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Dec
03

2012 Draft Prep: The winds of change

Aramis Ramirez is destined to be a National League Central lifer.

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Ramirez, who began his career in 1998 with the Pirates and spent the last 8 1/2 seasons with the Cubs, continued his tour around the NL Central by signing with the Milwaukee Brewers in the offseason. He has become the poster child for the NL Central.

The 33-year-old veteran is one of many recognizable faces in new places this season. The offseason frenzy once again changed the baseball landscape. While Ramirez chose to stay in familiar territory, players like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder left the Senior Circuit to join the American League.

Now, regardless of where Pujols and Fielder signed their Fantasy Baseball status was hardly going to shift. But for a player like Ramirez, his landing spot definitely could have made an impact -- either positive or negative.

It's worth pointing out that Ramirez is going from one favorable home run park in Wrigley Field to another in Miller Park. You will be happy to know that Ramirez has a career .270 average, .503 slugging percentage and .829 OPS in 78 career games at his new home stadium. However, those numbers are inflated from early in Ramirez's career. He has struggled the last three seasons at Miller Park, hitting a combined .214 (15 for 70) in his last 19 games.

We are still confident in Ramirez's abilities and his move to Milwaukee appears to be a lateral one. Therefore, Ramirez passes as a low-end Fantasy starter, worth targeting in the middle rounds of mixed leagues.

While Ramirez's splits might not have a profound impact on his Fantasy value, that doesn't apply to all offseason acquisitions.

Andrew Bailey, RP, Red Sox
Transaction: Traded from Oakland to Boston
Noteworthy stats: Has 7.20 ERA and 1.80 WHIP in four outings (five innings) at Fenway Park
Analysis: Bailey's high ERA and WHIP at his new home ballpark really stand out. But in his case it might not so much be the park as the opposition he was facing. Bailey had to contend with a vaunted Red Sox lineup from 2009-11. He does have fly-ball tendencies (career 45 percent fly-ball rate) but it's not like Fenway is a bandbox. The park does favor left-handed fly-ball hitters but Fenway is a below-average park for homers. Fenway is really a doubles park and Bailey has surrendered just 23 doubles in 157 career outings. Bailey could easily surpass his value as a mid-round pick -- if he can remain healthy.

Carlos Quentin, OF, Padres
Transaction: Traded from Chicago White Sox to San Diego
Noteworthy stats: Has .267 average and 11 home runs in 116 games in current NL West parks
Analysis: Quentin returns to the NL West after spending the last four seasons in the AL Central. Quentin couldn't hit at PETCO Park in his first stint in the Senior Circuit (1 for 19) and we aren't expecting an offensive explosion during his second tour. While his power swing worked well at U.S. Cellular Field, PETCO is a pitcher's park and below-average home run park for right-handed hitters. It's also one of the worst parks in the NL for doubles hitters, which won't bode well for Quentin. Don't forget: San Diego will have a far-less-stacked lineup than the White Sox, so don't be shocked if Quentin's numbers at the end of the season don't jump off the page.

Huston Street, RP, Padres
Transaction: Traded from Colorado to San Diego
Noteworthy stats: Has 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, eight saves and 13.5 K/9 rate in 11 outings (11 1/3 innings) at PETCO Park
Analysis: Street is likely over the moon he is leaving a hitter's park for a pitcher's park, especially given his outstanding history at PETCO. We have seen what fellow closers Trevor Hoffman and Heath Bell were able to accomplish with the Padres, so Street might be the next great closer in San Diego. A big reason why Street has success at PETCO is that his line-drive rate sometimes gets away from him, but PETCO is forgiving as a below-average line-drive park. If Street can avoid injury he should get ample save opportunities and could end up as a late-round steal for Fantasy owners.

Mat Latos, SP, Reds
Transaction: Traded from San Diego to Cincinnati
Noteworthy stats: Has 1-0 record, 1.93 ERA, 0.50 WHIP and nine strikeouts in two starts (14 innings) at Great American Ballpark
Analysis: Concern immediately crept into the minds of Fantasy owners the day Latos was traded to Cincinnati. He was leaving one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks for one of the more hitter-friendly. While Latos has a slightly higher-than-average fly-ball rate it hasn't been an issue in the few times he's pitched in homer-friendly Great American Ballpark. His numbers are surprisingly impressive, which is probably why the Reds didn't hesitate pulling the trigger on acquiring him. Latos got off to a sluggish start last season due to a shoulder injury but he was outstanding in the second half. Latos posted a 2.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and struck out 8.8 batters per nine innings in 14 starts after the All-Star break. Though the sample size for Latos at his new home park is small, you could consider it a steal if he slips past the early rounds on Draft Day.

