Welcome to the final part of a three-part look at the players who have switched uniforms for the 2018 season. Please take a moment and take a look at the first two parts involving hitters.
There were not a vast amount of pitchers moving teams coming into this season. Only two starters (Gerrit Cole & Yu Darvish) really stood out as front-line starting pitchers that you need to evaluate the impact of their changing addresses.
In addition, there were some relief pitchers that have traded places and have significant Fantasy ramifications. Which pitchers helped themselves and their Fantasy owners with their move to the new teams? How does the new home park factor into the evaluation? Did the relievers move directly into the closer’s role or into the dreaded closer by committee?
Find out the answers to those questions and a whole lot more in the 2018 Fantasy Baseball Trading Places.
2018 Fantasy Baseball Trading Places
Gerrit Cole, SP, HOU
The Houston Astros are hedging their bets on suffering a World Series hangover. They strengthened their World-Series winning rotation by acquiring Gerrit Cole from the Pirates.
In two of the last three seasons, Cole crossed the 200-inning mark. Last season, he led the NL in starts with 33 and carved out a dozen victories. He is only two years removed from an All-Star season in which he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting after posting a 2.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 208 innings. He has a career 8.4 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 over his five years. Last season may have been a down year but there is still a lot to look forward to.
In 203.0 innings, Cole posted a 4.26 ERA, 1.251 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9 with a 12-12 record. And just as it did to so many other pitchers last season, the home run spike hit him especially hard, as he allowed 31 round-trippers across 203 innings—1.4 per nine or nearly three times his ’16 rate.
Cole will be going from the No. 1 pitcher in Pittsburgh to No.3 in Houston behind Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. His presence will give the Astros a dependable arm and provide depth to a group of starters that have struggled with durability and health. Cole is immediately the best no. 3 starter in the American League and he could blossom even more in Houston.
In his career before 2017, he had allowed the fifth-lowest HR/FB rate among 175 qualified starters. Even in a down year, he still eclipsed 200 innings and was worth about three wins above replacement.Cole will finish with 200 innings pitched while striking out over 175 and is a perfect third starting pitcher on your Fantasy roster.
Yu Darvish, SP, CHC
The deal to bring Yu Darvish to Chicago makes a lot of sense for the Cubs. He has a true upside arm on a pretty team friendly deal. Last season, was only the second 30-plus start campaign for Darvish. He ended the year with a 3.86 ERA/209 K/1.16 WHIP over 186 innings. He really took off once dealt to the Dodgers at the trade deadline, posting a 3.44 ERA over nine starts.
Since Darvish came over to MLB from Japan as a 25-year-old, only 17 other pitchers have created more wins above replacement (two of his new teammates, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana, rank above him). He’s an elite strikeout pitcher when healthy, posting an 11.0 K/9 for his career. He has the potential to be among the league leaders in strikeouts. With the move to the NL and getting to regularly face opposing pitchers only helping his outlook.
In addition, now Darvish is in the NL for a whole season and away from hitter-friendly Arlington. Teams score seven percent more runs there than other parks over the past three seasons. However, Yu Darvish was disastrous in the postseason, with a 6.14 ERA over 14.2 IP. While there was talk that he was tipping his pitches, something that obviously would be fixable. He didn’t show any issues during the regular season. His otherwise splendid career should calm down any concerns with his World Series performance.
Darvish landed in one of the best spots for him Fantasy wise. The Cubs will be good again. He should reach 200-plus strikeouts with an ERA under 3.50, and has a great opportunity to surpass his previous career-high of 16 wins. Fantasy owners should be viewing Darvish as a high-end SP2 at worst.
Jake Odorizzi, SP, MIN
Obtained in part of the Rays’ firesale, Jake Odorizzi is coming off arguably his worst season in the majors. He finished the season with a 10-8 record in 28 starts. He posted a 4.14 ERA / 5.43 FIP / 5.10 xFIP slash line that is all-around frightening. His strikeout rate (21.0 percent) was his lowest since 2013, and his 10.1 percent walk rate was the highest of his career. His 10.9 percent K-BB% ranked 61st out of 90 pitchers with at least 140 innings pitched!
