The Hot Stove Impact On Prospects
The hot stove and baseball’s Winter Meetings might be the best part of being a Fantasy Baseball fan. Watching live games is great, and following the pennant races along with your Fantasy teams is thrilling, and seeing the Chicago Cubs win a World Series brought tears to a lot of eyes; but if you are an avid dynasty leaguer the hot stove is the real season.
It’s when teams sign or trade prospects and major leaguers or sign free agents. Rumors swirl and transactions happen. Laundry is changed and Major League organizations are molded and remolded, as are your Fantasy teams. We speculate about who, what and why; then debate it all ad nauseam. There isn’t a better time to dissect and debate baseball than from Halloween to New Years, and if we’re lucky, it can last past the Super Bowl and into the dearth of despair that is February.
One of the things that makes it so interesting is that every transaction can be analyzed based on the headliners, and then it can be re-evaluated for the impact left in its wake. Chris Sale’s departure from the White Sox to the Red Sox will directly impact Sale and all of the prospects involved, but it will also impact Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright, and we already saw it impact Clay Buchholz (he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies). It is like watching cascading dominoes. You start one falling and before you know it, you have a room full of rectangular white dotted black pieces lying all over the place. That is the Hot Stove.
One important element of evaluating a minor league prospect is determining when he might arrive in the Major Leagues and figuring out which position he’ll play once he arrives. The Winter Meetings have a significant impact on both of these considerations and it happens in real time on the turn of a dime.
This hasn’t been one of the strongest free agent markets we have ever seen and that has resulted in a few huge trades. It is pretty rare that you see a potential impact prospect like Yoan Moncada or Lucas Giolito traded, but with a lack of starting pitchers available and the mediocrity available at lofty prices in the outfield, trading was the way for teams to build for 2017.
Here are some of the prospects that have been affected by the activity of the 2016-2017 offseason.
Chicago White Sox Trade Chris Sale
to the Boston Red Sox for:
Yoan Moncada, 2B/3B, Chicago White Sox
Moncada’s dynasty league value won’t change in a meaningful way due to this trade, with the possible exception being that he could end up playing second base rather than third. This will depend on how Brett Lawrie performs in 2017. The Red Sox were desperate for production at third base in 2016 and even though Pablo Sandoval will be back, they are still desperate heading in to 2017. If Moncada was still with the Red Sox, and showed improved contact rates in spring training and at the start of the season in Triple-A, there was a good chance that he would be their starting third baseman as early as May of 2017, making him a legitimate draft and stash candidate.
Now that Moncada is with the rebuilding White Sox, there isn’t a reason to rush him and he is blocked at second base by Brett Lawrie and at third base by Todd Frazier. If there is a knock on the number one overall prospect it is his high strikeout rate. We saw evidence of it in 2016, both in the minor leagues and with the Red Sox, when he struck out 12 times in 19 at bats in September. He could use some time to work on his contact issues, and that should delay his promotion until late June or July, minimizing the value of drafting and stashing him in yearly leagues. The stolen bases will play when he is promoted, but a poor batting average and a minimal number of home runs may not justify sitting on him for three months. Especially since that roster spot could be better used to stream pitchers or chase saves.
Two to three months of production in yearly leagues and the possibility of being a long-term second baseman in dynasty is the real impact of this trade on Yoan Moncada.
Michael Kopech, SP, Chicago White Sox
Kopech goes from one hitter’s haven to another, and his development is far enough from the Major Leagues that the change of scenery is unlikely to impact his future in any tangible way. White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper is one of the best in the business, so you could argue that the trade will benefit his development, but the reality is that Kopech’s value isn’t changed because of something as unquantifiable as that.
Luis Alexander Basabe OF White Sox
Basabe was overshadowed in a loaded Red Sox farm system, but he has the combination of speed and power to be an intriguing Fantasy prospect. The change to the White Sox should provide him an opportunity for at bats sooner than they would have come in Boston. The Red Sox have three young, talented outfielders that are under long-term team control, something that could have blocked Basabe in 2018-2019. In Chicago, Basabe becomes one of their best position prospects and the best outfielder in an organization that also traded away Adam Eaton, possibly opening the door for Basabe when he is ready. This trade could help him contribute a year or two sooner.
Victor Diaz RP Chicago White Sox
Diaz is a longshot to ever be Fantasy-relevant, and it looks like if he becomes relevant it will be in the bullpen. This trade shouldn’t impact his value.
Rafael Devers, 3B/1B/DH, Boston Red Sox
Devers has the power and contact skills to be a middle of the order run producer. The concern has been that he would outgrow third base, creating a logjam at first base for the Sox. The young slugger didn’t have a breakout offensive season in 2016, but his defense took a step forward to the point that he is now considered an above average third baseman. With Moncada gone, third base looks to be all his as early as July/August 2017 or opening day 2018.
