With the trade deadline approaching at the end of the month, contending teams are looking to do some wheeling and some dealing with the sellers who are out of playoff contention. On Thursday, there were a couple of trades, and right now we’ll examine one of them and how it might impact the fantasy world.
The Houston Astros acquired left-handed starting pitcher Scott Kazmir from the Oakland A’s in exchange for two low level prospects, catcher Jacob Nottingham and pitcher Daniel Mengden. Kazmir grew up in Houston, so this is a nice homecoming for him and should give the Astros a nice opportunity to re-sign him once he becomes a free agent at season’s end. Kazmir has done very well this season for the A’s going 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 101 K/35 BB in 109.2 IP.
Kazmir has done exceptionally well at home in Oakland this season with a 1.36 ERA, so it is possible that there may be some regression in his numbers upon joining the Astros to pitch in a more hitter friendly home park. But whatever possible regression he might see pitching his home games in Minute Maid Park could be negated by pitching for a winning team where he should have a much better opportunity to post better than a .500 win-loss record.
The result of the trade for the A’s starting rotation could mean that left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who started in place of Kazmir on Thursday, could be rejoining the starting rotation on a permanent basis. Pomeranz did pretty well in 10 starts for the A’s in 2014, so with a strong showing in Spring Training he earned a spot in the A’s rotation to begin the season. He made 8 starts to post a 4.40 ERA and 1.65 WHIP before being removed from the rotation and sent to the bullpen.
With primarily being a fastball/curveball pitcher with no second offspeed offering, Pomeranz might not be destined for success as a starting pitcher because starting pitchers generally need more than just two types of pitches to be effective for more than just one or two innings. And it shows with Pomeranz in the fact that in his career as a starting pitcher, he has a 4.60 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, but as a relief pitcher he had a 1.38 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. Furthermore, as a starting pitcher when he faces a batter for the first time in a game he has allowed a triple slash of .256/.323/.365, but in the 2nd and 3rd times that he has faced batters in a game he has allowed a triple slash of .252/.348/.432. So after the first time through the lineup, he lets a lot more guys on base and gives up many more extra base hits.
I had some decent hopes for Pomeranz coming into the season if he was able to develop a changeup, but he just hasn’t done so and I will have my reservations about Pomeranz as a starter going forward. But the A’s should give him a look as a starter again and encourage him to develop another offspeed pitch.
From the Astros standpoint, Kazmir will slot into their rotation alongside Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and Lance McCullers, and it should result in either veteran Scott Feldman being moved to the bullpen to be used as a long reliever, or rookie Vincent Velasquez being sent down to the Minors. From a fantasy perspective, Feldman offers zero appeal so it would be much more attractive if Velasquez remains in the rotation and it would probably give the Astros their best chance of winning games. Velasquez currently has a 4.03 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with 38 K/14 BB in 38 IP over 7 starts since being promoted to the Majors. He’s got some very nice upside as a high strikeout pitcher and has done well enough so far to keep his spot, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Let’s check out the rest of Thursday’s action.
Manny Machado – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Machado hit a home run on Thursday and he is now batting .297 with 21 HR, 51 RBI, 59 R, and 14 SB. He’s grown up really quickly to become a 5-category fantasy stud.
Chris Davis – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K. Davis now is up to 21 HR on the season and it could be more, but he has been robbed of 3 home runs in July. His power stroke has definitely been on much better display this season after being a letdown last season, but he’ll continue to be a liability in the AVG department (.238 AVG) because of the strikeouts (31.0 K%) and the fact that he is pulling the ball at a career high rate of 54.6%, which is not going to help him beat the shift too often.
Ubaldo Jimenez – 2.1 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 2 K with the L. Ubaldo has now gotten bombed in two straight starts as things have quickly begun to trend in a horrible direction. His BABIP has creeped up to a high .321 mark as he has all of a sudden began to give up a slew of line drives. He now has one of the 5 highest line drive rates in all of baseball, but he will have a decent chance to improve when he faces a worse Braves offense in his next start.
