Let me start with the two players the Diamondbacks acquired. The move to Arizona is probably a break even move for Walker’s output. Now he is facing the pitcher twice a game instead of the DH, but instead, he has to pitch in his offensive-leaning home park and also travel to Colorado. The bigger question isn’t the small peripheral factors relating to park or league but instead figuring out his true talent level.
Walker is probably considered to be a failed prospect after being in the top-20 of several prospect lists. While he has not lived up the top prospect ranking, he is still a decent fantasy option and could be an even better one if he gets the home runs under control. Just looking at his K%-BB%, he ranks 27th overall the past two seasons (min 300 IP) with the likes of Cole Hamels, Ian Kennedy, Jose Quintana, and John Lackey.
While the strikeouts and walks have been fine, the home runs are keeping owners from valuing him higher. His 1.5 HR/9 is the 5th highest value among the same set of pitchers compared above. He isn’t a flyball pitcher so his issue is with his 15% HR/FB%. Some regression should be expected. Looking at just his 2016 value of 17.6% HR/FB%, I found the amount of regression for pitchers with a HR/FB% between 16% and 19% (min 120 IP) to be a median drop of 4.9% points (two ~+20% values dropped the average value to 3.3%). Some regression is expected, but a ~12.5% HR/FB% is still above average. Combining the strikeout, walk, and home run rates together, he is probably around a 4.00 ERA pitcher. A 4.00 ERA probably puts him around the 40th rated starter overall or as a fourth starter in 12-team leagues. He is completely draftable, just not elite.
For Ketel Marte, the move is a nice boost to his limited value. The 23-year-old started 2016 season off as the Mariners starting shortstop but he dealt with several nagging injuries (hamstring, neck spasms, sprained ankle, and mononucleosis) and two of them sent him to the DL. He struggled offensively all season with the biggest hit to his value coming from is 4% BB%. With a .259 AVG, the walk rate could even push his OBP over .300 (was .287). In 2015, his .351 OBP and decent speed made him an ideal leadoff candidate and the opportunity for 20+ steals. If he can’t get on base at even a .300 clip, he destined for the 8th spot on a National League team which is a stolen base and counting stat black hole.
I think I will be higher on him than most people. I could see the injuries keeping his production down in 2016. With a healthy body and the possible opportunity to run more, he could possibly this season’s Jonathan Villar (without the power). He might be a perfect reserve round pick in 12-team leagues or as a middle infield option in deeper leagues. I would definitely watch his lineup position and if it is the 8th spot, move on immediately.
Now on to the Mariners. If you are looking for someone high on Jean Segura, look elsewhere. Out of the past four seasons, he has produced 1.5 good seasons. I know he dealt with the 2013 loss of his son, but I don’t buy he was a .320 AVG, 20 HR, 30 SB guy from 2013 to 2014 if the death hadn’t occurred. On the other hand, other owners are willing to completely ignore those seasons. I am not and on draft or auction day, it just takes one other person to take him higher for his overall value to get inflated. I really like where Steamer has him with a .273 AVG, 13 HR, and 25 SB. I could see the home runs be a bit less (10) and stolen base higher (30). Don’t be the person who pays for this 2016 production, with his likely true value somewhere in between.
The actual move from Arizona to Seattle may cost him some power but increase his Runs potential. Overall, the change of scenery will have little effect on his value compared to figuring out where between 2014-2015 and 2016 is his true talent level.
The sneaky fantasy play in the group of players trade is Mitch Haniger. The 26-year-old may not be flashy, but if he can lock down the Mariners left field position, he will be a nice fantasy asset by the end of the 2017 season. Scouting reports are thin on him (e.g. he wasn’t in the 2016 Baseball America’s Diamondbacks top-30) until late this season. Here are some projected numbers using some grades and projection systems:
|Source||PA (AB)||AVG||HR||SB||Runs||RBI||Hit||Power (Average)||Run||Field||Arm|
|2016 MLB Grades||650||0.251||18||6||75||68||45||50||45||50||60|
No outfielder really matched up to the projected numbers, but Eugenio Suarez (21 HR, 11 SB, .248 AVG) did as a middle infielder. Jayson Werth was somewhat close at 21 HR, 5 SB, and a .244 AVG and he ended up as the 42th best outfielder last season. If the projections hold true and Haniger gets playing time, he has the potential to be a top-40 value as a draft-day afterthought.
As for Zac Curtis, he seems to be a throw-in left-handed pitcher but my prospect rankings have him as a 35-grade pitching prospect. I am taking a wait-and-see approach with him right now.
Jason Castro signs with the Twins
The signing of Castro will likely help the Twins catch up to the rest of baseball in pitch framing, but otherwise, it was a very neutral move. In 2016, the combination of Juan Centeno and Kurt Suzuki produced a batting line of .244/.290/.375 which is just about the same as Castro’s three-year value of .215/.291/.369. Castro has been consistently unproductive which is only allowed by catchers. The one aspect of Casto’s game I could see expand is with his games caught going up from 113 as the Twins put him in the lineup more often.
As previously stated, Castro was brought in to help with the Twins historically bad pitch framing as Jeff Sullivan recently documented. Getting the exact amount of improvement is tough to pinpoint, but using some historic catch framing numbers from Baseball Prospectus, it seems like Castro is a 20 run improvement over Suzuki. Over about 120 games, that works out to .17 runs saved per game. With the starters likely getting two-thirds of the gain, the drop should be around 0.10 ERA for them. The gain is not a game changer for Twins pitchers, but he should help them be a bit better over the course of the season.
Sean Rodriguez signs with the Braves
After looking over the possible playing time and talent implications, I could see this move being a decent under-the-radar move or just completely irrelevant by the season’s end. I will start with trying to put a finger on his talent level.
Rodriguez 2016 stats, “if projected out to a full season”, would look great especially the 18 home runs (25% HR/FB ratio) in just 342 plate appearances. Additionally, his .240 ISO (tied) and .344 BABIP were both career highs. The 31-year-old seemed to be hitting the ball extremely hard and this observation is verified by his 43% hard hit rate. Of all the hitters with at least 300 PA, his value was the 5th highest and better than Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, and Miguel Cabrera.
For him to keep up his 2016 improvements, he will need to keep up the high hard hit rate. Some regression should be expected and here are the historical regression amounts. From 2002 to 2015, 117 hitters (min 300 PA) had a Hard% over 40%. The average drop the next season was 6.0% points and the median drop was 6.1% points with only 12% seeing an improvement. Now, the 117 samples include players with 600+ plate appearances. Rodriguez only had 342 last season and he should expect more regression. Limiting the scope of players for those between 300 to 400 PA, all the players saw a decline with the average drop being 9.1% points and median drop at 8.5% points.
The 9% drop puts him back to around his 2014 production level with a 16% HR/FB%, .232 ISO, and minuscule .235 BABIP. Looking at his Steamer based rate stat projections, they all seem a little low to me especially the .233 AVG and .170 ISO. I would at least bump them up to .250 and .200.
If projecting Sean Rodriguez was a mess, his playing time is even harder to figure out. With the Pirates, he played seven different positions but may end up as Utility-only qualified in some fantasy leagues because he never started more than 20 games at any one position. Right now, he looks to continue being a utility player with probably his best bet for early-season playing time coming at second base where he is likely competing with Jace Peterson. Peterson is probably at the same talent level as Rodriquez, so the everyday role may come down to which one is performing best in spring training.
Rodriguez may take the role and hold it for the entire season, but probably not. I think 400 PA is a decent expectation for him next season. After the preceding work, I will go ahead and put a personal projection on him of:
400 PA, .250 AVG, 15 HR, 60 Runs, 65 RBI, 1 SB, .320 OBA
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.