Brewers Trade for Christian Yelich and Sign Lorenzo Cain | What’s the Fantasy Take?
Thank you, Milwaukee! The Brewers took the Major League Baseball hot stove, which was looking more like a deep freeze, and warmed things up real quick. Within the span of a few hours, Milwaukee helped Christian Yelich escape the depleted Miami Marlins, and then gave Lorenzo Cain a new home in the National League.
Fantasy Implications of Christian Yelich Trade and Lorenzo Cain Signing
Nowhere to go but up for Christian Yelich
Normally, I caution Fantasy owners not to overreact to the effects of a trade for a Major League Baseball player, but it's hard not to get excited about what this could mean for the offensive numbers of Christian Yelich.
In addition to leaving the Fantasy wasteland that the Marlins lineup has become, Yelich and his Fantasy owners have even more reasons to smile. The difference between Marlins Park and Miller Park could not be more extreme. Marlins Park is an extreme pitcher's park, with 2017 park factors of 0.848 (28th) in runs and 0.835 (25th) in home runs. Miller Park leans much more offensive, with a 1.094 (8th) factor in runs and 1.049 (12th) in home runs. The gap is even bigger for left-handed hitters as Marlins Park plays to a 0.81 factor for home runs to right field, whereas Miller Park is a whopping 1.51.
Think Christian Yelich isn't going to enjoy the new ballpark? His career home/road splits paint the picture of a pretty big power bump. Over his five-year career, Yelich has notched a .759 OPS with 18 HRs at home and a .839 OPS and 41 HRs on the road. Starting to get a little jazzed?
But wait there's more! Not only does Christian Yelich get a new ballpark, but he joins a brand new and improved lineup with impact hitters throughout. Both Yelich and Lorenzo Cain profile as potential lead-off hitters. It's hard to know which way Milwaukee will go, but if Yelich bats second he could easily approach 100 runs and 100 RBIs.
Still not sold? What if I told you the Brewers stole the second-most bases in the Majors last year despite not having one player with more than 23? Yelich is just 26 years old. With such an aggressive team he could very easily top his career high of 21 steals.
We've been waiting for the big breakout from Christian Yelich for a while now. This could be the year and it could be across the board. The hype train will kick into gear right away but don't be afraid to bump Yelich way up your draft boards. At worst you'll get a five-category player still on the way up.
— Travis Shaw (@travis_shaw21) January 25, 2018
More of a Lateral Move for Lorenzo Cain
Cain heads back to his first MLB home, but the benefit likely won't be quite as extreme for him as Yelich. He could still get a nice bump from the change in home field. Kauffman Stadium ranks 22nd in runs and 27th in home runs, with left field playing to a stingy 0.77 HR factor as opposed to Miller Park's more generous 1.12 mark.
Cain is soon to be 32 years old, though, and his home/road splits are nowhere close to as extreme as those of Christian Yelich. The Royals lineup, at least in 2017, is also pretty comparable to what we can expect in Milwaukee this year.
We might get a bit of a power boost out of Lorenzo Cain this year, but the big question with him is always health. He played 155 games in 2017 but prior to that, he had never managed more than 140 games during his eight-year career. There's enough upside left in Cain to hope for a 20 HR, 30 SB season, but age and injury risk make it unwise to pay for more than what he's done in recent seasons.
Is Lewis Brinson Ready for the Big Leagues?
Brinson is the big chip that convinced the Marlins to hand over Christian Yelich. Brinson has been on the prospect radar for a few years now, and at 23 years old, he should be handed the starting centerfield job in Miami. His first look at MLB pitching was not pretty. In 55 plate appearances, he batted just .106 and struck out in almost 31 percent of his at-bats.
Brinson's minor league numbers are a bit scattered as well, but he seemed to figure things out last year as he batted .331 with a .400 OBP in 340 plate appearances. Keep in mind, that was for Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League, pretty much the very best hitting situation a player could ask for.
The comp I keep hearing for Brinson is Mike Cameron. That means we can expect 20-plus HR power eventually, with solid stolen base totals but a mediocre batting average. It's hard to know what to make of Brinson in a Marlins' lineup that is quickly losing talent. Fantasy owners can leave him for the end game in most leagues and hope for a decent power/speed bump if things fall right. Keeper league owners can take a more aggressive approach, as even with his limitations Brinson looks like a very nice Fantasy asset.
Possible Fantasy Losers of this Milwaukee Mayhem
The Brewers outfield was already a bit full of potential Fantasy helpers. Now with Ryan Braun, Yelich, and Cain expected to play full-time, that leaves Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, and Brett Phillips with no path to full-time at-bats. Don't expect that problem to remain for very long, though. At least two from that group could be dealt in the very near future.
Where in the World is Domingo Santana?
It's almost a certainty that Domingo Santana will be dealt for pitching help. Santana broke out in a pretty big way in 2017, hitting 30 HRs with 15 stolen bases. He did strike out in 29.3 percent of his at-bats though, so a repeat of his .278 batting average is very unlikely. Still, his .371 OBP should help maintain his counting stats and ensure playing time wherever he goes. Early rumors had him possibly going to Atlanta or Tampa Bay, but in this very strange MLB offseason, we'll just have to wait and see. As of now, I'd downgrade Santana just a bit, but that's more likely due to regression than a possible trade.
Keon Broxton Becomes a Fantasy Wild Card
The Brewers were hopeful that Keon Broxton was their answer in centerfield and at times he looked like the real thing. He managed 20 home runs and 21 steals in 2017, but his .220 average and .299 OBP left Milwaukee wanting more. With Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain both being at least slight injury risks, Broxton could stay in town. However, if he's dealt and gets full-time play, he remains a very tantalizing Fantasy option.
No Play for Brett Phillips?
Those of you eyeing Brett Phillips as a deep sleeper may have to look somewhere else. Phillips profiles as a speed/power bat with some of the same batting average risks as Lewis Brinson. The difference is that Phillips now finds himself a bit buried in a crowded outfield. He could stick around as a fourth outfielder and injury insurance, or he could be included in a package for starting pitching. Unless he goes somewhere with a chance at a full-time job Phillips' Fantasy value is limited to mono-leagues and keeper formats.
Think Long Term for Other Prospects Headed to Miami
In addition to Lewis Brinson, the Marlins' haul included outfielder Monte Harrison, infielder Isan Diaz, and pitcher Jordan Yamamoto. Each of these prospects is a potential Fantasy asset. Harrison, in particular, has the tools to be an impact player. For 2018 though, these prospects are limited to keeper and dynasty formats. For a more in-depth look at the prospects in Miami's haul, check out our own Chris Mitchell's prospect profiles.
With Spring Training quickly approaching it's nice to see some action on the trade/free agent front. Hopefully, Christian Yelich will be the pebble that starts a landslide. Who's next?
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Joe Mahoney
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