grandal hits well for a catcher with nice power but not much batting average (in the majors, he did hit for average in the minors so there is the potential for better). He takes walks and makes decent contact by modern standards anyway. He has been a pretty lousy defensive catcher by traditional standards but has been a solid pitch framer which is likely part of the appeal for the Dodgers. If he starts at catcher he should be a popular fantasy option. I am not as ready to declare him the Dodgers starting catcher as some seem to be. Pitch Framing is important but it isn't everything. He is probably a 10-15 dollar player in keeper leagues but I do not have much faith in his ability to keep a job as a starting catcher.The way Andrew Friedman has built his teams tells me he values having strong reserves and Grandal could back up at catcher and first base. The Dodgers front office may not think much of Ellis but they could look to add a more established catching option with both the pitch framing and traditional defensive skills for the position. Jason Castro comes to mind.

The Dodgers Continue to Re-Work Their Catching Depth

Joe Wieland projects as a back-end starter or decent relief pitcher in the major leagues. He was terrible in 2014 after returning from various injuries. I do not like his upside enough to invest in him but I expect he will make frequent appearances in the Major Leagues in 2015.


The Dodgers flipped Zach Eflin who they received in the Kemp deal and lefty pitching prospect Tom Windle to the Phillies for shortstop Jimmy Rollins and cash. This is a pretty good deal for the Phillies who need to add real prospects in the worse way. However Jimmy Rollins is a great get for the Dodgers who manage to replace most of Hanley Ramirez's offense while improving the shortstop defense greatly. The Dodger pitching staff should only benefit by having a better defense behind them.

Rollins is obviously on the downside of his career but is still a very productive player and a fantasy asset at shortstop. He is still a 20/20 threat though that possibility is reduced a bit by Dodger Stadium. The only real downside is in the batting average. His contact rate has been falling which probably says something about his bat speed fading a bit. However with the state of offense in baseball these days, Rollins is only slightly below average in the BA category. He has been about a 20 dollar player and is moving to a much better lineup. I bid 20 with confidence.

Tom Windle spent 2014 in the California League where he had a nice strikeout rate and decent control but mediocre results. Those results are not as meaningful at this level especially when its the hitter friendly California League. He should debut in Double-A for the Phillies and projects as a solid mid-rotation starter. Windle is a decent pick in a really deep minor league system but in leagues with smaller farm teams I think you can do better, especially considering the poor track record of the Phillies in pitcher development.

Zach Eflin should also debut at Double-A this year. He is more of a ground ball pitcher than a strikeout artist, though he has the potential to improve his K-rate. He was mediocre in one of the better minor league pitching environments in 2014 but still projects as a mid-rotation starter with some upside. I don't see him as must get minor league pick but is a solid pick in deeper farm systems.

More on the Phillies' New Prospects



Ervin Santana seems to building a career as the ace for teams that cannot afford an ace. The Royals, then the Braves and now the Twins will use Santana to front their rotation. He is durable and usually an effective pitcher with a good number of strikeouts, reasonable control and that tends to help him collect wins. The fantasy reality (eh) is that he is closer to a ten dollar starter than an ace. In keeper leagues he is probably a 10-15 dollar starter who might get a few dollars more due to name value. The Twins are collecting some solid pitchers in their rotation. I think the hope is that the farm system will eventually provide the ace they really need. Hopefully, the advancement of some of their better prospects will get some of the first basemen out of the outfield and allow the defense to contribute to the pitching stats. 

The Reds Traded Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos to the Tigers and Marlins

By some measures the Reds were the best defensive team in the National League, this contributed greatly to Alfredo Simon out-performing his skills by metrics such as xFIP. Still, the Tigers should have their best defensive team in years to start the 2015 season and seem to have a knack for getting the most out of starting pitchers (relievers not so much). If Simon fails it will not doom the Tigers.

The Tigers will still have David Price, Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander to front the rotation. With the solid and potentially better than projected Shane Greene, plus a few pitching prospects that can at least approach the level of the league's fourth and fifth starters, the Tigers rotation is still in good shape even without Simon. I would consider Simon only in the endgame and he is likely to go for more than that in most leagues. I like Greene a lot more and would pay in the high single digits, 8-10 in keeper leagues has room for some profit in my opinion. 

