Fantasy Baseball Impact of Offseason Moves Heading into the Winter Meetings

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Fantasy Baseball Impact of Offseason Moves Heading into the Winter Meetings
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Prince Fielder should be all smiles now that he gets to hit in Rangers Ballpark.

The hot stove is officially cookin', but with Major League Baseball's winter meetings set to start on Monday, Dec. 9, in Orlando, it's as good a time as any to take a break from all the heat—and take stock of the fantasy impact from all the activity.

With plenty more action—and transactions—still to come next week and beyond, let's dissect the fantasy fallout from some of the bigger moves we've seen over just the past week or so, with a focus on key players who have seen their value go one way or the other—up or down—thus far.

*All transactions through Friday, Dec. 6

 

Value Up

Prince Fielder, 1B, Rangers

The trade from the Tigers in exchange for Ian Kinsler (who's value doesn't change much, by the way) helps Fielder's bat a lot. Comerica may have had a slightly higher home run rating in ESPN's park factors last year, but, c'mon: This is Rangers Ballpark we're talking about, which ranked No. 7 in 2012 and No. 1 overall in home run factor only two years ago. A return to 30-plus four-baggers should be, well, in the bag.

 

Brian McCann, C; Jacoby Ellsbury, OF; and Carlos Beltran, OF, Yankees

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Putting on pinstripes—and getting to aim for the short porch in right—boosts new Yankee Brian McCann's fantasy value.

These three lefty (or in Beltran's case, switch) hitters—all free-agent signings—get to say, "Hello, Yankee Stadium!" While Ellsbury's 32-homer 2011 is going to remain a crazy outlier, it's not out of the question that he could be a 15-homer, 50-steal guy, which keeps him in the discussion as a first-round pick.

McCann, meanwhile, could put his pull power to use and launch 25-30 homers, which would be super valuable from a catcher position that is lacking in elite options.

And Beltran shouldn't have much trouble matching, or even exceeding, the 17 of his 24 homers he hit from the left side in 2013. That should allow him to maintain his third-outfielder status for another year.

 

Doug Fister, RHP, Nationals

Fister, acquired from the Tigers for three non-fantasy relevants, doesn't get a ton of love in fantasy because his strikeouts are only so-so (career 6.3 per nine). But heading to a more neutral park and the National League, where he'll face pitchers instead of designated hitters, should bump up his Ks and lower his ERA, too. To wit, he sports a career 7.6 K/9 and 2.09 ERA in 73.1 innings against NL competition.

 

Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers

No more Kinsler means an everyday job for this former consensus top prospect in baseball. Granted, he was disappointing as a rookie (.234 BA, 6 HR, 2 SB), but he was only 20, managed all of 284 at-bats and was shifted all over the field. More stability should lead to more consistency—and double digits in homers and steals at the second-base position.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
With a full-time gig, Jurickson Profar could be a starter-worthy 2B in fantasy.

 

Justin Morneau, 1B, Rockies

Look, the 2006 AL MVP, who signed as a free agent, is no longer the fantasy stud he once was, but if you don't think he could have a mini-revival (say, .290 with 20-plus homers) at Coors Field, you could miss out on a roster-worthy utility/backup first baseman in fantasy.

 

Nick Castellanos, 3B, Tigers

After shipping Fielder out, Detroit will put Miguel Cabrera back at first base, per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. That allows top prospect Castellanos, a third baseman who was switched to the outfield and hit .276 with 37 doubles and 18 homers at Triple-A in 2013, to show he's ready to win the hot-corner gig with a strong spring. If he does, he could be a contender for rookie of the year contender, which is always nice in fantasy.

 

Kole Calhoun, OF, Angels

Calhoun is the likely starter in left—and in a very strong Angels lineup—now that Peter Bourjos is out of the picture in St. Louis. In near-regular playing time over the second half last year, Calhoun hit .282 with eight homers and 32 RBI in fewer than 200 at-bats. He's more of an AL-only option, but one with upside.

 

Khris Davis, OF, Brewers

Khris Davis has 20-homer power.

Milwaukee swapped Nori Aoki in part to open a spot for Davis, who hit .279 with 11 home runs in only 119 at-bats from July on last year. He's a starter-worthy outfielder in NL-only play and a sleeper in mixed formats.

 

Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF, Red Sox

Ellsbury's successor doesn't possess loud skills, but the 2011 first-round selection does have the tools to reach double digits in both homers and steals while posting a strong OBP, which makes him an intriguing fourth outfielder in fantasy. If he works his way into the leadoff spot in Boston's lineup, there's more production to be had.

Elsa/Getty Images
In fantasy, Jackie Bradley is a bench outfielder with upside.

 

Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds

Ryan Hanigan being traded to Tampa Bay clears the way for Mesoraco—a former first-rounder and top-tier prospect only two years ago—to finally get a shot to start in a good ballpark for hitters. The career average (.225) leaves a lot to be desired, but the righty swinger does have 16 career homers in 589 career plate appearances across parts of three seasons.

 

Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria, RHPs, Rangers

No more Joe Nathan, now a Tiger, means that these two former closers—both now more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery—are the top in-house ninth-inning candidates for a solid Texas team (at least at the moment). Soria might have the arm up, if only because he was healthy by last July, whereas Feliz returned in September. One of them is likely to be an undervalued saves option come March.

