Transaction Scripts: Evan Gattis to Houston

Evan Gattis is presently the 7th catcher taken in NFBC ADP's but that number is sure to rise with the move to Houston.
Evan Gattis is presently the 7th catcher taken in NFBC ADP’s but that number is sure to rise with the move to Houston.

News broke in the afternoon about Evan Gattis being in Houston for a physical and by late in the evening it was confirmed that he indeed was being traded by Atlanta. The Braves will receive three more prospects as they continue an interesting offseason combined with stockpiling minor leaguers and signing veteran stopgaps for the upcoming season. As will be profiled, the big winner here in fantasy terms is Evan Gattis taking his powerful swing to the short left field fence in Minute Maid Park where he will take aim on the railroad tracks. On the other end of the spectrum is Freddie Freeman whose protection has been traded to San Diego (Justin Upton) and now Evan Gattis to Houston. It will be hard to project any improvement over last year’s stats for Freddie now that the Braves are in a complete rebuild and he will not be pitched to in any big situation this season.
But this is geared to look at how Evan Gattis can fare in Houston, so I will start by letting you know that the average distance of his fly balls hit last year traveled on average 300.63 feet which ranked him eleventh in the major leagues, two spots ahead of former teammate Justin Upton. Using ESPN’s home run tracker, I made the following overlay showing what his 2014 home runs would look like in Minute Maid Park here:
Evan Gattis Astro Overlay
Observing the overlay is nice but here is a picture of Minute Maid with the dimensions displayed with the distances of the fences along with the knowledge of how far an average fly ball by Gattis travels:
Minute Maid Park with Dimensions
It also helps to take note of where Evan Gattis hits the ball. According the chart courtesy of MLBFarm.com, it is pretty clear that Gattis is a pull hitter:
Gattis hit location chart
So we can see that if and when Gattis puts the ball into play, he will have a chance to hit home runs. While the move to Houston does help his fantasy prospects for 2015, what effect will it have upon his draft or auction status? In last week’s published money NFBC drafts, Gattis was the seventh catcher drafted with an average ADP of 124.31 going one pick after Salvador Perez and one before Yadier Molina. I can see a case being made to move Gattis up to the top five in catcher rankings and I would have a hard time taking Brian McCann ahead of him. Over the past two seasons Gattis has hit 43 home runs in 213 games played. That ties him with McCann for second for catchers over this time frame and the only player they trail is Carlos Santana who will not have catcher eligibility in leagues with a 20 game minimum.
Even if Gattis maintains his 16.8 HR/AB ratio his projections have to rise in Houston. However, this is a matter of health. Last year he only played in 108 games but if he can adjust to some left field and get some at bats at designated hitter, Gattis should eclipse that number. For projections, it will be all about the at bats. With simple extrapolation 400 at bats would equate to 24 home runs, 450 to 27 and 500 to 30, but this ignores the ballpark effects. According to Fangraphs.com’s ball park effects numbers Atlanta rates as a 99 for home runs and 97 for right handed hitters. But Houston jumps to 105 for home runs and 104 for right handed batters. The ballpark alone should account for about two more home runs per jump in at bats which could move Gattis projections to 26 for 400 at bats, 29 in 450 and 32 if he could get 500 in 2015. These may be on the aggressive side of projecting but if you are paying for 24 home runs and he hits 32 then profit is generated.
It will be interesting to see if his move has any real effect on his ADP in tonight’s FSTA draft which is the first one that gives insight to how experts value players. I venture to say he will jump into the top five drafted and with people worried about Devin Mesoraco’s regression this year, Gattis could be, dare I say a top three option at his position. Here are some of his early projections:
Gattis Projections
If you are in a league that uses on base percentage, then some of Evan Gattis’ value is taken away but at a time when power hitters are in high demand, this is a relative inexpensive chance today at one. With health he and Matt Wieters are relative sleepers at this point according to ADP’s. What is nice about his projections, they sort of represent the three scenarios that Gattis could provide. CBS shows a possible peak, Steamer is where I can see him getting realistically and ZiPS shows the worst case scenario. Personally I will buy Gattis for the Steamer projection but if he jumps his home run totals into the 30-32 range, it would not be a surprise.

