Tag Archives: Oakland

Veteran Pitchers

With all the controversy that is currently going on in baseball, players are trying to put things behind them as they prepare for the upcoming season. Two such players have been notable in this effort this past week and are former rotation-mates who have moved on from the Houston Astros two different organizations. I’m talking of course about Mike Fiers and Dallas Keuchel.

Dallas Keuchel after struggling to find employment for much of the first half of 2019, Keuchel landed in Atlanta and pitched well enough to secure a three-year contract with the White Sox. The 32-year has a good history of performing to his skills, in other words, there has not been a high degree of variance between his ERA and that which was expected, his xFIP in this case. That said, it says nothing of his skills or their recent trends, it just says in world full of pitchers with a wide variance of predictability, he has been one of the safer bets to get what you expected from him.

First and foremost, Keuchel remains a groundball machine, keeping an impressive 60% of his balls in play in 2019. This was to his benefit last year, pitching in front of one of the better team-defenses in baseball and should lead to some skepticism for 2020 as he moves to Chicago where the White Sox featured one of baseball’s poorest. Then keep in mind that this is a pitcher who has had a HR/FB rate in excess of 20% in his past two of three seasons and no less than 11% since 2014 and factor in, well park factors, Keuchel is now moving from a pitcher neutral/friendly park to one of the more homerun friendly parks may also not be in his favor. An ERA slide to the mid-4’s range is likely and a bid under $10 and closer to $5 is probably in your best interest.

For two successive seasons, Mike Fiers has defied the regression gods, posting sub 4.00 ERAs despite a steep decline in his ability to get generate strikeouts, continued high home rates, suppressed batting average on balls in play, and high left-on-base percentages. Pitching in Oakland has FIP his saving grace, showing improved ability in keeping the ball in the park there, but still producing FIP and xFIPs that are in the high 4’s to low 5’s. Fiers has managed to earn $10 or more dollars three years running but is always one step away from that flipping on its head and earning in the negative. As a result, he’ll cost less (and should!) than the amount he has earned and really should be considered more of an endgame, sub $5 play with the hope he has another season like this left in him. Even then, bench him weeks he is away if you can.

Matt Chapman Takes Over at the Hot Corner

So, the A’s have decided to cut bait on off-season signee Trevor Plouffe as he struggled to produce and are ready to hand off the job to Matt Chapman. The move, from the beginning, was intended to serve as a stop-gap move, but the A’s perhaps didn’t expect it to the end this early and perhaps hoped Plouffe would at least play well enough to draw trade interest in mid-season. That didn’t happen so they jettisoned his remaining salary as a sunk cost.

So, Chapman will be a primary FAAB or waiver target in most league formats as soon as he becomes available depending on whether you play in weekly or daily play. The first thing you need to know is “yes, he is going to hurt your batting average” if you play in a standard 5×5 or other batting average related leagues. The righty has struggled to his keep his strikeout rate under 30% at the Double-A and Triple-A levels and is already an established .250s hitter in the minors. To expect improvement in that area, barring a change in approach is unlikely and it is entirely possible that he could struggle as much as his predecessor.

On the upside, Chapman at least has power upside, slugging over .500 with isolated power’s over .200 for much of his minor league career. His patience and all or nothing approach at least also serve to keep his OBP respectable and somewhat valuable even if he hits in the .210s to .220s in OBP based leagues. Owners of Oakland pitchers will be happy as well as he should represent an improvement in defense over Plouffe. Chapman has been long well regarded for his throwing arm, agility, and range. Like most all or nothing power hitters, however, Chapman is not a significant threat on the base paths.

If available in most AL-only leagues, starters do not come along every day so you will likely need to open your FAAB budget a bit to acquire him, despite the risk of potential failure he carries. He is unlikely to be available in AL-only keeper or dynasty leagues with minor league drafts, but mixed leaguers may be afforded the luxury of waiting and seeing depending upon the depth of the corner infield market and free agent pool of your league.

The Stove Stays Hot, Even in Spring Time

It seems a bit late for the hot stove league to still be in full force what with pitchers and catchers having already reported, but the Cubs, A’s, Orioles, have gifted us with some transactions worthy of discussion!

