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Thursday 14th Dec 2017

Assorted Rants, Rumblings and Ruminations from the Mind of a “So-Called” Expert

The Hot Stove was lit early with a few noteworthy transactions. While more moves are expected at the Winter Meetings, there's mumbling things will be quieter than normal.

I'm admittedly a little late to the dance with my take, but here's how I see the recent flurry of activity in fantasy terms.

Chicago Cubs sign Tyler Chatwood

With John Lackey and Jake Arrieta hitting the bricks, the Cubs fortified their rotation with Chatwood. Some are looking at Chatwood's road ERA and WHIP over the last two season and expecting big things in Wrigley Field, a decidedly better place to pitch than Coors Field. Here's Chatwood's vitals, home versus road:

2017  

VENUE ERA WHIP K% BB% HR/9
Home 6.01 1.66 18.6 11.9 1.36
Away 3.49 1.23 19.4 12.5 1.08

2016  

VENUE ERA WHIP K% BB% HR/9
Home 6.12 1.43 18.1 9.7 0.89
Away 1.69 1.31 16.8 11.3 0.92

Obviously, Coors matters. i agree with the Twitterverse, the Cubs are a nice landing spot for Chatwood. However, I'm concerned about Chatwood's walk rate. Keep in mind, BB% differs from BB/9 in that BB% uses batters faced as the denominator and is the better measure of the pitcher's skill. Curiously, Chatwood's control as been better a mile high.

Walks are especially important since Chatwood is an extreme groundball pitcher so he's prone to a high BABIP. Granted, the trade off is fewer homers and more double plays, but you really don't want a groundball specialist awarding more baserunners.

Something overlooked is Wrigley Field increases bases on balls by seven percent, four percent more than Coors Field. This makes it that much harder for Chatwood to get his control under wraps.

Health is another factor is durability as Chatwood's 2016 numbers of 27 starts and 158 innings are career bests.

Obviously, this move is an upgrade. I just think it's a mistake to look at Chatwood's road numbers and assume a mid-threes ERA. I'll take a shot on Chatwood if he falls to me, but I'm not chasing him.

St. Louis Cardinals sign Miles Mikolas

Shohei Ohtani isn't the only pitcher coming over from Japan as Mikolas returns to MLB after spending three season with the Yomiuri Giants. Here's the 29-year old, righthander's stats overseas:

YEAR W L ERA WHIP G GS IP H ER HR BB H K HR/9 BB/9 K/9
2015 13 3 1.92 0.897 21 21 145 107 31 8 23 107 107 0.5 1.4 6.6
2016 4 2 2.45 1.167 14 14 91.2 84 25 10 23 84 84 1 2.3 8.2
2017 14 8 2.25 0.984 27 27 188 162 47 10 23 162 187 0.5 1.1 9

The key is obviously great control along with doing a great job keeping the ball in the yard. It goes without saying (but of course I'll say it anyway), these will be the important factors as Mikolas attempts to transition back to the majors as he won't miss many bats.

Japan ball is thought to be a little above Triple-A in terms of MLE (major league equivalency), but keep in mind he would be considered old for his level if he was in Triple-A. Still, when running the numbers through my little black box, Mikolas should be a fantasy asset in 2018, especially pitching for the Redbirds, who have a knack for getting the most out of their hurlers. My actual projection is available for Platinum subscribers, but given the choice of Mikolas or Chatwood, give me Mikolas.

Los Angeles Angels sign Shohei Ohtani

I've written a lot about this for Rotowire (co-posted in Mastersball Platinum) and need to be sensitive to customers, but there's still a few things I can discuss. First, let's look at Ohtani, the pitcher. Here are his numbers with the Nippon Ham Fighters the last three season.

Year IP W L H HR ER BB K ERA WHIP
2015 160.2 15 5 100 7 40 7 196 2.24 0.91
2016 140 10 4 89 4 29 4 174 1.86 0.96
2017 25.1 3 2 13 2 9 2 29 3.20 1.26

As opposed to Mikolas, Ohtani is just 23, so he isn't penalized by the age to level translation. In fact, in 2015 and 2016, he would have been young for the Triple-A level. Ohtani has electric stuff and profiles as a top-end starter. Ignoring innings, his ratios in Angels Stadium put him in the tier below Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber.

Here's Ohtani, the hitter the past three campaigns.

Year AB H HR R RBI BB K SB BA OBP SLG
2015 109 22 5 15 17 8 17 1 0.202 0.252 0.376
2016 323 104 22 65 67 54 67 7 0.322 0.416 0.588
2017 202 67 8 24 31 24 31 0 0.332 0.403 0.540

Let's ignore 2015. Digging into the numbers, the past two seasons, Ohtani had posted a 26 K%/.394 BABIP and 27 K%/.440 BABIP. The strikeout rate isn't too concerning considering his age, but we have no idea where his BABIP will regress. Scouts like to talk about his power, but it isn't off the charts and who knows how it might develop since he won't be focusing on hitting full time. I'll save the projection for subscribers, but playing half his games in Angels Stadium, his 2018 numbers translate to Sean Rodriguez.

