Fantasy Profile: Kyle Seager

Seager may sign a 7 year deal for 100 million, why this is a bargain for Seattle and fantasy owner's alike
Seager’s 7-year, 100 million dollar deal spells value for both the Mariners and fantasy owners

While talking to my son the other day I told him a story about how the only day of high school I missed was to sleep overnight to get my Dad tickets to see his favorite artist, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Of course, his first question was who is Bob Seger. So I explained, saying that he had no relation to Kyle Seager. My son plays baseball and loves it, but gave me the same look. Who is Kyle Seager? Fantasy owners seem to have the same question. The problem here is that Kyle Seager plays in the Great Northwest and is probably still overshadowed by the old guard at his position. Entering 2014 drafts, Seager was the 11th third baseman selected at pick 106, or only 25 spots after Pedro Alvarez. If you were fortunate enough to draft Seager, he rewarded you with a 7th place finish on the ESPN Player Rater.

What Kyle Seager lacks in sexiness, he makes up for in consistency. He has played an average of 158 games per season since 2012, and with all of the inconsistent performers at third base, this is a welcomed trait. Here is the average of his last three seasons:

3 Year Avg: 71 R, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 9 SB .262/.329/.434

Last year Seager made strides, especially in his RBI total:

Kyle Seager 2014: 71 R, 25 HR, 96 RBI, 7 SB .268/.334/.454

It’s surprising that he had his best homer total in 2014 considering his home run distance and speed off the bat have trended downward. Here are his first three full seasons according to ESPN’s home run tracker page:

2012: Average standard distance off the bat 400.5 feet, average speed off bat 103.3 MPH
2013: Average standard distance off the bat 385.1 feet, average speed off bat 102.3 MPH
2014: Average standard distance off the bat 382.8 feet, average speed off bat 102 MPH

While the speed of the bat has only seen a slight drop, the distance drop of 18 feet can be a bit concerning. Seager still smacked 35 homers in 2014 and his stats paint the picture of an upward pointing arrow. He just turned 27.

2012: wRC+ 108, HR/FB% 9.8, SwStr% 8.3, OPS .738
2013: wRC+ 115, HR/FB% 9.9, SwStr% 7.2, OPS .764
2014: wRC+ 126, HR/FB% 12.9, SwStr% 6.9, OPS .788

Even though Seager’s average home run distance has dropped, his home run per fly ball percentage has risen over the last three seasons. If Seager can push his OPS over .800 he is in line for another career year. If he can put together a year of hitting well on the road and at home, this is easily possible.

Kyle Seager career slash at home: .249/.324/.394
Kyle Seager 2014 slash at home: .300/.370/.523
Kyle Seager career slash on road: .274/.332/.461
Kyle Seager 2014 slash on road: .240/.301/.393

He has been able to hit away from Seattle in his first two seasons but struggled on the road last year. His home statistics last year prove he can thrive in a tough ballpark environment. Two things could really allow Seager a real breakout in 2015: hitting well on the road and using left field for more power. Seager has only hit one career home run to left field, though he does use that side of the field. First here is his career spray chart:

seager career spray chart
And his chart from 2014:

seager 2014 spray chart
Nine of Seager’s 27 doubles were to left or left-center and so were two of his four triples. To avoid a shift and push his home run total toward 30, Seager will need to use the opposite field for power. His zone profile suggests this is possible. Here is his career slugging zone profile:
Seager career slugging zone profile
Then his profile from 2014:

seager 2014 slugging zone profile
On pitches middle and away Seager slugged .552 last year. On offerings in the top third of the strike zone and outside he slugged .429. It appears that Seager is on the cusp of a small but profitable breakout. Seattle acquiring another viable power bat would really cement this. Although he hit .293/.356/.503 in 40 games as the cleanup hitter, how nice would a right-handed power bat look between Cano and Seager? It appears that the Mariners are trying to make this happen and if it does this should move Seager up in preseason rankings. I definitely see Seager as a top-five option at third base and will be taking him over the likes of Evan Longoria, David Wright and Josh Donaldson moving forward. While Pablo Sandoval will be getting all the hype moving to Boston, Seager keeps doing his thing in gloomy Seattle, which is fine with me. To this day, sharing that concert with my Dad was a top-five concert for me as I got him seats in tenth row center. Maybe after reading about Kyle Seager some of you will accompany me on his bandwagon. I am not sure that he will produce 30 home runs in 2015 but if the Mariners can acquire a power bat like Justin Upton, Matt Kemp or Yoenis Cespedes, I am willing to reach and ensure I get Seager as my third baseman. I can see 27-30 home runs and with a consistent offense over 100 runs batted in. Seattle will be doing well to lock him up for two more years than Panda for the same price. Get your tickets in 2015, this may be the last time to get Seager this cheap.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, ESPN.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/vXJszq

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Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Transaction Scripts: Yasmani Tomas to Arizona

Yasmani Tomas
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com has reported that Tomas has accepted a six-year, 68.5 million dollar offer to sign as an international free agent with the Diamondbacks. His power is off the charts, but his approach may be the topic of discussion moving forward. Hitting in Arizona should only enhance his fantasy value.

