Most of my readers can attest to the love I had for Javy Vazquez before the 2009 season. As his numbers indicate, my love was well rewarded. My guy-love had reached such magnitudes, in fact, that I was thinking of keeping him in the ninth round of my most important league – a league where I usually draft batters in at least nine of the first 10 rounds.
Unfortunately, Frank Wren has screwed me again. Somehow, someway, I now hate the Yankees and the Braves even more. I honestly didn’t think this was possible. Seriously though, Melky Cabrera? C’mon!
But enough of my rants, you want to know how this deal affects the fantasy values of those involved. From this perspective, there are two players you should be thinking about: Javy Vazquez and Melky Cabrera.
At first blush, it would seem that Javy Vazquez’s fantasy value will plummet like 2009’s housing marketing. Moving from the NL to AL; moving from Atlanta to New York; moving from a decent pitcher’s park to a homerun haven; etc… I had just begun to do my pitcher rankings for next year and Vazquez was making a legitimate case to be a top 5 pitcher. That will no longer be the case. To illustrate:
Yin = NL Javy Vazquez, Yang = AL Javy Vazquez. The similarity between those numbers is surprising (or not, given they are the same person). From these numbers, it is clear Vazquez has been better in the National League, but not demonstrably better. However, there are two caveats – his two worst seasons were his first two seasons when he played for the Montreal Expos (where his K/9 rate never exceeded 7.3). The only time that rate was much lower was in 2004 (6.8) – oddly enough, when he pitched for the Yankees and made his only All-star Game. If you take out Vazquez’ first two seasons, his NL-only line looks like: 2,163 IPs, 3.98 ERA, 2,001 Ks, 113 ERA+ 1.22 WHIP, 1.1 HR/9 and 8.3 K/9. Not much better than his total NL numbers, but, still better.
Throughout his career, Vazquez has been incredibly durable – his lowest inning total since 2000 was 198 (while pitching for the Yankees). Since 2004, he has averaged 196 Ks a season, with his lowest total being 150 in 2004, also for the Yankees.
Despite the near across the board drop in his overall numbers, there is nothing to suggest that Vazquez was terribly unlucky in 2004. In fact, his BAbip was .274. Though his overall BAbip is in line with his career norms, Vazquez’s 2004 season was an exercise in the ups and downs common for many major league pitchers. The first half of his season was excellent (explaining his All-Star selection): 3.56 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 1.15 WHIP. As good as his first half was, his second half was equally disastrous: 6.92 ERA, 6.2 K/9, 1.49 WHIP. Looking behind the numbers, however, the reason for the great disparity in his two halves is clear. In the first half, his BAbip was .253. When his BAbip corrected itself in the second half (.303), his success disappeared.
This has been a long rambling numbers-oriented analysis – and it doesn’t appear the numbers have provided much of a conclusion. So, here goes: Vazquez’ preseason fantasy value takes a sizeable dip because of this trade. When you are drafting pitchers, the fewer question marks the better. This trade introduces a number of new question marks that did not exist with Vazquez yesterday (but did exist with him in 2004 when the Yankees shipped him to Arizona after the season). Vazquez can pitch and he will strike batters out, but can he do it as consistently as he did last season as a Brave, without a pitcher in the line-up?
I’m saying no.
This doesn’t mean Vazquez is unownable or useless; it does mean that he probably won’t crack my top 20 pitchers and should be more of mid round selection. If you are a gambling man, roll the dice and snag him a few rounds before his ADP. Off the cuff, I see his ADP being around guys like Josh Johnson, Wandy Rodriguez, Matt Garza and Chad Billingsley. All things being equal, I’d take the upside/league of Johnson and Billingsley over Vazquez, but take Vazquez’ strikeouts over Garza and Wandy’s fragility.
Cabrera goes from a homer-friendly outfield to a murky bigger outfield. He should, initially, get consistent playing time. Despite the trade, Cabrera is not completely locked into a starting job; be mindful of Jason Heyward. Still, it’s not like the Braves have tremendous outfielders as Matt Diaz is more of a platoon-able guy than a starter. The job, more likely than not, is Cabrera’s to lose.
Initially, I ranked Cabrera around outfielders like Chase Headley, Seth Smith, David DeJesus, and Marlon Byrd. In the AL, Cabrera has managed a .331 OBP, .385 SLG and .716 OPS. He has also managed to steal 44/58 bases (75 percent). This success should give him a longer leash in Atlanta. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Cabrera becomes a 12 HR, 20 SB player. There is a lot of value in that. Oddly enough, when you look at players historically who had similar statistics at this point in their career, Cabrera compares favorably to Johnny Damon and Jose Guillen.
Cabrera should be on people’s radars more than normal this year, as a potential top 18 round pick. Though if he doesn’t win a starting position, be prepared to cut bait early.