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
.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:,,,
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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, 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:,,,
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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:,,,
Photo cred: (Heyward), (Miller)

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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:,,,,
Photo cred: (La Stella), (Peraza)

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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:,,,
Photo cred: (Hellickson), (Colome)

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

The Many Shades of Joey Votto

Joey Votto

Is he the power-hitting Joey Votto? The walk-taking Joey Votto? The spray-hitting Joey Votto? Or is he the injured Joey Votto?

That’s the 64 million dollar question.

I decided to conduct a little Twitter poll the other night to see what the consensus was amongst industry gamers. Are they expecting a rebound out of the first baseman in 2015 or are they projecting continued decline?

I got a wide range of projections. Some were concerned with his power drop-off after belting 37 home runs in 2010. There were great fluctuations in projected batting average from those who chose to reply. That caught me off guard. Others seem to have no doubt that Votto will jump right back to near-elite status next season.

After averaging out all the responses, here’s what I got:

Votto 2015 (projected): .291 BA, 20.5 HR, 83 RBI, 4 SB

The first baseman turned 31 in September, meaning he is still in the prime of his career. Plus, his horrid 2014 was a product of a quad/knee injury that sapped his ability to drive the ball, limiting him to just 62 games. I’m comfortable calling last season an outlier, obviously. Assuming health (and I know that’s sometimes asking a lot), I think Votto bounces back in 2015, but to what degree?

Votto has a .310 career batting average, and until 2013 he had never hit below .297 in a season. His .299 BABIP last year was by far a career low, likely a product of his lower body woes. I fully expect the batting average to rebound from the .255 mark he recorded in 2014, and no one should be shocked if it gets close to or exceeds his career number.

His power output has been the topic of discussion regarding his fantasy value ever since his MVP-caliber 2010 when he swatted 37 long balls. Although that is unlikely to ever occur again (he had a 25% HR/FB in 2010), Votto can still be a solid power source in a league that lacks muscle. Votto just wasn’t ever right last year, and it almost completely destroyed his power stroke. To put this into perspective, Votto finished in the top 30 in average fly ball distance every season since becoming a full time starter (2008) with the exception of 2013 and last year. In 2013, he finished 37th. In 2014, he failed to finish in the top 300. That’s right, Joey Votto was bested in average fly ball distance by the likes of Ben Revere, Elvis Andrus and Emilio Bonifacio. Yikes!

On the stolen base front, I got responses as high as 7. I doubt we see him swipe that many though. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him yield almost entirely on the base-paths. After stealing 16 bags in 2010, he has recorded 8, 5, 6 and 1 since. In fact, Votto’s career success rate is an even 50%. Not only is he hurting the Reds by only having success half the time, I expect Cincinnati’s coaching staff to give him the red light quite a bit in favor of keeping his lower body fresh. In splitting hairs, the handful of stolen bases that Votto used to provide would sometimes be the difference in selecting him over one of the other capable hitters at his position. I wouldn’t expect much, if anything out of Votto on the thievery front in 2015.

Run production numbers are of course difficult to predict, but Votto hasn’t driven in more than 73 runs since 2011. Losing Sin-Shoo Choo after the 2013 season to free agency was a big blow to an already declining Reds lineup. Sure, Billy Hamilton steals a lot of bases but his sub-.300 OBP leave a lot to be desired. If they don’t bring in some more table-setting talent or teach Billy how to take a pitch, their run production numbers as a team will continue to be an issue. Another detriment to Votto’s RBI numbers is his plate discipline. The patience he displays at the plate is freakish, which limits his upside to drive in runs. If he’s walking every fourth time, how’s he supposed to drive Zack Cozart home from third?

See what I did there? We all know Zack Cozart has never been as far as third!

In leagues that count on base percentage, Votto is a God. Even on one leg the slugger racked up 47 walks in just 69 games a year ago. Votto regularly sports on base marks in the low-to-mid 400′s. I expect that trend to continue in 2015. One of the reasons he is able to maintain such a high batting average year in and year out is his ability to lay off tough pitches. The more pitches you see, the better chance the pitcher makes a mistake. Votto forces a lot of mistakes.

