Trade Implications: Miller’s Mint, Castro & Lind On the Move

Jeff and I will be covering the fantasy implications of the Winter Meetings moves all week long here at Rotographs. You can catch up on past deals here. Tuesday night offered up two nice fantasy-relevant deals and then a Wednesday morning deal came in as I was finishing this up!

To NYY: Starlin Castro

To CHC: Adam Warren

Primary piece(s): Warren performed better last year, but he is unlikely to have a role relevant to all fantasy leagues making Castro the piece that matters most here. Castro enters his age-26 with six full MLB seasons – four good, two bad. Unfortunately, the two bad have come within the last three, including 2015. Castro hasn’t really run since 2012 with just a 55% success rate in 33 attempts. His path to resurgent fantasy value is with the bat.

Maybe I just keep forgetting, but I still get shocked at how much one godawful month can really sink a season. Castro posted a .396 OPS in 98 PA during July, good for a hideous -1 wRC+ which unsurprisingly finished dead last in baseball (Stephen Vogt’s 12 was second-worst that month). Before and after July, he had a .727 OPS in 480 PA which really isn’t too bad. If he could’ve done that for the full season, he would’ve finished 6th in OPS at shortstop.

Actually, as I look at it more, you can have one godawful month, but two is when you get in real trouble because his May was rather putrid, too (.539 OPS in 121 PA). You can have one sub-.600 OPS month, but two is likely to sink your season or at least put a huge burden on you to have a couple 1.000+ seasons. Castro had just one when he closed with a huge September: 1.055 OPS, 5 HR, 21 RBI in 91 PA.

I still feel like Castro could reach 20 HR as an upside. But having a particular upside and reaching it are two different things. It would take some alterations to his game, namely getting the ball in the air more often, but it’s in there. He’s going from one good home run park to another so that isn’t necessarily an automatic-boost.

The deepening of the shortstop pool plus the awful season have pushed Castro’s price way down for 2016. His pluses on paper aren’t plentiful: he’s young, has a track record with more good than bad, and qualifies at both SS and 2B. It’s a true buy-low with Castro, a low-cost gamble that can’t really hurt you even if he repeats his 2015. He should be the primary second baseman for the Yankees, though he’ll likely start in the bottom third of the lineup and have to work his way up.

Darkhorse: Warren is a good pitcher, but he’ll likely be a middle reliever which limits his fantasy value to NL-only leagues at the backend of a pitching staff. He did get 17 starts last year, so he could be the first man up should injury or underperformance hit their rotation. I think he’d be best used as a multi-inning reliever, getting 85-90 IP of great ratios and plenty of strikeouts.

In his three years as a reliever, he has 183 innings of a 3.05 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 8.3 K/9. He has four pitches, no platoon split, and can work mid-90s out of the pen. Take a shot on Warren in your NL-only leagues and deep mixers, he could really pay off. Hell, I wouldn’t put it past Joe Maddon to give Warren the ninth at some point if Hector Rondon fell apart (though there’s nothing to suggest Rondon will collapse, but we all know how volatile closers are every year).

To ATL: Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson, & Aaron Blair

To ARI: Shelby Miller & Gabe Speier

Primary piece(s): Obviously when you pay that kind of sum, the returns had damn-well better be the primary piece. Arizona may have overpaid for Miller, but we won’t have to in the fantasy market, even after a 3.05 ERA for 205.3 IP. I’ve never seen a player’s cost spike in the fantasy market as a response to what was paid for him in the real life trade market. The story from Miller’s season is of course the 6-17 record. We don’t judge value on wins and losses, but it stands out when you suffer such a horrific record, especially with a 24-start winless streak (0-16, 8 no-decisions).

It was made out to be this amazing streak of hard-luck, but it really wasn’t anything like that. In the 16 losses, he had a 4.58 ERA and 1.54 WHIP – rates deserving of losses, especially with a poor offensive team supporting you. Now the no-decisions were tough, I’ll give you that, but a lot of no-decisions are tough luck. He posted a 2.14 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, going 7+ IP in five of the starts, and still came up winless. I think his work before the run skewed perception of what was going on.

He had a 1.50 ERA in 9 starts to open the season and so all throughout the winless streak, he still had this sparkling ERA which made it look like he was an ace lacking in support. In actuality, he was a really good #3, maybe fringe #2, who had a weird season. I’m not down on Miller, though.

The season was a little weird, but there was a lot of good to take from it. The strikeouts rebounded from 2014’s ugly 17% rate to a more representative 20% mark. His 205.3 IP were a career-best. His groundball rate shot way up to 48% after sitting at 38% and 40% during his first two seasons. And his 95.1 MPH average fastball was a career-high as well.

