TDG Roundtable: Players Who Would Benefit From A Trade
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week’s roundtable topic is players who could benefit from a trade.
David Phelps, RP, Milwaukee Brewers
You might be saying “Who?” or “He is still in the league?” but David Phelps is having an excellent season for the Brew Crew this year. In his first 12 innings with the Brewers, he has a 38.6 K% to go along with a 4.5 BB%, which are both career bests. Honestly, with a bit more luck, his 2.25 ERA might be better if the Brewers defense was a bit better. His 65.8 LOB% indicates he is getting unlucky and/or poor infield defense. He signed a one year, 1.5 M deal that includes a club option during the offseason so he can fit on any club. I hear that the San Diego Padres or Tampa Bay Rays could use some pitching help and might have the best two minor league systems in the majors. David Sterns better get on the phone!
Keone Kela, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates
There are a couple of reasons it would be great to see Kela somewhere new. First, the Pirates are terrible and he’s rarely ever going to get save opportunities. Second, as we saw briefly this year the Pirates have Nick Burdi to lock down the ninth next year when he’s fully healthy… again. Kela, between Texas and Pittsburgh, has accumulated 28 saves and has spent the entirety of his young career as a high leverage reliever, even when he isn’t closing. Still relatively young at 27, he has enough track record and good years ahead to bring stability to a number of teams 8th/9th inning. In his last year of team control on a lame-duck team, Kela is the perfect trade target for a contender, and if/when he does he should start racking up saves. Just as interesting is where he lands next year when he signs as a free agent as he could be a great closer for several years to come.
SP Joey Lucchesi, San Diego Padres
Joey Lucchesi was demoted after just two starts, a sign his team had already pretty much made up their mind about him pre-season. He was also an object of frequent speculation in the Betts-to-San-Diego rumors this off-season. He is someone who would surely have more production somewhere other than San Diego. Rival scouts indeed have highlighted him as a trade target possibility. Lucchesi has a strong track record of success across his minor and major league career, and his small sample xK% and xBB% 2020 numbers are as good as ever, thanks to a career-best swinging strike rate. Sure, he primarily relies on two pitches, but this hasn’t stopped him from compiling an above-average 4.21 ERA and FIP, and a 3.98 xFIP over about 300 career MLB innings. He is only 27 and under team control until 2024–a valuable consideration. Because I’m excessively thorough, I asked the Talking Heads if he had any noteworthy velocity or pitch mix changes this year that we should be worried about. After taking a look, they replied that his stuff is the “same as it ever was.” Expect his career numbers moving forward, about 9.3 K/9, 3 BB/9, and 45% GB–each metric better than league average. Lucchesi still has all the makings of an above-average starting pitcher. He makes perfect sense as a Pivetta-style cheap deadline acquisition.
Clint Frazier, OF, New York Yankees
Clint Frazier is off to a blazing start in 2020, with a .300 BA, .600 SLG, and .964 OPS. His strikeout rate is at a career-low (16.7%) and his walk rate is at a career-high (10%). He is currently touting a 59 percent hard-hit rate with an average exit velocity of almost 94 MPH, both well above league average. His expected stats show these numbers aren’t flukey and could even improve with an XBA of .358 and XSLG of .709. So it may surprise you that despite these statistics, Frazier may be out of a starting job sooner rather than later due to the Yankees’ current roster construction. In fact, it took two injuries to starting outfielders for him to even be added to the active roster and see consistent playing time. The Yankee’s current outfield is packed with veterans making it hard for the former top prospect to see the field. Aaron Judge is obviously the face of the franchise now and not going anywhere soon. Giancarlo Stanton is signed for big money and will be occupying either left field or DH through 2028. Aaron Hicks is in year two of a seven-year extension, and New York brought back locker room leader Brett Gardner for 2020 (with a 2021 option). This doesn’t even consider Mike Tauchman who is also putting up very impressive 2020 stats. Frazier’s case for playing time isn’t aided by the fact that the rest of these players, except for Stanton, are significantly better defenders in the outfield. This hot streak may be coming at a perfect time for both parties as the Yankees can move Frazier for a much-needed starting pitcher, and he can land on a team where he will be given the much-deserved chance for everyday playing time.
Miguel Andujar, 3B/OF, New York Yankees
Andujar isn’t that far removed from looking like a rising star after slashing .297/.328/.527 as a rookie in 2018. Since then, nothing’s gone right for him. He missed almost all of 2019 after having shoulder surgery. This season, he’s struggled badly in 26 plate appearances as he bounces back and forth between the Yankees’ bench and their alternate training site. Andujar desperately needs playing time, both to find a defensive position he can play passably and regain his hitting form. The Yankees, almost always in win-now mode, aren’t really in a position to give him a consistent opportunity anytime soon. A trade to a non-contender for some pitching help would make a lot of sense, and give Andujar the chance he needs to start rebuilding his declining dynasty value.
