keyboard_arrow_uptop
IN THIS ISSUE

American League

National League

HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Signed SS-S Jed Lowrie to a three-year deal worth $23 million that includes a club option worth an additional $5 million. [12/15]

What do you get the pitching staff that posted the second-highest groundball percentage in the AL for Christmas? Try one of the worst defensive shortstops in the game.

As peculiar as Lowrie's return is in that regard, it's possible the shift-heavy Astros think they'll be able to minimize his deficiencies. After all, they were able to post one of the best groundball-to-out conversion rates in the majors last season while obsessively moving their defenders around. Still, between Lowrie and second baseman Jose Altuve, there's a legitimate possibility the Astros will field the worst defensive double-play pairing in the AL.

Of course Lowrie atones for what he lacks defensively with his bat. In a normal season, he shows the ability to reach base, make contact, and provide pop without striking out very often. There is a catch here, and that's how his power and production versus righties both dipped last season. Presumably the Astros believe a bounce-back is in order, perhaps thanks to a move away from Oakland's spacious ballpark. Nonetheless, it's a development worth noting.

Ditto for the structure of Lowrie's deal, which is front-loaded. There are a few ways to think about this. You can call it a win for the Astros because they'll pay Lowrie a little less money as he declines, or because they'll have a few more millions to spend as their team ascends. But you also need to point out how the time value of money works and … well, look, it probably won't matter much either way. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy Impact

Jed Lowrie

Lowrie was pretty bad in 2014, hitting just .249/.321/.355 in 136 games and finishing as just the 27th-best fantasy shortstop, per ESPN's player rater. However, he's just a season removed from hitting .290/.344/.446, and his true talent level likely lies in between those marks. Lowrie isn't a very consistent player, but he's moving from a bad hitter's park to a good one, and the Astros should be a competent offensive club next year, too. Plus, Lowrie figures to spend at least 2015 at shortstop, which buys him two more years of fantasy eligibility there. Given his lackluster defense, that wasn't a guarantee heading into the offseason, so over all we should be pretty pleased by his decision.

Jonathan Villar

Once upon a time, I had high hopes for Villar as a second-division regular who'd steal enough bases and hit enough homers to be fantasy relevant. He did manage to hit seven bombs and steal 17 bags in just 289 plate appearances, but he was bad enough at everything else to lose his job. Maybe he'll resurface elsewhere later in his career or get another shot when the injury-prone Lowrie goes down. As of right now, though, he shouldn't be owned in leagues with fewer than 20 teams.

Matt Dominguez

This won't matter in 2015, but Carlos Correa looms, and when he's ready it's likely that Lowrie shifts to third and Dominguez is out of a job. If you've been relying on him in AL-only or deep mixed leagues, be prepared to move on by mid-2016. —Ben Carsley

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Signed 3B-S Chase Headley to a four-year deal worth $52 million. [12/15]

It's tough to say what would've been more surprising: Headley inking a four-year deal worth $65 million, or him leaving New York. The Yankees, with their alternatives limited to Alex Rodriguez or Martin Prado at third and a rookie at second, always seemed like the favorites to retain Headley. And why not? Headley is a low-beta two-way contributor who ought to remain an above-average third baseman for a few more seasons.

Headley is what you'd call a true switch-hitter—someone who lacks a sizable platoon split, and instead provides value from both sides of the plate. (Over the past three seasons he has a .278 True Average against righties and a .274 mark versus lefties.) While Headley is unlikely to ever hit 31 home runs in a season again, his strong on-base skills should buoy his offensive game. Alas, working deep into counts means striking out more than a fifth of the time—a higher rate than you'd like from someone with modest power production.

The biggest concern with Headley might be his health. Although he's been mostly well the past few seasons, averaging more than 600 plate appearances since 2012, he missed time in '14 due to leg and back issues. The Yankees have a better idea about Headley's health than anyone on the outside, and they seem to feel comfortable with this amount. Given the price—a few million fewer than the qualifying offer—you can understand why that might be. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy Impact

Chase Headley

Remember all those things we said about Headley's contextual factors doing a complete 180 when he was traded from San Diego to New York? Well, those remain true now, and all you have to do is look at Headley's second half (.265/.367/.402) to understand what type of upside he'll have as a full-time Yankee. He's never going to approach his 2012 power benchmarks, and his days of swiping double-digit bases are probably through. However, Headley's a good bet to finish as a top-20 fantasy third baseman in 2015, and he has the ceiling of a top-15 option. Be warned, however, that he's likely to be overvalued in redraft leagues because the improvement is likely to be overstated, but if you own Headley in a dynasty or keeper league, throw yourself a party. Given that teams like San Francisco and Miami were reportedly interested in him, it's truly great for our purposes that he stayed in New York.

Alex Rodriguez

Perhaps marking A-Rod as "neutral" would be more appropriate, since even if the Yankees failed to land Headley they likely would've looked for some way to upgrade at the hot corner. But this all but makes official the fact that A-Rod's days at third base are over, and while he's a historically great offensive weapon, the baseline for fantasy relevancy at UT is much higher than it is at 3B.

Rob Refsnyder

Refsnyder hit 14 homers and stole nine bases with a .300-plus average between Trenton and Scranton Wilkes-Barre last season. Oddly enough, that caught the attention of many fantasy owners, and while Refsnyder doesn't profile as a first-division regular, his bat would be somewhat interesting in that park regardless. With Martin Prado and Headley now blocking Refsnyder, though, it would take a significant injury for him to see time in 2015. —Ben Carsley

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Signed LHP Brett Anderson to a one-year deal worth $10 million guaranteed and up to $14 million total. [12/15]

Anderson, who turns 27 in February, hasn't thrown more than 150 innings since his rookie season, back in 2009. Yet 150 is a number of importance here, because that's when his incentives kick in. Anderson has missed time due to almost every ailment known to pitcher—bulging disc, broken finger, broken foot, strained oblique, torn elbow ligament … heck, it's surprising he hasn't been attacked by a Vermicious Knid at this point. Anyway, when Anderson is well, he's a quality pitcher who deals in strikes and grounders. There's no legitimate reason to think he'll stay right for long, at least not based on recent history, but Andrew Friedman has money to blow these days—a lot, evidently—and a spot at the back of his rotation to fill. Anderson, should he stay healthy, could fill that slot. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy Impact

Brett Anderson

There's not a ton of analysis needed here. Anderson is going to what figures to be a strong team in a good pitcher's park in the NL. We all know the odds are long that he'll log more than, say, 50 innings, but if he does, they could be of some value. If he makes it through spring training alive, he's worth a look in 16-team leagues.

Juan Nicasio, Zach Lee

I don't say this to pick on Anderson, but let's be real… Anderson never pitches. If the Dodgers are planning on standing pat with their rotation now, Nicasio and Lee could both very well still be in line for time. —Ben Carsley