The elephant in the room is Ohtani's health. He missed most of last season with ankle and hamstring issues, needing ankle surgery after last season. He initialy hurt his ankle in the 2016 Japan Series, causing him to miss the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

The injuries concern me on many levels. How many innings will the Halos let Ohtani throw, after tossing just 25.1 last season? Why expose the phenom to even more injury risk as a batter and baserunner when elite pitching is at a premium?

The window of potential innings is wide. I can make a case for 120 or 160. My lean is closer to 130, but I can see more. Regardless, before I'm comfortable drafting Ohtani, I want a sense of how the Angels plan on using him in the rotation. For example, if they say they plan on shutting him down for a stretch, controlling innings while letting him hit), that's a good thing for me since I'm comfortable using someone else in that span. If I'm nervous the Angels will decide to skip his start on a whim, I'm less interested. How his innings are parsed will go a long way towards how eager I am to draft Ohtani.

The New York Yankees acquire Giancarlo Stanton

Last season, Stanton hit 59 homers. Using composite park factors, that translates to 75. Hold on, pump the brakes. I'm not projecting 75, just pointing out, on paper, the difference in the respective venues, Marlins Park (aka the Aquarium) and Yankees Stadium. Everyone talks about the short porch in the Bronx, ignoring the the park is the most favorable for righty power - it has been since its opening. Part of the reason is its friendly to opposite field power.

For the record, composite park factors incorporate the road schedule. It's something unique to my process, at least I haven't heard anyone else doing it. It's a weighted average of all the venues on each team's schedule, home and away.

Park overlays suggest when Stanton hits a homer, it would go out anywhere. Still, I have to figure Yankee Stadium yields a few more homers to Stanton than Marlins Park.

With respect to playing time, on paper, Brett Gardner is the biggest loser with Aaron Hicks and even Gary Sacnhez negatively affected (less available time to DH). The caveat is Hicks durability isn't the greatest, opening up some more time for Gardner, though he's not really a center fielder anymore.

I'll save my Stanton ranking for subscribers, but I'll have a hard time pulling the trigger within the Top-10. This is more about an absolutely stacked first round than Stanton. The injury risk is just enough for me to fade him.

_____________________________________________

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Harper 2017 CATCHER: Matt Wieters exercised his option thus will be back behind the dish. Youngster   Pedro Severino is the backup, at least for now.

 INFIELD: Can Ryan Zimmerman make it through another season unscathed? Daniel   Murphy will start in the DL, possibly paving the way for Wilmer Difo to play second   opening day. Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon are fixtures on the left side.

 OUTFIELD: Bryce Harper is the centerpiece, with Adam Eaton returning along with   Michael A. Taylor. At some point, Victor Robles is expected to get the call, this time for good.

BENCH: Brian Goodwin adds outfield depth with Difo eventually the utility infielder. There's a good chance the Nats add some reserves.

max scherzer fullROTATION: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark are obviously solid. With Joe Ross recovering from TJS, A.J. Cole, Erick Fedde and Austin Voth are in-house options for the fifth spot, or Washington can seek help from outside the organization.

BULLPEN: Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson stabilized a spotty bullpen and return as the primary high-leverage options. Enny Romero, Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley and Matt Grace comprise the bridge.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH: Top prospect Victor Robles was mentioned, he's a five category contributor with more speed than power and has the chance to be a fantasy stud. Fellow outfielder Andrew Stevenson is close as well, but has nowhere to play.

POSSIBLE ACQUISITIONS: Look for a backup catcher and a fifth starter to head the Nationals wish list.

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rougned odor CATCHER: Robinson Chirinos took over after the Jonathan Lucroy trade and is the   clubhouse leader heading into 2018. Brett Nicholas is the current backup.

 INFIELD: When Adrian Beltre is healthy, he'll man third base, pushng Joey Gallo across   the diamond. Elvis Endrus and Rougned Odor are back as the double-play commbo.

 OUTFIELD: Nomar Mazara and Shi Soo Choo patrol the corners. Delino DeShields Jr.   deserves to play every day in center, let's see if he gets it. Willie Calhoun could work in,   though he's at a disadvantage since he's a lefty swinger like Mazara and Choo.

 DESIGNATED HITTER: Calhoun is a possibility, but chances are a bat is acquired, pushing Choo here, or even Gallo.

BENCH: Jurickson Profar fell out of favor last season. If he's out of the doghouse, he could serve as bench fodder. Ryan Rua, Drew Robinson, Jared Hoying and Phil Gosselin are in the mix.

