Fantasy Baseball: Reworked Mookie Betts trade sees new prospects switching teams; Angels side falls through
With the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Twins finding a trade that works for all three sides, Mookie Betts is finally on the move. We break the trade down from every angle for Fantasy players.
The Red Sox finally on their long-gestating Mookie Betts trade earlier this week, agreeing to a trade with the Dodgers that appeared to be in doubt for a few days, but now seems set to go through. The deal took three teams, eight players — including three recent top-100 prospects — a draft pick, and boatloads of cash, and left the Dodgers holding the bag on a previously agreed upon trade with the Angels, but it finally looks like we've got the final details locked in.
So, let's break down the ramifications of this trade from every angle for Fantasy players, starting with the big thing that hasn't changed:
Dodgers acquire Mookie Betts
• Age: 27
Betts is one of the rare five-category studs, and was a unanimous top-five player in drafts for 2020 for good reason. Over the last four seasons, Betts has hit .305, while averaging 29 HR, 94 RBI, 122 R, and 24 SB. Betts has finished as the No. 1 player in Roto Fantasy leagues twice in that span, with a No. 20 ranking serving as his worst finish. The Dodgers are getting a no-doubt-about-it superstar.
And this trade doesn't change much for him. The Red Sox offense created tons of opportunities for Betts, as they led the majors in plate appearances in 2019, while ranking fourth in runs. The Dodgers offense hasn't been quite as good (they ranked 10th in PA and fifth in runs), but that was before they added Betts. You might expect just slightly fewer opportunities for Betts, mostly because of the pitcher spot in the NL lineup, but the difference won't be huge. Not enough to change his outlook on Draft Day.
The parks Betts will play in won't be quite as good as they were when he called Fenway Park home and played in the AL East, where three of four parks besides Fenway were hitter's parks, so that could make a slightly bigger difference. Dodger Stadium isn't as good a place to call home as Fenway — especially for batting average — and the NL West parks collectively play a bit more even than the AL East, but it should be a pretty small effect. Betts has hit better at home than on the road in his career, though that's mostly just due to BABIP differences; he has actually hit more homers away from Fenway park. and it's not severe enough to expect a huge drop in value.
And, it's worth noting, batters tend to perform better the more they've seen pitchers, so switching leagues can always introduce some uncertainty into the equation. Historically, the impact has been less for players making the switch from the AL to the NL, like Betts is, but it's just one more small factor working against him.
Add it up, and this might be just enough to drop Betts firmly to the back of the top-five on Draft Day — maybe to sixth overall if someone wants to reach for a pitcher. But don't expect Betts to see a dramatic shift in his perceived value or production. His is such a well-rounded skill set that it simply won't impact him that much — and I wouldn't be surprised if he actually hit for more power.
It sounds like Price is going to stay with the Dodgers, and that's not a bad thing at all. Just as Betts has to contend with tougher hitting environments in Dodger Stadium and the rest of the NL West, Price gets safer confines to pitch in. Price is no longer the kind of ace who routinely works deep into games and pitching for the Dodgers isn't going to change that — don't expect to see a ton of quality starts from Price now — but there's still life left in his arm.
Price was having a very effective season before a cyst in his wrist essentially ended it in early August. He had a 3.16 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 88.1 innings through his first 17 starts, and then was tagged for 20 runs in his next 17 innings before going on the IL.
Assuming that issue is behind him after surgery, Price could be a nice value on Draft Day. He gets to make the move away from the AL East and the DH, and he showed he can still be effective when healthy. A mid-3.00s ERA and 175 strikeouts could be on the table for price, who was being drafted 178th overall on average in FantasyPros.com's consensus ADP prior to the trade.
Graterol is a fascinating young pitcher, one who was Scott White's No. 36 Fantasy prospect in this offseason's rankings and went 217 in a recent Dynasty start up mock draft on CBS Fantasy. However, he is also the reason the initial deal fell through, as the Red Sox reportedly didn't like what his medical reports showed. The fear, in their eyes, was that he profiled more as a reliever than a starter — which shouldn't have come as much of a surprise, given it's how the Twins apparently saw Graterol as well, but that's neither here nor there.
Graterol's long-term Fantasy appeal is likely to depend a lot on whether he can hack it as a starter, and you'll find a split opinion on him among prospect writers. There's plenty of upside, but he's also already had Tommy John surgery and missed time in 2019 with a shoulder injury, and the team that knew him best apparently viewed him as a reliever even as a 21-year-old, which doesn't seem to bode well. To my eyes, it doesn't look like a starter's profile long term, especially since he ditched his work-in-progress changeup upon making it to the majors in 2019.