As former scout Bernie Pleskoff points out, this gives the Diamondback options to change their roster moving forward. They have a mix of outfielders and middle infielders with many teams searching for a shortstop to address their pitching needs.

As for Tomas, his power is a 70 out of 80 on the grading scale. Some scouts feel his swing is long but I would be more concerned about the presence of the uppercut in this home run:

Tomas also struggled against breaking pitches during the World Baseball Classic, so adjusting to Major League pitching may be a bit of a struggle for him. There’s no doubt that he will run into some fastballs and hit them a long way, however. Trusting his stats from the last three seasons in Cuba will be tough, especially considering his 2014 was cut short due to injury. Regardless, here are his numbers:

2011 – 2012: 240 PA, 36 R, 16 HR, 42 RBI, 4 SB .301/.340/.580
2012 – 2013:
342 PA, 45 R, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 1 SB .289/.364/.538
2013 – 2014:
257 PA, 28 R, 6 HR, 35 RBI, 6 SB .290/.346/.450

Although his home run totals dropped, he does posses immense power. He homers about once every 22 plate appearances but ballpark effects in Cuba are hard to gauge. For comparison’s sake, here are some number of other recent Cuban Major Leaguers:

Yasmani Tomas: 821 PA, .293/.350/.523, OPS+ 134
Jose Abreu:
1015 PA, .356/.478/.681, OPS+ 180
Yoenis Cespedes:
1190 PA, .303/.384/.564, OPS+ 138
Alex Guerrero:
1009 PA, .327/.405/.578, OPS+ 129
Rusney Castillo:
556 PA, .322/.369/.518

Based on the data, Tomas probably compares the closest to Yoenis Cespedes. Though they are built differently, their slash lines and OPS+ are relatively close. The stats above just underscore just how good Jose Abreu was in Cuba. For reference, Cespedes was 26 when he made his Major League debut for Oakland and Tomas just turned 24. But Cespedes’ rookie season looked like this:

Yoenis Cespedes 2012: 129 G, 70 R, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB .292/.356/.505 OPS+ 139

Cespedes was able to keep his slash lines close while improving his OPS+ by one with Oakland in year one. With three extra years of experience but a much lower rated ballpark effect in Oakland, I would use Cespedes’ rookie year as the top of any projection for Tomas but would not recommend planning on it. Rather, I could see a slash line more like .245/.335/.485 for his rookie year with 20 to 25 home runs as he adjusts to life in the American Major Leagues. That is nothing to ignore at a time when power hitting corner outfielders are at a premium. I am willing to adjust my projections during the spring after we can get a look at how healthy his wrist is. If Tomas can hit the breaking ball he will be a great source of power as soon as 2015, just do not use Abreu as a guide. Pay for the power and be pleasantly surprised if he can hit .260 or higher.

Statistical credits: Obstructedview.net, Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/uhaH8A

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Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Transaction Scripts: HanRam and Panda in Beantown

HanRam bring his high OPS back to where he started in Boston for five years at 90 million dollars.
HanRam bring his high OPS back to where it all began for him

What does $190 million dollars over five years buy nowadays? If you are the Boston Red Sox, it appears that it will be a 28 year old third baseman nicknamed Panda and a 30 year old metrically challenged shortstop prone to injuries and a somewhat mercurial clubhouse personality with great offensive prowess. With conflicting reports swirling this morning, Pablo Sandoval (5 years, 100 million) and Hanley Ramirez (5 years, 90 million) have agreed to contracts with the Red Sox. While nothing is official yet the fantasy ripples of these moves are interesting. Where will Hanley play? Rumor has it that the Sox signed him to play left field. However, he’s only played 10 career games in the outfield and learning the Green Monster is difficult even for good outfielders. Oh yeah, and they also already have Yoenis Cespedes out there. What happens to he and Xander Bogaerts?

It is not a stretch to say that Boston needs to add some pitching for the upcoming season since right now the projected starters are Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly and Allen Webster along with whoever else they add going forward. Since their farm system is well stocked, it stands to reason that if the Red Sox do not get Jon Lester via free agency, they would be big players in the Cole Hamels trade market along with other pitchers on the block. This is a work in progress to say the least but the Red Sox are positioning themselves for a very eventful winter. As for the players they obtained today, here are their 2014 seasons first:

Pablo Sandoval 2014: 157 G, 68 R, 16 HR, 73 RBI .279/.324/.415
Hanley Ramirez 2014:
128 G, 64 R, 13 HR, 71 RBI, 14 SB .283/.369/.448

Not bad lines to be sure and even though Hanley was limited by injuries, his production in home runs and stolen bases with shortstop eligibility keeps him on our radars. But like Troy Tulowitzki, his inability to stay healthy (124 G average last three years) gives us caution for reaching on HanRam too soon in drafts. As for Pablo Sandoval, his consistency is clouded by the fact that people want him to be a power-hitting third baseman. But since his 2011 season with 23 home runs and a career high 16% HR/FB rate, his three season since have leveled out. He has averaged 14 home runs per year over that span. His HR/FB% the last three years are 9.5, 8.3, 8.6, which are solid but not spectacular. Sandoval’s career HR/FB% is 10.3 and is buoyed by his 2009 and 2011 seasons. With about 38-million per year for the two players combined here are their three year averages to see what the Red Sox are buying:

