keyboard_arrow_uptop
IN THIS ISSUE

American League

National League

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

Acquired RHP John Barbato from the Padres in exchange for RHP Shawn Kelley. [12/29]

Brian Cashman continues to remake his bullpen for the 2015 season and beyond. Barbato, a former sixth-round pick, has split his professional career between starting and relieving. There's no question he's a future relief arm—his good fastball-breaking ball combination, lack of a third pitch, and spotty command ensure such a fate—but his date of arrival is less certain, as Jack Curry reported he might require Tommy John surgery. Provided Barbato makes a full recovery, he should join the Yanks' middle relief corps sometime during the '16 or '17 campaigns. —R.J. Anderson

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top


Acquired OF-L Seth Smith from the Padres in exchange for RHP Brandon Maurer. [12/30]

Earlier in the offseason, the Mariners added Justin Ruggiano. Meet his new platoon partner. Smith, 32, is coming off a banner season with the Padres, during which he posted a career-best True Average and cut into his strikeout rate. He gleans most of his value from his bat, as he combines a mature approach with above-average power production. Worth noting: His .265 TAv in 2013—a down year by his standards—would've ranked fourth on the Mariners last season. Also worth noting: Smith signed a two-year deal worth $13 million in July, meaning he's under contract at market value for the next few years. All and all, Smith should provide the Mariners with another legitimate left-handed bat alongside Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. Factor in Nelson Cruz and a potential Austin Jackson bounceback, and the Mariners offense just might be worth watching —R.J. Anderson

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Signed INF-S Asdrubal Cabrera to a one-year deal worth $8 million. [12/30]

Between Ben Zobrist and Nick Franklin, you might've thought the Rays had enough switch-hitting second basemen on the roster to pass on Cabrera. You would've thought wrong.

This is a likable, straightforward deal in a vacuum. Cabrera has been a league-average hitter or thereabout over the past three seasons, a batter who can contribute in a variety of ways—hitting for a passable average, walking without fanning a lot, and hitting for some power while showing baserunning and basestealing savvy. Factor in how Cabrera is a true switch-hitter (read: one without a platoon split) and Kevin Cash should be able to pencil him into the lineup everyday without hesitation. If there is a catch, it's that he's not a stellar defender, though the shift-happy Rays could help him cover some of his deficiencies.

But this deal isn't made in a vacuum, so there is some complexion to it. In short, the Rays are almost certain to trade Zobrist or Yunel Escobar. Zobrist, because his contract matches up with Cabrera's and because Escobar is the only true shortstop of the three, makes the most sense to go. You'd prefer Zobrist to Cabrera if you had to pick, but that's not what the Rays are doing here; instead, they're opting for Cabrera and the return on Zobrist. Without knowing what that return will entail, it's tough to judge the degree of the decline (if there is any to judge).

Although the Rays have had a transitional offseason, during which they've dealt veteran depth pieces to free spots for younger replacements, don't confuse them as a team entering a rebuild process. The Cabrera signing (among others) shows that they still have one eye on the present. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy impact

Asdrubal Cabrera

It’s a borderline call here, and a lot will ultimately depend on subsequent moves the Rays may end up making before the season begins.

First things first, the ballpark and lineup context shifts are decidedly negative. He moves from a fairly neutral park to one of the worst offensive environments in baseball, which will further suppress his recently lagging right-handed power stroke. The Rays’ lineup also figures to be a step down from what surrounded him in Washington. Adding further cause for concern, the Rays’ infield situation is currently quite crowded. Yunel Escobar’s two-plus remaining years would seem to make a return to shortstop in Tampa a non-starter. And on the other side of the diamond, Ben Zobrist still hasn’t been traded and Nick Franklin had figured to be next in line at the keystone if and when that trade occurred.

Still, the Rays laying out a reported $8 million would seem to suggest they see something close to an everyday player in Cabrera, and that wasn’t necessarily a given after two straight seasons of below-average offensive production and dramatically declining defense. The latter issue is of no concern to fantasy owners, however, and in fact his dual 2B/SS eligibility gives him a substantial boost in value for the coming season. The marginal offensive production, on the other hand, is much more of a legitimate concern. His slide over the past couple years has resulted from a poor approach: he’s chased significantly more pitches out of the zone, leading to more swings and misses and weaker fly-ball contact. It’s a bad combination for projecting a rebound in batting average, and he’ll remain a probable liability in the category. Yet despite the approach issues and diminishing overall returns, his combination of mid-teens power and sneaky double-digit stolen base potential should still make him a useful piece in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues, provided the playing time concern works itself out. He makes for a risky proposition in leagues that are drafting early, but while there isn’t a ton of upside here he should still fall comfortably into the category of boring veterans who can lengthen a roster in a whole bunch of formats.

