MLB Barometer: Early Risers -- Hitters
MLB Barometer: Early Risers -- Hitters

This article is part of our MLB Barometer series.

During the season, the Barometer has always been a place where we've tracked rising and falling player values based on the happenings in recent weeks. Bigger shifts occur during the winter, as players move into different home parks and depth charts become more or less crowded with trades and free agency.

There are still plenty of big chips set to fall in the weeks ahead, with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado available on the open market, but there have already been a few big winners this offseason with the moves that have taken place since the end of the World Series.

Here's a look at some hitters whose value has increased thus far.

Daniel Murphy, 1B/2B, COL – Last season, Murphy was limited to 91 games while recovering from knee surgery during the first two-and-a-half months. A midseason trade to the Cubs brought an uptick in power, as he homered six times in his last 35 games after hitting the same number in his first 56 contests with the Nats. Murphy continued to show a contact-heavy profile, striking out just 11.4% of the time in 2018. He signed a two-year deal with the Rockies in December, where he could play both spots on the right side of the infield, but he seems better suited to play first base given his defensive shortcomings at the keystone. Regardless of where he plays defensively, Murphy fits Coors Field perfectly, maximizing balls in play, spraying the ball to all fields, and hitting the ball in the air enough to easily reach 20 homers for the third time in four seasons while contending for a batting title.

Prior to signing with the Rockies in late December, Murphy had an ADP of 157.28 in 40 early NFBC drafts. Since inking his deal with Colorado, he's jumped more than 50 spots, carrying an ADP of 95.5. Don't be surprised if he settles in as a top-75 player between now and March, as Murphy projects as a top-40 hitter as long as he's healthy enough to approach 600 plate appearances.

Yasiel Puig, OF, CIN – Puig was one of the headliners in a big swap between the Dodgers and Reds in December. The trade reunites him with hitting coach Turner Ward, who moved to Cincinnati earlier in the offseason, and it provides Puig with a huge park boost at home in 2019. The three-year averages from 2015-2017 point to a big power bump for Puig moving from Dodger Stadium (RH HR index: 90) to Great American Ballpark (109). Cincinnati also boosts run-scoring as a whole (104 to 90), and it plays similarly in terms of batting average (98 to 96). In addition to the potential for more pop, Puig should hit higher in the order for the Reds than he did with the Dodgers, and it's not unreasonable to think that the 2019 Reds will score as many runs as the 2018 Dodgers, so there isn't necessarily downgrade in terms of his supporting cast. Above all, Puig's health is probably the greatest concern, as he's played 125 or fewer games in three of the last four seasons. If he's healthy for 150+ games, he has 30-homer and 20-steal upside. Even with a 25+ spot jump in ADP since the trade (102.67), Puig still appears to be underpriced right now.

Yasmani Grandal, C, MIL – The draft market hasn't had an opportunity to react to Grandal's recent signing with Milwaukee, but that the Brewers were able to land him on a one-year deal came as a surprise to many. The switch-hitting Grandal will get a power boost from the left side with the move to Miller Park, though it should be noted that Dodger Stadium plays as an above average park for left-handed power as well. With a capable backup in Manny Pina still in tow, Grandal is more likely to see 450 plate appearances than the career-high 518 he amassed last season with the Dodgers. Still, the potential for a slight drop in playing time should be offset by the moderate park boost, and that he signed in a hitter-friendly environment might nudge his current ADP (157.32) up 30-45 spots in the months ahead as he aims to hit 20-plus homers for the fourth straight season.

