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Juan Soto Traded To Yankees - Fantasy Baseball Impacts for All Players Involved

On Tuesday, the New York Yankees threw some kindling into the proverbial "hot stove" by trading for Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo. On Wednesday, they threw a giant log doused in lighter fluid into that stove when they traded for San Diego Padres star outfielder, Juan Soto.

Soto was one of a few big names expected to find a new home in the coming days and weeks, along with the Angels' Shohei Ohtani and Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The Yankees are rumored to be in contention for Yamamoto's services as well.

Soto's bat will bring some much-needed aid to a lineup that was offensively challenged in 2023, and Soto's trademark bravado should fit right into a city known for its own chest-thumping braggadocio.

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Juan Soto Trade Details

Yankees Acquire: OF Juan Soto, OF Trent Grisham

In Soto, the Yankees get one of the premier bats in all of Major League Baseball. He's a three-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger award winner, and 2019 World Series champion. He was second in NL MVP voting in 2021, and despite a sluggish start to 2023, Soto still finished sixth in NL MVP voting. The plan is to play him in right field, although he's not known for his defense.

Grisham, on the other hand, does bring defense with him, having won two Gold Glove awards -- the most recent being in 2022. He doesn't contribute much on offense, but he is one of those baseball oddities that has "reverse-splits" -- meaning that as a left-handed hitter, he hits LHP better than RHP (career .242 vs LHP, .207 vs RHP).

Padres Acquire: RHP Michael King, RHP Drew Thorpe, RHP Randy Vasquez, RHP Jhony Brito, C Kyle Higashioka

The Yankees were reluctant to let go of King initially, and for good reason. He had an under-the-radar good season in 2023 and looks like a good middle-of-the-rotation pitcher.

Drew Thorpe is a 6'4" right-handed pitcher and former second-round pick in the 2022 draft. He's the 99th-rated prospect on MLB.com's Top 100 list.

Randy Vasquez was somewhat effective in his limited MLB action in 2023. He appeared in 11 games and made five starts, posting a 2-2 record with a 2.87 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 37.2 IP.

Jhony Brito appeared in 25 games and made 13 starts for the Yankees in 2023. The righty posted a 9-7 record with a 4.28 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

Catcher Kyle Higashioka is a 33-year-old veteran. As with most catchers these days, he doesn't bring a lot of offense to the table but provided a batting average and wOBA more or less in line with the major league average for backstops in 2023 (.236 and .302, respectively).


Juan Soto's Fantasy Baseball Impact

Juan Soto's impact on the Yankees offense should be immense. Can he alone make them a playoff team? Probably not, but with the addition of Verdugo and maybe a good pitcher like Yamamoto, this team could be much more formidable of an opponent in 2024 than the 82-80 team we saw in 2023.

Soto is known for his keen eye at the plate, and he'll bring over a career OBP of .421 to the lineup. The Yankees as a team had an OBP of .304 in 2023, which was fourth-lowest in the entire league. If not for Aaron Judge's .406 OBP in 2023, it would have been much worse.

With his keen eye, he racks up a ton of walks. For his career, he's got 640 walks to just 577 strikeouts. In today's game, that is almost unheard of, where batting average and K's are sacrificed for launch angle and home runs. Projected to hit in the two-hole in front of Aaron Judge, he should surely see his run totals spike back up into the 100+ range that he last reached in his near-MVP 2021 season when he scored 111 times.

Over the final 29 games of 2022, Soto hit just .220 and it looked like the malaise of '22 carried into '23 as he hit .202 through the first 29 games. Soto ended 2023 batting .275 but hit .340 over the final 27 games, so look for him to carry that momentum into 2024.

The "short porch" in Yankee Stadium's right field is garnering a lot of attention since Soto is a lefty. Because he's got four HR in 23 career ABs there, some might expect it to boost his HR total. That could be true if Soto were more of a pull hitter, but per BaseballSavant.com, he's a career 32.9% pull hitter, whereas the major league average is 37.0%. In fact, Mike Petriello of MLB.com points out that based on field dimensions and other factors, Soto would have had fewer home runs in '23 had he played for New York.

He likely still hits around 35 regardless, although per FanGraphs, Steamer and FGDC project him to hit 38 and 39 homers, respectively.

Long story short, Soto will remain an elite hitter in 2024 with potential to improve on his 2023 numbers. He's currently going around 14th overall in early 2024 drafts, which seems fairly priced seeing as though he doesn't contribute much in the stolen base department. Even with the advantages given to baserunners in 2023 as a result of rule changes (i.e. base size, disengagements), Soto only matched his career high for SBs, swiping a total of 12 bags in 2023.

As for Trent Grisham, he will likely not be an everyday player with Verdugo in LF, Judge in CF, and Soto in RF, but if that short porch will help anyone, it should help Grisham. He's a career 41.7% pull hitter, almost 5% above the league average. As for fantasy, he's not rosterable unless there's an injury to one of the regulars. He's averaged 15 HR per year over the last three years with regular playing time.

Michael King could be a sneaky value this season. He's currently coming off the board around 145th overall and the 40th starting pitcher taken, near the likes of Shane Bieber, Gavin Williams, and Chris Bassitt. He pitched some as a reliever in 2023, but as a starter (what he's projected to be for the Padres), he had a 2.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 11.38 K/9, and a high-end K-BB% of 25.8%.

Drew Thorpe has an MLB debut ETA of 2025, per MLB.com's Top Prospects list, but with his high K rates (182 K in 139.1 IP) and low ERA/WHIP (2.52/0.98), fantasy managers should keep him on their radar in the event he gets the call in 2024. And he should certainly already be on dynasty managers' radar.

Randy Vasquez projects as the fourth starter in the Padres rotation as of now, per FanGraphs, barring any additional deals and, of course, spring training competition. The righty put up respectable numbers in limited action during 2023: 11 games, five starts, 2.87 ERA, and 1.27 WHIP in 37.2 IP. He'll need to bring down the number of walks though, having issued 18 free passes versus just 33 K. Until he's confirmed as a starter in 2024, he'll be off the fantasy radar.

Jhony Brito flashed at times in 2023, including his first two starts where he gave up just five hits and one earned run over 10 IP. By season's end, however, Brito was coming out of the bullpen for the Yankees. He ended with a 4.28 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP to go along with 28 BB and 72 K in 90.1 IP. As of now, Brito is projected to be a reliever for the Padres and has no fantasy value unless he's thrust into the closer role or can drastically improve the ERA and WHIP numbers.

Kyle Higashioka offers little fantasy relevance as the lesser offensive option and backup to frontline catcher, Luis Campusano.

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