For some players, a change of scenery can be a good thing. For others, it’s the kiss of death.
This is true both between the lines and in fantasy baseball, where owners are tasked every year with figuring out whether players who switched teams over the offseason will be better or worse off with their new organizations.
Several well-known players, including a legitimate ace in Chris Sale, changed uniforms in recent months — either in free agency or via trade — so let’s look at the most notable as it relates to fantasy baseball and determine whether their respective stocks rose, dropped or stayed the same following their big moves.
Chris Sale (traded from Chicago White Sox to Boston Red Sox)
It’s hard for Sale’s stock to be much higher than it already was, seeing as how he’s one of the game’s best hurlers, both on the field and in fantasy circles. Assuming he continues to pitch like a true ace, however, it’s reasonable to think 2017 could be his best fantasy season yet. He’s been striking out batters at an impressive clip all spring, and although he’s never topped 17 wins in a season, that could change in Boston, where a stacked lineup should provide plenty of run support.
Dexter Fowler (signed with St. Louis Cardinals in free agency)
Fowler was the catalyst for the Cubs’ World Series-winning offense last season, with manager Joe Maddon frequently saying of the talented leadoff man, “You go, we go.” Fantasy owners should expect solid production again despite Fowler joining Chicago’s biggest rival, but keep in mind he was setting the table for the likes of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2016. A slight regression could be in the cards — no pun intended — in St. Louis, where the offense might not be quite as potent.
Edwin Encarnacion (signed with Cleveland Indians in free agency)
Encarnacion has been a constant source of home runs in recent seasons, and that shouldn’t change in Cleveland. Progressive Field actually proved to be a more hitter-friendly environment than Rogers Centre last season. That said, Encarnacion figures to serve as the Indians’ primary designated hitter, limiting his fantasy appeal, especially in the long run. He’s also a year older with a lucrative contract now secured, so a slight regression isn’t out of the question.
Aroldis Chapman (signed with New York Yankees in free agency)
Let’s face it. Chapman arguably is the best closer in baseball, and he’s still in his prime at age 29. The only way Chapman won’t light up fantasy scoreboards in 2017 is if his save opportunities are limited by playing for a poor team. And while the Yankees might not be playoff-bound, they should be competitive enough. Plus, we already know he’s comfortable pitching in a big market having spent his 2016 season with the Bronx Bombers and then the Cubs.
Mark Melancon (signed with San Francisco Giants in free agency)
Melancon isn’t as flashy as some of the other elite closers, in large because his strikeout rate isn’t quite as impressive. He’s still a consistent source of saves, though, and that shouldn’t change with the Giants, who finally appear to have solved their ninth-inning problem.
Wade Davis (traded from Kansas City Royals to Chicago Cubs)
There are red flags with Davis, like his injury history, his increased ERA and a dip in strikeout rate. He’s joining the defending World Series champions and a team that won 103 games in the regular season last year, though. He could rack up saves in bunches, mitigating the concerns.
Jorge Soler (traded from Chicago Cubs to Kansas City Royals)
Soler, acquired in exchange for the aforementioned Davis, remains somewhat of a wild card, but this is where a change of scenery could do wonders. He didn’t live up to the hype in Chicago, where the Cubs’ stacked roster limited his opportunities, but he shouldn’t have much of an issue carving out playing time in Kansas City’s outfield. The talent is there, particularly in the power department, and although there still are questions about his propensity for striking out, this could be a breakout season for the 25-year-old now that the training wheels will be completely off.
Adam Eaton (traded from Chicago White Sox to Washington Nationals)
The Nationals gave up quite a haul to land Eaton, which speaks to how highly they think of him. He might never be a fantasy stud, but he’s still a useful player who could see in uptick in runs scored and stolen bases now that he’s playing for a contender in Washington.
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