Many owners will be scared off by Votto’s down 2014 which should make him considerably cheaper on draft day than he would have been otherwise. I’m pretty sure I talked myself into him over the course of writing this column.

My 2015 Votto projection: .307 BA, 22 HR, 71 RBI, 1 SB

Statistical credits:,,,
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Timothy is a co-owner, head editor and sometimes writer at The Sports script. Follow him on Twitter @TKing978!

Transaction Scripts: Blue Jays and Tigers Prospect Swap

In competitive fantasy leagues, deals that benefit both teams can be rare. Enter the Blue Jays and the Tigers. On Tuesday they agreed to a trade of prospects, with Tigers top ranked minor leaguer Devon Travis going to Toronto for Anthony Gose. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a major trade and it may not turn out to be. Keith Law’s Twitter take on the trade was less than inspiring:

With apologies, this trade does have some impact, since the Blue Jays have been looking for a second baseman for about as long as the Tigers have been searching for a closer. This deal gives Devon Travis a chance to play in the Major Leagues. Staying in Detroit would have meant staying behind Ian Kinsler on the depth chart and Travis was taking reps in center field in order to get an opportunity to make the team. On the Detroit side of this, with the loss of Torii Hunter to free agency they had an opening in center field. With Rajai Davis not being capable, they needed a player to fill that void following the trade of Austin Jackson to Seattle. This is a team that is built to win now and needed a center fielder that is defensively ready. Lastly, this speeds up the timetable for Blue Jays prospect Dalton Pompey, who debuted for Toronto this year. In fairness to Anthony Gose and Devon Travis, it will be Pompey’s chance to play in Toronto that is the most enticing for fantasy owners in 2015 and beyond.

Here is a synopsis of each player affected by this trade and what it means for their fantasy value moving forward:

Anthony Gose moves to Motown:

Anthony Gose AAA 2014: 51 G, 29 R, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 21 SB .244/.305/.346
Anthony Gose Toronto 2014:
94 G, 31 R, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 15 SB .226/.311/.293

What we know about Anthony Gose is that he is fast. While a player cannot steal first base, if he can get there he has the ability to put himself into scoring position given that opportunity. Last year Gose was able to steal 36 bases combined between AAA and Toronto. What is disturbing though is his lack of ability to get on base. This is important for fantasy purposes, as Gose will probably project to bat 9th for the Tigers since his on base percentage in AAA was .305 and .311 in Toronto. Gose will be able to get teams cheap steals but his lack of power and invaluable spot in the lineup should inhibit his impact. His counting stats will likely stay low given the fact that he will see fewer reps. However, the Tigers acquired him to play defense. When he gets on base he will be asked to create runs. Because of this, Gose is only relevant to deep league and AL-only owners due to the limits on his upside. He’ll good for some discounted speed and that’s about where it ends.

Devon Travis and Dalton Pompey get new life up North:

Here is a list of the players who played 2B for Toronto in 2014: Jonathan Diaz, Chris Getz, Ryan Goins, Maicer Izturis, Munenori Kawasaki, Brett Lawrie and Steve Tolleson. In a word or two, not pretty. With the presence of Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey, the Blue Jays made this trade from a position of surplus. Anthony Gose was not someone the Blue Jays were high on and to say Devon Travis has a chance to be an upgrade at 2B for the Toronto organization is an understatement. Below is the aggregate statistics for the Blue Jay second baseman in 2014:

Blue Jay 2B 2014: 162 G, 52 R, 7 HR, 48 RBI, 4 SB .247/.295/.340

For comparison’s sake, here is Devon Travis’ season at AA for the Tigers:

Devon Travis AA 2014: 100 G, 68 R, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 16 SB .298/.358/.460

Even given the fact that Travis’ numbers in Toronto will suffer from growing pains, it gives the Blue Jays a chance for an upgrade at a minimal cost. Not only is Travis popular with his former managers, his teammates like him more. It is doubtful that Travis will be more than an AL-only 2B for 2015, but what many prospects need and never get is the chance. With the move to a better hitter’s environment and the opportunity to play in the Majors, Devon Travis could not ask for a better fit in this trade.