Pablo Sandoval 3 year average: 135 G, 60 R, 14 HR, 72 RBI .280/.335/.424
Hanley Ramirez 3 year average:
124 G, 68 R, 19 HR, 73 RBI, 15 SB .299/.368/.506

Sandoval's fantasy power numbers should see a jump but do not pay for over 20 HR's
Sandoval’s power numbers should see a jump, but don’t get too excited

Whether you are a Red Sox fan or an interested fantasy owner, the biggest concern here has to be the games played per season for each player. Yes Sandoval’s games played have increased over the last three years while HanRam’s have been a yo-yo but given his propensity to streakiness, how will Panda react to the Boston media surge when he is in the throes of a slump? Ramirez should be more acclimated to the media crush after his time in Los Angeles but Red Sox Nation is nothing if not demanding. What will happen the first time Ramirez doesn’t run a ball out or is pouting about whatever he pouts about? Both players have talent and the ability to thrive in Boston if healthy.

For Sandoval, the Green Monster may become his best friend from both sides of the plate, San Francisco depresses power numbers but this is an area that should increase for Panda moving forward. Here is Sandoval’s slugging zone profile from last year:

sandoval slugging zone profile
A friend of mine asked me to research his home runs from the last three seasons in relation to Fenway and only one of his home runs would have been lost but I venture that he has more to gain in Boston. Here is his home run tracker from last year with the Fenway overlay:
Sandoval 2014
As for Hanley Ramirez, his OPS over the last three years is .874 with Miami and Los Angeles as his home ballparks. The key here is not only keeping Hanley on the field, but keeping him happy. These signings are a clear message to the rest of the American League that Boston is once again going for it in 2015. It should be fun to see what moves come next, not only for Boston but for the rest of the American League, including the East. As for their respective fantasy numbers, both should see bumps in production hitting in a potent Boston lineup. I’d be comfortable paying for a Pablo Sandoval that hits 20 homers and .285+. It’s all about the health with Hanley, when he is on the field he produces at a high level. Averaging 19 homers and 15 steals over the last three seasons in only 124 games Ramirez can be fantasy gold when active. But predicting how many games he will play is the problem. If he can play 130 games this year then Ramirez can be worth the second round price tag. But that value will drop if he loses shortstop eligibility as he moves forward unless his production in Boston across all categories sees a huge jump. Feeling lucky?

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/qPVZex (Ramirez), http://goo.gl/hhYxFA (Sandoval)

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Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Transaction Scripts: Adam LaRoche to the White Sox

LaRoche replaces Dunn in Chicago and could be in line for a career year
LaRoche replaces Adam Dunn in Chicago and could be in line for a career year

How does a new hitting environment change a slugger’s value? When it was rumored that Adam LaRoche received a two year twenty-million dollar contract I started researching his stats in case he signed. Washington is neutral in terms of ballpark effect, so it was going to be interesting to see where LaRoche would land. It’s been confirmed that he signed with the White Sox and should slot in to bat right behind Rookie of the Year Jose Abreau and ahead of Avisail Garcia. Then I followed up on Fangraphs.com to see how their ballpark effect rated the “Cell”, and saw that it was tied for third for home runs. Entering drafts in 2014, Adam LaRoche had an average draft position of 270 and was the 39th first baseman taken. At a time where fantasy owners are craving home runs, how does a player that has averaged 26 home runs over the last three years fall so far? Easy. LaRoche, while being a solid ballplayer is not sexy name. Due to our incessant pursuit of the next big thing, players like LaRoche fall below the value they provide. In fact, here is the average LaRochian season over the last three years:

Adam LaRoche last 3-year average: 140 G, 73 R, 26 HR, 92 RBI, 3 SB .259/.362/.455

His statistics are not overwhelming but you can set your watch to them. Moving to a hitter’s environment has to grow his home run numbers over 30 this year. Here is his map featuring his home runs in 2014 with an overlay of the Cell:

laroche chicago overlay
In 2014, LaRoche’s average standard distance for a home run was 396.7 feet with average speed off the bat of 103.8 MPH. Chicago used sixteen hitters in the clean-up position last year. While they were not unproductive, it does give a hint as to what Adam LaRoche’s ceiling could be:

White Sox “4” hitters 2014: 162 G, 76 R, 35 HR, 94 RBI, 4 SB .242/.307/.462

I am not going out on a limb here when I say that LaRoche will be a big upgrade over Adam Dunn. What intrigues me the most will be if LaRoche goes from under-rated to over-rated in upcoming fantasy drafts. Similar to Brian McCann moving to the American League, LaRoche will have to use the opposite field more to be successful. Teams will be shifting him to try and take hits away. Here is his spray chart from this season:

laroche spray chart 2014
My favorite is his zone profile. While you can shift a player, he really hurts mistakes middle-in and middle-low. You can shift a hitter all you want but you cannot keep the ball in the park. Inside pitches at the Cell will be souvenirs in 2015:

laroche zone profile slugging
With a look to the future I am comfortable paying for Adam LaRoche to hit 30-35 home runs and even exceed that total if he is comfortable in his adjustment to the American League and the designated position. This is also a huge signing for the White Sox to keep Jose Abreu fresh as he had leg problems last year. Adam Eaton should also see a bump in value as runs scored will be aplenty. However, this is a team that needs an upgrade in pitching and the bullpen if they wish to contend. I applaud the signing of LaRoche and this signals that the American League Central will be fun to watch. Sometimes steady can be sexy. welcome to the Chicago Adam LaRoche!

