Johnny Cueto was the next big name to be traded on Sunday as the Cincinnati Reds decided to get something in return for the impending free agent. Their trade partner was the Kansas City Royals who sent three prospects over to Cincinnati: Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed — all of whom are left-handed pitchers. Let’s first take a look at what this trade does for the Royals and the fantasy impact it makes.
The reigning American League champion Royals have not slowed down at all this year as they have a 7.5 game lead in the AL Central and own the best record in the American League. They have been so successful behind a relentless offense, tremendous defense, and a dominant bullpen. The Royals offense is surely not a powerful one as they rank just 24th in the Majors in home runs, but they are very pesky and strikeout the least in all of baseball, which means they are constantly putting the ball in play and making things happen on the base paths. By any defensive rating system, the Royals defense ranks as the top defense in the league by a large margin. And their bullpen, also ranks the best in the league with a 2.12 ERA with the “HDH” formula of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland to work the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.
What the Royals have severely lacked though this season with the loss of James Shields to the Padres is an ace type pitcher to step up and be the leader of the pitching staff. The young fireballer, Yordano Ventura, was expected to kind of take over the reigns, but he has struggled to put together a consistent performance. Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy, and Jeremy Guthrie are unspectacular options that are back end of the rotation type of starters who have not contributed much at all, and Vargas got hit with a season-ending injury this past week. Their most reliable starting pitcher so far has been the free agent signing of Edinson Volquez, but seldom does he display the ability to blow anyone away with ace type of stuff anymore and is not someone to anchor a staff. Out of starting pitchers this season, the Royals have received a 4.27 ERA, which ranks 22nd in the Majors, and they also have received the 2nd lowest amount of innings pitched from their starting pitchers.
So the need in Kansas City was apparent. Enter Mr. Cueto. Since 2011, Cueto has had the 2nd best ERA (2.51) next to Clayton Kershaw out of all pitchers with a minimum of 500 innings pitched. What’s most impressive about that is he has done so despite pitching his home games in one of the most hitter friendly parks in the league at Great American Ballpark.
During those years, Cueto has posted BABIP marks of .249, .296, .238, and .234 this season. Now the .296 mark is around league average, but all the other marks are very low and the question of whether or not it is sustainable comes into play. Over the last two seasons, Cueto has been giving up more fly balls and has had a knack for inducing soft contact. So while the BABIP marks are low and he shouldn’t be expected to maintain his current season mark, he still should have the ability to keep his BABIP lower than average over the course of the rest of the season with Kansas City. Throw in the fact that his new team has incredible range and defense all around the diamond and that speaks even more to the notion that Cueto can be a low BABIP machine as his defense will track down a lot of batted balls for him.
The switch from the NL to the AL should hurt his strikeout rate in theory since he will have to deal with pitching to the designated hitter instead of opposing pitchers. His current strikeout rate is at 8.27 K/9, so I would imagine that he might fall to a rate near 7.50 K/9 or lower over the remainder of the season. However, the home park switch from Great American Ballpark to Kaufmann Stadium is a nice move for him with Kauffman Stadium being much more friendly to pitchers. Also helping to offset any regression that he may incur in strikeout rate is the fact that he will be pitching for a winning team that has a shutdown bullpen. Despite an excellent 2.62 ERA, Cueto’s win-loss record sits barely over .500 at 7-6. The Reds bullpen blew three wins for Cueto, so he could easily be in double digits in the win column already. So his new buddies down in the bullpen should be able to provide him a boost in win potential.
Overall, I definitely don’t think that the trade for Cueto has any negative impact on his fantasy value. If anything, it should help him a bit as long as he doesn’t falter under the greater spotlight of pitching for a 1st place team. And for the Royals, this is obviously a huge get for them as they look to make a return to the World Series. The Royals certainly needed to make a move to acquire an ace because it was going to be a rough go if they entered the post-season with Volquez as their number one guy, and Cueto’s presence will also ease the workload of one of the most used bullpens in the league. Now let’s take a look at the Reds side of it.
