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May 5, 2016

The Fantasy Verdict

Kenta Maeda or Matt Moore

by J.P. Breen

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I’m back, once again, judging your fantasy trades after you’ve already made them, deciding who won and who lost. I don’t always know which side is which when readers submit their fantasy trades, so I hope that I’m not crushing too many dreams. A few, though, for sure. At least a few.

TRADE NUMBER ONE

Team A gets Matt Moore and two second-round picks.
Team B gets Kenta Maeda and Jeremy Jeffress.
(Submitted by R. Somerford via email.)

Considering the two draft picks involved, this is clearly a keeper-type or dynasty league, which will factor into the overall analysis. Without knowing the size of the league or the keeper restrictions, understanding the value of the draft picks won’t be easy; however, I’ll do my best to contextualize what those picks could bring in a deeper dynasty league.

The easiest way to conceptualize this type of deal, at least for me, is to break it down into chunks. Moore for Maeda and two second-rounders for Jeffress. The latter seems fair enough for me, as in a deep dynasty, you’re going to get a fringe major-league talent or a mid-first-rounder in the previous year’s MLB Draft. Jeffress has been better than expected, posting a 3.09 ERA with good command of the strike zone, which has plagued him in the past. Some have expressed concern about his mere 17.0 percent strikeout rate. His 9.9 percent swinging-strike rate, though, seems to suggest that should increase as the season progresses. The problem is that right-hander may not be the long-term closer for the Brewers, as Will Smith could conceivably take the role once he returns from his knee injury, either late this year or next year. In that way, Jeffress could be relatively valueless in fantasy leagues in 2017, so a couple of second-round draft picks is fair.

So, really, this boils down to Maeda or Moore. If one looks at their respective cFIPs, which attempts to predict how they’ll perform in the future, Maeda gets the edge with his 90 cFIP versus Moore’s 92 cFIP. That statistic isn’t precise enough, though, to consider that difference to be significant. That’s actually indicating that their peripheral numbers, taking into consideration the context of their opponents and the in-game situations, the two are pretty much identical.

Maeda’s 1.41 ERA appears to be vastly superior to Moore’s 4.95 ERA, which could understandably cause one to side with Maeda over Moore. But this is a long-term move. Maeda has a 22.6 percent strikeout rate with a 12.3 percent swinging-strike rate. Moore has a 24.2 percent strikeout rate and an 11.9 percent swinging-strike rate. Again, pretty much equal. I’m not concerned about the two years of difference in age, either.

I am, however, concerned about Maeda’s 1509.2 innings he threw in Japan and the potential injury risk that caused the Dodgers to sign him to one of the most heavily incentivized deals (completely dependent upon the number of starts and innings) in recent memory for a pitcher. Not that Moore has a clean bill of health by any means, but one might consider Maeda’s arm far older than his 28 years of age.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Maeda. If this weren’t a dynasty league and it were only concerned with 2016, I’d say Team B got more value with Maeda and Jeffress. But I’m going to give the nod to Moore and the draft picks with the acknowledgement that Team B gets the better short-term value.

The Verdict: Team A wins.

TRADE NUMBER TWO

Team A gets Kris Bryant and Kenta Maeda.
Team B gets Todd Frazier, Cole Hamels, and A.J. Ramos.
(Submitted by @jmschafer.)

Kenta Maeda’s on the move again. Fantasy owners likely trying to sell as high as possible early in the year, wary that his performance may fall off a cliff as the season progresses. As mentioned above, I think the right-hander has shown he can be an above-average pitcher in the majors. It’s all about health. If he can stay on the mound, Maeda is a solid mid-rotation fantasy starter.

I understand the overall value that Team B receives in this deal. Todd Frazier is going to offer 25-plus homers and should bring double-digit stolen bases; however, he’s unlikely to hit for average, even if his .200 BABIP suggests significant improvement in that area is forthcoming. Cole Hamels is an established SP2 in fantasy formats, striking out roughly a batter per inning and keeping his ERA in the low-3.00s. It’s worth noting, though, that his 102 cFIP sees some movement backward. I suspect that has much to do with his 11.8 percent walk rate, something that’s almost double his career average. I don’t expect that to remain so high, which will bring a more sustainably low ERA. Finally, A.J. Ramos is a solid closer on a pretty mediocre ballclub, a mid-tier closer with a bit of upward mobility due to his 32.6 percent strikeout rate.

It’s just… I have a hard time giving up the best player in the deal, and that’s clearly Kris Bryant. He’s hitting .305/.394/.505 with a .200 ISO. His lack of stolen bases has been disappointing for fantasy owners, but he’s seemingly adjusted and lowered his swinging-strike and strikeout rates. That should give him a better chance for hitting for a high batting average with 25-plus homers and gaudy RBI/run totals. He’s an easy top-20 fantasy player. I don’t think any of the rest can match that. I’m also not convinced there’s a huge difference between Maeda and Hamels this year. Ramos doesn’t tip the scales for me.

The Verdict: Team A wins.

TRADE NUMBER THREE

Team A gets Corey Seager, Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir.
Team B gets Brian McCann, Michael Wacha, and Garrett Richards.
(Submitted by @BBfantasywatch.)

This boils down to the value of Corey Seager in 2016. Team B clearly gets the better crop of pitching and an easy top-10 fantasy catcher. In order to recoup the value lost, I think Seager has to be a fantasy stud, a potential top-five fantasy shortstop, and at least a top-10 fantasy shortstop. He has currently crept into the back-end of the top-20, hitting just .248/.306/.386 due to his 15 runs and 12 RBI.

The 22-year-old is a stud prospect and demolished the majors in his brief cameo last year. I think the fantasy community, including myself, assumed that he would seamlessly transition that success into 2016. That thinking ignored the fact that he hit .278/.332/.451 with 13 homers in 464 plate appearances in Triple-A last year -- which is hardly horrible, especially for someone 21 years old, but it does suggest that we may have overestimated his probable power performance this season. He only posted a .173 ISO a year ago, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that he only has a .139 ISO this year. His average batted-ball velocity is only 88.8 mph, too, so there’s no real dissonance between his ISO and batted-ball velocities.

The difficult thing to read is how Seager’s development will track this year. Does he adjust to the majors quickly and regain the swagger he showed a year ago, or does he need another year or two to figure it out? It’s anyone’s guess, and I certainly haven’t watched enough of Seager this year to start issuing my own scouting reports on the guy.

I’m not going to bet the house—nor am I going to take on someone like Scott Kazmir—on Seager becoming a stud in 2016. I think he’ll be good this year and probably a stud down the road. There’s just too much value lost for Team A in this deal for my taste.

The Verdict: Team B wins.

J.P. Breen is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see J.P.'s other articles. You can contact J.P. by clicking here

Related Content:  Trades,  Fantasy

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