Statistical credits: ESPN.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net, Baseball-Reference.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/usnmSl

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content.

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Transaction Scripts: Billy Butler to Oakland

Country Breakfast takes his bat to Oakland for 30 million dollars.
Country Breakfast is taking his talents to the Bay Area

It’s hard to admit mistakes. I was confused when Oakland traded Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester during last season’s trade deadline since it took their best right-handed power bat out of the lineup. Having great pitching in the post-season can be a weapon but if you do not get past the play-in game it does not matter. Cespedes is under contract through the end of 2015 for nine million dollars. Presently, Jon Lester is a free agent who has no intention of staying in Oakland.

Enter Billy Butler, a free agent after Kansas City’s great run to the World Series. Those same Royals had Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas start games in the Fall Classic, which sort of underscores the theme above about Lester. It is clear that Oakland miscalculated in their attempt to win the title. In an effort to provide more balance to their lineup, they have reportedly signed Billy Butler to a three-year, thirty million dollar contract. Butler is a year younger than Cespedes, though it may not feel that way. I was surprised to find out that Butler was only 28 years young. I think this signing may speak to clubhouse presence more than ability since there are already reports surfacing about Cespedes wearing out his welcome in Boston. As for Butler, is he a good fit in Oakland?

Billy Butler 2014: 151 G, 57 R, 9 HR, 66 RBI .271/.323/.379

For an organization that has prided itself upon being ahead of the analytics game, this signing is a bit of a head scratcher. This is especially strange since Butler is coming off the worst season of his career. There are some disturbing trends over the last three years with Butler as well:

Each stat will be listed in order to reflect 2012, 2013, 2014

ISO (Isolated Power): .197, .124, .107
Average:
.313, .289, .271
wOBA (Weighted On Base Average):
.377, .345, .311
wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created):
139, 117, 97 (League average 100)
HR/FB% (Home Runs/Fly Ball):
19.9, 11.7, 6.9
SwStr% (Swinging Strike):
7.4, 6.7, 8.3

I cannot just throw a bunch of numbers at you without investigating their effects. Starting with ISO, this can be a tough statistic since many power hitters bat for low average, making their slugging minus average number appear larger. Butler has reversed the trend as he hit for his highest ISO during the 2012 season which coincided with his highest batting average. That is rare but can be seen in his HR/FB% drop which hit an all-time low in 2014. In fact, he swung at and missed more pitches but the result in his approach was fewer home runs, marking the first time since 2007 that he hit fewer than 10. Can this trend be reversed?

First I looked at his home run tracker stats from the same three seasons, focusing on his average standard distance for home runs and speed off the bat. The results were very interesting. Starting with how many home runs he hit and then the stats will follow:

Billy Butler Home Runs: 2012 – 29, 2013 – 15, 2014 – 9
Average Standard Distance:
2012 – 402.2 feet, 2013 – 394.5 feet, 2014 – 411.7 feet
Average Speed off the Bat:
2012 – 104.3 MPH, 2013 – 101.7 MPH, 2014 – 106.9 MPH

So here is the confusing part, Butler actually hit the ball further, on average, and faster in 2014 on his homers than in the two previous seasons. However, his line drive, ground ball and fly ball ratios have no crazy variances to explain what happened. I used Butler’s 2013 season and did an overlay to Oakland’s ball park to see how much of an effect the move may have on his power:

Butler 2013 HR Overlay Oakland

When he pulls the ball with power, he will have no problem. Butler would lose one in this chart to right center, but a fresh start may be what he needs. A look at his zone profile from last year suggests he was hitting the ball very well in the strike zone, especially on pitches that were middle in:

butler zone profile
Butler can hit the ball to all fields and could bounce back this year. I would have to assume that even though Oakland loves to play matchups that Butler will be their full time designated hitter while seeing spot starts at first base. His career numbers do not suggest he needs a platoon split against left-handed pitching, so this provides Oakland with flexibility:

Billy Butler vs. LHP: .314/.393/.519
Billy Butler vs. RHP: .288/.347/.424

Yes there is a drop in slugging percentage, but he is more than capable of playing every day as either the designated hitter or first baseman for the Athletics. In fact, Oakland is depending on it. This move could be a stroke of genius, getting a professional hitter and good clubhouse guy to benefit the lineup or it will end badly as they overpaid for a designated hitter at a time when cheaper options are available. As for my fantasy thoughts, I say he can hit .290 in Oakland and bounce back to his 15 home run days, but let someone else chase his 2012 season. Solid, but not spectacular. Just like a country breakfast.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net, ESPN.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/QvEwPO

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content.

