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December 13, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

Assessing Recent Deals

by Derek Carty

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On Monday, I discussed the managers that have the greatest impact on stolen bases—an important topic for fantasy owners to understand. To keep with that theme, today I wanted to examine the major speedsters who have found new homes this offseason and how welcoming those homes stand to be. Spoiler alert: four of the five most passive managers in baseball have shiny new speedsters to play with (or, you know, not play with).

Chris Young | Diamondbacks to A’s | OF
You probably couldn’t have found a worse landing spot for Chris Young if you tried. Young struggles with balls in play and is most valuable for his power/speed combo. Unfortunately, Oakland may be the worst spot in baseball for this skillset. O.co Coliseum is one of the most power-suppressing parks in the league, and manager Bob Melvin is the second-most passive manager in the game when it comes to letting his guys loose on the basepaths. Additionally, Oakland has quite the glut of outfielders, adding Young to Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, and Josh Reddick (not to mention Seth Smith and Collin Cowgill). Keep an eye on what Melvin is saying in spring training in regard to how playing time will shake out.

B.J. Upton | Signed with Braves | OF
Like Young, Upton is a power/speed guy that could have found a better home, although he did manage to do quite a bit better than Young did. Turner Field is a pitcher’s park, but it’s actually a small step up from Tropicana, so Upton should remain a lock for 20 to 30 home runs. His stolen bases may be another story. While former skipper Joe Maddon boosts an average hitter’s stolen-base attempt rate by 3.6 percentage points, Fredi Gonzalez— the third-most passive manager in baseball—lowers it by 3 points. Luckily for Upton, he’s a fringe-elite speedster, so it’s possible he won’t suffer much of a drop-off if Gonzalez gives him a simple green light. Then again, Michael Bourn’s attempt rate dropped from 38 percent in Houston to 32 percent in Atlanta, costing him about a dozen steals over a full season. At least Upton will lead off for Atlanta with quality hitters behind him. While the other teams in on the bidding may not have been much better fits, aside from Cincinnati, a potential speed loss akin to Bourn’s merits a down arrow.

Shane Victorino | Signed with Red Sox | OF
Victorino doesn’t have the raw power of Upton or Young and has spent his career posting moderate home-run totals in a Philadelphia park that suited him well. Victorino is a switch-hitter with pull power from both sides. Fenway Park has deeper fences in right field, and although they are shallower in left field, the Monster is in the way. Victorino doesn’t sky balls in the way real power hitters do, but he won’t have any trouble with the distance. All told, he’ll lose some power in Fenway. Fenway is great for extra-base hits, though, thanks to the Monster, so Victorino’s average will be helped. And what he loses in power, he may make up for in speed. New Boston manager John Farrell loved to let his guys loose on the bases in Toronto, making him the third-most aggressive manager in baseball. Victorino will likely bat second, behind Jacoby Ellsbury and ahead of Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli. In combination, this seems like a very solid combination for Victorino’s value.

Jose Reyes | Marlins to Blue Jays | SS
Reyes receives a small boost in moving from Miami to Toronto—a lot smaller than many probably think it would be. While the Rogers Centre is an extreme home-run park, its right-field fences (where Reyes hits most of his home runs) share a similar depth to those of Marlins Park. While fence depth isn’t everything, it is important, and the impact figures to be minimal. Additionally, new Toronto manager John Gibbons is neutral in terms of stolen-base aggressiveness, which aligns with our default expectation of new Miami manager Mike Redmond. Reyes loses a tiny bit from the league change, but he will get a boost from the superior surrounding lineup and should score plenty of runs with Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion batting behind him.

Emilio Bonifacio | Marlins to Blue Jays | 2B/OF
Like Reyes, Bonifacio sees a net neutral in regard to steals. He gets a down hour, though, because he stands to lose quite a few plate appearances in Toronto. The superior lineup actually hurts Bonifacio, since he’ll move from leadoff in Miami to ninth in Toronto. As I showed the other day, that can cost a player 100 plate appearances or more. Additionally, Bonifacio will have to fend off Maicer Izturis for playing time at second base instead of having it all to himself in Miami.

Juan Pierre | Signed with Marlins | OF
We don’t know what kind of impact rookie Mike Redmond will have on Pierre’s steals, but Pierre is one of the fastest players in the game and figures to run a lot no matter what. More importantly, he should get full-time at-bats in the leadoff role, something he wasn’t guaranteed to get if he signed elsewhere. The possibility exists of a midseason trade into a bench role or a benching in Miami like he received in Philadelphia last year to give younger players a look, but Pierre figures to be a cheap source of average, speed, and runs.

Denard Span | Twins to Nationals | OF
After years of rumors, the Nationals finally managed to acquire Span. It’s safe to say they like him and will give him plenty of playing time, especially if they trade Mike Morse. He’ll remain in the leadoff spot with superior hitters (relative to Minnesota) hitting behind him, though he could run a bit less. While Ron Gardenhire was relatively neutral on the SB scale, Davey Johnson is decidedly passive. Additionally, Target Field is slightly better for a slap-hitter’s batting average than Nationals Park is, but I’ll call this a small value loss.

Ben Revere | Twins to Phillies | OF
Revere’s story is almost identical to that of former teammate Span. He figures to bat first or second for Philadelphia with slightly better hitters behind him than he would have in Minnesota, but Target Field’s spacious outfield was better for hits than Citizens Bank Park’s is. The manager drop-off is also nearly identical to the one Span will endure. Revere is faster than Span, though, and may have some immunity to it due to the “green light” theory (something I hope to test at some point). Small loss.

Cliff Pennington | A’s to Diamondbacks | SS
The main reason Pennington gets the down arrow is playing time. He goes from a guy with a chance of starting every day in Oakland to one who is more likely to be a platoon or bench player in Arizona following the acquisition of Didi Gregorius. That’s a shame, because he moves to a park that helps a hitter’s BABIP and to a manager, Kirk Gibson, who is much more aggressive on the bases than Bob Melvin is. In his Oakland career before Melvin, Pennington attempted steals on 21.4 percent of chances. With Melvin, that dropped to 17.7 percent, and as a result, Pennington failed to surpass 15 steals in both 2011 and 2012 after swiping 29 in 2010.

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