Trading Places: Tulo & Reyes

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The big story of Monday night came late when it was reported that the Toronto Blue Jays and Colorado Rockies had agreed on a blockbuster trade that would send veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins north of the border. The Blue Jays had been in the market for some relief pitching help and Hawkins’ veteran savvy can surely prove to be the stepping stone to turning the Jays inexperienced bullpen into a real force in the American League East down the stretch run as they vie for a spot in the post-season.

Also added in to sweeten the deal for the Jays was the oft injured shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki, whose offensive stats have long been inflated by the thin air of Coors Field. Tulowitzki will provide some middle infield depth alongside the slick fielding Ryan Goins and Munenori Kawasaki.

Oh, wait. This doesn’t sound right…

I am just joking of course. Tulowitzki was the center piece of this trade and is a veteran star (and Hawkins probably won’t be instrumental in turning the Jays bullpen into a force — though never say never!). And going over to Colorado in this trade is veteran shortstop Jose Reyes along with a trio of pitching prospects that include Miguel CastroJeff Hoffman, and Jesus Tinoco.

Yes, Tulowitzki is oft injured and has had Coors Field to aid his performance over the years, but there’s no doubting that he is a good hitter and defender whose presence will be known. The Blue Jays had been known to be in the market for pitching both on the starting and relief ends, so a splash like this to add another slugger to what is already an incredibly powerful lineup that is 3rd in the Majors in home runs and 1st in the Majors in runs scored (by a hefty 72 run margin) was surely unexpected to say the least.

As I alluded to, Tulowitzki has performed better at Coors Field than on the road in his 10-year career, which would be the case for mostly any Rockies hitter. At Coors Field, Tulowitzki has a career line of .321/.394/.558 with 106 HR in 526 games. On the road, he has hit .276/.349/.468 with 82 HR in 521 games. So there is an apparent difference, but he’s still been a pretty good hitter on the road and he will be joining a very good lineup that plays its home games in a very advantageous park as well. The Rogers Centre in Toronto definitely is not the same type of hitters haven that Coors Field is, but it is one of the better places to hit for right-handed batters in the Majors. Just ask Josh Donaldson who is loving calling Rogers Centre his home for the first season as he is hitting .340/.380/.660 with 15 HR in 47 games.

What may be even more concerning about Tulowitzki joining Toronto than the move away from Coors Field is playing his home games on artificial turf in the Rogers Centre. Tulowitzki has been no stranger to the disabled list as it kind of has been his figurative home away from home since he generally lands there at least once a season (but not yet this season — *fingers crossed). Artificial turf has been known to be less forgiving on the lower body for players. So with Tulowitzki’s injury history and the fact that he will be turning 31 this fall, this could potentially mark the downswing of his career. And with the trade, Tulowitzki’s contract now includes a full no-trade clause for the remainder of his contract that runs through 2020. So while this trade for the Blue Jays seems impactful in a positive way for this season, it might not turn out so great when it’s all said and done.

From a fantasy perspective, Tulowitzki may lose some slight value with the home park switch, but he’s still in a favorable situation, and joining a loaded lineup could help to negate any potential difference in the home parks. Where he will be inserted into the lineup is not known yet, but the subtraction of Reyes from the Blue Jays lineup, who has been their leadoff hitter, means that they will be doing some lineup shuffling. Donaldson saw some time in the leadoff spot this season when Reyes was on the DL, so he might move back there with Tulowitzki slotting behind him in the 2-hole. Or another option would be to move rookie second baseman Devon Travis up to the leadoff spot as he also has spent some time there this season, though rather unsuccessfully hitting just .195/.267/.317 in 82 AB. If Travis is the one who takes over the leadoff spot then Tulowitzki could really hit anywhere from 3rd to 5th in the lineup. Whatever the case, Tulowitzki will still be in a great spot to produce well for fantasy — it’s Travis who could really see a big boost in value if he is given another chance at leading off.

For the Rockies, they are always searching for pitching prospects to try and find the right guys who have the right repertoire and makeup to succeed in pitching at Coors Field. But this young trio of prospects that they received have to be hating life right now as they must be aware of the long list of pitchers who have failed as Rockies players. Ultimately, it could cost them many dollars in future earnings. Hoffman was the Blue Jays 1st round pick in the 2014 draft and is considered to be the most intriguing of the prospects. But with the Rockies, none of them will have any fantasy value for the remainder of this season, unless Miguel Castro (who closed out a few games early in the season for the Blue Jays) is given a chance to close at some point. For keeper and dynasty leagues, it would be difficult to roster these pitchers knowing that their immediate future is in the Rockies organization.

Reyes will take over Tulowitzki’s spot on the diamond at shortstop, but there is the chance that he gets flipped to another team for more prospects. But on the assumption that he does remain with the Rockies beyond the trade deadline, Reyes should get a boost in value playing at Coors Field despite having an underwhelming career line at Coors Field of .254/.259/.447 with 2 HR in 25 games. He would likely hit 1st or 2nd for the Rockies with the current Rockies just being slightly shifted in the lineup, so there would really be no big change in fantasy value for anyone.

***UPDATE (7/28/15 12:00 PM PST)

Something that I overlooked initially is the fact that if Reyes is indeed flipped to another team, that potentially opens up shortstop for the Rockies prospect Trevor Story. Story is one of the organization’s top prospects and has worked his way up from AA to AAA during this season. Between the two levels, he has hit .281 with 16 HR, 56 RBI, 60 R, and 15 SB in 90 games played this season. But what’s been the most important part of his season has been his improvement in his strikeout rate. In 2013 at high-A ball, Story struck out 33.0% of the time. In 2014 across four levels and ending at AA, he struck out 30.3% of the time. But this season, he has cut that rate all the way down to 23.4%. The power and speed blend is obviously there and has been there for his whole professional career, so for him to show improvement in his plate approach and discipline at the age of 22 is a great sight. Story should be monitored in all leagues.

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D.J. LeMahieu Spins the Hits (and other notes from 6/8/15)

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Move over Afrojack, Skrillex, Calvin Harris, and Deadmau5.  There’s a hot new French D.J. in town based out of Denver, Colorado by the name of LeMahieu, and he’s here to drop some sick beats and the illest remixes that will bring all the ladies to the club.

Actually, not really.  D.J. LeMahieu is not really a music D.J.  Instead, he is the second baseman for the Colorado Rockies who is most well known for his glove work on the defensive side of the ball, but this season he has been laying down the beat by spinning the hits game after game.  His latest “mash-up,” if you will, came on Monday when he went 3 for 5 with an RBI and 2 runs scored, and he is now slashing .342/.394/.439 with 3 HR, 28 RBI, 27 R, and 5 SB.

LeMahieu began the season hitting 8th for the Rockies, but has since worked his way up to be the regular 2-hole hitter.  The move up in the order likely has something to do with the fact that the Rockies have had to deal with injuries to Corey Dickerson and Justin Morneau, and slumping performances from Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, but LeMahieu has surely earned it.

LeMahieu’s .342 AVG is being supported by a high .403 BABIP, but he did come into the season with a career BABIP over .330 and he does call Coors Field his home.  So while the BABIP over .400 is not sustainable, he still should be able to post a higher than average clip, especially given the way that he is hitting line drives at 29.2% of the time for 4th highest mark in the league, and how he is avoiding soft contact with the ball at 10.4% for the 10th lowest in the league.  He is one of four players to appear in the top 10 in each of those categories (Brandon BeltJason Kipnis, and Freddie Freeman are the others).

What is also encouraging about LeMahieu is that even though his home stadium is Coors Field in the thin air of Denver, he has been hitting well on the road as well despite being a much better home hitter in his previous Major League seasons.  So far he has posted a home triple slash line of .358/.414/.472 and a very respectable road line of .322/.371/.400.  Also in his favor is that he has traditionally been better against same-handed pitching, which is right-handed for him, and since the majority of the pitchers in the league are right-handed, he has a bit of an edge there.  He is hitting .356/.396/.483 versus righties this season.  Furthermore, LeMahieu is spraying the ball to all parts of the field, which displays his maturation as a hitter and gives even more reason to believe that he can remain a .300 hitter for the first time in his career.  His pull % has dipped from 28.1% last year to 19.6% this year.

However, something that has been a bit disappointing from LeMahieu in his time in the Majors is his lack of power.  Whenever I watch him play, he looks like a pretty monstrous sized player, especially for a second baseman, and I wonder how he does not have better power at the plate.  He stands at 6’4″ and 205 lbs. so he’s surely got a big frame that I would imagine can have more power.  LeMahieu will soon be 27 and with that size I think that he should have some double digit HR seasons in him as he enters his prime.  Maybe it won’t be this year, maybe it will, but it’s quite the wonder how his previous season high at any professional level has only been 5 HR.

In the speed department, LeMahieu has the upside to reach 20 SB.  In 2013, he stole 8 bases at AAA in 33 games and he stole 18 bases at the Major League level in 109 games, so the speed is there.  However, last year in a full season playing 149 games for the Rockies, he only swiped 10 bags.  But getting more hits like he has been this year to be on base more should open up more opportunities for him to steal bases.  Maybe he doesn’t get to 20, but 15 is well within reach.

So with all this being said, I feel that LeMahieu is an underrated fantasy option, which feels a bit weird to say for any Rockies hitter because usually the Rockies hitters get more than enough love for the favorable home park advantage.  But since LeMahieu has not done much in his previous three seasons with the Rockies, not a whole lot was expected of him in 2015.  But with these improvements that he is showing, he needs to be given much better fantasy consideration, especially if he continues to hit second in the Rockies lineup.  Hitting second for the Rockies makes his run potential very high without limiting his RBI and SB chances a whole lot.  It really is the ideal spot for him.  Oh, and of course the Coors Field factor doesn’t hurt his cause.

For the rest of the season from June 9 onward, I will give him the line of:  .295 AVG, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 54 R, 10 SB, 67 K, 27 BB in 380 AB

Let’s check out the rest of Monday’s action!

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