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Rapid Reaction: Fantasy Baseball Impact of Mookie Betts Trade

Feb 5, 2020

Mookie Betts is L.A.-bound.

The Boston Red Sox made a major splash Tuesday night, dealing superstar outfielder Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team, five-player blockbuster that sent shockwaves through the fantasy baseball world. With Betts and David Price headed to the West Coast, the Red Sox receiving promising prospects Alex Verdugo and Brusdar Graterol and the Minnesota Twins adding some much-needed starting pitching help in Kenta Maeda, the fantasy impact of this trade is enormous. Our writers share their thoughts on the deal here.

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What does the trade do for Mookie Betts’ 2020 fantasy value?

Mookie Betts is an exceptional hitter, of course, and while that won’t exactly change, the difference in ballpark factors isn’t a small deal. Moving from a top-half park for right-handed hitters to the third-worst in baseball over the last five seasons is enough for me to move Betts down from #4 on my big board just below his teammate, Cody Bellinger to #5. Historical rates suggest that his homers should dip 2-4 while RBIs and runs both drop 7-10 each.”
-Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)

“The trade drops Betts’ value just a smidge, which is to say that it will likely have a very slight negative impact on his overall numbers, but not enough to drop him outside of the top-five overall players. Betts, of course, is a phenomenal offensive player, and his fantasy value has benefited over his career from: 1) batting atop a lineup that accumulates an incredible amount of plate appearances and runs scored; 2) playing in a hitter-friendly home park; and 3) playing in a division with several hitter’s parks, such as Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards. The move slightly hits Betts in all three areas. The Dodgers offense isn’t quite as good (if for no other reason than a pitcher, and not a DH, fills one of the lineup spots), Dodger Stadium is more hitter-neutral than Fenway Park, and the other venues in the NL West, aside from Coors Field, aren’t particularly hitter-friendly. But come on. This is Mookie Betts, a guy who essentially averaged a .305-120-30-95-25 line over his past four seasons and is moving to a great team. In a contract year.  He’s still going to be a monster. Drop his runs scored and RBI projections a bit, but don’t move him down your draft board.”
-Dan Harris (@danharris80)

“Betts’ fantasy value changes the least of everyone involved. He swaps one elite lineup for another, and while moving from Fenway Park to Dodger Stadium is an overall downgrade, leaving behind the Green Monster could actually help his home run tally. Betts now has the opportunity to bat in front of Cody Bellinger, as he stays right in front of his new teammate as the No. 4 overall player after Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Christian Yelich.”
-Andrew Gould (@AndrewGould4)

“Although Betts is obviously the biggest “real life” acquisition in this trade, he is the player least affected for fantasy purposes. The 27-year-old was once again stellar in 2019, batting .295 with a .915 OPS, 29 homers, 16 steals, and a whopping 135 runs. It may have felt like a down season based on the immense expectations laid upon Betts, but he was ultimately a safe investment last year.Fantasy players should therefore expect more of the same in 2020. Leaving Fenway and the American League East for spacious Dodger Stadium might hurt a tad but he’ll still be hitting atop a loaded lineup. If you wanted to draft Betts fourth overall prior to last night then this trade shouldn’t lead you to think any differently. There’s no need to overthink things with an elite talent like this.”
-Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)

“I don’t think this trade moves the needle much on Betts’ 2020 value. On the one hand, he is changing leagues, leaving Fenway Park and the other hitter-friendly ballparks of the AL East for the more-spacious NL West parks, and now has the added pressure of playing for a new team with championship-hungry fans. But this is a former MVP who has been betting on himself for years and has his eyes set on a potentially record-setting contract next offseason. Even if his power numbers take a slight hit, Betts is the kind of player who contributes across the board in all fantasy formats. His current ADP is sitting at exactly 5.0 according to FantasyPros, and I don’t expect that number to change much.”
-Mike Maher (@mikeMaher)

“If anything, Betts gets pushed down a few spots in the first round, as Fenway Park was a perfect ballpark for him, and he may lose a few at-bats, at best. If he goes below seventh overall, people are overreacting.”
-Michael Waterloo (@MichaelWaterloo)

How much will the move to the Dodgers help David Price’s fantasy stock?

“Moving from the AL East has always been a positive, but now he’ll pitch twice in Coors and against the Padres’ impressive lineup so it’s a bit of an even trade-off in that regard. Where Price’s stock improves, however, is moving into a much better park for pitchers and into a league where he won’t have to take on the DH. Price’s ADP was #176 overall prior to the trade and I expect it to climb 5 or 10 spots, but at this point, I’m comfortable drafting him around #150, or in the 13th round.”
-Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)

