March Madness MLB Edition #2: Cruz, Olson, Winker, Suarez

Darren Yamashita – USA TODAY Sports

One of the only decent things to come out of lockdown is the compressed time frame for teams to get their rosters ready for Opening Day, which will create an NBA/NFL free agent and trade frenzy in the coming weeks. I will publish them regularly until the start of the season.

Covered in this article: Cruz, Olson, Winker, Suarez, Williamson and Dunn

Previous editions: March 14 pt. 1 |

Nelson Cruz was

Was his time with the Rays a BABIP-fueled blip (96 wRC+, .252 BABIP) or the start of a legit decline? He also removed 27% of his 238 AP after being traded. Maybe he also hated the Trop, because that’s where he really struggled, just posting a .603 OPS in 101 AP. Even a Cruz who is more his 2021 line (122 wRC+) than the guy who put up a 164 in 735 PA from 2019-20 is doing just fine. The top half of this national formation meets with Lane Thomas, Cesar Hernandez, Juan SotoCruz and Josh Bell giving them a solid top five while Keibert Ruiz could give it a bit more length in the 6-spot. His bat plays everywhere, and Nationals Park is a bit of an unsung offensive gem, giving right-handers a 103 Park Factor (5th in MLB) over the past three seasons. At 41, it’s worth scheduling fewer plate appearances, but anywhere north of 450 should be enough to be an impact bat.

At the end of the line : The premium slugger is aging gracefully at 41 and suddenly this Washington lineup isn’t too bad either.

Matt Olson traded to ATL

Olson did an amazing Freddie Freeman imitation last year and if he keeps up the batting wins, Atlanta fans will barely notice a difference. I get that they love Freeman and he will always be their man, but production-wise it’s a smooth transfer. They also got five years younger in the process. It is a substantial amount park improvement for Olson too, with Oakland playing 26th best for lefties over the past three seasons while Atlanta is 8th.

This move really opens things up for Seth Brown in Oakland and I’m thrilled! It jumped 20 HR in 307 PA last year and while it also came with a .203 AVG, I think consistent playing time would help smooth things out a bit. He hits the ball really hard but lives in the air so we can’t just point to the .230 BABIP and say he’ll come close to league average but I think he can definitely improve up to .200. The upside is a .240/30 HR campaign. The move also solidifies a place for Eric Thames if he is healthy. He and Brown can handle DH/1B against all right-handers at the very least.

At the end of the line : There’s little difference between 2021 Olson and what Freeman has done year after year in Atlanta. If Olson keeps that K% below 20% and goes to his new park, there could be a 50-hour MVP season on tap.

jesse winker traded to SEA

Kiss a Reds fan if you know one! They need it. The seem to tear it apart all the way down. Winker is a pure hitter. He had brilliant plate skills throughout his career (17% K, 12% BB, 132 wRC+) as only injury could slow him down. Last year was his first north of 385 PA with a career high of 485 and while still a breakout season it could have been really special if an oblique hadn’t not essentially eaten his entire second half (only 124 PA in 28 games). He may finally have to put in place a season of volume if he wants to avoid a sharp regression because this park movement is severe. He goes from the 3rd best place to hit as a southpaw in the past three years and where he put a .294/.388/.569 in 521 AP to the worst left-handed park at T-Mobile Park. Since 2019, Omar Narvaez is the only left-hander with a positive wRC+ (min. 100 PA), posting a 122 in 250 PA.

At the end of the line : An excellent hitter who was never able to stay healthy is now taking a heavy hit at home with his volume issues.

Eugenio Suarez traded to SEA

Suarez has become an all-or-nothing power batter as he crushed 31 HR despite averaging .198 last year. He’s only hit .199 since 2020 and while the .221 BABIP is definitely on the low end, he also hits the ball much more in the air and with less force. His flyball rate is 47%, up from 40% in 2018-19, and his hard hitting rate is down from 48% to 35%. He earns part of this BABIP deposit. T-Mobile Park aren’t any better on right-handers either, so they’ll be in a similar situation to teammate Winker. Great American Ball Park ranks 2nd in right-handed park factor at 106 over the past three years against T-Mobile’s mark of 95 which ranks 25th. Suarez hasn’t relied on his home park as much as Winker, with an .841 OPS at home and .805 on the road since 2019.

I’m not worried about the power, but there is a cutoff where even 30 HR isn’t worth it AVG. While you might be comforted to see he was still the 21st best 3B last year despite that rough 0.199 AVG, know that the raw dollar value has no context for how your team is built. , so unless you have protected his stick. average with several other players bringing strong averages to counterbalance it, be aware that it is risky. This move could disrupt Abraham Torro train a little fashionable because he no longer has a locked job. I imagine Toro will still play a lot of 3B while Suarez DH and he can also play 2B, but his outlook has gotten decidedly worse.

At the end of the line: Lots of pop, but the AVG might be at a tipping point where it’s not worth it; Toro’s outlook also sounded.

Brandon Williamson & Justin Dunn exchanged at CIN

Neither Williamson nor Dunn plans to be fantasy relevant this year, with Williamson only getting 25-30 IP in most models and Dunn only at 80-90 IP. Dunn has just 102.7 IP in the majors, but there’s not much to take away from it in terms of projecting a breakout. At this point, it seems like it would take a sudden development of a step or two or a big increase in command and control to reach an intermediate starting level. Things can change quickly like that for pitchers, but usually there are elements that emphasize such jumps and I don’t really see that with Dunn.

Williamson hasn’t made his debut yet and in fact hasn’t even made it to Triple-A at this point, but he’s got 61 on our top 100 This year. He has a rich swing-and-miss arsenal that he was finally able to display after throwing just 15 IPs in 2019 after the draft and then missing all of 2020 development…or at least missing a game schedule. We don’t really know who did what on the alternative sites. At 24, he might not need much Triple-A time, so keep that in mind as a summer call-up. He has a deep arsenal, and he’s learning the intricacies of commanding it, he could be a real left-side impact arm for the Reds. He’s a major asset for the Reds in this deal, although the comebacks have admittedly been dampened by Seattle agreeing to take Suarez’s money.

I realize I’m editing this I forgot Jake Fraley so I’m going to move him to the next room for Tuesday because obviously this move from the park could benefit him if he finds a role.

At the end of the line : I can’t completely rule out a 26-year-old Dunn finding something, but it would require some unexpected development; Williamson has a major advantage that could start to show in a summer call-up.

Kimberly B. Nguyen