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, Part Deux: The second of two majors prospect-laden trades this week went down between the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds — only two days after the blockbuster that sent top tier ‘spects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi from the Kansas City Royals to the Tampa Bay Rays. Amazingly, the young players whose fantasy values were impacted by the second deal are no less heralded — and there’s more of them — so they’re worthy of their own separate post.
ACTION: Indians acquire SP Trevor Bauer
PROSPECT IMPACT: Bauer
The D-backs unloaded Bauer just 18 months after spending millions to lock him up as the third overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. Quite an about-face for a franchise-player relationship. Especially considering Bauer, a 21-year-old power-armed righty, is as talented as he is and coming off an impressive first full pro season. Split between Double- and Triple-A, Bauer posted a 2.42 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP and a stellar 10.8 K/9, while spending the majority of the year at the hitter’s haven that is Reno…in the hitter-friendly PCL. Sure, he continued to have issues with his control (4.2 BB/9) and pitch efficiency, and yes, he did struggle in his very brief Major League trial (6.06 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 13 BBs in 16.1 IPs), where he fell victim to leaving pitches up too often and lost a bit of velocity. But this is still a Top 10 pitching prospect in all of baseball, one that is ready to contribute right away for fantasy purposes. The fact that he fell out of favor with the D-backs front office so quickly — and to such an extent that the return in the trade wasn’t especially worthwhile — is a shame.
FANTASY VALUE: This move brings gains (better pitcher’s park) and losses (dealing with DHs) worth considering for Bauer’s fantasy value, but the biggest factor is pretty simply that he should be in a big league rotation from Day One next season — something that might not have happened in Arizona. Either way, he was going to pitch in the majors in 2013, but now he’s likely to pitch more, which means more of things that can help fantasy owners, like strikeouts and wins. There’s always the inherent hype factor to complicate matters when acquiring top tier prospects on draft day, especially in re-draft leagues. In Bauer’s case, though, the obligatory overpay may not actually apply (at least, not to the extent it normally would), considering A) he’s moving to a team that doesn’t look as good on paper, and B) he “failed” in his initial chance to make an impression in 2012. If either factor drops him enough in draft round or auction price, Bauer could even wind up being a bargain. Think of him as a fifth/sixth starter in mixed leagues or an SP4 in AL-onlies, at which point, it won’t hurt much if he busts — and his considerable upside could mean a huge profit. Keeper-wise, he’s got a chance to be a Top 25 starter in a year or two, if he can improve his control even a little bit.
ACTION: D-backs trade SP Trevor Bauer after signing SP Brandon McCarthy
PROSPECT IMPACT: SP Tyler Skaggs, D-backs
Like Bauer, Skaggs is a high-end pitching prospect with the potential to be a No. 2 but who looked shaky in his big league debut. At least the D-backs, though, don’t appear to have soured on him. The 21-year-old southpaw posted a 5.83 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 29.1 IPs across his first six starts, but his minor league numbers tell a better story of what he might become once he’s figured it all out: 2.87 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 8.5 K/9 over 122.1 IPs at Double- and Triple-A. He might not throw as hard as Bauer, who works in the mid-90s when he’s on compared to Skaggs’ low-90s fastball, but Skaggs possess much more command and control (2.6 BB/9 career) and a breaking ball that’s just as sharp as Bauer’s knee-buckler. Even with his experience in the majors in 2012, Skaggs will have to beat out Patrick Corbin to land the fifth starter spot in Arizona, which recently added depth by signing McCarthy to take up a job that could have gone to Skaggs. Skaggs will benefit by not having to compete with Bauer anymore, and he’s a better young arm than Corbin, but the D-backs might choose to give him a little more time in the minors while Corbin keeps the mound warm.
FANTASY VALUE: Skaggs’ 2013 value actually might have been hurt more by the McCarthy signing than it was helped by the Bauer trade in that there’s now a more-proven big leaguer ahead of him on the depth chart. Plus, Daniel Hudson could return from TJ surgery at some point in the second half, which will only add another arm to the mix. A strong spring would go a long way toward helping Skaggs chances of either making the club or at least being seen as a go-to option at the first sign of struggle or injury within the five-man. Perhaps the likeliest scenario is that Skaggs overtakes Corbin, who could be a good fit in the bullpen, during the first half. However it plays out, though, Skaggs will be a streaming option in mixed leagues and a spot starter to hang onto and deploy strategically in NL-only leagues next season. His keeper value is a good deal higher, with an upside of becoming a Top 30 SP.