Angel Pagan, OF, Giants
Transaction: Traded from N.Y. Mets to San Francisco
Noteworthy stats: Has .069 average, .336 OPS and five strikeouts in nine games (29 at-bats) at AT&T Park
Analysis: Don't get caught up in Pagan's numbers at his new home ballpark. Many hitters don't have impressive numbers squaring off against the likes of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Now that he won't have to face them Pagan could make AT&T Park his new personal playground. Pagan is a line-drive hitter who should find the spacious gaps at his new home ballpark very favorable. AT&T Park is a well-above-average triples park for both right- and left-handed hitters. It's also an above-average park for left-handed doubles hitters. It's also worth noting that Pagan -- a switch-hitter -- has a good history in most NL West parks, sporting a .290 average at Coors Field, .306 at Dodger Stadium and .361 at Chase Field. Pagan, who should hit leadoff for San Francisco, has a career .301 average and .809 OPS out of the top spot in the lineup. Pagan could end up as a bargain pick in the mid-to-late rounds on Draft Day.

Travis Wood, SP, Cubs
Transaction: Traded from Cincinnati to Chicago Cubs
Noteworthy stats: Has 5.30 ERA in home starts and 3.58 ERA in away starts
Analysis: Wood is an intriguing Fantasy option because he came into last year with so much promise following a stellar debut in 2010 but he wasn't nearly as effective last season and is already on to his second major league club. Luckily, a change of scenery might be exactly what he needs. Wood is a fly-ball pitcher and that's not good in a homer-friendly park like Great American Ballpark. Wood also was unlucky in Cincinnati, posting a .347 BABIP, which is well above the norm. Wrigley Field isn't favorable for fly-ball pitchers either but Wood has had better luck there. He is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and .135 BABIP in two career starts at Wrigley. It's also worth pointing out that Wood has done well in other NL Central parks. He has a 2.89 ERA at Houston, 3.60 ERA at Milwaukee, 3.48 ERA at Pittsburgh and 2.03 ERA at St. Louis. If Wood locks down a spot in the Cubs' rotation you might consider him a late-round Fantasy sleeper in deep formats.

Joe Nathan, RP, Rangers
Transaction: Left Minnesota to sign free-agent deal with Texas
Noteworthy stats: Has 6-1 record, 1.08 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 in career (83 innings) against Angels, A's and Mariners
Analysis: Nathan posted an ERA above 4.00 in 2011 for the first time since 2000. However, his ERA was inflated as he struggled early coming off Tommy John surgery. Once he returned from a disabled-list stint in late June, Nathan looked more like his former dominant self. He went 11 for 12 in save chances in his final 31 outings, posting a 3.38 ERA, .193 opponents' batting average and .218 BABIP during that span. He now joins a top contender, so the save chances should be plentiful. A major concern is how Nathan, a fly-ball pitcher, will hold up at homer-friendly Ballpark in Arlington. However, Nathan has allowed just one homer in 13 career outings (13 2/3 innings) at the Rangers home ballpark, while posting a 1.98 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Nathan seems at home in the AL West and could get back to being an elite Fantasy relief pitcher in 2012.

Jason Kubel, OF, Diamondbacks
Transaction: Left Minnesota to sign free-agent deal with Arizona
Noteworthy stats: Has .328 average, .383 on-base percentage, .589 slugging percentage, .972 OPS, 14 home runs, 15 doubles and 44 RBI in 71 interleague games
Analysis: Kubel is becoming a full-time NL player for the first time in his career but if his track record is any indication, he shouldn't have a problem handling Senior Circuit hurlers. Kubel has hit .300 or better in interleague play in all but one of his six MLB seasons. Even in just three interleague games last season, Kubel hit .286 with a 1.000 OPS -- and those three games were at his new home ballpark. Kubel's power swing should suit him nicely at Chase Field since it is a very favorable park for left-handed home run and doubles hitters. Kubel could end up as a great mid-round value pick.