Pavin Smith, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Pavin Smith has hit the ball well, and with elite plate discipline at every level. Yet he’s trapped in no-hype prospect purgatory and blocked by Christian Walker and Kevin Cron in the DBacks lineup. This is a terrible place for a 24-year-old first-base prospect. Will he get a shot? I am hoping someone takes a chance on him at the deadline. He doesn’t have dynamic power or a sky-high ceiling, but my gut tells me his ceiling is still higher than many believe. His plate discipline is elite and is an extremely valuable skill on its own. It’s also a skill that ages well and seemingly can’t be taught. Factor in his 20 homer power and he quickly becomes a guy who could contribute across the board. If Smith gets an opportunity, I think we could see him become a .280/.350 hitter with a line resembling 78/22/84 over a full season. These aren’t numbers that jump off the page, but they’re certainly useful. Dare I say, they’re John Olerud-esque? I do! Someone needs to let this guy play.
Robbie Ray, SP, Diamondbacks
A free agent after the season, Ray is an ideal player for teams in need of pitching to acquire at the deadline for one decent or a couple of middling prospects. In 2020, his strikeout rate is still above 12% (as it has for the last 3 seasons) though his walk rate is 9% (yikes!) though that is double his career average, so should come down. His groundball rate is only 19.6%, well below his career average of 40.2%. The really ugly is his ERA is 7.84 and FIP is not much better at 7.26. Ray has been a starter his whole career, so any acquiring team would want to keep him in a starter’s role (though wouldn’t he be a true fireball closer?). A change of scenery while working with some new coaches, and normalizing his BB% and GB% may pay big dividends down the stretch for an acquiring team and your fantasy team as well.
Lance Lynn, SP, Texas Rangers
The most relevant player I expect to move at the deadline is Lance Lynn, who I would be willing to lean on as my “Ace” both in fantasy and real-life circumstances at this point. Lynn checks every box in what you want in a front-line pitcher. From a real-life perspective: Lynn has a team-attractive contract of $8-million in 2021 before entering free agency. He has an arm that can hold up through a long season, having thrown 208 1/3 innings in 2019 and has now gone 6+ innings in six of his seven 2020 starts. He has plenty of postseason experience (six postseasons, 26 appearances, seven starts), albeit with a 4.80 ERA, mostly in relief with the Cardinals in 2011-2015. Lynn continues to maintain velocity of 94+ at the age of 33, while continuing to use his Cutter more frequently again this season (11.6% usage in ’18, 16.2% in ’19, and 20.5% in ’20), leading to a four-pitch mix (Four Seam, Cutter, Sinker, Curve) which ALL have a positive pitch value
Having lost 10-of-11 games (save for a Lynn victory) and with a record of 11-19 entering play on August 28, the Rangers will almost surely be sellers at the deadline. In fantasy, a trade of Lynn to a better team will of course help with Wins, and, for those in Quality Start leagues, Lynn has given up no more than two runs in a game all season. Even without that bump, he is the #2 SP on Razzball’s Player Rater (behind Bieber), contributing $7 or more in Wins, ERA, WHIP, and K’s. Trading Lynn to a sure playoff contender is good business for the game of baseball and for your fantasy team in the stretch run.
Tyler O’Neill, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Some of you will read this name and reflexively write him off thinking, “we’ve already seen everything we need to see from Tyler O’Neill.” I understand the sentiment — he’s been around for parts of three seasons now, he strikes out “a lot,” he’s had his chance and now it’s time to move on. On the surface, it’s hard to argue with that. However, my argument is not with the surface stats. My argument is that Son of Mr. Canada hasn’t ever gotten a fair shake at regular playing time. The Cardinals have started more guys in the outfield in the last three years than the Browns have had quarterbacks in the last two decades. O’Neill has hardly gotten more than a watered-down cup of coffee in his first two seasons.
I would like to see Tyler O’Neill get an extended chance at regular plate appearances before we label him a career minor leaguer. He’s a terrific athlete, he’s playing a wonderful left field this year (92nd percentile OAA, 81st percentile Outfielder Jump), runs incredibly well (98th percentile sprint speed), and has true double-plus power. Yes, the swing and miss issues are very real, but I think there’s a chance he can adjust his approach enough to find success. His walk rate is up this year, the K rate is down and he’s chasing much less. If there was ever a time for a player with this skill set to thrive in the majors, it’s right now.
Zach Plesac, SP, Cleveland Indians
Cleveland’s roster strength is their starting pitching and while it’s not inconceivable to see them dealing a starter to address other needs, mainly outfield, I did not expect Zach Plesac to be one that might be packing his bags this season. The righty started off the season extremely hot, racking up 24 strikeouts and a 1.29 ERA over 21 innings pitched. However, since breaking COVID-19 protocol while in Chicago he has fallen out of favor with his teammates and the front office, so much so that it was reported he was told there is no opportunity for him at the major league level and leads me to believe he is on his way out. While Plesac started the year as a number five starter, he looked more like a number two and a high-end fantasy contributor. In limited action, Plesac displayed a revised pitch-mix, featuring his slider and change-up, with much-improved control (walk rate of only 2.6%) while significantly increasing his spin rate and vertical movement leading to a huge jump in chase and strikeout rates. While I would have preferred to see a few more starts with similar results there is no reason to believe his improvements are not sustainable. The problem with Plesac now is an opportunity, or lack thereof. It’s fairly obvious that his outlook will only improve with a trade and the expectation would be his new team will plug him in as a starter. There is a window of opportunity to trade for Plesac at a discount in your league right now before he joins his new teams’ rotation and doesn’t look back.
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