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February 5, 2013

Fantasy Fallout

The Carter-for-Lowrie deal

by Paul Singman

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Yesterday’s trade, which sent Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez to the Athletics for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, and Max Stassi, may seem relatively unimportant from a fantasy standpoint, but there are ripple effects that could impact numerous players on both the A’s and the Astros. Below, I examine the fallout for all of the players affected by the deal.

Description: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/up_green_arrow.pngChris Carter | A’s to Astros | 1B/DH
I’ll begin with the most intriguing player, “gentle giant” Chris Carter. Carter was finally able to unleash his mammoth power at the major-league level last year, shooting 16 baseballs into the outfield stands in just 260 plate appearances. This output was accomplished in the unfriendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum, which stands in stark contrast with his new home, the hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.

My colleague Paul Sporer examined specifically how Carter’s 2012 batted balls would have fared in his new environs, using a park-overlay tool from Katron.org to show that three more homers would have likely been added to last year’s total had he played in Houston. Carter gets the up arrow for the park swap and for playing-time gains, since he figures to find his way into the Astros lineup on most days, be it at first base, designated hitter, or left field. I remain reserved, however, regarding his fantasy prospects for the upcoming season, mainly due to his persistent contact woes, which only became more apparent as the season wore on. Overall, Carter struck out in 32 percent of the time in 2012, but over the final month, he punched out a staggering 31 times in 72 trips to the plate! Sure, there will be weeks when Carter is a one-man fireworks show, but he’ll counter those outbursts with cold spells during which he scarcely makes contact, and his upside might press you to live with them.

Description: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/red_down_arrow.jpgJed Lowrie | Astros to A’s | SS

In his first year with the Astros, Lowrie was predictably productive when healthy, and then predictably got hurt in a collision while covering second base. As Jon Morosi notes in this tweet, Lowrie has never endured 100 games in a season in his seven-year professional career. It’s safe to say his number-one goal in 2013 should be to simply stay on the field.

Lowrie did make the most of his time on the field in 2012, batting .244 with an impressive 16 home runs in 97 games. Per ESPN’s Hit Tracker, 10 of Lowrie’s 16 homers were of the “Just Enough” variety, roughly defined as being within 10 feet of clearing the fence. That’s about 62 percent of his home runs, double the league average, and this makes him a prime candidate for regression even without the park change. With the move to O.co Coliseum, we can be doubly pessimistic about Lowrie’s power output in 2013.

One area where he stands to benefit from the trade is position eligibility. The A’s are reportedly planning to use Lowrie in a sort of super-utility role, meaning he potentially can gain eligibility at third base, second, and first, in addition to his current shortstop designation. If he adds even two of those positions to his repertoire, it’ll add a couple of dollars to his value and make him a sneakily useful player to own. The biggest concern, of course, is still whether he’ll add disabled-list eligibility as well.

Description: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/red_down_arrow.jpgBrad Peacock | A’s to Astros | SP

After coming to Oakland last season in the Gio Gonzalez trade, Peacock failed to refine his command and was hit hard by Triple-A batters despite striking out more than a batter per inning. Many still believe in the righty’s stuff and are optimistic that, with some refinement, he can become a second or third starter. In Houston, Peacock will get the chance to prove himself immediately, but I believe that he could use more seasoning in Triple-A, and could get tarred-and-feathered by major league batters in April. It’s true that he was buried on the A’s pitching depth chart, but if he was performing well in Triple-A, I bet he would have received a chance to start by mid-June, with Oakland’s vast ballpark offering him a superior place to begin his career. Focusing on the short-term, Peacock gets an up arrow based on opportunity, but I’m not confident this move will be beneficial to his long-term prospects.

Description: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/up_green_arrow.png Brandon Moss | A’s | 1B/OF

The trade of Carter, Moss’ fellow 2012 breakout hitter and ex-platoon partner, signals a vote of confidence by the A’s brass in Moss as something close to an everyday first baseman. He is still likely to be platooned to an extent, with Lowrie and perhaps even John Jaso factoring into the mix, but Moss still figures to gain 100 or so at-bats from the deal. He will look to repeat his free-swinging 2012 success, and will have with plenty of opportunities to do so.

Description: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/red_down_arrow.jpg Brett Wallace | Astros | 1B/3B

The most direct casualty of this deal on the Astros side is Wallace, the low-ceiling, once highly rated prospect. In his third year splitting time between the majors and Triple-A, Wallace played well for short stretches, but overall ended up at replacement-level once again. Carter should eat into a lot of Wallace’s at-bats and essentially drop him off the radar for AL-only leagues.

Description: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/up_green_arrow.png Chris Young | A’s | OF

With an established outfield of Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, and Josh Reddick, offseason acquisition Chris Young was a bit of an outcast in the Oakland outfield. This move, however, opens up the DH slot for either Young or one of the other outfielders (likely Cespedes) to fill, allowing him to slide into the lineup on a regular basis. Young was likely to get his fair share of time before the trade, but now his 500+ at-bats are much more solidified, adding to his intrigue as a high-upside selection later in drafts.

Description: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/red_down_arrow.jpg Hiroyuki Nakajima/Josh Donaldson | A’s | SS/3B

Nakajima and Donaldson are being told they’re retaining their starting gigs on the left side of the Oakland infield for now, but the acquisition of Lowrie certainly shortens their leashes and demonstrates a lack of confidence in both players. For Nakajima, it is particularly concerning, considering that scouts have been questioning his ability to effectively man shortstop since the Yankees won the posting—but failed to sign him—last offseason. Both players were barely on AL-only radars to begin with, and now, with questionable playing time, they’re moving even closer to the periphery.

Description: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/up_green_arrow.png Marwin Gonzalez/Tyler Greene/Jake Elmore | Astros | SS

With Lowrie out of town, the battle to become the next everyday Houston shortstop is set to begin between these three players. Gonzalez is known as a defensive specialist and won’t warrant fantasy consideration with his bat outside of deep NL-only leagues. Greene, the former Cardinal, is a poor contact hitter, but possesses some pop and speed. In 330 trips to the plate last year he struck 11 homers and stole 12 bases, and would warrant AL-only and even deep mixed league attention if handed the reins. Elmore is an unheralded prospect, but one who batted .344 in Triple-A last year (albeit in Reno). By contrast, he was useless in a 73-plate-appearances sample in the majors, posting a .191/.247/.250 triple-slash line. Elmore is willing to be active on the base paths, though, and he may reach based often enough to be a deep-league asset.

Description: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/red_down_arrow.jpg Jemile Weeks | A’s | 2B

Along with Scott Sizemore and host of other hopefuls, Weeks was set to battle this spring for the A’s starting second-base job. Now, with Lowrie in the fold, Weeks’ path to consistent playing time is even more muddled. Assuming that the A’s don’t trade Weeks with his value at its low point, he’ll likely split his time between Sacramento and Oakland this year, before getting a chance to prove himself a regular again in 2014.

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