Eugenio Suarez was a first round pick in 2013 was contributing to the Major League Detroit Tigers in 2014, not an unprecedented feat but still an impressive accomplishment. The article linked below compared him to Didi Gregorious and that isn't a shabby return for an over achieving 33-year old journeyman pitcher. Throw in Jonathan Crawford, a solid if unspectacular pitching prospect, and the Reds did well in this deal.

Zack Cozart is a pretty good defensive player but his bat is not great. His homeruns numbers dropped off quite drastically in 2014 and his already middling batting average sunk to almost intolerable levels. Suarez will either begin the year in the minors or as a reserve bat. However, if Cozart does not rebound he could find himself watching Suarez take his position as the 2015 season continues.

Mat Latos Returns Home to Florida

Mat Latos also out performed his skills during the 2014 season but he has a much better reputation as a starting pitcher and much of his skills (and tool decline - his velocity was drastically reduced in 2014) can be laid at the feet of various injuries that robbed him of a large portion of the regular season. Latos was probably not at 100 percent at any time during the 2014 season and if he can return to health there is a decent chance that he can return to being a front of the rotation type. The Marlins are certainly betting on his rebound. It is difficult to say the Marlins overpaid or that the Reds sold too low with the injuries still a huge question mark. That said, with the entire rotation entering its final season before free agency, the Reds did well to secure a MLB ready starter with six years of control left, throw in a catching prospect that gets on base and it makes sense even if it was not a sexy move. For the Marlins they have little to lose. They are deep in their major league rotation and have a nice bunch of pitching prospects for depth.

Minor League Ball on the Prospects


The Texas Rangers Trade Prospects For Ross Detwiler

Ross Detwiler was a decent fifth starter for the Nationals until the rotation got loaded with all-stars and he was pushed to the bullpen. The Rangers are in need of veteran rotation depth due to injuries and lots of young and unpredictable arms. But do not mistake the adjective "decent" to equate to "fantasy value" of which he has very little at this point. 

Minor League Ball on the Prospects 

The Royals Sign Free-Agent Kendry Morales

Sitting out half the season is not good for your stats or your prospects for signing a high-value long term contract. I have a hunch that with a full spring training and a full season of at-bats he will put up something close to his 2012-13 numbers something in the range of .270/.330/.450 20-25 homers and 15-20 dollars worth of fantasy value.



The Cubs dealt prospects Zack Godley and Jefferson Mejia to the Arizona Diamondbacks and received veteran catcher Miguel Montero. Montero has been in a steady fade the last couple of seasons. It did look like he was rebounding in the first half of the 2014 season but he was so incredibly bad in the second half that it's difficult to tell there were any positives to his 2014 season. Montero is still an excellent pitch framer and the Cubs are starting to put together a solid pitching staff. This is a big move for the Chicago Cubs but not a big deal for his fantasy value. A bid of 8-10 is value but this would not have provided any profit the last two seasons. 

Why Miguel Montero is Perfect for the Cubs

Minor League Ball on the Prospects

The Cubs also committed $155 Million to free agent starter Jon Lester to front their rotation and help lead their young team into contention. Lester is a fine pitcher but probably a bit overrated. If he were moving to a severe pitching environment I might be more optimistic but he is closer to a 20 dollar starter than a 30 dollar one. 2014 was probably his best season and he was worth about 25 dollars and that includes his incredible weeks with the Oakland A's in their extreme pitching environment. Moving to the National League probably earns him a small boost from his career level performances. Bid 20 -25 and you should get your money's worth. If your bids approach 30 or more there are better places to spend it. 

