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:
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:
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.
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.
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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