Andrew McCutchen, OF, PHI – The Phillies added McCutchen with a three-year deal in December, and while he was still a below average defender with the move to an outfield corner last season, he's the owner of steady plate skills and now he'll get a full season in a hitter-friendly environment. As we saw following his trade to the Yankees last season, McCutchen still has 25-homer pop when he's not playing half of his games in a park that deflates homers (AT&T Park had a RH HR index of 74 from 2015-2017, Citizens Bank Park was a league-high 124, and for the sake of comparison, PNC Park in PIttsburgh was at 83 during that span). He's more likely to hit .250 than .300, but McCutchen draws plenty of walks, he still contributes some as a basestealer (14-for-23 last season), and he should have a prominent place in a strong Phillies lineup, giving him a very high floor in runs and RBI. Since signing with the Phillies, his ADP has moved from 166.40 to 144.18, and it's easy to see a path for him to return a nice profit at that price as a top 50-60 hitter.

Billy Hamilton, OF, KC – Dayton Moore and the Royals spend more money than you might think (their Opening Day payroll was $122 million in 2018), but they're clearly in a position where they are attempting to build their team in a different way than contending clubs, putting a premium on speed and defense. It's hard to imagine that Hamilton will find another level at the plate. Over 2,736 career plate appearances, he's hit .245/.298/.333, and he's failed to carry a wRC+ above 60 in any of his first five full MLB seasons. Despite those overwhelming shortcomings at the plate, Hamilton has earned at least 1.2 fWAR in each of those campaigns, almost entirely from his excellent defense in center field. Even if he's buried at the bottom of the order every day for manager Ned Yost, Hamilton should have a perpetual green light on the basepaths in Kansas City. The Royals might be the only team in the league willing to give him 600 plate appearances – health permitting – and it's possible that he landed in the best-case scenario to steal 50 bases and score 70 runs again, even though it will likely come with light contributions in AVG, RBI and homers.

Alex Verdugo, OF, LAD – Verdugo has nothing left to prove at Triple-A, having played more than 200 games at the level over the past two seasons, and with a 128 wRC+ with Oklahoma City in 2018. While many expect the trade that sent Puig and Matt Kemp to Cincinnati to open the door for the signing of Bryce Harper, Harper has other suitors. Even if Harper ends up in Los Angeles, Verdugo should benefit from the versatility of other players on the depth chart. Chris Taylor can play multiple infield positions, Max Muncy has been used at both spots on the right side of the infield, and Cody Bellinger moves around a lot as well. Verdugo does a little bit of everything, giving him the chance to hold a spot atop the order at some point in 2019, while chipping in double-digit homers and steals if he's getting playing time on the large side of a floating platoon. Verdugo's ADP since Dec. 15th is 388.95, but he'll likely be going several rounds earlier come March.

Carson Kelly, C, ARI – Even if you don't like the return the D-backs received for Paul Goldschmidt, Kelly fills a significant immediate need on Arizona's roster, and he was permanently blocked in St. Louis so long as Yadier Molina stayed healthy. The Cards used Kelly sparingly over the last three seasons, and his very limited looks at big-league pitching resulted in a meager .154/.227/.188 line. Prior to last season, he received positive marks for his defense, which should help to carry his playing time during first campaign with the D-backs. Kelly has a discerning eye at the plate, posting a .278/.373/.416 line in the PCL as a 22- and 23-year-old. In some two-catcher leagues, he'll go undrafted, but Kelly should play enough with the change of scenery to have a shot at being a top-24 player at the position if his raw power begins to translate more consistently in games, at least putting him in consideration for a late-round dart in 15-team mixed leagues.

RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only MLB Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire MLB fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Derek VanRiper
Derek is the Director of Media for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire's shows on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210).
Oak's Corner: Time to Trade for Moustakas?
Oak's Corner: Time to Trade for Moustakas?
FanDuel MLB: Friday Breakdown
FanDuel MLB: Friday Breakdown
Yahoo DFS Baseball: Friday Picks
Yahoo DFS Baseball: Friday Picks
DraftKings MLB: Friday Picks
DraftKings MLB: Friday Picks
The Z Files: Pilfering Points
The Z Files: Pilfering Points
PrizePicks Daily Fantasy Review
PrizePicks Daily Fantasy Review