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January 23, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

Scooting Between Teams

by Derek Carty

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Marco Scutaro | Colorado Rockies | SS/2B | Acquired via Trade
After spending all of 2011 struggling to find someone capable of handling second base adequately, the Rockies have finally found someone. Scutaro is far from a sexy player, and the move to Coors Field won’t help him as much as it will a guy like Michael Cuddyer, who has actual power, but Scutaro should still receive a moderate benefit from the park and league change. But the biggest benefit might come from where he’ll bat in the order. If the Rockies decide to bat Scutaro second, as they did many of their second basemen in 2011, he would see a big increase in runs from batting eighth or ninth for the Red Sox. In NL-only leagues, Scutaro could be a very nice, under-the-radar pickup.

The move severely hurts the value of Chris Nelson, Jonathan Herrera, and D.J. LeMahieu, who were set to battle it out for the starting spot prior to Scutaro’s arrival. In Boston, the move opens up shortstop for a potential Mike Aviles/Nick Punto platoon. Whether that’s a strict platoon will have a large effect on each player’s value. Aviles is the better fantasy option, but he’s right-handed, so it’s possible he only faces lefties. If the split is more 50-50, or if Aviles gets the majority of starts, we’d need to remember that we’re just one year removed from a lot of analysts calling this guy a fantasy sleeper. He had an up-and-down 2011, but he still has some potential across-the-board skills that could be useful to an AL-only owner.
Value Change: Gain for Marco Scutaro; Loss for Chris Nelson, Jonathan Herrera, and D.J. LeMahieu; Gain for Mike Aviles; Gain for Nick Punto

Chris Snyder | Houston Astros | C | Signed as Free Agent
I’ve been very curious to see where Snyder would land this winter, and he’s found a pretty good home in Houston. After spending the past year and a half in one of the worst home-run ballparks in baseball (PNC Park), Snyder now moves to a hitter’s park with some very friendly Crawford Boxes boosting the power of righties. The average right-handed batter moving from Pittsburgh to Houston receives a boost of nearly 35 percent in home runs on contact. For a power-only catcher like Snyder, that’s a great fit, and with full-time play, he could challenge 20-25 home runs.

The biggest question is whether Snyder will start for the entire season. Jason Castro is recovering from off-season foot surgery and is unlikely to be ready by Opening Day, but it sounds like he’ll be tops on the depth chart when healthy. Of course, if the injury lingers into the season and Snyder produces in the way I believe he can, Castro might have a hard time pushing him out of the way.
Value Change: Small Gain for Chris Snyder; Small Loss for Jason Castro

Carlos Pena | Tampa Bay Rays | 1B | Signed as Free Agent
There’s not much fantasy impact here. Pena will bat in the middle of a more potent Tampa Bay lineup than he had in Chicago, but the park and league change are unfavorable. Of course, he spent all of his prime (up until 2011) with the Rays, so there’s not much concern about his ability to adjust. The hidden value hit here is the opportunity cost of signing with Tampa Bay. Had he signed with a team like the Yankees, he could have been in line for a monster year.

The signing knocks Juan Miranda out of the first-baseman-by-default role, but that was bound to happen anyway. Adding Pena’s power bat to the middle of the lineup provides a small boost to whoever bats ahead of him (maybe Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton, and Evan Longoria), but hurts guys like Luke Scott and Matt Joyce, who will likely end up batting sixth and seventh now.
Value Change: No Change for Carlos Pena; Small Loss for Juan Miranda

