March Madness MLB Edition: Rodón, Kershaw, Garver, Donaldson, etc…

Gary A. Vasquez-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. Even as I was writing this, several other moves happened including the big Matt Olson deal or Nelson Cruz inking with Washington. Don’t worry, I’ll have another piece out covering that move and others soon! But first, let’s catch up with the weekend moves.

Covered in this article: Rodón, Kershaw, Bassitt, S.Gray, Garver, IKF, Donaldson, G.Sánchez, Urshela, Colomé, Kikuchi, Simmons

Carlos Rodón to SFG

Rodón is coming off a breakout season as he stayed healthy and posted a 2.37 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 132.7 IP.  Some saw the White Sox not giving him a qualifying offer ($18.4 mil) as an indication of his health – or lack thereof – but the Giants are giving him $44 million dollars over the next two seasons which likely assuages some of those health-related fears. It doesn’t mean he will automatically stay healthy but seeing a team like the Giants that has done well with reclamation projects ponying up for Rodón is encouraging.

Projections love Rodón as they all like him for a sub-4.00 ERA with a WHIP ranging from 1.14 to 1.22 depending on the system. The draft market is already moving on this as his average draft position in jumped from 120 (Feb. 1-Mar. 11th) to 98 (Mar. 12th-13th) with his earliest pick going from 85 in the first sample to 75 over the weekend.

Bottom line: Small boost for Rodón based on SF’s reputation with pitchers and their home park.

Clayton Kershaw back to LAD

Kershaw was another that the draft market was worried about because he was passed over for the qualifying offer, but now he will return to his former team for a million under the QO at $17 million. These two cases should be a lesson in not reading too much into who does or doesn’t get the QO, but I doubt it will change anything. Kershaw is no longer a workhorse, averaging 157 IP per year over the last five seasons, but he has remained a stud with a 2.60 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over that time. His 3.55 ERA last year was the 2nd-highest of his career, but his 3.10 SIERA says his skills were still on point. The funny thing is that even the 3.10 would’ve been the 2nd-highest of his career!

Projections see the ERA as more legitimate, ranging from 3.38 to 3.83 with a WHIP holding a pretty wide range from 1.06 to 1.19. There has been just a minor uptick in his ADP, going from 151 to 144. If you are open to the in-season management that comes with having Kershaw, you should get 120-140 quality innings.

Bottom line: No real change. He’s a year older and might be closer to his ’21 self than the god-tier Kersh, but it should still be good even if it’s on a limited workload.

Chris Bassitt traded to NYM

The opening salvo in an Oakland teardown, Bassitt moves to the Mets on the heels of a breakout All-Star season during which he had a 3.15 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 157.3 IP. He has quietly been very good since missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery with a 3.29 ERA/1.19 WHIP combo in 254.7 IP. Bassitt has leaned on Oakland’s excellent pitcher park over that time with a 2.36/4.05 home/road ERA split, but Citi Field has a humidor and plays in favor of pitchers so it shouldn’t be a drastic change for him. He did have a solid 3.71 road ERA last year after running a 4.55 mark over his previous 100 road IP. The projections range from 3.69-4.14 for Bassitt with WHIPs in the 1.18-1.24 range. That all feels right. The Mets are definitely projected to do better than the A’s, especially as more players are dealt out of Oakland, and that could foster a slight boost in Bassitt’s ADP.

Bottom line: Above average arm who has leaned on home park can continue to do so in another friendly environment, but it likely won’t be as good as it’s been since 2018 (3.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP).

Sonny Gray traded to MIN

A spike in homers saddled Gray with his worst ERA since 2018 at 4.19 as his home park punished him to the tune of a 4.89 mark in 70 IP. He had a 3.44 ERA on the road as his HR/9 dropped from 1.7 to 0.8. If the homers continue (his 1.3 in ’21 was the 2nd-highest of his career), Minnesota won’t be as big of an issue, but I am curious about their infield defense. Twins fans assured me that Jorge Polanco is not the answer at short which means the role is an open question right now. Did they get Urshela for short and then Jose Miranda gets a shot at 3B? Or are there more moves on the horizon (there was a Trevor Story rumor on Monday). Plan on 150 solid innings from Gray with a good strikeout rate. This move shouldn’t push his 162 ADP much, if at all.

