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Friday 18th Aug 2017

The week of the Winter Meetings tends to be the time when the Hot Stove kicks into high gear, and after opening at a snail’s pace, that’s exactly what happened this year. The Red Sox continued their roster overhaul while the Astros uncharacteristically splurged on a pair of free agents. Billy Beane did what Billy Beane typically does while the Yankees uncharacteristically did nothing. When it comes to evaluating off-season signings and trades from a fantasy standpoint, it’s easy to either become overly pessimistic or overly giddy about a certain player’s prospects, so I try not to fall into this trap, at least until I do some more research followed by some more thinking and then some more thinking. But more often than not, it’s the initial reaction that ultimately wins out, and more often than not, draft day decisions are heavily influenced by these initial reactions. On that note, here are my initial reactions regarding some of the players who made news this past week.

3 UP

Mat Latos

Yeah, there’s some risk with Latos, mostly health related, as elbow, calf and knee injuries limited him to just 16 starts last season. Then there’s the strikeout rate issue, as his K/9 dropped from 8.0 in 2013 to 6.5 in 2014. But his other ratios remained strong, and considering that he was coming off four straight seasons with at least 185 punchouts, I’m willing to give him a mulligan. I cannot help but think that the health woes contributed to the strikeout dip. Latos is still only 27, and moving from Great American Ball Park to Marlins Park should help him. I was able to grab Latos in the 17th round (#242 overall) in a 15-team mixed mock draft last month. Granted, this was before the trade to Miami, but 17th round? Chances are he will cost significantly more than that come March, but the value will still be there.

Brandon Moss

I’ve never been a huge fan of Moss since he’s a liability in batting average, but with power down throughout baseball, there’s a lot to like about a guy who has swatted a combined 55 homers to go along with 168 RBI over the past two seasons while playing half his games in a pitcher-friendly park. Now he gets to move into a more neutral hitting environment in Cleveland. Keep in mind that Moss posted an OPS of .831 on the road last year compared to a .703 mark at home. Although I won’t necessarily be targeting him in 2015, I won’t be afraid to draft him either.

Luke Gregerson

Since Gregerson made his big league debut in 2009, few relievers have been as consistently dominant. Now it sounds like he’s the leading candidate to close for his new club, and if he heads into the season as the Astros’ clear-cut ninth inning man, I wouldn’t have any problem drafting him as my No. 2 stopper in a mixed league. I don’t see the role change having any effect whatsoever on his performance level.

3 DOWN

Yoenis Cespedes

I was a lot more bullish on Cespedes when he was a member of the Red Sox. Now that he’s a Tiger, I’m lukewarm on him. One might be surprised to learn that 13 of his 22 homers last year came at home in Oakland, so maybe my concerns about him playing in spacious Comerica Park will prove to be unwarranted. But by investing in Cespedes, you’re paying for the home runs, as he won’t be of much use in the batting average department and he doesn’t run anymore. And how many home runs is he going to hit? Maybe 25? Is he really that much better than the aforementioned Brandon Moss? If Cespedes falls into my lap on draft day, I guess I’d take him. But odds are the price will be too high for my liking.

Wade Miley

Speaking of liking, I’ve always liked Miley as a pitcher who you could draft to round out your fantasy staff who fits the high floor/low ceiling description. Last season was disappointing though, outside of the career-high 183 strikeouts. I was a Miley owner in Tout Wars, and despite hanging onto him from start to finish, I ended up relegating him to matchup duty where I’d only start him for his road outings (5.61 home ERA vs. 3.17 road ERA). Chase Field is a tough place to pitch, but is Fenway Park any easier? No, the AL East lineups aren’t as scary as they used to be, but it’s still the American League with the DH and a division with a number of hitter-friendly ballparks. Wade, it was nice knowing you.

Rick Porcello

Porcello will be only 26 on Opening Day, and he’s coming off a career-best season, so maybe this will all work out. But after significantly improving his strikeout rate in 2013, his K/9 sunk back down to its usual sub-6.00 level last year. On the other hand, Porcello does have excellent control, which at least partially makes up for the underwhelming strikeout rate. I guess it all depends on his draft day cost, but the bottom line is that moving from Detroit to Boston cannot be viewed as a good thing, and quite a few owners will be banking on him taking another step forward after last season’s breakthrough campaign. I won’t be one of them.

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