MLB Transaction Analysis: Nationals Get To Work
The departure of MVP-caliber third baseman Anthony Rendon earlier this offseason is certainly a big blow for the Nationals, as it would be for any club out there. The front office of the defending World Series Champs has not been resting on its laurels, however, especially since the calendar turned over to 2020. The following three players, all inked over the past 10 days, will undoubtedly play a role in the Nationals’ venture for a repeat title run and could subsequently make an impact on fantasy rosters.
Starlin Castro (2B/3B – WAS)
From the looks of things right now, aside from shortstop where Trea Turner is locked in, the Nationals will be playing mix-and-match around the infield with Castro being a significant part of a group of veterans to share duties at the three other infield spots. He spent time between second and third base for the Marlins in 2019, and that should not change in D.C. this year.
Entering his 11th MLB season, it seems like Castro has been around forever, but he will not turn 30 until just prior to Opening Day. He sure did not seem to be aging that much at the plate last season in Miami, especially in the second half, as he swatted 16 homers while hitting north of .300 and slugging better than .550 after the break. Castro also posted personal highs in hard-hit rate (41.9%), pull rate (44.0%), and flyball rate (33.0%) all while maintaining a batting average between .265 and .300 for the sixth consecutive campaign.
In a much better lineup, if Castro is given enough opportunities throughout the season, he could turn into a solid value come fantasy draft day. Another 20-plus home runs with a solid batting average and the possibility of 70-plus in both runs and RBI makes Castro a nice, late-round option.
Asdrubal Cabrera (2B/3B – WAS)
For the second time in his journeyman career, Cabrera joined the Nationals in a midseason acquisition. The first came via trade way back in 2014. This last summer, Cabrera signed a free-agent deal after being released by the Rangers in early-August. Suffice it to say, the move worked out, as the now 34-year-old switch hitter put up a .323/.404/.565 slash line with 17 extra-base hits and 40 RBI across 38 games down the stretch.
After that production and with his ability to man every spot on the infield, a reunion with Cabrera certainly made a ton of sense for both sides of this agreement. It is not reasonable to expect a similar output as the one above from Cabrera across an entire season, but he is obviously still plenty capable of delivering steady stats. Also like Castro, Cabrera is a proven veteran that can provide versatility as a backup on fantasy rosters.
Cabrera’s ability to handle the bat well from both sides of the dish will earn him plenty of time in the lineup, but with all the options now in Washington vying for playing time, including postseason hero Howie Kendrick who was also resigned earlier this offseason, at-bats will be crucial to the overall fantasy viability of all players mentioned in this article. If there’s an exception, it is the next guy on the list, as his ability to pile up one particular stat, even in limited opportunities, makes him quite interesting.
Eric Thames (1B/OF – WAS)
Thames is perhaps the most notable recent pickup for the Nationals as it pertains to fantasy leagues simply due to his upside in the power department. He rocketed 25 baseballs into the seats across 459 plate appearances in 2019 for the Brewers and recorded a combined .263 ISO, an elite mark, over the last three years in Milwaukee.
Thames is not going to offer much average wise and will likely be relegated to pinch-hitting whenever the Nationals face a left-handed starter. That platoon role will make him a much better option in roto leagues as opposed to head-to-head formats. Even still, his propensity for the long ball, which has seen him smack one every 17.9 times in the box since 2017, gives him definite late-round appeal. Just take a look at the .877 OPS and 47 extra-base hits he ripped righties for last season, and you can easily see the rationale of playing the matchups with Thames throughout the fantasy campaign.
Additionally, Thames draws plenty of walks, which gives him added value in leagues that utilize on-base percentage as opposed or in addition to batting average. In 2019, he was able to record a solid .346 OBP while hitting just .247. Like his new teammates, Thames brings some position versatility, as he should be eligible at both first base and outfield at most fantasy services.