When sitting down to do a fantasy baseball draft, one of the forgotten factors that is worth considering is a team's managerial situation. Of course, a majority of teams don't switch managers in the offseason so the factor is irrelevant for most players anyway, but for those players that will have a new leader in the dugout, their fantasy value can certainly be affected – sometime significantly. This past offseason, six new managers were named, including three first-time managers. With that in mind, here is a look at the new faces calling the shots in new places and a preview of the impact fantasy owners can expect as a result.
Terry Francona (Cleveland Indians): I bet Francona doesn't look too bad to Red Sox fans these days, but after Boston ran off its two-time World Series champion manager, he will take the reins in Cleveland after taking a year off. He won't have to manage the egos that he did in Boston, but Francona will have to deal with an Indians' roster that has a blend of youth and veteran players. History says that he is fine with his players taking a high-risk/high reward approach at the plate, and while free swingers like Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs could all see their averages suffer a bit, their home run totals should have fantasy owners smiling.
While the Red Sox were famous for their high-scoring offenses while Francona was in town, he would also play to the strengths of his rosters. In 2009 for example, the Red Sox ranked fifth in steals. As a result, newly-signed speedster Michael Bourn and the ever-improving Jason Kipinis should still help out owners looking for steals and score their share of runs hitting ahead of several guys with plenty of pop. On the mound, highly-touted youngster Trevor Bauer could be one of the biggest beneficiaries. Francona's has the rings and the experience to get through to a player that has had issues with his temper, and he also helped Jon Lester grow from an unproven pitcher with potential into an ace while in Boston. With Francona calling the shots, owners should add Bauer to their list of sleeper arms in 2013.
John Farrell (Boston Red Sox): After the Bobby Valentine era ended as disastrously as everyone expected, Farrell will take his turn at the helm after managing the past two seasons in Toronto. He is inheriting a Boston roster that pales in comparison to the offensive juggernauts of recent years, but Farrell's brief history suggests that his managerial style is very fantasy friendly. In his two years in Toronto, the Blue Jays ranked fifth and sixth in home runs, while ranking eight in stolen bases both seasons. Assuming he continues to give his players the green light on the base paths and at the plate, guys like Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury that have a combination of power and speed could both push a 30-30 pace while 40-plus steal isn't out of the question for Shane Victorino.
The other aspect of Farrell's managerial style worth considering is his reputation for asking a lot from his players but giving a lot in return. We are talking about a guy that helped a perennial bust like Edwin Encarnacion harness his potential and finish third in the American League in homers and RBIs a year ago. Looking at Boston's roster, former first-round pick and perennial underachiever Stephen Drew could be Farrell's next reclamation project. Given Drew's pedigree and the relatively thin shortstop position, fantasy owners should consider him a potential sleeper with Farrell in town.
John Gibbons (Toronto Blue Jays): Gibbons will be making his second stint as Toronto's manager after posting a 305-305 record from 2004 to 2008. Of course, he has a little more talent to work with this time around after the Blue Jays loaded up during the offseason, adding the likes of Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey. Dickey in particular should be smiling because of Gibbons' history with pitching staffs. Toronto posted a team ERA in the top 10 in his last three years at the helm, and the Blue Jays actually led the majors in team ERA in his final season as manager. As a result Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero could all be in line for solid numbers, and Toronto's entire staff deserves fantasy consideration on draft day.
Gibbons' teams also ranked toward the top half of the league in runs scored and home runs in his first go-round with the Blue Jays, and given the pop in this year's lineup, scoring runs shouldn't be an issue. What should concern fantasy owners on the other hand is his lack of emphasis on the running game. Toronto was consistently toward the bottom of the league in steals the last team Gibbons was calling the shots, and while that is sure to change to a degree with Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and Rajai Davis on the roster, owners shouldn't expect any of the three to have career years on the base paths.
Walt Weiss (Colorado Rockies): The former AL Rookie of the Year will make his managerial debut in 2013 for a Colorado team that lost 98 games and finished last in its division last season. While the situation isn't great, Weiss credits his former coach Tony La Russa as his biggest influence as far as his managerial style goes so at least he is trying to follow in the footsteps of one of the all-time greats. As a former short stop himself, Weiss should have little issues relating to Rockies' superstar Troy Tulowtizki. History tells us that happy superstars are productive superstars so assuming Tulo stays healthy, another monster offensive year should be on tap.
Given Weiss' own hard-nosed style of play and his fondness of La Russa, don't be surprised if Colorado is aggressive on the bases this year. As a result, fantasy owners should look for an uptick in steals from Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler, adding to the value of each player. Of course, mimicking La Russa could also mean Weiss will have a short leash when it comes to his relief pitchers. Rafael Betancourt is a safe bet to start the year as the closer, but don't be surprised if a few other guys see time in the ninth, as well. With that in mind, owners may want to bump Betancourt down a bit on their draft boards and remember to keep an eye on the closer situation in Colorado throughout the year in order to pick up some cheap saves as Weiss gets his feet wet.
Bo Porter (Houston Astros): If Houston ends up being anything that resembles competitive in 2013, Porter should win Manager of the Year unanimously. With a total payroll that is less than more than a dozen individual players' salaries, the Astros are going to find their first year in the AL West a difficult one. Perhaps the only good news for fantasy owners is that both Porter and his young, unproven players should be plenty eager to prove themselves this season. Second baseman Jose Altuve and starter Bud Norris were going to be roster worthy with or without Porter calling the shots, but outside of those two, little is set in stone for this team. If anything, the Astros could be a nice source of free agent finds during the season as Porter gets a feel for which players he feels can help him the most going forward.
Mike Redmond (Miami Marlins): Redmond will be the youngest manager in the majors in 2013 and will be making his managerial debut for a franchise that basically gave away any of its decent players last year or during the offseason. That being said, Redmond had a long career in the majors as a backup catcher, learning from the likes of Jack McKeon, Jim Leyland and Ron Gardenhire. As a former platoon player himself, he has made it clear in his early press conferences that he is going to play the matchups and do whatever he can to put his young players in a position to succeed.
For fantasy owners, this could allow them to make the best of an otherwise ugly situation as long as they are willing to do a little roster maintenance. For example, outfielder Juan Pierre hit .329 against right-handers and had 30 of his 37 steals against righties in 2012. As for the other unknowns on Miami's roster, Redmond is going to be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses as the year goes on, and while the Marlins might not be loaded with fantasy studs outside of Giancarlo Stanton, a few starting-caliber players could emerge. Owners that check on the Marlins throughout the year could find themselves adding an unexpected boost of production to their fantasy rosters.