Every offseason sparks the words of the old David Bowie song in my mind. This year is no different.
- Brewers- Infield changes
Daniel Robertson- 2B- MIL- The Brewers have a hole at 3B right now. Unless they make a signing it will filled either by Luis Urias, moving over from SS, or Robertson , who was signed after he posted a .333/.417/.333 slash line with the Giants in 2020. That slash line was accomplished in just 24 PAs, though, and also benefited from a .467 BABIP. Robertson had his best season of his career in 2018 with the Rays but it is hard to rely on that either. He slashed .262/.382/.415 with 9 homers in 340 PAs. There were a lot of anomalies there. Robertson was hit a whopping 13 times, which drove that OBP. The power came in a season where his GB% was 50.7% and FB% 30.4%. So where did those homers come from? A 14.3% HR/FB ratio accounts for that and is unlikely to be repeated. The track record for success just isn't there.
Keston Hiura- 2B- MIL- Hiura's change will be in position. With Kolten Wong getting signed to play 2B, Hiura will be moving to the 1B corner. He has never played there as a professional. In 2020 his average took a dive from .303 to .212, largely as a result of his luck changing. In 2019 he enjoyed a BABIP of .402 and in 2020 it was only .273. Hiura didn't quite have as big a power year as in his rookie season, when he slugged 19 homers in 348 PAs and had a SLG of .570, but his 13 homers in 246 PAs in 2020 was respectable. One big question mark for him is how he is going to adapt to the position change and whether it will distract him at the plate. That will be observable in spring training. The other will be his plate discipline. Hiura had a 30.7% K% in his rookie season that grew to 34.6% in 2020. His contact% dropped from 65.8% to 59.3%. If it was just a sophomore slump, then Hiura can still keep value at 1B, although it will still probably suffer from the position move.
- Rangers- Veteran changes
Khris Davis- DH- TEX- Davis came over in the deal with the A's that sent Elvis Andrus the other way. 2020 was the second consecutive season that Davis failed to get up to his traditional .247 average. He also continued to decline in power numbers, hitting only 2 homers in 99 PAs. There are some signs in his Statcast numbers that indicate that it will be tough for Davis to regain the form that saw him hit 42 or more homers from 2016-2018. His exit velocity dropped to 87.7, the lowest he has had recorded. He also hit career lows in Barrel% (8.3%) and HardHIt% (30.0%.) In his prime power seasons, his Exit Velocity was at least 9i.9, Barrel% 16.5% and HardHit% 47.5%. The rebuilding Rangers are probably not going to get enough out of Davis to make him attractive to a fantasy team.
Mike Foltynewicz- P- TEX- The Rangers signed Foltynewicz and he is pretty much guaranteed a rotation slot. That's more a statement about the poor state of the Texas rotation than a ringing endorsement of Foltynewicz. The Braves released him last season after he made just one start for them, allowing 6 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks while striking out 3 in 3.1 IP. The rangers are hoping to get the Foltynewicz of 2018, who went 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA, 3.37 FIP and had a K/9 of 9.93. In the rest of his career, however, he never posted an ERA below 4.31, FIP below 4.24, or K/9 above 8.36. There have been reports that Foltynewicz has regained velocity that he seemed to lose when he threw at 91.4 in his start last year. Previously he had been clocked in the 95-97 mph range. Still, even with that stuff his production wasn't there with the exception of 2018.
- Orioles- Keystone Changes-
Freddy Galvis- SS- BAL- The Orioles are looking at Galvis as their new SS. The veteran had a very unlucky .231 BABIP, which held his average down to .220. He still showed power, slugging 7 homers in 159 PAs. Galvis saw his ISO actually tick up to .184 from .178 in 2019, when he hit 23 homers in 589 PAs. Home games at Camden Yards will probably moderate his power somewhat. Great American Ballpark was somewhat of a launching pad in 2020, and Galvis hit 5 of his homers there. Still, Galvis is likely to provide more value in 2021 than he did in 2020.
Jahmai Jones- 2B- BAL- The Orioles look at Jones as the key piece of the Alex Cobb trade. They consider him major-league ready and expect him to challenge for the starting 2B job in spring training. Jones had a brief taste of the majors last season with the Angels, going 3-for-7 with 2 runs and an RBI in 3 games. Prior to that, he had not played above AA. Jones' bat has not advanced as much as his glove. In his full season of AA in 2019 he slashed .234/.308/.324. He did have decent plate discipline, with a Batting EYE of 0.46. The Orioles may be a bit optimistic in hoping that Jones will stick at the major league level so soon. He does have some experience at other positions so he could be eased onto the roster as a utility player. Jones needs to develop more at the plate to have fantasy value, even with flexibility.
- Other changes around the majors
Mark Melancon- RP- SD- Melancon signed with the Padres, giving them a boost in their bullpen. After two injury-plagued seasons with the Giants in 2017-2018 Melancon returned to a more respectable form in 2019. In 2019-20 he posted a 3.40 ERA, 3.07 FIP, and 8.20. Melancon earned 23 saves in 89 appearances, with 2 blown saves. In San Diego he is unlikely to resume a closing role, filling more of a setup position. In 2020 Melancon's K/9 was only 5.56, but since a lot of the 2020 stats have to be taken with a huge shaker of salt it would be tough to look at his 22.2 IP and use that as evidence of a rapid decline.
