HOT STOVE HEAT CHECK

Tim McCullough, Managing Editor December 17, 2012

The Hot Stove threw off a ton of heat this past week, as there were several significant player signings and yet another blockbuster trade, this one involving three teams. We’ll take a look at that deal, which had implications for at least one ballclub that wasn’t involved with the trade, and we’ll review a bunch of the signings. There are still plenty of free agents out there, and many teams still have significant holes to fill on their rosters; so stay tuned to RotoExperts on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, TuneIn Radio, BlogTalkRadio and RotoExperts.com for the very latest news.

Reds, D’Backs and Indians Exchange Nine Players

This was a three team deal involving nine players, of which only two are prospects, namely RHP Trevor Bauer and SS Didi Gregorius. The others involved are OF Drew Stubbs, RHP Matt Albers, RHP Bryan Shaw, LHP Tony Sipp, 1B Lars Anderson, OF Shin-Soo Choo and 2B Jason Donald. Let’s break it down by team acquisition.

Cincinnati Reds – This deal addresses a major problem with the Reds lineup from last season – nobody at the top of the order who can get on base. Either Zack Cozart or Stubbs were there for most of the season, until Dusty Baker realized their combined OBP was a measly .254 and finally started using Brandon Phillips as his leadoff hitter. The acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo and his career .381 OBP should go a long way towards increasing the team’s run production, which was below the NL and MLB average.

Choo was fully healthy in 2012 for the first time since 2010, though he has yet to fully regain his power stroke. The move to The Great American Small Park should help Choo’s HR totals spike into the twenties again. He should also be able to steal his share of bases and score 100 or more runs given that he’ll be hitting in front of Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwig, the Reds formidable heart of the order. The 2013 season should see Choo’s production bounce back closer to his 2009-2010 breakout seasons.

Jason Donald is a BABIP dependent hitter because of his complete lack of patience at the plate. He sported a walk rate of just 3.7 percent while striking out almost 30 percent of the time. If the Reds don’t send him to the minors he will likely spend the majority of his time riding the pine. Donald isn’t likely to have much Fantasy value in 2013.

At least one other player is affected by the signing of Choo, minor league SS turned OF Billy Hamilton. You know, he’s the guy who played through three levels of the minors while swiping 165 bases. With the Reds outfield now stocked with experienced major leaguers, Hamilton and his lightning speed are likely on hold until 2014. Also, Choo is not a traditional center fielder, so the Reds will have to decide whether to use Bruce there or give their new acquisition a shot at it. Of course, there could be another deal in the offing, but that’s probably the least likely scenario.

Arizona Diamondbacks – It’s no secret that Arizona GM Kevin Towers coveted a shiny new shortstop after giving up on Stephen Drew, who was traded away to Oakland during the 2012 season. During the Winter Meetings there were numerous rumors about three or four team deals, perhaps involving the Rangers sending either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar to the Diamondbacks. After those deals went up in so much Hot Stove smoke, Towers started looking at deals elsewhere, including one that involved Detroit’s Jhonny Peralta. However, Towers ended up getting SS Didi Gregorius from the Reds along with lefty reliever Tony Sipp and 1B Lars Anderson.

Unfortunately, Gregorius is hardly a replacement for Drew; he’s a prototypical good-glove, no-hit type with little or no power and underdeveloped plate discipline skills. He is just 22 years old, so he has at least one year of minor league development ahead and probably more. That means the Diamondbacks are looking at another season of Cliff Pennington and/or Willie Bloomquist at short.

Tony Sipp’s resume is spotty at best. He racks up decent strikeout totals, but walks close to four batters per nine innings and coughs up the long ball far too often. He’s a fly ball pitcher moving to a HR-friendly park. If Towers didn’t have such a fantastic reputation for finding bullpen talent, I’d be more inclined to say he goofed with this acquisition. I do know this much – Sipp isn’t closer material, so there won’t be much Fantasy value to speak of, if any.

Lars Anderson is a product of the Red Sox organization who is well past the point of being a prospect. The Sox were never impressed enough with Anderson to give him more than a cup of coffee with the big club, so he spent several seasons in Triple-A where he regressed more than anything else. At one time he was thought to be the future at first base. Since the Diamondbacks have a budding basher in Paul Goldschmidt at first, Anderson will do well to get a spot on the bench if he even makes the team.

Cleveland Indians – If RHP Trevor Bauer can regain the luster he once had as one of the top prospects in the Arizona organization, the Indians just might have gotten the better end of this deal. Bauer’s Major League debut in 2012 was forgettable, and there are questions about his work ethic, makeup and the repeatability of his delivery mechanics. Other than that he’s great. Ahem… The bottom line is that he has solid stuff, including a fastball around 93 mph, a devastating curve and a plus slider. He needs more seasoning and may need to change his attitude and work ethic before he sees success in the Majors. We’ll have to wait and see how he adjusts to the AL and how he performs before we’ll know what his Fantasy value will be. Consider him an end game pick in all Fantasy formats in this spring’s drafts.