The Jon Lester Factor 

Epstein and Cherington's Contrasting Management Styles

The Red Sox Add Rotation Depth 

After losing out on Jon Lester, the Red Sox made rapid fire transactions to add reliable innings to their rotation.They sent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (who they acquired in the Lester deal last summer) and reliever Alex Wilson to the Detroit Tigers for Rick Porcello. They sent Ruby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Wade Miley. The Red Red Sox completed their trio of new starters by signing free agent (and former farm hand) Justin Masterson to a one-year incentive laden deal. These starters all have something in common. They induce ground balls and pitch to their defense.

The Red Sox defense is a work in progress. They have been a good defensive team the last few years but this year they have again managed to change over almost the entire lineup. Pablo Sandoval is the new third baseman. He has usually been a defensive positive but his irregular conditioning efforts have contributed to occasional inconsistency. Xander Bogearts is moving back to shortstop. He has a good reputation from the minor leagues but has not played short on a regular basis in the majors. Christian Vasquez will be the new full time catcher. Vasquez has the reputation of an elite pitch framer and solid traditional defensive catcher stats, but he is a rookie and there are likely to be growing pains. The Red Sox will feature three new outfielders. Mookie Betts, a rookie and converted second baseman, will be the center fielder. In small samples he has been good in center field but he is learning the position on the fly. Rusney Castillo has been a center fielder in the past but is moving to right field for the Red Sox. Castillo was a defensive positive in his ten game audition last year. In left field is Hanley Ramirez a career shortstop. Ramirez still has the speed to make up for some mistakes but he will also have to deal with the Green Monster. Obviously the Red Sox think the defense will come together well but it could take some time.

Rick Porcello has been on the verge of a breakout the last couple of seasons. He has proven to be durable and reliable to both the Tigers and fantasy owners. The only real flaw in his game is a mediocre strikeout rate. There have been indications in the past of a boost to his k-rate but it has never really come together. Perhaps working with an elite pitch framer gives him the boost necessary to make it happen. I like him at 15-20 dollars, that may be a little high if you do not believe the strikeouts are coming.
Wade Miley is another elite ground baller with a better history of strikeouts than Porcello. In fact his k-rate seems to be on the rise as he refines his pitch sequencing. He works the edges of the zone and that has led to lots of swing and miss. But despite these skills his results have not matched up. This is at least partially due to the Diamondbacks typically lousy defense and their ballpark which pumps up the opposing offense. Fenway should prevent a few homeruns at least and the Red Sox defense should count as an improvement even with the expected growing pains. His fantasy value has been in the single digits (or less...) since his 17 dollar 2012 season. I have a hunch his value will rebound this year but I would keep the bidding in the single digits and leave plenty of room for profit. 
Justin Masterson also induces ground balls at an elite level. He gets the strikeouts too but has not managed to produce consistent fantasy value as his ERA has been all over the place. Part of this is his periodic control problems and minor injuries that mess up his mechanics. In 2014 it was a knee problem. When he is right, Masterson is a 15 dollar starter and he has a bit of upside at that price.



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The White Sox sent infielder Marcus Semien (who will play shortstop for the Athletics) and Prospects Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Rangel Ravelo to the Athletics for one guaranteed year of right-handed starter Jeff Samardzija and giant right-hander Michael Ynoa. The Athletics designated Jorge De Leon to make room on the 40-man roster for the incoming players.

Jeff Samardzija has begun to earn his reputation as a front line starter. His ground ball rate has risen the last four seasons. His strikeouts are at about a K per inning. His ERA projectors such as xFIP have been in a steady decline as he gains pitching experience. The Shark has less experience than most pitchers his age because he spent his amateur years playing football. I like him a lot and I think he is about to have a true breakout season as he heads into free agency for the first time. He was a 20 dollar starter in 2014 and in 2015 I will bid 25 with confidence in keeper leagues. 

GM Rick Hahn on Ynoa:
“Yeah, nobody asked about him — I was surprised,” Hahn said. “Ynoa was a true target of ours. This is a kid with a big arm, with a multi-pitch mix. He certainly has a plus fastball and a plus slider and a feel for two other pitches, as well.”
Michael Ynoa was hugely hyped as a international prospect and is still young despite what seems like an eternity in the minors. He has a triple digit fastball and a solid slider. The change-up is a work in progress. Last season the Athletics moved him to the bullpen and as you might expect his strikeout rate soared. His control is still shaky but from the bullpen it is not as great an issue. He has the stuff to be a dominating closer and will get a shot to join the major league bullpen in 2015. I would bet a few bucks on him.

