Fenway boosts fantasy value for Panda, Hanley
Expect stock to also rise for Butler with A's, LaRoche with White Sox
The Hot Stove simmered for a few days last week, with only the A's and White Sox making notable splashes. But the Red Sox turned up the heat with a memorable Monday that is surely going to lead to more moves in the coming weeks.
Here is the fantasy spin on the recent signings.
Red Sox make big splash
The Red Sox could have gone in many directions this offseason, but they chose to go with a quick, aggressive, expensive rebuild on Monday when they finalized multi-year deals with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.
There will be plenty of fallout from these signings. It is highly unlikely that Boston now can keep Yoenis Cespedes, Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Brock Holt and Allen Craig. At least two of those players will likely need to be traded away, but until those moves are made, there is little sense in spending time trying to project Boston's Opening Day roster. For now, the focus should be on the value of the new arrivals.
Sandoval should get a boost in fantasy value from his relocation to Fenway Park. He has played his entire career as a member of the Giants, and AT&T Park is a pitcher-friendly venue. Fenway Park should help the 28-year-old's power stroke, and he will also play in hitter-friendly environments in most of his divisional road games. The switch-hitter has collected 20 homers just twice over the past six seasons, and he has driven in more than 80 runs only once over that stretch. His fantasy value certainly has plenty of room for growth, and Boston could be just the place to spark a 25-homer, 90-RBI season in 2015.
The main concerns for fantasy owners regarding Sandoval should be his motivation and his weight. He's had a tendency to put on weight during his career, and it would not be surprising to see a player struggle with motivation after winning the World Series and signing a multiyear contract in the span of one month. However, Sandoval should be motivated by the opportunity to strut his stuff on the East Coast, so there is the potential for a big year.
Like Sandoval, Ramirez should be excited to relocate after spending his entire career in pitcher-friendly home stadiums. The 30-year-old offers the Red Sox an exciting blend of power and speed, and he could be better than ever with shorter porches and an aggressive manager in John Farrell.
However, Ramirez's injury history suggests that he has more bust potential than Sandoval. He has topped 130 games once in the past four seasons, and he will need to reverse that trend in order to justify an early-round pick. Ramirez has the potential to be a 20-homer, 20-steal middle infielder who makes a huge difference in mixed leagues, assuming he can stay off the DL. The Red Sox have indicated that Ramirez will play left field, which could cause less physical stress to his body than playing shortstop. With David Ortiz locked in at designated hitter, the club will not have the luxury of resting Sandoval or Ramirez often without taking a key bat out of the lineup.
Country Breakfast on the menu in Oakland
Billy Butler seemed to have established himself as a stud when, at age 26, he wrapped up a 29-homer, 107-RBI season in 2012. But he has seen his offensive numbers decline in nearly every category the past two campaigns, and he really struggled in 2014, hitting .271 with nine homers and 66 RBIs in 151 games. Butler's decline caused the Royals to take the safe route and pass on his club option for 2015.
A's general manager Billy Beane apparently believes his club can get Butler back on track, inking the right-handed slugger to a three-year contract. The 28-year-old is expected to DH vs. right-handers and play first base against lefties, so his defensive contributions will be minimal. For the A's to get value from this deal, Butler needs to get back to being a 20-homer player who also posts an elite on-base percentage.
Beane has already said that Country Breakfast will hit in the heart of the team's lineup, so he will have ample opportunity to reward mixed-league owners who snatch him up in the second half of 2015 drafts. At first glance, a move to O.co Coliseum is bad news for Butler's rebound potential. But Beane's incredible success as a GM is reason enough to bump up Butler a few spots on draft lists.
LaRoche lands in Windy City
Adam LaRoche reaped the benefits of a 26-homer, 92-RBI 2014 season when he signed a two-year, $25 million deal with the White Sox. The lefty masher should enjoy his relocation to hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. He has spent just one of his previous 11 campaigns on a team with a homer-happy home venue, and in that season (2010) he drove in 100 runs and hit 25 dingers with the D-backs.
LaRoche should also enjoy hitting behind budding superstar Jose Abreu in the batting order. There has been speculation that his left-handed bat will be slotted between right-handers Abreu and Avisail Garcia.
LaRoche has always been known as an inconsistent hitter on a week-to-week basis, and his slow starts to seasons have at times frustrated fantasy owners. But he has topped 20 homers in nine of the past 10 seasons, and he racked up at least 78 RBIs in eight of those campaigns. Fantasy owners who pass on the elite first basemen in favor of LaRoche should feel quite secure that they will come away with roughly 25 taters and 90 RBIs.