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Joe Musgrove to the Padres - Fantasy Impact

The San Diego Padres have made yet another trade for starting pitching, as news broke on Monday of a three-team, seven-player deal that will send Joe Musgrove back home to sunny Southern California. Here's how the deal breaks down:

Padres receive: RHP Joe Musgrove
Mets receive: LHP Joey Lucchesi
Pirates receive: (from Padres) OF Hudson Head, RHP David Bednar, LHP Omar Cruz, RHP Drake Fellows; (from Mets) C/OF Endy Rodriguez

So the Padres bolstered an already stacked starting rotation, the Mets take a chance on a back-end starter coming off a down year, and the Pirates restock their farm system with five prospects — including four who slot into the team's Top-30 prospect list. Out of all the guys involved in this deal, Musgrove will likely be the only one with any impact in fantasy in 2021. We'll focus on what to expect out of him, but we'll also take a look at the potential from Lucchesi for this year as well as the long-term dynasty implications from the Pirates' haul. But first, what will Musgrove do in the NL West?

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Musgrove in San Diego

Throughout his five-year career, Musgrove has been a solid back-of-the-rotation starter with good strikeout numbers. The 4.33 ERA leaves something to be desired, but he has maintained a career 22.3 percent strikeout rate and has never posted a single-season rate below 20.5 percent. His first full season of work came in 2019, where he went 11-12 for the Pirates with a 4.44 ERA and 157 strikeouts over 170.1 innings. Musgrove's 3.82 FIP, 4.31 xFIP and 3.50 SIERA suggest he pitched better than his ERA showed, but his 6.2 percent barrel rate was the worst of his career and his 38.6 percent hard-hit rate was the second-worst of his career.

Things really seemed to click for Musgrove in 2020, as he had a career-year with a 3.86 ERA, 33.1 percent strikeout rate, 14.4 percent swinging strike rate and 68.9 percent contact rate. His Statcast numbers also showed improvement in 2020, with his 85.1 mph average exit velocity and his 32.3 percent hard-hit rate career-bests while his 5.4 percent barrel rated tied for second-best in his career.

But one area of concern managers should keep an eye on with Musgrove is his increasing launch angle and home run per fly ball rate:

Launch Angle HR/FB
2017 9.9 16.4%
2018 10.6 10.2%
2019 11.7 11.7%
2020 12.5 17.2%

Now keep in mind, Musgrove did have career-high marks despite the increasing launch angle and HR/FB rate. But it is something managers should take note of when looking at his potential future value.

Along with that, there should be some concern with Musgrove going up against tougher opponents in the NL West. Since 2019, Pirates divisional opponents have averaged 4.56 runs per game with the 2019 Cubs the only team to average more than five runs per game. Over that same span in the NL West though, Padres divisional opponents have averaged 4.96 runs per game with the 2019 Rockies and Diamondbacks averaging over five runs per game while the Dodgers hit that mark in both 2019 and 2020.

On the plus side though, Musgrove will go from being supported by the worst offense in the majors to a top-five offense in San Diego. Considering the fact he went 1-5 in 2020 despite allowing more than three runs in only two of his eight starts, a boost in team offense will be a welcome sight for Musgrove and fantasy managers alike.


Lucchesi in New York

After showing some promise in his first two seasons, Lucchesi struggled in 2020 — making just three appearances and spending most of the year at the Padres' alternate site. Take it with a grain of salt due to small sample size, but over 5.2 innings, Lucchesi posted a 7.94 ERA with hitters teeing off him to the tune of a .448 batting average. His .542 BABIP suggests he was extraordinarily unlucky in his limited time on the mound, but his .362 xBA doesn't exactly make managers feel much better. There was no noticeable dip in his velocity, and his 13.8 percent swinging strike rate, 70.2 percent contact rate and 20.8 percent hard-hit rates were all career-bests. So all of that suggests that 2020 was somewhat fluky for Lucchesi.

As of right now, Fangraphs RosterResource is projecting Lucchesi to likely start the year at Triple-A, but if he breaks the Mets' roster there should be no doubting his strikeout potential as he averaged 150 strikeouts over his first two years with a 24.6 percent strikeout rate in that time. He would also get the benefit of going against the slightly weaker NL East, as Mets' divisional opponents averaged 4.87 runs per game over the last two seasons compared to the Padres' divisional opponents that averaged 4.96 runs per game in that span.


Pirates Prospect-Palooza

The Pirates are in rebuild mode and they got quite a bit of help in their future plans with this trade. Head is the centerpiece in this deal for Pittsburgh, as he now ranks as the No. 6 prospect in their system according to MLB Pipeline. A third-round pick out of Winston Churchill High School in 2019, Head slashed .283/.383/.417 with three triples, a home run, 12 RBI and three steals in the Arizona League while posting a 20.6 percent strikeout rate and 10.6 percent walk rate. Scouts like his raw power and his speed, which could bode well for future fantasy value. Pittsburgh has some solid outfield prospects in its system, but Head could quickly climb the ladder and potentially reach the majors within the next four years if he can translate that potential into results.

The other three guys to crack MLB Pipeline's Top-30 list for Pittsburgh are Cruz, Rodriguez, and Bednar. Cruz has been a strikeout machine in his two seasons in the minors, posting a 32.5 percent strikeout rate across 98.1 innings in 22 starts. He doesn't throw hard, but he has solid command of his pitches and is projected to be a back-end starter or potentially a bullpen arm.

Rodriguez has yet to play above Rookie level, slashing .276/.389/.452 over two seasons with four homers and six steals while playing behind the plate and in the outfield.

The only player Pittsburgh acquired in this deal with major league experience, Bednar has a 6.75 ERA with a 23.8 percent strikeout rate over 17.1 innings with San Diego. Bednar pitched solely out of the bullpen in his minor league career, posting a 2.70 ERA and a 33 percent strikeout rate over four seasons. Unlike the other players Pittsburgh received, Bednar is projected to make the Opening Day roster this season.

Rounding out the Pirates' haul is Fellows — a sixth-round pick in the 2019 Draft out of Vanderbilt who has yet to toss an inning of pro-ball. Fellows led the SEC with 13 wins and was second with 133 strikeouts in 2019, but there were some command issues too as he also led the conference with 17 wild pitches and 17 hit batters.


Fantasy Bottom Line

Out of all the players involved in this deal, Musgrove will most likely be the only one relevant in any format in 2021. Based on what we've gone over, managers should expect Musgrove to post an ERA somewhere close to 4.00 along with a strikeout rate of about 22 percent — or about 160 strikeouts in a full season. His current ADP sits at 144, which is about where managers should look to target him, but the argument could be made to grab him over some starters who are currently going ahead of him like Sandy Alcantara (134 ADP) or Charlie Morton (132).

Lucchesi is essentially not being drafted with an ADP of 678. The move to the Mets could bring a slight boost to his fantasy value when he pitches, but for now best case scenario he looks to be a high-upside streaming option if and when he gets a start.

Head and Cruz are the two prospects that dynasty league managers should focus on for the time being, but they likely are several years away from actually contributing. Rodriguez and Fellows are worth keeping an eye on, but their ETA is likely even further in the future than Head and Cruz. Bednar should get playing time in the majors this year, but his value is extremely limited outside of the deepest of formats.

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