As spring training draws to a close and the games (and fantasy stats) count for real, teams are making final adjustments as they prepare their rosters.  Naturally, these moves have fantasy implications.  The plan is to tackle a few of these each day leading up to the start of the season – the key trades, waiver moves, players sent to the minors, etc.  If a move happens during the day today (Wednesday) that you’d like to see covered tomorrow, just leave a note in the comments.

Detroit trades Nate Robertson to the Marlins

The 32 year old Robertson hasn’t made a fantasy impact since winning 13 games with a 3.84 ERA for the 2006 Tigers.  He worked 208 innings that year and subsequently battled a tired arm the following year.  Since then, he’s bounced between the rotation and the bullpen in search of a role.  During this time, Robertson has had one constant:  Hitters have been absolutely lighting him up.  They’re hitting .298/.361/.471 against him since 2007 which has yielded a gaudy 5.52 ERA and 1.588 WHIP.  Ugh.

He’s had a decent spring, though.  With a 3.66 ERA in 19 innings to go along with 19 strikeouts, Robertson was in a battle for Detroit’s fifth starter role with Dontrell Willis.  With the trade, Robertson will assume the back of the rotation position for the Marlins and gives them their lone left-handed starter.  This acquisition pushes non-roster invitee Clay Hensley, who had been in line for a the fifth starter spot, to the bullpen as a middle reliever.  

Robertson’s PECOTA weighted mean for toiling in Florida has him pegged for a 4.88 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 105 innings.  His 90th percentile PECOTA gives him a 4.46 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 145 innings of work.  In other words, there’s not much upside here.

Meanwhile, the fifth starter job in Motown now belongs to the enigmatic Willis.  Like Robertson, it’s been awhile since Willis has been a useful fantasy option.  You have to go all the way back to 2005 when he won 22 games with a 2.63 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.  In the years that followed, he’s posted a 4.94 ERA and 1.569 WHIP in just under 500 innings. But Willis, again like Robertson, put up decent numbers this spring with a 3.26 ERA in 19 innings.  However, he’s struggled with control, allowing 12 walks against 13 strikeouts.  That’s been an ongoing issue ever since he moved to Detroit.

PECOTA isn’t optimistic on Willis, giving the left-hander a weighted mean of a 5.38 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in 95 innings of work.  

Obviously, these guys are options only in deepest of leagues.  If you’re in a mixed league searching for pitching depth and facing a choice like the Tigers, I’d go the other way and choose Robertson ahead of Willis.

Milwaukee places Jeff Suppan on the DL

Suppan hits the disabled list with a stiff neck.  The cynics among us could suggest the cause of this pain is the whiplash effect from watching one of his offerings meet the opposing hitter’s bat and launch into the stratosphere.  (Six HR in 16 spring innings. Seriously?)  The Brewers (who owe him $12.5 million) and select fantasy owners (who are scraping the bottom of the pitching barrel), probably aren’t laughing.

Once upon a time, Suppan was a solid, if unspectacular pitcher.  He has made at least 30 starts for 11 consecutive seasons and has tallied over 190 innings in nine of those years.  Nearly every Baseball Prospectus write-up on him during this time referred to him as either an innings-eater or league-average.  Consistency surrounds the guy – even in our books.

This begs the question: Do fantasy teams need innings eaters?  Only if you’re in a league where innings pitched counts.  And do fantasy teams need league-average starters?  Sure.  It beats having below league average starters.

While those terms may have been used to describe Suppan in the past, ever since moving to Milwaukee, he has been decidedly below average while digesting fewer innings.  His strikeout rate – never great anyway – has dropped to 4.7 K/9, and his walk rate has ballooned to 3.4 BB/9.  His overall 1.08 K/BB ratio would have been the worst in the majors last year, if he had thrown enough innings to qualify.  Meanwhile, he’s been extremely hittable with a hit rate of 10.7 H/9 and a 1.573 WHIP since 2007.  At this point, he’s practically fantasy poison.

Suppan was battling for the fifth starter role (ack!) and may still fill that spot.  His trip to the DL is backdated to March 26, so he could return by April 10 and the Brewers don’t need a fifth starter until five days later against the Cubs.  If he needs more time, Milwaukee will look to either Chris Narveson or Manny Parra.  Neither pitchers are fantasy options.

Do yourself a favor and watch this fantasy train wreck from afar.

Seattle waives Ryan Garko

Garko was signed by the Mariners this winter to be the right handed hitting side of a first base platoon with Casey Kotchman.  It was a smart plan as Garko owns a distinct platoon split in his career that favors him facing lefties as often as possible.

Vs LHP – .313/.392/.495
Vs RHP – .266/.335/.420

Sometimes, even the best plans go awry.  In this case, Garko did himself no favors by hitting just .220 this spring with three extra base hits in 43 plate appearances.  

So this means the M’s will forgo the platoon and hand the job full time to Kotchman.  Outside of maybe Daric Barton there isn’t a first baseman with less power – Kotchman has never hit more than 15 home runs in a season despite having more than 430 plate appearances in each of the previous three seasons.  PECOTA has his weighted mean at 13 HR and 62 RBI, but those numbers are based on him receiving 65% of the playing time at first.  Forget the projected playing time for a moment, his power numbers seem wildly optimistic.  And now with Garko out of the picture, those projections will move north.  

Kotchman makes decent contact, but his HR estimate seems optimistic.  And in a position stocked with power hitters, his value couldn’t be lower.  While he’s not a good primary option at first, when you’re filling your roster, consider him for a corner position or in a utility role.  His high contact rate (88% career) makes him a factor in BA.  And if the Mariners follow through with their plans and hit him in third in the lineup, he’ll collect his share of RBI.

Now that Garko is out of the picture, the Mariners backup at first will be veteran Mike Sweeney.  Sweeney is having what has become for him his typical torrid spring, hitting .517 with seven extra base hits in 29 plate appearances.  Spring awesomeness aside, Sweeney isn’t a fantasy asset – unless your league counts trips to the DL.

Thank you for reading

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The Robertson deal was a win/win for both teams...and being a lefty with K potential - a change of scenery might do him well
I kind of like Chris Narveson as a dark horse type. Not a fantasy candidate in a MLB league, but in NL Only, he could be worth a look if he gets the 5th spot.
Both Parra and Narveson could easily pitch their way into being options but I have to agree to start the season they are bench options at best.
Any word on when Hacking Mass comes online this season? I'm looking forward to considering Manny Parra for my unfantasy team.