This week in (fantasy) baseball 2/13-2/19

It’s hard enough following one’s own fantasy team without having to keep track of an entire sport’s daily transactions. To assist you, here’s a column dedicated to recapping the most notable trades, signings, promotions, demotions and role changes across the majors over the past week as they relate to fantasy. We’ll do this on a regular basis. If you feel I’ve missed anything important, please don’t hesitate to keep the conversation going in the comments below.

A’s swoop in to sign Yoenis Cespedes to four-year deal

We should have known better than to underestimate Billy Beane.

It was all but certain, didn’t you know, that Cuban phenom Yoenis Cespedes was going to sign with the Marlins, make Miami his new home and welcome the hero’s adoration sure to be showered upon him by an adoring Latino community.

And yet, when the Marlins wouldn’t budge on a guaranteed sixth year, Beane locked up the 26-year-old with a contract that will allow the outfielder to re-enter free agency still in the prime of his career, making a relatively low-risk move that brings much-needed outfield depth to Oakland.

So it’s another victory for Beane, as he once again outsmarts the baseball world. For fantasy owners, however, Cespedes arrives as an intriguing but not-quite-elite option as he gets ready to play American baseball.

If you haven’t read Clay Davenport’s projection of how Cespedes’ abilities will play in the majors, do yourself a favor and check it out. To save you the time, Davenport’s equalization of Cespedes’ 2011 season in Cuba would have resulted in a .245/.311/.469 line, and he believes the outfielder has the potential to slam more than 25 home runs. Whether he reaches double-digit stolen bases remains to be seen, as does his ability to face big-league pitching.

He also won’t be granted any favors playing half his games in Oakland’s coliseum, a place that Stat Corner says suppresses right-handed home runs by 20 percent. And even if Cespedes hits in the middle of the A’s order, table setters Jemile Weeks and Coco Crisp are not complete players, and the less said about the offensive potential of Josh Reddick, Seth Smith and Scott Sizemore, the better.

But hey, Cespedes will be an exciting player, one with the upside to provide significant fantasy value in the home run department. The Hardball Times’ Oliver projection system foresees a .266/.308/.447 line with around 20 home runs, an imperfect but still valuable addition to any mixed-league fantasy roster.

Just make sure not to overvalue him on draft day, and don’t look for complete production, especially in his first major league season.

Pirates-Yankees trade is finally completed as A.J. Burnett goes to Pittsburgh

It took some doing, but at long last, the Bombers were able to unload A.J. Burnett, the inconsistent, tattooed purveyor of cream-pie facials (think you’d ever read that line in the New York Times?) to the Pirates Friday in exchange for two minor-league players. It’s probably a safe guess that Burnett’s value will improve as he bolts the AL East, and especially Yankee Stadium, where he’d allowed 42 home runs over the past three seasons.

Burnett, 35, averaged nearly 200 innings during his three years in New York, even if he compiled a dreadful 4.79 ERA, 1.447 WHIP and 1.2 HR/9. But even as his fastball has lost more than three mph since 2007, he was still able to strike out batters to the tune of a 8.2 K/9 rate last year.

Fantasy owners need not be reminded of Burnett’s mediocrity, but I’ll go ahead and remind everyone that last year he posted a 5.15 ERA and allowed 31 home runs. To be fair, both his FIP (4.77) and xFIP (3.86) were better than his ERA, and a 17 percent HR/FB rate was well above his career mark, and certainly cruel considering he posted his lowest flyball percentage since 2008.

For a guy with a nearly 49 percent groundball rate, Pittsburgh’s infield defense could be a cause for concern, though there’s hope that newly-acquired shortstop Clint Barmes will solidify things in the infield. And, hopefully, Burnett will find PNC Park to be a much more agreeable place to pitch than Yankee Stadium, and he’ll certainly benefit from facing a division that just lost Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.

Of course, Burnett won’t receive the same kind of bullpen support he did in the Bronx, but Joel Hanrahan has emerged as one of the best closers in the National League, so he might get some support there.

What does this all mean? Probably not much more than you already know. Burnett isn’t going to be appearing on too many Cy Young ballots this season. But he’s definitely moving to a more favorable environment and could be an interesting late-round sleeper in deeper leagues.

Jon Garland agrees to minor-league contract with Indians

Ever since international man of mystery Fausto Carmona (or is that Roberto Hernandez Heredia?) was arrested in the Dominican Republic for allegedly using a false identity, the Indians have been looking to solidify the team’s pitching depth, leading to last week’s minor-league signing of 32-year-old Jon Garland. Heading into last year, Garland was a model of consistency, averaging more than 32 starts a season dating back to 2002. But shoulder problems ruined his 2011 campaign, limiting him to nine outings before July surgery destroyed the rest of his season.

Considering Garland’s pedestrian career numbers (4.32 ERA, 1.380 WHIP, 4.9 K/9), his shoulder’s uncertainty will likely limit him to AL-only leagues at season’s outset. But this is a guy who twice has won 18 games in a season and still maintains a .526 career winning percentage, so it’d be unfair to completely write him off in fantasy.

Where would he fit into Cleveland’s rotation? Barring disaster, Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and probably Derek Lowe will have jobs throughout the season. Kevin Slowey, another guy coming off an injury season, is currently penciled in as the Indians’ No. 5 starter, but a strong spring from Garland—or a poor spring from Slowey, depending on how you want to look at it—could change all that.

Of course, Garland is scheduled to undergo a physical today, which will take a good look at his repaired shoulder and ultimately decide whether he’s up to snuff.

So while we’re on this subject, David Huff (4.09 ERA, 1.421 WHIP in 10 starts last year) and Jeanmar Gomez (4.47, 1.509 in 10 starts), along with minor-leaguer Scott Barnes, could be in the mix, as well, though none of these guys would be as intriguing as 24-year-old Zach McAllister. A 6-foot-6, 240-pound right-hander, McAllister blazed his way through Triple-A last year, compiling a 12-3 record, 3.32 ERA and, perhaps most encouragingly, a 4.13 K/BB ratio.

What remains to be seen is whether manager Manny Acta is ready to hand the keys over to a rookie. Regardless, Garland figures to be in the conversation throughout the next month.

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Comments

  1. Tyler said...

    Jon Garland didn’t sign with the White Sox. He signed with the Indians. The column has it right but the headline says White Sox.

  2. Karl de Vries said...

    Tyler—

    You mean this isn’t 2006? Man, I’m losing track of time here …

    Thanks for the heads up. We’ll make the correction shortly.

    —Karl

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