Devers could start 2017 in High-A, but the likelihood is that he starts the season in Double-A and finishes it in Triple-A, with a charity cup of coffee with the Red Sox in September a possibility. That is a best-case scenario with a slim chance that if he dominates Double-A like Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa have in recent years, that the Red Sox rush him to the majors after the All Star break. Owners should keep an eye out for that possibility, but it’s a remote one.
With the return of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez still under contract, playing full time at first base would have been difficult, and it would decrease his value to both the Red Sox and Fantasy owners. It also blocks Sam Travis’ ascension. The trade of Yoan Moncada, along with Devers’ improved defense, helps the Red Sox avoid a potential logjam at first base and enhances his Fantasy value to owners as a long-term third baseman where his bat profiles better. Its hard to be excited about trading a top prospect like Moncada, but it solves some logistical problems and it is a big boost to Devers.
Sam Travis, 1B/OF/DH, Boston Red Sox
Travis is an interesting case because he has great bat to ball skills and the potential to hit for power, but a swing that lends itself more to extra base hits and strong batting averages. This is troubling for Fantasy owners because on his best days he could be an acceptable leftfielder for an organization loaded with them, and on most game days he is an acceptable first baseman who probably won’t hit enough home runs to properly profile at the position. All that being said; Moncada being in Chicago and Travis’ plus hit tool could create at bats that weren’t going to be there before the Chris Sale trade.
Chicago White Sox Trade Adam Eaton
to the Washington Nationals:
With the White Sox trading Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and the possibility of dealing Jose Quintana and David Robertson there are opportunities all over the field for the prospects they brought into the organization this winter. Lucas Giolito will be ready whenever the White Sox choose to promote him and there are rotation spots waiting to be filled. Reynaldo Lopez could find innings in their rotation or as David Robertson’s replacement in the ninth inning by 2018. Basabe won’t be ready for Chicago in 2017, but when the calendar changes to 2018, Basabe will be on their radar and Eaton won’t be standing in his way.
Lucas Giolito, SP, Chicago White Sox
It seems pretty clear now that the Nationals had soured on Giolito, so a change in organizations should be a positive from that perspective. Reports of a low spin rate on his fastball should have a larger impact on his Fantasy value than his move to Chicago. Changing from a pitcher’s park in the National League to a hitter’s haven in the American League is a negative, but it shouldn’t drastically alter your projections or the value of Giolito.
The Nationals tweaked Giolito’s mechanics in 2016, and a change from a team that felt a need to do that, to one with pitching coach Don Cooper, is probably a good change for Giolito’s development. However, that shouldn’t impact your view of him in a meaningful way either. The trade should lower Giolito’s impact in yearly leagues in 2017. In Washington, there was a chance that Giolito could be in their starting rotation on Opening Day, rather than working on perfecting his mechanics in Triple-A, which is what he is likely to do with the White Sox.
Giolito would have been a “draft and stash” player in yearly leagues with the Nationals. The chance of not being promoted until late June or July will impact his draft day value and his potential contributions in 2017. The impact on Giolito’s value will be felt largely in yearly leagues, not dynasty ones. There is some uncertainty surrounding him and his potential ceiling, especially after the reports about his low spin rate, so if you own him you are best served to keep him, but if he is available it would be wise to check in to see if you can acquire him at a discounted rate. The risk is worth the reward if you have an opposing owner running scared and selling low.
Reynaldo Lopez, SP, Chicago White Sox
Lopez has number two start stuff with some scouts concerned that he is better suited for the bullpen, where he could be a dominant late inning reliever. He would have battled for a chance to break camp in the Nationals’ rotation, but the more likely scenario was that he would have pitched out of their bullpen, where the Nationals have a need. There is a chance that such a change could have become a permanent one, like Jonathan Papelbon when he was with the Boston Red Sox. The White Sox are likely to provide Lopez every opportunity to remain a starter, and they are likely to take things slowly in 2017. He will likely begin his year in Triple-A, limiting his innings and exposure, so that he is ready to be a mid-rotation starter in 2018. He will pitch in the major leagues this season, but owners will likely have to wait until July or August.
Its nice to have a dominant closer on your Fantasy team but Lopez’s Fantasy value is increased significantly if he can develop into a starting pitcher, who strikes out 180 batters per season with the White Sox, rather than saving games with the Nationals. Owners should be hesitant about trading for Lopez because there is a legitimate chance he will be a reliever, but if there is a significant discount the reward could become worth your while. It’s all about the price with Lopez right now.
Dane Dunning, SP, Chicago White Sox
Dunning was drafted by the Washington Nationals in 2016. While a move from the National League to the American League should have a minor impact on his ratios and the level of his success, if he ever does become a Major League starter, the trade won’t impact him in a meaningful way. Owners shouldn’t alter their value or projections because of the change in organizations.