Greinke's value rises with Dodgers

Updated: December 10, 2012, 5:01 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

All the talk following Zack Greinke's reported six-year, $147 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers will be that he's getting the largest deal ever granted a right-hander, and second-largest overall (CC Sabathia's is the only one worth more), and that on ability he's hardly the No. 2 pitcher in the game.

[+] EnlargeZack Greinke
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsZack Greinke has averaged 194 strikeouts per season over the past three years.

But that doesn't mean Greinke is without value, certainly not in fantasy baseball. All it means is that when it comes to his 2013 draft stock, you shouldn't have to open your wallet to the extent that the Dodgers did to get him.

The truth is that, by landing in L.A. -- with the Dodgers, not the Angels -- Greinke might have picked one of the best destinations in the game for his fantasy value.

Dodger Stadium is one of the game's more pitching-friendly venues, evidenced by its ranking among the bottom 10 in the game in terms of runs scored in each of the past five seasons, according to our Park Factors page. It is comparable, in some ways, to the one in which he finished 2012, Angel Stadium. Angel Stadium ranked 27th in runs last season, two spots lower than Dodger Stadium, and in the past three years, it has placed in the bottom five in the game. Sure enough, Greinke enjoyed his time there late in 2012, posting a 3.45 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 5.09 strikeout-to-walk ratio and four quality starts in seven games.

Greinke also benefits from shifting to the National League West, where three of the five ballparks within the division are pitching-friendly, and where four of the five teams (Colorado Rockies the ones excluded) rank outside the top 10 in the majors in terms of runs scored the past three seasons combined. A move to the NL can often mean anywhere from a tenth to a quarter-run advantage in ERA to a pitcher, but a move specifically to the NL West can only strengthen the chance of it happening.

That's important with Greinke, because he is the kind of pitcher who routinely exhibits underlying skills that challenge those of the elite starters in the game, meaning that with a few more "lucky bounces," he indeed could blossom into said elite starter, a la his Cy Young season of 2009. To that point, in the three seasons since he won the American League's award, he has the game's eighth-best FIP (3.16) out of 132 qualified starters, but only the 50th-best ERA (3.83). Fantasy owners have been waiting and waiting to see the "real Greinke," and his chances of that are greater than they've been since 2009.

Team and run support also stacks in Greinke's favor, as the Dodgers have exhibited in the past six months that they've got a mountain of cash they're willing to spend to improve the team, meaning that the 2013 Dodgers could go from being the 26th-best scoring squad to a top-10 capable group. It's smarter to assume they'll score in the middling ranges, considering they averaged 3.98 runs per game after Aug. 1, following the acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Shane Victorino, compared to 3.90 per game before that date, but the Dodgers appear to be making every effort to advance that number.

The sum is a pitcher who shouldn't have much difficulty matching his career high of 16 wins (2009, 2011), keeping his ERA in the low threes, his WHIP under 1.25 and striking out 200 or more batters. Greinke is also capable of more; if he adapts quickly to L.A. he could make a run at his 2009 career-year numbers.

Originally my No. 11 starting pitcher and No. 34 player overall, Greinke improves to ninth and 31th, leapfrogging both Cole Hamels and Gio Gonzalez. The three should be closely valued, but Greinke's new surroundings are an advantage that would have me selecting him first from the group.

Greinke wasn't the only arm the Dodgers added to their rotation, as the team agreed to a deal with Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu before a Sunday deadline to get him under terms, signing him to a six-year, $36 million contract. He'll presumably begin the 2013 season in their rotation, primarily because Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly are question marks, though the team now has an abundance of candidates to start.

A 25-year-old, Ryu had a 2.80 ERA and 8.78 K-per-nine innings ratio in seven years in the Korean Baseball Organization, though scouts' estimates of his value range anywhere from a reliever to a middle-of-the-rotation starter. In other words, he could have an impact within range of Yu Darvish, 2012's top pitching import, or be a flat-out bust. Ryu should be at the top of any spring watch list, as the exhibition season might provide some hints as to his role and likelihood of success, but for the time being he doesn't belong on the draft sheets in standard mixed leagues.

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