As you may have inferred from the introduction, what intrigues me the most is what happens in Toronto’s outfield. Right now, Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera are free agents. It will be interesting to see how the Blue Jays approach their off-season in regards to further acquisitions. Today, this opens an opportunity for Dalton Pompey to play himself onto the Major League roster with a strong spring showing. At the least, it should provide him with an opportunity to be a call-up following the Super 2 date next year. Unlike Anthony Gose though, Pompey has a better ability to get on base as can be seen with his slash lines from this year across three levels of the Minor Leagues:

Dalton Pompey Minors 2014: 113 G, 84 R, 9 HR, 51 RBI, 43 SB .317/.392/.469
Dalton Pompey Majors 2014:
17 G, 5 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB .231/.302/.436
Dalton Pompey AFL 2014:
19 G, 7 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 9 SB .257/.358/.371

While this is not a perfect resume, it bears noticing how much speed Pompey has and he will only turn 22 in December. Scouts have only given him an average rating for power and hitting but he has overachieved at each level. Some seasoning in AAA may make sense for him but he definitely has to be in the conversation to make the Blue Jays Opening Day roster. Players who can steal 40 or more bases automatically gain the attention of fantasy owners and due to his better on base and slugging percentages, I think he is more valuable to fantasy players than Gose. Pompey may not have mixed league interest early in the season but as it progresses he may be a hot pickup, especially upon his promotion if he does not debut again in Toronto until June or July.

Even though the trade was sort of dismissed, there are fantasy implications worth noting. Though most of the impact will be for fantasy players in deeper or AL-only leagues, knowledge of what each player can offer and their opportunity to play is a key. Anthony Gose will provide steals but not much else, Devon Travis could be a very nice cheap middle infield option in AL-only and Dalton Pompey could be mixed league relevant by July.

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

Transaction Scripts: Chris Young and Allen Craig

Bias is a not-so-funny word in society but it can creep into our fantasy sport tendencies. Players have a great year then struggle and whether the statistics can predict it or not. But to make sense of why a player’s production drops, if we as an owner were burned by a player, they fall of the radar. For starters, here are some blind profiles from outfielders in 2014:

CB Young's value is pointing up? What kind of world are we living in....
Chris Young’s value is pointing up. What kind of world are we living in?

Player A: 135 G, 68 R, 19 HR, 81 RBI, 11 SB .266/.324/.453
Player B: 126 G, 41 R, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 2 SB .215/.279/.315
Player C: 144 G, 47 R, 10 HR, 63 RBI, 7 SB .235/.285/.349
Player D: 123 G, 64 R, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 15 SB .244/.319/.378
Player E: 111 G, 40 R, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 8 SB .222/.299/.385

This comparison is not alarming (yet) by looking at the above numbers. It is clear that Player A would be the preferred one to own in this scenario until you see the price tag. But only one of the blind profiles did not possess an ADP below 110 this year. Injuries can wreak havoc on fantasy rosters but identifying players to avoid in the off-season can alleviate some of these problems. Player A did have some hot streaks but the questions about his health and rebound from controversy made him a player I avoided this year. In the same boat was Player B, who I did not draft either but the tail in his production was severe. Many hyped Players C and D entering the season but their price tags in drafts did not allow me to own them either. I have owned Player E before but his situation entering the season made him another one that I tried to avoid if possible. Before we delve into a nice comparison for 2015, here is each player with their respective ADP entering this year’s drafts:

Player A: Ryan Braun (11)
Player B: Allen Craig (57)
Player C: Dominic Brown (109)
Player D: Desmond Jennings (97)
Player E: Chris Young (NA)