Hamels DFSROTATION: Cole Hamels is at the top, flanked by Martin Perez, A.J. Griffin and the newly acquired Doug Fister. Nick Martinez is the likely fifth, though Texas may not be done fortifying their staff.

BULLPEN: Alex Claudio ended 2017 with the closer gig and could begin 2018 with the job. Matt Bush, Keone Kela, Jake Diekman and Jose Leclerc will battle for setup innings.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH: Calhoun has been discussed and is in line to make a contribution, though others like his bat more than I do (take that with my untutored, non-scout eye grain of salt). Yohander Mendez saw some starts last year, he could be called upon again.

POSSIBLE ACQUISITIONS: I don't think the Rangers are done. They're short one bat and one starter, along with possibly bringing in an established closer.

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joshdonaldson CATCHER: Russell Martin returns as starter, but for now long? Luke Maile is the backup,   that's not the issue. Danny Jansen is close, and with Max Pentecost exposed to the Rule 5   draft, Jansen's path is devoid of a possible obstacle.

 INFIELD: Justin Smoak finally had the long-awaited breakout season. Can Devon Travis   stay healthy? We know Troy Tulowitzki can't. Unless he is traded, Josh Donaldson will play   third. Ryan Goins backs up both injury-prone middle men.

 OUTFIELD: Kevin Pillar's glove keeps him in the lineup. After that, things are unclear. Steven Pearce is looking for a rebound season. Teoscar Hernandez got a decent look down the stretch. Ezequiel Carrera had a good first half but fizzled.

 DESIGNATED HITTER: Kendrys Morales is one of the few designated hitters worth owning.

BENCH: When everyone is healthy, Goins and Carrera are reserves. Toronto may fortify their starters, pushing some of the above to the bench. Gift Ngoepe came over from Pittsburgh to help fortify the middle.

aaron sanchez fullROTATION: Steady Marcus Stroman is the staff anchor. J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada follow. Joe Biagini was groomed as a starter last season, showing enough to continue the transition.

BULLPEN: Roberto Osuna defeated some personal demons last season and should be one of the better closers. Ryan Tepera, Dominic Leone and Aaron Loup are part of a unspectacular, albeit useful group.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH: The two gems, both legacies, Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are a ways away. Rowdy Tellez hasn't developed, and is blocked, but was protected from the Rule 5. Jansen was already discussed. Richard Urena got a September look and could be back. Lastly, if Anthony Alford has a good start in Triple-A, he may be called up.

POSSIBLE ACQUISITIONS: At one point, Donaldson was on the block but that buzz has quieted. If the Jays feel they can compete, look for a bat to be brought in to replace Jose Bautista. Some rotation depth is also possible.

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Please direct all questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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kevin kiermaier CATCHER: The Rays signed Wilson Ramos to a two-year deal more for 2018 than 2017.   Jesus Sucre is the primary backup.

 INFIELD: Brad Miller could move back to first base but he's better as a utilityman. If Matt   Duffy is finally healthy, he'll play, perhaps second base with Adeiny Hechavarria at   shortstop or maybe Duffy plays short with Miller at second. The only lock is Evan   Longoria at the hot corner.

 OUTFIELD: Kevin Kiermaier's leather keeps him in the lineup so long as he's healthy.   Steven Souza Jr. holds down one spot. Currently, Mallex Smith grabs the other, but that   could change. 

 DESIGNATED HITTER: Corey Dickerson could dabble in the outfield, or even first base, but his best position is DH.

BENCH: Daniel Robertson adds to the infield depth. The outfield reserves are currently scant. New readers - how many fantasy analysts do you know use the word scant?

Archer DFS 2017ROTATION: At last check, Chris Archer was still with the club. Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria are set. The fifth spot could go to Matt Andriese but don't forget about Nathan Eovaldi, returning from TJS. Brent Honeywell and Jose DeLeon are long shots to break camp, but both could be a factor in-season.

BULLPEN: The Rays are likely to trade Alex Colome, leaving the closer competition to Brad Boxberger and... um... Dan Jennings? Andrew Kittredge, Austin Pruitt and Xavier Cedeno comprise an uncharacteristically pedestrian group.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH: The Rays rely on home grown talent to compete with reinforcements are on the way. Honeywell was mentioned as a rotation piece, he could be a good one. Willy Adames is close and should contribute this season while outfielder Jake Bauers isn't far off. Shohei Ohtani may be a hot button topic but keep in mind Tampa has a two-way prospect in Brendan McKay, though he's a couple years away. 

POSSIBLE ACQUISITIONS: The cost-conscious Rays aren't likely to make a big splash, but a power hitting first baseman, decent outfielder and bullpen help could be on the menu, either by trade (Archer, Colome) or free agency.

Do you want to win your league?

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