Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Trevor Cahill, Jarrod Parker, Rafael Furcal

by Nicholas Minnix on December 12, 2011 @ 12:40:59 PDT


Your fantasy baseball draft isn't far off.'s Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove surveys free agency, trades, salary arbitration and injuries that will affect your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league. You're cleared for your MLB offseason program: The Arizona Fall League, Baseball Winter Meetings, Rule 5 draft and more will shape your fantasy baseball rankings.

Milwaukee Brewers OF Ryan Braun reportedly tests positive for PED

New Milwaukee Brewers 3B Aramis Ramirez
Braun backup, but safe fantasy bet?

The NL MVP is in hot water but steadfastly maintains his innocence and has already begun the appeal process. Until that's resolved and the Brewers react, it's difficult to measure the fallout in Milwaukee. MLB has never lost an appeal for a positive PED test, however, so fantasy baseball owners should brace for Braun's absence for roughly one-third of next season.

That obviously limits how much of an impact he can make, and there's no telling how this situation will affect him mentally. If Braun, 28, remains suspended for 50 games, he should fall somewhere in the middle rounds in mixed leagues; some will be a lot more willing than others to stash him.

The short-term task of replacing Braun (in the physical sense only) will probably fall on the combo of Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez, whose values each rise a bit with the prospect of more PT. Mat Gamel, Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl could also factor in, and the Brewers have a lot of time to decide if they'd prefer to sign another veteran. This situation is fluid.

3B Aramis Ramirez signs with Milwaukee Brewers for three years

Ramirez, 33, can't shake the NL Central. The Brew Crew already faced the likely free-agent defection of Prince Fielder. Although Milwaukee had coveted A-Ram prior to the news of Braun's positive drug test, that development may have increased their anxiety and prompted them to up their efforts in their pursuit of the third baseman.

In 332 lifetime plate appearances at Miller Park, the right-handed batter has a .270/.325/.503 slash line. A-Ram's new home is generally regarded as a positive environment for batters, but it's a clear tier below Wrigley Field. His new lineup will be an obvious upgrade, however.

In the past few years, Ramirez has experienced a decrease in power output and shown signs that his batting average skills were in decline. However, injuries contributed to his substandard marks at least in part. This past season, he seemed restore faith in his abilities as a four-category producer.

The combination of risk and slight declines had made fantasy baseball players hesitant to invest in Ramirez, at least after seasons in which he's missed significant time. That general tendency will likely make it a little riskier to buy him in 2012, considering the quality of his 2011 season (.306-26-93 in 626 plate appearances). At a position whose depth is in a state of flux, it may be wise to avoid paying largely for his most recent output.

If the Brewers don't deal Casey McGehee, the club will likely shift him to first base and bank on a bounce-back campaign from him. After consecutive above-average seasons, the 29-year-old batted a meek .223 with only 13 home runs and 67 RBIs in 600 plate appearances.

McGehee sparked hope in the second half by hitting above .250 for two straight months, but his peripherals offered little to bank on. There may appear to be no overt reasons for his somewhat sudden collapse, but this past season, he seemed to pay for some corrections that occurred between 2009 and 2010 which hadn't quite caught up with him.

McGehee struggled with virtually every kind of pitch thrown to him, suggesting that he was often severely off-balance. An offseason to clear the cobwebs could result in a rebound, but bidders will be running on some faith. The price should be low, mitigating risk. Will it pay off? Flip a coin.

Arizona Diamondbacks swap SP Jarrod Parker, two others to Oakland Athletics for SP Trevor Cahill, reliever

The A's included reliever Craig Breslow in the package that also netted them outfielder Collin Cowgill and relief pitcher Ryan Cook. The only names that matter to roto owners are Cahill and Parker, though.

New Arizona Diamondbacks SP Trevor Cahill
More stability for Snakes

Arizona has a quality product in Cahill, who'll be 24 next season and coaxes grounders more than 50 percent of the time that the ball is put in play. He doesn't have the stuff to come to replicate the kind of high K/9 he put in the minors. His move to the NL West should help him at minimum produce something like his 6.37 K/9 of this past season.

It's clear that Cahill didn't pitch as well as his 2.97 ERA of 2010 indicated, but his 4.10 ERA of this past season sold him a bit short. The upcoming year might be a decent one in which to buy the No. 4- or No. 5-type mixed-leagued starter.

Parker, 23, undoubtedly has a higher ceiling than Cahill, but some consider the Snakes winners here because the 2007 first-rounder had TJS a couple of years ago. (Tim Heaney isn't one of them.) He's made a fine recovery, however, and impressed when he made his big-league debut in September. He should continue to replenish his command and will only improve as a result.

Baseball America placed the right-hander among the Snakes' top prospects after this past season. His four-seamer will sit in the mid-90s, and he added a two-seamer after the operation that has been quite effective. Some evaluators even believe that he's a better prospect than either Trevor Bauer or Tyler Skaggs.

Parker may compete for a rotation spot in the Bay Area and has serious upside, at least in AL leagues, in 2012. Breslow and Cook are roto irrelevant. Cowgill profiles as a reserve outfielder and wouldn't have value beyond AL-only leagues, but he'll have a shot at some playing time. If he focuses on making contact, he could contribute double-digit steals, possibly even 15 to 20, depending.

St. Louis Cardinals re-sign SS Rafael Furcal, to two-year contract

At 34, Furcal is no longer likely to make notable contributions in both home runs and stolen bases; he's not even a safe bet to supplement your total of one or the other, and there's a risk that he'll be dead weight in BA.

The switch-hitter's body has been breaking down for the past few years. He played in fewer than 100 games in each of the past two seasons, and in 2009, when he played in 150 games, his .269 average with nine home runs and with 12 thefts hardly made him worth the trouble.

Furcal's 50-game stint with the eventual World Series champs seemed to invigorate him, it's worth noting. He hit .255 with seven of his eight dingers and swiped four bags in six tries. It's more than likely that his batting average will bounce back to an acceptable mark.

Furcal should come on the cheap and give an owner a decent chance at a profit. There's no overestimating the loss of Albert Pujols from this lineup, however. How good can that profit be?

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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