In a rare intra-division trade, the Oakland Athletics acquired shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Fernando Rodriguez from the Houston Astros for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi. On the surface it looks as though Lowrie will have the biggest fantasy impact in 2012, but as I wrote in fantasy players who can provide cheap power, you’ll see Carter has the potential to hit 35+ home runs if given a full-time job. There’s a lot of swing and miss with his swing, which gives him a .265 batting average ceiling. As a member of the rebuilding Astros he enters spring training as the front-runner to become the starting DH. Carlos Pena will be in the mix for at bats at DH, but Pena isn't part of the Astros long term plans while Carter, who just turned 26, can be.
Lowrie’s biggest hurdle has been his health. In his major league career he’s never played in more than 100 games. Last year, he missed two months of the season because of a freak injury suffered at a collision at second base. Contrary to what the A’s are saying, Lowrie instantly becomes the starting shortstop and leaves the newly acquired Hiroyuki Nakajima, whose arm is more suited for second base, as either the starting second baseman or the utility infielder. The A’s do not trade a solid package of three prospects for a bench player and a middle reliever. If Lowrie can play a full year, and that’s a big if, he could hit 20+ home runs. He’s the ultimate lottery ticket for fantasy owners on draft day.
As for the rest of the deal, after a promising 2011 season in the minors and majors it looked as though it would be only a matter of time before Peacock was part of the A’s starting rotation. Instead, five other rookies got the call to pitch in the major league rotation. His 6.01 ERA in Triple-A shows that he struggled, but he maintained last year’s strike out and walk percentages —22.8% and 10.8% respectively. It’s possible he suffered from bad luck, poor defense, poor pitch location or any combination of the three. His fastball sits between 91-94 mph and can top out at 96. His changeup and curveball have an opportunity to be average pitches. His ultimate ceiling is a number three starter, but with any prospect he still needs to make adjustments to his game before reaching his ceiling. He’ll get every chance to make the big league rotation in spring training and if he does, he’s worth a flyer at the end of drafts in 12-15 team mixed leagues.
Stassi is a defense first catcher and has yet to play a full season in the minors due to injuries to his right shoulder the first two years in the minors and an ankle injury last year. When fully healthy he has the opportunity to be a solid every day catcher at the major league level who could hit 15-20 home runs with compact swing; he’s a long way from reaching that ceiling. He has no value in one-year fantasy leagues and should only be owned in the deepest of the dynasty leagues.
Rodriguez throws a fastball and curveball. His fastball, which can be fairly straight, sits at 91-94 mph and can top out at 96. He misses a lot of bats (25% strikeout rate) and the curveball is good enough to get lefties out, but he has trouble with commanding his pitches, which limits him to middle relief. If his command improves he could find himself in the set-up role if Grant Balfour or Ryan Cook gets injured.