Fantasy Is a Reality in Flushing: Lindor and Carrasco to the Mets

How does the Mets-Indians trade impact the fantasy landscape?

After weeks of Baseball Twitter sitting around waiting for the MLB teams to “do something“, the offseason has finally kicked into high gear. First, the Padres made headlines with high-profile deals, and now the New York Mets’ completed a blockbuster trade for superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco. Heading to Cleveland are Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez along with prospects Josh Wolf and Isaiah Green.

While Mets fans rejoice for “Uncle Stevie” Cohen’s first big splash as owner and Cleveland fans contemplate their future name, existence, and life itself, let’s take a look at how this trade will impact fantasy baseball as we rapidly approach draft season. Several factors will have an immediate effect on popular names for fantasy including park factors, overall team changes including lineup constructions, playing time and defense, as well as division changes.

 

Upgraded Home Sweet Homes

 

Depending on where you look, park factors can be a bit finicky and per Rotofantaic’s Park Factors, the move would seem pretty neutral (with 100 being league-average).

 

Park Factor Comparison

 

However, getting a bit more granular we can see some potential value-added. Derek Carty, the brilliant mind behind The Bat X projection system sees the move a little differently. Using his multiple-year formula he’s seeing the move as a huge positive for Carrasco.

 

 

At worst, the park factors will be neutral for Carrasco, at best he’s going to one of the best ballparks for pitchers in baseball. While the impact shouldn’t be that drastic this should help Carrasco’s value a bit. The Mets’ have done a lot to help hitters since Citi Field opened in 2009, moving the fences in twice in the first five years of playing there so perhaps the Mets’ ballpark is more hitter-friendly than its reputation. With a bit of conflicting information, let’s take a look at Scott Chu’s personal favorite source for park factors: Swish Analytics. Based on platoon park factors from 2014- present it is pretty clear that Citi Field is still much more pitcher-friendly than Progressive Field. Here are the images of Citi Field and Progressive Field, respectively. There is much more yellow and red at Citi Field, which is a good thing for pitchers:

 

 

Based on the above, Citi Field still seems to be a better place to pitch half of your starts, and with it becoming more and more likely that the DH will not return to the NL Carrasco should see at the very least a slight boost in production.

For the hitters involved in this trade, any park factor effects (both positive or negative) should be negated by gains in either playing time opportunities (in the case of Rosario and Gimenez) or surrounding lineup production improvements (Lindor). Generally, it is not wise to get too concerned with park factors for hitters as good as Lindor. However, Lindor has hit much better at home (129 wRC+) than on the road (106 wRC+) for his career, but putting too much stock into that would not be wise. The star shortstop has been in the top fourth of the league in xBA in every year of his career and has never posted a strikeout rate greater than 15.8% in his six major league seasons. That hitting tool and plate skills will play no matter the ballpark.

While the 27-year-old has outperformed his expected home runs, it has not been by much. His 32 home runs in 2019 were backed up by 29 xHR per Baseball Savant, and 47% of those home runs were “no doubters” meaning they would have been home runs in any MLB stadium. Lindor’s 38 homer season in 2018 was backed by a 92nd percentile xwOBA and a 91st percentile xSLG with 18 of those 38 homers coming on the road. Additionally, many hitters across the league perform better at home simply because they are more comfortable there (.767 OPS at home versus a .749 OPS on the road in 2019 for all hitters). Lindor should get very comfortable hitting in Queens especially with a much better lineup around him (which we will get into later).

For players like Rosario and Gimenez, this change in ballparks can also be seen as a positive. For players with moderate power such as these two middle infielders, a few more homers and doubles should be expected. Rosario has shown some interesting power-speed potential and is only one year removed from a 15 home run, 19 stolen base season so it does not take much more than a park improvement to spark the interest of fantasy managers. While the underlying numbers are not impressive (15th percentile in exit velocity and 22nd percentile in hard-hit percentage) and the plate discipline is highly-concerning (4.3% walk rate was in the bottom two percent of the league) a change in scenery to a hitter’s park with more consistent playing time could be exactly what Rosario needs to tap into the upside that he has shown flashes of in the past (114 wRC+ in the second half of 2019).

