Among a flurry of unexpected moves yesterday, second basemen Kelly Johnson and Aaron Hill swapped teams and Kevin Kouzmanoff found a new home with the Rockies organization. Also announced was the recall of controversially demoted Logan Morrison. What’s the fantasy impact from here on out?
Kelly Johnson traded for Aaron Hill and John McDonald
This move seems, on the surface, like a clear “change of scenery” attempt by both sides. However, D-Backs GM Kevin Towers suggested that the move was made to sure up the team’s defense more than anything else. Heading to Toronto is Kelly Johnson, who Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is said to be a big fan of. Johnson’s power/speed numbers are actually quite good (18 HR/13 SB), but clearly his .209 AVG has killed most of his fantasy value. A rise in strikeout rate has been a major issue this season, but one could argue that a .257 BABIP hasn’t helped either. The last time Johnson changed teams — last season — he hit .284/.370/.496 with 26 homers and 13 stolen bases.
This will mark the second time in the last month that Anthopoulos has brought in a talented bat from the National League in hopes that a change would do them good. It hasn’t worked out so far with Colby Rasmus, but that was more of a long-term move. That being said, Johnson is a free agent at season’s end, so he’s playing for a new contract. If he finishes the year with a bang, teams will certainly take notice, especially the Jays.
For Hill, it has been two seasons in a row of lackluster performance at the plate, though he did crank out 26 homers last season. Interestingly, Hill’s issue last season seemed to stem from an absurdly low line-drive rate of about 11 percent and a high fly-ball rate of 54 percent. According to FanGraphs, that hasn’t been the case this season, as Hill is listed with a line-drive rate close to 19 percent and a fly-ball rate back down to his normal level (about 44 percent). Of course, there is always the issue of trusting numbers that are, in fact, opinions — you might see a drive to the gap as a fly-ball whereas someone else sees it as a line-drive.
Both players have low BABIPs on the season, the difference being that Hill is the much better contact hitter as opposed to Johnson, who has displayed much more swing-and-miss over the last two seasons.
We only have a little over a month to go, so if we’re looking for an impact out of either player, it’s likely to come in the power department. If that’s what we’re looking for, then Johnson gets the edge in mixed leagues. It’s not much of an edge, mind you, but Hill is going to a team that has tried to eliminate strikeouts and will focus more on his defense and contact skills.
Logan Morrison is back
After being demoted for “not hitting for AVG”, Logan Morrison is on his way back to the Marlins. No matter what BS reason the Marlins gave for sending him down, it was a disciplinary move, plain and simple or he’d still be in New Orleans. After starting the season hot, Morrison fell into a slump, though he did continue to hit for extra base power — his ISO was .250 in July and .194 in August. His AVG from June up until his demotion was .213 and he didn’t do much at the plate during his short stint in New Orleans.
I’m a big fan of the stats, as you may have noticed, but sometimes there are factors outside of the numbers that play a significant role. There is a chance, though his numbers say otherwise, that Morrison comes back locked in to prove that he belongs in the big leagues for good. Again, the numbers suggest otherwise, but it’s still worth keeping him on your watch list. He did, after all, hit six home runs in the month of July.
Rockies acquire Kevin Kouzmanoff
Remember when Kouzmanoff was a highly touted prospect with the Indians and was traded to San Diego for a player, Josh Barfield, who had just come off of a .280/.318/.423, 13 home run, 21 stolen base season? Kouzmanoff, now 30 years old, hasn’t lived up to expectations, but he did have one year with the Padres, back in 2008, where he hit .260 with 23 home runs, which would be fine mixed league numbers at the hot corner nowadays.
The thing that has always hampered Kouz has been his lack of plate discipline and below average contact skills. Kouz has consistently posted low walk rates (4.6 percent career BB%), high chase rates (33.5 percent career chase rate) and below average contact rates (77.4 career contact rate). It’s easy to see why he has never hit for much AVG/OBP.
That being said, Kouz has never played his home games in a hitter-friendly home park, or even a neutral home park for that matter. He has spent the better part of the last five seasons in San Diego and Oakland, both major pitcher’s parks. Now, he should soon find himself in one of the better hitter’s parks in baseball.
For his career, Kouz is a .242/.288/.381 hitter at home with a 37.5 AB/HR rate. On the road, he is a career .267/.310/.457 hitter with a 24.1 AB/HR rate. Did I mention that he could be playing home games in one of the better hitter’s parks in baseball for the first time in his career? His career road AB/HR rate would translate to about 23 home runs given 550 at-bats.
This seems like a savvy move by the Rockies, who are in desperate need of a third baseman heading into 2012. If nothing else, Kouz has always played plus defense and limits his strikeouts. He will start his time with the Rockies at triple-A, but I have a feeling we will see a lot of him with the Rox in September, which would him a late season sleeper for a few home runs from the hot corner.
At triple-A Sacramento this season, Kouz hit .302/.341/.550 with 13 home runs in 279 plate appearances. Take those numbers with a grain of salt, however, considering his age and still very low four-percent walk rate. Do, however, consider it a sign that he still has at least some life left in his bat.
If Kouz wins the everyday job next season, there is a decent enough chance he has a bit of a mid-career revival and becomes mixed league relevant due to his 3B eligibility.