How do you feel about each player now? Since Allen Craig and Chris Young will both play in the American League in 2015 and are only a year apart in age, I thought comparing the two would not only be fun, but could help determine who I would rather have late in drafts or in an AL-only format. Each player has had a very good career in the Major Leagues but seem to be on different paths. I am willing to bet that Allen Craig will be on many bounce back lists entering 2015 draft season but is he worth the risk? On the flip side, I am betting that people will say not to buy into the mirage that was Chris Young’s small sample size in the Bronx. It will be pointed out that Craig has a career slash line of .282/.337/.445 while Young’s is only .234/.313/427. As pure hitters, this is not a fair fight, but this is fantasy and owners want stats not career averages. So allow me to compare their 2014 seasons:

Chris Young: 111 G, 40 R, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 8 SB .222/.299/.385
Allen Craig:
126 G, 41 R, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 2 SB .215/.279/.315

I understand that Allen Craig was battling injuries all season but this is a three year decline in which he cannot blame on playing in Oakland and Citi Field as contributing factors like Chris Young can. But it is deeper than that. Here is a look at some of their peripheral statistics:

Allen Craig 2012: HR/FB% – 17.1, FB% – 33.3, SwStr% – 6.9
Allen Craig 2013: HR/FB% – 11.2, FB% – 11.2, SwStr% – 8
Allen Craig 2014: HR/FB% – 9.2, FB% – 24.9, SwStr% – 8.3

Chris Young 2012: HR/FB% – 12.1, FB% – 47.2, SwStr% – 7.3
Chris Young 2013: HR/FB% – 10, FB% – 49.8, SwStr% – 9.9
Chris Young 2014: HR/FB% – 8.3, FB% – 51.6, SwStr% – 8.4

So Allen Craig is trending down in fly balls, home runs per fly ball and his swinging strike rate is rising each of the last three seasons. In this same time Chris Young has seen a similar drop in home runs per fly ball rate but an increase in his fly ball rates each of the last three years and a drop in swinging strike percentage as well. With Young playing half of his home games in the bandbox in the Bronx, this has to have a positive effect upon his potential home run production in 2015. I can see a rebound in Craig’s average, runs and RBI playing in Boston, but will he ever hit 20 or more home runs again in a season? After his 22 dingers in 2012 he has hit a combined 21 the last two years. Returning from a foot injury does not suggest he will be stealing bases either. As much of a drain as Young can be on a team’s batting average, when he plays well, he can contribute across the other four fantasy categories. In fifteen fewer games last year Young only had one fewer run, three more home runs, eight fewer RBI and six more steals.

Staying with the theme, in an AL-only format some owners will be deciding between these two players when rounding out a roster. Due to his high ADP last year, Allen Craig will still figure into mixed leagues as well though I would be very wary to add him to my roster. Here is each of their respective stats during their brief stints in the American League last year:

Allen Craig in Boston: 29 G, 7 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB .128/.234/.191
Chris Young as a Yankee:
23 G, 9 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB .282/.354/.385

In no way shape or form am I suggesting that Young can maintain the slash lines he displayed in his Yankee debut, but if I had to gamble on which of these two players will be more valuable to fantasy players in 2015 I am taking Young over Craig. In fact, as much as I agree with the Mets signing Michael Cuddyer for their team chemistry and lineup needs, the Yankees paying 2.5 million for Young is actually a bargain and I think he could even provide more home runs and steals than Cuddyer. Statistics are a fun way to compare players and try to predict outcomes. Young was a bad fit at Citi Field and Cuddyer will be a much better Met than he was, but this is about numbers in fantasy. For 2015 I will take Young over both Cuddyer and Craig, especially at the price, which will be cheap on draft day.

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

Transaction Scripts: Michael Cuddyer

According to the dictionary, the definition of a perfect storm is as follows: a particularly bad or critical state of affairs, arising from a number of negative and unpredictable factors.

