The baseball hot stove is heating up, and it's not simply the result of free agent signings. This week we saw two blue chip prospects dealt. The Royals sent Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard to the Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis on Sunday. On Tuesday, the Indians were busy orchestrating a three team trade that saw them first send Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald to the Reds for Didi Gregorius and Drew Stubbs. They then turned around and sent Gregorius packing along with Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson to the Diamondbacks for Trevor Bauer, Bryan Shaw, and Matt Albers. For the purpose of this article, I'll be discussing the impact of the trade only on Myers and Bauer.
Myers was named the 2012 Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America. BA recently ranked him atop the Royals top-10 prospect list, as did the prospect staff headed by Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus. Myers crushed the ball at both the Double-A and Triple-A level, but failed to taste his first Cup of Joe in the bigs. The Royals continued to trot out Jeff Francoeur in right field, and allow Myers to marinate in the minors after roster expansion in September. It's unclear if Myers would have supplanted Francoeur in right field to break camp with the Royals this year, but that's not important now that he's a member of the Rays. Myers has no one blocking him in Tampa, but it's still possible he could begin the year in the minors if the Rays hope to delay starting the clock on his service time. Regardless, he should be in the major league lineup early in 2013.
Myers brings a developing skill-set to the table that fits well in the middle of an order. He's patient enough to work walks at a high rate, and he really tapped into his power last year. However, Myers is not the type of can't-miss-uber-prospect that both Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were going into last season. That's not to say he can't be a solid fantasy player in 2012, but it does serve as a reminder that Trout and Harper aren't the norm. There will be an adjustment period for Myers. How rough that adjustment period is depends on how exploitable the holes are in his offensive game, and how he's able to work through them. That won't be clear until the games are played, but expecting smooth sailing is wishful thinking.
One thing that's worth noting is that Myers isn't really helped or hurt by the change in his home ballpark. According to Stat Corner's three year ballpark factors, the home run index for Kauffman Stadium and Tropicana Field are roughly a wash. Equally important, or perhaps more important, is that the home run index factors are nearly identical between the ballparks for both right-handed and left-handed batters, and both ballparks are more favorable for right-handed power. Myers is still one of the most desirable prospects to own in large keeper leagues and dynasty formats. For this year, Myers should be drafted in large mixed leagues as an upside play that might be capable of hitting 20-25 home runs and straddling the line between performing like a fourth and fifth outfielder.
Bauer had a very good first full-season in pro-ball, but it would seem he has been passed in the Diamondbacks front office's view by fellow prospects Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin (who is, by definition, no longer a prospect). At least that's what the Diamondbacks will have you believe. There has been speculation since the deal was consummated that the team didn't care for his unorthodox training regimen, and that he resisted changing it to appease the organization. Of course, that's just speculation.
Moving on to what we do know, Bauer isn't a prospect without flaws. While he has an impressive strikeout rate, and the goods to miss bats, he is inefficient and had a walk rate of 4.2 BB/9 in Double-A and Triple-A combined last year. That rate rose to 7.2 BB/9 in a miniscule sample of 16.1 innings in the majors. Part of the reason for Bauer's rise in walk rate in the majors could be that he was dealing with a groin strain, making his tiny sample even more worthless to look into. One positive of his “struggles,” is that it could drive down his price in keeper leagues and yearly leagues.
Bauer should benefit from being traded. For starters, the Indians are in dire need of starting pitching reinforcements, while his previous employer, the Diamondbacks, were flush with rotation candidates. He also moves from launching pad Chase Field, to Progressive Field. Not all is great, though, as the move from the National League to the American League isn't ideal. Derek Carty took an in depth look at the impact of changing leagues for pitchers at FanDuel in August 2011.
More important to Bauer's short term, and long term, fantasy outlook than his change of leagues is his ability to tighten up his control. It's questionable just how much he'll be able to improve his control with his unorthodox mechanics. Doug Thorburn broke down Bauer's delivery in late October, and harshly, but accurately, graded Bauer's balance, posture, and ability to repeat his delivery well below average. Bauer's high strikeout rate will allow him some wiggle room in regards to his walk rate, but piling up strikeouts and walking batters at a higher than average rate will run his pitch counts up quickly. There are likely to be growing pains here, and it's unwise to draft Bauer as more than a lottery ticket late that should provide strikeouts, but may provide little else, in yearly leagues. Bauer is a much better buy in deep keeper leagues where owners can be patient with the development process.