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Mookie Betts Trade Breakdown for Fantasy Baseball

After weeks of speculation, superstar Mookie Betts will now be donning a new uniform in 2020. Late Tuesday night, the Red Sox sent him and David Price out to Los Angeles Dodgers and received back outfielder Alex Verdugo and right-hander Brusdar Graterol from the Minnesota Twins. Kenta Maeda also went to Minnesota in the deal. There are a bunch of moving parts in this trade with a ton of fantasy ramifications so let’s see how this affects the 2020 fantasy value of the players involved along with others impacted in these three organizations.

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Mookie Betts Trade Analysis

Mookie Betts & David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Betts: This trade doesn’t move the needle much when it comes to the fantasy value of Mookie Betts. He goes from one hitter-friendly park for right-handed pull power in Fenway Park to another one in Dodger Stadium. With Betts’ pull rate sitting in the vicinity of 45% over the last few seasons, the move to Los Angeles shouldn’t affect his power output much at all. Additionally, he’s still going to have a dynamic lineup around him with the likes of Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, and others hitting behind him. Betts is still a locked-in top-10 player for fantasy leagues in 2020.

Price: On the surface, there’s always excitement when a talented pitcher goes from the American League to the National League. Heck, there’s excitement when ANY pitcher does. For now, there’s still no DH in the National League and getting to face a pitcher instead of Edwin Encarnacion or Nelson Cruz type players is always going to be beneficial. For his career, Price has a 3.42 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, and 9.4 K/9 against the National League and has pitched well again three of the other four NL West teams (5.23 ERA vs Colorado). With this move, I’m bumping Price slightly up my rankings from #42 for starting pitchers into the 35-40 range.

Alex Verdugo & Brusdar Graterol to the Red Sox

Verdugo: While Alex Verdugo has never been the flashiest player or prospect around, there’s a lot to like here when it comes to his fantasy value. First off, Verdugo is a professional hitter with above-average to plus contact skills and a solid plate approach. He hit .309 with a .368 OBP in the minors and has combined to hit .282 over parts of three seasons with the Dodgers. On top of that, Verdugo has proven to be very stingy with his strikeouts, posting a 13.7% strikeout rate with the Dodgers and 11.4% in the minors. His batting average potential is nice, but far from the only thing Verdugo brings to the table offensively.

On top of his .290-plus potential, Verdugo has shown above-average to plus raw power as well with enough speed to get into double-digit steal territory annually. He’s likely never going to be a player that is a sexy fantasy option, but the all-around offensive upside is sound and he’s going to have the likes of JD Martines, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers hitting behind him this year in Boston. Expect Verdugo’s ADP (currently 254.6) to rise a bit as we get closer to opening day. A lingering back issue still brings some concern heading into the season, but there’s a legit chance Verdugo flirts with top-100 overall value with everyday at-bats this season.

Graterol: This is an arm to get excited about if you’re a Red Sox fan. An electric right arm like this is going to make an impact in 2020, but in what role? Here’s my Graterol analysis from my Minnesota Twins top-25 prospect article.

“When it comes to electric arms, Brusdar Graterol’s is one of the most electric you’ll find at any level. That was put on full display down the stretch when he was chucking triple-digit gas out of the Minnesota pen down the stretch and into the playoffs. While throwing his fastball around 2/3 of the time with Minnesota, Graterol averaged 99 mph and mixed in a high-80’s slider with sharp two-plane tilt. While starting in the minors, Graterol would usually sit 95-97 on average, but this just shows how electric his right-arm can be when unleashed in shorter bullpen stint.

Now, this opens up the question of whether Graterol is a starter or reliever long-term. Honestly, he could succeed in either role with his FB/SL combination giving him closer upside. It will all depend on the development of his changeup and if he can keep his mechanics and command in check with his bigger 265-pound frame. Graterol doesn’t use his changeup too often and when he does, it’s usually harder and straighter in the low-90’s. If he can develop a better feel for it and create more velocity separation from his heater, that will go a long way in Graterol reaching his upside as a #2 starter.”

For 2020, I’d take a wait and see approach with Graterol to see how the Red Sox plan to use him this season. Price’s departure leaves an opening in the rotation, so hopefully, the Red Sox give him a chance to start.

Kenta Maeda to the Minnesota Twins

Moving from Los Angeles to Minnesota doesn’t change the fantasy value of Kenta Maeda much. He’s likely going to slot in #3 or #4 in Minnesota’s rotation and is merely a late-round fantasy option in mixed leagues. If anything, the move to the AL is a slight downgrade as Maeda has a 4.64 ERA in 81.2 innings against the American League. However, the AL Central, outside of the White Sox, isn’t an offensive hotbed so I don’t think we’ll see Maeda’s ERA totally crater. Still, he’s a late-round target at best.

Other Players Affected

Dodgers SPs Not Named Kershaw or Buehler: By this, I mostly mean Ross Stripling, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin. The top-3 in the Dodgers rotation is locked in with Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Price, which leaves five talented arms duking it out for the final two spots. Roster Resource currently has Alex Wood and Julio Urias in the last two spots which makes sense. To start 2020, I’d expect Stripling to remain in his swing role with GOnsolin and May either pitching out of the bullpen or starting down in Triple-A.

Red Sox Hitters: Losing a player like Betts from the top of your lineup is always going to sting and cause the value of the hitters behind him to take a hit. Mookie has a career .374 OBP and finished 2019 with a .391 mark. That, plus his baserunning abilities leaves a major hole atop the Red Sox lineup. Now, we’re still talking about highly-talented hitters like JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers, so I’m not expecting them to take a big value hit, but their RBI opportunities, on paper, take a hit. With that said, Verdugo has shown the ability to get on base at a solid clip throughout his professional career, so if the Red Sox decide to hit him high in the order, that would limit the sting a bit.

On the flip side, take everything I just said above and flip it around for Los Angeles Dodgers hitters. Sliding Betts in at leadoff give guys like Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and others a slight boost for 2020.

Randy Dobnak And/Or Devin Smeltzer: With Maeda in town, one of these two will likely be pushed to the bullpen. Neither has the stuff to stand out there so remaining in the rotation is crucial for any fantasy value that could have in 2020.

Media Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire, Fangraphs.

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