Scherzer, Gattis set to reap benefits of new uniforms in 2015
By Fred Zinkie
A major domino fell from the free-agent stack on Sunday night when Max Scherzer agreed to terms with the Nationals. Between Scherzer's signing and a few notable trades, the Hot Stove had its busiest week since the beginning of 2015. Here are the players who were most affected by the recent moves.
Evan Gattis, Astros
Gattis was already a quality mixed-league catcher because of his back-to-back 20-homer seasons, but his value could soon soar after he was traded to Houston last Wednesday. The native Texan primarily served as a catcher during his time with the Braves, but he will be the Astros' left fielder in 2015. Gattis could not reach 400 at-bats under the rigors of catching in Atlanta, but he should top the 500-at-bat mark this season. He should also benefit from the move out of pitcher-friendly Turner Field and into Minute Maid Park. The additional playing time, combined with the positive park effect, will give Gattis a chance to reach the 30-homer plateau, which would likely lead all catcher-eligible fantasy options. He should compete with Jonathan Lucroy to be the second catcher off '15 draft boards, after Buster Posey.
Scherzer chose one of the most favorable free-agent destinations for a hurler when he inked a deal with the Nationals. With 39 wins and 492 whiffs over the past two seasons, the fireballer had already established himself as a fantasy ace, but he is definitely a top-five starter now that he is a member of the Nats. The move to the National League should give a slight boost to Scherzer's already-high strikeout rate, and it could also cause his ratios to improve. The opposing offenses within the NL East are generally subpar, as only the Marlins made a serious effort to improve their lineup this winter. The division is also home to several pitcher-friendly parks, which will help Scherzer, who has allowed an average of more than 20 homers per season in the past six years.
Jimmy Nelson, Brewers
In his first extended Major League trial, Nelson struggled to the tune of a 4.93 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in 69 1/3 innings last season. However, he posted an impressive 1.46 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in Triple-A in 2014, and at age 25, he is due for a breakthrough with the big club. Nelson, who should grab a rotation spot in Spring Training, is someone to monitor in shallow formats, and he is someone to grab in the final rounds of deep mixed-league drafts.
Kris Bryant, Cubs
In all likelihood, Luis Valbuena was never going to block a stud prospect such as Bryant from getting to the Majors. The Cubs have insisted that Bryant's timeline would not be determined by the rest of the third-base options, but they now have a massive hole at the position where one of the game's best prospects plies his trade. Bryant picked up 43 homers and 15 steals in 492 Minor League at-bats last season, so fantasy owners will need to bid aggressively to pick up this stud in March auctions.
Tanner Roark, Nationals
In the end, the Nationals may make another move with their pitching staff, but for now, Roark seems to be the odd man out of arguably the most talented quintet in baseball. It is hard to imagine that the 28-year-old will not be in the team's starting five, after he went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP last season, but there simply is not any room right now. Prior to the deal, Roark was a nice mid-round starter, but now he should be regarded as a late-round sleeper until a spot opens up via an injury or trade.
Yovani Gallardo, Rangers
Gallardo posted four straight 200-strikeout seasons from 2009-12, but his whiff rate has fallen off dramatically, as he could not top the 150-strikeout mark in each of the past two campaigns. The 28-year-old's move to the Junior Circuit should dampen any hopes for a rebound in K's, as he heads toward free agency after the coming season. Gallardo has always had trouble keeping the bases clean (1.30 career WHIP) and those troubles could lead to an ERA around 4.00 now that he has to deal with deeper lineups. The Rangers are unlikely to have a stable bullpen, so wins could also be hard to come by. Because of his inability to help with strikeouts or ratios, Gallardo should be waiver-wire fodder in shallow leagues.
Tyler Clippard, A's
The Nats passed on Clippard as a potential closer when they chose to go with Drew Storen late last season, so he was likely on course for low ratios, few saves and plenty of K's prior to being traded last Wednesday. His role should change very little in Oakland, where Sean Doolittle has the skills and status to maintain ninth-inning duties all season. Clippard will be a great American League-only asset, but should stay on waivers in most mixed formats.
Valbuena may have less short-term value because of his recent trade, but he should have more value during the second half of the coming season. The 29-year-old would have likely opened the campaign as the Cubs' regular third baseman before handing the job off to Bryant at some point in the first half of the season. Now with the Astros, Valbuena will need to compete with incumbent Matt Dominguez at the hot corner, and the two could wind up in a platoon, which would favor the left-handed-hitting Valbuena. Mixed-league owners are unlikely to notice Valbuena in 2015, but he should be an asset in AL-only formats.