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Transaction Scripts: Russell Martin to the Blue Jays

Russ Martin
Martin is much more than just an offensive threat at catcher

With the American League East being wide open as the 2015 season approaches, the Blue Jays have fired the first salvo, signing free agent catcher Russell Martin to a reported five-year eighty-two million dollar contract. This is important for a variety of reasons but since Dioner Navarro was not a complete offensive black hole, it points to the fact that the Blue Jays are looking to not only upgrade with Martin’s defense, but they covet his ability to frame pitches and command a pitching staff. One of the overlooked nuances in baseball is the ability of a catcher to not only call a game, but work with his pitching staff and steal strikes. According to BrooksBaseball.net, in 2013 alone Russell Martin was able to catch 155 extra strikes for his staff which resulted in saving 16.6 runs for the season. As it stands now, three of the five probable Blue Jay starters (Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison) are presently 22,23 and 24 years old. I understand that the Blue Jays may sign a front-line pitcher or at least one more starter to give them more experience and depth, but a veteran presence like Martin will have an impact on the young core of starting pitching that money cannot measure.

This move only enhances Martin’s fantasy value, just make sure not to overreact. The “never pay for a career year” phrase comes into play here. Thanks, Matthew Berry. Will he be moving to a better hitting environment? Yes. Are there going to be more opportunities to drive in runs and pad his counting stats? Yes. But there is a blueprint here, as Russell Martin did spend two years in the Bronx, another notorious hitter’s ballpark. As a starting point, here are the averages from his Yankee years (I did the slash lines myself for a point of reference):

Russell Martin Average Year in NY: 129 G, 54 R, 19 HR, 59 RBI, 7 SB .224/.317/.405

To be honest, Martin did struggle a bit in New York with his BABIP, so I am willing to boost his average in Toronto due to maturity as a hitter, but the other numbers above may represent his ceiling in Toronto. This is fine. Remember, this contract is as much about defense as it is offense. How good was Martin last year you ask?

Russell Martin 2014: 113 G, 45 R, 11 HR, 67 RBI, 4 SB .290/.402/.430

For his career, Martin has a slash line of .259/.354/.399. I am willing to pay for that entering 2015. Last year, Martin was able to draw more walks and cut down on the strikeout but his totally unsustainable BABIP of .336 is not coming back. The upgrade by hitting in Toronto will definitely boost his homer totals since his average standard distance in 2014 was 305.9 feet with his average speed off the bat 107.2 MPH. That is higher than Jason Heyward’s, who was profiled earlier today. Here are his home runs from last year with Toronto’s Roger Centre as an overlay:

martin toronto overlay
There have been so many fluctuations to Martin’s batting averages throughout the years. To further underscore how well he hit last year, look at his zone profile:

martin 2014 zone profile
Russell Martin hit balls in the strike zone at an unconscionable rate that he will be hard-pressed to replicate in 2015. Offense may be secondary for him this season, as he inherits a young pitching staff and will be looked at as a stabilizing force in that arena. In his first seasons with the Yankees and Pirates he batted .237 and .226 respectively. While this is not a guarantee, to invest in anything near .290 is fool’s money. I am comfortable projecting numbers very close to his Yankee days, if not a bit better due to his maturity and approach. During his two seasons with the Yankees, Martin had HR/FB% rates of 15.9 in 2011 and 19.8 in 2012. Since his career HR/FB% is 11.5, I agree that this number will progress back toward his Yankee day which should result in a boost in his power numbers to 15-19 home runs. It will be interesting to see if this move will spike his numbers in ADP or if he can remain a solid buy later in drafts. Last year, Martin was the 15th catcher drafted at pick 260 but finished as the 6th catcher on ESPN’s Player Rater. I honestly see him moving up to a point where I may wait on him but if I can get him at a solid price, I’m buying.

Statistical credits: Baseball-reference.com, ESPN.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/c6TrJY

Check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy content.

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Transaction Scripts: Heyward and Miller on the move

Can Heyward find his power in the Midwest?
Can Heyward find his power in the Midwest?

After diagnosing two trades over the weekend that may impact the prospects more than the players moved, the Braves and Cardinals consummated a trade today sending Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to St. Louis for Shelby Miller and Minor League pitcher Tyrell Jenkins. This is much more fascinating not only in terms of the fantasy implications, but it gives a glimpse into how each team will further rebuild their rosters going forward. Both Heyward and Miller could be considered disappointments relative to their ADP’s entering 2014 drafts. Shelby Miller was the 23rd starting pitcher taken on average with an ADP of 111.4 but finished 141st on the ESPN player rater for all pitchers. Similarly, Jason Heyward had an ADP of 74 and was the 24th outfielder taken in drafts entering the season but finished 40th on the Player Rater at his position. Each player has his warts as their synopses below will highlight, so their values entering 2015 will be intriguing to say the least.

Jason Heyward goes to Busch:

It’s quote the anomaly trying to figure out Jason Heyward. One of the most famous quotes from revered fantasy expert Ron Shandler is “once a player displays a skill, he owns it.” Speaking to that quote, Heyward’s 2012 season of 27 home runs and 21 stolen bases has been teasing fantasy owners for the last two years. I drank the juice this past season and jumped up to get Heyward’s blend of power and speed with the thoughts he would hit atop the Braves lineup and produce a double-double stat line. While Heyward produced the double-digits in homers and steals, it was not what was anticipated.