David Robertson spurned the Yankees (who made a similar offer by some reports) and signed a four year $46M contract with the White Sox. The deal includes a limited no-trade clause which allows him to block trades to at least five teams per season. Robertson was a top tier closer last season and that should not change with the White Sox. You can bid 20-25 for one of the better closers in the game. 

Despite trading away some of their better players, the Athletics still look like contenders to me. They have less star power but greater depth that they'll use to fill some of the weak spots that plagued them in 2014. There was some interesting speculation spreading around the Athletics Blogs that the A's would use the cash savings on Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez. You can be certain that they are not done making deals.

Marcus Semien will start at shortstop for the Athletics.He can probably manage average range but his arm is weak for the position. He is likely just a stop gap at short until Daniel Robertson is ready to take over sometime this summer. Then in theory, Semien moves to second base. His first season was mostly a disaster but he finished strong. He will not be the last rookie to struggle in his first season in the majors. Semien isn't likely to hit for a great average but it should be tolerable. He will give you a great on-base percentage and provide nice pop. He has 20-plus homer potential and could kick in 10 stolen bases in a full season. I like the kid and think he will do well in Oakland. I would bid 10 or so in keeper leagues but he has not earned that yet.

Chris Bassitt was a 16th round pick and has exceeded expectations since. He has a mid-90's fastball with nice sink. He complements the fastball with a solid and improving slider and a change that needs work but should become at least average. He missed half the 2014 season with a broken hand. He was dominate at Double-A to finish the season. He has been given a mid-rotation projection by some scouts and I like that projection. He has a chance to contribute to the Athletics rotation or bullpen this season, but there is a lot of competition for those roles. I would bid a few bucks on him if he makes the team. 
Josh Phegley can hit a bit. He is not very selective at the plate. He does not draw walks. However, he also does not strikeout much especially for a power hitter. He has 20-plus homer power and has hit for average in the minors. He has not shown much with the bat in the majors. Behind the plate Phegley has a good arm and can throw out runners but is not great at the other aspects of catcher defense such as calling games and pitch framing. If you like drafting one dollar catchers you could do a lot worse than a guy with his power and contact skills. He will back-up Stephen Vogt in Oakland.

Rangel Ravelo is a player I really like. He has good plate discipline and an excellent eye at the plate. he collects walks and makes strong contact. He has hit for average and has developing power. He has just average speed at best but is good on the bases. He was drafted as a third baseman but was moved to first soon after. He can also play a passable corner outfield position. I am certain the Athletics value that versatility but his bat is what makes him truly valuable. I will definitely spend a minor league pick on this player.




The Pittsburgh Pirates Re-Sign Francisco Liriano

The deal is for three years and $39M. This deal works for both teams. Obviously Francisco Liriano receives the security of a long term deal. He also gets to stay in the pitching environment that has allowed him to rebuild his career. The Pirates need someone to front their rotation until Gerrit Cole and their younger pitchers are more established. Liriano is a 10-15 dollar starter, he may get a few bucks more for name value.

The Pirates also acquired left reliever Antonio Bastardo from the Philadelphia Phillies.

It is a minor deal with little if any fantasy significance but makes the Pirates bullpen a little stronger as Antonio Bastardo gives them the needed second lefty arm. The Phillies get Joely Rodriguez a decent starting pitching prospect who projects to be at worst a solid lefty reliever. It works for both teams. Neither has significant fantasy value. 

The Cardinals Signed Corner Infielder Mark Reynolds

Mark Reynolds could find himself relieving Matt Adams against lefties. He hit 22 homeruns in 378 at-bats with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cardinals have been masters at finding at-bats for their bench players. Still, do not pay for the 22 homers. Reynolds is an endgame pick and paying more than that is going to reduce your team's overall value.

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