Of course, there's still plenty of upside to be found in an arm that can generate 102 mph sinkers and a slider most scouts love, despite his struggles with it in a brief major-league stint last season. With Kenley Jansen showing real signs of slowing down and a menagerie of other shaky options in the Dodgers bullpen, Graterol could sneak his way into the closer's role, where he could be a star. Don't expect to draft Graterol in redraft leagues for 2020, but keep a close eye on the early returns if he opens the season in the Dodgers bullpen, because there's plenty of upside there.
Red Sox receive Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, Connor Wong
Verdugo got his first real chance in the majors last season and showed enough to be the centerpiece of a deal for a superstar, so he's got that going for him. Verdugo hit .294/.342/.475 in 106 games, and while you might hope for more pop from a bat with this kind of pedigree in 2020, the contact skills were exactly as advertised. With Fenway's BABIP-inflating ways, Verdugo is a strong candidate to hit .300 for the Red Sox and might challenge for a batting title someday.
You're probably not going to get a 30-homer season out of Verdugo in Fenway, but in that park and lineup, there's plenty of upside given his profile. He's been going outside of the top-240 on average, but that should shoot into the top-200 — maybe top-150 — now that he's pretty much guaranteed an everyday job — and if he ends up leading off for the Red Sox, the upside is sky high.
- Downs is off to his third organization in four professional seasons, but he's coming off a breakout season with the Dodgers organization, hitting .276/.362/.526 between High A and Double-A. Much of his production came in the hitter-friendly California league, but you have to love a 20-year-old producing 24 homers and 24 steals in that small of a sample size. Scouts don't necessarily love any of the individual tools, but he has gotten the most out of them so far, and with second base free of any long-term obstacles in Boston, his standing as a Dynasty prospect is certainly helped by this move. We may see Downs in the majors some time in 2020, but it's more likely he starts to make an impact in 2021 and beyond. It will be interesting to see if the somewhat tepid scouting reports start to show up as Downs reaches the high minors, but for now, he looks like a top-80 Fantasy prospect in the aftermath of this deal, and someone you'll certainly want to target in the later rounds of Dynasty drafts.
- Wong is the least known of the prospects in this deal, but he's hit pretty well for a player whose primary position is catcher, sporting a .275/.342/.510 line in 1004 career plate appearances in the minors. It looks like something of a Mike Zunino-esque profile, with a lot of strikeouts and hopefully enough power to make up for it, but it's not out of the question he winds up behind the plate in Boston sometime in 2020 or 2021. He is a converted infielder, so that timetable could be dependent on defense as much as anything.
Twins get Kenta Maeda
From a Fantasy perspective, this might actually be the most interesting part of the trade. Maeda has tons of inning- and appearance-related bonuses in his contract, and the Dodgers have had the pitching depth to shuffle him off to the bullpen to avoid triggering most of those. The Twins? They may not have that luxury. Which could and should lead to Maeda's highest inning total since 2016, when he tossed 175.2.
Maeda has a worse ERA for his career on four days rest than five, but the difference is pretty minimal at this point — he actually has a slightly lower WHIP and higher strikeout rate on regular rest. It's fair to wonder if his second-half struggles (3.51 ERA before the All-Star break, 4.44 after) might hint at an explanation for why the Dodgers would often move him to the pen, but it's worth taking a chance on Maeda just to see if he can live up to expectations in that role.
At the very least, you can feel pretty confident you're going to get a mid-to-high 3.00s ERA from Maeda with excellent WHIP and strikeout numbers, and with a record-setting offense backing him, win opportunities should be plentiful in Minnesota. Add in that Maeda is RP eligible, and he could be extremely valuable as a mid-round pick in H2H points leagues; he's worth targeting as a mid-rotation arm in Roto leagues, too, and this trade certainly makes him more attractive in both formats.
With the uncertainty surrounding the Red Sox portion of the deal, the Angels apparently pulled out of the deal that would have landed them Pederson and Stripling, depriving Fantasy players of perhaps one more viable starting pitcher option. Stripling has a cloudy path to a rotation spot with the Dodgers, so let's hope they end up moving him in a separate deal, because Stripling has legitimate Fantasy appeal as a potential SP4 if he gets a chance to start regularly.
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