Bottom line: Gray is a capable mid-tier starter with good strikeout rates and his new park could make the 2021 HR issue a 1-year blip.

Mitch Garver traded to TEX

The Rangers added another big bat! Garver joins Marcus Semien and Corey Seager in Texas to make a new heart of the order. In just 68 games, he clubbed 13 homers with a 137 wRC+, but groin and back issues limited him to a combined 14 games in June, July, and September. If you had some interest in a deep league, late round Jonah Heim, this move definitely hurts that as he now have to battle Jose Trevino for the backup job. However, last year certainly wasn’t the first that Garver has dealt with injuries so there could be an avenue for someone among the Heim, Trevino, or Sam Huff trio to emerge.

Garver’s power plays everywhere and I don’t expect Globe Life Park to hamper him in any real way. Target Field has been the 24th-best park for righties over the last three years, so it is basically a neutral move. As a small sample god (remember he smashed 31 HR in just 93 G back in 2019), it is tempting to extrapolate Garver’s numbers and dream big, but I tend to hew closer to the projections which see a low-20s HR output in around 400 PA. There haven’t been enough drafts to determine how the market is moving on Garver, but I don’t suspect he will move from the #9 spot he has occupied most of draft season.

Bottom line: Makes the most of his limited time and shouldn’t be hampered by the move to Texas. If he can stay healthy, maybe 30 HR comes back into play.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa traded to MIN then to NYY

The IKF era in Minnesota was special:

Before he could settle in with his Twins teammates, IKF was shipped off to the Yankees where he is apparently in line to be their starting shortstop. I would be surprised if he is their guy going into Opening Day as his big breakout season last year netted an 85 wRC+. But hey, he led the league in singles! When IKF was traded to Minnesota, I thought catching was back on the table for him which is the only real way I see fantasy value, but his best value to a team is definitely on the infield so even though New York’s catching situation isn’t locked down, it still doesn’t seem that IKF is an answer. His fantasy value is limited to Draft Champions leagues (50-round Draft & Hold) and AL-Only leagues.

Bottom line: A compiler who needed 158 games to net 8 HR and 20 SB. Has yet to post an OPS north of .700 in the majors.

Josh Donaldson to NYY

Donaldson is essentially a hitting version of Kershaw. He isn’t at his peak anymore, but his per plate appearance performance remains strong and if you are comfortable baking in some missed time, there is definitely fantasy upside. He did spike a healthy 2019 with 155 games played but played just 60% of the potential games in the four years surrounding that (2017-18, 2020-21). After a superstar peak that saw him post a 148 wRC+ from 2013-17, he has aged well with a 127 mark over the last four seasons (ages 32-35).

In his limited time with the Twins, he was much better on the road with a .916 OPS compared to a .743 at home. His home park factor actually isn’t changing that much moving to New York (98 over the last three years), but the division of parks might be a little boost. In the AL Central, he was playing in the 24th-best park for righties and touring the 8th, 10th, 14th, and 15th park. In the AL East, he will play in the 17th-best and tour the 3rd, 4th, 23rd*, and 26th.

*The Jays ranked 23rd over the last 3 seasons, but they installed a humidor last year and dropped to 26th.  

Bottom line: Per PA stud gets a park boost fueled by the parks of his new division mates, but be ready for some missed time at age-36.