Out of the three prospects that the Reds received, Finnegan is by far the most attractive so he will be the main focus on the Reds side of the deal. Finnegan was drafted by the Royals in the 1st round just over a year ago and he made a rapid ascension to the Majors as the Royals brought him up late in the season as a bullpen arm. Finnegan then went on to shine in some high leverage situations in the post-season. The left-handed Finnegan is relatively small in stature for a Major League pitcher at 5’11” 185 lbs. and because of that, he often draws comparison to former closer great Billy Wagner. Finnegan doesn’t throw as hard as Wagner did though, but he still comes in with some good velocity as he averages around 93 MPH on his heater. He complements his fastball with a slider and changeup, with the slider functioning as his primary out pitch.
He has compiled a 2.59 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 21 K/13 BB in 24.1 IP as a relief pitcher in the Majors, but the Reds will send him to AAA to get stretched out as a starting pitcher where he could possibly debut for them before the season ends. Finnegan’s most immediate area of work appears to be in his control. In college at Texas Christian University before he was drafted, Finnegan did show some control issues and those same issues seem to be present in his short Major League work thus far. If he can figure out how to issue less walks then he can have a pretty good future in the league, but with just 85.1 IP as a professional since he was drafted last June, it’s a little difficult to gauge where he is at and how he may or may not progress.
For redraft leagues, Finnegan is not really someone to pay attention to because he will be getting stretched out in the Minors, and if he does make it to the Reds Major League rotation this season, I wouldn’t necessarily expect immediate success. For keeper and dynasty leagues though, Finnegan is well worth a look, though in any competitive dynasty league he shouldn’t be available as a free agent.
Now let’s take a look at the rest of Sunday’s slate of action.
Evan Longoria – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Watching the Orioles/Rays game, one of the announcers said that Longoria is “one of the best power hitters in the game,” but unfortunately, he’s a far cry from what he once was when he came into the league. He hit a home run on Sunday, but it was just his 10th of the season, which puts him on pace for 16. His career low is 17, but that was in only 74 games. I’ve been down on Longoria for a while now and this is why.
Logan Forsythe – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB. Meanwhile, Forsythe, a career utility player who is finally get a shot at starting, also hit a home run on Sunday and has more than Longoria at 11. It’s been a fine breakout season for Forsythe.
Matt Moore – 5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K with the L. Moore struggled once again on Sunday and he should continue to be not trusted in fantasy leagues. He’s waiver wire material in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, despite the upside he’s shown in the past.
Carlos Rodon – 6.2 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K with the W. Rodon pitched a gem of a game against the Indians as he uncharacteristically did not walk a batter. If he’s going to have long term success in this league, the rookie lefty needs to show consistency in limiting the free passes to at least a rate that’s much closer to the league average. Even after a zero walk performance, Rodon’s walk rate for the season sits very high at 5.14 BB/9 and I’m still not a fan of him for redraft leagues. He now is 4-3 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.58 WHIP, but his 9.70 K/9 is impressive.
Zack Greinke – 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K. Greinke’s scoreless streak came to an end at 45.2 innings and he was lucky to avoid the loss in this one as his offense got him off the hook in the 9th inning. It was a very tiny step backwards, but he should see some additional steps in that direction in these final 2+ months.
Jacob deGrom – 7.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. DeGrom was very impressive against a good Dodgers offense on Sunday. He has been one heck of a pitcher this season and should continue to be. He’s 10-6 with a 2.05 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 128 K/23 BB in 127.1 IP.
Jeurys Familia – 1.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K with the BS. Familia took his 4th blown save of the season and his 2nd in the last week. He’s shown some recent chinks in the armor and while his job is probably pretty secure with his breakout performance he’s had so far this season, a few more outings like this in short time could change things.
Gerrit Cole – 7.2 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K with the W. Cole was finally able to reverse a trend where he had not logged as many strikeouts as innings pitched in 4 straight starts. While it was never any question that he could still remain one of the league’s better pitchers, it is reassuring that he turned things around in this start.
Michael Taylor – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Taylor homered for a second straight game on Sunday and also made a nice defensive play in center field. He surely is showing the Nationals faithful a glimpse into a possible long future with the team, and he’s now up to a .240 AVG with 8 HR, 39 RBI, 28 R, and 11 SB. He’ll likely never hit for a high batting average with his propensity to strikeout, but as I’ve been saying, he’s got the nice power and speed blend that is valuable for leagues that don’t penalize strikeouts. He’s worth a grab in mixed leagues.