Jason Heyward 2014: 149 G, 74 R, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 20 SB .271/.351/.384

In terms of ballpark effects, Heyward may benefit from the move away from Atlanta (21st) in runs to Busch (4th). However, the home run factor was in Atlanta’s advantage. On a positive note, all of Heyward’s homers from last year would have made it out of Busch:

heyward home run overlay
It is difficult to predict what Heyward will do in the future. Will he grow or do we already know who he is? It appears that he has traded power for contact in his approach. Is this in relation to where he is hitting in the lineup or an overall change in his hitting philosophy? Over the last two seasons both his HR/FB% and SwStr% have been trending in the wrong direction:

Jason Heyward HR/FB %: 2012 – 16.9%, 2013 – 13%, 2014 – 6.5%
Jason Heyward SwStr%: 2012 – 11.2%, 2013 – 8.6%, 2014 – 7.6%

So he is swinging less but also hitting for less power. According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, Heyward’s average distance per home run was 394.2 feet last season with an average speed of 102.6 MPH off the bat. I find it hard to believe that he has peaked at only 25 but the Braves have decided to move him within a year of free agency. This will be a very big season to determine what Heyward’s value for fantasy is going forward. Here is Heyward’s spray chart and zone profile from 2014, one of the reasons I have not given up hope just yet:

heyward 2014 spray chart
heyward 2014 zone profile
Heyward is only one adjustment away from handling inside pitches. He should benefit greatly from new hitting coach Bill Mueller’s tutelage. I am not ready to give a forecast on his numbers for the season but if he hits second or lower in the order like fifth or sixth, we could see a return of his power. The precipitous drop in his HR/FB% from 2012 of 16.9 to last year’s 6.5% should correct some. His career HR/FB% is 13% and in line with his 2013 season. While Heyward is still a work in progress, this year may provide a buying opportunity.

Shelby Miller to the Braves:

The Braves were in obvious need of starting pitching, especially after both Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen succumbed to Tommy John surgery last year. While Alex Wood and Julio Teheran stepped up, they had to rely on veterans such as Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana to get them through the year. Since it seems like the Braves were not willing to offer Jason Heyward a long-term contract, they traded him for what they really needed. Like Heyward, Shelby Miller may have worn out his stay in St. Louis. I still remember him being banished to the bullpen during the 2013 playoffs after winning 15 games in the regular season. There have been some variances in his curve ball speeds the last two seasons but he has won 25 games during that span. While his 2014 was disappointing, he still managed to win 10 games:

Shelby Miller 2014: 32 G, 183 IP, 10 W, 127/73 K/BB, 3.74 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

On the surface, the numbers do not look terrible but in comparison to his rookie season he experienced a dramatic drop in strikeouts (169 in 2013 in 10 fewer innings). This can be attributed to his lack of third pitch. During his short career he has experimented with five different pitches but he relies on his fastball and curve 88% of the time. It is hard to throw your fastball by Major League hitters. Miller’s K/9 dropped from 8.8 in 2013 to 6.3 in 2014 along with his SwStr% dropping from 9 in 2013 to 7 last year. Unless he can develop a third pitch, these trends may continue.

It appears that he is getting more comfortable with a cutter especially against right-handed batters. In fact, his batting average against with the pitch is only .241. This will be key since hitters only produce a .234 batting average against his fastball and .231 versus his curve. The trouble lies in getting into predictable counts and putting runners on base. In 2013 Miller only allowed 57 walks but that number jumped to 73 in 2014. If Atlanta can help Miller develop a third pitch, then he will be a nice sleeper. He is one player I will be watching during Spring Training to see if he can harness that extra pitch in his arsenal. If not I will not be drafting him, even at the discount.

This trade is very interesting for both teams as sometimes all a player needs in his development is a change in scenery. The upcoming 2015 season will be very telling in both Heyward and Miller’s values going forward.

Statistical credits: Baseball-reference.com, ESPN.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/zqFkFU (Heyward), http://goo.gl/YXn77S (Miller)

Please check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy information.

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Transaction Scripts: Tommy La Stella and Arodys Vizcaino

La Stella brings his career minor league .407 OBP to the on base starved Cubbies
La Stella brings his career minor league .407 OBP to the on-base starved Cubbies

Another trade was agreed upon with the Atlanta Braves sending second baseman Tommy La Stella along with an international signing slot to the Chicago Cubs in return for Minor League pitcher Arodys Vizcaino and three international slots in return. According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, those slots result in the Braves netting 832 thousand dollars to spend on international free agents. There is immediate speculation that the Braves are trying to acquire money to negotiate for Cuban middle infielder Yoan Moncada, but that may not be the case. The middle infielder gaining the most in this trade could be second baseman Jose Peraza who slashed .339/.364/.441 in the minors last year while stealing 60 bases.

