Long a staple of tremendous starting pitching, the Atlanta Braves have reportedly made a move that will strengthen their staff, dealing for erstwhile Chicago White Sox member Javier Vazquez.
The Braves will send a number of players to Chicago, most notably Jo-Jo Reyes and Brett Lillibridge.
Before a subpar 2008 where his manager essentially questioned his heart and ability, Vazquez was an average fantasy pitcher. His best year was in 2007 when he went 15-8 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 213 strikeouts in 216 2/3 innings.
In 2008, Vazquez struggled, going 12-16 with a 4.67 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He did continue his success with the strikeouts, K-ing 200 in 208 1/3 innings. Amazingly, the 32-year-old Jazquez is ninth among all active pitchers with 2,015 career strikeouts.
The move to Atlanta can only help Vazquez’s fantasy stock. He had fallen out of favor with Ozzie Guillen in Chicago, and a change of scenery will certainly help more than hurt. Also, although it is probably merely a coincidence, since 2000, Vazquez’s ERA has decreased from the previous year in odd-numbered years, whereas his ERA has increased over the prior season in even-numbered years.
Following this trend, Vazquez will have a lower ERA in 2009 than in 2008. Another good thing about Vazquez is that he is infrequently injured. He has nine straight seasons of 198 or more innings and an equal run of years in which he has made at least 32 starts. Consider Vazquez a low-end number three starter for fantasy rotations in 2009.
Jo-Jo Reyes had an inauspicious first full season in the majors, going 3-11 with a 5.81 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 113 innings for Atlanta in 2008. He struck out 78 batters as well. Reyes is only 24 years old, and he certainly has room for improvement. However, he has shown little evidence that he is a worthwhile fantasy starter, regardless of the team for whom he toils. Ignore him in drafts; if he has a stellar first few weeks, he’ll be available as a fantasy free agent.
Brett Lillibridge is another player that is probably a year or more away from being a serviceable fantasy player. The shortstop appeared in 29 games for Atlanta in 2008, hitting .200 with one homer and eight RBIs. He scored nine runs and stole two bases.
Lillibridge did not fare any better in the minors before his call-up. He hit .220 with four homers in 90 games for AAA Richmond. He stole 23 bases and scored 46 runs, but he is not a major-league caliber shortstop at this time and is not worth much attention from a fantasy standpoint.