Fantasy Impact of MLB Trades

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Previously discussed were the trades that sent Scott Kazmir to the Astros and Johnny Cueto to the Royals. But there have been some other notable trades that have taken place since then, so here’s a look at what impact they may have on fantasy.

Mets receive Tyler Clippard. A’s receive Casey Meisner.

Analysis and Fantasy Fallout: With Clippard heading to the Mets, he is going to be put into a setup role to primarily pitch in the 8th inning in front of Jeurys Familia. As the closer for the A’s, Clippard had a decent 2.79 ERA and 1.19 WHIP while saving 17 of 21 games, but he has been experiencing diminished velocity over the last three seasons. That probably has some correlation to his strikeout rate being at an all-time low under 9.00 K/9, and his walk rate is at an all-time high at an ugly 4.76 BB/9. He has a SIERA of 4.46 and xFIP of 5.30, so he hasn’t exactly been very sharp. However, he should slot in just fine ahead of Familia, and this helps out the Mets a lot considering that Jenrry Mejia just got slapped with a 162 game suspension after testing positive for PED’s yet again, just weeks after coming back from his initial suspension (what a doofus).

Clippard clearly loses value since he will not be closing games anymore. However, Familia has not been as sharp lately. So should Familia falter, Clippard presumably would step in to close games for the Mets. For the A’s, they lost their closer and will now likely turn to Edward Mujica for 9th inning work. Mujica had a good run as the closer for the Cardinals in 2013 with an increased usage in his splitter, but since then he has been unspectacular with the Red Sox and now the A’s. This season he has a 4.13 ERA and 1.16 WHIP and he’s not much of a strikeout artist with just 6.35 K/9. Mujica hasn’t done much to inspire a lot of confidence in him, and it’s interesting that he’s shied away from his splitter more and more since his breakout 2013 season (56.6% in 2013, 40.7% in 2015), and that could feasibly be the reason for a subpar performance. He should be owned in fantasy leagues for the save potential, but just know that he could lose the job to poor performance at any time. In that case, Fernando Rodriguez and possibly even Drew Pomeranz could be given a look. Continue reading

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The Butler Did Do It, But Can He Continue To? (and other notes from 6/12/15)

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Joey Butler of the Tampa Bay Rays has been the team’s primary DH since being called up and he has been scorching as of late and with a 3 for 5 game on Friday night, Butler is now hitting .342 with 4 HR, 16 RBI, 14 R, and 3 SB in 34 games.  Now I am all for riding hitters while they’re hot, so by all means let the Butler service your team for now, but before picking him up you need to know that the Butler might start hitting like an old maid in short time.

Up to this point, Butler has been a career Minor Leaguer who is now with his third organization.  Butler had received just 21 Major League appearances before this season, and at 29 years old he is not some emerging hot shot prospect who is taking the baseball world by storm.  He has had some nice success as a Minor League hitter with a career .294 AVG, 15-20 HR power, and some sneaky double digit SB speed.  So I am not meaning to say that Butler is a terrible player who doesn’t deserve any consideration, but we need to see the reality in this fantasy situation.

The reality is that Butler should soon begin a swift downfall.  His excellent batting average is being driven by an astronomical .456 BABIP, which would rank as the highest in the Majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.  It is true that his 27.7% line drive rate would rank favorably  as the 9th highest and his 10.8% soft hit rate would rank as the 11th lowest, but those rates are likely to trend in the wrong directions soon.  But even if he does happen to keep up those rates, no player can sustain a BABIP like that and he has his strikeout rate working against him as another factor that should bring his AVG down.  Butler has struck out 27.9% of the time, which is a pretty high rate.  It’s not quite in the territory of his teammate Steven Souza, but it’s still up there and it is very realistic since his swinging strike rate of 16.3% would rank as the 5th highest in the league.  To make things worse in the plate discipline area, his high strikeout and swinging strike rates are paired with a horrific 1.6% walk rate.  Butler had a 11.1% career walk rate in the Minors, so he does have some upside to do better there, but it’s not likely something that is going to change over night to make a drastic turn.

The fact of the matter is that Butler has been an extremely free swinger and while free swingers can succeed in the league, like Adam Jones or the retired Vladimir Guerrero, free swingers with high strikeout rates will have much more limited success in the long term, if any success at all.  But like I said, using hitters in fantasy while they are hot is a fine strategy, but it’s knowing when to cut them loose that is equally as important.

Let’s take a look at the rest of Friday’s action.

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BLOW-PEN Report: Cubs, A’s, Astros, and Rays

In previous BLOW-PEN Reports, I have talked about Steve Cishek needing to be replaced by A.J. RamosNeftali Feliz making way for Shawn Tolleson, Addison Reed not being the man for the D-Backs, and Fernando Rodney to eventually be replaced by Carson Smith.  So far, so good with those predictions.  Today I bring to you another edition of the BLOW-PEN Report to check in on four situations that require our attention.

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CHICAGO CUBS

On Saturday, Hector Rondon, who began the season as the Cubs closer was inserted into a save opportunity to begin the 9th inning, but after walking the leadoff batter he was relieved by Pedro Strop who proceeded to close out the game cleanly for the save.  After the game, manager Joe Maddon told reporters that it wasn’t a case of changing who his closer was and that he just wanted to put his team in position to win the game.