In regards to the Cubs, it may seem as though they are stockpiling middle infielders, this may be the result of trying to address other needs. Rest assured, the Cubs are far from finished in tinkering with their roster. This could be a trade that will set other moves in motion but it appears that the Cubs have liked La Stella’s ability to get on base along with his command of the strike zone. Since the Cubs finished 12th in batting average and 13th in OBP in the National League last year, batters who can help in either area are needed as their wave of young talent arrives.

La Stella moves to the Windy City:

It is worth noting that Cubs beat writer Jesse Rogers likened this trade to the Cubs acquiring Chris Coghlan last off-season. Although he did not have a starting position at the time of the deal, he played himself into one. Taking their starting pitching out of the equation, Chicago as a team slashed .243/.305/.393 last season. Also, the Cubs struck out 1,353 times against only 432 walks in 2014. To say they need to rework their approach is an understatement. Enter Tommy La Stella who in his Minor League career had only struck out 102 times against 136 walks along with a .322/.407/.474 line. Although he will still need to make some adjustments at the Major League level, his at bats are what the Cubs are interested in. Here is La Stella’s season with the Braves last year:

Tommy La Stella 2014: 93 G, 22 R, 1 HR, 31 RBI, 2 SB .251/.328/.317

Although La Stella’s slash lines are a bit disappointing, he was able to post 36 walks against 40 strikeouts with the Braves in his 93 games. He may still be a work in progress and could end up as the utility infielder but his chances to contribute are much higher in Chicago than they were in Atlanta.

Arodys Vizcaino to the Braves and opportunity for Jose Peraza:

No matter how hard I try, I feel like Arodys Vizcaino is old since his high upside arm has been ravaged by injuries through the years, thus soiling his prospect status. I had stashed Vizcaino as a dark horse for the Cubs closer job last year due to his 96 MPH fastball that has nice tailing action and movement. Pair that with his 84 MPH curve and he has a nice two-pitch combo that could play well late in games as a either a set-up man or closer. With the move to Atlanta, the set-up option seems more attainable. Since this past season marks the first time he has pitched since 2011, the bullpen is where he will be in Atlanta. For his career in the minors, Vizcaino has a 2.99 ERA along with a 1.15 WHIP, but he did struggle a bit last year:

Arodys Vizcaino 2014 Minors: 40 G, 1 W, 41 IP, 42/18 K/BB, 2.99 ERA, 1.37 WHIP

Vizcaino did get a late look in Chicago last year but in his first full year back, a little rust had to be anticipated. With Atlanta though, he could slot nicely into a bullpen that could use another arm to pair with closer Craig Kimbrel.

Jose Peraza 2014 Minors: 110G, 79 R, 2 HR, 44 RBI, 60 SB .339/.364/.441

Can Jose Peraza steal his way into fantasy owner's hearts?
Can Jose Peraza steal his way into fantasy owner’s hearts?

Atlanta stole a total of 95 bases in 2014. Peraza had two-thirds of that total by himself in the minors. I know that Billy Hamilton has provided a blueprint to not overestimate steals translating to the Major Leagues but there is much less support in Cincinnati than in Atlanta. If and when Peraza gets his chance in Atlanta, he will be hitting ahead of Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton unless other changes occur. There will be an adjustment period but keeper league players should firmly have him on their radar moving forward. A base stealing middle infielder will be a coveted commodity if Peraza can replicate his stolen base success in the Major Leagues. He is still maturing and will only be turning 21 in April of 2015. His career slash line in the minors is .306/.351/.390 and with the trade of La Stella, his chances of seeing time in Atlanta have gone up exponentially.

Statistical credits: MiLB.com, Fangraphs.com, BaseballAmerica.com, ESPN.com, Baseball-Reference.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/Ocu7hg (La Stella), http://goo.gl/eOpkjD (Peraza)

Please check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy information.

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Transaction Scripts: Hellickson to the Diamondbacks

Hellickson takes his 41% career fly ball rate to Arizona
Hellickson takes his 41% career fly ball rate to Arizona, yikes

While the trades have been quiet thus far, another minor deal has been reached. This time, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays have agreed on a trade. Former American League Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson was dealt for two minor leaguers; outfielder Justin Williams and shortstop Andrew Velasquez. This seems like a light haul for a pitcher who won 35 games over three seasons between the years of 2011-2013, but he only made 13 starts in 2014. Like the previous deals, I am more intrigued by what the Rays will do with their fifth starter position now than I am with Hellickson moving to Arizona. Why you ask?

Jeremy Hellickson moves to the Desert:

There is probably only one worse place for Hellickson and his career 41.4% fly ball rate to end up, and that is Colorado. Even though Ian Kennedy had success leaving the American League East and ending up in Arizona with a 41% fly ball rate, they are different pitchers. Kennedy has the ability to get more swings and misses with his arsenal. This will be a defining year for Hellickson, as the move to the National League usually helps pitchers, but Arizona is a hitter’s ballpark. Here are some of his career rates:

Jeremy Hellickson Career: 3.78 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 1.26 WHIP, 38.4 GB%, K/9 6.5, K/BB 2.2

For comparison’s sake, here are Ian Kennedy’s career numbers through 2014:

Ian Kennedy Career: 3.93 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 1.26 WHIP, 38 GB%, K/9 8.2, K/BB 2.9

