Winter Moves Update: Ozuna, Piscotty, & Kinsler Trades

Yes, we did get 700 more middle reliever signings, buuttt we also got three trades of note. Meanwhile, these Manny Machado rumors are blazing hot and reports suggest he could be moved as soon as this weekend!

Ozuna’s breakout in 2017 might look isolated, but if you check his 2016 splits, you will see that he was having the breakout year through June before a wrist injury sapped his power and curbed production over the second half. Before the injury he had 16 HR and a .948 OPS in 299 PA, but then just 7 HR and a .605 OPS the rest of the way. He was brilliant in 2017 with no worse than an .873 OPS in all six months of the season en route to a 37 HR/.924 OPS campaign. It’d be prudent to bake in some natural regression, but a .290/30/100 season is very believable. Andrew Perpetua digs even deeper on the new Cardinal.

I realize money was a big factor in the Stanton deal, but it seems Miami did better dealing a less heralded Ozuna, netting a pair of St. Louis’s top five prospects and another in their top 20. Alcantara and Sierra are the drivers in this deal. Alcantara is a hard thrower (sat 98 mph in his September sip of coffee) who struggles to command any of his stuff consistently. The velo gives him margin for error on the fastball command, but none of his other offerings regularly operate as even average, let alone plus, making a future in the bullpen more and more likely.

Let’s not completely write off a 22-year old, though. A tweak or two that improves his command would make him a major asset in the Marlins rotation. I saw a two-inning outing at the AFL and basically all the scouting reports were validated. He generated whiffs with the heater and had in-and-out secondary stuff.

Sierra is a 22-year old outfielder who bounced between the minors and majors a few times this year, though he totaled just 64 MLB PA. Perhaps the most interesting part of his season is that Triple-A wasn’t involved at all. He hit the majors from High-A then went back to Double-A and ping-ponged from there to MLB the rest of the way. His raw skills earned the opportunity as speed and defense carry his profile while he works on his hitting.

A high contact approach is going to be his best chance at league average offensive production as it’ll be the best way to leverage his speed and turn him from a defense-only player to defense-first. Eric Longenhagen had Sierra and Alcantara at 4 and 5, respectively, so check out his November look at the Cardinals system for more on both as well as a look at Gallen, who I was completely unfamiliar with prior to the deal.

Piscotty labored through 2017, partly because of hamstring and groin injuries and an August demotion that limited him to 401 PA and more importantly, because he was dealing with the ALS diagnosis of his mother, something that has to be immeasurably difficult on anyone’s psyche. This was as much a personal move as it was a baseball move so credit to the Cardinals there. They move Piscotty back out west to be closer to his mother in her time of need.

While Oakland will never be confused as a hitter’s haven, it actually has a better HR park factor for righties than St. Louis and a healthy Piscotty should certainly get some of his pop back. He had a .185 ISO through his first 905 PA in 2015-16 before dipping to just .132 this past season. I’m going to put some of that on the injury-hampered season.

An interesting aspect of his season was a sharp jump in walk rate from 8% to 13%, as he not only swing a lot less in general, but particularly out of the zone with a career-best 30% chase rate (O-Swing). I do wonder if some of it was more of a passive approach in light of the power outage, but if he keeps some or all of these walk rate gains while getting some power back, he should be a really solid bat in Oakland. Don’t quit on him.

Both Munoz and Schrock were in the latter half of Eric’s top 24 A’s prospects in last year’s iteration (this year’s hasn’t gone up yet) and Schrock is a Cistulli favorite, appearing regularly on the Fringe Five, which has a strong record of identifying fantasy viable prospects that don’t get the Top 100 love.

The 36-year old Kinsler is coming off his worst season ever (91 wRC+), but still had a modicum of fantasy viability with 22 HR and 14 SB (though the .236 AVG limited that viability to very deep leagues). The Angels are hoping that the stability (and even improvement) of his base skills will help him rebound in 2018. His 14% K and 9% BB rates were both better than his 2016 outputs and the latter was his best since a 12% mark in 2011. It’s hard not to think the .244 BABIP played a big role in his wretched AVG. He has a .286 career mark and was over .300 in each of the last two years before 2017. His age, down season, and the emergence of several strong 2B options will keep Kinsler’s price reasonable and could make him a solid buy-low.

As you’d expect, the Tigers didn’t get a ton in return for Kinsler, but it wasn’t a complete zero, either. Hernandez is a live armed 19-year old and projects as a reliever. Montgomery, a 23-year old OF, jumps on Detroit’s prospect list at #26 according to Josh Norris of Baseball America gives some expanded thoughts on both here.

Nicasio is the only one of the recent RP signings that has a chance to make a real fantasy dent, even if he doesn’t push Edwin Diaz out of the closer’s role. Nicasio has settled into his full time bullpen role nicely with a 26% K rate in 248.7 innings over the last three seasons. His 9% BB is passable and actually got inflated by a 12% in 2015. He’s been at 8% the last two seasons and posted a 7% mark in 2017. As a two-pitch guy, he’s had platoon issues in the past, but made big strides in 2017 with a career-best .544 OPS against lefties. Substantial improvements with both his fastball and slider fueled the gains vs. lefties.

High heat was a major key as he threw 48% of his fastballs in the upper third, up from 39%, with a .156/.229/.313 line and 47% K rate in 36 PA. Fastballs up and sliders down. Sliders in the lower third yielded a .133/.235/.267 line and 65% K rate in 17 PA. If he maintains this new level, he’s a great late-inning option for the Mariners. He could feasibly push the 24-year old Diaz if things go sideways with him, but it’s worth noting that after Diaz allowed 8 HR in the first three months (3.77 ERA), he allowed just two the rest of the way, posting a 2.83 ERA (and 22% K-BB) in 35 IP.

The rest of these signings are bullpen depth for their teams. None of them are even all that viable in AL or NL-only leagues.

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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Is the the Brandon Morrow signing one that could make a mark? Looks like he’ll close in Chicago.