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December 5, 2011

Resident Fantasy Genius

Fantasy Fallout for 12/5/11

by Derek Carty

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While I’ve taken to posting my thoughts on off-season transactions on Twitter (@DerekCarty), there’s only so much one can convey in 140 characters, so I’ll occasionally be running down the fantasy ramifications of these transactions here at BP. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen a few not-major-but-not-really-minor-either moves take place, some of which will make a player’s value plummet, while others have created great buying opportunities for fantasy owners.

David DeJesus | Chicago Cubs | OF | Signed as Free Agent
The DeJesus signing received mixed reactions among the baseball intelligentsia, but I think it’s a solid move both for the Cubs and for DeJesus’ fantasy value. DeJesus is one of those guys that gets overlooked because he’s good at everything but great at nothing—both in terms of real-world and fantasy attributes. And given his poor 2011 season—which he recently said was, in part, to blame on not being 100 percent following the hand surgery that cut his 2010 season short—there will be many a fantasy owner wary of drafting him in 2012.

While there’s definitely some risk—his strikeout rate rose precipitously in 2011 and his BABIP was a career low—the environment change should prove appealing enough to warrant taking that risk. Wrigley increases lefty big flies 20 percent over McAfee Coliseum, which will likely push DeJesus into the mid-teens range for homers. There’s also some indication that new Cubs manager Dale Sveum will be aggressive with his baserunners, and his leadoff man figures to be one of the prime beneficiaries of such an approach. DeJesus doesn’t have elite speed by any means, but he is above average and has double-digit steal upside.

DeJesus’ value is boosted because he is expected to lead off for the Cubs. Starlin Castro will follow him, but with Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Pena, and Aramis Ramirez likely departing, it’s yet to be seen who else will be around to drive him in. In any case, this is what really makes DeJesus appealing, as a guy with moderate power and speed, and a history of good batting averages and scoring runs has quite a bit of fantasy value. A .280-15-10-85 line would not be out of the question, and would make a lot of fantasy owners very happy.

Brett Jackson loses some value from the deal, as there is no longer a spot open for him in the Chicago outfield, but it seems likely that Soriano will be traded, opening a spot back up. The Cubs are reportedly willing to pay half of Soriano’s salary in a potential deal for the outfielder who has little place in their future plans, so Jackson’s value is likely to bounce back later this offseason.
Value Change: Gain for DeJesus; Loss for Brett Jackson (for the time being)

Chris Iannetta | Los Angeles Angels | C | Acquired via Trade
Ryan Doumit | Minnesota Twins | C | Signed as Free Agent
Rod Barajas | Pittsburgh Pirates | C | Signed as Free Agent
Three catchers whose primary contribution to a team—fantasy or otherwise—is power changed cities over the past couple of weeks, but no team gets better. While LA is the best park for homers of the three new locales, leaving the friendly confines of Colorado’s Coors Field will prove devastating for Iannetta, as there’s a nearly 30 percent difference between the two parks in terms of righty home runs. The move pushes Jeff Mathis out of the starting spot (out of LA entirely, actually, since he has since been traded to Toronto), but that seemed inevitable once Jerry DiPoto sat down in the GM chair. Free-agent signee Ramon Hernandez will take over backstop duty in Colorado, but there’s not much difference for him coming from Cincy’s Great American Ballpark with a similarly-talented supporting cast.

I had a lot of hope for the switch-hitting Doumit coming out of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park—third-worst in baseball for righty homers and well below average for lefties—this winter, but his move to another low-offense team, Target Field, and the more difficult American League is a lateral move at best. He’ll still have some value, but it won’t be the spike that it could have been elsewhere.

As the previous paragraph intimates, Barajas coming into Pittsburgh to replace Doumit is bad news. Dodger Stadium, his previous home, wasn’t exactly a hitter’s paradise, but there’s still a nearly 20 percent difference in righty homers between the two parks.
Value Change: Big Loss for Iannetta; Big Loss for Barajas; No Change for Doumit

Smaller Moves

  • Chris Capuano makes a pretty lateral move from the Mets to the Dodgers, and although the move received some criticism, I’m of the belief that Capuano will be a good value in fantasy leagues this season. A sub-4.00 ERA wouldn’t surprise me in the least. The move hurts Hiroki Kuroda’s value, who up until recently was saying he’d move back to Japan if he didn’t stay in LA, but now there’s word that he could be open to playing elsewhere in America.
  • Clint Barmes loses a lot of value in signing with Pittsburgh, which we’ve already established is a terrible home for a guy whose only real fantasy tool is power.
  • Jonathan Broxton, who entered the market as a closer,will definitely not be closing games in 2012 unless Joakim Soria gets hurt, but the move facilitates Aaron Crow’s transition to the rotation, which boosts his value tremendously.
  • Jeff Mathis gains a small amount of value in the trade to Toronto. It’s a slightly better park, but his hitting skills are virtually non-existent anyway, and he’ll remain in a backup role.
  • Tyler Chatwood loses value moving to Colorado. It’s an easier league but much more difficult park, and he’s not very good to begin with.
  • Wade LeBlanc loses value in Miami. He leaves PETCO Park and, while he wasn’t guaranteed a rotation spot in San Diego, it may be more difficult to secure one with the Marlins given the presence of Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Clay Hensley, Chris Volstad, Alex Sanabia, the possible return of Javier Vazquez, and Miami’s apparent interest in free agents like C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle. The competition for the last spot or two in Miami’s rotation will be much more battle royal than duel this spring.
  • Taylor Teagarden gains some value in his move to Baltimore. Instead of being organizational depth for Texas, he becomes the back-up catcher to Matt Wieters, and he has some pop that could play well in Camden Yards. Still, he’s merely a late-round AL-only pick.

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