The focus now is on the Twins, and for Odorizzi, it’s all about staying healthy. He dealt with several nagging injuries throughout the season in 2017, and that came to an apex in July. Odorizzi took a 16-day break between starts in July and August to rest his ailing back, but then suffered a foot injury in his return on August 9. He chose to push through, and the end result was two ugly months.
Odorizzi posted a 6.33 ERA with 27 walks, 33 strikeouts, and 11 home runs allowed in nine starts over that period. But once he was fully healthy, he closed his 2017 with a flourish. In five September starts, Odorizzi threw 26 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts, nine walks, three home runs allowed, and a 1.03 ERA.
He is currently projected to be the Twins’ No.2 starter behind Jose Berrios. He should have at least 30 starts with an ERA under 4.00 along with a 7.96 K/9 ratio. That is certainly useful for a possible sleeper starting pitcher. Furthermore, he should provide double-digit wins and should be targeted in the middle rounds of your draft. For a fourth/fifth SP on your roster, that is significant value for a low price.
Wade Davis, RP, COL
The Rockies let 2017 closer Greg Holland walk into free agency and replaced him with former Royals and Cubs closer Wade Davis. They gave Davis the largest free-agent contract for a reliever in baseball history. Wade Davis, one of the best relievers in the majors the last three years, was excellent in his lone season with the Cubs.
He produced a 2.30 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 32 saves and 79 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. His 2.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio, with 12.1 K’s and 4.3 walks per nine innings, are statistical upgrades over Colorado’s closer in 2017, Greg Holland. And among balls in play, Davis forced 40.5 percent into groundballs — a desirable trait to carry at wide-open Coors Field.
Davis was nearly unhittable in 2017 before the All-Star break. He posted a 1.80 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 43 strikeouts against 12 walks in 30 innings. Hitters managed just a .168/.261/.245 slash against him. He had a 35.8 strikeout rate and 10% walk rate, and he surrendered just one homer, translating to a 4.5% HR/FB ratio.
Everything changed after the All-Star break. Davis’s ERA jumped to 2.83, and his WHIP climbed to 1.29. He struck out 36 batters and walked 16 in 28 2/3 innings, with strikeout and walk rates of 29.5% and 13.1%, respectively. He gave up five homers, with his HR/FB ratio spiking to 17.9%.
Davis is now entering his age-32 season, and he dealt with a serious forearm injury in 2016. As his performance declined last season, so, too, did his velocity, while his walk rate increased. There is no riskier high-ranked closer on the board than Wade Davis. He is currently being drafted as a Top 10 closer, while I see Davis as the perfect bust candidate.
Luke Gregerson, RP, STL
Luke Gregerson is penciled in as the Cardinals closer. Although the former Astros reliever might not be the man to finish off games. He had four saves last season but has 66 in 112 career opportunities. Gregerson did save 46 games for the Astros between 2015-16. Barring any more offseason moves, Gregerson is the closing option for the Red Birds.
The Cardinals had a revolving door at closer last season. It looks like that will continue into the 2018 season. Gregerson was generally not considered a high-level free agent reliever, although he possesses a solid strikeout rate and an above-average ERA and WHIP. He has lower velocity than most pitchers. In addition, he has a deadly whiff generating tool in his slider that allows him to be dangerous in late innings.
His only alarming problem in 2017 was a rocket-blast homer rate. When batters hit a fly ball off Gregerson last season, it flew over the wall for a home run 23.6 percent of the time. That was the second-highest HR/FLY rate against a big-reliever in 2017. And because of his recent struggles, he will almost certainly not be counted upon for high-leverage, closer innings, at least not immediately. Luke Gregerson, the presumptive ninth-inning man, has pitched once, striking out two in a perfect inning. But Gregerson doesn’t figure to be pitching for a while.
Manager Mike Matheny, however, believes it will be a short while. He has some “tightness” in an oblique muscle. While the potential injury should scare off Fantasy owners, his job security as a closer is not airtight whatsoever. Fantasy owners should proceed with caution with Luke Gregerson on their rosters, and he might only be good as a very late-round flier to fill out the roster and hope you strike gold.
