Tue, Jul 31, 2012
Tuesday’s MLB trade deadline featured a few surprises, but none greater than the Texas Rangers’ acquisition of Ryan Dempster.
The 35-year-old is enjoying a career year, and was perhaps the most talked about player on the sports betting market. After Dempster nixed a deal to the Braves last week and trade talks between the Cubs and Dodgers fell apart as the deadline approached, the Rangers swooped in Tuesday afternoon and landed him for two prospects: third baseman Christian Villanueva and right-hander Kyle Hendricks.
First, let’s take a look at how the move to Texas might affect Dempster’s fantasy value.
Dempster is in his 15th major-league season, fifth as a starter for the Cubs (he also served as the team’s closer for three years). After perhaps his most disappointing season in 2011 (4.80 ERA), Dempster has a would-be career-best 2.25 ERA and an uncharacteristically low 2.34 walk rate (4.05 career) in 104 innings (16 starts) this year.
But that’s not the whole story.
Although Dempster’s 2011 ERA would have you believe otherwise, he actually wasn’t that bad last year. In fact, his 3.91 FIP was almost identical to that of his 2010 (3.99 FIP) and 2009 (3.87 FIP) seasons. His 2011 strikeout rate (8.50) was the second-best in his career as a starter, and while his walk rate (3.65) wasn’t great, it was well-below his career mark.
Three things stand out from Dempster’s 2011 campaign: A .324 BABIP (career .301) , a 79.6 contact rate (career 75.9) and a slight dip in his average fastball velocity (91.0 mph in ’10 to 90.3 mph in ’11).
Fast-forward to 2012. Dempster’s strikeout rate (7.18) is way down and his contact rate (78.8) is basically unchanged. His line-drive rate is way up from last year (20.8 to 24.4) and his average fastball velocity — after dropping 0.07 mph from 2010 to 2011, is down another 0.09 mph, to 89.4. And yet, his ERA is down two-and-a-half runs? It doesn’t add up.
These numbers should raise red flags — especially the velocity, when you consider he’s throwing sliders at a rate of 39.3 percent. Dempster’s N.L.-low .242 BABIP and second-highest 84.8 left-on-base rate have certainly helped his cause. Unfortunately, these numbers are simply unsustainable.
Especially in Texas.
Dempster goes from Wrigley Field (0.973 HR park factor, according to ESPN) to Arlington Park, whose 1.116 HR park factor is much more in favor of hitters than Wrigley’s. Dempster now has to face the designated hitter and generally superior lineups in the American League. Although he’s never pitched in the A.L., he has faced a few A.L. West division foes in the past, such as Albert Pujols, who’s 18-for-55 (.327) lifetime vs. Dempster with seven HRs and 11 walks. Demspter’s career numbers against the other Angels, Mariners and Athletics are mostly against inactive players, or those who now play for another team.
To sum up: the immediate future isn’t too bright for Ryan Dempster and his fantasy owners. Not only is his current rate vs. inferior N.L. lineups unsustainable, but the level of competition he’ll face in the A.L. will be much greater. And his new home ballpark is a hitter’s paradise. Dempster’s new offense might support him with more wins (he had just five with the Cubs, despite the league’s second-best ERA), but expect no better than a mid-3.00 ERA over the last few months. Serviceable? Yes, he should be. But ace-like? No. If you can get someone to pay for the value his current ERA reflects, take it and run.
Now, for you dynasty league owners who are curious about the prospects in the deal:
Kyle Hendricks was the Rangers’ eighth-round pick in 2011. After posting impressive numbers out of the bullpen between Low-A and Double-A last year (2.02 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 9.6 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9), Hendricks has handled his transition to the rotation well this season at High-A: 2.82 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.7 K/9 and 1.0 BB/9.
Hendricks is already 22-years-old, however, so those numbers aren’t necessarily too impressive in High-A. He didn’t rank among the Rangers’ top 30 prospects in January.
Baseball America’s Conor Glassey profiled Hendricks last week. The right-hander works in the 87-89 mph range and features four-seam and two-seam fastballs, a change-up, a curve ball and a slider. Though his control is very good, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus says Hendricks will face a tough challenge in the high levels without an out pitch.
Third baseman Christian Villanueva (signed out of Mexico) ranked as the eighth-best prospect in the Rangers’ farm system (100 overall) this winter, according to Baseball America.
He hit .278/.338/.465 with 50 extra-base hits (17 homers) and 32 steals as a 20-year-old in 529 plate appearances at Low-A Hickory last season. This year with High-A Myrtle Beach, the 21-year-old is batting .285/.356/.421 with 40 extra-base hits (10 homers) and nine steals in 425 plate appearances.
Scouting report from Baseball America:
“Villanueva has a short, compact swing with a balanced load and good bat control. He has an advanced approach at the plate, though he can get pull happy at times. There are mixed opinions on his power, as he presently has line-drive sock but some scouts see at least average potential…He’s an easy plus defender.”
Fantasy owners probably won’t see Villanueva until the 2014 season at the earliest. But for Cubs fans, here’s an interesting tidbit: BA graded Villanueva as a 60/high risk prospect over the winter, suggesting he has the ceiling of a first-division regular but isn’t necessarily a safe bet to reach it. Randall Delgado, who the Cubs would have received in a proposed trade with the Braves, was given a 60/medium risk grade by BA.
Image courtesy of: theseoduke via flickr