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Stubbs and Bauer Head to Cleveland

While most people were wrapping up their day on Tuesday, the Indians, Reds and Diamondbacks shook up the MLB world when they finalized a three-team deal with some major parts being passed around. In a nutshell, the deal looks like this:

Not bad, huh? Lots of moving parts and some fairly big names thrown around. Others will be discussing the deal from both a real-life and fantasy perspective for the Reds and the Diamondbacks. I’m going to talk about who the Indians received and what that means to the fantasy world in 2013.

One of the main pieces the Indians received back in the deal was Reds outfielder Drew Stubbs, a 28-year old power speed combo who finished last season with 14 home runs and 30 stolen bases and has averaged 17 home runs and 33 steals over the last three years. Of course, he’s also never hit higher than .255 over the last three seasons and 2012’s .213 average was extremely frustrating for his fantasy owners. So there’s definitely some give and take.

Unfortunately, the average is a direct result of a career 29.3-percent strikeout rate so if that number doesn’t come down, which it hasn’t in any of the last three seasons, then his average is never going to get better. Even with a high BABIP, something he had during his first two full seasons, the low contact rate and the strikeouts will continue to suppress it. And although his walk rate has been better than average, it’s also not enough to bring his OBP to where most would like it. So that’s what you’ve got — low average, good power, great speed.

Last season was definitely a down year for him. His ISO dropped slightly to .120, his strikeouts were up and thanks to a spike in ground balls at the expense of his line drive rate, he also saw and all-time low BABIP of .290 which helped contribute to the career-low .213 average. His .183 average against right-handers was a huge downer, but obviously, the Indians believe that he can be turned around and see him regaining the form he showed just two seasons ago. He has shown the ability to spray the ball to all fields and despite eight of his home runs being labeled as “just enoughs,” all but one look like no-brainers if you match them up with the dimensions of his new home, Progressive Field.

Bottom line is that Stubbs can be a solid contributor to your fantasy team if you are willing to forgo the batting average. Bill James has his projections right around Stubbs’ average over the last three years and those numbers are pretty solid for a middle-round outfielder. At his age, it’s tough to think that his plate discipline can improve that much more, but there’s definitely a possibility that working with the Tribe’s hitting instructors could lead to a little something better. Still, 15 to 17 home runs with 30-plus steals ain’t too shabby to have.

The other main component coming back to the Tribe is Trevor Bauer, the 21-year old prized right-hander of the Diamondbacks organization. Plain and simple, Bauer’s talent level is considered through the roof by many. He’s got five pitches he can go to, but relies mostly on his low-90’s fastball, a rock-solid curve and a decently deceptive change-up. After completely dominating hitters at both Double and Triple-A last season, he was brought up for a quick four game appearance that didn’t really go as well as his supporters had hoped. While he struck out 17 in 16.1 innings, he also walked 13, threw two wild pitches, hit one batter and had a 6.06 ERA. Now obviously the sample size is ridiculously small, but between a quick “failed” audition and some unorthodox warm-up exercises that had several people scratching their heads, he was sent back down for the remainder of the year.

As far as fantasy value for 2013 goes, it all comes down to how ready the Indians feel he is for a permanent spot in the rotation. As it is right now, they have room to slot him in as their fifth starter, so with a strong spring, the job is likely his. With his raw talent he definitely has more than just a chance to succeed, especially now in Cleveland where his home park definitely tilts towards the pitcher-friendly part of the spectrum. He’ll need to harness the control a little better so you might be dealing with a relatively high walk rate to begin with, but his strikeout potential is massive. In the AL Central, a division considered fairly weak overall, he definitely has the potential to shine. There is an obvious chance that he starts the year in Triple-A, but the likelihood of him staying down there for more than a couple of months is not very strong. The Indians want him to make an immediate impact and will afford him every opportunity to do so.

As far as Shaw and Albers go, both will be used in the bullpen this season and should continue to be decent relievers for the club. Both have had moments where they’ve looked incredible and other times, not so much. Shaw seems to be the guy who could slide into Sipps’ old spot and be used in fantasy leagues that count holds. It depends on how your league is structured, pitching-wise, to see the value in them, but as middle relievers, no one in fantasy is racing out to grab them.