Winter Meetings – Day 1 News & Notes

As the baseball world begins the second day of the Winter Meetings in Orlando, here’s a look back at the big news from Day 1 of the festivities.

Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee. Officially. 

Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman, and Jose Devers are the trio of players headed back to Miami. Neither Guzman nor Devers has made his full-season debut, though that could come in Year 1 as members of the Marlins’ organization. RotoWire’s Lead Prospect Analyst James Anderson had Guzman ranked third on the Marlins’ prospect list, while Devers ranked eighth.

Castro’s tenure with the Marlins could be brief. He’s owed $22 million through the end of 2019 ($10 million in 2018, $11 million in 2019, and a $1 million buyout if his $16 million team option for 2020 is declined, per FanGraphs). While he’s posted three seasons in his career worth more than $20 million, he’s averaged just under $10 million in value to the Cubs and Yankees over the past three seasons.

As for Stanton, the projections are soaring to an all-time high as he joins a strong Yankees lineup, and with the move into one of baseball’s most hitter-friendly venues for half of his games. Fred Zinkie of MLB.com now considers Stanton a top-three player with his move to the Bronx thanks to the significantly improved supporting cast in the lineup around him.

Undoubtedly, the floor is higher than it’s ever been, and as Fred notes in the linked article above, Stanton’s injury history is still noteworthy. The improvements he made with his contact rate last season are significant, and he’s slugged .600 or better in three of the last five seasons.

Perhaps we’re too quick to forget that Stanton hit .240/.326/.489 with a 29.8% strikeout rate in 2016, swatting 27 homers in 119 games.

Two particularly interesting tweets from the weekend, when news of this trade first broke, came from Derek Carty of ESPN & RotoGrinders and Mike Petriello of MLB.com.

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Zinkie, Carty, and Petriello are three of the sharpest minds in the industry, and all three make important points. The setup for Stanton in New York is better than anything he’s had in Miami, so the baseline gets a boost as Zinkie’s top-three projection intimates. The idea that Stanton will hit 70 homers in 2018 is far fetched, as Carty notes. And as a guy who doesn’t hit many cheap homers, the park factors getting better doesn’t necessarily help Stanton the way it would help most players, especially since he’s a righty.

The Steamer system, which is a cold, heartless, machine-driven projection, offers the following for Stanton:

.282/.376/.639, 55 HR, 127 RBI, 111 runs.

The slash line is nearly identical to 2017….slight regression with a park boost likely baked in. The home run total is a slight drop, but less severe than it would have been if he were still in Miami, and the runs scored and RBI counts, which were off the charts from Stanton last season compared to his career numbers, are much more sustainable now than they would have been if he were still a Marlin.

Is that top-three worthy? In a vacuum, yes.

As hitters go, only Mike Trout’s Steamer Projection yields a higher dollar value.

It comes down to your level of confidence in Stanton’s ability to play in the 146 games projected by Steamer, since his potential 2018 production is based on 631 plate appearances, versus the confidence you have in the alternatives, which include Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Trea Turner.

From 2013-2017, Stanton has averaged 524.4 plate appearances annually, but he’s exceeded 631 plate appearances in two of those five seasons.

The quality and depth of players available in the first 20-25 picks in 2018 opens up more desirable positions than usual for Kentucky Derby Style (KDS) draft slot selection systems.

Who do you prefer if you have third overall pick and Trout and Altuve are off the board? Weigh in with the poll below:

Other Day 1 Musings

Brandon Morrow is the favorite to close for the Cubs after he agreed to a two-year deal on Sunday. Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Wilson would be next in line if Morrow gets hurt, but Morrow is another interesting case being locked into a traditional closer role as it’s reasonable to try and limit his workload.

Eno Sarris of FanGraphs has a great breakdown of Morrow’s extremely heavy postseason usage with the Dodgers and the issues that may present over the next two seasons.

Given the injury history, it’s difficult to project Morrow as anything more than a second-tier closer in 2018.

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New Nationals manager Davey Martinez told reporters that Adam Eaton will lead off and play left field in 2018. This leaves Michael Taylor in center field until Victor Robles is ready, and positions Eaton in front of Trea Turner, as the Nats will have two speedy OBP machines setting the table for the likes of Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Anthony Rendon in the heart of the order.

Eaton is still rehabbing the torn ACL he suffered in April, so his availability for the start of the season should become clearer soon after spring training gets underway in February.

As an outfielder capable of eclipsing 100 runs scored and offering double-digit homers and steals with a good batting average, Eaton is unlikely to fall past the end of Round 9 of 15-team mixed leagues this draft season.

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Michael Conforto is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Given the nature of his injury, his ADP will almost certainly fall from the 112 he generated in the four Mason Mocks this fall.

In keeper leagues where he’s available in the auction/draft this spring, it’s tempting to try and buy at a discount, but temper the expectations, especially for the first half of 2018.

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The Pirates don’t expect to have Jung Ho Kang back in 2018, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Apparently, the process of getting a work visa has been difficult for Kang, who has been arrested for DUI on three occasions in Korea. David Freese remains the starter at third base for the Pirates, who seem unlikely to spend on a pricey free agent like Mike Moustakas, but could be in the market for Todd Frazier if the contract is short and relatively inexpensive.

Follow me on Twitter @DerekVanRiper.