Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Mat Latos, Yonder Alonso, Jimmy Rollins, Jason Kubel, more

by Nicholas Minnix on December 19, 2011 @ 12:21:23 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.

San Diego Padres deal SP Mat Latos to Cincinnati Reds for 1B Yonder Alonso, C Yasmani Grandal, SP Edinson Volquez, RP Brad Boxberger

The Reds have acquired one of the top young arms in baseball. Per nine innings, Latos has fanned 8.65 and walked only 2.83 in his big-league career of two-plus years. He gains run support but loses the comforts of one of the league's most pitcher-friendly parks. The move to one of the game's most notorious launch pads will affect the fly-ball pitcher's outlook, although not per se his already lofty value. Fangraphs' Chris Cwik delves deeper.

Philadelphia Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins
J-Roll back for Brotherly Love

Latos' arrival also decreases the chance that Aroldis Chapman will join the Reds' rotation this season - at least initially. His worth is volatile and generally warrants no risk-taking, but his live arm is still capable of making sweet roto contributions. Cincy's actions regarding his role will eventually give more direction.

Anthony Rizzo was a big part of the haul in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, but the Friars may already consider him expendable. Although he flamed out in his major league debut, he's mashed in the minors and has a lot of upside. If SD peddles him, this would almost certainly be a positive for his development and fantasy value.

Rizzo's situation has changed because Alonso appears to represent the Pads' immediate future at first base. That might the best place a club can hide his sub-par glove, mostly because of experience there. One thing Alonso can do is hit, but he hasn't done a lot of it for power, and PETCO Park cancels any hope for growth in that area. This trade solidifies Alonso's value but limits the upside to little more than a depth play in deep mixed leagues.

Immediately, that park would seem to be a reason to be more optimistic about Volquez's fortunes. His problems go deep enough that merely a change of venues won't fix them, however. The right-hander will have less to fear about throwing strikes, at least, but will that be enough to help him improve his ugly control? The greater positive might be the work that San Diego's staff, particularly Darren Balsley, has done with the organization's hurlers. The 28-year-old has an electric arm that can generate a K per inning. He'll have less competition for a rotation spot, at least this season, and is worth a flier in deep mixed leagues.

The Friars will likely let the switch-hitting Grandal marinate in at Triple-A Tucson for most of 2011, rendering him useless in single-year leagues unless injuries force the club's hand. Nick Hundley is on notice beyond 2012, however. Boxberger has put up unattractive control rates in his two minor league seasons, but he's struck out nearly 12 batters per nine frames in that time and could be a factor at the back end within a year. Huston Street prevents that possibility right away, and it may take Boxberger a couple of seasons to develop, but roto managers should know his name.

SS Jimmy Rollins re-signs with Philadelphia Phillies

Judging from most reports, this reunion seemed inevitable. It eliminated the uncertainty of how J-Roll's new environment would affect his outlook. His injury problems from the past four seasons still weigh on fantasy baseball players' minds, however.

Rollins, 33, missed about three weeks with a groin injury and four games with a bruised knee in 2011, but he batted .268 with 16 bombs and 30 thefts. His availability and production were a far cry from his 2010 levels, when he played in only 88 games and batted .243, with eight home runs and 17 stolen bases.

Perhaps Rollins' new offseason exercise routines, initiated last winter, have improved his flexibility to the point at which he's less vulnerable to lower-half injuries like those that have plagued him recently. The switch-hitter is one of the few at his position who can contribute in four counting categories in a pool loaded with unstable producers. Relatively speaking, his price should be reasonable, which should allow for the opportunity to insure him. That's not a bad bet to make.

Arizona Diamondbacks ink OF Jason Kubel for two seasons

For hopeful NL-only and deep-mixed owners, this signing puts a damper the Gerardo Parra party, which probably isn't a bad thing for them.

A foot sprain caused Kubel, 29, to miss more than a third of the 2011 season and obviously affected him when he returned (.229/.304/.398 in 184 plate appearances). Prior to his stint on the disabled list, the left-handed batter put together a .310/.355/.465 slash line in 217 plate appearances.

Although skeptics won't see much difference between the 2011 version and that of past campaigns, Kubel focused on a more balanced approach that emphasized driving the ball to the gaps more and attempting to hit it out of the park less. He belted only five homers in the season's first two months but collected 20 total extra-base hits in that time and improved his contact rate.

The move to Arizona, away from the homer canyon that Target Field seems to be and to a neutral park that plays a little hitter-friendly, could help lead to a rebound that would include the possibility of 20-plus homers again. Initial indications are that the cost on Kubel will be low. Although his new surroundings are likely to fuel some optimism, he should remain affordable and could deliver a fairly handsome reward.

OF Endy Chavez joins Baltimore Orioles

Orioles beat writer Britt Ghiroli believes that the oft-injured Chavez, who'll be 34 next season, will platoon with Nolan Reimold in left field. He'll also be a backup at all three outfield spots. The left-handed hitter batted .301 with five home runs and 10 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances with the Texas Rangers in 2011.

Chavez moves from one good hitter's yard to another, although his new lineup isn't nearly as strong. He's also a lifetime .274 hitter, and nothing about his half-season's worth of marks in 2011 suggests that he's discovered a wonderful secret. He's a solid player who's likeliest to derive value from his speed and could be in an advantageous platoon sitch.

The right-handed Reimold has endured his share of maladies in his professional career as well. The O's are likelier to cater to the 28-year-old, who came on after the break, so a strict platoon isn't necessarily in order. Enough opportunities for Chavez should exist for him to have value in AL leagues as a pickup, or as a reserve in deep versions.

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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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