Seth Smith | Oakland A’s | OF | Acquired via Trade
Jonny Gomes | Oakland A’s | OF/DH | Signed as Free Agent
And the Oakland 1B/OF/DH picture gets murkier still. Between Brandon Allen, Chris Carter, Kila Ka'aihue, Daric Barton, Josh Reddick, Collin Cowgill, and now Smith and Gomes, the team has eight players vying for four spots (1B, LF, RF, and DH). Despite that, Smith should be a good bet to play against any and all right-handed pitchers. He’ll also probably play against some lefties, though Gomes has apparently been brought in to be a lefty-killer, so he could either be thrown into a strict platoon with Smith or, more likely, play in left, right, and at DH against lefties and possibly against some righties. Rumor is Allen is on the trading block, which would clear up some room, but trying to figure out who plays where and how often could wind up being like a chimp trying to figure out a Rubik’s Cube. If you’re curious to know how I see the starters breaking down right now, here you go:

1B: Allen
LF: Smith
RF: Reddick
DH: Carter

I see Gomes backing up LF, RF, and DH in this scenario. Of course, this is just a guess, and there is plenty that can happen between now and March 28.

As far as value changes go, Smith’s production will certainly decline a great deal in leaving Coors Field for O.co Coliseum, and the same goes for Gomes coming from Great American Ballpark. Cowgill, previously penciled into left field, is now likely to begin 2012 in the minors. Carter also sees a small loss, as he was in the mix for left field and DH; now seems to be out of the left-field mix and will have added DH competition in the form of Gomes.
Value Change: Loss for Seth Smith; Loss for Jonny Gomes; Huge Loss for Collin Cowgill; Small Loss for Chris Carter

Ryan Ludwick | Cincinnati Reds | OF | Signed as Free Agent
This is a signing I’m rather excited about. Ludwick has spent his entire career (or at least the years when he’s been relevant) in pitcher’s parks, and he’s spent the last two in PNC and Petco—two of the very worst for batters. Now he’ll have the benefit of playing in a park on the complete opposite end of the spectrum; Great American Ballpark boosts righty power close to 40 percent over PNC and Petco. Ludwick has struggled since leaving St. Louis (which is a pitcher’s park itself), so it’s going to be very interesting to see just how much he can bounce back in this new environment.

The Reds will try to work Chris Heisey into the outfield fold, which will usually come at the expense of Ludwick, but the potentially drastic increase in per-plate appearance production should outweigh the lessened at-bats. Heisey, naturally, sees his value take a huge hit, as he goes from starting full-time in a potent lineup and terrific ballpark to a hybrid third/fourth-outfielder role. Both Ludwick and Heisey are right-handed, so a platoon situation seems unlikely to develop, but if Ludwick can mash in this new park, he could thrive, especially since manager Dusty Baker has never shown a lot of confidence in Heisey.
Value Change: Gain for Ryan Ludwick; Loss for Chris Heisey

Smaller Deals

  • Kevin Slowey gets a bump in value as he’s dealt for the second time this offseason. Colorado was a poor home for a fly-ball pitcher to begin with, but with all of the pitching depth the Rockies had, it seemed unlikely Slowey would get much of a chance. Now he could wind up as the Indians’ fifth starter if they void Fausto Carmona’s contract, and Jacobs Field is a decent park to call home.
  • Victor Martinez’s potential season-ending injury obviously destroys his value, but don’t bother bumping anyone else on the Tigers up too much. In all likelihood, Detroit’s replacement DH is not currently on the team.
  • Yu Darvish signed with the Rangers, meaning he’s officially coming to America for the 2012 season. I’ve discussed Darvish before, and I like him, but despite the spotty track record of his fellow Japanese imports, the hype machine still seems to be in overdrive, which could cause him to become too expensive on draft day.
  • Zach Putnam is a name to file away for NL-only owners. Dealt for Kevin Slowey, Putnam won’t have much of a chance at saves, but he could provide solid ratios as a middle reliever or set-up man.
  • Jack Cust stealthily signed with the Astros last week. Note the club option for 2013, when the club will move to the AL and could potentially install him as a DH. That makes him particularly noteworthy for keeper-league owners, but with such an unproven outfield in Houston, Cust could be a sneaky NL-only pick this season, as he could potentially earn some solid PT for the team by midseason. The easier league and a much friendlier power park than he’s accustomed to points to some potential upside.

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