 

 

For Gimenez, a hit-tool-first, speedy middle infielder the move to Progressive Field should be beneficial. As a lefty, the park factors are a major upgrade which should help his less-than-impressive Statcast profile from the shortened 2020 season. Despite poor exit velocity (86.8 mph) and barrel rate (3.3%) the 22-year-old still managed to slug .398. With slightly above-average plate discipline and elite speed (94th percentile in sprint speed), Gimenez could be worth a late-round flyer due to this boost in home park and a greater playing time opportunity.

 

New Lineups, Who This?

 

The most obvious impact here is a positive one for Lindor. Here are the offensive numbers and league ranks for both squads in 2020:

 

2020 Hitting Comparison

 

Insert Lindor into an already-potent Mets’ team and their lineup becomes arguably one of the best in baseball on paper. Steamer currently has Lindor pegged for a .277/.349/.508 line with 33 homers and 19 stolen bases to go along with 102 runs and 92 RBI. Depending upon where Lindor slots into the lineup (anywhere in the top third of the lineup would make sense, but Roster Resource currently has him slotted into the third spot) an uptick in RBI or runs would be easy to project. Per Steamer, seven regulars are projected for a wRC+ greater than 100 in 2021 on the Mets compared to just three on the Indians. It is easy to see that this is a big upgrade for Lindor’s fantasy value from a lineup perspective.

While going to a clearly-worse lineup seems to be a downgrade for Rosario and Gimenez the mere fact that both players should be in the lineup on a nightly basis is where the value lies. In New York, the biggest issue the middle infielders had was each other. With Jeff McNeil locked into second and Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith holding down first and the potential DH spot, the Mets had three players for the remaining two infield spots with Rosario, Gimenez, and JD Davis. There was clearly going to be a playing time crunch and there were rumors of Rosario being a super-utility player and giving the outfield another shot after the failed experiment there in 2019.

With the move to Cleveland, both Rosario and Gimenez should see every day playing time. Roster Resource has Gimenez playing second and batting leadoff with Rosario at short and batting eighth. There is a lot more room for interpretation with the Indians’ lineup construction but it is obvious that the former Mets middle infielders are the best options up the middle in 2021 for Cleveland. Given the fact that both players possess elite speed, have shown some power (Rosario more so than Gimenez), and play solid defense (Gimenez more so than Rosario, but the former has shown some improvement, more on that soon) the counting stats should improve for both players with a decent amount of homers and steals at the MI position.

 

Defense Matters for Fantasy

 

The defense of Rosario and Gimenez will be an important factor for the Indians and will help their playing time in Cleveland. Gimenez passes the “eye test” and posted an elite 96th percentile Outs Above Average (OAA) and a 10 UZR/150 in 2020.

 

 

Rosario has been more of a rollercoaster in the field for the first few years of his career. After posting a 2nd and 4th percentile OAA during his first two big league seasons, respectively, Rosario was in the 82nd percentile in the shortened 2020 campaign. If that means Rosario slides over to second for the superior glove of Gimenez at short is a decision for the Indians to make, but it should not matter much for both players from a fantasy standpoint as they should get the majority of the playing time up the middle.

For Cookie Carrasco, team defense should play an even bigger role in determining his fantasy value now that he is a Met. Let’s compare the team defensive numbers for his former and new team in 2020.

 

2020 Fielding Comparison

 

While the Indians were superior with the glove overall last season, what is important here is the infield defense. Both teams were in the top six for infield defense based on OAA. With Carrasco having a career ground-ball rate of 48.3% the defense must be strong behind him. Luckily for him, one of the best fielding shortstops in baseball will be heading to Flushing with him. Lindor has been nothing short of elite at the shortstop position, arguably the best defender in the game, ranking in the top five percent of the league in every year that OAA has been tracked by Statcast. While the Mets do lose two strong infield defenders for one superb one they should have some additional help in that department. As it currently stands, Luis Guillorme (2 OAA in limited playing time in 2020) is slotted to be the next man up in the infield for the Metropolitans and should help further improve their infield defense in 2021.

