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Tommy Pham To Rays - Fantasy Implications

In what has to be classified as one of the more confusing trades during this year's crazy trade deadline, The St. Louis Cardinals shipped outfielder Tommy Pham to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for left-handed pitcher Genesis Cabrera, outfielder Justin Williams, and right-handed pitcher Roel Ramirez.

The Rays, in addition to Pham, receive $500,000 in international bonus money as part of the deal.

What does the Cardinal outfield look like now and which players could benefit most from this trade, including Pham himself?

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The Cardinal Way Out

Tommy Pham has failed to live up to expectations so far in 2018, but to be fair the bar was set very high following the monster year he had with the Cardinals in 2017.  Last year, Pham put up a .306/.411/.520 line, adding 23 home runs, 73 RBI, and 25 stolen bases.  So far this season, Pham has a .248/.331/.339 line, with 14 home runs, 41 RBI, and 10 stolen bases.  Taking a look at his non-surface number metrics only serve to further cloud his fantasy projections.  His walk rate (10.6%) is great, his strikeout rate (24.5%) is subpar, his ISO (.151) is the lowest of his career, and his Hard Hit % (47.5%) is the highest of his career by far.

There are a few things we know for sure when it comes to Pham's rest-of-season fantasy outlook.  First, he will be an everyday starter for the Rays, most likely in left field.  This assures that he will receive ample opportunity to produce, especially if he slots in somewhere toward the top of the batting order.  Secondly, we know that Pham is capable of a 20 homer / 20 stolen base season because he just did it last year.  That is the immense power-speed combo that fantasy owners salivate over, and though his numbers this year haven't been up to par, he is still well on his way to 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases - which are significant numbers in all fantasy formats.  Pham has a career batting average of .271, and his 2018 BABIP sits at a career-low .303, so one can expect his batting average to adjust in due time.  It's probably time to give up on the hope that Pham will return to his 2017 form, but with the change of scenery with his new team and an expectation that his batting average will rise at least a little, Pham is still a very serviceable outfielder in fantasy baseball.

The Cardinals outfield rotation won't change much with the loss of Tommy Pham.  Marcell Ozuna will continue to play left field, Harrison Bader will play center field, and Dexter Fowler will keep his spot in right field. 23-year-old Tyler O'Neill will step in as the fourth outfielder, and Cardinals president John Mozeliak has stated that O'Neill and Harrison Bader will split the center field position 50/50.

Marcell Ozuna has had a relatively quiet 2018 season, at least when compared to his 37 home run, 124 RBI campaign last year with the Miami Marlins.  This year, he's slashing .268/.312/.396 with 13 home runs, 58 RBI, and 43 runs scored.  He has been heating up as of late, however.  In the last seven games, Ozuna is hitting .300/.323/.633 with three home runs, seven RBI, and four runs scored.  He has hit homers in three straight games.  Ozuna is a firm hold in all fantasy formats due to his recent form and home run and RBI upside.

Harrison Bader has been pretty mediocre so far in the MLB.  In 2018, he is slashing .265/.338/.400 with six home runs, 15 RBI, and 34 runs scored in 200 at-bats.  He has a 29.2% strikeout rate, which is just terrible.  Bader does have one thing going for him, however, and that is his speed.  He has nine steals in 11 attempts, which is a fair amount considering he has had about half the at-bats of an everyday MLB player.  That being said, Tyler O'Neill will still be pilfering Bader's playing time, and that likely saps most of the fantasy value from both players.  Bader is viable in deep leagues that value stolen bases, but be aware that he won't help in most other categories and also still doesn't have an everyday role.

Dexter Fowler is experiencing the most disappointing fantasy season among all of the Cardinals outfielders, as he's slashing just .179/.274/.301 with eight homers, 30 RBI, 39 runs scored, and five steals on the year.  His .575 OPS is embarrassingly low, while his 22.1% strikeout rate and .121 ISO also leave much to be desired.  On the plus side, he does have a great 10.9% walk rate and seems to still have a tiny bit of the power/speed category juice that he is (was) known for.  Projection sites have him finishing with around 13 homers and 8 steals.  If that doesn't get you excited...well, it shouldn't.  He's having a terrible year and should only be on a roster in the very deepest of NL-only leagues.

Tyler O'Neill has seen very limited MLB action, slashing .227/.255/..455 with three homers, seven RBI, and eight runs scored in his 44 at-bats in 2018.  His batting average, on-base percentage, walk rate (2.1%), and strikeout rate (42.6%) are all terrible but figure to normalize as he registers more at-bats.  He is not a player to target in fantasy for the time being, although he could have keeper league value.

To summarize, it seems that Tommy Pham's situation won't be that much different, at least fantasy-wise, than it was in St. Louis.  He will continue to be an everyday starter and will hit toward the top of the lineup.  The Rays are surprisingly close to the Cardinals in terms of offensive production this year, so I don't believe his counting stat production takes a significant hit.  Similarly, the Cardinals outfield situation doesn't change much as a result of this trade.  Marcell Ozuna and Dexter Fowler will resume their regular roles in left and right field, respectively, while Tyler O'Neill was called up to platoon with Harrison Bader in a 50/50 split in centerfield.


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