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RotoAuthority Unscripted: Tanaka, Garza and Other Stories

 What is RA Unscripted? Well, imagine it like this. You’re a reporter and you stick a TV camera in my face. “Fantasy Baseball: go!” you say. And I start talking. 

Well, it’s kinda like that. Except that I type instead of talking and I can look up statistics instead of trying to pass off wild guesses as facts. 

Last week, we examined some players who might be gaining or losing value in their new homes—or who might not be. Then I realized I was going overlong and you (proverbially) switched off the TV camera. Then we had some big news, preceded by even bigger news.

Masaharo Tanaka: Bust

Luckey Helms made the Bold Prediction that Tanaka is the next great fantasy import, and I’m not saying he’s wrong by predicting Tanaka to bust. Really!

But we have new information, and it shapes up to make Tanaka a great bust candidate. The key to providing fantasy value is expectations. They were high before, and I do think Tanaka will provide a very good fantasy season—but they are crazy-high now, and it will be very hard to get him for a good price. 

Signing with the Yankees, the expectations have risen. Now, I don’t think the pressure will get to him—the expectations that have changed the game are those of your league-mates. And it only takes two or three. Tanaka will be all over ESPN and every fantasy website and magazine…and I just think he’s going to cost too much to be worth it.

Yankee Stadium won’t do Tanaka any favors, and Major Leaguers hit with distinctly more power than do their Japanese counterparts. I would not be shocked if he had some homer troubles. It won’t help that he gets to face tough offenses and tough away parks in the AL East. What’s more, his career K/9 in Japan is just 8.5. Good-but-not-elite territory, and likely to move down a bit more as he faces a tougher level of competition for the first time.

Will he be good? Yeah, I totally think so. A number two or three fantasy starter. But I’m guessing he ends up being someone’s ace or co-ace, and I don’t think that’s a role he’s going to live up to this season. Draft him next year, when the disappointment wears off.

Matt Garza: Boom

Milwaukee is a good situation for Garza’s fantasy value. The park is actually somewhat similar to Yankee Stadium in that it adds homers, but it plays pretty neutrally overall. More importantly, the other external factors are very good: small market means your fellow drafters won’t be inundated with his Spring Training highlights (see Tanaka, above), decent lineup for generating wins, middle-of-the-road competition in the division, playing in the NL, and facing pitchers! There is nothing better than pitching to pitchers. Maybe that’s why Garza seems to generate more strikeouts in the NL.... 

The biggest question mark with Garza is health, as he’s gotten a label of un-durability thanks to back-to-back incomplete seasons. But that was all from the same injury, and before that he gave his teams four consecutive 30-start seasons. Maybe he’s fragile and maybe he’s not—we can decide that when his career is over—but there’s good reason to think his health question is overblown. Right now, his good situation and low expectations make him a great number three fantasy starter.

Grant Balfour: Boom

There is something the Orioles don’t like about Balfour. Maybe it’s the harbinger of doom that is his name. Seriously, this guy should really have control problems, Carlos Marmol-style. He doesn’t, though, and was one of fantasy baseball’s better relievers last year, with 38 saves and a 10.34 K/9. He did that in a pitchers’ park, with a good pitching staff, and a decent lineup to put him in save situations. Now Balfour is going to the Rays, who also have a pitchers’ park, a good pitching staff, and a decent lineup to put him in save situations. Don’t be the Orioles here.

Mark Trumbo: Boom

Trumbo is the new Adam Dunn. Not the current Adam Dunn, but the old one. And not as good in real baseball, because he doesn’t walk. But he is that Adam Dunn that hits homers and sucks away at your batting average—and you know you can count on the good and the bad, and you can plan for it.

Trumbo has hit 29 homers or more in each of his three full Major League seasons. Not bad. Now he’s leaving the tough hitting environment of the AL West and going to the hitters’ haven somewhat better situation that is the NL West. The difference is most pronounced at home: while Angel Stadium suppressed homers by five percent last year, Arizona increased them by three percent. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’ll be worth a few longballs—and so might avoiding Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, and the rest of the AL West pitching crew. Sure, he won’t get to face the Astros, but he’ll get some away games in Coors Field.

The best news for Trumbo’s fantasy value, though, is his consistency. You can plan around his bad batting average and either strategically sacrifice points in the category, or pair him with underpowered high-average hitters. More good news is that the Diamondbacks got some pretty bad press for trading for him—giving other fantasy drafters more of an impression about his real-life value and less about his fantasy value.

Jhonny Peralta: Bust

Peralta is pretty much the opposite of Trumbo: the good defense and OBP he brought to the table in two of the last three years are a lot better in real baseball than in fantasy. Plus a “Known Smart Team” with a strong national brand threw a bunch of money at him as a free agent. It takes a lot to shake off the stigma of a PED suspension, but I bet that will. He’s been hailed as a good pickup this offseason, and that’s fine for the Cardinals.

It’s not so fine for your fantasy team. Peralta’s value came largely from his quality .303 batting average…which was fueled by a .374 BABIP. St. Louis appears to have been somewhat more suppressive to offense than Detroit last year, so don’t expect a big help from his new park. While playing in the NL might help a little, he wasn’t facing the world’s best pitching in the AL Central. (It helps when you play for the Tigers.) Even in the thin shortstop market, Peralta’s best category is the least predictable. Consider him no more than a low-end starter at best.

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