 

Division Details

 

While division opponents won’t have as large of an impact in 2021 as they did in the shortened 2020 season it is still important to look at the new teams each of these players will be facing off against the most. First, we will take a look at Carrasco. Pitchers in the central divisions had it very easy last season as the only teams in either central division with positive WAR based on Fangraphs were the White Sox (38.2) and Twins (2.1). Several pitchers in the central divisions, including Carrasco himself, had strong if not career-best years by feasting on the weak offenses. No two years are the same so let’s take a look at projected WAR from Fangraphs for the 2021 season:

 

Projected WAR for NL East and AL Central

 

Based on the above, the trade would be positive for Carassco, slightly less positive for Rosario and Gimenez, and a slight negative for Lindor. Again, I am willing to take this information with a grain of salt for someone on Lindor’s talent level. First-round caliber hitters in their prime will be able to hit no matter their division. Instead, let’s get back to focusing on the impact these projections would have on Cookie. As noted earlier, the AL Central was one of the best places to pitch in 2020. Carrasco won’t have as many cupcakes next year as the Braves will have a top tier offense and pitching in the sandbox that is Citizen’s Bank Park (105 HR park factor per Rotofanatic; 1.22 and 1.16 HR factors for righties and lefties, respectively per Swish Analytics) is no fun for any pitcher. Despite the higher WAR projection (what is it good for, anyway) if I were a pitcher I would much rather be pitching for the Indians AL Central than the NL East. Overall, a net negative for Carrasco, not much impact for the hitters.

 

You Down With ADP?

 

So what does this all mean? Do you still want Fransisco Linor and Carlos Carrasco on your fantasy team? Are Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario good middle infielder sleepers? The short answer is yes. The long answer? Also yes. Here are the current NFBC ADPs for the four players in the deal:

 

2021 NFBC ADP

 

For Lindor, there was a buying opportunity even before the trade. Even with the lofty price of an ADP of 16, Lindor should be able to provide excess value. He is coming off of a “down” season in which he posted a career-low .750 OPS and an exactly average 100 wRC+. A lot of this could be explained by his abnormally low HR/FB% (11.4% in 2020 after posting 17% in 2018 and 2019) but fantasy managers who spent a first-round pick on the shortstop could be feeling burned after a disappointing shortened season. Some of that buying opportunity may be wiped away by the hype from this trade and lineup improvements, but there is little reason to believe that Lindor will not provide first-round value in 2021. He had career-highs in hard-hit percentage (41.1%) as well as sweet spot percentage (36.5%) in 2020 so Lindor was headed for some positive regression over the course of a full season had there been one. I will be gladly taking Lindor in the back end of the first round come draft season.

At 73 overall, Carrasco is being selected as the 26th pitcher off the board. While I might not be comfortable taking him as my first pitcher if I were to wait on pitching, I am more than happy to have Cookie as my second starter. Carrasco still has a useful fastball (26.8% Whiff%) with decent velocity (93.8 mph) and has three reliable offspeed pitches all with a Whiff% greater than 34%. With that outstanding breaking stuff, he excels at getting hitters to miss on the edges and just outside the zone:

 

 

Because Carrasco doesn’t rely on elite velocity I am not too concerned about his age, he will be 34 by the time the season starts. What he does is rely on his deception and tunneling with his nasty stuff to continue to get hitters out.

 

 

Gimenez and Rosario will probably see their ADP rise over the next few months as they both have a clearer path to playing time. I could see both players being intriguing middle infield options for fantasy managers. Gimenez did have a better season than Rosario in 2020 and Andres should provide intriguing speed and power with a decent average (12 homers and 21 stolen bases with a .248 average per Steamer projections) so I understand why he is being selected earlier in drafts.

However, it was just three short years ago that Rosario was ranked as one of the top prospects in baseball. What we have here is the classic case of a post-post-POST-hype sleeper. Rosario Stans: We won’t get burned again, I promise. Call me a sucker for power-speed combos (because that is exactly what I am) but I will be buying Gimenez and to a greater extent, Rosario (if his price stays relatively deflated) as a MIs all draft season.

Overall, the values for all parties involved in this blockbuster trade should be going up for fantasy purposes in 2021 – a welcoming piece of bright news, which I will take no matter how small these days.

Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Steve Gesuele

Steve Gesuele is a fantasy baseball enthusiast who has been playing since 2012. He takes pride in participating in his competitive home league- The League of Champions. He was the sports editor at Loyola University Maryland where he covered their men's basketball team and NCAA-champion men's lacrosse team. He is a die-hard New Jersey Devils fan currently residing in Hoboken, NJ.

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