Due to the fact that Kennedy misses more bats he was able to have some success in Arizona. Hellickson’s WHIP is not bad but in 2013 it climbed to 1.35 and in 2014 it was 1.45, not the type of trend you want with a fly ball pitcher moving to a well renowned hitter’s environment. The key to Hellickson’s success will be his changeup and sinker, which generate his two highest ground ball rates. While his changeup yields a 42% ground ball rate, the more impressive part is that batters only hit .215 against it. However, his fastball and sinker worry me in Arizona. Hellickson throws his fastball 47% of the time on average and hitters hit it at a .269 clip, but he also gives up fly balls 35% of the time while throwing it. He also throws a sinker which generates a 51% ground ball rate but only uses it 7% of the time because hitters average .319 against it. Early reports indicate that the Diamondbacks see Hellickson as their number two or three pitcher but I will be avoiding him on in fantasy.

Who gets the fifth spot in Tampa?

Will Alex Colome's 95 MPH heater help him to the 5th starter job or the 8th inning?
Will Alex Colome’s 95 MPH heater help him to the 5th starter job or the 8th inning?

Here is where I have more interest, not only because I play in a high-stakes AL-only league, but Tampa is more of a pitcher’s environment and should be an interesting team moving forward. With Joe Maddon moving to Chicago, a three way battle without any further roster moves seems to be taking shape in Tampa. Alex Colome, Nate Karns and Enny Romero should enter Spring Training with the chance to win the job. Each has their strengths, but roster flexibility may come into play since Karns and Romero have Minor League options left whereas Colome does not. However, is that enough to guarantee Colome the inside track?

Alex Colome 2014 Tampa: 5 G, 2 W, 23.3 IP, 13/10 K/BB, 2.66 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 3.85 FIP
Alex Colome 2014 A+, AAA:
7 W, 97 IP, 83/35 K/BB, 3.53 ERA, 1.30 WHIP

There is no denying that Colome has the stuff to be a starter in the Major Leagues. He features a 95 MPH fastball that he throws 55% of the time, and hitters only manage to bat .208 against it. He’s also got an 88 MPH slider and an 87 MPH changeup, but he throws them each less than 22% of the time. Two things worry me about him though: his ability to stay healthy and his propensity to put people on base. Starting with his health, the most innings that Colome has pitched in a season at any level is 157.2 back in 2011. That was three years ago. Over the last several seasons he’s logged 91.2, 86.1 and 120.2 innings, respectively. Even if he wins the job, can Colome make it 150 innings this year? My second concern is with his high walk rate. So far in just under 40 Major League innings he has 25 strikeouts against 19 walks. I understand that this is early in his career but it is hard to rely on just his fastball. Depending on how his spring goes and who the manager is may determine his role moving forward. I almost see him as a bullpen arm, maybe even in a set-up role. He would certainly help strengthen the Tampa ‘pen.

Nate Karns 2014 Tampa: 2 G, 1 W, 12 IP, 13/4 K/BB, 4.5 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 5.72 FIP
Nate Karns 2014 AAA:
9 W, 145.1 IP, 153/62 K/BB, 5.08 ERA, 1.4 WHIP

Karns does not have the electric fastball or pure stuff that Alex Colome possesses, but he does eat up innings. Karns is actually a year older than Colome and features a 94 MPH fastball, 84 MPH curve with a knuckle curve grip, a 93 MPH sinker and an 86 MPH change that he only throws 8% of the time. One of the hurdles that Karns will need to overcome is the fact that his sinker creates a 14% whiff rate but batters are hitting .423 against it. This may end up like the race of the tortoise and the hare. If Colome comes out hot and wins the job, Karns could have it for the long haul if the problems described above force Colome to struggle as the fifth starter. While I am intrigued by the flash of Colome, Karns may end up with more wins and the role in 2015.

I did research Enny Romero as well but his youth and lack of a third pitch will force him to pitch more in AAA to develop something over than his 95 MPH fastball and 83 MPH slider. In his one spot start in 2014, Romero lasted only 4.2 innings recording no strikeouts and allowing four free passes. He does posses talent in his left arm, but it will need more seasoning or he may end up in the bullpen.

Tampa Prospect Lottery:

Even though the Rays traded a player that teams knew was on the block, they still received two interesting pieces in return. Nineteen year old outfielder Justin Williams was the 52nd player taken in the 2013 draft and has some pop in his left-handed bat. Over rookie ball and low-A last year, Williams had four home runs, drove in 46 and slashed .351/.403/.467. He’ll be a player to track in Tampa.

Middle infielder Andrew Velazquez was the second player acquired. Tampa Bay covets players with versatility and Velazquez is their type of guy. Even though he is only 5’8”, he did hit nine home runs in low-A, driving in 56. He also stole 50 bases in 65 attempts, hitting .290/.367/.428. With three shortstops in their system, Velazquez was a commodity that not only the Rays needed but the Diamondbacks could afford to part with in an attempt to fortify their pitching staff.

Statistical credits: MiLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/hsJClv (Hellickson), http://goo.gl/23bNQK (Colome)

Please check out FantasyRundown.com for all of our latest articles and other great fantasy information.

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!