Source: USA TODAY
The Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers pulled off a classic win-win trade Wednesday night that many fantasy owners would envy. Both teams dealt from a position of strength and filled an important need.
USA TODAY Sports’ Jorge Ortiz has already covered the baseball side of things very well — the Tigers improve their defense, fill a vacancy at second base and get payroll flexibility (that could be used to retain co-ace Max Scherzer), while the Rangers get the left-handed power hitter they desperately need and open up a spot in the infield for a very promising prospect.
But what are the fantasy implications?
First of all, Fielder moves to what’s generally considered a better home park for hitters. But last season, Comerica Park was the American League’s No. 1 park for scoring (third overall), while Rangers Ballpark was 10th in the AL (behind Safeco even!) and 17th overall.
In terms of home runs, Todd Zola of Mastersball.com notes that left-handed hitters got a 22% boost in Arlington compared to Detroit. Prince did see his home run totals decline a bit in his two seasons with the Tigers (30 and 25). He seemed a good bet to bounce back in 2014 anyway, so the change should help him a little more.
It’s interesting to note that Fielder has hit behind his league’s MVP in each of the past three seasons (Miguel Cabrera in Detroit and Ryan Braun in Milwaukee). Seems like a good omen for the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre (or maybe Alex Rios).
– Fielder’s fantasy value: Up slightly
Kinsler leaves the familiarity of Texas for some security that he won’t be moved off second base and will likely hit in front of Cabrera. Look for his runs scored total to bounce back after two seasons in decline, and maybe even approach his 2011 level (121).
Kinsler has a pair of 30-homer seasons, but he doesn’t really profile as a long-ball hitter at age 31. His fly-ball rate has decreased each of the past two seasons. What he does provide is some stolen-base ability for a team that was last in the majors in 2013 with a total of 35. Under new manager Brad Ausmus, it’s almost a given the Tigers will try to run a bit more than they did under Jim Leyland.
– Kinsler’s fantasy value: Up slightly
Elsewhere, Cabrera’s likely move back across the diamond to first base will open up a spot at third for presumably a better defender. (Does Cabrera get even more MVP extra credit now for moving back and helping the team get better overall?) The big winner in Detroit could be top prospect Nick Castellanos, who was moved from third base to the outfield midway through the 2012 minor league season because he was blocked by Cabrera.
Castellanos, 21, hit .276/.343/.450 at Class AAA Toledo last season and got a brief call-up to Detroit in September. There have been plenty of trade rumors surrounding him over the past year, but perhaps now he’ll get his chance to shine. Or perhaps he stays in left field and the Tigers sign a free agent (Jhonny Peralta, Juan Uribe?) to take over at third.
Cabrera’s fantasy value can’t get much higher, but … after the first couple weeks of the season, he will gain dual eligibility at both third and first base, giving his fantasy owners a little extra roster flexibility. (Bonus fantasy note: Even as 1B/3B, Cabrera still ranks No. 2 overall in my 2014 rankings behind Mike Trout.)
Tigers pitchers will welcome the new infield alignment, especially with the defensive excellence of Jose Iglesias and Kinsler up the middle. Look for better ERAs and WHIPs from ground-ballers Rick Porcello and Doug Fister. Of course, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander may not need any more help from their defense.
Texas will need to find a new home for erstwhile first baseman Mitch Moreland, who hit a career-high 23 homers last season but batted just .232. He could serve as the DH, or be a platoon guy there against right-handers due to his 100-point difference in his career slugging percentage (.463 vs. RHP, .362 vs. LHP).
The biggest winner on the Rangers side is infield prospect Jurickson Profar, who was seen by many as a disappointment last season — when he hit just .234 with six homers and two steals in 286 at-bats.
But step back for a second. Profar is still only 20 years old and he’s played parts of two seasons in the majors. You have to make room for a talent like his. Part of his struggles last season can be blamed on not having a set position or regular playing time due to the presence of Elvis Andrus at shortstop and Kinsler at second. Eligible only at second base for 2014 (32 games played), Profar appeared in 20 games at DH, 18 at short, 10 at third and four in the outfield. Who could blame a 20-year-old for being a little overwhelmed?
As the starter at second from the first day of spring training, look for Profar to start delivering very soon on the potential that made him the consensus No. 1 overall prospect last spring.
Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.