Nothing has a bigger impact on any given fantasy baseball season than player movement in the offseason. And one of the most exciting aspects of offseason player movement is the possibility of taking an ancillary fantasy baseball player, and watching his new home turn him into a 'diamond' in the rough.
Afterall, isn’t that what every fantasy baseball manager secretly wants?
But player movement can also be a bit tricky. Last year, Cliff Lee was cruising along in Seattle with an 8-3 record and a 2.34 ERA until he became a member of the Rangers, where he compiled a more curious 4-6 record alongside with a 3.98 ERA. This was largely due to the difference between Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, compared to the cavernous black hole Lee pitched in at Safeco Field.
So let’s take a look at what players went where, and what type of effect—positive or negative—it could have on their overall fantasy baseball value.
Jayson Werth to Washington
For those of you who took flak for drafting Jayson Werth “too early” in the previous years, now that same move could be surprisingly legitimized in 2011. Werth has always been a reliable source of homeruns, RBI, and stolen bases (29 HR, 84 RBI, and 18 SB average from ’08 to ’10) and considering the Nationals are a hit-first team, and will still find themselves playing from behind more than ahead in 2011, the chances of Werth bettering his 2010 totals are very high.
Verdict: Jayson Werth’s value increases because of this move.
Cliff Lee to Philadelphia
OK, so he finished the year in Texas with that horrible 4-6 record, but when he was a member Philadelphia Phillies, Cliff Lee finished the 2009 season with a 7-4 record alongside a 3.39 ERA with a 8.4 K/9 rate—add on a 4-0 postseason record with a 1.30 ERA and a 8.0 K/9 rate and suddenly you catch my drift. In addition to Lee being in a more stable environment—one that he's familiar with—he also gains a slightly better offense to back him up that he also is familiar with.
Verdict: Cliff Lee’s value increases because of this move.
Vernon Wells to Los Angeles
Vernon Wells had a stellar 2010 campaign—a rejuvenated one, some may say—but his move to the Golden State raises nothing but red flags. I really don't believe Wells will repeat his 2010 performance which is further explained here. Simply put, just his new digs alone at Angels Stadium in Anaheim is a kill shot for a power hitter who used to play at the Rogers Centre.
Verdict: Vernon Wells fantasy value declines, but you can still consider him a Top 50 Outfielder.
Mike Napoli to Texas
Boy, it isn’t even February and already Catchers are making more noise than anybody; like Buster Posey making our Top 25 First Baseman Rankings. Mike Napoli’s situation, however, is sort of a catch-22. While Napoli remains a Top 10 catcher, his role in Texas will be limited especially with two other catchers in the mix (Yorvit Torrealba and Matt Treanor) and speedster Michael Young holding down the DH spot. Still, Arlington is almost as hitter friendly as Coors Field so you can bet that Napoli will still be good for 20-25 homeruns and 60 RBI.
Verdict: Drafter’s choice with Mike Napoli. You can easily draft him as a quality DH or catcher 2 in the back end of most fantasy baseball drafts.
While Armando Galarraga is currently learning the finer points of holding residency in the desert, many fantasy owners are wondering if this move will increase his fantasy baseball value. As our own Rustyn Rose says:
“…So what’s the fantasy impact here? Perhaps none. This may simply be a notable sidebar on a guy who was robbed of a perfect game by a bad call last summer. But Galarraga would add depth to the back end of the D-backs’ rotation, which already has Joe Saunders, Ian Kennedy, and Zach Duke……”
Verdict: I have to agree with Rustyn and add one more aspect in the fact that the D-Backs are not a team that is known for consistent run support for their pitchers. In addition to that, Galarraga’s flyball rate from a year ago could be his undoing in Arizona, and he still has to compete with Barry Enright and Aaron Heilman for the fifth spot. Galarraga fantasy baseball value significantly drops with this move.
Brandon Webb to Texas
Normally when an NL pitcher goes to the AL the pitcher's career tends to suffer a bit, especially in their first year (Jake Peavy, I'm looking your way)—expect that trend to hold true for Webb’s exodus to Texas. And while Brandon Webb truly feels he will be ready by opening day, playing in Texas (as Cliff Lee already demonstrated) will prove to significantly hurt his overall performance and fantasy baseball value. The only thing going for Webb is the fact that he is a true sinker ball pitcher which could aid in keeping the balls in the park, but it comes with a high level if risk.
Verdict: Brandon Webb’s fantasy baseball value will take a hit, and you should exercise caution as to where you draft him if you so choose to.
Aaron Harang to San Diego
Aaron Harang suffered one of his worst seasons as an MLB pitcher in 2010 compiling a 5.32 ERA and 1.59 WHIP over 111 2/3 innings with the Reds, but pitching in PETCO Park has a way of rejuvenating a pitcher. Harang’s peripherals were respectable, but his bottom line totals were horrible—a lesson in peripherals: never judge just one aspect. In the end, you can expect Harang to be lingering around in the latter half of your fantasy baseball draft, meaning you could pick him up late and wind up being pleasantly surprised before year’s end.
Verdict: Aaron Harang’s value seemingly increases just for being in San Diego alone, but be aware that the Padres’ offense might not be able to help him procure as many wins as you may want from him.
Zach Greinke to Milwaukee
There was a time where Zach Greinke was an elite fantasy pitcher—two years ago to be exact, when I owned him. But last year was one of the worst years for anyone to own him playing for a horrible Kansas City Royals team that couldn’t win a game to save their lives. But going to the NL—specifically Milwaukee—should be just what he needs for a breakout year. The Brewers’ offense and pen are more formidable than the Royals.
Verdict: Zach Greinke’s fantasy baseball value significantly increases, and you can expect Greinke to fly off the fantasy baseball draft boards early and excel in the NL Central.
Manny to Tampa Bay
The curious travels of Manny Ramirez has his new camp set up down in Tampa Bay, where he has a real chance of providing fantasy owners with a ton of points, even as Tampa’s new primary DH. Let’s remember something; even though Manny is 38, he is still as much of a dangerous power hitter as anyone in the league—shown in his 298/.409/.460 batting line in only 90 games, and Tampa could wind up being a very nice place for Manny to “go out with a bang”.
Verdict: Manny Ramirez should see a slight increase in his overall fantasy value, especially early. But you DO NOT want to draft him in the early or middle rounds of your fantasy baseball draft. You also want to be aware that at 38 Manny is going to be prone to injury, so make sure to have a suitable backup.
Jon Garland to L.A. Dodgers
Jon Garland is a very curious case indeed for several reasons, but that doesn’t mean it’s too hard to figure out. Simply put, Jon Garland’s base contract will pay him a little over $5 million dollars, but he has the chance to earn a total of $16.5 million if he satisfies all the criteria of the incentives. In addition to that, his 2010 numbers looked like this: 3.47 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 200 IP, but that was probably heavily influenced due to pitching in PETCO Park.
Verdict: Jon Garland has never really been a high end fantasy pitcher anyway so his value remains the same: Mediocre. And while playing in the back end of the Dodgers’ rotation should work out fine for him, you won’t garner too much fantasy baseball fodder from the methodically pitcher. If you’re in a pinch at the end of your draft pick him up, otherwise, stay away.
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