The Cincinnati Reds have acquired their ace, but it came at a very high price. San Diego’s Mat Latos was traded for 1B Yonder Alonso, C prospect Yasmani Grandal, SP and “Rookie Of The Year” candidate Edison Volquez and relief pitching prospect Brad Boxberger. It’s a significant trade that will alter the future of both organizations, so let’s take a quick look how it will break down from a fantasy perspective.
Mat Latos – The 24 year old has absolutely dominated major league hitters. He’s one of the few Padres pitchers who isn’t a product of Petco Park, as he’s a strikeout pitcher with slight groundball tendencies. Over his career he’s managed to strike out 8.65 hitters per 9 innings, while walking 2.6 per 9. Outstanding all around numbers that have led to a 3.37 ERA, supported by his 3.28 FIP.
Latos does come with a few red flags. He can be injury prone, which is one of the reasons why he’s never pushed 200 innings in a full season. If the Reds plan on contending they’ll likely push him beyond his career high in innings pitched, meaning he might struggle towards the end of the season. He’s also moving from one of the friendliest pitchers parks in the game, to one that significantly favours offence. His velocity has dropped a bit in the past few years, averaging 94 MPH in 2009 but dropping to 92 MPH in 2011. And last, but certainly not least, Latos now has to work with manager Dusty Baker which is a scary proposition for an injury prone pitcher. Kerry Wood, Aaron Harang, and Mark Prior are just a few pitchers who have seen their careers derailed thanks to arm injuries while pitching for Baker. It’s a situation that’s worth keeping an eye on, as Baker’s history suggests that Latos’ prized right arm is going to be used and abused.
As long as Baker doesn’t ruin Latos’ arm, which isn’t a given, he should be a tremendous boost to the Reds rotation. The Reds have a group of guys capable of pitching in the middle of a rotation, but no ace to turn too. Now they’ve got Latos, and in a weakened NL Central it might be enough to make them the favourite.
Fantasy Prediction: 17 wins, 3.50 ERA, 200 K, 1.13 WHIP
Yonder Alonso – Finally free from hiding in Joey Votto’s shadow, Alonso is expected to be the Padres starting 1B for 2012. Alonso was fantastic this season, posting a 943 OPS in just under 100 plate appearances. He’s always been considered a high upside first basemen, but as someone who can’t play anything other than 1B, he wasn’t going to get a spot with the Reds as long as Votto was there.
While he gains value from having a defined role, he won’t be expected to produce nearly as much offence since he’s moving to Petco Park. He also has Anthony Rizzo breathing down his neck, so if he struggles he might get sent back to the minors.
Fantasy Prediction : 285 BA, 18 HR, 90 RBI, 75 runs, 1 SB
EdisonVolquez – He showed such promise in his debut with the Reds, going 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA (3.60 FIP), earning 4.2 WAR in the process. But ever since then it’s just been downhill for the enigmatic right hander. He’s dealt with Tommy John surgery, been suspended 50 games for the use of PED, and hasn’t been productive since 2008. He’s moving to a good situation for 2012, having an opportunity to pitch in Petco Park. His velocity and his swinging strike rates haven’t dropped significantly, so it’s clear his stuff is as good as it ever was. Volquez’ biggest issue is his lack of control, and if he can get it down to a more respectable level he might be able to produce numbers similar to Latos. The deal looks good for the Padres even if Volquez doesn’t have a huge impact, but if he does the Reds will really regret this trade down the line. I’m not a believer in Volquez though, so Caveat Emptor.
Fantasy Prediction – 6 wins, 105 strikeouts, 5.25 ERA, 1.55 WHIP.
Brad Boxberger – He’s one of the lesser known parts of the deal, but he could have a big impact in the future. Boxberger is a reliever who throws in the low to mid 90’s, who has averaged an 11.9K/9 in the minors. He’s got some control problems to deal with (4.1 BB/9), but if he can even shave one walk per 9 off he’ll be an elite closer. He dominated AAA last season, and he could be up in the Padres bullpen by midseason at the latest. He may not close this year, but the Padres have continued their tradition of plucking lights out relievers from other systems.
Fantasy Prediction – 1 W, 14 strikeouts, 2.50 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 1 save.
Yasmani Grandal – Another high upside prospect for the Padres, Grandal was blocked by Devin Mesoraco in Cincinatti and is freed to be the Padres catcher of the future. Grandal has outstanding plate discipline, and has showed good power for a catcher. He profiles as a strong #2 hitter thanks to his on base skills and solid power. Defensively, he’s projected to be above average, so the Padres have no need to their well rounded star catcher. He had 18 at bats at AAA last year, so he’ll likely spend a full season in AAA. He might get a few at bats in September, but he’s unlikely to have any significant fantasy impact.