Gary Sánchez to MIN

The Twins already had Sánchez in the form of Garver, a pure slugger who isn’t great behind the dish, but once the details of the trade came out, it made more sense and clearly a change at catcher wasn’t the focus of the deal. Moving Donaldson’s money was a major impetus for the Twins and at the same time, they didn’t end up losing much at catcher. In fact, they might have gotten a bit more stable because Sánchez has averaged 420 PA the last three full seasons to Garver’s 312. As mentioned in the Donaldson section, the division move is a bigger deal that the home park specifically and of course Sánchez gets the reverse of Donaldson, so a small dip. That said, he has big boy power that plays everywhere so I suspect he will remain a 20-HR bat with a low-.200s AVG.

Bottom line: Small dip to park outlook based more on the division change than home park, but should remain powerful with a brutal AVG.

Gio Urshela to MIN

Urshela fell off from his 2019-20 level (132 wRC+ in 650 PA) with a 96 wRC+ in 442 PA. He was at a 106 before the break but then he got COVID out of the break and a hamstring injury ate up virtually all of August (21 PA) leaving him with just a 71 mark in his final 128 PA of the season. If healthy, he should be the everyday 3B and I agree with the projections that have him around a league average bat though I wonder if his volume projections will get a boost in Minnesota as they sit in the 400s for most of the systems. If he is somewhere in the 550-600 PA range, he could pop 20 HR.

Bottom line: Solid average bat with a bead on a full time role, but still best deployed in deeper formats.

Alex Colomé to COL

Despite live arms like Robert Stephenson and Carlos Estévez as well as the rejuvenated Daniel Bard in the backend of the bullpen, the Rockies brought in Colomé, who will almost certainly open the year with the closer’s role. With three 30+ SV seasons under his belt, including an MLB-best 47 in 2017, he has that capital-C Closer tag that keeps getting him chances. Even taking off 2016-17 when he had a combined 84 saves (2nd to only Kenley Jansen) since we are far removed from those seasons, he still has the 10th-most saves since 2018 with 71. The Rockies have seven 20+ SV seasons since 2010, including Bard landing right at 20 last year, albeit with a 5.21 ERA. In a neutral environment, Colomé might have brought his 9.4 H/9 closer to his career 7.9 mark, but in Colorado that will be much tougher so it could be an ugly road to 20-something SVs.

Bottom line: Don’t leave yourself desperate enough to need his SVs.

Yusei Kikuchi to TOR

Kikuchi has teased and tantalized in his three seasons stateside (well, two-plus given 2020). Despite some premium velo from the left side and swing-and-miss secondaries, he has allowed too many homers (1.6 career) to find much in the way mixed league viability. The aforementioned humidor at Rogers Centre makes this a neutral move from a home standpoint, but the rest of the division could exacerbate his home run issue. Righties do most of the damage off Kikuchi (53 HR, .849 OPS in 1237 PA) and only Tampa Bay suppresses their longballs. Perhaps pitching coach Pete Walker can work his magic and get the most out of Kikuchi, but I’m not pushing him up in my rankings based off this move and likely won’t draft him if his ADP moves into the top 300 (he’s at 334 since February 1st).

Bottom line: Without some sort of development or change, it’s hard to see more than the status quo from Kikuchi.

Andrelton Simmons to CHC

Simmons has spent the last two seasons being so far below average as bat that he was barely rosterable in AL-Only leagues (78 wRC+ in 2019, 56 last year). He did look more like the 2016-18 (100 wRC+) Simmons in 2020, but the already-short season was chopped to just 30 games for Simmons. His prime fantasy value is defensively for the Cubs pitchers. He remains an elite shortstop who will no doubt aid their finesse-groundball rotation. They were already 3rd in groundball rate last year with a 45% mark before adding Marcus Stroman and his 57% career rate. He might be able to spike a fantasy-viable batting average for deep leagues, but his already weak exit velo has been dwindling further turning a lot of his batted balls into glorified fielding practice for the opposition. This does likely push Nico Hoerner to a bench/utility role, but his fantasy upside was already quite limited.

Bottom line: His carrying tool for fantasy purposes is his glove.

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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6 months ago

IKF was hot out the gate last year, compiled 6HR,15 SB, .291BA into mid-June, then slumped into ASG. What happened Idk, but he was definitely not a compiler