Jacoby Ellsbury – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R. Ellsbury hadn’t been really doing very well since returning from the DL, but with a big game on Thursday he might be able to fall into some sort of rhythm. His overall line though is very nice for the amount of games he has appeared in: .308 AVG, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 36 R, and 14 SB in 48 games this season.
Masahiro Tanaka – 7.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W. Tanaka has had a real issue giving up the gopher ball this season and he allowed 3 more on Thursday. Luckily they were all solo shots, but his home park is really doing him no favors as 11 of his 15 HR allowed have come at Yankee Stadium. His BABIP is also sitting pretty low at .234 despite a batted ball profile and a defense that doesn’t really support that number. If he keeps giving up home runs at this rate and he gets slapped with some BABIP regression, then things could turn south for Tanaka.
David Price – 8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. With trade rumors surrounding him, Price went out and pitched a nice game against the Mariners and how has a 2.31 ERA, 1.09 ERA, and 134 K/27 BB in 140 IP. If he does get traded, his fantasy value is not likely to change much wherever he goes.
Kyle Seager – 2 for 6, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. The left-handed hitting Seager hit a homer and a double off the left-handed throwing David Price on Thursday, and Seager has seemingly made some very nice adjustments against left-handed pitching this season. With the strong day on Thursday, Seager is now hitting .316 with 6 HR in 98 AB (1 HR every 16.3 AB) against lefties this year after coming into the season with a career .238 AVG with 21 HR in 707 AB (1 HR every 33.7 AB) against lefties. Overall, it hasn’t resulted in better numbers, but it’s still a great sight nonetheless.
Hisashi Iwakuma – 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K. Iwakuma has done pretty decently in 4 starts since returning from the DL. It was really only that initial start that was a clunker. At 34 years of age and a couple lengthy DL stints in the last two seasons now, he is a bit of an injury risk, but he has the capability to post quality numbers the rest of the way if he can limit the long ball. However, for comparison sake, he and Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs appear to be very similar and Hendricks can be found on the waiver wire in many leagues.
Ervin Santana – 8 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W. Santana was pretty brilliant against one of his former teams, the Angels, on Thursday. He’s now fired off two scoreless outings in a row to bring his ERA to 2.60 and WHIP to 0.98 in 4 starts after he got a late start to the season with a banned substance suspension. I wouldn’t go too crazy over him, but he’s a decent play.
Garrett Richards – 8 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K with the L. Richards pitched a shutout in his last start against the Red Sox, and he went deep into his start on Thursday against the Twins as well, but one 3-run HR did him in. He’s now gone 7 straight starts without as many strikeouts as innings pitched and his strikeout rate of 6.81 K/9 is very mediocre and can likely be attributed to a 0.7 MPH decline on his average fastball velocity. If he can’t begin to strikeout more batters then his nice 3.25 ERA and 1.18 WHIP could get inflated.
Josh Donaldson – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K. Donaldson is now up to 23 HR on the season after going yard on Thursday in familiar territory in Oakland. He’s still swinging a great bat.
Russell Martin – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R. Martin began the season as the #2 hitter for the Blue Jays, but he’s been moved down to hit 6th primarily. But it doesn’t really matter where he hits in the powerful Blue Jays lineup, because they are just so good from top to bottom. He launched a home run on Thursday and is now hitting .262 with 14 HR, 47 RBI, 52 R, and 4 SB to be one of the best fantasy catchers in the league.
Melky Cabrera – 2 for 3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Always nice to see double dong days from the unexpected. The Melk Man has a little pop, but he hasn’t been hitting well this season. He’s been doing better as of late though and could potentially be a buy low option if you need some help in AVG. He’s hitting .313 in the month of July.
Alexei Ramirez – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Ramirez has just been having a terrible year at the plate, but he was able to hit one out on Thursday for his 4th HR of the season to go with a .228 AVG. Over the course of his career, Ramirez has been pretty consistent with his BABIP, ranging from .288 to .309. That’s a pretty small range, but this season his BABIP is all the way down to .244. The thing that’s most different in his batted ball profile is he’s hitting the ball up the middle more and pulling the ball less. You would think that would result in more hits instead of less, but it’s been the contrary. So perhaps he’s in for a reversal of fortune soon.