Cuddyer returns to New York to team up with good friend David Wright
Cuddyer returns to New York to team up with good friend David Wright

Anyone who watched the Mets offense last year is aware of the critical state of affairs, but there were predictable factors. In 2014 the Mets finished below the National League average in slash lines with a .239/.308/.364 showing. Their 629 runs finished 8th, 125 home runs 9th, 1,994 total bases 12th and their team OPS of .673 was ranked 11th. However, a winning blueprint has been established in baseball of late. Develop strong pitching, improve on offense and peak at the end of the season. If all that is done, it is anyone’s game. This is why the Mets have signed Michael Cuddyer to a two-year deal.

New York’s pursuit of Cuddyer can’t hurt. He’s a professional hitter who should help lengthen a weak lineup. Cuddyer can play some first base, too, which should help when they face tough left-handers. Cuddyer will probably miss some time, which is an obvious caveat, as he’s averaged under 94 gamers per season over the past three. When healthy though, the Norfolk, VA native has been a threat. He’s produced well in that cool Rocky Mountain air over the past three seasons.

Michael Cuddyer last 3 seasons: 159 R, 46 HR, 173 RBI, 21 SB, .307/.362/.525

Not reflected in the cumulative stats is the fact that his OPS (.886) and wRC+ (127) are numbers that the Mets front office craved. The nice thing about wRC+ (weighted Runs Created) is that it makes the stats even no matter where the player plays his home games. Over the last three years only six right fielders are ahead of Cuddyer in wRC+; Yasiel Puig, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Bautista, Jayson Werth, Ryan Braun and Shin-Soo Choo. Cuddyer is ahead of fellow free agents Nelson Cruz and Torii Hunter along with Justin Upton and Hunter Pence. Will the move to Citi Field have an effect on Cuddyer’s power numbers? It absolutely will.

His career home/road splits reflect that:

Cuddyer career at home: .297/.366/.509, OPS – 875, wRC+ 128
Cuddyer career on the road:
.262/.328/.426, OPS – 754, wRC+ 100

It is very difficult to quantify what the change in ballparks will do to a hitter but I did take a look at the new dimensions of Citi Field and tried to do a park overlay using Cuddyer’s 2013 season. What these charts do not take into account is how differently the ball will travel in New York as opposed to Colorado. First, here are the new dimensions at Citi Field:
new citi park dimensions

Here is the park overlay with the old Citi Field dimensions and Cuddyer’s 2013 season:
cuddyer 2013 overlay

What we do know is that Cuddyer’s career slash line is .279/.347/.466, and he is a gamble the Mets were clearly willing to make. If the Mets could get that for a full season, they would be very happy. Entering the season at age 36, the two-year window should not be too hard for the Mets to make good on with their investment. If Cuddyer can get 480+ at bats, then the Mets with some more moves can make a run at the playoffs if their young arms hold together. However, this is just the first in what may be a flurry of moves for the run-starved Metropolitans. It will be interesting to see what they do with Daniel Murphy, Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera. One of them is bound to be moved for an upgrade at shortstop.

Some are blasting the Mets for this contract but it may work out. Losing the 15th pick in the upcoming draft is tough but the trade market may have been much more costly to the Mets farm system that is ranked as high as fourth by Keith Law of ESPN.

Using 480 plate appearances as a high-water mark for the upcoming season, Cuddyer’s last three seasons portend the following stat line:

Cuddyer’s projected 2015: 67 Runs, 19 HR, 75 RBI, 9 SB, .279/.347/.466

That is not a sexy line by any stretch, but one that the Mets would probably be pleased with. They tried to achieve this with Chris Young last year, but no dice. Michael Cuddyer has a much more established track record to rely on. With the perfect storm on the horizon, it is a calculated risk the Mets decided they wanted to take. Knowing that the above projected line is for Coors though, I think that the numbers above are too high. Since that would be a peak projection, I would pay for 15 home runs and 7 steals. Anything more is gravy. Cuddyer’s move to New York is better for him as a ballplayer looking to make one more run at the playoffs than as a boon to his career statistics or fantasy prospects. Just do not totally forget him on draft day.

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