Trevor Cahill, SP, Diamondbacks
Transaction: Traded from Oakland to Arizona
Noteworthy stats: Has 7-3 record, 2.85 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and .240 BABIP in 12 interleague starts
Analysis: Cahill is another former AL player who has done well in interleague play. He also is 1-0 with a 0.79 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in two starts in NL West parks, while compiling a 4-2 record, 2.66 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in seven starts against the NL West. Cahill's ground-ball tendencies should also suit him well at Chase Field since he mostly gives up singles and limits his extra-base hits. Chase Field is slightly below average for singles, while above average for doubles, triples and homers. Cahill is another player who could exceed expectations as a mid-round Fantasy draft pick.

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Hiroki Kuroda, SP, Yankees
Transaction: Left L.A. Dodgers to sign free-agent deal with N.Y. Yankees
Noteworthy stats: Has 3-8 record, 4.33 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and .282 BABIP in 11 interleague starts
Analysis: Kuroda immediately became a pitcher worth targeting in all Fantasy formats the moment the news broke that he was going to join the Yankees rotation. He had just one winning season in four years with the Dodgers but Los Angeles could never give him the ample run support the Yankees stacked lineup will provide. While Kuroda sports a career 3.45 ERA, it's nearly a point higher in interleague play and it wouldn't be surprising if he posts an ERA above 4.00 in 2012. It's also alarming that Kuroda gave up a career-high 24 homers last season. He now heads to one of the more homer-friendly parks in the majors, especially for left-handed hitters. Kuroda is obviously worth drafting as a mid-rotation Fantasy arm because of his wins potential but don't be shocked if some of his numbers start to rise now that he is in the AL.

Raul Ibanez, OF, Yankees
Transaction: Left Philadelphia to sign free-agent deal with N.Y. Yankees
Noteworthy stats: Has .304 average, .407 on-base percentage, .652 slugging percentage, 1.060 OPS, two homers and five RBI in six games at Yankee Stadium
Analysis: You probably were wondering out of all the available options at the Yankees' disposal, why did they choose to sign a soon-to-be-40-year-old veteran to take over the designated hitter duties for the traded Jesus Montero? That's easy. Ibanez is a left-handed power bat and as we highlighted with Kuroda, those types of hitters thrive at Yankee Stadium. Don't get overly concerned about Ibanez adjusting to a DH role. Remember, he used to play in the AL and has DH experience. He has a .272 average, 22 homers, 42 doubles and 112 RBI in 217 games as a DH. Don't reach for Ibanez on Draft Day but he could end up as a nice value pick in the late rounds.

Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Rockies
Transaction: Left Minnesota to sign free-agent deal with Colorado
Noteworthy stats: Has .273 average, .370 on-base percentage, .461 slugging percentage, .831 OPS, 11 homers, 33 doubles and 66 RBI in 127 interleague games
Analysis: Like Kuroda and Ibanez moving to the Yankees, any time a hitter joins the Rockies Fantasy owners get overly excited for his outlook since Coors Field is one of the top hitter's park in the majors. However, Coors Field really favors the line-drive hitters and Cuddyer hasn't been a good one the last few years. His line-drive rate has been under 19 percent four of the last five seasons. It's also worth noting that Cuddyer hasn't fared well against NL West teams. He has hit .241 or worse against the Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Padres. He's going to get a steady dose of Tim Linceum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy. Don't draft Cuddyer before the middle rounds on Draft Day.

David DeJesus, OF, Cubs
Transaction: Left Oakland to sign free-agent deal with Chicago Cubs
Noteworthy stats: Has .325 average, .402 on-base percentage, .475 slugging percentage, .877 OPS, nine homers, 30 doubles and 66 RBI in 123 interleague games
Analysis: DeJesus signing a two-year deal with the Cubs this offseason garnered little fanfare but if he hits like he has against NL pitching in the past, then DeJesus could end up as one of the top free-agent steals of the offseason. Not only has DeJesus hit NL pitching he has thrived against the NL Central. He has hit .364 against the Reds, .395 against the Astros, .423 against the Brewers and .336 against the Cardinals. He should have made the move to the NL Central years ago. Chicago is also going to give him the chance to bat leadoff and that makes sense. DeJesus has a .292 average, .365 OBP and .801 OPS as a leadoff hitter. You just might want to put DeJesus on your radar as a late-round Fantasy flier.

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