MLB Transaction Analysis: Chirinos, Frazier, Wood, Smyly (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
The MLB offseason keeps humming right along and Spring Training will be here before we know it. In the meantime, front offices around the league are still adding pieces, some big and some small, in hopes of strengthening their clubs for the 2020 campaign. The Twins made the largest splash of the past week by, somewhat surprisingly, coming to terms with star third baseman Josh Donalson, but there were plenty other moves that fantasy players may want to take note of as well.
Similarly to the Twins, the Rangers also brought some extra right-handed pop to their batting order with a couple of free-agent signings while, on the pitching side, both the Giants and Dodgers struck low-cost deals with oft-injured southpaws that could end up paying nice dividends for each team. Can any or all four of the following players likewise potentially pay off for fantasy rosters this year? Let’s take a look.
Robinson Chirinos returns to Rangers.
After suiting up and hitting 17 home runs alongside a .790 OPS across 114 games for the A.L Champion Astros in 2019, Chirinos will head back across the state of Texas once again to the organization with which he spent six years from 2013-18. That last time we saw the now 35-year-old backstop with the Rangers, he put up a very similar line that included 18 deep drives and a .757 OPS. over 113 games.
Chirinos has no apparent hindrance to at-bats in Texas right now and those numbers of his certainly play at the catcher position in the later rounds of deeper mixed and two-catcher formats. We cannot really be sure at present time if the Rangers’ new stadium set to open this spring will fare better for pitchers or hitters, but it really should not have too much bearing on what to reasonably expect from Chirinos.
Todd Frazier to Texas too.
One thing Frazier can still do is hit the long ball, as he belted 21 of them across 499 plate appearances for the Mets last season. Another thing The ToddFather did in this past year was post his highest batting average (.251) since 2015 with a marked uptick in line-drive rate likely one reason for that. It’s encouraging that Frazier’s BABIP of .284 seems reasonably repeatable.
Just go ahead and bake some DL time into Frazier’s 2020, as that’s simply the norm for him. However, if he can get on the field for 125-plus games, a .250 average with 25 bombs might be in store. On top of that, Frazier is usually good for some steals. He swiped nine over 115 games in 2018 and averages 10 stolen bases per 162 games for his career.
Alex Wood back in L.A.
Chirinos is not the only veteran returning to a team with which he’s already had multiple years of success, as, after a one-year stop in Cincinnati, Wood will rejoin the Dodgers’ pitching staff in some capacity. For both Wood and the Dodgers, the hope is that the 29-year-old lefty will rediscover his 2017-18 form, or at least close to it, and hold down the fifth spot in the rotation.
During those two years in Dodger blue, Wood went a combined 25-10 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, and 0.9 HR/9 over 60 appearances (52 starts). Hebasically endured a lost season in 2019 with the Reds, as he was limited to just seven starts due to injury and put up an ugly 5.80 ERA while uncharacteristically surrendering a ton of homers. Wood will look to put that effort behind him and start fresh in 2020. There is definitely sleeper appeal for the late rounds here.
Drew Smyly lands in Pitcher Heaven.
It’s difficult not to cheer for Smyly, as he resurfaced in the majors last summer after missing all of both 2017 and 2018 due to health. The 30-year-old left-hander did not exactly pitch in his home games in the easiest of venues for pitchers last year, spending time with both Texas and Philadelphia. Now, in 2020, Smyly will call San Francisco and Oracle Park, the league’s best for pitchers, home.
The numbers got significantly better for Smyly in the second-half of 2019 with the Phillies (4.45 ERA) than they were in the first half (8.42 ERA) with the Rangers, but they still were not pretty overall. A 4.3 BB/9 and laughable 32 home runs allowed across 114.0 innings were the main culprits in Smyly’s struggles. It was not all bad though, as he struck out 120 batters and recorded a 10.7% swinging-strike rate.
If Smyly can maintain health and his ability to get whiffs in San Francisco this year, his new home stadium should keep more of his flyballs in the yard and significantly lower a 6.24 ERA from 2019. He is probably best left undrafted in most leagues, but keep on the lookout for signs of life this spring and how Smyly begins the regular season. A SIERA of 4.86 last season also serves to suggest improvement could well be on the way.