Joe Ross – 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K with the L. Ross made another start in place of the injured Stephen Strasburg and it was another quality one. With the way he’s performing, the Nationals may find it easier to let Jordan Zimmermann walk after the season when he’s a free agent. Ross has a 3.03 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 34 K/3 BB in 32.2 IP. Continue to utilize him for as long as he remains in the rotation.
Dallas Keuchel – 6.2 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the L. Keuchel has undoubtedly been one of the American League’s best pitchers this season, but the one flaw that he has is he has been much more human on the road and that trend continued on Sunday when the home team Royals beat him up early on. On the road, Keuchel is now 3-5 with a 3.66 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. At home, Keuchel is 9-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. His next start will come at home versus Arizona where he will look to keep his perfect home record alive.
Lorenzo Cain – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Cain keeps on raking with his 11th HR and there’s no end in sight to this great run he’s having.
Yordano Ventura – 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the W. Ventura had a bit of an odd week. After his last start where he gave up 6 runs on 10 hits in 4 innings to the Pirates, he was sent down to AAA to work out some things. However, the very next day, Jason Vargas suffered a season-ending injury that led to the team recalling Ventura from AAA to rejoin the rotation. After his start against the Pirates though, I did note how his fastball velocity had been way up from what it was earlier this season before he hit the DL. Ventura is a hard thrower and he always has been, so high velocity is a big part of how he knows how to succeed. So with the increase in velocity and the fire that was likely lit under him when he was briefly demoted, Ventura could have a chance to post some pretty decent numbers down the stretch. He could be worth a shot if he’s available in your league, but he does have some unfavorable starts lined up at Toronto and then Detroit.
Kyle Gibson – 5.1 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 4 K with the L. Gibson has been seeing some regression in the last couple starts now as his BABIP has risen to .284 and his strand rate has dropped to 75.8%. Those are still better than the league average marks, but they are definitely much more in the area that can be expected of him. He now has a 3.48 ERA and 1.27 WHIP and could see those numbers rise a little more. But his increase in strikeouts from early on in the season does still seem to be legitimate.
Chase Headley – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 K. Headley had a nice day at the plate, but his .263 AVG, 9 HR, 39 RBI, and 47 R are not that great out of a fantasy third baseman. It’s a wonder how he ever eclipsed the 30 HR mark in a single season before.
Nathan Eovaldi – 8 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K with the W. Eovaldi has been a bit of a mystery throughout his career because even though he is annually among the league leaders in highest average fastball velocity, his strikeout rate is always below the league average. This year is no exception. One year he might figure it out, but this does not appear to be that year. He’s introduced a sinker to his repertoire this season and it actually has been his highest rated pitch according to PITCHf/x values. So after a full year using that pitch, perhaps next year will be the year that he is able to utilize is arsenal better to finally log some strikeouts. He is now 10-2 with a 4.27 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, and 80 K/30 BB in 111.2 IP.
Freddie Freeman – 1 for 3, 1 BB. Freeman returned from the DL after a longer than minimum stay. However, the Braves traded away his best form of protection in the batting order (Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe), so he may find it hard to get some good pitches to hit from now till the end of the season.
Jason Hammel – 3.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 K with the L. A beatdown by the Phillies offense surely wasn’t expected from Hammel. He’s tailed off from an early season hot start, but is still enjoying a fine season. If he doesn’t bounce back well in his next start at Milwaukee, then there might be a problem.
Maikel Franco – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Franco went on a power binge in June, but then he went very cold and didn’t home in 25 games until he got a hold of one on Sunday. He’s now batting .285 with 11 HR, 38 RBI, 36 R, and 1 SB in 63 games and is holding his own very well as a rookie.
Aaron Nola – 7.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the W. Phillies fans got a nice look into their future with Franco hitting one out and Nola earning his first Major League victory of his career. It wasn’t too pretty of an outing from Nola, but it did get the job done against a talented young Cubs offense. Nola will get a nice matchup next against the Braves.
Rougned Odor – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 K. Odor gone did it again with another bomb. He’s now hitting .366 with 7 HR, 25 RBI, 19 R, and 4 SB in 32 games since being recalled from AAA. I love the smell of this Odor.