Nick Franklin

As noted, it sure felt like Franklin would be in line to take over the everyday keystone gig in Tampa after the Rays grabbed him as a significant component of the David Price return. While his 23 home run outburst in A-ball in 2010 has disappeared further into the rearview mirror, he posted another solid campaign in Triple-A for most of 2014, again showcasing a modest double-digit power/speed combo and patient approach. He figured to be an interesting flier for AL-only and some mixed formats come spring time, but the Cabrera acquisition puts a temporary halt on whatever hype he might have otherwise generated. It’s unclear what the longer term ramifications will be for his playing time opportunities next season, but for the time being his stock takes a hit. —Wilson Karaman

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

Signed RHP Sergio Santos to a minor-league deal. [12/30]

Farhan Zaidi adds another risk/reward pitcher to the pile. Santos, once a budding late-inning stud with the White Sox, never found success in three seasons with the Blue Jays. Command and control woes deserve some of the blame for his failings, as do his constant durability issues: he spent more than a month on the DL in each year. Nonetheless the Dodgers hope Santos—complete with a torque-heavy delivery and a quality fastball-slider combination—can maintain his health and location enough to grab a bullpen spot in the spring. Given the low stakes, the upside is worth the gamble. —R.J. Anderson

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
Return to Top

Acquired RHP Shawn Kelley from the Yankees in exchange for RHP John Barbato; designated RHP Keyvius Sampson for assignment. [12/29]
Acquired RHP Brandon Maurer from the Mariners in exchange for OF-L Seth Smith. [12/30]

A.J. Preller continues to wheel and deal.

The prize this time is Kelley who, like Justin Upton, is a year away from free agency. Kelley is a two-pitch guy who threw more sliders than fastballs last season, yet has been able to avoid a sizable platoon split—in fact, last season he was better against left-handed hitters than righties—thus making him more than a specialist. His ERA hasn't matched his peripherals in a few years, and he's had his share of injury woes. Still, don't be surprised if Kelley and his bat-missing ways land a late-inning role to start the year.

Likewise for Maurer, who looks like a middle-of-the-rotation starter, yet spent most of the season pitching from the bullpen due to the lagging development of his changeup and a lengthy injury history. During his time in relief, he fanned 38 batters in 37 innings, walked five batters, allowed one home run, and compiled a 2.17 ERA. Maurer uses a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and slider that sits around 90 mph as his main secondary pitches. Provided the Padres don't stretch him out again, he has the chance to become their primary set-up man in 2015.

You might recognize Sampson's name from his days as a top prospect. It's always confusing when a 23-year-old is designated for assignment about a yea after he was added to the 40-man roster, but the Padres have their reasons for removing Sampson—namely, it's not clear if he has much of a big-league future. Sampson is a little righty whose promising fastball-changeup combination is undercut by severe command woes, stemming in part from a top-heavy delivery. You can excuse the Padres for finding him unfit to carry on a 40-man roster, even if another organization disagrees with their assessment. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy impact

Brandon Maurer

Maurer’s 2014 was better than his overall ERA (4.65) indicates, as a midseason move to the bullpen salvaged his season. Maurer threw harder when coming out of the bullpen and the results showed a massive improvement with a 2.17 ERA and a 38-to-3 strikeout-to-unintentional-walk ratio in 37 1/3 innings. Leaving one crowded bullpen for another doesn’t much impact his slim chance for saves, but the arrow points up because of the league switch. In the event Maurer goes back to the rotation, he’ll once again become a risky proposition. —Nick Shlain

Shawn Kelley

While it’s true that Petco Park hasn’t played as nearly the same kind of fly-ball kill zone it once was, it’s still a much friendlier place for cans of corn to take refuge than Yankee Stadium. Enter Shawn Kelley, a fly-ball pitcher who has managed to post an ERA in the mid-four range over the past two seasons despite a top-15 strikeout rate—thanks in no small part to a propensity to cough up home runs. It’s worth noting that a surprising bulk of the longball damage against him has occurred on the road during that two-year stretch, but his overall production has been significantly worse at home. His control is mediocre, and coupled with the dinger issue it’s been a recipe for underperforming his peripherals significantly in each of the past two seasons.

Outside of the ballpark and league jumps, there’s reason for piqued interest here on account of his strikeout rate. He threw the second-highest rate of sliders among all relievers last year en route to generating the 10th-best whiff rate in the game (nestled in between Greg Holland and Andrew Miller). In a more forgiving environment that kind of top tier strikeout potential gets interesting very quickly. Add in a bunch of question marks around the health of Joaquin Benoit’s elbow and Kelley suddenly has the makings of an interesting deep league speculative play for down-the-road saves. At the very least he’ll be a guy to monitor in standard leagues out of the gate, while he immediately becomes a nice target for NL-only leagues with Holds. —Wilson Karaman

Fantasy impact

Seth Smith

Coming off a career-high .312 TAv in 2014, Smith will man the strong side of a right field platoon in Seattle. Despite the trade marking the third time he’s been moved since 2011, Smith has to be happy to go to a place where he’ll see regular at-bats. His career .277/.358/.481 line against right-handed pitching suggests the time share is prudent and hiding him from lefties will keep his average from being a detriment. Smith’s career 10 percent walk rate gives him added value in OBP leagues, but it could also be a nice boon to his run total if Seattle puts him in the no. 2 spot ahead of the heart of the order. The arrow points up and Smith has shown a steady skill set, but don’t get carried away targeting him in standard mixers, as there’s not much upside.

Justin Ruggiano

Ruggiano might’ve had a corner outfield spot all to himself prior to the deal for Smith, but once again he finds himself as the fourth outfielder and a minor contributor. —Nick Shlain

You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe