March Madness MLB Edition #3: Chapman, Schwarber, Suzuki, Fraley, and More…

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

One of the only decent things to come out of the lockout is the compressed timeframe for teams to get their rosters ready for Opening Day which will create an NBA/NFL-esque free agent and trade frenzy in the next weeks. I’ll be covering the impact of the most fantasy-relevant moves in the lead up to Opening Day.

Covered in this article: Chapman, Schwarber, Suzuki, Rizzo, Rosario, Fraley, Velasquez

Previous editions: March 14th Pt. 1 | March 14th Pt. 2 |

Matt Chapman traded to TOR

Chapman played all of 2021, but it is hard to believe he was fully healthy given the output. His 101 wRC+ was the lowest of his career as his strikeout surged from 2020 carried over with a 33% rate. We saw it jump to 36% in 2020, but with it being just 37 games, there was some hope that he would get back toward his 24% rate from 2017-19. Without confirmation from Chapman, this is pure speculation, but I wonder if the hip was in a state where it didn’t impact his defense (17 Outs Above Average ranked 4th in MLB) but kept him from getting to high heat.

From 2017-19, Chapman had a 1.160 OPS and 19% K rate in 67 PA ending on pitches up in the zone. In 2020-21, he amassed another 62 such PA but had just a .718 OPS and 39% K rate. Maybe he just developed a hole up in the zone, but I do wonder if perhaps getting back to full health could close that hole up a bit and get his strikeout rate back into the mid-20s. Chapman also had an awful time at home last year with a .185/.296/.342 line in 307 PA. He will be getting a park boost in Toronto, though not as much as before now that Rogers Centre has a humidor. However, the lineup boost will be substantial and even though he will be batting lower than in Oakland, this is definitely a net positive move for him.

If you were viewing Santiago Espinal as a late-round Draft and Hold or low-dollar AL-Only speed option (6 SB in 246 PA), you should probably reconsider. He should still have a utility role and almost any infield injury would likely benefit his playing time outlook.

Kevin Smith, Gunnar Hoglund, Zach Logue, and Kirby Snead are headed to Oakland in exchange for Chapman. Hoglund was 3rd on Toronto’s prospect list, Logue was 10th, and Smith was 16th, but Smith is the best bet for 2022 fantasy value. The 25-year-old infielder has a good chance to step right into the vacated third base spot in Oakland. He has spent most of his minor league career at shortstop (2580 innings) and a bit at both third (511 innings) and second (152 innings) base. He also spent 78 of his 89 major league innings at third during an 18-game cup of coffee with the Jays this past season.

After a really strong showing in Triple-A during which he had a 144 wRC+ with 21 HR and 18 SB in 410 PA, Smith had garnered some deep sleeper interest and this move will undoubtedly elevate that interest now that he has a much better chance at playing time. Some of the projection systems already like him for a near double-double in about half a season of work so if he does lock in the full-time role, there is some 20 HR/15 SB upside. It could come with an ugly AVG if he doesn’t improve the 31% K rate from his 36 PA cup of coffee in the majors.

Bottom line: Chapman gets a boost, but if the K% rate remains north of 30%, the improvements will be modest; Smith sleeper hype kicks up a level with a clear line to playing time in Oakland.

Kyle Schwarber to PHI

Schwarber had a strong first half, hitting .253/.340/.570 with 25 HR in 72 games, putting him on 56 HR pace. It’s dangerous to cling to paces, but I use it to show how excellent his power output was to this point. Schwarber got an early start on his All-Star break with a hamstring injury that shelved him on July 2nd. He was named to the Midsummer Classic but didn’t get to play in it and the injury would keep him on the IL until August 13th. In that time, he was dealt to the Red Sox and immediately hit the ground running with his new crew. He hit .291/.435/.522 with 7 HR in 168 PA with his new club, aiding their chase that resulted in a Wildcard bid. Schwarber is a power force, hitting 30+ HR in three of four full seasons, averaging 30 per 500 PA in those four seasons, and sitting 15th with 137 HR since 2017. He is touring the best lefty parks in the league moving from Washington (5th for LHB since 2019) to Boston (1st) and now Philadelphia (4th). A 30-something HR output with .245+ AVG feels like a strong bet.

While the move does push Matt Vierling out of the projected lineup, he wasn’t really seen as a big fantasy contributor anyway. It was always expected that Philadelphia would add something in the outfield. Of course, Schwarber can also slot in at DH so the Phillies could add even another OF at some point.

Bottom line: Established power hitter lands in another friendly park and should continue his 30-HR hitting ways.

Seiya Suzuki to CHC

With the signings of veterans Marcus Stroman and Yan Gomes, the Cubs have telegraphed their intentions to re-tool the team after the star exodus last summer, as opposed to a full-scale teardown and rebuild. While they did a great job stocking the farm system with those deals, many of those prospects are years away so instead of bottoming out in the interim, they are hoping to stay relatively competitive. Signing Suzuki to 5-year deal certainly helps the cause.

The 27-year-old outfielder comes over after being one of the best players in the Japan Central League, netting 1.000+ OPS totals in three of the last four seasons and sitting north of .900 every year since 2016. He averaged 27 HR and 12 SB per 500 PA. He should slot into a full-time corner outfield role and with that, he is projected for a double-double output, though the OPS isn’t expected to translate over perfectly. Steamer’s .901 OPS is the most aggressive in the set and that would be 35 points lower than his worst mark over the last six seasons in Japan. It is likely even smarter to plan something in the .800s just to keep expectations in check, but it is hard not to have excitement for Suzuki.

Jason Heyward and Harold Ramirez both get hit by this move and should have their playing time projections dropped a bit. Neither is much of a standard mixed league play so this really only impacts deep league players.

Bottom line: Suzuki comes from Japan with plenty of fanfare as even a conservative projection likely gets him to a double-double, especially if he brings most of his near 1:1 K/BB ratio stateside.

Anthony Rizzo to NYY

Rizzo has been solid since the start of 2020 with a 109 wRC+, but that’s a far cry from the 141 wRC+ he posted from 2014-2019. In that time, he has become more of a reverse platoon guy with the soft stuff from righties tripping him up a lot more. From 2014-19, he hit .289/.392/.533 against righties in 2893 PA with an .816 OPS against changeups and sliders. Since then, he is down to a .218/.327/.427 line with a .607 OPS against the soft stuff. Will a full year with the Yankees get him back to his previous levels or is he starting to age into the next phase of his career?

Most projection systems have landing in between 2014-17 and 2020-21 with a wRC+ total in the 120s including a mid-20s HR output. Rizzo will likely move up a little bit in average draft position now that he has a team locked in. He sits 20th among 1B with a 206 ADP, but I don’t see him getting much higher than perhaps moving past Alex Kirilloff at 18th among 1B and 189th overall. The next 1B is Ty France at 158th and I’d be surprised if Rizzo got up that high. His return to New York keeps Luke Voit on the sidelines with both 1B and DH pretty firmly locked up. I wonder if they will trade Voit because it seems wild for him to be relegated to a bench role.

Bottom line: Rizzo’s had some issues against soft stuff from righties, but there is still a strong floor thanks to his excellent plate skills; Voit’s 257 ADP could be going even lower.

Eddie Rosario to ATL

Rosario was a playoff hero for the Braves with a 1.073 OPS in 68 PA including an insane 1.647 OPS and all 3 of his playoff HR in the NLCS against the Dodgers. He was also much better with the Braves in the regular season, going from an 86 wRC+ with Cleveland to 133 in Atlanta. He has been a power bat with solid AVG totals because he makes tons of contact. Of the 109 hitters with a .200+ ISO since 2017, Rosario’s 16% K rate is 10th-best (Rizzo is 3rd at 14th, btw). Rosario started running in Cleveland (9-for-11), perhaps as a way to compensate for his lagging bat, but then went just 2-for-3 in 106 PA with Atlanta. He has 6 SBs per 500 PA since 2017 so I would plan for a total closer to that.

Bottom line: Strong bat mixes HR and AVG with some chip-in speed.

Andrew McCutchen to MIL

Since 2020, Cutch has become a massive platoon bat. He has a 1.005 OPS against lefties in 266 PA and just a .661 OPS in 549 PA against righties. The question is whether or not the Brewers will give him 350+ PA against righties to clock another 12 HR with 5 SB (his totals in 379 PA vR last year) if he still has a .650 OPS. His BABIP dropped to .242, down from a .298 since 2018, and there could be some regression back toward that mark. His batted ball numbers were down a bit, but seemingly not enough to lose 56 points off his BABIP. We will see if he gets it back. Plan for a .240 AVG with a low-20s HR output. Cutch’s arrival stings the playing time outlook of Tyrone Taylor for sure.

Bottom line: Cutch has become a short-side platoon stud, will the Brewers allow him to play daily against righties to accumulate another 27 HR, 80 RBI, and 6 SB?

Jake Fraley traded to CIN

I forgot about Fraley in the Reds-Mariners trade write-up so I wanted to make sure to get to him because he got a big boost with this deal. Not only does his playing time path open up completely, but he also gets a massive park boost with the move to Cincinnati. A strained hamstring slowed the start of his 2021 season to until late-May and he looked sharp upon arrival with a .250/.392/.462 line including 7 HR and 6 SB in 130 PA. He had an extended All Star Break due to COVID and then suffered a shoulder injury that cost him two weeks. Neither the post-COVID nor the post-shoulder samples were good, totaling a .568 OPS in 116 disjointed PA.

All told, he still managed to be an above average bat with a 109 wRC+, 9 HR, and 10 SB in 265 PA along with an incredible 17% BB rate. But he also had a 27% K rate that put a lot of pressure on his BABIP to sustain a good batting average which did not happen (.210). The plate skills suggest he might be a bit passive in the box and he might be at a point of diminishing returns with that walk rate. He isn’t a huge swing-and-miss guy so I’m left wondering if he is passing on hittable pitches almost in search of the walk instead. With a role, excellent new park, and some skills to build upon, he could be a sneaky late-round outfielder as he should remain affordable even after an expected ADP boost in the coming days. He has a 565 ADP in Draft Champions leagues since March 1st and he was only drafted in 1 of 15 Rotowire Online Championship leagues (12-teamers) in that time, but that will change with this trade.

Bottom line: Interesting power-speed bat showed some things last year that could fuel a double-double in his new role and park.

Vince Velasquez to CWS

Let’s test that Ethan Katz magic. The pitching coach of the White Sox has been at the helm for some impressive work from the White Sox and Velasquez doesn’t look much different than pre-2021 Carlos Rodón. Velasquez wasn’t great in 94 innings last year with a sky-high 2.2 HR/9, but the core skills are still there. He has a deep arsenal and the ability to miss bats. I don’t think the White Sox will necessarily be looking to start him right away which breaks down the Rodon comp a bit, but he could become a useful multi-inning swingman for the Sox.

Bottom line: He still has the raw talent that could be molded, but it would probably come as a multi-inning reliever this year.

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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4 months ago

What is a double-double?

4 months ago
Reply to  frank

it’s on the unsecret menu

4 months ago
Reply to  frank

Coffee with two milk, two sugar-Tim Hortons staple

4 months ago
Reply to  frank

Don’t listen to the other hooligans, it’s double digit homers and steals