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Baseball Players that Change Teams in 2013...and the impact on their fantasy baseball value, by Ryan Hallam

Every year offseason there are a good number of players who change teams. With some of them it has little to no effect on their value, while others it seems to change their fortunes more. 2013 was no different and it seems like there was less movement on major players, but there was still a good amount of shift on rosters of players that matter. Below are eleven guys who are calling new places home and what you can expect from them in 2013.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The prize of the free agent market, Hamilton landed in the same place last season’s top free agent prize went, in Anaheim. There’s a ton to like about Hamilton. He hits for a good average, he has a ton of power, and drives in even more runs. People argue that he is the most talented hitter in the league. So, why is he not the number one player in fantasy every season? You and I both know it is health issues. He is not a durable player. Some is due to his past drug problems, some is just due to a brittle body. It seems that any time the wind blows hard he ends up on the Disabled List. In two of six seasons he hasn’t even played 100 games, and only in two of his six seasons has he played more than 135 games. I very rarely ever draft Hamilton because of the health questions, but it is a huge reward if you roll the dice and he stays healthy.

Jose Reyes, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
Reyes has a reputation of putting forth 100% effort when he wants to, and when he feels like it, and he is in a winning situation. And when he was traded to the Blue Jays in the offseason fantasy owners didn’t view it as a good move. He was out of a major market, and not on a quality team. Toronto then made a few more transactions and then all of a sudden it seems like they can compete. He got off to a really slow start in his first season in Miami, but after the All-Star Break he got it together and finished with a decent season. He had double digit home runs and 40 steals for the first time since 2008, even with the slow start. But Reyes’ problem has always been his health. Leg injuries have cost him parts of multiple seasons in his career, and playing on the turf in Toronto probably isn’t the best place for him, but he should be able to run like the wind on it. He is still among the top three shortstops in fantasy baseball and should be taken within the first four rounds.

B.J. Upton, OF Atlanta Braves
He spent nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays before joining up with the Atlanta Braves this offseason. He had a world of potential coming into the Major Leagues, and while he has shown some improvements recently with adding more power (career high 28 jacks last year), he still has completely struggled with his batting average as he has consistently be in the .240s. I think a lot of it has to do with his atrocious patience at the plate. He has struck out at least 150 times five of the last six seasons. I really don’t see that changing, so even though he consistently hit .300 in the minors that was a long time ago and I don’t see his batting average getting any better. In fact I really don’t see any of his numbers really changing because of this move to Atlanta. So, if you draft Upton you can expect him to hit .245 with 22-24 homers and another 35-38 steals.

Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves
Upton has had a tough time staying healthy during his career, which might explain why he tried to play through an injured thumb last season. Unfortunately, it had a great effect on his stats. He had 14 fewer homers than in 2011 as well as 19 fewer RBI. Arizona talked about trading him for months before they finally did and united him with his brother in Atlanta. I actually love Justin Upton and have no idea why the Diamondbacks ever thought of trading him. He is just 25 years old and has some of the sweetest tools in all of baseball. I think he is going to have a big resurgence and hit close to .300 with more than 30 homers and 100 RBI. To me Upton is a top three or four outfielder and could be drafted in the first round of your draft.

R.A. Dickey, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Rarely do you see a Cy Young Award winner traded in the season after but the Mets were in a cash strapped situation and had to get the most out of a hot commodity. Hence, Dickey was sent north of the border for Travis D’Arnaud among others. Dickey had the most successful season that a knuckleballer ever had. He is different than the traditional knuckleballer in that his fastball is actually into the high 70s or 80 miles per hour. As much as I think that Dickey will have another successful season, I think it is easy to say that he isn’t going to win 20 games again. He had never won more than 11 games before last season, and he goes from what was an offensively challenged National League East to the American League East, which isn’t as powerful as it used to be, but all four other teams all can put runs on the board. He also will be dealing with a lineup without a pitcher as well, which will make things a little tougher on Dickey. I still think he can win 15 games for the Blue Jays and strikeout 150 batters, but I hardly see another award winning campaign in 2013. View him as more of a second or third pitcher for your fantasy rotation than the ace he was last season.