Fernando Rodney, RP, MIN
Fernando Rodney converted 39 of 45 save chances with the Diamondbacks this past season.He logged a 4.23 ERA in 55 1/3 innings. Rodney still has good stuff, as evidenced by his 65 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings with the D-backs last season. Rodney’s fastball velocity has remained consistent. He is averaging 94-95 mph over the past four seasons, and he throws his changeup roughly 40 percent of the time. Opposing hitters hit just .148 with one homer against his changeup, and it generated 86 swings and misses, per Statcast™.
However, he did blow six saves last season, but so did 21 other Major League pitchers. He is most notable not for his inability to close out games but the wild and unpredictable way in which he does. Of the 155 qualified relievers in the 2017 season, Rodney ranked 131st in walk rate and 115th in percentage of pitches in the strike zone. He is a late bloomer, as he didn’t become a closer until he was 31 with the Tigers in 2008, but he has racked up 300 career saves, third among active relievers, and was an All-Star in 2012, 2014, and 2016.
The Twins signed a total of three free-agent relievers-Rodney, Addison Reed, and Zach Duke. This was to help fortify a bullpen that finished last season, 22nd in MLB in WAR, 22nd in ERA, and 29th in strikeout rate. Rodney will be the closer, and they are capable backups in case he falters. I suggest if you select Rodney, you do the same and get capable backups or draft him late and hope he brings you another 2017-type season.
Joakim Soria, RP, CHW
White Sox Manager Rick Renteria still can’t name a closer with less than two weeks to go before opening day, and Joakim Soria and Bobby Jones are vying for the closer job. Soria, acquired from the Royals in a three-team trade, and has 204 career saves but hasn’t closed since 2015. Over the last two seasons, Soria has 14 blown saves and a 3.89 ERA. Last season, he had a so-so season with the Royals, picking up a save and appearing 59 games for the Royals. He posted a 3.79 ERA in 56 innings of work, striking out 64 batters and walking 20 as he worked in mainly a set-up role for the Royals.
His veteran status and strikeout ability would seemingly give him an edge in that competition. Although I would not count out Bobby Jones to steal some work. In the worst case Fantasy scenario, we are looking at closer by committee. It is highly likely that the White Sox will mix and match in 2018. Which will make Soria an afterthought in Fantasy drafts. Look for a possible trade involving the White Sox bullpen, which could free one of the many candidates to become Fantasy relevant.
2018 Fantasy Baseball Pitchers Trading Places
|Brad Boxberger||RP||Tampa Bay Rays||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|Gerritt Cole||SP||Pittsburgh Pirates||Houston Astros|
|Steve Cishek||RP||Tampa Bay Rays||Chicago Cubs|
|Yu Darvish||SP||Los Angeles Dodgers||Chicago Cubs|
|Wade Davis||RP||Chicago Cubs||Colorado Rockies|
|Tom Koehler||SP||Toronto Blue Jays||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Lance Lynn||SP||St. Louis Cardinals||Minnesota Twins|
|Wade Miley||SP||Baltimore Orioles||Milwaukee Brewers|
|Pat Neshek||RP||Colorado Rockies||Philadelphia Phillies|
|Bud Norris||RP||Los Angeles Angels||St. Louis Cardinals|
|Jake Odorizzi||SP||Tampa Bay Rays||Minnesota Twins|
|Seung Hwan Oh||RP||St. Louis Cardinals||Toronto Blue Jays|
|Shohei Ohtani||SP||Japan||Los Angeles Angels|
|Michael Pineda||SP||New York Yankees||Minnesota Twins|
|Wily Peralta||SP||Milwaukee Brewers||Kansas City Royals|
|Addison Reed||RP||Boston Red Sox||Minnesota Twins|
|Fernando Rodney||RP||Arizona Diamonbacks||Minnesota Twins|
|Hector Rodon||RP||Chicago Cubs||Houston Astros|
|Anibal Sanchez||SP||Detroit Tigers||Minnesota Twins|
|Bryan Shaw||RP||Cleveland Indians||Colorado Rockies|
|Joe Smith||RP||Cleveland Indians||Houston Astros|
|Drew Smyly||SP||Seattle Mariners||Chicago Cubs|
|Joakim Soria||RP||Kansas City Royals||Chicago White Sox|
|Tony Watson||RP||Los Angeles Dodgers||San Francisco Giants|