Jeff Samardzija – 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K with the W. Samardzija pitched 8 strong innings against the Indians and now is 7-5 with a 3.91 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 108 K/26 BB in 140.1 IP. Overall, the White Sox were likely wanting more out of him, and it’s his excellent walk rate that has kept things from being extremely disappointing. His strikeouts are down a lot and probably won’t be increasing too much over the remainder of the season, unless he gets traded to a National League team — then he will have the opportunity to add on some more K’s. He could find himself pitching in a new uniform before his next scheduled start.
Clayton Kershaw – 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 K with the W. Kershaw is on a pretty ridiculous run right now with 3 straight scoreless outings, 2 of which were complete game shutouts, and all of the games with double digit strikeouts.
Francisco Liriano – 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K with the W. Liriano missed his last start with neck stiffness, but he returned and dominated the Nationals offense on Thursday. Liriano leads the league in soft hit rate, has the 3rd lowest hard hit rate, and has the 6th best strikeout %. There’s no other pitcher in baseball that can claim to be ranked so highly in all 3 categories. This is a formula for success and would make for a great trade target if the Liriano owner in your league wants to sell him.
Aramis Ramirez – The other big trade from Thursday was the Pirates acquiring Ramirez from the Brewers in exchange for a Minor League pitcher and cash. The Pirates were looking to shore up the left side of their infield with Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer both suffering injuries that are keeping them out for an extended period. Ramirez’ fantasy value doesn’t really change. If anything, he might lose a little value moving to a more pitcher friendly home park. He will slide right into the third baseman role with Jung-Ho Kang covering shortstop. The bigger fantasy impact of this trade is going to be what happens with Harrison when he is ready to come off the DL, which should be in a month or so. Obviously a lot of things can happen in a month, perhaps the Pirates endure another injury, which would open up a spot for Harrison. But if all players are healthy, there probably would be some sort of rotation going. And the Pirates could even get creative by trying Ramirez out at first base to start against lefties since Pedro Alvarez doesn’t hit lefties well. But the Pirates will cross that bridge if they get to it.
Matt Carpenter – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R. Carpenter had been bumped down to 7th in the batting order for a couple games since he had been in a huge slump, but he got moved back up to his normal 2-spot on Thursday and responded with a home run. He should get hot at some point, but it’s been a real disappointment to see his batting average dip down to .256.
Randal Grichuk – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Grichuk has really been the unsung hero for the Cardinals offense this season. He filled in very nicely when Matt Holliday was on the DL, and he should continue to get regular starts even with Holliday back.
Jose Altuve – 4 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB. Big game for Altuve who now is hitting .304 with 9 HR and 28 SB.
Yasmany Tomas – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 3 K. Tomas smacked his 6th HR of the season and I think the power should keep on coming from him.
Zack Godley – 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W. Godley pitched very Godly on Thursday in his Major League debut. Chalk this up to another case of a mediocre prospect coming up to the Majors and doing very well since the opposing offense is unfamiliar with him. The highest Minor League level that he has played at is AA and there he only has logged 14 innings and he is 25 years old. He doesn’t have the makeup of a hot shot prospect, so this was most certainly surprising and shouldn’t be expected of him in the future.
Mike Fiers – 5 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 10 K with the L. This was a typical start that we saw from Fiers early in the season — lots of hits and runs, but lots of strikeouts. He had been improving in the hits and runs area, so this was a bit of a let down despite the big strikeout total. He still remains a candidate to improve his numbers over the rest of the season, but he’s been pretty inconsistent.
Tom Koehler – 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7 K with the W. Koehler rattled off 7 shutout innings on Thursday and he is posting some stats that are above his head. He has a 3.16 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, but it makes very little sense that he has the 9th lowest BABIP at .252 despite having the 2nd highest hard hit rate at 34.9%. There has to be some correction coming soon.