James Shields, SP, Kansas City Royals
I am not a James Shields fan. At all. However, you can’t argue with his body of work throughout his career, and especially over the past two seasons. He won 31 games total and struck out over 220 batters over the last two years. His durability has been perhaps his best quality. Shields has made 30+ starts and has pitched over 200 innings in six straight seasons. Considering the state of pitchers and injuries these days, there’s an awful lot to be said about that. That being said, I’m not a fan of Shields. It might be good that he is getting out of the AL East, but he is also now going to a much worse team. The Royals are on the upswing and have a good deal of young talent, so he is joining them at a good time. I don’t know if he can keep up this strikeout rate, and if he wins even 15 games I will be surprised. Shields can be a third or fourth pitcher on your fantasy staff, but I think you will have to pick him before you should.

Stephen Drew, SS, Boston Red Sox
Ankle injuries cost Drew significant parts of the last two seasons, and after six seasons, the Diamondbacks finally gave up on him and traded him to the Athletics where he finally found his stroke again. His five home runs in just 39 games for the A’s were the equal to what he hit in 86 games in 2011 for the Diamondbacks. He still didn’t hit for a fantastic average, but he certainly looked like the guy from 2007-2009 for Arizona with a sweet swing and a knack for finding the gaps in the defense. He now travels to Boston and will play 82 games in Fenway Park and ten more in Yankee Stadium, which is a pretty sweet setup for a guy who is trying to regain his offensive stroke. I am expecting a big rebound from Drew in 2013 and if you miss on the top few shortstops in your draft, he could be a great consolation prize many rounds later.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cincinnati Reds
After being a lock for 20/20 in 2009-2010 with a .300 average, Choo lost half of 2011 to a thumb injury and he seemed to fall out of favor with the organization. He was solid in 2012, but the Tribe seemed set to trade him this past offseason, which they did for Drew Stubbs among others. Choo is fully healthy and moves to one of the best hitter’s parks in all of baseball with one of the better lineups to boot. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hitting in the second spot in the lineup which would give him ample chances to drive in some runs, but also to score a ton and probably get back to stealing 20 bases again. Choo is also a good third outfielder on your fantasy team.

Joel Hanrahan, RP, Boston Red Sox
After spending the last three seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hanrahan took a sweet contract to become the Red Sox closer. He has been a very successful pitcher over the past two years, notching 76 saves during that time. He has been among the top five to six options at the closer position recently, and the Pirates will likely have a better season than the Red Sox (shocking, right?) Hanrahan still should be a great option for your roster. He strikes out nearly a batter an inning and he’s blown just four saves in each of the last two seasons. There’s no reason to think that he can’t be the lead closer on your squad in 2013.

Melky Cabrera, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Now this is an interesting one. Not only is Cabrera heading to a new team (although not a new division, he was a former Yankee), but he is also coming off of a season that he was suspended for using performance enhancing drugs at the end. So since that ended his year, we have no idea if he was going to be able to come off of that suspension and play well, or if his MVP-type performance was completely aided by his “little helpers”. I have faith that Melky is going to come back and have a good season for the Blue Jays, as his previous statistics from the Royals were actually fairly similar if he wasn’t suspended for PEDs. I would look at Melky for a low-end second outfielder or a very quality third option on your fantasy squad.

Mike Napoli, 1B, Boston Red Sox
It was a heck of a courtship between the Red Sox and Napoli that ended up taking three or four months but still ended in a contract. Turns out that Napoli has some sort of condition in his hip which apparently he has been playing through without an issue, yet it held up the signing of a contract. He has had an interesting career. While the power numbers have always been there, always between 20 and 30 home runs, however his batting average has been everywhere from .227 and .320. And those are just his last two season’s averages. So where on the batting average wheel will it land this season? That’s anyone’s guess, but between catching, first base, and possibly an occasional DH, Napoli should at worst be looking at 500 at bats. He’s more valuable at catcher, but I still think he has value as a first baseman, mostly in a corner infield position.

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