Sunday, December 3

2022 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez traded to a worse home park; does it matter?

The Reds continued their teardown Monday, shipping outfielder Jesse Winker and infielder Eugenio Suarez to the Mariners for pitchers Justin Dunn and Brandon Williamson and outfielder Jake Fraley. That comes after losing Wade Miley on waivers, losing Nick Castellanos in free agency, and trading Sonny Gray and Tucker Barnhart, a significant chunk of their recent core.

And this feels like an awfully light return for a deal involving Winker, largely because it also involves dumping Suarez’s contract. The move makes sense for both sides from that perspective, as the Reds look to get cheaper and the Mariners hope to prove last year’s playoff push was no fluke.

Let’s look at the return from each team’s side and see how it impacts each players’ Fantasy value:

Mariners acquire OF Jesse Winker and IF Eugenio Suarez

All things considered, I think you have to view this as a net loss for both players’ Fantasy appeal, if for no other reason than they’re leaving one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball. I don’t think either is a product of the Reds’ bandbox ballpark, but the move from Great American to Safeco Field is probably a downgrade.

Jesse Winker: Stock down slightly

In Winker’s case, it may not matter as much, simply because of how well he hits the ball – he ranked in the 74th percentile or better in average exit velocity, max exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate. If he can sustain that, he’ll be a good hitter anywhere, and his underlying numbers have been pretty consistent from 2020 to 2021.

The problem is, while Winker’s surface numbers have looked really good, they may overstate how good he can be for Fantasy, mostly due to some pretty extreme platoon issues, and his apparent breakout the past two seasons haven’t shown many signs of him improving. in that regard:

  • Career vs. RHP: .313/.405/.556, 15.3%K, 11.9%BB
  • Career vs. LHP: .188/.305/.294, 21.2%K, 12.4%BB
  • 2020-21 vs. RHP: .321/.417/.619, 15.7% K, 12.2 BB%
  • 2020-21 vs. LHP: .199/.314/.338, 25.8% K, 11.9% BB

His plate discipline is still quite good against lefties, but he just hasn’t really figured out how to hit them with authority consistently. His hard-hit rate against lefties in 2020 and 2021 is 44.2%, which is a solid enough number, but he pairs it with a 53.7% groundball rate and 14.3% infield flyball rate that mute what he might otherwise be capable of. The Reds have also shielded him from some tougher lefties, which might make his overall numbers look a bit stronger than they otherwise might – 23.8% of his plate appearances between 2020 and 2021 were against lefties, compared to 29.6% for former teammate Joey Votto.

Winker’s overall numbers across 2020-21 are still quite strong, of course – .292/.392/.552 with 36 homers, 94 RBI, and 104 runs in 164 games. If he did that for a full season, Winker would be a steal at his current ADP of 107.3 in NFCB drafts. But the “full season” part of that has been especially tough for Winker, who has been on the IL every season of his career with the exception of the shortened 2020. He missed most of the final month and a half of last season with an intercostal strain and has also dealt with hip, back, and shoulder injuries – the latter being the most serious of his various issues.

There’s an opportunity to buy Winker at an injury discount because if he stays healthy, there’s a chance he could be much more valuable than his current price. However, between the downgraded home park, his injury history of him, and his worrying platoon splits, he’s not someone I’m going to be pushing up draft boards after this trade. After 100th overall, he remains a worthwhile gamble, but there’s a decent chance someone in your league will like him more.

Eugene Suarez: Stock down slightly

I’m probably more likely to buy Suarez at his price, primarily because his price is so much more reasonable – 195.8 overall in ADP. That being said, he’s not necessarily someone I’m terribly thrilled about targeting either. His quality of contact metrics from him have taken a big turn for the worse over the past two seasons since his massive 2019 from him, and he kind of looks like an all-or-nothing power hitter at this point. He seems like a pretty good bet for 30-plus homers, but if it comes with an average around .200, even a late-round price point is tough to justify.

Suarez isn’t a bad pick, mind you. That kind of power potential this late in drafts is hard to come by, and if he can settle in closer to a .250 average, he’s probably going to be close to a top-12 third baseman. He’s just not someone I necessarily make a priority of; if he falls to the right spot and fills the right need, I’ll take him. The move to Seattle doesn’t do much to change that for me.

Reds acquire SP Justin Dunn, SP Brandon Williams, and OF Jake Fraley

This is, all things considered, a pretty light return, but I wouldn’t just ignore this group either. Williamson is probably the biggest piece for the Reds, and he’s an intriguing pitching prospect. Williamson has prototypical size at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, though he doesn’t necessarily bring the kind of velocity you think of with that size. He typically works in the low-90s with movement, but the star of the show is a 12-6 curveball most scouts consider to be a plus pitch. The slider and changeup are works in progress, but the fastball and curveball combination seems to give him a pretty solid floor.

The problem is, he’s not exactly a safe prospect. He struggled with injuries in college and has yet to show he can handle a full-time starter’s workload. He threw 98.1 innings over 19 starts in 2021 and only got out of the sixth inning in one start – scouts note he often faded later in starts, too. Williamson could take a step forward if he shows the ability to maintain his stuff deeper into his starts, and is certainly a candidate to make his major-league debut in 2022. He’s not someone most mixed-league players need to know about, but for AL-only and deeper keeper leagues, Williamson is someone to keep an eye on as he makes his Triple-A debut early this season.

Dunn is someone I’ve had some interest in as a sleeper in the past, but he just hasn’t been able to limit the walks enough to profile as an effective starter. In 2021, he made 11 starts with a 3.75 ERA, but his 13.3% walk rate shows how lucky that he was – especially paired with a decidedly average 22.5% strikeout rate. Dunn has a few pitches he can get whiffs with, but he just doesn’t command his fastball well enough for the entire package to matter.

Maybe the Reds see something in them they believe they can fix, and Dunn’s minor-league numbers suggest there are some reasons to be optimistic in that regard – his walk rate at the highest levels is 8.3%, a workable number. However, even if that’s the case, I’m not sure there’s enough upside in the overall profile for anyone outside of NL-only players to really care about Dunn at this point. He needs to make massive improvements quickly to matter.

Fraley is a soon-to-be 27-year-old with a .196/.320/.336 line at the major-league level, but he’s actually a somewhat intriguing sleeper for Fantasy. He crushed the high minors, hitting .301 with a 9% walk rate between Double-A and Triple-A, and there’s enough of both power and speed for him to be Fantasy relevant if he can fix that batting average. That might be asking a lot, however he could have a decent shot at everyday playing time for the rebuilding Reds, and Great American Ballpark could help get the most out of his pull-heavy approach from him.

Fraley can safely be considered an afterthought in most leagues, but if you play in a 15-team or NL-only Roto league, consider Fraley as a late-round source of potential speed. And, if you’re in an OBP league, he might be even more than that — he had a .352 OBP in 2021.

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