MLB Offseason: Sonny Gray to Cincinnati
Greg Jewett takes a look at the latest trade between the Reds and the Yankees, amongst the other recent offseason moves around the league.
After much speculation, New York finally found a trade partner in the Reds sending Sonny Gray, once he accepted a contract extension, to Cincinnati for prospect Shed Long and a supplemental draft pick. Needing to preserve a 40-man spot on the roster, the Yankees then flipped Long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers, a second round pick in 2018. Before delving into the fantasy aspects of the deal, veterans Asdrubal Cabrera and Nick Markakis signed below market one-year contracts. Now to see what to expect for fantasy purposes.
Sonny Gray to Cincinnati
Once a popular fantasy target, Sonny Gray spent the better part of 2018 languishing on most leagues waiver wires. His transition to New York seemed to exacerbate his struggles. Last season, Gray finished with a 6.98 ERA, 5.10 xFIP and 1.90 WHIP in 59.1 innings at home. However, on the road, his 3.17 ERA, 3.27 xFIP and 1.15 WHIP over 71 innings prove much more appealing.
On the season, Gray recorded 11 wins, nine losses, 30 appearances, 23 starts, 130.1 innings, 123 strikeouts, 57 walks, a 4.90 ERA, 4.10 xFIP and 1.50 WHIP. He yielded the highest line drive percentage of his career and 35 percent hard hit rate. If he can rebound to fantasy relevance, Gray will need to make an adjustment.
Looking at his arsenal, some simple tweaks, which ensued last season, could provide much better results. For starters, here’s Gray’s arsenal in plot maps courtesy of Baseball Savant:
It should be noted Gray rarely uses his change-up, so it’s not displayed to streamline information. While this gives provides a glimpse of his pitches, one stands out, his curve. Gray generated an 15.04 whiff percentage with the pitch last year according to Brooks Baseball. In terms of spin rate, it ranked in the 94th percentile by Baseball Savant. Gray’s curve limited hitters to a .221 batting average and a .095 isolated power against last year with a 42.4 ground ball percentage. If, he continues to ramp up its usage, ala Rich Hill, things get interesting:
This will not be an easy transition, but if Gray throws his curveball over 35 percent of the time in 2019 and can fire more sliders, he becomes intriguing. Gray’s slider generated a 18.8 strikeout percentage yielding a .198 batting average against. But he only deployed his durve 23.7 percent of the time last year and his slider just below 16 percent.
There’s no crystal ball to predict how Gray will evolve with the Reds. He’s used to pitching in a plus hitters park, but thrived on the road while with the Yankees. Simple migration to the mean along with tweaking his arsenal could unlock a rebound. Heed the spring reports, especially if Gray’s reunion with his college pitching coach leads to more curves and sliders. Those who speculate on him late could reap the rewards.
Asdrubal Cabrera to Texas
Almost every season, Asdrubal Cabrera drifts in average draft position but produces profit for his owners. Cabrera appeared in 147 games last year with 546 at-bats, 68 runs, 23 home runs, 75 RBI and a .262/.316/.458 slash line. His isolated power just missed two hundred (.196) and he increased bot his fly ball percentage and hard hit rates last season.
Presently slated to start at third base, Cabrera also possesses eligibility at second base and shortstop next season. Leaving Citi Park for Texas also could enhance his home run totals. Here’s a look at his line drives and fly balls the last three years with his home as the overlay:
His pull power as a left-handed hitter should translate well to Globe Life Park. When pulling the ball from the left side of the plate, Cabrera recorded a .481 isolated power with matching 42.9 home run per fly ball percentage and hard hit rate. This could result in him matching his career best of 25 home runs or possibly surpassing it? With an average draft position presently near 300 according to NFBC data. Not too shabby. Especially with his ZiPS .268/.325/.461 projected slash.
Nick Markakis stays with Atlanta
Just like fantasy baseball, the major leagues seems to undervalue veterans. Nick Markakis hit .297/.366/.440 with 78 runs, 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 162 games last season. But, took a deal below market value to stay with the Braves. Markakis did benefit from a spike in hard hit percentage to 40.6 percent. His chase rate dipped to 22.9 percent while he made contact with pitches in the strike zone over 93 percent of the time.
Although there’s not another level with Markakis, if he hits fifth, a chance for 80-plus RBI and a solid amount of runs should keep him on the periphery of mixed leagues, with more value in 15-team formats due to his batting average insulation.
Prospects in the Yankees and Reds trade
While Shed Long will not be a top prospect, he now owns a much clearer path to playing time in Seattle than with the Yankees. Long played in 126 games at Double-A last season with 75 runs, 12 home runs, 56 RBI, 19 stolen bases and a .261/.353/.412 slash. He’s a bit undersized but can barrel up a baseball.
Although the Yankees did not keep Long, they did get both Josh Stowers, a talented outfielder and a supplemental draft pick. Why would a draft choice be important?
Reds Supplemental/Competitive Balance Picks since 2007 (#32-57 overall):— Sr VP of Trivia (@RedsGM) January 20, 2019
New York also received Stowers, a second round pick in 2018 who swiped 20 bases while getting on base 38 percent of the time in 58 games. More importantly, he will not occupy a spot on the Yankees crowded, and talented 40-man roster.
More news should be on the way soon, so be sure to stay with Fantasy Alarm to keep ahead of the competition.