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Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be an adventurous off-season. The first off what will likely be a higher than usual number of trades involving fantasy-relevant players was announced Wednesday night.
The Texas Rangers, to no one’s surprise found a new home for Ian Kinsler. The destination, and specifically the return was a bit of a shock as none other than Prince Fielder will be hoping the barbecued vegetables will be to his liking as he is the new first baseman of the Texas Rangers. I know, Fielder has admitted he is no longer a vegan. But, there are no such things as zombies and chemistry teachers don’t start selling meth either.
As one might expect, the Twitterverse blew up following the announcement. Some proclaimed it a win-win. Others deemed both sides losers. The majority give Texas the edge (though I disagree). That said, it doesn’t matter what I think. All that matters is the fantasy impact of the moves. And the best part of this deal is there is a plethora of ancillary parts with fantasy repercussions.
Let’s review all of the involved parties.
Prince Fielder immediately steps in at first base. Guess how many games the portly slugger has missed the past five seasons? No, not zero – I said games, not meals. He has actually missed only one game since 2009 and only twelve the three seasons previous to that. Joke all you want about Fielder’s physique, the man is durable. For the record, next to me Fielder looks like Billy Hamilton so I can make a weight crack or two.
This analysis would be a bit more straightforward if the usually reliable Fielder hadn’t scuffled this season, in large part due to dealing with a divorce (unlike Rick Grimes and alter White, Fielder is a real person with real-life issues). His production nosedived worse than his infamous ill-fated belly flop back to third base in the ALCS. So let’s put his park neutral baseline at 30 homers instead of the 35 we may have used previous to 2013. Comerica Park plays exactly neutral for left-handed power so 30 homers would have been Fielder’s expectation in Texas. His new digs, the Ballpark at Arlington increase LHB HR by 20 percent. Since half of the original 30 homers would have been hit at home, 15 will be inflated by 20 percent, rendering 18 bombs at his new home venue. So that makes his baseline expectation to be 30 homers, with some upside if you believe some of 2013’s ills will go away with a year to get his personal life back together. I have no issues investing in Fielder this season. In fact, I’m a little bummed since previous to the trade, he would have been available at a discount but with the move to a hitter’s park, the discount may disappear.
The primary reason Texas wanted to move Kinsler was to open up a consistent every-day spot for top prospect Jurickson Profar. That said, if you’re a Profar owner, let’s hold off on the cartwheels and summersaults. At least for now, he profiles to be the better proverbial real-life player than fantasy stat-sheet stuffer. When you see a shortstop is the number-one prospect in the game, thoughts of Hanley Ramirez in his prime dance around in your head. Short term, Profar’s best statistical comp is….wait for it….Brian Dozier. If you need a point of reference, remember how high everyone was on Starlin Castro a few years ago? For the record, I’m not saying I’d take Dozier over Profar or that Profar will fail to live up to the hype like Castro (a t least so far), all I am saying is temper expectations. Plan on .250 with low teens homers and steals and treat the rest as gravy. Or if you’re like me and don’t like gravy, it’s the icing on the cake. Everyone likes cake.
With the arrival of Fielder, Mitch Moreland is going to have to oil up his outfield mitt or get used to riding the stationary bike between DH at bats if he wants to see regular playing time. At least now, there’s a clear path to playing time for Moreland as David Murphy has signed with Cleveland and Nelson Cruz doesn’t appear to be returning to his old haunts, at least not presently.
The final Texas-related note will be on Adrian Beltre and the possibility he tallies a few more runs if he hits third with Prince clean-up. Skills-wise, Beltre is as solid as ever. I just can’t help but think of Aramis Ramirez this time last season. Long thought of as an injury risk, from 2011-2012, Aramis played more innings at the hot corner than anyone. That’s anyone as in no one played more. Just as you let your guard down and wipe away the injury-prone label from Ramirez, he has two stints on the DL spanning 63 days and misses several more games on top of that. Beltre’s recent stretch of good health has made a lot of people overlook the fact he has missed large chunks of time in 2009 and 2011. Buyer beware – his skills are very much intact. I’m taking the under on 159 games he’s averaged the past two seasons.
With Omar Infante hitting free agency, Ian Kinsler will patrol the keystone sack. Assuming Austin Jackson is re-installed as the leadoff hitter after being demoted from the role in the ALCS, Kinsler could hit anywhere from second to sixth, though Miguel Cabrera is likely to man the three-hole. Unlike Fielder, Kinsler also has a running component to his game so the 15-percent drop in power incurred by right-handed batters upon switching from Arlington to Comerica Park won’t have as much of an impact. If Kinsler’s previous expectation was 19 homers in a park-neutral setting, then 18 is the projection in Detroit. I’m not ranking Kinsler any differently in Detroit than I did in Texas.
Now that first base is open, Detroit can split it and DH between Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. This should serve to alleviate some of the injury concern after watching someone resembling Cabrera in obvious pain during the post-season. The conventional wisdom is without Fielder supporting him, Cabrera will see fewer pitches and his numbers (except IBB) will suffer. Sorry, I’m not buying it. It’s not like Fielder was Lou Gehrig to Miggy’s Babe Ruth this past season and he did just fine. Detroit is in serious win-now mode. With that pitching staff you know they’ll go after some offense to help fill the void left by Prince. Cabrera will have ample help.
Many have already handed the third base job, not to mention the Rookie-of-the-Year trophy to top prospect Nick Castellanos but I’m not so sure that is the path the Tigers will take. Castellanos has been playing left field for a year and a half and Detroit could use a solid left-fielder as much as they need a new third baseman. It wouldn’t shock me if Detroit looked to bring back Jhonny Peralta or pursue a trade for someone like David Freese or Chase Headley. The Tigers have the luxury of an extra starting pitcher as they are yearning to add Drew Smyly to their rotation. I can see Rick Porcello or Doug Fister for a third baseman.
When Todd is not making fat jokes, he can be found hanging out at Mastersball. Follow Todd on Twitter @toddzola.