Some of my earliest childhood memories stem from baseball games with my grandfather. The cheapest seats possible, junk food galore, and baseball chatter like you’ve never heard. It was from him that I learned the two most important facts in baseball: every guy out on the field was a bum and free agency killed the game. The first was the obvious frustration from a curmudgeonly old man, but the second still rings true in a lot of ways. I could write pages on free agency, but that’s not why I’m here today. I’m here today to discuss a few familiar faces from behind the dish, and what their new addresses bring to the fantasy table.
Flying South for the Winter: John Buck
Buck finally puts together a nice season for himself and gets an immediate reward from the Marlins in the form of a 3 year, $18M deal and a condo in Phase II at Del Boca Vista. But while that’s nice for him and his family, fantasy owners need to be wary of Florida’s new backstop who will probably not come close to repeating that .281-20-66 batting line. First of all, there’s the ballpark factor as the move from the hitter-friendly Rogers Center to cavernous Sun Life Stadium will sap some of that power. And then there’s the move to the unfamiliar NL coupled with his atrocious 111 to 16 K/BB ratio which will certainly bring that batting average back down to earth. He’ll get his knocks here and there, but I see him finishing the season with more of a .240-15-45 line and that certainly won’t be worth where some people will draft him.
Hitless in Seattle: Miguel Olivo
Another move to take the gleam off of a once solid, low budget catching option here. It wasn’t like Olivo enjoyed the best year of his career in Colorado, but he did pop 14 dingers and pulled his average up to a somewhat respectable .269 thanks to a helpful .346 BABIP. However, now he heads to the Mariners where he’ll play his home games in Safeco Field and a strong portion of his road games in pitchers’ parks in Los Angeles and Oakland. Can you say power outage? As he’s gotten older, the favorable parks have been his friend, but without them now, that career line of .246/.283/.427 with a 27.8% strikeout rate is going to rear its ugly head.
All the Bats are Big in Texas: Mike Napoli
Finally, a move we can get excited about. When Napoli was dealt from the Angels to the Blue Jays in the off season, I was pretty excited to see him escape the clutches of Mike Scioscia. And then when he got flipped over to Texas I was even more elated. Napoli will play in a super-utility role for the Rangers getting starts behind the dish, at first base and as a DH, so the likelihood of 450-500 at bats is strong and we all saw what kind of power he could produce with regular playing time. Now add that to one of the best hitter’s parks where he’s posted a line of .311/.400/.623 with a 1.023 OPS and 5 HR over the last 3 seasons and an unbelievably strong surrounding lineup, and you’ve got big time production coming your way. Not to mention the added incentive to stick it to Scioscia every time the Rangers and Angels square off. Hopefully the “super-utility” tag will scare some people off and you’ll be able to get him for a reasonably fair value.