Impact: Reyes and Bell Want to Party in Miami

The new look Miami Marlins weren’t kidding about making a splash this offseason. They added top fantasy closer Heath Bell to a three-year deal and then, before the weekend was over, agreed to terms on a six-year deal with 2011 fantasy stud shortstop Jose Reyes. What do these moves mean for Bell and Reyes? And what about Hanley!?

Heath Bell said that he preferred to play on the coast, and he will, just the more humid coast for the next three-to-four years. People will (and already have) pointed toward Bell’s big drop in strikeout rate last season (about a 10 percent drop from 2010 to 2011), but given his track record and the fact that he’s 34 year old and not near the end of his career, his 2011 season, in terms of strikeouts, may indeed be an outlier. Bell didn’t lose velocity, he didn’t lose movement, in my opinion, he just caught too much of the plate in 2011.

Below is a chart of pitch location from 2010 and below that a chart from 2011 (via TexasLeaguers.com).


Notice how the location (the fastball in particular) seems to “tighten up” in 2011 toward the middle of the plate. He also seemed to throw more fastballs up in the zone than he had in the past. If this is the reason behind the drop in Bell’s strikeout rate, then it is something that can be easily fixed in 2012. Even with a rise in contact rate against, Bell posted a 3.23 FIP, 3.67 xFIP and 3.50 SIERA, which indicates that his pure stuff was still pretty darn good (and so was his defense to an extent).

The other factor that I have heard and read about the most is the move out of PETCO. There is no denying that PETCO can do wonders for pitchers, but the Marlins new home is, based on reports, still going to be a pitcher’s park. Regardless, it wasn’t as if Bell was a fly-ball pitcher anyway. One look at his batted ball data clearly shows that he consistently generates more ground balls than fly balls. Could he see a small rise in home run rate? Sure, but his career HR/9 is 0.56, so even if that rate rose to 0.75 or so it shouldn’t drastically affect his numbers. That being said, I don’t expect him to be among the elite closers in 2012 (see: Early 2012 closer ranks), but I don’t think he’ll exactly hurt fantasy teams in 2012 either.

Next up on the Marlins’ big name signing list was Jose Reyes. Nothing really changes with regard to how I would project Reyes for 2012. He may hit a few more home runs moving out of Citi Field, but he was in line for a regression in AVG/OBP anyway and he’s no longer a 60 stolen base threat. Reyes is in his prime, so .290/.350 with 15 home runs and 45 steals is not out of the question. Then again, a season filled with injury issues is not out of the question either (read: don’t take him in the first round).

Reyes should lead off, giving Hanley Ramirez the third spot in the order once again, but, wait, Hanley is a shortstop too! Hanley has stated that he did not want to move, but now he basically has no choice — unless he’s traded, which I doubt will happen. Hanley should bounce back from an injury plagued 2011 and a position move might actually help his value.

Not only does Reyes provide a dynamic leadoff hitter for the likes of Hanley, Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison to drive in, but he (potentially) moves Hanley to third base, where there is significantly less young depth than at shortstop. There have been some rumbles that Hanley could move to center, but 1) Hanley has never played the outfield and 2) the Marlins have a much greater need at third than they do in center.

With Brett Lawrie likely to man third base everyday for Toronto in 2012, Jose Bautista should lose his third base eligibility for 2013, meaning Hanley could very well be the number one ranked 3B in 2013 with a bounce-back season.

The bottom line is that neither Bell nor Reyes should see a dramatic change in their 2012 value based on what their expectations would have been anyway. The moves do help the players hitting in the middle of the Marlins lineup (through Reyes) and potentially help the starters win one or two more games (through Bell). We’ll have to see what the Marlins do next (Pujols?) as more fantasy impact could be on it’s way.