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December 29, 2011

Resident Fantasy Genius

Marshalling in Some Pitching Help

by Derek Carty

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Sean Marshall | Cincinnati Reds | RP | Acquired from Cubs
Marshall has established himself as one of the best set-up men in the National League over the past few seasons, making him easily worth a couple bucks in NL-only leagues. The move to Cincinnati doesn’t change that, unless he is given the closer’s role. If the season were to begin today, Marshall would be the odds-on favorite for the job. Yes, yes, there’s Aroldis Chapman, but he could wind up in the rotation, and even if he doesn’t, Dusty Baker has said that he doesn’t trust Chapman to go more than two days in a row, thereby making him an unfit closer. The Reds are still looking externally, trying to bring back Francisco Cordero or someone of that ilk, but if they are unable to do so, Marshall makes a very nice sleeper pick.
Value Change: Gain for Sean Marshall

Gio Gonzalez | Washington Nationals | SP | Acquired from A’s
Anytime a pitcher moves from the American to the National League, it’s a good thing. The average pitcher making such a transition loses a half-point on his ERA and gains a half-point on his K/9. The park change is slightly unfavorable for Gonzalez, but Nationals Park is still a neutral park at worst. With the A’s losing half their offense this winter (Josh Willingham, David DeJesus, Coco Crisp, Hideki Matsui), the Nats should also provide a boost to his run support and subsequent win total (wow, how often are you going to that?).

Gio forms an impressive front three for Washington with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, and while it would be imprudent to expect his control to ever really improve, he should at least manage an ERA in the mid-3.00s while striking out close to a batter per inning

The acquisition of Gonzalez creates a three-man battle for the final two rotation spots in Washington, pitting Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan, and Ross Detwiler against each other. My bet is on Detwiler losing out, but we’re still a long way from Spring Training to say for sure.
Value Change: Gain for Gio Gonzalez; Loss for Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan, and Ross Detwiler

Carlos Beltran | St. Louis Cardinals | OF | Signed as Free Agent
Beltran’s 2011 homes, Citi Field and AT&T Park, were definitely pitcher parks, but it doesn’t get any worse for left-handed batters than Busch Stadium, which suppresses their homers by a league-worst 28 percent. Beltran is a switch-hitter, so at least he’ll get to bat from the right side 30 percent of the time or so; Busch plays between Citi and AT&T in terms of home runs for righties. The biggest benefit of the move for Beltran will be the lineup support. He’s expected to bat second for the Cardinals, followed by Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, so the runs should be plentiful, even if his RBI tail off a little bit.

The biggest thing that will drive Beltran’s value, though, would be the same no matter where he plays: his ability to stay healthy. CHIPPER gave Beltran “reds” across the board going into 2011, and that might only be tempered a little by a relatively healthy season. Beltran is usually too risky for my taste, and the move to St. Louis doesn’t help him nearly enough to put him into a spot where I’d feel comfortable rolling the dice.

The signing hurts the value of Allen Craig, who was previously slated to start in right field for the Cards. Off-season knee surgery that could sideline him into April or May hampered that projection a little bit, but he likely would have slid in once he was healthy.
Value Change: Small Loss for Carlos Beltran; Loss for Allen Craig

Smaller moves

  • Endy Chavez signed with Baltimore after a resurgent 2011 season with Texas. While I don’t expect him to enjoy near that level of success again, the O’s are talking about potentially platooning him with Nolan Reimold in left field. That would be devastating to Reimold’s value, as the righty would find himself on the bad side of that platoon. It would greatly help Endy’s value, but he doesn’t have near the fantasy ceiling Reimold does in as much playing time.
  • Brad Peacock benefits from the trade to Oakland not as a matter of environment—the AL is far less friendly, and all the reasons why Gio will do better in Washington apply to Peacock in reverse—but because he has a chance to open the season as the team’s fifth starter. Jarrod Parker will also contend, but there’s a decent chance Parker begins the year at Triple-A for a little more seasoning as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. Of course, the competition negatively affects Parker’s value.
  • Travis Wood was the fantasy-relevant piece the Cubs acquired for Marshall, and he should benefit first from the park change (Great American Ballpark is a terrible home for a fly-ball pitcher like Wood) and second from the greater chance of securing a spot in the rotation. The Reds don’t even have room in their rotation for Aroldis Chapman, much less for a guy who posted a 4.84 ERA last season. Wood was impressive in 2010 and in the minors this past season, though, so he’d be interesting if he grabs a spot in Chicago’s rotation.
  • As R.J. Anderson pointed out after the move happened, Jason Marquis is the prototypical Twins pitcher with his pitch-to-contact mentality, so it only made sense for him to land in Minnesota. Pitch-to-contact is usually a questionable strategy at best and certainly doesn’t help fantasy owners, but Marquis is not blowing anyone away with his stuff, so it works well enough for him. Target Field is an improvement over Nationals Park, and the team should put a good defense behind him, but the move to the AL will be hard for Marquis to digest. He also won’t receive much offensive support, especially if guys like Mauer and Morneau and Span can’t stay healthy, so Marquis is looking at a lateral move at best.
Related Content:  Sean Marshall

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