The Marlins are stockpiling even more young pitching talent while the Athletics bolstered their outfield for a playoff run that sent Starling Marte to Oakland, with Jesus Luzardo going to the Marlins. It's quite a nice return for the Marlins in exchange for two months of Marte, though Luzardo has shown this season he still needs quite a bit of work. But what does the trade mean for Fantasy?
On the Athletics' side, it's pretty obvious: They get an excellent starting center fielder who immediately upgrades both the lineup and the outfield defense. Marte will likely play center field, with Ramon Laureano and his cannon arm displacing Stephen Piscotty in right field. That doesn't have much of a Fantasy impact, but how the A's decide to set up their lineup could.
Mark Canha has been the primary leadoff man when healthy this season, and he's been excellent in that role, sporting a .379 OBP and even a career-high eight steals. The A's have been consistent with him there, with Elvis Andrus, Tony Kemp, or Laureano occasionally sliding into the No. 2 spot. That seems like the natural place for Marte to end up, and while that should lead to much better run and RBI opportunities for him -- he has 52 runs in 62 games but just 25 RBI -- it might actually be bad for his Fantasy appeal.
Because, while the Marlins don't do much well as an offense, they have given Marte a ton of leeway to make plays on the bases. The Marlins rank second in the majors with 73 steals, with Marte accounting for 22 of them. He has 27 steals in just 91 games since joining the Marlins last season, a 45-steal pace. That's a pace he hasn't gotten close to since 2017, and it seems unlikely the A's will let him run that much. They rank 16th in the majors in stolen bases, and 19 of their 42 came in one unusually active month of April.
Marte has primarily hit second for the Marlins, which has left the base in front of him open regularly -- the Marlins have a .319 OBP from the leadoff spot and .212 from the No. 9 spot. The A's, on the other hand, have gotten a .379 and .294 mark from those spots. That's going to lead to fewer opportunities to run even without accounting for the fact that the A's just run less than the Marlins.
On the whole, this is probably to a wash for Marte's value, but I would lean to it being at least a slight downgrade given how hard it is to find steals in today's Fantasy environment. The park change is pretty much neutral -- neither Oakland nor Miami are great places to hit -- but he should see more PA and more run-producing opportunities thanks to the much improved lineup context, which is why I don't think it changes things much here. Marte is still a top-20 outfielder for Fantasy, but if you've been relying on him for your steals base, he could disappoint.
The other side of the deal might be even more interesting, if only because when the Marlins have bet on a young pitcher in recent years, it has typically been pretty smart to follow them. They've got arguably the most enviable group of young pitchers in the league, with a rotation next season that could conceivably look like this:
- Sandy Alcantara -- 3.29 ERA, 1.154 WHIP in 125.2 IP this season
- Pablo Lopez -- 3.03 ERA, 1.089 WHIP, 27.1% K rate in 101 IP
- Trevor Rogers -- 2.37 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, 29.0% K rate in 106.1 IP
- Sixto Sanchez -- 3.46 ERA, 1.205 WHIP in 2020
- Jesus Luzardo -- 4.12 ERA, 1.271 WHIP in 2020
Lopez and Alcantara are the elder statesmen of that group at 25, and they've also got Max Meyer (1.80 ERA at AA) and Edward Cabrera (2.66 ERA in minors), both of whom are top-50 prospects in baseball, in the pipeline.
The Marlins have done an excellent job of developing young pitchers acquired from outside of the organization like Alcantara, Sanchez, and Zac Gallen, and the bet they are making is they can pull the same trick with a guy in Luzardo, who might be even more talented than any of them. It might look like a long shot after Luzardo posted a 6.87 ERA and 1.632 WHIP in 38 innings before being demoted, and his 6.52 ERA at Triple-A right now doesn't inspire much confidence.
But Luzardo is a 23-year-old who was a top-10 consensus prospect in baseball as recently as last offseason, so it's not the worst idea to bet on him figuring things out. He's a lefty with a fastball that averaged 96 mph and two secondary pitches that have profiled at various points as plus pitches. The curveball hasn't been that to date in his career, but the changeup has been very good -- it's actually the fastball that has been an issue, with a .473 wOBA allowed and just a 16.2% whiff rate. The Marlins have seemingly had quite a bit of success getting the most out of hard throwers who need refinement, so this could be a good match.
For all the hype and now disappointment that have followed Luzardo in his career, he's still thrown just 333.2 innings as a professional. Which is all to say, Luzardo makes a lot of sense for Miami as a sort of reclamation project, and it might make a lot of sense for Fantasy players to buy into him as a post-hype prospect whenever he joins Miami's rotation.
There's still plenty of upside here if he can figure it out, and he may have a better chance of doing that after this trade. That's good news.