This offseason, as transactions on the big league level unfold, we’ll take a look at how the ripple effects shake out on the prospect side, focusing primarily on 2013 fantasy impact, with an eye toward the future, too.
This week: While doors open in the Twins’ and Rays’ outfields, one closes in the Tigers’, and the Pirates add some first base depth.
ACTION: Twins trade OF Denard Span
PROSPECT IMPACT: OFs Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia
While most of the focus is on Alex Meyer, the high-upside right-hander that Minnesota obtained from the Nationals for Span, the more relevant prospect names for fantasy purposes as far as next season are actually not new to the Twins. Hicks is athletic and wiry-strong, the kind of profile that could be an ideal match for centerfield, but with an elite arm that will play in the corners, too. It’s been a bumpy ride for the 2008 first-rounder, as he’s displayed a tendency to be inconsistent and often patient-bordering-on-passive at the plate. Still just 23, though, the switch-hitting Hicks seemed to turn the corner while spending all of 2012 at Double-A, where he tapped into his power-speed potential with career-bests in homers (13) and steals (31). On the other hand, Arcia has a stocky build and an above-average hit tool that make him a good fit for right field, although he’s not a true masher that is often associated with the position. The 21-year-old lefty hitter, had a strong 2012 split between High- and Double-A, slashing .320/.388/.539 with 61 extra-base hits and making strides in his approach, which remains aggressive yet effective.
FANTASY VALUE: With Span out of the picture — not to mention, Josh Willingham is also a trade candidate — Ben Revere takes over in center, and the Twins outfield could look very different by the end of 2013 from what we saw last season. It’s unlikely that either Hicks or Arcia breaks camp with the club, but expect Hicks to begin the season at Triple-A with Arcia sticking one level below with a good chance to be bumped up early on. Either one — or perhaps both, depending on any further trades — could be in Minnesota in the second half of the season, if not by the All-Star break. Both are possible OF5s in deep AL-onlies once up in 2013; and for keeper leaguers, Arcia is a bit more of a sure thing with good power upside, while Hicks could be another Dexter Fowler.
ACTION: Tigers sign OF Torii Hunter
PROSPECT IMPACT: OF Avisail Garcia
For a change, maybe the Tigers will avoid rushing one of their prospects. Garcia, in fact, has already been rocketed through the system, making his way to the bigs shortly after turning 21 last year. He acquitted himself rather well in (.319/.373/.319 over 51 PAs), especially for a hitter with just 55 games above A-ball on his résumé. The righty-hitting Garcia was managed carefully in Detroit, facing predominantly southpaws to help ease his transition. That showed some savvy on the part of the Tigers management, as does the signing of Hunter to allow Garcia, a toolsy but raw player who is one of the club’s top prospects, more time to develop in the upper minors where he can work on, among other things, bettering a walk rate that is below 4% for his career.
FANTASY VALUE: Garcia goes from having a legitimate opportunity to be one of the Tigers’ Opening Day corner outfielders to instead getting a return ticket to Double-A in all likelihood. Tough break for his 2013 value in AL-only leagues, but his long-term keeper-ability might actually improve now that he’ll be allowed to figure things out at a proper pace.
ACTION: Rays lose OF B.J. Upton in free agency
PROSPECT IMPACT: OF Brandon Guyer
Guyer was on the verge of helping the Rays last season but missed most of year with an injury to his shoulder, playing in all of 22 games at Triple-A and just three with Tampa. He’s more of a fringe prospect given his age (27 before next season) and skill set. But Guyer has few weaknesses, which makes him not only a capable backup outfielder but also the type of player that Joe Maddon is so adept at deploying. Upton’s departure to Atlanta allows the Rays to shift Desmond Jennings to center, opening up a corner spot for a mix-and-match of Guyer, Sam Fuld and Ben Francisco. It’s also possible that Guyer could be used in a straight platoon with lefty-swinging Matt Joyce. Given 350-450 at-bats in the majors, Guyer should post a solid batting average with a chance at scraping double-digits in both homers and steals.
FANTASY VALUE: Of course, Guyer has to get to the majors first, which means he’ll need a solid spring to show he’s recovered and ready to contribute. If he sticks in Tampa, consider him a sneaky reserve OF in AL-only formats (a la Chris Heisey of the Reds).
ACTION: Pirates acquire 1B Clint Robinson
PROSPECT IMPACT: Robinson
It was an under-the-radar move, but one that shouldn’t be wholly ignored in deep NL-only leagues. Already 27, Robinson is even older than Guyer, but all he’s ever done in the minors is hit — witness his 308/.382/.520 career triple-slash line. The big issue with Robinson has always been his, shall we say, less-than-stellar defense, as he’s basically put down roots just off first base. In Kansas City, he was obviously blocked by both Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler at first and DH, respectively, so the move to Pittsburgh is a bit freeing, if not exactly encouraging. Robinson is likely to remain just organizational depth, but the Pirates have had a hole at first base for quite some time, so it’s not inconceivable that he gets a shot at some point in 2013, depending on how the club uses Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez.
FANTASY VALUE: Even in theoretical AL Central-only leagues, there’s no real value here, just a name to file away in an in-case-of-emergency-break-glass kind of way.
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