The last marquee free agent pitcher came off the board today as Wei-Yin Chen has signed with the Miami Marlins. The Marlins desperately needed another proven arm behind Jose Fernandez, and Chen should be more than able to offer that.
When Chen came stateside in 2012, it really did not receive as much hubbub as the past couple of Japanese products that have come over. But, all Chen has done is produce and I would argue hwe has been Baltimore’s best starting pitchers over the last handful of seasons.
Chen has started 31 games the last two seasons, amassed 27 wins, posted two sub 3.55 ERA seasons and has averaged just about 7 SO/9. You could argue that Chen has arguably his best career season in 2015 as he posted a career low in ERA, earned runs against, and posted a career high in K with 153.
From a fantasy perspective, Miami serves as one of the best pitching destinations as Marlins Park is one of the hardest to hit in throughout all of baseball. Chen was able to post solid numbers during his time in the rugged AL east, but did suffer some from the longball which is to be expected when pitching in the bandboxes and against the lineups that the he has had to face.
Making the move to the NL East, offers a huge boost to his fantasy value in 2016 as he now finds himself in a more conducive fantasy locale. Outside of Philadelphia, every other ballpark in that division tends to be pitching friendly, so Chen and owners alike would have to assume that he can take full advantage of his change of scenery.
The only downside to owning Chen has been that his upside his limited thanks to his modest K numbers. Chen really does not have the stuff to overpower batters, but his arsenal has been effective even if it is contact oriented. Being in a bigger ballpark that should not change, and facing NL lineups may help boost his K numbers some.
His contact ratios in 2015 read as followed, LD% was 20.1, GB% 40.5, and FB% 39.4. The LD rate was the lowest of his career, he has been able to induce ground balls at more than 40% clip the last two seasons and his FB rates have been below 40% as well during that time. All positive indicators and more importantly all ratios that are not too far off from his career numbers, which would ease the concern of last season being fluky.
Last season he basically limited solid contact against him and showed that he can keep improving in all areas of his game. The move to Miami should help that even further as he looks to possibly eclipse the 200 inning mark and maybe even notch more than 160 K next season in 2016. Which is only asking for nine more total innings and seven more strikeouts, so it is definitely attainable.
Chen will not cause a lot of commotion when selected in draft rooms this spring, but I would welcome him to the backend of my fantasy rotation any time. He is consistent and now in his new home, he can further provide weekly lines that help stabilize your rotation. He should be valued as a low-end SP3 or high end SP4. Do not forget about him on draft day.
2016 Early Projections: 13 W/3.40 ERA/160 K/1.20 WHIP