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Fantasy Baseball Offseason Tracker: Rays show faith in Wander Franco; Giants bring back Anthony DeSclafani

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The offseason is in full swing, and we’re here to provide the latest insights. Wondering how the latest trade or free agent signing will impact your Fantasy Baseball league? This is exactly the tracker for that sort of analysis.

Below are our reactions to what’s happened so far, most recently the record-breaking deal for 20-year-old Wander Franco.

Wander Franco signs extension with Rays

No changing of hands here, of course, but the scope of the deal makes it no less noteworthy. The guaranteed number is $182 million over 11 years, but there’s an option for a 12th year and escalators that could bring the contract to $223 million. It’s the largest deal ever doled out to a player with less than one year of service time, nearly doubling Ronald Acuna’s previous record.

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Early returns back up Franco’s two-year reign as the game’s top prospect. He has yet to optimize for power, but his bat skills are already first-rate. He struck out three times in 16 September games, for goodness’ sake. His production at age 20 puts him on a Hall of Fame trajectory, premature as it is to say, and the notoriously cost-conscious Rays are betting on it. For Fantasy, this deal could raise the already outsized hype to a full-blown fever pitch, making it more likely Franco goes too early (say, Round 2 or 3 rather than 4 or 5), but it’s certainly possible he becomes an out-and-out monster in 2022.

Anthony DeSclafani signs with Giants

DeSclafani will stay with the organization that helped bring out his best, and between him, Kevin Gausman, Alex Wood and even Drew Smyly for a brief stretch in 2020, the Giants have developed a reputation for salvaging forgotten pitching talents. Their big ballpark likely has something to do with it, and it just so happens DeSclafani allowed 0.5 HR/9 there compared to 1.4 on the road in 2021. The 31-year-old faded a bit with a 4.03 ERA in the second half, and between his modest strikeout rate high-ish xFIP and xERA (both 3.95), I do think it’s likely he overachieved a bit. Still, there’s nowhere else we would have preferred to see him go. His return to San Francisco should get him drafted among the top 60 starting pitchers.

Justin Verlander signs with Astros

The Astros ended the suspense before it had a chance to build, giving the future Hall of Famer not only $25 million for 2022 but also the choice to come back for 2023 or test the market again. You could say it’s a lot to gamble on a soon-to-be 39-year-old coming back from Tommy John surgery, but Verlander is the sort of generational talent who seems like he’ll keep going forever. You see his numbers from his last healthy season (he also made one start in 2020), and by opening day, he’ll have already had a solid 18 months to recover. My suspicion is that he’ll slide too far in Fantasy drafts, but a big spring could build the hype.

Brandon Belt signs with Giants

Belt accepted the qualifying offer, perhaps with an eye on negotiating a long-term deal, thus ending the hypothetical of him finally leaving Oracle Park. It’s true the cavernous venue has long stifled his power production and his Fantasy prospects with it, but it has played fairer the past two years, which explains him blowing away his previous career high in homers despite playing only 97 games. It’s that latter number that’s the real problem. Gabe Kapler prefers to sit him against left-handers. We can still hope for more playing time in 2022 — Belt did have a couple lengthy IL stints as well — but not as much as if he had gone somewhere else. He’ll be drafted outside the top 12 first basemen yet again.

Noah Syndergaard signs with Angels

The 29-year-olds ace lands in a good park in what’s probably the best division for pitchers if the DH is indeed coming to the NL, so no worries there. The real question is whether he can regain his former ace standing after Tommy John surgery. Calling him an ace may be too generous given how his stock had slipped in the two years prior to the surgery, during which he compiled a 3.73 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 across 57 starts. It’s fair to wonder if even those numbers are attainable given the 3 mph decline on his fastball during the little bit we saw of him in 2021. The Angels are clearly hopeful at $21, but the one-year deal acknowledges the risk.

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Eduardo Rodriguez signs with Tigers

This move telegraphs the Tigers’ intentions to contend in 2022, and why not? They upped their winning percentage to .475 in 2021, just two years after finishing 53.5 games out of first place, and still have two top-flight prospects, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, on the verge of a debut. As for Rodriguez, he was bound to improve no matter where he went, his 4.74 ERA being completely out of line with his 3.43 xFIP and 3.43 xERA. Fenway Park is of course an especially dangerous place for a left-hander to pitch, and the move to Comerica Park should help in that regard. He’ll be worth drafting among the top 60 starting pitchers in the hopes of a bounce-back season, offering the upside of a No. 3.

Andrew Heaney signs with Dodgers

Just when you thought it was safe to give up on Heaney in Fantasy, the 30-year-old left-hander joins up with one of the organizations best known for making good on reclamation projects. The Dodgers seemed eager to get him, too, snatching him up for $8.5 million at the start of the offseason. It’s not like they’re forced to shop the bargain bin either. What they see in him is no doubt the same thing that has kept Fantasy Baseballers interested all these years: He has big swing-and-miss tendencies but a vulnerability to the long ball that has kept him from making good on it. It’s possible the Dodgers still go the big-dollar route in remaking their pitching staff this offseason, bringing back Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw, but if not, Heaney will have renewed sleeper appeal given their interest in him.

Wade Miley claimed by Cubs

Miley had a career year and will make a modest $10 million in 2022, so it’s surprising the Cubs didn’t have to give up anything to get him. But it’s also revealing. Despite the impressive stat line, the left-hander is no one’s idea of a front-line pitcher and got a healthy dose of regression in September, delivering an 8.35 ERA and 2.18 WHIP in four starts. He keeps the ball on the ground and is good for 5-7 innings most of the time, so he belongs in a major-league rotation. But with minimal strikeout ability and a career 4.14 ERA, he’s probably back to being just a matchups play in 2022, especially for a rebuilding club.

Buster Posey retires

Posey’s absence is a net loss for Fantasy Baseball, but it clears a path for one of the better-known catcher prospects in the game, Joey Bart. The 24-year-old, drafted second overall in 2018, has spent some time in the majors the past two years, making a minimal impact. Injuries have inhibited his development in the minors, rendering him something of an all-or-nothing hitter, and it’s possible the Giants will choose to ease him in, bringing in a veteran to bridge the gap. Still, the likelihood of Bart stepping into the role at some point in 2022 makes him worth targeting as a top-15 catcher in Fantasy, top 12 if the Giants begin talking him up.

Tucker Barnhart traded to Tigers

At first glance, this move doesn’t have serious Fantasy implications, but the role Barnhart leaves behind in Cincinnati figures to be filled by Tyler Stephenson, a former first-round pick who delivered a near-.800 OPS as the offensive-minded half a catching tandem. Only five catchers had a higher OPS, and one is now retired. Stephenson may not impact the ball quite hard enough to maintain that mark, but he’s clearly in the mix as a top-12 catcher. Meanwhile, Barnhart’s arrival in Detroit reduces slugging Eric Haase to backup status. He can also man the outfield, which will potentially give him enough at-bats to keep him relevant in two-catcher leagues, but that’s only if he isn’t eaten alive by strikeouts. His margin for error is less now.

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C.J. Cron signs with Rockies

It’s no secret why Cron emerged as an impact contributor in 2021 after barely registering previously. It was his first year in Colorado, where he hit .326 with 19 homers and a 1.073 OPS compared to .235 with nine homers and a .734 OPS on the road. Now that we know he’ll be back with the Rockies, we can take the performance more or less at face value and target him as a top-10 first baseman for 2022. It’s no certainty he’ll be able to sustain those numbers age 32, but he’ll be in the one place that makes it possible.





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