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Thanksgiving is over, meaning that it is officially time to start preparing for 2018 fantasy baseball drafts!

This column usually uses sabermetrics to determine whether a given player is worth his current cost, but draft data isn't reliable this early in the offseason. Instead, we'll do a deep dive on the lesser offseason transactions.

Players such as Ryon Healy and Doug Fister don't get the headlines of Giancarlo Stanton and Yu Darvish, but the players nobody is thinking about are frequently responsible for winning fantasy titles. With that said, let's take a look at how the new address will impact the players above. Will these players find instant success or struggle to fit in?

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Ryon Healy (1B/3B, SEA)

Healy posted a solid fantasy campaign last year, slashing .271/.302/.451 with 25 HR over 605 PAs. His power was somewhat surprising considering his minor league track record, which had 16 at High-A as the highest number in the HR column until 2017. That's deceiving, however, as he crushed eight homers in 164 PAs at Double-A in 2016, six more in 210 Triple-A PAs, and 13 over 283 MLB PAs to close out the year. That adds up to 27 HR total, accurately foreshadowing his 2017 performance.

A closer look reveals that Healy does not offer exceptional raw power, as his 15.1% HR/FB and 93.2 mph average airborne exit velocity both rank as slightly above average. Instead, Healy hits an above average number of fly balls (38.4% career FB%) and relies on volume to produce his dingers. This approach is actually more sustainable than a rookie counting on an elevated HR/FB to produce his pop, so 25 HR would make for a reasonable 2018 projection if everything else held constant.

He's changing stadiums, so everything else is not constant. Ballpark Factors are a quantifiable way to measure how much a given stadium influenced a player's line. The league average is set to 100, with every point above or below that representing a change of two percent to acknowledge that any given player plays only half of his games at home. This data is available from a variety of sources, and I'll be using the Baseball Prospectus version because it includes platoon splits.

Using Baseball Prospectus's Ballpark Factors, Oakland's ballpark slightly increased right-handed power numbers last year with a 102 mark. Seattle curtailed right-handed pop with a HR Factor of 94. Given constant playing time, it is reasonable to conclude that the move to Seattle will cut Healy's HR production by approximately 15 percent next year, decreasing his projection to 22 long balls.

This does not mean that the move is bad for Healy, as playing time was not assured in Oakland. Matt Olson looked like a better version of Healy last year, so first base is accounted for. The A's loved third baseman Matt Chapman's glovework last season, so third is also occupied. Khris Davis is entrenched in the lineup and fits best at DH. Finally, Mark Canha could have been a viable alternative to Healy if any of the above players slumped or went on the disabled list.

By contrast, Healy seems to have Seattle's first base job all to himself. The team wouldn't have traded for him if they thought Dan Vogelbach had anything left to offer, and Taylor Motter is best deployed as a utility guy. The presence of Kyle Seager likely means that Healy loses 3B eligibility after 2018, but that is of little concern in redraft leagues. Thus, the trade lowers Healy's power ceiling while simultaneously raising his floor with virtually assured playing time.

A multi-position eligible 20-HR bat is a nice piece for your bench in daily transaction formats, but there is some batting average risk here. Healy's K% (23.5%) and SwStr% (12%) aren't bad in the modern game, but a total lack of patience could get exploited moving forward (3.8% BB%, 35.8% chase rate).

His .271 average also relied on a .296 BABIP on ground balls unsupported by either foot speed (26.7 ft/second according to Statcast's sprint speed metric) or average exit velocity on ground balls (84 mph, 145th of 387 players with at least 100 batted balls last year). This probably drives his .319 BABIP closer to .295 or so, especially if he continues to avoid line drives (19.3% career LD%).

Healy is only 25 years old, so he could have upside beyond his statistical profile. Even if he doesn't, a .260 average with 20+ HR and positional versatility make him an intriguing sleeper in AL-Only formats and a viable bench option in any league with daily transactions. If he's an afterthought on Draft Day, embrace his solid value.

Verdict: Champ

 

Doug Fister (SP, TEX)

Fister's 5-9 record and 4.88 ERA over 90.1 IP aren't great on paper, but there was a stretch where he recaptured the magic he had in Detroit. His K% surged (14.8% in 2016, 21.2% last year) thanks to a velocity spike (87 mph vs. 89.8 mph), making a slight uptick in walks (8% to 9.7%) more palatable than it would have been otherwise. The former ground ball specialist also posted his best GB% (50.6%) since 2013's 54.3% mark. He might be a viable fantasy option again!

Sadly, he probably isn't. Texas pitching lives and dies by its GB%, as the Texas heat boosted Arlington's HR Factor to 103 for RHB and 105 for LHB in 2017. Any GB% regression at all will make Fister unrosterable in all but the deepest of formats.

On the bright side, Texas's infield defense defense projects better than Boston's does. Mitch Moreland was great behind Fister last year (10 Defensive Runs Saved), but 2B Dustin Pedroia was below average (-2), SS Xander Bogaerts was a disaster (-11), and a revolving door of third basemen collectively compiled -3 DRS between them.

Over in Arlington, Adrian Beltre is still a wizard with the glove (six DRS) despite playing only 552 1/3 defensive innings, and middle infielders Elvis Andrus and Roughned Odor compiled three DRS each. Joey Gallo is nearly a scratch defender at first (-1 DRS), but falls apart if asked to fill in for Beltre at third (-4).

Fister is pretty good at limiting Barrels (4.9% Brls/BBE last year, 4.5% the year before), but his average airborne exit velocity skyrocketed last season (91.7 mph to 93.4). The Rangers are below average defenders in the outfield, compiling -5 Outs Above Average for 19th in the league. The Red Sox ranked third with 18 OAA, so Fister will feel the downgrade in outfield defense.

You also need to ask how much Fister can help you when he's good. His K% last year was still below league average, a situation unlikely to change when your curveball's 12.3% SwStr% is the best in your arsenal. Worse, his curve's 40.2% Zone% and 40.5% chase rate are both bad for a pitcher's best offering. He stopped throwing his slider entirely last year, leaving the curve as the only non-fastball in his repertoire.

Fister throws a million different fastballs, including a poor split-finger (38.5% Zone%, 30% chase, 6.9% SwStr%), weak sinker (50.5% Zone%, 51.9% GB%), and show-me four-seamers and two-seamers. His cutter displayed some promise (10.6% SwStr%, 60% GB%, .153/.200/.271 line) in increased usage (5.2% in 2016, 16.5% last year), but its 40.4% Zone% and 32.1% chase rate make it tough to rely upon in the future. Overall, Fister's stuff is fringe at best, even with better velocity.

Texas signed Fister for a paltry sum in MLB terms, so they have a reasonable chance to profit on their investment. The same can not be said for your fantasy team even if you land him for the minimum bid. His value just doesn't translate to the fantasy game.

Verdict: Chump

 

More 2018 Player Outlooks

 

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