Kendrys Morales-Jason Vargas swap knocks over fantasy dominoes

      December 20, 2012 @ 10:27:30 PDT

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On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim shipped Kendrys Morales to the AL West rival Seattle Mariners for Jason Vargas. Both teams have answered some questions but might have created more that may lead to more action on the rumor mill.

Mariners

Seattle Mariners 1B Justin Smoak
Suddenly a bit crowded

Jack Zduriencik made good on his overall shift toward improving his offense. Morales took a spell to bounce back from his leg-breaking celebration in 2010 that cost him all of the next season and his 2012 first-half skills. He gradually recovered his profile throughout the season, peaking with a .290-7-17 August. Leg strength drives power, after all, so now that it appears he has his back, optimism will follow his fly-ball rate upward.

Even if Safeco Field weren't bringing in and lowering its fences for 2013, Morales hardly would've been intimidated. In the friendlier version for arms, Morales posted a .292/.346/.558 trio with seven homers and 23 RBIs in 120 at-bats, his biggest sample size of any park besides Angel Stadium. The switch-hitter, whose pull tendency comes through more so in the left box, can still club it to center field with authority regardless of side, so that 12-foot reduction of the left-center power alley looks like a bull's eye.

His weak batting eye will jeopardize how much he can improve on his .273 BA, but with a dinger total inching toward 30, that's a sacrifice most are willing to take on. Morales squarely fits as a starting 1B in NFBC-style mixed leagues that you can wait on a bit. He's part of the ever-growing group of value difference-makers at the position.

Though he'll play just about every day, this leaves the 1B-DH picture somewhat in limbo. Morales, in the initial plan, will share time at the scooper with Justin Smoak and at DH with backstop tandem of John Jaso and Jesus Montero. (Buy Montero. Everywhere. Even in NL-onlys.)

The Smoak Monster could drift out of town, too, and wherever he goes, he'll remain a breakout candidate with a clearance-rack fantasy commitment.

As for the rotation, Vargas' departure opens up a busy competition for as many as three SP spots. The allure of a Seattle SP drops a tad because of the new dimensions, but it remains a fine armbience, so Erasmo Ramirez and prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker must be watched by deep-leaguers heading into March.

Angels

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim SP Jason Vargas
Grade A in the Big A?

The owner of a beastly string-pull, the control-friendly Vargas refined his two-seamer last year, one of the main reasons in improving his chances to survive outside of the suffocating Safeco incarnation. His starts away from Seattle were still risky to deploy for his fantasy managers, especially with his homer allowance.

The same platoon should hold true, to an extent, for the Big A, where over seven career games (six starts), he's posted a 2.27 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with a .244 opponents' average in 43 2/3 frames. Not bad.

Sticking with his split arrangement should affix him as a valuable-when-needed fantasy back-ender, especially with his new offense to back him up and sustain his possibilitiy of matching the 14 victories he accumulated last year. Be careful, though. Though his makeup says he can outpitch his peripherals once again, his lack of K's (despite an upward K% trend three years running) and likely strand-rate comeuppance limit his upside for what he'll cost in single-universe formats.

Ditching Morales move may help preserve Josh Hamilton's health at least for 2013, making him a smidge safer to own. (Still not an unquestioned victory, as you'll see when KFFL's projections are released!) He's lined up to split designated hitter duties with glove-challenged Mark Trumbo, whose first-half clip will remain a distant memory in his Adam Dunn-type work.

More importantly, Jerry Dipoto gave me an early Christmas present by opening up an everyday role - in some form - for power-speed threat Peter Bourjos, one of my favorite rebound candidates for 2013. (#FreePeterBourjos didn't get much time to catch on in the Twitterverse, unfortunately.) Rank him as an optimal fourth or fifth outfielder target in deep mixed leagues that may slip beneath many radars.

Now about that Vernon Wells guy....

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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