The Gallardo Signing
Yovanni Gallardo’s signing by the Orioles comes as no surprise since it has been rumored for more than a week now. The soon to be thirty-year-old essentially replaces Wei-Yin Chen who signed a five-year deal with the Marlins earlier this off-season. Gallardo will slot in as the Orioles’ number two starter behind Ubaldo Jimenez.

If nothing else, Gallardo has been durable, averaging thirty-two starts a season and one hundred ninety-one innings over the past seven seasons. Well, unfortunately for the Orioles, it may not be much more than that given some disturbing trends. The righty’s strikeout rate has dropped each of the past four seasons to an alarmingly low 5.9 K/9 with the Rangers coupled with posting a career low average velocity of 90.4 mph on his fastball. This becomes even more troubling when one considers 2015 was one of his best seasons in terms of disallowing home runs despite no real change in skill set and rather what appears to be an out of career context, home run on fly ball rate of just under 9%.

Concerns over the condition of Gallardo’s shoulder resulted in a restructuring of his original deal from three years to two years with a team option, though a point in his favor, were not strong enough to take the deal off the table entirely as happened to other potential Oriole signees in the past.

At thirty years of age, there is still a chance for a rebound, but the trends are not in his favor and an ERA of well over 4.00 may well be in the cards for 2016. I could not recommend a bid exceeding a $1 or, in the end-game of AL-only leagues.

Fowler Returns
In a much greater surprise today, Dexter Fowler returned to the Chicago Cubs when it was all but certain that such a reunion would not occur. The move of Chris Coghlan, which I’ll get to in a bit, to Oakland clears up a roster spot for him but makes playing time for Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber a bit murky. The most simple solution may be a platoon scenario whereby Fowler and Soler share left field duties with perhaps Soler also coming in the latter innings for defensive purposes. On the other hand, further wheeling and dealing, whether in the preseason or amidst season may be a foot.

Getting to Fowler, the move saves the Cubs from having to watch the adventure that would have been Jason Heyward manning centerfield every day. For fantasy players, Fowler has a fairly stable skill set, having always been a disciplined hitter who will once again on most days be the Cubs’ leadoff hitter. While no blazer, the opportunity to bat leadoff and his OBP skills should, in theory, continue to get him enough opportunities to once again approach or twenty stolen bases. His lack of success against righties, however, continued last season with a .228/.331/.395 line, so despite batting leadoff on the days he is in the lineup, the Cubs may be more inclined to mix and match on days they face tougher right-handers. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether he will be able to match his career high in plate appearances ever again.

Fowler’s power production has been up and down over the years, but in his favor is a four-year trend of increasing fly ball rates. His home run on fly ball rate, however, was not his career best and his career high in homers is more likely the result of extended playing time, rather than the development of new skill.

Heading into 2016, expect more of the same – a .250s to .270s hitter with 15/15-plus potential. He remains a more favorable target for OBP and sim leagues.

Deal of the Day
The lone trade of the day was perhaps the least headline creating in terms of name value. Chris Coghlan Aaron Brooks. For both teams involved, the deal improves their depth in areas of greater need.

Brooks, a former ninth round pick of the Royals, will more than likely begin 2016 in the Cubs’ Triple-A rotation, but will likely see action in spot start duty. His best path to an extended MLB look will be due to injury. Brooks does a good job of pounding the strike zone with walk rates right around the 2.0 mark. While he commands what he has well, at the MLB level he is more of a soft-tossing, pitch to contact pitcher who relies on a plus changeup to get outs. His tendency to be in the strike zone, however, also tends to leave him open to the long ball. A move from a pitcher friendly park to Wrigley may not be suited to his style of pitching either.

Chris Coghlan will mainly be a bench player for the A’s, but given his defensive versatility and his left-handed bat, should find his way into a good amount of at-bats as a part-time DH, occasional outfielder spelling Khris Davis, and may even see action at third base or second base depending on the effectiveness of Danny Valencia and the ability to stay healthy of Jed Lowrie.

2015 saw Coghlan receive the most playing time of his career since his rookie season back in 2009. Despite an up and own career, the lefty remains a patient, line-drive hitter, who makes a fair amount of contact, has slightly above average speed, and power that that has been trending upwards both in terms of a number of fly balls hit as well as fly balls converted into home runs.

While not written in stone, especially given the path of Coghlan’s career, it is well within the realm of possibilities that he could eclipse his 2015 playing time totals as a result of the change in scenery.