Major League Baseball’s annual trade deadline brought with it plenty of deals that could, and should, have significant implications on pennant chases and playoff series in the coming months.
Max Scherzer joined the Texas Rangers. Justin Verlander went back to Houston. The Marlins were particularly busy, bringing in the likes of David Robertson, Jake Burger (more on him in a bit), Josh Bell, Ryan Weathers, and Jorge López to bolster a club in the thick of a playoff race. The Orioles added Jack Flaherty to bolster their rotation. Arizona meanwhile, bolstered their bullpen with Paul Sewald.
You get it. Plenty happened.
But there were plenty of moves that, whether they flew under the radar or not in real-life baseball, could have significant implications for fantasy managers down the stretch. Deals that placed players on new teams complete with decidedly better fantasy environments.
These are some of those players.
Pham is currently rostered in far too few leagues, though that’s probably another story for another day. But the point here is that the veteran outfielder has been very good so far this season, whether it be for the New York Mets, or for his new team the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Pham is batting .258 with a .342 on-base percentage, 10 home runs, and 13 stolen bases in 284 plate appearances. He’s also sitting in the 88th percentile or better in xSLG (.504, 88th percentile), max exit velocity (113.7 mph, 89th percentile), xBA (.288, 93rd percentile), xwOBA (.380, 94th percentile), and chase rate (19.2%, 94th percentile).
And now, he gets to move from a decidedly not-so-good fantasy situation to a much improved one.
As of July 31st, the day after Pham’s last game with the Mets, New York has only outscored 10 teams in the league.
Now in Arizona, the outfielder joins the 10th-ranked lineup in the league in runs scored. More importantly than that, he’s settled into a key role in the heart of the Diamondbacks’ lineup.
It’s a small sample size, but entering play Wednesday, Pham has either hit third or fifth for the National League West club.
And while the Diamondbacks have admittedly struggled a bit in runs scored in the second half (only Miami and Oakland have scored fewer runs) hitting near the top of the order in Arizona means regular plate appearances near the likes of Corbin Carroll, Christian Walker, Ketel Marte, and Geraldo Perdomo.
As long as he’s locked into the top of the Diamondbacks lineup, Pham should continue to be a quality fantasy option for managers down the stretch. There’s certainly potential here for Pham to finish the year as a top-100 overall player.
The few caveats here are that the sample size is still on the small side and that home runs remain a constant for Lynn, but his start to his Dodgers career has been encouraging, even though his FIP is a bit higher.
Perhaps most crucially for fantasy managers, the veteran has won both of his starts in a Dodgers uniform so far.
Elsewhere, the starter has altered his pitch mix to a degree in that he’s throwing his cutter much less, a pitch that has routinely been crushed by opponents. Opposing batters were hitting .281 with a .274 xBA and a .355 xwOBA against the offering. Lynn is also utilizing his curveball and, to a degree, his slider more.
The results have been encouraging. Despite the higher FIP in two outings as a Dodger, Lynn has logged CSW rates of 37% and 30% in his first two starts for Los Angeles. He only logged a CSW rate of 30% or better in just nine of his 17 starts with the White Sox prior to the trade.
With the aforementioned pitcher win upside, Lynn should continue to be a viable fantasy rotation option for most sized leagues, with the obvious upside for more if he can log more starts with a CSW rate in the 30s.
The Tampa Bay Rays surrendered a lot to acquire Civale, sending minor league first baseman Kyle Manzardo, who currently ranks as FanGraphs‘ 47th-best prospect, to Cleveland in the deal for the starter.
Civale, who owns a lifetime 3.79 ERA, 4.17 FIP, and 7.75 strikeouts per nine frames in 434.1 career major league innings, is having arguably his best season to date.
In 81.1 innings in 14 starts, the 28-year-old is sporting a 2.55 ERA and a 3.43 FIP. He’s striking out 6.86 batters per nine frames while surrendering 2.43 walks and 0.55 home runs per nine innings.
Despite the low strikeouts, the right-hander has been extremely effective in terms of limiting quality contact. Opposing batters have managed just a .301 xwOBA against him, not to mention a 36.5% hard-hit rate, a 5.0% barrel rate, and a .375 xSLG. Unsurprisingly, those numbers rank pretty well, to put it plainly, when compared to the rest of the league.
Combine the ability to limit hard contact with his ability to limit walks, and Civale makes for an intriguing fantasy play in the right situation. And being traded to Tampa Bay very well might be the right situation for the right-handed starter.
It remains to be seen if Civale’s effectiveness will take a step forward or simply improve with the Rays, but we’ve seen similar stories before where Tampa Bay helps hurlers like Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen develop into frontline starters.
And while Civale’s strikeout numbers are on the low side of things, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how many bats he misses with the Rays. There’s definitely the potential for more strikeouts.
Despite ranking in the 20th percentile in strikeout rate, the veteran’s 29.8% chase rate ranks in the 63rd percentile league-wide. Elsewhere, despite seeing the whiff rate on his curveball drop considerably, he’s getting more swings and misses at a higher rate across the board on all of his other pitches this season.
Burger, much like Pham, is stepping into a much more fantasy-friendly lineup.
For the season, Burger is batting .213 with a .281 on-base percentage, 26 home runs, one stolen base, and plenty of loud contact.
As of the beginning of play on Wednesday, the 27-year-old was sporting a 48.8% hard-hit rate, an 18.6% barrel rate (the eighth-highest among qualified hitters), a .470 xwOBAcon and a .349 xwOBA.
And despite a 30.1% strikeout rate, a batter with those kinds of underlying metrics hitting behind a number of productive hitters is generally a recipe for plenty of fantasy success.
This is exactly the case with Burger, who has hit either fourth, fifth, or sixth in all but one of his Marlins starts so far. That’s meant, and will likely continue to mean, plate appearances after some combination of the following: Luis Arraez and his .416 on-base percentage, Jorge Soler, who is sporting a .337 on-base percentage, a .367 xwOBA and a .256 ISO, and Jazz Chisholm Jr., who has logged a 111 wRC+, 11 home runs, and 15 stolen bases in 205 plate appearances so far in 2023.
That group also includes Josh Bell, who’s hitting .296 with a .896 OPS in 31 plate appearances since joining Miami in a trade. Bell’s also due for some more positive regression at the plate considering he’s batting just .241 with a .325 on-base percentage and a .313 wOBA, but also a .269 xBA, and a .350 xwOBA.
Burger only has two RBI so far in 29 plate appearances with Miami, both came on a two-run home run off Will Smith and the Rangers on August 4th, but he should have no trouble racking up more RBI as the season progresses and the home runs continue to fly.