David Shovein

Offseason Lowdown

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Lowdown: Manny on the Move

Monday, January 29, 2018


Manny on the Move


Finally, Manny Machado is on the move!


No, the Orioles’ superstar hasn’t been traded, not yet at least, but he is moving around on the diamond. O’s manager Buck Showalter announced at the club’s FanFest on Saturday that Machado will shift over to shortstop for the upcoming season.


The 25-year-old is entering the final season of his rookie contract with the Orioles and is primed to cash on in the free agent market after the 2018 season. This has led to rampant rumor and speculation that the O’s will deal him for the best return they can get, rather than letting him walk after the season and recuperating a mere compensation pick in return.


Machado has made it clear this winter that his desire is to play shortstop, his natural position. He has spent the majority of his first six seasons in the big leagues playing third base instead, and doing so as one of the best defenders in all of baseball. He has taken home the American League Gold Glove at the position twice already, once in 2013 and again in 2015.


By granting his wish and allowing him to play his desired position, perhaps it gives the Orioles’ front office a little more leverage when attempting to negotiate a long-term contract extension to keep Machado in Baltimore. It certainly can’t hurt their chances.


What the move will do for certain, is give a boost to Machado’s already sky-high fantasy value. On average, Machado has been the 19th player off the board in early NFBC drafts, behind only Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant at the third base position. That number will start to rise based on this announcement. Only one shortstop, Trea Turner, is being selected ahead of him in drafts. The fact that he’ll gain dual-eligibility early in the season (after 10 games in NFBC leagues, less through other fantasy providers), is mighty appealing.


While there’s no doubt that Machado has the skillset to handle the transition to shortstop, he isn’t the only player who is changing occupations with this news. Tim Beckham, who had been slated to open the season as the Orioles’ starting shortstop, will now shift to third base. Showalter talked to Beckham on Friday and discussed the move, and Beckham seemed receptive. How that transition will work though, is unknown. Whereas Machado has extensive experience at the shortstop position in his career, Beckham has logged just nine big league games at the hot corner.


Beckham told the O’s faithful at FanFest on Saturday, "I'm open to [moving to third base], especially if it helps the team… The end goal is to win ballgames and we don't want to lose sight of that. I don't want to make this a big deal. I'll just transition over there, continue to make the plays and be consistent."


As long as the move works from a defensive perspective for the Orioles, it’s an added boost to the fantasy appeal of both players. Beckham is already shortstop-eligible, which is the much more scarce and harder to fill position, but gaining eligibility at third base helps his cause as well.


Beckham’s early ADP sits at pick 272, which puts him in the 19th round of 15-team formats. Remember, he lit the world on fire after joining the Orioles in a mid-season deal in 2017, slashing .306/.348/.523 with 10 homers, 26 RBI and a stolen base in only 50 games. He’ll again get the benefit of playing his home games in the hitter-friendly confines of Camden Yards and there have been rumblings that he’s going to begin the season as the Orioles’ leadoff hitter. He’s a player that I love heading into 2018, especially at that ADP.




Closer by Committee


Mickey Callaway is getting his first shot at a managerial job this year, taking the helm of the Mets after seven seasons of Terry Collins leading the way. Callaway made a name for himself, and earned widespread respect from around the league, for the way he developed and handled the Indians’ pitching staff as the Tribe’s pitching coach from 2013-2017.


Now, he could be changing the game by bringing with him a facet of bullpen utilization that he employed while in Cleveland.


Callaway told MLB.com’s Jon Morosi on Friday that he will use a closer-by-committee approach to begin the season. Specifically, the 42-year-old skipper said "I don't think we're going to name a closer to start the season. We want to make sure everyone is pitching when they have the best chance to be successful." It’s a strategy that worked wonders for the Indians, and frustrated many fantasy owners, when they split the closing duties between Cody Allen and Andrew Miller depending on matchups in the ninth inning.


From a real baseball perspective, it makes a ton of sense. Getting the final three outs of a ballgame, when beginning the ninth inning with a clean slate and no one on base, aren’t always the highest-leverage or most important outs to get in a ballgame. It’s a much more difficult spot for example, to come on in the eighth inning with a runner on second base and only one out, and to record two outs while stranding that runner.


In this mold, some forward-thinking coaches and organizations, tend to use their best relievers in those situations, rather than in the traditional closer’s role. While many managers have said in the past that they’ll utilize their bullpens in a similar manner, most don’t end up following through. It will be interesting to see if the first-time skipper sticks to his guns and rides it out for the entire season.


If that’s indeed the case, it hurts the fantasy value of Jeurys Familia, who was the most likely candidate to win the ninth-inning gig to start the season. As of Friday, his average draft position in NFBC leagues sat at 168, putting him 18th among closers. I expect that number to fall in the coming weeks based on Callaway’s declaration.


On the flip side, it should boost the fantasy stock of A.J. Ramos, as he’s the most likely to share the closer’s gig with Familia. Ramos has an early ADP of 368, a number that should jump considerably now that he’s going to be seeing occasional save chances. In 15-team leagues, saves are an extremely valuable commodity, and any shot at getting them is worth taking.


As if the waters weren’t muddied up enough though, Callaway went even further to say that Anthony Swarzak and Jerry Blevins could also get the ball with the game on the line. To me, that sounds more like coach speak, and a guy wanting to let his bullpen know that he trusts and believes in each and every member. In reality, I expect Familia and Ramos to handle most of the chances, perhaps with one of them running away with the job if the demonstrate success early in the season.




Diamondbacks land Neftali Feliz


The Diamondbacks made a low-risk signing to bolster the back-end of their bullpen on Sunday, agreeing to terms with Neftali Feliz on a minor league deal that also includes an invitation to spring training.


The 29-year-old hurler had been pursued by several clubs in recent weeks including the Giants, Cubs, Braves, Angels and Reds.


He struggled to a 5.48 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 37/23 K/BB ratio across 46 innings with the Brewers and Royals in 2017 and was diagnosed with ulnar nerve palsy in his right arm in late August.


He received a clean bill of health from Dr. James Andrews in early December though and by all accounts looked good in recent mound sessions.


Archie Bradley is expected to open the season as the team’s closer, with Brad Boxberger and Yoshihisa Hirano slated to work in setup roles. Feliz owns 107 saves in his career. Should he regain the form that saw him close out 40 games for the Rangers during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2010, he could work his way into a high-leverage role in the D’Backs bullpen.




Quick Hits: The Phillies signed former All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp… The Cubs signed Efren Navarro to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell said Sunday that Chase Anderson, Zach Davies and Jhoulys Chacin are all locks to make the club’s Opening Day rotation… Counsell also said that Josh Hader will begin the season in the club’s bullpen… According to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, Ryan Braun is “highly unlikely” to serve as the Brewers’ second baseman during the upcoming season… Dodgers’ general manager Farhan Zaidi indicated that the team has continued to have conversations with Chase Utley about a possible return… Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported that the Brewers are one of the teams that has inquired with the Diamondbacks about the availability of Patrick CorbinJulio Urias is reportedly on track in his recovery from shoulder surgery and could help the Dodgers during the second half of the 2018 season… Zach Britton (Achilles) is ahead of schedule in his recovery as well and is tentatively scheduled to rejoin the O’s after the All-Star break… The White Sox inked Xavier Cedeno to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training… Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reported that Amir Garrett received platelet-rich plasma and stem cell injections in his hip following the 2017 season.




Dave Shovein is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveShovein.
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