“The move for Price is significant, as he leaves the AL East and can avoid the DH, and joins a team that should continue to provide him with strong win potential. Although Price’s overall 2019 numbers look ugly, remember that he had a low-3.00 ERA before he gave up 20 runs over a four-start stretch after he was bothered by a cyst in his wrist. His strikeout rate, meanwhile (28%, 10.7 K/9) was by far the highest of his career and his FIP and xFIP were his lowest since 2016. In other words, Price still has some juice left, and moving to an NL team could help him thrive. There are some caveats, of course. The Dodgers are notorious for managing their starters’ workloads, and even without Kenta Maeda, they’ll have Jimmy Nelson ready to step in. And they’ll almost certainly be going to the playoffs, so they’ll want to manage Price’s workload specifically to keep him fresh. In other words, while the quality of Price’s numbers should improve, don’t bank on much more than 150 innings, even if he avoids another injury-plagued season. Still, overall, Price is a more attractive fantasy option now than he was before the trade.”
-Dan Harris (@danharris80)

“It will be interesting to see if the Dodgers carefully monitor Price’s innings the way they do with every other pitcher besides Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. Although he posted a 4.28 ERA in just 107.1 innings last season, the southpaw also registered a 3.62 FIP and 128 strikeouts. He’s likely to exchange some quantity for quality in the NL West as a solid third or fourth fantasy starter in roughly 160 frames. ”
-Andrew Gould (@AndrewGould4)

“As a pitcher, anytime you leave the American League East for the National League West, your fantasy value will likely rise a bit. That’s the case for Price, who no longer has to face his nemesis – the New York Yankees. While he may have to pitch in Coors Field here and there it’ll ultimately do him well to call Dodger Stadium home. Additionally, pitching in San Francisco’s Oracle Park will help offset the Coors factor. The key for Price’s 2020 fantasy outlook, however, comes down to health. That would’ve been the case whether or not he was traded. A former 200 inning workhorse, Price’s inning totals the past three years have gone (in ascending order) 74 2/3 – 176 – 107 1/3. At 34 years old he is no longer able to blow hitters away with his fastball but he is developing into a craft lefty, using a plethora of cutters and two-seamers to keep hitters off balance. It led to a career-high 10.7 K/9 in 2019. If he stays healthy he seems like a good bet to out perform his ADP (193 on NFBC since 1/1).”
-Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)

” For David Price, a move to the National League certainly doesn’t hurt his fantasy value. The real question for fantasy owners, however, is still going to be the same one that they have had to ask themselves over the last few years when considering Price: can he stay healthy? Price’s health will have as much to do with his success and subsequent value as anything else, as he has proven that he can be successful even pitching in the AL East when at 100%. He’s now another year older with more tread on an oft-injured left arm. Price is no longer the ace that he was in his prime, but he does still have fantasy value. His current ADP on FantasyPros is roughly 176, and I would expect that to creep closer to 150 in the coming weeks.”
-Mike Maher (@mikeMaher)

“I think his value remains the same. He gets out of Fenway Park and the American League East, which is good for right-handed hitters and hitter-friendly ballparks, respectively. Price is at a point where his skillset allows him to an SP3 in LA with a great supporting cast.”
-Michael Waterloo (@MichaelWaterloo)

What will Alex Verdugo’s impact be as a 2020 fantasy baseball asset?

“While Verdugo will never offer much in the way of speed, his longterm profile is similar to a Michael Brantley type of fantasy asset. With that said, he hasn’t quite grown into his power yet so the best way to think of him is much like Avisail Garcia who should again bat near .290 with 15-20 homers and 5-10 steals with plenty of runs and RBIs. Garcia is a steal going in the 22nd round of drafts and I’d take either of them three or four rounds earlier than that.”
-Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)

“If he can stay healthy, he should be a major fantasy contributor in 2020. After years as a top prospect, Verdugo finally got regular playing time last year, and turned it into a .294/.342/.475 season with 12 home runs in 106 games. He rarely strikes out and makes solid contact, so he should be able to easily challenge a .300 batting average in Fenway Park, which is favorable to that stat. Absent other deals, it’s a good bet that Verdugo will lead off for the Red Sox, which should lead to plenty of runs scored and, with it, a fine fantasy season. He doesn’t yet have the power to be a player who can win you your league (just 12 home runs last year), but he is someone who will not only be rostered, but started on all fantasy teams next year.”
-Dan Harris (@danharris80)

Verdugo’s ADP is likely to skyrocket, perhaps too much if drafters forget about a back injury that ended his rookie campaign early and puts his Opening Day availability in question. If healthy, he has the chance to lead off a top-heavy lineup still featuring three studs in Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez. Or perhaps he’ll instead pad his RBI output in the fifth slot if Andrew Benintendi rebounds and tops the batting order. An 85.2% contact rate and 13.0% strikeout rate make Verdugo a high-end source of batting average, a skill which is becoming increasingly underlooked. Steamer’s updated projections (.307, 16 HR, 81 R, 78 RBIs, 7 SBs) aren’t far off from those of Michael Brantley and Jeff McNeil.”
-Andrew Gould (@AndrewGould4)

