In this edition…
When teams make moves, trades and signings in the offseason, the impact is felt by everyone — including the prospects who now have new roles or different standings in the organization. That’s the focus here, as we try to determine whether a young player’s fantasy value for next season took a hit or got a bump.
1) Brad Peacock, A’s
I already hit on Peacock this offseason in a previous Prospect Chatter, but that was before he was traded to the Oakland A’s in the Gio Gonzalez deal. While the conclusion of the previous analysis left Peacock’s 2012 fantasy value a bit in question, I see this move as a decided plus for the 23-year-old righty.
The biggest issue facing Peacock as a member of the Washington Nationals is that he was a victim of numbers. The rotation was basically full, and the chances were good that Peacock, who debuted last September after tearing up Double- and Triple-A, wouldn’t return to the bigs until mid-season. In Oakland, though, the five-man is much more wide open: The A’s have traded away Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill this winter, while the rest of the potential starters are a Who’s Who of injured players, including Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden.
In short, Peacock should enter spring training with a clear opportunity to break camp with the team as one of the final two starters. At worst, if he fails to impress in his introduction as an Athletic, he’ll be one of the first in-season call-ups. That makes him more viable in AL-only leagues than he had been in NL play, even if the move to the more offensive-driven league could be a bit of an obstacle. In Peacock’s corner, though, is that the Coliseum is one of the better pitcher’s parks in baseball, particularly for home runs.
Peacock should be able to net a positive return for owners that invest in him in 12-team AL play, and his long-term keeperness also looks solid in his new digs, especially because he’s in line to be a starting pitcher going forward.
2012 ETA: Opening Day rotation seems about right, as long as Peacock doesn’t fall on his face in the spring.
2012 IMPACT: His value is aided by being in a good park and remaining a starter — he might’ve been a reliever in Washington — so while I wouldn’t invest too heavily until he proves he can contribute as more than a spot-starter in AL formats, Peacock could be a nice little sleeper.
2) Addison Reed, White Sox
Earlier in the offseason, my kind colleague, Mr. Barr, thoroughly tackled the whole who-closes-for-the-Chicago-White-Sox-now-that-Sergio-Santos-is-gone? issue. Then with the first trade of 2012, GM Kenny Williams sent Jason Frasor — one of the guys mentioned in that post — to the Blue Jays.
While I don’t think Frasor was the favorite to enter 2012 as the Sox’s closer, it’s clear that one more obstacle has been eliminated from what can only be seen as Reed’s eventual ascension to the job. The big, hard-throwing righty has rocketed through Chicago’s system after going in 2010’s third round. In fact, he pitched at — count ’em — five levels last year, including the majors (7.1 IPs, 3 ER, 12:1 K:BB), and compiled some of the gaudiest minor-league digits you’ll see from a reliever: 1.26 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 111:14 K:BB over 78.1 IPs.
I’d be surprised if the Sox simply hand the ninth inning to Reed out of the gate, especially because that’s a lot of pressure to put on a 23-year-old kid when Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain should be able to handle things initially. But pitching coach Don Cooper has already indicated that the closer’s job will be up for grabs this spring. Plus, there have been trade rumors surrounding Thornton all offseason, and Crain also has value as a chip, too, so it might not be a bad idea to allow those two to score some saves and improve their stocks for potential in-season deals. That would make Reed the no-brainer choice going forward.
2012 ETA: Reed will come north with the White Sox, and he’ll be a key member of the bullpen, to boot.
2012 IMPACT: Even if he’s in the setup role, Reed’s holds and insane peripherals (read: Ks galore) make him worth drafting in AL-only leagues that require a four- or five-man bullpen (or as a handcuff for Thornton/Crain owners). And keeper leaguers everywhere should jump on him as a potential Craig Kimbrel-type in 2013 — if not sooner.
3) Ryan Flaherty, Orioles
The Rule 5 Draft hasn’t exactly been a breeding ground for impact fantasy players over the past few years. While we’ve seen some stud players emerge from from this secondary draft in the past decade (i.e., Josh Hamilton, Joakim Soria, Johan Santana), the last handful of iterations have lacked any relevant fantasy performer. It’s likely that the 2011 Rule 5, held in early December, will go the same route, but if there’s one player who I like to make a mark, it’s Flaherty.
After being taken out of the Cubs organization by Baltimore, the 25-year-old finds himself in a pretty good situation. While he’s not the greatest defender, Flaherty is capable of handling second and third base and also can fill in at the outfield corners. As luck would have it, those spots are unsettled for the O’s. (Nick Markakis is locked into right field, but he recently had abdominal surgery that puts his Opening Day status in question.)
There’s no reason Flaherty can’t play himself into a role where he steals some time in left from Nolan Reimold, shares duties with Chris Davis at third and enjoys the fruits of Brian Roberts‘ injury-proneness at second. If he shows he can stick with the team in a utility role during spring training, his versatility and lefty bat — he sports a career .278/.346/.462 slash line and hit 19 HRs and 88 RBIs across Double- and Triple-A in 2011 — could help him accrue 350-450 PAs.
2012 ETA: Being a Rule 5er will actually help Flaherty’s chances of making the club out of spring — otherwise, the O’s have to offer him back to the Cubs — so if he holds up into late March, an Opening Day role could be in the cards.
2012 IMPACT: Flaherty is strictly a reserve option for deep AL-onlies, since he’s not guaranteed to see many ABs even if he does stick, but there’s plenty of opportunity, and his multi-eligibility won’t hurt.
4) Ryan Kalish, Red Sox
Kalish, 23, isn’t technically a prospect anymore, but it feels like he is because he was a forgotten man in 2011 after missing most of the year with neck and shoulder injuries suffered early on. For those of you in AL-only leagues hoping to snag a snazzy sleeper, especially now that presumptive Red Sox right fielder Josh Reddick has been traded to Oakland, there’s some bad news on Kalish: He’s likely out until May or June after undergoing November surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, which came only two months after he had a procedure on his neck.
With this news, Kalish basically goes from an intriguing option as a guy who performed rather well in his first taste of the big leagues in 2010 — .252 BA, 4 HRs, 10 SBs in just 179 Pas — to a non-factor in almost all leagues. While the Red Sox still lack a legit right fielder for 2012, one would certainly think that the org would have taken care of this hole between now and the time Kalish is ready to return to the majors — which could be several weeks after he starts playing in the minors around mid-season.
2012 ETA: Given the extent and location of his injuries, Kalish would be lucky to make it back to Boston before September, considering he’ll need to first get healthy enough to play, then prove himself at Triple-A again.
2012 IMPACT: Negligible in re-draft leagues, but he could be a sneaky late-season add in keeper leagues with an eye to 2013.
Jason Catania is an MLB Lead Writer for Bleacher Report who also contributes to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider and MLB Rumor Central, focusing on baseball and fantasy content. When he was first introduced to fantasy baseball, Derek Jeter had 195 career hits, Jamie Moyer had 72 wins and Matt Stairs was on team No. 3. You can follow him on Twitter: @JayCat11