Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
A look at a collection of players who have changed teams in the offseason and have landed in the National League, and how that change in environment will affect their fantasy value, for better or worse.
The Dodgers have been busy this past year attempting to disprove the theory that money does not, in fact, grow on trees. They piled on to their growing list of gargantuan player contracts by lavishing Greinke with a six year, $147 million deal this offseason. Despite a propensity to post ERAs worse than his peripherals would seem to indicate, Greinke has been a top fantasy starter since his amazing 2009 season due to his ability to rack up strikeouts while limiting walks, and that shouldn't change at all in his new home.
Some might be tempted to think that Greinke will be a little better with the move to the very pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium, but hold on, chief. Even though Miller Park boosted home runs and was generally more hitter-friendly, Greinke was quite literally unbeatable when he pitched there. In his season-and-a-half with the Brewers, Greinke went 15-0 with a 2.92 ERA when he pitched in front of his beer-swilling home crowd. It's hard to see how Greinke could do much better than that at Dodger Stadium. He probably just posts better numbers at home, like most pitchers, and the move to the NL West shouldn't alter his value much at all.
The guy who has been giving fantasy owners fits of acute hair loss year after year moves on to Atlanta. Upton is perennially projected to have "that monster season" where he finally puts the complete package together, hits 35 homers, steals 50 bases, hits over .300, and becomes an elite fantasy producer. When can we just give up that hope? Now, that's effing when. I've always been a big believer in Upton, but 2007 seems like a long time ago. At this point, we should probably just admit that Upton is what he is. He could legitimately go 30/30, but he'll do it while hitting .240 with a ton of strikeouts, making him a second-tier outfield option at best.
The only concern upon his arrival in Atlanta would be that Atlanta was a bit more conservative with the running game last year, while Tampa was one of the most steal-crazy teams in the league. Upton may not have the green light like he did under Joe Maddon, but as one of the team's two legit base-stealing threats, his steal total probably won't be affected too much.
The Reds traded for Choo so they could slot him in as their every day center fielder. That's a dubious proposition for the team's defensive outlook, but fantasy owners don't care. The move to one of the most home run-friendly ball parks in baseball has sent Choo's fantasy stock skyrocketing. Choo's take and rake approach should suit him well in his new park, and I can easily see his home run total shooting back up into the twenties. If he serves as the team's leadoff hitter (as he's projected to do), it'll hurt his RBI total, but he should score a ton of runs in what should be a very good lineup that is no longer blighted by the presence of Drew Stubbs. Choo's fantasy owners couldn't have asked for a better change of venue. Look for 20/20 numbers and draft enthusiastically.
Haren had the first truly poor season of his career in 2012, as he battled injuries and troubles with the long ball. At 32, there's a lot of worry that all the innings have finally caught up with him. The injuries and declining peripherals from 2012 are only going to exacerbate those fears. However, if he's going to right the ship, there are probably few better places to do it than Washington. He'll have an up-an-coming team around him and no DH to offend the eye. A powerful offense should provide him with run support and a solid defense should help keep his BABIP from going askew.
McCarthy, owner of one of MLB's best Twitter accounts, moves to Arizona's desert air, where baseballs tend to fly farther off of bats. McCarthy is a fairly extreme fly ball pitcher, so it's fair to wonder if he'll be hurt by the move from the cavernous Oakland Coliseum to Chase Field. You probably won't be seeing the ultra-low HR/FB rates anymore, in any event. If McCarthy continues to keep his walks down, he should be fine, but I wouldn't be surprised if his ERA ends up on the wrong side of 3.50 as more of the fly balls he surrenders start to float out of the ball park.
Whether or not Young can reanimate himself and have fantasy value probably hinges a lot on the health and/or effectiveness of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. If those guys are productive and getting on base, Young should see a lot of RBI opportunities, so if he's not completely done, you might have yourself a 100-RBI guy again. The problem is, Young looked absolutely finished in Texas last year, to the point where they couldn't ship him out of town (with cash!) fast enough. Young is 36 and his brilliant 2011 season (where he racked up some controversial MVP votes) may have been his swan song. Citizens Bank Park certainly isn't a better place to hit than the Ballpark in Arlington, so I wouldn't expect a big boost there.
Cody Ross, Arizona Diamondbacks
Ross is, and always has been, a flawed yet ultimately serviceable back-end fantasy outfielder because of his power and tendency to throw two or three smoking hot weeks together every couple months. His power should be aided by the move to Chase Field, which boosts home run production. The DBacks are currently in an outfield crunch, but Justin Upton is the subject of a new trade rumor every half-second, and it seems inevitable that either he or Jason Kubel will be traded in the next few weeks. That would likely free up an outfield spot for Ross, who could easily produce 20-25 home runs in the desert air and be a nice option in NL-only or deep mixed leagues.
Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals
Drew Storen's keeper league owners probably had to be talked off the ledge when the Nationals gave Soriano his two-year deal. Soriano's signing also served to make Fake Teams's own Jason Hunt look like an absolute genius for ranking Storen so low. Upon his acquisition, Soriano was immediately inked in as Washington's closer and should be one of the first closers taken when the inevitable run starts in your draft. Soriano strikes out batters and limits home runs, and that's essentially all you ask of a guy who is tasked with getting three measly outs to finish a game. The Nationals will probably win a lot of games this year, so while it's tough to project how many saves any closer will rack up in a given season, Soriano is as good a bet as any to reach 40 again and be one of the top fantasy relievers again.
Delmon Young, Philadelphia Phillies
He's listed here because there are still people out there who think he's good. In a telling sign of just how smart front offices in baseball have become in the post-Moneyball era, Young had to settle for a one-year deal for $750K. That's right, with all the money soaking baseball these days, Young couldn't even manage a seven-figure contract (although to be fair, he could reach $3.5 million in incentives). There are still some (mostly desperate keeper league owners) grasping to the hope that Young can still fulfill the star potential that made him the top overall pick in the 2003 draft, but that ship has long sailed. A move to the NL might...might...boost his numbers a bit, so as a waiver wire flier, he's not the worst outfielder you could have on your team.
In sharp contrast to the restraint shown in the market for Young, we have the two-year deal that the Pirates are about to hand to Liriano (assuming it actually gets finalized). Liriano has been, sad to say, one of the worst pitchers in baseball, fantasy or otherwise, in each of the past two seasons. That the Pirates are desperately trying to wring some kind of quality out of him speaks either to a psychic scouting department or some extreme naivete. If Liriano moves to the non-DH league as has a career renaissance, then he could be one of the year's great bargains. Even at his worst, he could always rack up the strikeouts. NL-only leaguers would be totally justified taking an early flier on him. All others, be very wary.