So then on Sunday, Rondon appeared yet again to protect a lead, but this time it was to begin the 8th inning where he pitched a perfect inning but failed to strike anyone out.  But this time it was not Strop who pitched the 9th inning for the save opportunity.  Instead it was Jason Motte, former Cardinals closer.  Motte pitched a perfect inning with one strikeout for his first save of the season.  Maddon then went on to say that Strop was unavailable, but if he was unavailable then it was not because of a large recent workload since he only pitched twice in the last three days with a 9 pitch outing and a 14 pitch outing.

I am finding it hard to put much value into what Maddon has said, which makes it hard to know what to make of this situation, but I’ve said it so many times now — Maddon has done some interesting things with his bullpens in the past, so with this development, the closer situation can be very fluid the rest of the season.  Rondon didn’t exactly do a whole lot to merit any type of demotion from the closer’s role, but he also wasn’t pitching lights out either with a 3.09 ERA and 1.29 WHIP and 10 for 13 in save opportunities entering Sunday’s game.  But no one else in the Cubs bullpen was exactly performing significantly better than Rondon either.  Whatever the case, Rondon may have fallen out of Maddon’s favor, which would contradict what Maddon said after Saturday’s game.  If that is the case, then Strop and Motte are candidates for saves moving forward, and even lefty Travis Wood.

Strop has very little experience closing out games, but he does have powerful stuff and the ability to miss a lot of bats as his strikeout rate on the season currently is 10.04 K/9.  Motte does have the closer experience having saved 42 games for the Cardinals in 2012, but he has not been the same pitcher since returning last season from Tommy John surgery.  Motte’s velocity has been nowhere near his pre-Tommy John levels, which has adversely affected his ability to strike batters out.  Motte’s strikeout rate this season is a measly 5.91 K/9 and he’s also having a little trouble limiting the walks with a walk rate of 3.38 BB/9.  Wood is just a wildcard who couldn’t hack it in the rotation, so he was moved to the bullpen in mid-May.  Since the move to the pen, Wood has had a 2.84 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, and 9 K/3 BB in 6.1 IP, and he would probably only be an option for saves in a situation where the opposition has a lot of lefties coming up in the 9th inning.

If I have learned anything about Maddon over the years from his time as a bench coach with the Angels to managing the Rays, it is that he has an incredible baseball mind and will do unconventional (but smart) things to help his team to win ball games, and he does not really care for labeling a single pitcher as his closer.  For fantasy baseball team owners, Maddon is a big headache in this regard and it’s going to be difficult to predict what his next move will be the next time his team has a 3-run or less lead in the 9th inning.  Then to complicate matters even further, the Cubs are one of a few teams who are considering signing current free agent Rafael Soriano.

If I had to guess at this point, I would say that Motte would be the leading candidate for saves as Rondon appears to be in the doghouse, and Maddon probably is putting some value in the fact that Motte was one of the game’s best closers for a year and has the closer mentality.  But I would not trust Motte at all to do well if given an extended look since he’s just not striking many batters out.  But Strop is also a good speculative add and would probably have a greater chance of success than Motte.  But ultimately, unless the Cubs bring in someone via trade or signing Soriano, then I think that this will be a closer by committee situation the rest of the way. Continue reading

Shelby Miller and Jake Odorizzi, CUT It Out!

The cutter, also known as a cut fastball, is a pitch that is a hybrid between a slider and a fastball.  It is a power pitch that offers a late sharp break when approaching home plate.  Typically it does not have the same octane in regards to velocity as a regular four-seam or two-seam fastball and not as much wipeout break as a slider, but that late break that it has often gets the pitch classified as a slider when referring to pitch type data.  When mastered it can be a truly effective and devastating pitch to have in an arsenal.  The pitch was widely made famous by the great Mariano Rivera who was known to break a lot of bats of left-handed hitters as they had difficulty squaring up the barrel of the bat on the ball due to the late break in toward their hands.  In addition to breaking bats of opposite handed batters, the pitch generally induces a lot of weak contact and more ground balls to go for easy outs, and the addition of the pitch to any pitcher’s arsenal could potentially keep hitters off balance to generate more whiffs.

There may not ever be a cutter as amazing and valuable as Rivera’s, but every year there seems to be a couple of pitchers who could be previously classified as “mediocre” or worse that go on to have a breakout season due to the addition and mastery of a cutter.  We saw it last year with Jake Arrieta of the Cubs.  Arrieta was a top young arm in the Orioles organization for several years, but was traded in July of 2013 along with Pedro Strop to the Cubs in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger (ouch, Baltimore!).  Before coming over to the Cubs, Arrieta had a lifetime line of a 5.34 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 7.00 K/9, and 4.15 BB/9 in 433.1 IP.  But it was when he joined the Cubs that he began to use the cutter.  Initially, the results weren’t phenomenal as he was still learning the pitch and using it minimally, but he was seeing better overall results.  Fast forward to 2014 and Arrieta ramped up his cutter usage to near 30% and he saw a big jump in his ground ball rate and soft contact rate from the previous year.  The cutter was a true revelation for Arrieta as it was the second most valuable cutter in baseball behind Adam Wainwright’s.  Arrieta finished the year with a 2.53 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 9.59 K/9, and 2.36 BB/9 in 156.2 IP.

Two young pitchers who were once regarded as top pitching prospects like Arrieta who have not had breakout success at the Major League level in their young careers yet are Shelby Miller of the Braves and Jake Odorizzi of the Rays.  But wouldn’t you know it, each of them has developed a cutter and are seeing improved results because of it.  Let’s examine Miller first. Continue reading