Braves Prospects

It would appear that the Braves were dead set upon restocking the farm system this off-season. By moving Gattis, this cements the plan and the Braves did receive three more prospects acquiring Mike Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz and Andrew Thurman. According to MiLB.com Foltynewicz moves into the second slot for Braves prospects and Rio Ruiz to number six so netting two top ten minor leaguers for a power hitter may be enough in return. Houston does have third baseman prospects still in the system so Ruiz was a player they could afford to part ways with. For fantasy purposes, Mike Foltynewicz is the most likely to appear in 2015 so I will focus on his move to Atlanta.
Moving to a better pitcher’s ballpark and the National League has to improve Foltynewicz’s fantasy stock going forward. He has a blazing fastball along with a curve and changeup as can be seen in the chart below thanks to BrooksBaseball.net:
Foltynewecz Pitch Speeds
My concern about him is can he throw enough strikes to remain a starting pitcher? The talent is there, but his career WHIP of 1.4 in the minor leagues is concerning and frustrating. Foltynewicz was able to strike out ten hitters in a game but his 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio in AAA last year is cause for concern. I can see two outcomes with Folty moving forward: a viable number four starting pitcher for the Braves or their eventual replacement for Craig Kimbrel at closer if they trade him. But the latest tweet by their beat writer Mark Bowman is a head scratcher to me:

I do not see how this Braves team as presently built can compete in 2015. As much as I like Freddie Freeman, Alex Wood, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel, that is not enough to make the Braves a playoff contender. Jim Callis likes how the Braves have rebuilt their farm system:

So why not continue doing that and build for 2016. Signing Nick Markakis and A.J. Pierzynski is not enough to replace the losses of Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis. I think the A’s last year showed that pitching is not enough to win a playoff series or one game play in. A team needs balance and not only does the Braves lack it, there is room for much improvement.
Statistical Credits:
Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN.go.com Hit Tracker, Fangraphs.com, Steamer Projections, CBSsports.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Picture Credit:
Evan Gattis pic: http://www.foxsports.com/content/dam/fsdigital/RSN/South/2014/2/14/PI-MLB-Atlanta-Braves-Evan-Gattis-021414.jpg
Greg Jewett is the senior fantasy writer for the Sports Script and you can follow him on Twitter @gjewett9

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Transaction Scripts: Andrew Miller to the Yankees

Miller time in the Big Apple as the Yankees bring in Miller and his 14.87 K/9 from 2014 to strengthen the bullpen
It’s Miller time in the Big Apple! The Yankees bring in Miller and his 14.87 ’14 K/9 to bolster their ‘pen

In any sport, when a team has a blueprint for success, the model is often repeated. While the Kansas City Royals are hardly the ideal franchise to model after, their blend of defense and bullpen strength propelled them to the seventh game of the World Series in 2014. With their ability to shorten games due to the success of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, the Royals could mix and match in the fifth or sixth inning if they needed to convert. Throughout the Yankees’ championship runs they had a strong bullpen going back to the days of Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson and the unflappable Mariano Rivera.

In 2014, David Robertson did a great job closing but with his turning down of the Yankees qualifying offer, he is presently a free agent. Along with Robertson, talented rookie Dellin Betances seemingly came out of nowhere to take over a setup role in the bullpen and was a player that Mariano Rivera took under his wing. The Yankees have reached an agreement with Andrew Miller on a 4-year 36 million dollar contract to lengthen their bullpen. That wasn’t all, the Yankees also acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius to help platoon the position with Brendan Ryan. Coincidence? Maybe.

Andrew Miller had a career year in 2014. He along with Craig Kimbrel are the only 2 pitchers in history to strikeout over 100 batters while walking fewer than 20 in 65 innings or less. Miller features a 2-pitch repertoire featuring a 95 MPH fastball and an 85 MPH slider which produced a career high swinging strike rate of 14.6% this year. It seems that Miller’s career has been on the upswing since the 2012 season, culminating in the 2014 stats and new contract:

Andrew Miller 2014: 5 W, 1 Sv, 62.1 IP, 103/17 K/BB, 2.02 ERA, 0.80 WHIP

While Miller has been on a 3-year rise statistically, his career numbers do bear some watching. I do think that he is capable of a year or two more of great strikeout numbers but there are warning signs. First, here are some interesting indicators from his last 3 years with his career numbers for reference:

Miller 2012: SwStr% 9.6, K/9 11.4, K/BB 2.55, FIP 3.17
Miller 2013: SwStr% 13.2, K/9 14.1, K/BB 2.82, FIP 3.05
Miller 2014: SwStr% 14.6, K/9 14.9, K/BB 6.1, FIP 1.51
Miller’s career: SwStr% 8.5, K/9 8.9, K/BB 1.8, FIP 4.12

So perception being what it is, it has to be the recent strikeout rates that have gotten Andrew Miller a contract of this magnitude:

With the premise that groundballs have to be fielded, Miller presents a great case for being able to strikeout batters with no regard to what side the batter hits from. Here are Miller’s splits from last season:

Miller vs. LH Batters: 26 IP, 48/5 K/BB, .161/.206/.261
Miller vs. RH Batters:
36.1 IP, 55/12 K/BB, .142/.245/.202

His heat map (courtesy of Mark Simon from ESPN) only underscores the point:

Miller heat map
Miller finished 40th on ESPN’s Player Rater but finished 6th in WAR, according to Fangraphs. How will the Yankees use their bullpen in 2015? Are there more moves on the horizon?

