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Winter Meetings shake up fantasy landscape

Stanton, Ozuna, Kinsler trades highlight transactions
December 14, 2017

While the 2017 Winter Meetings did not present a large volume of major transactions, the moves that were made will alter 2018 fantasy drafts. Owners who hope to stay ahead of their competitors need to look no further for a complete recap of the key moves.Yankees reel in big fish

While the 2017 Winter Meetings did not present a large volume of major transactions, the moves that were made will alter 2018 fantasy drafts. Owners who hope to stay ahead of their competitors need to look no further for a complete recap of the key moves.
Yankees reel in big fish with Stanton trade
A top-10 fantasy talent even before the deal, Giancarlo Stanton can now be selected with confidence at any point after Michael Trout gets drafted first overall next spring. The reigning NL MVP was expected to regress some after his historic power display last year, but the move to hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium greatly boosts his prospects for league-leading RBI and runs totals as well as another 50-homer campaign. Stanton's presence will also be a boon for New York's dynamic offense as a whole, with Gary Sanchez solidifying his place atop the fantasy catcher ranks and Aaron Judge becoming an even clearer top-12 overall selection. On the other side of the trade, Starlin Castro (.300 average, 16 homers in '17) should hit in the heart of Miami's order and represents a reliable contributor in deep-mixed formats.

Ozuna a fine consolation prize for Cardinals
After its push for Stanton didn't work out, St. Louis pivoted to acquire another difference-making Miami bat in Marcell Ozuna. Although replicating a memorable 2017 season (37 homers, 124 RBIs, .312 average) will still be a tall task, Ozuna should be a better fantasy option with the Cardinals than he would have been with the Marlins. Having posted an outstanding average exit velocity last year (90.7 mph, per Statcast™), the slugger could hit over .290 with at least 30 homers and 95 RBIs in '18. Likely to be a major asset, Ozuna can be selected as early as Round 3 in mixed-league drafts. Conversely, Randal Grichuk and Jose Martinez could struggle to find the necessary playing time for mixed-league consideration with Ozuna joining Tommy Pham and William Fowler in the Cardinals' outfield.
Angels shore up second-base spot with Kinsler acquisition
After signing two-way star Shohei Ohtani last week, the Angels enhanced their lineup by acquiring leadoff man Ian Kinsler. The four-time All-Star was a productive mixed-league option in 2017 despite a .236 average brought down in part by batted-ball misfortune (.244 BABIP), posting 22 homers, 14 steals and 90 runs scored. Kinsler should go in the middle rounds of mixed-league drafts this spring on the expectation that he will provide a solid batting mark while challenging the 100-run plateau as a table-setter for Trout and Justin Upton.

A's add bounceback candidate Piscotty
After establishing himself as an above-average offensive performer over his first two seasons (121 wRC+), Stephen Piscotty took a step back in 2017 (92 wRC+). However, the outfielder recorded a substantially improved walk rate (13 percent) while maintaining similar strikeout, fly-ball and hard-hit rates relative to the previous two years. A candidate to rebound in '18, Piscotty warrants late-round consideration in 12-team leagues as he joins a club that can give him a regular role.
Rodney brings closing experience to Minnesota
Although Fernando Rodney recorded a 4.23 ERA in '17, wise fantasy owners will look past that mark and notice he also logged a solid 3.03 FIP with a 10.6 K/9 rate en route to notching 39 saves. The veteran may walk too many batters (career 4.4 BB/9 rate) to be one of fantasy's best closers, but he ranks third in baseball with 213 saves across the past six campaigns and could compile more than 35 saves as the bullpen anchor on a team that is coming off an 85-win season.

Cardinals begin bullpen makeover by adding Gregerson
Expected to add multiple relievers to augment the back end of a bullpen that was in flux for much of 2017, the Cardinals made their first acquisition by signing Luke Gregerson. And while the right-hander does not immediately jump out as a prime ninth-inning option due to his 2017 performance (4.57 ERA, 1.34 WHIP), he owns an impressive lifetime 3.02 ERA and logged a closer-esque 10.4 K/9 rate across the past two seasons. With more career saves (66) than any member of the current Cardinals bullpen, Gregerson should remain on mixed-league draft lists until St. Louis makes further bullpen moves this winter.
Cubs nab closer candidate in Morrow
Morrow was one of last season's most surprising success stories, emerging as an elite-tier reliever with the Dodgers after opening 2017 in the Minors. Having shown impressive strike-zone command (career-best 5.6 K/BB ratio) while experiencing a notable uptick in fastball velocity (97.9 mph), the right-hander could be poised for continued success as a high-leverage bullpen arm. Morrow is not a surefire fantasy option after throwing fewer than 55 innings in each of the past five seasons. But he will remain on mixed-league draft lists as a closer candidate -- along with Pedro Strop and C.J. Edwards -- unless the Cubs add an experienced stopper this winter.

Neshek returns to Phillies on two-year deal
Behind stellar strike-zone command (11.5 K/BB ratio) and an ability to limit hard contact (84.2-mph average exit velocity, per Statcast™), Neshek thrived with Philadelphia and Colorado last season. The Phillies have an established stopper in Hector Neris, who converted 26 of 29 save chances with a solid 3.01 ERA, but Neshek could provide value as a late-round option in deep mixed leagues nonetheless.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB.