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Corey Kluber Traded to Texas Rangers: Fantasy Baseball Impact

by Carmen Maiorano | @carmsclubhouse | Featured Writer
Dec 15, 2019

Corey Kluber will join a Texas Rangers’ pitching rotation that is on the rise.

Corey Kluber was traded from the Cleveland Indians on Sunday to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Delino DeShields Jr. and prospect Emmanuel Clase. Per Roster Resource, Oscar Mercado, Jake Bauers, and Greg Allen are slated to start against righties. DeShields’ splits show that he hits lefties much better than righties, so we can expect him to get the majority of the playing time with a lefty on the mound. With that said, I would not expect DeShields to see more than 450 plate appearances in 2020. Clase has an 80-grade cutter that approaches 100 MPH with solid secondary offerings, but he lacks command. Clase figures to benefit from the Indians’ great pitching infrastructure, but he likely will not be fantasy relevant in 2020.

For the sake of this article, we will focus on the former AL Cy Young winner. Four variables we need to consider are:

  1. Change in home ballpark.
  2. Change in team defense.
  3. The combination of offensive environments and hitters that he will face in his division.
  4. The new team’s approach to pitching and pitching infrastructure.

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Texas, The Great Unknown

Progressive Field in Cleveland is known as a hitter’s park, judging by FanGraphs.  FantasyPros also rates Progressive Field as a hitter’s park, ranking in the top five in runs scored. ESPN actually ranked Progressive in the bottom half of runs, even though it ranked above-average in both homers and doubles. The perception that Progressive is a well-above-average hitter’s park seems to be overblown, but certainly, it is somewhat difficult for pitchers to pitch there. Kluber’s ability to pitch much better at home over the years shows just how good of a pitcher he is.

Of course, Kluber’s new home park did not exist in 2019. The new Globe Life features a dome that should mitigate the hot temperatures that Texas faces throughout the season. Those temperatures seem to be the primary reason that the old venue rated second in runs and fifth in homers, per FantasyPros. The dimensions of the park should result in less wind, but shorter fences and short dimensions for righty hitters could result in similar park factors. Despite the fire that occurred over the weekend, the new park shouldn’t be as scorching hot for runs as the old park.

Team Defense

Last year, the Indians ranked fourth in defense, according to FanGraphs, ranking first in UZR/150. The Rangers? 23rd and 25th, respectively. DeShields was also one of their best fielders, and he will likely be replaced by Danny Santana. That means there is likely to be worse defense at other positions, given that Santana played at least 50 innings at every position except catcher last year. The Rangers also were in the bottom five teams in framing, with the Indians in the top five. The Rangers figure to have Jose Trevino catch the majority of the time this year, and he has yielded decent framing numbers. The Indians clearly outclass the Rangers, even if that is the case.

From 2016 to 2018, Kluber’s BABIP ranged from .267 to .276. I would expect an increase towards the .300 mark, especially if the Rangers do not sign a quality third baseman. His career BABIP is .298, so regression as he ages should not be a surprise.

AL West > AL Central

Kluber is moving from the least competitive division in baseball to one that should be very competitive in 2020. The Astros figure to win the division, but with the Angels, A’s, and even Rangers making pushes to get better, it could be much closer than last year. The West was nearly twice as good as the Central at hitting, as judged by wRC+:

AL West wRC+ Rank AL Central wRC+ Rank
Astros 1 White Sox 18
Rangers 23 Indians 17
A’s 5 Twins 3
Mariners 13 Royals 27
Angels 12 Tigers 30
Total 54 Total 95

 

That means Kluber will be facing tougher offenses on a nightly basis. Luckily for Kluber, there are a few pitcher’s parks in the division (Angels, A’s) that should help. Even still, we can consider this a negative for fantasy purposes.

Pitching Infrastructure

There is no doubt that the Indians have one of, if not the best, pitching infrastructure in baseball. From turning Kluber’s career around to developing Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer, and Shane Bieber (with Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac next in line), the Indians dial-up top pitchers left and right.

The Rangers, after getting career-type seasons from Lance Lynn and Mike Minor, are on the upward trend in pitching development. Of course, they still lag behind the Indians. Given Kluber’s vast amount of time (and length of excellence) in the majors, this pitching development likely matters the least in all of these factors.

My Projection

IPs W K ERA WHIP K-BB
My Projection 175 13 185 3.53 1.15 20.5%
Depth Charts 187 12 194 3.99 1.19 N/A
Steamer 187 12 194 3.99 1.19 19.0%

 

Clearly, I am higher on Kluber in the rate stats and lower on the counting stats. Kluber missed most of 2019 with two separate injuries, so my projection factors in a couple short DL stints (or one longer one). I also imagine that the Rangers will ease him back, not likely going deeper than six innings for his first 4-8 starts. I’m still expecting vintage Kluber when he takes the mound.

Early NFBC ADP shows that Kluber is being drafted 88th overall and the 26th starting pitcher, after names like Noah Syndergaard and Bauer. I would take Kluber well before both of those pitchers, as well as James Paxton. Most pitchers have been plagued with injury issues, so don’t let Kluber’s lost 2019 play that much of a factor in your 2020 draft strategy.

More Fantasy Baseball Impacts from Recent Transactions:

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Carmen Maiorano is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Carmen, check out his archive and follow him @cmaiorano3.

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