The Diamondbacks had a blue chip outfielder in Justin Upton. For some reason I've yet to be able to fathom, they were unhappy with that situation. Finally, after doing the old do-se-do for about 12 months (that's a fancy country dance move folks), the D'backs sent Justin Upton, their best and brightest player, out of town to Atlanta where he will be reunited with his older brother, B.J. Upton, to form a potentially dominating duo in the outfield. The main piece the D'backs got back in return was Martin Prado, but they also added a whole host of other youngsters in the deal including Randall Delgado. How does this deal effect the fantasy value for the main players involved? So glad you asked.
Take a look at some of the moves the D'backs have made in the last two months.
Takashi Saito returned to Japan.
Traded away: Matt Albert, Bryan Shaw, Trevor Bauer, Justin Upton, Chris Johnson
Signed Cody Ross to a three year deal (find more on him in this Player Profile).
Signed Eric Hinske, Eric Chavez and Wil Nieves to one year deals.
Signed Brandon McCarthy to a two years deal (find more on him in this Player Profile).
Added through trades: Tony Sipp, Lars Anderson (who was designated for assignment Thursday), Did Gregorius, Randall Delgado, Martin Prado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill and Brandon Drury.
Signed the following players to minor league deals: Nelson Figueroa, Warner Madrigal, Josh Wilson, Steve Garrison, Humberto Cota.
Heck, they lost Geoff Blum when he decided to hang up his cleats.
You see a trend of turnover here?
Before breaking down the players involved in the Thursday blockbuster it would probably be smart for me to tell you how the deal actually ended up.
Braves receive: Justin Upton and Chris Johnson
D'backs receive: Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill & Brandon Drury
Let's start out by looking at the Braves haul.
Justin Upton is a 25 year old outfielder who is one of the 10 most talented outfielders in baseball. He may not have always performed that way for sure, including last season when his efforts were a big letdown in the fantasy game, but I've still continued to add my unwavering support for his talent (you can read my defense for him in this Player Profile). Regardless of what The Oracle thinks, the D'backs determined that the best course of action was to deal a guy who is owed slightly less money the next three years than Shane Victorino. In so doing they have reunited Justin with his bro, B.J., and that should bring a lot of comfort to both players and likely put them in a good place, mentally, to excel in 2013. What does the change of scenery do for Justin on the field? According to Bill James' Park Indices, the last three seasons the ballpark in Arizona was 15 percent above “average” for right handed batters in the homer category, 11 percent above average for doubles and 12 percent above normal for runs scored. In Atlanta the ballpark graded out the last three seasons in a way that is much less exciting: 12 percent below average for right handed batters in the homer category, three percent above normal in doubles for righties and exactly average in the runs scored department. Obviously the ballpark shift isn't going to be doing Justin any favors, and given that he is coming off a down season of 17 homers, and that he has failed to record 20 big flies in two of three years, the move to the decidedly less impactful home ball park for a power hitter isn't exactly heartening news. Will the presence of his brother, the internal peace he will receive, and the winning atmosphere with the Braves be able to overcome the difference in how the parks play? It's just a supposition on my part, but I think the non quantifiable things I just listed will be able to overcome the ball yard differences. I still view Justin Upton as a top-20 overall selection for the 2013 fantasy baseball season, one with even more up than that, and you should do yourself a favor and rate him along those same lines as well.
Chris Johnson has gotten fantasy fans excited a couple of times in his career, but the truth is that he is a limited ball player who is never going to be an all-star. Could he end up being a nice end game grab in mixed leagues if he gets 500 at-bats? He certainly could be productive in the counting categories but I'm pretty dubious of even that only somewhat half hearted line of support given his lack of impressive skills (find more on Johnson in this Player Profile) and the fact that the Braves would appear have no intention of giving him 500 at-bats since they already have Juan Francisco in the mix. Oddly, both guys present themselves as similar types of players, i.e. guys that own skills but ones that aren't exciting enough to be counting on in mixed leagues unless they are playing every day. Two notes on Francisco. He's hit 14 bombs with 61 RBIs over just 361 big league at-bats, but he really has no idea how to hit left-handed pitching (.190/.224/.222 in 63 career at-bats). At least he appears to be in line to be on the “right” side of the potential platoon.
To sum up, Justin Upton has the potential to be a fantasy star. Chris Johnson does not. It's not even clear how much playing time Johnson will get since he will have to share the third base position with Juan Francisco.
On to the D'backs.
The big addition is Martin Prado, and if judged by the questions I've been getting on Twitter (you can find that info below), people seem to think that Prado is a lock to excel in 2013. As you can tell from this link to th FSTA 2013 Experts Draft, I'm a big fan of Prado's (I rostered him in the sixth round of the 13 team mixed league draft). At the same time, I'm not fool-hearty enough to think that the move from Atlanta to Arizona is going to turn Prado into a .320 hitting, 25 homer bat. Most obvious is the fact that, even with the boost the park figures to give him, a 25 homer season is totally out of reach after Prado hit 23 homers the last two years and has never hit more than 15 in a season. Just not gonna happen folks. Even 20 is likely setting the bar to the point that disappointment will likely follow.
Could Prado hit .320? He could, even if it's nowhere near a lock. Last season Prado hit .301, the third time in four years that he batted .300. The only time he failed was 2011 when he saw his average dip to .260. Blame bad luck as his .266 BABIP is the only time that mark has been under .321 since 2006. Given his lack of strikeouts, he's averaged 61 Ks the past two seasons, and his elite 90 percent contact rate in each of the past three seasons, there is just no logical way anyone could think that another .260 effort is in the cards. Worst case scenario would be a .285 mark in my mind and .300, while certainly not guaranteed, is something that Prado should be able to hit 2013. Add in his positional flexibility (he appeared in 119 games in the outfield, 25 at third, 13 at shortstop, 10 at second and four at first base) and you have yourself one valuable fantasy performer.
On the hill the D'backs spun their wheels. Nothing against Delgado who I'll break down in a moment, but the Diamondbacks did have in their possession an equally talented arm in Trevor Bauer who they dealt to the Indians a while back. It's nice for them to add an arm as talented as the wing of Delgado but the organization isn't any further ahead right now then they were a month ago when they had Bauer.
Randall Delgado is 22 years old, and for the past couple of years his talent has caused many a source to list him as one of the top arms in baseball. He's made 25 big league appearances covering 127.2 innings with mixed results as he has gone 5-10 with a 3.95 ERA and 1.36 WHIP while striking out 6.63 batters per nine innings. His numbers haven't been any better at Double-A (8-10, 4.08 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) or Triple-A (6-5, 4.09 ERA, 1.49 WHIP) either. So why the excitement? The arm. He throws a bushel of darting/diving pitches, and people in the know realize that while the results haven't yet shown themselves for an extended period of time that there is no disputing that he has the arm/stuff combo that could make him a top of the rotation arm. He's someone to speculate on in mixed leagues this season in the reserve rounds.
Quickly on the others...
Ahmed is a shortstop with speed. Reports suggest he might be on his way to Detroit as the D'backs try to add Rick Porcello. What, you thought they were done tinkering with the roster? Come on now.
Drury is a third baseman who might be able to settle the hot corner one day for the D'backs. He played at Low-A ball last season and is just 20 years old.
Spruill, besides having a ridiculous name to type out, was pretty much an Aaron Harang type in the minors last year. Try and hold back the yawns.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.
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