ACTION: Indians acquire RPs Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers
PROSPECT IMPACT: RP Cody Allen, Indians
Relievers Shaw and Albers give Cleveland some extra bullpen arms, but neither is more than a sixth- or seventh-inning man, so Allen, who is one of the better pure relief prospects in baseball, should still have a key role toward the back-end of the Indians pen. In his MLB debut — which came just 13 months after being drafted in the 23rd round — Allen had a respectable 3.72 ERA and an inflated 1.52 WHIP, thanks to a 4.7 BB/9 rate that spiked from 1.9 in the minors, partly attributable to the small sample size of 29 innings. The 24-year-old possesses a mid-90s fastball that can touch 98, and his breaking ball is a quality secondary offering. Allen can be a set-up man, and has the stuff to close down the line, too.
FANTASY VALUE: Allen right now is in line to handle the seventh and eighth innings, along with fellow righty Vinnie Pestano, but both Pestano and closer Chris Perez are potential trade chips, so it’s not entirely out of the question that Allen could find himself with some save opportunities over the course of the year. And if not, he’ll still be a quality cheap/late pick who can put up solid peripherals to help in AL-only and deep mixed leagues. One to watch, as Allen could enter 2014 as closer.
ACTION: Reds acquire OF Shin-Soo Choo
PROSPECT IMPACT: OF Billy Hamilton, Reds
Look, you know who Hamilton is and what he does, so the only thing worth pointing out here is that any hopes and dreams that the 22-year-old switch-hitter might be brought up next season to be a stolen base machine are pretty much quashed by the Reds acquisition of Choo. Cincy’s outfield is now full, and the club is in win-now mode, so the writing on the wall has Hamilton spending most, if not all, of 2013 in the high minors, working on making the transition from shortstop to centerfield so that he can be ready to take over that job in 2014. At which point we can resume our dreams of 100-steal seasons.
FANTASY VALUE: For 2013, Hamilton looks to be a September call-up at best, which means his fantasy relevance is shot by this trade. His long-term outlook, however, remains nearly as exciting as ever (he did lose a little luster by moving from short to outfield this past fall). Provided he can continue to improve his approach and plate discipline against better pitchers, while also concentrating on his new defensive job, Hamilton is going to be as fun to own in fantasy as he is to watch on the bases as a perennial 80-steal threat in the majors.
ACTION: D-backs acquire SS Didi Gregorius after trading for SS Cliff Pennington
PROSPECT IMPACT: Gregorius
As a prospect, the 22-year-old Amsterdam-born Gregorius is a quality young player with an above-average glove and arm, to go along with the ability to put bat on ball at the plate. There’s not much in the way of extra-base power, although he does show more pop than some other defense-first shortstop prospects like Jose Iglesias of the Red Sox and Adeiny Hechavarria of the Marlins. A .265/.324/.393 slash line across Double- and Triple-A in 2012 isn’t half bad for his age and position, and the lefty hitter’s 14% K rate speaks to his bat control. Where he could really use some improvement is on the bases, where his quickness and speed have yet to translate: just 40 steals against 30 caught stealings in his five minor league seasons. The funny thing is, the D-backs already traded for a shortstop this very offseason who Gregorius profiles similarly to in Pennington, although Gregorius has more upside.
FANTASY VALUE: While there have been reports that Gregorius will compete for the starting job next spring, that seems hasty. He could probably cut it on D, but it would be smarter and safer for his career to start 2013 in Triple-A. That way, Gregorius can continue to develop, and the D-backs can evaluate him on their own terms while Pennington holds down the fort. Under such a plan, Gregorius could spend all of next year in the minors, with the club planning to hand him the reigns in 2014. Either way, Gregorius’ fantasy impact won’t be much next season, and frankly, it might never be that great, as he’s the kind of player who will be better in real life than in the roto one. Consider him a non-factor next season, although in keeper formats, he could turn into a starting middle infielder in mixed leagues and a starting shortstop in NL-onlies once he’s established himself.
ACTION: D-backs acquire 1B Lars Anderson
PROSPECT IMPACT: Anderson
Once a former top prospect with the Red Sox, Anderson’s career has stalled out in the upper minors. Now 25, he’s become an org guy who has now been traded twice in 16 months. The shame of it is that Anderson was a throw-in in the three-teamer, and yet he is now stuck behind Paul Goldschmidt in Arizona, when he would have actually had a shot to compete for the first base job, or at least a backup role, in Cleveland.
FANTASY VALUE: Basically nil, but he could put up some nice numbers in Triple-A Reno!
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