Neither Albers nor Shaw profile as closers, as neither strikes out many batters. Albers has control problems and Shaw is very hittable at times, so neither is likely to have any Fantasy value. Stubbs has very good speed and could hit for power at one time, but 2012 was his fourth year of declining numbers, not an encouraging sign for a 28-year-old player. If the Indians coaching staff can help him regain his stroke, he still has the skills to do some damage. He’ll have some value in AL-only play due to his speed, but he’s a replacement type of hitter in mixed leagues.

Signings Galore and Another Trade

Mark Reynolds brings his homers, walks and (mostly) whiffs to Cleveland. Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Mark Reynolds – The Cleveland Indians added some thump to their lineup, signing Reynolds to take over at first base. Reynolds is a batting average nightmare for Fantasy owners, as he hasn’t batted better than .221 for three straight seasons. Part of his problem has been a very unlucky sub-.285 BABIP over that time period, but the fact is that he is probably one of MLB’s biggest “three true outcomes” hitters (HR, K, BB). Expect more of the same from Reynolds, as he is unlikely to see a sudden spike in BABIP that will help his batting average. As long as you plan your Fantasy roster wisely to account for that, his power will provide plenty of counting stats for you.

Brandon McCarthy – Arizona needed a starting pitcher to give them innings until Daniel Hudson returns from Tommy John surgery and McCarthy is a good candidate for that job. However, he is probably a better baseball pitcher than Fantasy pitcher. While he still has very good control and doesn’t give up many home runs, his strikeout totals have dropped below six per nine innings and his shoulder has limited his starts every single year. If he can stay healthy, he’ll have some NL-only value, but mixed league players should consider him more of an end game speculation pick.

Michael Young – The Phillies traded away a couple of low level prospects to acquire Young to fill their desperate need for a third baseman. Make no mistake; this was a desperation play because the free agent market at third base is practically non-existent. Young has been declining for three seasons, his bat slowing down and his power draining away with his youth (he’ll be 37 in 2013). Still, the Phillies are making a $6M bet that Young can regain some of what he’s lost and give them one more season to find a different solution. Fantasy players will essentially be taking the same gamble if they draft Young, but there are worse options at the hot corner and Young will also be eligible at first base, which might prove useful.

Kevin Youkilis – Like the Phillies, the Yankees needed a third baseman, but for a different reason. Since Alex Rodriguez is likely gone for at least half the season, the Yankees decided to drive a stake in the heart of Red Sox Nation by signing Youkilis. Unfortunately, Youkilis is also a hitter that has lost bat speed and seen his power diminish over that last few seasons. There was a ray of hope during the second half of 2012 that Youkilis was perhaps feeling better after a couple of seasons of fighting a number of nagging injuries. He hit most of his 19 home runs last season after the trade to the Chicago White Sox, though his batting average remained well below his career .283 mark. His days as one of the Top 10 third basemen are likely over, but he’ll still have plenty of Fantasy value as a Yankee in all Fantasy formats.

Anibal Sanchez – If you take a close look at career numbers, you’ll see that in some key metrics Sanchez compares very favorably with Zack Greinke.

ERA K/9 IP HR/9 IP H/9
Zack Greinke 3.77 8.03 0.90 8.94
Anibal Sanchez 3.75 7.59 0.82 8.80

Oddly enough, despite some excellent skill metrics, Sanchez has a 48-51 career record. He’s had several injury shortened campaigns and a couple of hard luck seasons in which he pitched well but didn’t get good run support. I expect that to change over a full season with the Tigers and their prolific run scoring lineup. Fantasy owners in all formats can look forward to a very productive season from Sanchez in 2013, with a good possibility that he pitches his way into the Top 10 among AL starting pitchers.

Josh Hamilton – I could have expended a ton of ink about this signing, but so much has been written about the risks associated with Hamilton, as well as the rewards of having him in the lineup (in baseball and in Fantasy). The addition of Hamilton to the Angels lineup gives them a modern day murderer’s row that will damage many a pitcher’s ERA in 2013. Not only will Hamilton have value comparable to his past seasons, but his presence elevates the Fantasy value of everyone else in that lineup from top to bottom. If you ever have a doubt about which player to choose at a particular position in your draft, take the one that plays for the Angels.

Sources:

Fangraphs.com

Baseball_Reference.com

Twitter

Tim McCullough is the Assistant Editor for RotoExperts.com. Questions, comments and requests are welcome. Contact Tim at tim.m@rotoexperts.com

Follow me on Twitter @ TimM_RotoExpert

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