MLB Trade Deadline 2014 has come and gone… let’s take a look at some of the fantasy baseball implications in the short and long-term of the key moves around the league.
Oscar Taveras – clear path to playing time
With St Louis making a couple moves at the deadline, Oscar is finally going to get his opportunity to shine. Allen Craig has been shipped to the AL (Boston – John Lackey deal) which clears up a spot for Taveras to play every day. Taveras is barely 22 years old, but has assembled quite a notable minor league resume and has shown upper management he’s ready for a full time role. His BABIP through 105 plate appearances currently sits at .226, which is a major cause for the .210 batting average thus far. But with a line drive rate hovering around 14%, there isn’t a ton of reason for optimism quite yet. We’re relying on playing time and the prospect pedigree if we’re investing a roster spot to Taveras in the second half of the year. He’ll have his ups and downs, but it’s nice to see he now will get full time at bats for the Cardinals. Playing every day can be a nice boost in confidence and consistency for your hitters.
Anthony Ranaudo – getting the call!
With both Jon Lester and John Lackey dealt away from Boston, the Red Sox are turning to one of their top prospects to fill the rotation void – at least for tonight’s game. Ranaudo has been a top young arm in the system for a number of years, and is finally getting his shot at the majors. He’s had somewhat of a resurgence this year, compiling a 2.41 ERA (3.69 FIP) in AAA over 119.1 IP (21 starts). He’s striking batters out at 7.47 K/9 and is limiting batters to a .202 average, thanks in part to a .249 BABIP. While I don’t love the walk rate (3.7 BB/9), he showed last season he has the ability to keep BBs down (3.0 in 2013). He has pedigree and an opportunity to show what he can do. With Joe Kelly likely slated to take the other spot in the rotation from Lester/Lackey’s departures – I like Ranaudo’s chances at holding the job for at least 5-7 starts before the sox consider shutting him down to preserve innings. He should be picked up in all 16+ team mixed leagues as well as AL Only formats.
Nick Franklin – traded to Tampa
With Brad Miller, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Chris Taylor all in Seattle’s infield right now, there’s no room for Franklin to play. They essentially flipped Franklin to ultimately land Austin Jackson from Detroit. I like this move a lot for the Mariners, and it also helps Franklin over the long haul with a clearer path to playing time. As one of the 2 key players in the David Price haul for Tampa Bay, they clearly see Franklin as a piece of their future. He’s been a top prospect for a few years now and is a versatile player that Joe Maddon is certainly going to have a lot of fun playing with. He has the potential to be poor man’s Ben Zobrist when he breaks through with the Rays (currently in AAA) – and this will happen by late August (if not sooner). Before we get too excited though, he’ll have to cut down on his K rate at the MLB level (40.4% this year with the Mariners in 52 PAs and 27.4% last year in 412 appearances). Perhaps a change of scenery will do him some good. He’s more of a 2015 target for me, but warrants consideration in deep leagues when called up.
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Austin Jackson – the new key to the Seattle offense
I like this move a lot, for both Seattle and Jackson’s fantasy outlook. He’ll immediately take over for James Jones and in all likelihood be their CF for a number of years. Jackson was having a bit of a down year for Detroit, hitting .256 in the first half with 3 HR, 8 SB across 86 games (316 at bats). He’s been playing much better since the second half began, with a .362/.413/.534 slash line thus far. He’s flying out less and hitting more line drives (28.6%) which is really helping him in the batting average department. He has immense fantasy upside and is a really nice player to plug into your lineup if you’re in need of some average, runs and a bit of speed the rest of the way. I see very bright things for Jackson in his new home.
Allen Craig – reinvigorated in Boston?
Craig was ranked incredibly high on many draft lists heading into the year, but has been nothing short of disappointing for his owners. With the emergency of Matt Adams, Oscar Taveras and guys like Stephen Piscotty waiting in the wings, Craig became expendable for the Cardinals. He now gets a new opportunity in a great baseball town to show what he can do. He’s having a pretty miserable year, and a poor second half thus far. He’s a notoriously streaky player, but has immense talent and upside. A great buy low for the Red Sox in my opinion. He should be a nice player for them moving forward, and I think the combination of Fenway and a new team will help him recapture some of his 2013 magic. I’m staying away from him the rest of the way due to a lack of performance this year, but he should make for a steal on draft day next season. File his name away.
Zach Walters – worth consideration in Cleveland?
Walters was brought into Cleveland for Asdrubal Cabrera yesterday – a move that I think is going to fly under the radar for many. He’s shown great ability in the minors to hit for power (29 HR last year and 15 more this year in AAA) as well as play multiple positions including 2B, 3B, SS and OF. He was sent to AAA yesterday but is likely to be called up in the near future to contribute for the Indians. He should take on a utility role in the early going, but could easily work his way into a full time spot in the lineup with a good showing. He’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts (37.2% in 2014 for the Nationals) but the power is real and can play in deeper fantasy leagues for owners desperate for production. Keep an eye on him in AL Only and 16+ team leagues when he gets the call.
Drew Smyly – stock up or down in Tampa?
Some interesting numbers to take a look at:
Career Stats for player A: 3.18 ERA 3.33 FIP 1.14 WHIP 7.8 H/9 8.4 K/9
Career Stats for player B: 3.46 ERA 3.53 FIP 1.22 WHIP 8.3 H/9 8.6 K/9
Player A is David Price. Player B is Drew Smyly. Those are easy numbers to flash up there and get excited about, but the truth is they aren’t the same guy – nor is Smyly 90% of what Price currently is. That’s not to say he can’t excel as a starter in a system that has been great at developing young arms in recent years (Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, David Price, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore). I feel Tampa did quite well in bringing over Smyly and Franklin for Price, and I fully expect Smyly to be a fantasy asset as he continues to mature on the mound. He’s having a pretty good year thus far, with a 3.93 ERA (3.96 xFIP) to go along with a 7.6 K/9 and a 2.65 BB/9. He doesn’t have Ace upside that other pitching prospects may have, but he’s a solid bet to be a SP3 with SP2 upside as he gains more experience and learns how to put hitters away. Look for him to be a key part of the Rays’ future and to perform well as he gets comfortable with a new team.
Joe Kelly – worth owning in Boston?
The second part of the Red Sox duo in the John Lackey deal, Joe Kelly should step into the rotation as soon as he can to show what he’s capable of. He’s a very interesting player. He’s been one of those guys who has been able to outperform his xFIP pretty significantly (career 4.07 xFIP vs 3.25 ERA) and doesn’t have a high K rate (6.06 for his career). What he does have though, is great stuff. He averages 95.6 mph with his sinker to go along with a change, slider and curve. His change and slider get the most whiffs (13.2% and 18.2% respectively in 2014) which I’m sure the pitching guru manager John Farrell will focus on bringing out of him ongoing. With a heavy fastball and solid off-speed pitches to compliment, he has the makings of a breakout candidate in the near future. Moving from the National League to the American League is never a cause for immediate optimism, but I think it will do Kelly some good over the long haul. His profile makes me think of Garrett Richards, and how it took him a few years to figure out how to become what is now an elite starter in the Angels’ rotation. Kelly’s arm alone gives him that kind of upside, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he breaks out in a big way come 2015.