Mixing Fantasy & Reality: Trades, Signings, and Scherzer

The news cycle is pretty dry as seen by the multiple Drew Smyly articles. Even so, here are a few bits of fantasy relevant news from the past week.

Trades and Signings

Involving two trades, the Mariners get Drew Smyly and Shae Simmons, the Braves get Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows, the Rays get Mallex Smith, Ryan Yarbrough, and Carlos Vargas.

With so many players traded, here’s a breakdown of those relevant to fantasy baseball.

  • Drew Smyly: Other FanGraphs and RotoGraphs authors have covered him in detail. I rooted around in his stats and think he will continue to struggle since he has only two decent pitches, a fastball and a slider.
  • Shae Simmons: Edwin Diaz is the Mariners closer. After Diaz, no single reliever stands out so Simmons could get Saves if Diaz gets hurt.
  • Mallex Smith: I don’t think he fills the role of an everyday player. He hits at below replacement level (i.e. bad). He wouldn’t get any fantasy love if wasn’t for his stolen base potential. He could eventually fit into the mold of “young” Jarrod Dyson who got stolen bases by pinch running.
  • Luiz Gohara: Good arm but still in the low minors. Dynasty league option only.

Rangers signed Tyson Ross

The signing hurts Ross’s fantasy value since he will be pitching in American League with Texas being his home park. The key factor for Ross’s value, before and after the trade, remains his health.

Ross, 29, is coming off a serious right shoulder injury that required thoracic outlet syndrome surgery at the end of last season. There is still a chance he may not be ready for action by the start of next season.

Monitor his spring training progress to determine when he might begin contributing. I am leery of any pitcher returning from thoracic outlet syndrome with its historically high failure rate.

Currently, he is the 97th starting pitcher off the board in NFBC ahead of two pitchers, Matt Andriese and Tyler Skaggs, who I would take before Ross. I’m going to stay away from him unless I can use him to fill an early season DL spot.

Athletics signed Santiago Casilla

The signing strengthens the A’s bullpen as Casilla positions himself as the 8th inning setup man. He backs up Ryan Madson who has no average, yet alone elite, closing skills. In any deep league where setup men are valuable, Casilla should be owned.

Athletics signed Trevor Plouffe

I still see Ryan Healy as the A’s everyday third baseman. Plouffe is an insurance policy if Healy under performs. Additionally, Plouffe could see some time at DH.

Rays signed Colby Rasmus

Rasmus’s skills are underwhelming. He’s not projected to have an OBP over .300 and hit fewer than 20 home runs. Steven Souza and he could be clones except Souza thinks he can steal bases. The move gives the 30-year-old a full season of plate appearances which can be critical in deeper leagues.

Dodgers traded Micah Johnson to the Braves for cash

Johnson is not a fantasy option but could be a stolen base source if he finds some consistent playing time. He’ll compete for second base playing time with Sean Rodriguez, Jace Peterson, and Chase d’Arnaud.

Diamondbacks signed Chris Iannetta

I about ignored this move, but Iannetta may be a nice value in NL-only leagues with OBP. He posts the normal catcher batting average around .230 but his career 14% BB% helps boost his OBP value. He’ll be fighting Chris Herrmann and Jeff Mathis for playing time.



• Last season, Max Scherzer pitched with a stress fracture in a throwing hand finger.

When Max Scherzer decided not to play in the World Baseball Classic because of what he and the team called a “stress fracture in his right ring finger,” something seemed odd. Scherzer is not one to be derailed by minor impediments such as a sore knuckle. Plus, he did not pitch like an injured man down the stretch of what became a Cy Young Award-winning season.

But official word from Scherzer and unofficial word from those familiar with the situation is that Scherzer did, indeed, feel the trouble midway through last season. As he said in the statement he released on Twitter, the trouble did not affect his pitching, so Scherzer continued to pitch. It did not go away, so he decided not to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, which might turn out well for the Nationals.

I couldn’t find any production loss when examining his 1st and 2nd half stats and velocity. I believe his statement about the injury not affecting his pitching. I’ll monitor him closely at the season’s start to see if the injury affects him now.

• Owners may want to push up J.T. Realmuto’s plate appearance total up a bit as the Marlins plan on using him at first base.

To maximize Realmuto’s skill set, Miami is considering giving the 25-year-old some action at first base, primarily against tough left-handers. This will create more opportunities to keep Realmuto’s bat in the lineup, and it’ll reduce his daily grind behind the plate. The Giants have been doing this with Buster Posey, their All-Star catcher, for years.

Eric Thames Korean major league equivalents (MLE) project him as a near MVP. I have read and heard several experts dismiss the MLE’s and put his value at his previous MLB level. Brewer’s GM, David Steans, talked about the changes they saw Thames make at the plate which may explain some of the improvement.

“Eric has continued to evolve as a hitter, and as a player, since his time at Pepperdine,” said Stearns. “That started early in his professional career in the Blue Jays organization, and it certainly accelerated when he went to Korea. Eric probably saw more breaking balls in his short stint in Korea than he did in his previous professional career combined. Any time pitchers are attacking you in a different manner, you’re going to have to make adjustments, and we were certainly pleased to see how Eric was able to seamlessly adapt to the Korean approach.”

I think his NFBC average ADP (225th) makes him a great value. I’ll value him above Yasmany Tomas and Adam Duvall who are being picked ~145th overall. To grab some surplus value and still have a good chance to get him, I aim to grab him around pick 200.



Keith Law recently reviewed Philip Tetlock’s book, Superforecasting. I read the book about a year ago and found it informative and would recommend it for anyone doing forecasts. Law found himself needing to add error bars to his data.

I think you could, carefully. I do try to put some probabilities around my statements on player futures, more than I did in the past, certainly, but I also recognize I could never forecast player stat lines as well as a well-built model could. (Many teams fold scouting reports into their forecasting models anyway.) I can say, however, I think there’s a 40% chance of a pitcher remaining a starter, or a 25% chance that, if player X gets 500 at bats this season, he’ll hit at least 25 home runs.

Besides the error bars, found the idea for adding small adjustments/inputs to a prediction important and knowing how the overall prediction changes. For example, with J.T. Realmuto getting more plate appearances, I could just assume he will be a top-five catcher. Instead, I would have a projection calculated for him and just adjust it.

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 four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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7 years ago

Plouffe’s gonna be the third baseman in Oakland. Healy will play every day, but at 1B/DH (his inevitable spot once Chapman’s ready to displace Plouffe).

7 years ago
Reply to  Sleepy

Plouffe is the perfect example of how the league changed in one year. He went .244/.307/.435 in 2015 and .260/.303/.420 in 2016 and his wRC+ dropped from league average (101) to 10% below (91).