If New York passed on David Robertson, their bullpen construction entering the season will be something to watch. If Girardi does in fact mix and match, it will be a frustrating situation for fantasy owners. One thing is for sure, their bullpen depth can and will be used as a weapon next year.

Overlooked in the Miller buzz is not only how good Dellin Betances was in ’14, but how much he mirrored his tutor, Mariano Rivera. Their age 26 seasons are remarkably similar:

Dellin Betances 2014: 5 W, 1 Sv, 90 IP, 135/24 K/BB, 1.40 ERA, 0.78 WHIP
Mariano Rivera 1996:
8 W, 5 Sv, 107.2 IP, 130/34 K/BB, 2.09 ERA, 0.99 WHIP

Is Betances the heir apparent to the Yankees closer gig ala Rivera in 1997?
Is Betances the heir apparent to the Yankees closers role ala Rivera in 1997?

Rivera used his cutter to mow down batters but his heater and cutter were similar in speed. Dellin Betances throws a 98 MPH fastball, but his knee buckling 84 MPH curveball is one of the best in baseball. In fact, Betances struck out more batters in fewer innings with a lower WHIP and FIP in the years in comparison. At age 27, Rivera took over as the closer for the then defending champs and went on a historic run. This is not to say that Betances will be provided with a similar chance, but it is hard to ignore history.

Another factor in determining the closer may be the fact that Andrew Miller will be 30 at the onset of the 2015 season while Betances will only be 27. 3 years may not be a huge difference but as the great Eno Sarris have hints, the decline in velocity as pitchers age is hard to ignore:

Velocity by age data fangraphs

I do believe this is a solid signing by New York. However, it does come as a bit of a surprise since the Red Sox and Blue Jays are adding in big ways and Baltimore is still the class of the division until unseated. I thought there were a good chance that we would see a rebuild out of the Yankees. Ultimately, what happens with David Robertson and how the Yankees continue to reconstruct their roster may determine what Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances roles will be going forward. If 2014 has taught us anything, it is that a deep bullpen can get you a long way not only in real baseball, but in fantasy as well.

Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, ESPN.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/MgkMaq (Miller), http://goo.gl/U5BNCC (Betances), Fangraphs.com

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

2014 Fantasy Baseball Closer Rankings

MLB season is upon us and Fantasy Baseball is back and better than ever! Over the next few weeks we are planning on getting you ready for any of the upcoming Fantasy drafts that you have. This week we are sending out our initial 2014 rankings that will be updated weekly. The week after we are going to answer 5 questions about each position as well as giving you some insight into some players that we like as well. But 1st today I rank the 2014 Closers.

2014 Fantasy Baseball Closer Rankings (as of 02/24/14)

Rank Player  Team 
1 Craig Kimbrel ATL
2 Kenley Jansen LAD
3 Aroldis Chapman CIN
4 Joe Nathan  DET
5 Greg Holland KC
6 Trevor Rosenthal STL
7 Addison Reed ARI
8 Jim Johnson OAK
9 Glen Perkins MIN
10 Koji Uehara BOS
11 Rafael Soriano WAS
12 Grant Balfour TB
13 Sergio Romo SF
14 Jonathan Papelbon PHI
15 David Robertson NYY
16 Casey Janssen TOR
17 Steve Cishek MIA
18 Jason Grilli PIT
19 Hudson Street SD
20 Ernesto Frieri LAA
21 Bobby Parnell NYM
22 Fernando Rodney SEA
23 Rex Brothers COL
24 Jim Henderson MIL
25 John Axford CLE

In case you missed these, here are my Catcher Rankings (http://wp.me/p2MUTr-BY), 1st baseman (http://wp.me/p2MUTr-BZ), 2nd baseman rankings (http://wp.me/p2MUTr-C2), 3rd Baseman Rankings (http://wp.me/p2MUTr-C7), Shortstop rankings(http://wp.me/p2MUTr-Cb), Outfield rankings (http://wp.me/p2MUTr-Ch) and Starting Pitcher rankings (http://wp.me/p2MUTr-Cj).

If you have any questions about the upcoming Fantasy Baseball season make sure to hope on over to twitter and ask. You can follow me @rickygangster and I will answer any and all questions.

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