I think the fact that the D’Backs likely overpaid is obscuring the fact that Miller is really good. No, he’s probably not an ace and this looks like an ace payment to the Braves, but he’s still a 25-year old former super-prospect with three years of work under belt and still some upside in the tank. We’ve now seen two seasons in the low-3.00s, he fanned 23% of the batters he faced in 2013 so that talent remains, especially if he can get the curve back to being the swing-and-miss it was that year, and the aforementioned surge in groundballs was a nice addition to the arsenal.

Miller is a perfectly solid fantasy #2, but you’re in really good shape if he’s your third starter.

Darkhorse: Swanson is the #1 overall pick from the 2015 draft and has just 99 pro PA under his belt (.876 OPS at Low-A for those curious) so he’s not really fantasy relevant in 2016, and he wouldn’t be a darkhorse anyway. Inciarte is a strong-side platoon bat with speed and a decent slash line. If he handles righties like he did in ’15 (.332/.369/.457), he might hit .300 again, but I’d take Cameron Maybin’s 2015 line, chop off half the homers and add 15 or so points of batting average for an Inciarte projection. The real darkhorse is Blair.

He was a top-100 prospect across the industry so he’s not that far off the radar. Kiley had him 59th and he peaked at 40th (Baseball America). I like the comps that Kiley got from one scout:

Another scout compared him as an overall pitcher to John Lackey and Lance Lynn, as a big and unspectacular but steady #3/4 starter that outperforms many more heralded talents.

No one sees Blair as a frontend guy and so he gets overlooked in the fantasy realm. And I kind of get it. We’re looking to strike it rich when prospecting, so we gravitate toward the highest ceilings, but guys like Blair are completely overlooked in all but dynasty leagues. He isn’t being drafted this spring unless he wins a spot in the rotation, but we should all be aware of him because he will make his MLB debut at some point in 2016 barring a disaster.

His strikeout rate took a dive in a two-level season across the upper minors, but he offset it with a groundball rate north of 50%. He fanned 10.0 per nine in 2014, but scouting reports still made it clear that whiffs weren’t going to be a major aspect of his game. He was just taking advantage of inferior competition to build up that K rate. Movement and heavy sink as a means for inducing weak contact is his path to sustained success. Maybe as he develops at the big league level, he’ll add some strikeouts, but initially they’ll be light.

Unfortunately, he won’t have Andrelton Simmons behind him or I’d like the pickup even more for Atlanta. Erick Aybar isn’t exactly a scrub at short, but Andrelton is the best. Bud Norris and Mike Foltynewicz aren’t major impediments for Blair. If he doesn’t break camp, he could be up by May. Keep his name on your radar.

To SEA: Adam Lind

To MIL: Carlos Herrera, Daniel Missaki and Freddy Peralta

Primary piece(s): We don’t know who Milwaukee is getting so there won’t even be a darkhorse section on this one. Two (maybe three, now) non-40 man prospects probably means I don’t even know much about them anyway. I feel like Seattle is making a trade with a first baseman in it every other day lately. Logan Morrison and Mark Trumbo have been jettisoned and now Lind fills the void. It’s never really been about skills with Lind.

We know he can’t hit lefties and that health is an issue, otherwise he just rips righties for 20-something homers a year if said health is in place. He has accumulated 20+ HR off of righties in five of the last seven seasons and the two times he didn’t are when he played 93 and 96 games. It’s the second straight offseason that has seen Lind dealt, but this time around he leaves a hitter-friendly environment for one geared toward pitchers.

Rogers Centre and Miller Park didn’t really seem to have any major impact on his home runs as he’s hit 83 both home and away with just 50 PA of difference favoring home, but maybe they aided him with some extra base hits to give him a 52-point OPS split at home (.823/.771). At least he’s going to Safeco as a lefty which is neutral-to-slightly favorable for home runs over the last three years. It shouldn’t heavily influence his home run total, but the OPS could take a hit.

He is terrible against lefties (.586 OPS in 1004 PA) which rightfully cuts into his playing time and makes him a much better fit as your corner infielder or utility as opposed to your starting first baseman. His back is a long-time injury issue and that’s only heightened as he’s a year older, but you can feel very comfortable about utilizing him when he is healthy. His 129 wRC+ in 1411 PA since 2013 is 11th-best among qualified 1B.

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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Ryan Brock

Paul, how come you’re so high on Shelby when he was such a huge SIERA overperformer this year? Doesn’t it look a lot like some combo of Andrelton plus a suppressed HR-rate gave him that 3.02 ERA? I am really down on him for fantasy purposes this year, I think too many people will remember the low ERA and overpay for it.