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Fantasy Baseball Impact: Blake Snell Traded to Padres

by Brendan Tuma | @toomuchtuma | Featured Writer
Dec 28, 2020

It’s been a slow offseason. George Springer, J.T. Realmuto, and Trevor Bauer all remain free agents. Entering the week before Christmas, I was hopeful that we would get a fun transaction or two to analyze over the holidays. When Josh Bell was traded to the Nationals on Christmas Eve, I thought I got my wish. However, Santa wasn’t quite done as on Sunday night, as we received word that Blake Snell was being dealt to the San Diego Padres for a package of four prospects.

Snell is one of the best starters in baseball, and his contractual value might never be higher than it is right now. The former Cy Young award winner is owed just $39 million over the next three seasons, which is why the Rays were willing to cash in. The last time a starter this good (and this cheap) was on the trade market, the Chicago White Sox turned Chris Sale into Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and more.

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Blake Snell Contract:

Year Salary
2021 $10.5 million
2022 $12.5 million
2023 $16 million

This turned out to be a package that Tampa Bay just couldn’t turn down, especially not with how stingy most front offices are with young talent these days. In exchange for three years of Snell’s services, the Rays will receive Luis Patino, Francisco Mejia, Blake Hunt, and Cole Wilcox. Valuing the return doesn’t have as much to do with any individual player that the Rays got back. Instead, the value lies in the sum of the parts, as Tampa was able to cut payroll while bringing in many years of cost-controlled talent.

That doesn’t mean these prospects aren’t high-end. Far from it, actually. Patino is a consensus top-20 prospect in baseball; he’s a 21-year-old who regularly reaches 100 mph and has a 97 mph wipeout slider. That said, we can’t expect Tampa to use him as a traditional starter right away, which really hurts his redraft fantasy value. We’ll need to see the club’s plans for him before getting excited about his fantasy role.

While Patino headlines this deal for Tampa, we should also focus on the fantasy impact for Mejia. The Rays are now his third organization, which usually isn’t a good sign, but the 25-year-old has yet to be given a true, full-time shot behind the plate. His hitting skills for a catcher are also unrivaled, as he once put together a 50-game hitting streak in the minors. I’d expect the Rays to quickly figure out situations that Mejia can perform well in as to use him as such, even if he isn’t an “everyday” player. (Remember that Mike Zunino is still around). Between Mejia’s talent and how weak the catcher position is, it’s enough to make him a deep sleeper in redraft leagues once again.

Of course, this deal is mostly about Snell. The lefty ace came into his own during his Cy Young award-winning 2018 campaign (1.89 ERA), which he followed up with a disappointing 2019 season (4.29 ERA). He rebounded in 11 starts this past summer to post a 3.24 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, and 63 strikeouts in 50 innings. Snell then made five more starts in the playoffs, which gave him 16 total for the year.

The 28-year-old completed six full innings in zero of these 16 starts. This is what could unlock his fantasy potential, should the Padres elect to let him pitch deeper into games. The question becomes if the Rays “knew better” than to have him face hitters a third time through the order on a consistent basis. Even if he loses a little efficiency by pitching deeper into games, I’d still rather have the volume. As a result, this trade will likely be viewed as a net positive for his fantasy value.

The hope is that Snell’s 2021 production will combine his per-inning stats with expanded volume. He didn’t have enough innings to qualify for the second-straight year, but Snell would’ve ranked top-10 in the league in swinging-strike rate (15%) had he reached the required threshold. This is one year after he would’ve finished first (again, had he reached the minimum amount of innings).

Some worries about Snell revolve around his 3.95 xERA on Baseball Savant, which checks in as much higher than his actual mark of 3.24. This is due to increased barrel rates and hard-hit rates from years prior. I’d be more concerned about this if he wasn’t still missing bats at such an elite rate.

Through 66 NFBC drafts as of this writing, Snell is going 50th overall, behind fellow starters such as Brandon Woodruff, Zac Gallen, and Tyler Glasnow. I’m forecasting the combination of more projected volume + “shiny new toy syndrome” to only increase his ADP. Next season will remain one where we want to invest in starting pitching early and often, and Snell’s new home makes him an attractive SP2 as we head into the new year.

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Brendan Tuma is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brendan, check out his archive and follow him @toomuchtuma.

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