We’ve been hearing Johnny Cueto’s name in trade rumors since the winter and now he’s finally been moved. The Kansas City Royals acquired Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds for three minor league left-handers. Several teams had expressed interest in the 29-year-old, but there have been reports that his elbow is not completely healthy. The Royals have undoubtedly done their due diligence and looked at any medical reports on Cueto, so Fantasy owners should remain confident that he can continue to pitch at a high level.
Moving from the NL to the AL is generally thought to have a negative impact on a pitcher’s ERA and strikeout rate. However, in the case of Cueto, it’s quite possible that moving from the hitter-friendly park in Cincinnati to Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City will mitigate any negative impact. In fact, the Royals’ offense is considerably better than that of Cueto’s former team, and the additional run support can only help him. The Royals also have a far better defensive team, which should also help Cueto stay among the Top 20 pitchers in the Fantasy game.
The Royals will need to decide which current member of the starting rotation will be replaced by their new pitcher. Most likely, Chris Young, who’s success is mostly smoke and mirrors, will move to the bullpen to work in long relief. However, Yordano Ventura has struggled since returning from the DL and a short stint in the minors; he’s given up 10 runs in his last 16 innings pitched and could be sent to the bullpen to work in relief instead of Young.
The Reds will likely move Tony Cingrani into Cueto’s place in their starting rotation. Cingrani has pitched well in relief this season but has only made one start. Fantasy owners considering Cingrani should be cautious about using him. He is heavily reliant on his fastball because his secondary pitches are not very effective, and his control has been terrible. His strikeout rate (10.04 K/9) is terrific but his walk rate (6.58 BB/9) if prohibitive. Until he proves he can get hitters out with something other than his fastball, Fantasy owners should monitor him on their bench.
The three lefties that the Royals received will all be assigned to their minor league system. Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb will report to Triple-A Louisville and Cody Reed will report to Double-A Pensacola. Finnegan has some major league experience, having appeared in seven playoff games with the Royals in 2014. Finnegan could be called upon to pitch in the Reds’ rotation if Cingrani proves ineffective. The other two pitchers are not expected to make an impact in Fantasy this season.