Jake Arrieta- P- CHC- Arrieta reportedly is signing with the Cubs on a $6 million, 1-year contract. He will likely land back in the Chicago rotation, where he helped them to their World Series win in 2016. Arrieta, who turns 35 early next month, has seen his production fall in most categories since then. In 2019-20, in 33 starts he had a 12-12 record with a 7.10 K/9, 4.75 ERA, and 4.83 FIP. The Cubs are trying to recapture some of their glory and the recent indications are that Arrieta isn't a prime candidate for a strong comeback.
Sheldon Neuse- 3B- LAD- Neuse was one of the players the Dodgers picked up in a pair of trades yesterday. While he was one of the A's top prospects he didn't play in 2020. In 2019, Neuse did appear in 25 games for Oakland, where he hit .250 with no homers in 61 PAs. Power is part of his game, however, as he slugged 27 homers that year for AAA Vegas. This was a significant increase from the 5 Neuse hit at AAA Nashville in 2018. He adjusted his swing to be more compact and saw his K% drop from 32.0% to 23.6% and his Batting EYE go from 0.19 to 0.42. Neuse has a chance to stick with the big league club if they don't end up re-signing Justin Turner or acquire another major league veteran at 3B. If he does end up on the roster, Neuse will probably see action as the righthanded hitting part of a 3B platoon. He does have experience at 2B also. If Neuse gets sent to the minors keep an eye to see if he picks up where he left off in 2019.
Adam Kolarek- RP- OAK- Kolarek joined the A's bullpen yesterday in a deal with the Dodgers. He posted his best season in the majors during the shortened 2020 campaign, with a miniscule 0.95 ERA (and a 3.14 FIP.) Kolarek had appeared in 80 games in 2019, throwing 55 IP and recording 17 holds. He did make the transition that came with the 3-batter minimum rule. In 2019 Kolarek faced one batter 28 times in his 80 appearances and 2 batters 14 times. Last year he faced a single batter just twice and all of his other 18 outings were against 3 or more batters. Kolarek broke out of the LOOGY mold but as a late bloomer (he made his major league debut in 2017 at the age of 28) he is not likely to end up with a prominent bullpen role.
Dylan Floro- RP- MIA- Floro joins his 5th team in 6 major league seasons as he ends up in Miami after a trade from the Dodgers. He had been a serviceable pitcher out of the LA bullpen, Posting a 3.68 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 7.73 K/9, and 10 holds in 75 appearances covering 71 IP over 2019-20. Floro will probably be more of an 8th inning guy for the Marlins and not compete for the closer slot.
Rich Hill- P- TB- Hill has reportedly agreed to terms with the Rays, who will put them in their rotation mix. He posted a 2.68 ERA and 4.06 FIP in 2019-20 with the Dodgers and Twins across 21 starts and 97.1 IP. Hill, who turns 41 next month, saw his K/9 drop to 7.22 in the short 2020 season. It hadn't been lower than 10.18 in any of the previous 7 seasons. In his last 4 starts of 2020 his K/9 was 8.34, where it had been 5.63 in his first 4 starts so it was trending up. This gives him a good shot at defying age and showing an increase in 2021.
Collin McHugh- P- TB- The Rays have reportedly signed McHugh to a 1-year deal. He opted out of the 2020 season. McHugh had signed with the Red Sox prior to that year but was still recovering from a strained flexor tendon and decided to sit out the year rather than spend a lot of it on the IL. He will probably theoretically be in competition for one of the Tampa Bay rotation slots but will probably be more likely to end up in the bullpen. McHugh thrived in that role with the Astros in 2018 when he had a 1.99 ERA and 2.72 FIP with an 11.70 K/9 in 72.1 IP and also in 2019 when he posted a 2.67 ERA and 10.69 K/9 out of the bullpen. As a starter that year in 8 games his ERA was 6.37.
Marwin Gonzalez- OF- BOS- Gonzalez will be playing in Boston this year after signing with the Red Sox on Thursday. The super utility player will probably see the bulk of his playing time in the outfield, although also some time at 1B is expected. There will likely be appearances at other positions as well. Gonzalez had a down year in 2020, with an OPS of only .606. A lot of that was probably due to a very unlucky BABIP of .241. The switch-hitting Gonzalez doesn't favor one side over the other from a career perspective but has had individual seasons where he hit much better from one side of the plate. most recently he slashed .300/.323/.467 against southpaws in 2019 and .273/.316/.436 against them in 2017. Gonzalez can be a solid pick to insert in your lineup when other players have a day off and his flexibility makes it easier for him to cover multiple positions with a chance at some power.
Drew Smyly- P- ATL- The small sample size of 2020 did wonders for Smyly. In 26.1 IP with the Giants last year he struck out 42 batters for a whopping 14.35 K/9. That was far and away his best ratio in his career for a season. But it was only a season of 26.1 IP. Smyly's 2019 was pretty wretched, with an ERA of 6.26. However, it was his first year back after missing two seasons due to elbow issues and eventually Tommy John surgery. Last year he was certainly not overworked. In the small sample size his velocity was up to about 94 mph, higher than before his surgery. While having that 14.35 K/9 is probably not going to happen, Smyly should still contribute in the K column and is pitching for a contender.
Josh Bell- 1B- WAS- Bell could be a pleasant addition to the Nationals lineup. His overall .226/.305/.364 slash line in 2020 was not exciting but he is probably an example of someone who could have used a longer season. In September he slashed .244/.351/.402 despite a low for him BABIP of .271. Bell slugged 37 homers in 2019, with 20 of them coming on the road so playing his home games in Nationals Park may not hurt him as much as it would others.