“Since January 1st, Verdugo has an average draft position of 227 on NFBC. That will likely rise in the coming weeks as there should be more intrigue with him following this trade. Verdugo, who this time last year was a consensus top-30 prospect in baseball, put up 3.1 bWAR in just 343 at bats in 2019. A lot of that value came defensively but there is still reason to be excited about him from a fantasy perspective this season. What this trade unlocked for Verdugo was everyday playing time. The Dodgers have had so much outfield depth in recent seasons that they haven’t needed to rely on Verdugo as an everyday player. In Boston he will be given that chance, which is what makes him the biggest fantasy winner of this trade. Last year he hit .294 with an .817 OPS, 12 homers, and four stolen bases in 343 at-bats. That leaves something to be desired, which is why the everyday playing time should serve him well when it comes to counting stats. It’s unclear where in the order Verdugo will bat, but if he weasels his way into the leadoff spot then he’s looking at a boatload of runs with Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez all behind him.”
-Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)

“In 2019, Verdugo was buried in the Los Angeles lineup early in the season but was spending the bulk of his time in the two-hole over the summer before he suffered an oblique injury that ended his season in August. His advanced metrics are nearly all above-average or excellent, which is probably why new Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom was keen on him being the main piece in return for Mookie Betts. He’ll likely slot right in as the team’s everyday right fielder and hit near the top of a lineup that should still be very good, even without Betts. Verdugo has yet to develop a real power stroke, but he is still a few months shy of his 24th birthday and could hit around .300 with a chance at scoring 100 runs in Boston this year.”
-Mike Maher (@mikeMaher)

“Verdugo gets a bump in value, as he’s now an everyday player in a still-great lineup. What’s more, there’s little competition at the leadoff spot for him, with only Andrew Benintendi posing a threat. We have to remember that Fenway Park is not great for left-handed hitters, but Verdugo should be an OF3 this season with added value in points leagues.”
-Michael Waterloo (@MichaelWaterloo)

What can fantasy owners expect out of Kenta Maeda with the Twins?

“Before the trade, Maeda was being selected in the 17th round of fantasy drafts. I wasn’t quite comfortable taking him until the 19th or 20th, though, and oddly enough, that’s where my opinion still lies. Yes, his ratios will take a bit of a hit moving from a pitcher’s park like Dodger Stadium to a hitter-friendly environment in Minnesota, plus the move to the AL has him going up against the DH now. But his stock balances out because he won’t be fighting for innings anymore in the Dodgers’ crowded rotation.”
-Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)

“It’s rare that a pitcher benefits from moving from the NL to the AL, but Maeda should. The Dodgers have moved him back and forth from the bullpen to the starting rotation to manipulate his innings and avoid paying him bonuses for years. The Twins won’t have that luxury, and that should mean Maeda is locked into a starting role for the entire year and should come closer to the 175 2/3 innings he threw in 2016. Maeda’s surface numbers from 2019 aren’t that impressive, but he had his highest swinging strike rate (14.6%) and chase rate (34.8%) of his career, and he’ll still be just 32 years old during the 2020 season. Although Maeda will have to contend with the DH, the AL Central, three of the other four teams in the division ranked in the bottom seven in runs scored in 2019. Maeda won’t be a star, but he’ll be a back-end-of-the-rotation fantasy option, one who you can rely on to start all season long.”
-Dan Harris (@danharris80)

“Perhaps the biggest winner of all, Maeda is now cured of Dodgeritis. Although the ERA is never pretty, the 31-year-old wields a career 1.15 WHIP and 9.8 K/9. He finished among MLB’s leaders in soft contact last year with a lower wOBA against (.274) than Luis Castillo, Shane Bieber, and Clayton Kershaw. Nobody should expect him to suddenly toss 200 innings in Minnesota, but Maeda can make a major fantasy impact in 160-170 frames. The only caveat: He has a career 3.23 ERA at Dodger Stadium and a 4.54 mark on the road.”
-Andrew Gould (@AndrewGould4)

“Similar to Verdugo, Maeda is a big winner of this trade because the Twins figure to finally let him loose. The Dodgers were always hesitant to do so as they consistently create “phantom injured list stints” to keep their starters fresh for the long haul. This always put a cap on Maeda’s fantasy potential.That should no longer be the case. Maeda is a good pitcher as evidenced by his slider, which held hitters to a .155 batting average against and a .210 wOBA. Take a good pitcher, give him a chance to reach a new career-high in innings pitched, and you have a formula for fantasy success. Expect to see his 189 NFBC ADP (since January 1st) rise as we inch closer and closer to spring training.”
-Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)

“Maeda didn’t have his best year in 2019, but he was also shuffled between the bullpen and the starting rotation by the Dodgers. In Minnesota, he’ll slot in as a number two or number three starter behind Jose Berrios. He is moving from the National League to the American League, which hurts his value slightly, but the new clarity on his 2020 role should more than make up for that. Over the last three seasons, his K/9 was 9.38, 10.99, and 9.90, while his ERA sat in the high 3.00s and low 4.00s. His ADP on FantasyPros is currently 192, but that could jump now that we know he is going to be seeing regular starts in front of one of the best offenses in the American League.”
-Mike Maher (@mikeMaher)

“You should see Maeda’s ADP trending up as we get closer to draft season. The Twins will probably follow the same path the Dodgers did by manipulating his innings in the second half of the season, but they don’t have the luxury of the depth that the Dodgers did. He should be a back-end SP2 or high-end SP3 in fantasy drafts.”
-Michael Waterloo (@MichaelWaterloo)

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