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Winter Meetings Roundup: Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal, Josh Rutledge and others

Ray offers his thoughts on the players whose fantasy value was impacted the most from this week's trading frenzy at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Winter Meetings in San Diego brought us one of the most active weeks of trading in quite some time. The Dodgers made about 23 trades on Wednesday night, or so it seemed. The Cubs traded for catcher Miguel Montero and signed their ace, Jon Lester. The White Sox traded for Jeff Samardzija and signed closer David Robertson, after previously signing first baseman Adam LaRoche. The Marlins traded for Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Mat Latos and could make a run for the wildcard in 2015.

Today, I will take a look at the player's whose fantasy value was impacted the most after this week's trading and signing frenzy.

Joc Pederson, Dodgers

Early Thursday morning, the Dodgers traded outfielder Matt Kemp, catcher Tim Federowicz and $32 million to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal, and pitching prospects Zach Eflin and Joe Wieland.

I offered my thoughts on this trade on Thursday morning, opining that Kemp's value takes a bit of a hit with the trade, while Grandal's improves moving out of Petco Park:

Kemp's fantasy value takes a bit of a hit moving to the cavernous Petco Park, but I have a feeling he will still have solid fantasy value even in that park. Grandal's value improves a bit as he moves out of Petco and into Dodger Stadium which played as a decent park for home runs in 2014. Last year, Dodger Stadium was the 5th best park for home runs, increasing home runs by 22% according to ESPN Park factors, while Petco Park depressed home runs by about 19%.

What I didn't mention in that article was how the Kemp trade opens up an outfield spot for Dodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson. More than likely, this deal opens up center field for Pederson, with Yasiel Puig moving to right field and Carl Crawford in left field.

Pederson is coming off a terrific 2014 season in AAA, hitting .303-.435-.582 with 33 home runs, 106 runs scored, 78 runs scored and 30 stolen bases. Pederson saw his strikeout rate increase as he moved up the minor league ladder over the last few seasons, but his walked rate increased as well. Pederson should hit in the lower third of the Dodgers lineup to start the season, and I can see him hitting 15 home runs and stealing 15 bases in a full season in the big leagues in 2015.

Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers

As stated above, Grandal's fantasy value improves with the move out of Petco Park and into Dodger Stadium. Some even think he has the power to put up a Devin Mesoraco-like breakout in 2015. This from Eno Sarris' piece on Grandal earlier in the week:

Here are his reasons:

What made Mesoraco Mesoraco? A year ago, during just this same exercise, I wrote about the Reds' catcher and pointed out my reasons for liking him as a breakout player.

1) He had pedigree as a former top prospect.
2) He had spent a couple of years honing his receiving and was finally starting.
3) His plate discipline stats were good.
4) His batted ball luck was not good to date.
5) His minor league stats suggested more power was coming.

Grandal struggled at the plate last season, but still managed to hit 15 home runs, seven of which were hit at Petco Park, and all 15 were hit off of right-handed pitchers, so he could be in for a platoon with incumbent A.j. Ellis. Ellis is Clayton Kershaw's personal catcher, and will continue that in 2015. If I remember correctly, Ellis also caught Zack Greinke quite a bit. Grandal not only has power, but he already owns a solid eye at the plate, walking in 13.1% of his plate appearances in 2014.

Dodgers rotation

Yes, I know the Dodgers rotation is already very good, with Kershaw, Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and recently signed Brandon McCarthy, but the Dodgers trading frenzy this week was a philosophy change, with a focus on improved defense and pitching. They improved their up the middle defense with the trade for Grandal, trading for new shortstop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Howie Kendrick, and opening up an outfield spot for Joc Pederson with the trade of Kemp to the Padres.

Here is ESPN's David Schoenfield on the Dodgers improved defense:

New team president Andrew Friedman came from Tampa Bay, where the Rays turned their franchise around in 2008 by improving the team's defense and emphasizing it ever since. General manager Farhan Zaidi came from Oakland, where the A's had also made defense a bigger priority in recent seasons. 

The Dodgers arguably ended up improving their defense at five positions: 

Shortstop: Rollins > Hanley Ramirez
Second base: Kendrick > Gordon 
Center field: Pederson > Yasiel Puig
Right field: Puig > Kemp 
Catcher: Grandal > A.J. Ellis

Look at the upgrades, based on 2014 defensive runs saved per 1,200 innings: 

SS: +16 runs 
2B: +11 runs 
CF: Puig rated as average here; Pederson projects as average or slightly above. 
RF: +10 runs 
C: Friedman loves pitch framing, and Grandal rates very well here while Ellis rates as one of the worst in the majors. Grandal isn't a great overall defensive catcher -- he had trouble throwing out runners -- but you have to believe the Dodgers' internal metrics rate Grandal has a sizable upgrade.

So, is it possible Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu and crew could put up even better four category stats in 2015? In this low run scoring environment that now exists in MLB, the answer is yes, but by how much? I am not sure Kershaw can pitch much better than he did in 2014, but we said the same before the 2014 season, didn't we? Greinke hasn't pitched this well since his Cy Young seasons about half a decade ago. Ryu is underrated, so there is a chance he improves in 2015, and newly acquired Brandon McCarthy pitched way better than his 4.05 ERA in 2014, as his FIP was 3.55 and his xFIP was even better at 2.87. He is a sleeper heading into the 2015 season.

Marcus Semien, Athletics

I wrote that A's new shortstop Marcus Semien is now fantasy relevant after it was announced that he was the primary piece heading to Oakland in the deal that sent starter Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox,

You can read my piece in the link below:

Marcus Semien is now fantasy relevant

Ike Davis, Athletics

A's GM Billy Beane has traded four of his most recognizable players over the past five months: Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox, Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox and Brandon Moss to the Indians. The Moss deal to the Indians opens up first base for former Mets and Pirates first baseman Ike Davis.

Davis is two years removed from 32 home runs, but still owns two skills that should result in plenty of playing time: 1) power, and 2) plate discipline. Davis has the power to hit 20+ home runs in full time duty, and has seen his walk rate improve to the 15% range in the last two seasons.

Josh Rutledge, Angels

Rutledge was traded to the Angels for reliever Jairo Diaz on Thursday. The trade allows him a very good shot at the starting second base job in Anaheim in 2015. Rutledge has the pop and speed to put up 10-15 home runs and 15 stolen bases next season.