Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Though all the free agents haven't signed, it's time to take an early look at who changed teams and/or leagues and how they should do in their new environment.
A new address has different consequences to different players. Some take to their new teams or leagues with ease (see Adrian Gonzalez) and some, like Adam Dunn for the Chicago White Sox last year, fail to ever find their comfort zone and post disastrous numbers.
We begin with the American League. The seven players listed below have all signed with AL clubs. Three are coming from the National League and will need to adapt to many more changes than the four American Leaguers who stayed in the same league but jumped to a different team.
National to American League -
Albert Pujols, St.Louis-to-Anaheim - If any player can make a seamless shift from one league to another, it's Pujols, the most consistent offensive player of our generation. Pujols is coming off the "worst" season of his 11-year career, but still hit .299 with 37 HR, 99 RBI and an OPS of 0.906. The three- time NL MVP and nine-time All-Star has a lifetime .328 batting average and in an "average Pujols season" hits 40 homers, knocks in 121 and has an OPS of 1.037. He leaves the 2011 World Champion Cardinals for Anaheim where they have superior pitching, but scored just 667 runs. Instead of perennial All- Stars Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman around him, he'll have Torii Hunter, Howie Kendrick and Vernon Wells. So the question is whether "The Machine" can raise their game to his level or they'll be a drag on his numbers. At the Sports Network, we believe it will be the former. Draft Pujols and whoever gets the lucky spot in front of him in the lineup.
Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh-to-Minnesota - It was just 2008 when Doumit was an up- and-coming fantasy star off a .318, 15 HR, 69 RBI, season. Those are solid numbers for a fantasy catcher, but he's had trouble staying on the field in the three years since then. From 2009-2011 Doumit missed 210 of 486 games. Still, in the limited time he played last season, he showed the same hitting ability - batting .303 with 8 HR and 30 RBI in just 218 at-bats. His opportunity to get enough at-bats will be the key to his fantasy value in 2012. If Joe Mauer stays healthy, Doumit will need to earn the DH role. The good news there is that with both Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel taking their 895 at-bats elsewhere he should see enough playing time to be "fantasy-worthy" and a nice late-round sleeper.
Yuniesky Betancourt, Milwaukee-to-Kansas City - Betancourt returns to the team he played with in 2009 and 2010, so there should be a nice comfort level. In 2010 he batted .259 with 16 HR and 78 RBI - solid numbers for a shortstop. The problem this time around is that he isn't expected to be the starting shortstop - that job goes to Alcides Escobar. Instead, Betancourt will be the utility infielder and thus probably won't get in the batter's box often enough to be a good fantasy value.
American League to American League -
Fernando Rodney, Anaheim-to-Tampa Bay - Rodney had a horrible season for Anaheim, going 3-5 with three saves, an ERA of 4.50 and an equally ugly WHIP of 1.69. This is not the Tigers' closer who saved 37 games in 2009 and he is scheduled to be a middle reliever. He should have almost no fantasy value this season.
Jonathon Broxton, Los Angeles-to-Kansas City - Like Rodney, Broxton was once a top closer who has struggled mightily. He posted an ERA of 5.68 and a WHIP of 1.89 in 14 appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Again, this is not the guy who saved 36 games in 2009 with an ERA of 2.61 and a microscopic WHIP of 0.96. He'll try to be the setup man for Joakim Soria and is a long way from the dominant pitcher he once was.
Joe Nathan, Minnesota-to-Texas - Nathan is just a couple years removed from Tommy John surgery and struggled for the first half of 2011. Hoever, after returning from a muscle strain in late June, he posted an ERA of 3.38 and an opposing batting average of just .193 the rest of the way. He was impressive enough that the Rangers signed him to the closer role and are shifting talented Neftali Feliz to a starter for 2012. While having another quality closer on the roster does lend some risk to drafting Nathan, six consecutive years of at least 36 saves and a career ERA of 2.87 make him a solid fantasy option.
C.J. Wilson, Texas-to-Anaheim - Wilson (16-7, 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) goes from being the "ace" of the Rangers staff, to the No.3 starter's role in Anaheim behind Jered Weaver (18-8, 2.41 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) and Dan Haren (16-10, 3.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP). Matched up against the other team's third-best pitcher should be a huge advantage for the Angels and Wilson. Wilson posted career marks of 3.60 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in the hitters' paradise known as the Ballpark at Arlington and should be more effective playing half his games in Angel Stadium.
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