 

Heath Bell, RHP, Rays

Would it really shock anyone if Bell followed in the footsteps of Kyle Farnsworth and Fernando Rodney as the latest reclamation project-turned-All-Star the Rays make good on at closer? Just don't invest in Bell, who was a part of that three-team deal involving Hanigan, as anything more than a third or fourth closer.

 

Scott Kazmir, LHP, Athletics

Amazingly, Kazmir not only resurrected his career last year, but he also returned to being a strikeout-an-inning guy (162 K in 158 IP). While that might not persist, he's still only 30 in 2014 and moves to a fantastic park after inking with Oakland.

Scott Kazmir should remain a good source of strikeouts for owners.

 

Drew Smyly, LHP, Tigers

Fister's departure opened up a rotation spot for Smyly, who has shown he can get big leaguers out as a reliever. He'll lose a little as a starter, so last year's 2.37 ERA and 9.6 K/9 won't be repeated, but the southpaw now has spot-starter potential for fantasy.

 

Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon, OFs, Rockies

One or the other could seize a starting role with the departure of Dexter Fowler to Houston. Anyone who gets to hit at Coors Field is worth at least monitoring. For what it's worth, Dickerson had a .775 OPS in 213 plate appearances, while Blackmon's was .803 in 258. They both hit lefty, but Blackmon is better against same-siders (in a small sample), so maybe there's a platoon possibility. NL-only owners need to know their names.

 

Tommy Hunter, RHP, Orioles

With the trade of Jim Johnson to the A's, if the season started tomorrow, the hard-throwing Hunter might be the Orioles closer. Of course, the season doesn't start for five more months, so this is likely to change once Baltimore brings in someone with ninth-inning experience, like Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney or Chris Perez, as Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com speculates.

 

Henry Urrutia, OF, Orioles

Nate McLouth is headed to the Nationals, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com. That means that left field is wide open in Baltimore. We've already seen enough of Nolan Reimolds and Steve Pearces to know they're no good. Urrutia, a 26-year-old Cuban defector has some potential with the bat (.347/.406/.506 across Double- and Triple-A) and could turn into a nice AL-only play next year, if the O's can't land the big bat they are chasing, like Nelson Cruz.

 

Michael Choice, OF, Rangers

Similarly, until Texas finds another corner outfielder to play over Choiceacquired from Oakland—who has some pop, with a .445 SLG at Triple-A last year—the 10th pick in 2010 could be in line for some PT. It's unlikely the Rangers don't address this spot, though.

 

Value Down

Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners

That tweet might help allay some fears about what could happen to Cano's performance after moving onto the Mariners. While he will remain the No. 1 second baseman on fantasy boards, the fact is that he's hitting in a worse lineup and a worse park now that he's no longer a Yankee.

Cano will still be a fantasy first-rounder, but now there are enough question marks surrounding him that he could wind up being 2014's version of Giancarlo Stanton.

If you dislike downside in Round 1, he might be one to avoid.

 

Curtis Granderson, OF, Mets

When the offseason began, there was an outside chance that Granderson might've stayed in New York—with the Yankees, that is—but instead, he heads across town to a tough place to hit and joins a team that has struggled offensively in recent years. He's a bounce-back candidate, just not a bounce-back-to-40-homers candidate.

Denis Poroy/Getty Images
Curtis Granderson should bounce back some in 2014, but mostly due to health—not hitting in Citi Field.

 

Dexter Fowler, OF, Astros

When you're traded away from a park where you hit .298/.395/.485 for your career—compared to just .241/.333/.361 on the road—your fantasy value doesn't just drop; it plummets.

  

Ricky Nolasco, RHP, Twins

He'll probably be fine in his new home park after joining Minnesota, but wins are going to be very hard to come by for Nolasco, which matters in fantasy. And don't expect him to be the guy he was for two months with the Dodgers (2.07 ERA before three clunkers). He's strictly a spot starter and matchups play.

Ricky Nolasco at his best in 2013. Don't expect a repeat in 2014.

 

Scott Feldman, RHP, Astros

Feldman rose from the don't-bother bin to fantasy relevance last year, when he posted a respectable 3.86 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. But of all the teams he could have signed with to maintain at least some of that value, Houston probably wasn't the best choice.

 

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Marlins

Leaving Fenway and Boston's potent offense for Marlins Park and a team with Giancarlo Stanton and little else? Sorry, Salty, but you've lost any chance at being a top-10 fantasy catcher again next year.

 

Brian Wilson, RHP, Dodgers

This one's only worth mentioning here because Wilson could have been some club's closer in 2014. Instead, he settled for a setup job behind one of the most dominant fantasy closers around in Kenley Jansen. (That is, if you call getting $10 million for one year of pitching eighth innings settling.)

 

Tanner Roark, RHP, and Ross Detwiler, LHP, Nationals

These two each flashed intriguing fantasy potential at different points last year, but with Fister joining the rotation after Dan Haren left for the Dodgers, there's now only one spot to fill. One of these two, probably Detwiler, who could head to the bullpen, is going to be out of a starting job, and the other will need to prove he's capable of keeping it.

 

Jordan Lyles, RHP, Rockies

Extremely homer- and hit-prone, Lyles was never a fantasy factor as an Astro. He's even less so as a Rockie. It's worth pointing out that even NL-only owners in deep-roster leagues might be better served avoiding the pain that's likely to come—even by having him on your bench.

 

For fantasy questions and discussion, follow me on Twitter @JayCat11.

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