Nick Martinez – 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K with the L. Finally, Martinez’ ERA is over 4.00 for the first time all season long. Now that has finally happened, I can rest easy and will no longer feel the need to document every poor Martinez start.
Mike Trout – 4 for 4, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB. Trout went berserk on Sunday with 2 home runs, one of which was a grand slam that landed in an Angels fan’s fish net. Trout now has 11 HR in July and there’s still 5 days left and 4 days of the of the month consisted of the All-Star break. I didn’t really think a 40+ HR season would be in the cards for Trout this season, but he’s actually now on pace for 51 HR. Wowsers.
Andrew Heaney – 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K with the W. Heaney improved to 5-0 with a 1.79 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 31 K/5 BB in 40 IP with another quality start on Sunday against the Rangers. He’s clearly bound for some regression as he has some unsustainable rates of a .239 BABIP and 88.4% strand rate, but he does have the talent to have some long term success as Major League pitcher. He’ll face the Dodgers next, a team that he was on very briefly before being flipped to the Angels for Howie Kendrick.
Matt Duffy – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R. Duffy is still continuing to hit for the Giants with a .302 AVG, 9 HR, 46 RBI, 41 R, and 3 SB in 85 games. His .347 BABIP is probably a little on the high side given his batted ball profile, so he shouldn’t be viewed as a .300 hitter. But he does have the sneaky pop and speed combo.
Buster Posey – 4 for 4, 1 R. It sure doesn’t seem that long ago that Posey was hitting under .290. But with a perfect day at the plate on Sunday, he is now hitting .328. He’s the unquestioned top fantasy catcher.
J.T. Realmuto – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R. Realmuto hit his 6th home run of the season on Sunday. He still remains a bit of an unknown and should make for an intriguing sleeper at catcher next season.
Justin Upton – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Upton’s performance at the plate has really suffered since the calendar switched over to June. He hit one out on Sunday, but since June 1 he is hitting just .181 with 4 HR and 13 RBI (though he has added 7 SB in that time). It’s as if he and teammate Matt Kemp just switched bodies. Peculiarly, 13 of Upton’s 16 HR on the season have now come at home at Petco Park.
Nelson Cruz – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R. Cruz is beginning to heat back up again as he’s gone 12 for 28 with 4 HR in the last 6 games.
Taijuan Walker – 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K. It’ll go down as a quality start for Walker, but this does mark the 4th straight unimpressive game for him. In fairness though, those 4 games have come against some of the league’s best and/or hottest offenses. He should have a better opportunity to put together a dominant start next time out against the Twins.
Carlos Gonzalez – 3 for 4, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R, 1 BB. There’s not too many hotter guys than CarGo right now as he’s gone 10 for 21 with 5 HR in the last 5 games. He’s doing most of his damage though at home at Coors Field, so the upcoming 6-game road trip will be a heat check for him.
Ben Paulsen – 4 for 5, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, 1 K. Paulsen hit 2 out of Coors Field on Sunday as he continues to collect starts against right-handed pitching. But with Corey Dickerson back from the DL, Paulsen should begin to lose some at-bats. He’s done a nice job filling in and as a reserve for the Rockies with a .293 AVG, 7 HR, and 26 RBI in 164 AB.
Jay Bruce – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R. No surprise here to see the powerful Bruce hit one out at Coors Field. He could be the next Reds player to be shipped off before the trade deadline, but he is under contract for one more year with an option for 2017 at decent price tags.
Mat Latos – 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the L. It appeared to be a nice spot for Latos pitching against a poor Padres offense at Petco Park where he enjoyed success when he was with the Padres, but Latos wasn’t too sharp even though he came away with a quality start. He’s had an increase in velocity ever since he returned from the DL though, and that has resulted in a better performance.
David Ortiz – 4 for 5, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 R. What a night for Papi. He really hasn’t had an explosive offensive game like this all season, so what a sight to see. The great effort raised his batting average to .243 to go with 19 HR, 54 RBI, and 38 R this season.
Eduardo Rodriguez – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W. A nice bounce back effort from the rookie. He may struggle with consistency as a young rookie, but the talent is there for some long term success.