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Beltran trade boosts Duda, hurts Belt

7/28/2011

The Mets' Lucas Duda might get another 200 at-bats the rest of the 2011 season. The Giants' Brandon Belt might not get 20. Sometimes life just isn't fair.

The big trade that will send Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets to the San Francisco Giants won't merely affect the National League landscape in October, but also fantasy owners here in July. Duda takes over in right field for the Mets. Belt is heading back to Triple-A Fresno. Duda homered Wednesday night, while Belt was used as a pinch runner and defensive replacement for the inferior Aubrey Huff on Belt's last day in the bigs until probably September. On Thursday, Duda might homer again, while Belt will be on an airplane. I have little doubt Belt would outperform Duda, if given the chance, but it's irrelevant.

Fantasy owners should be watching this week and beyond as trades are executed because it's often not the actual members of a trade who see their value shift. Beltran was having a terrific season for the Mets, and I don't see any warning flags now that he's a Giant. Sure, he leaves one tough hitter's park for another, but so what? Beltran boasts a .994 OPS in home games, including 26 extra base hits (nine home runs). He's a career .310 hitter at San Francisco's AT&T Park, and that's against generally strong pitching; over the past four seasons, Beltran has hit .372 there. He'll be fine.

The Giants demoted Belt and reportedly could be releasing Pat Burrell. If you own Cody Ross, prepare for a steep reduction in at-bats, because it sure looks like the general outfield alignment will feature Nate Schierholtz in left field, an Andres Torres/Aaron Rowand platoon in center field and Beltran in right. Perhaps Ross will platoon with Schierholtz, but it looks like the Giants could play the latter regularly.

Currently there are two Giants hitters owned in a decent number of ESPN standard (10-team) leagues, and those are switch-hitters Beltran and Pablo Sandoval. That's it. Huff comes in third at 51.4 percent, but I can't make a good case to roster him. In fact, the Giants should be playing Belt over him, but clearly that's not happening. Torres is not looking like the same player he was last year -- not a surprise at all -- and I can't call him or Schierholtz top-50 outfielders. So the defending champs basically have two hitters who should interest fantasy owners, and one of them was acquired Wednesday. I could make the case for unhappy owners of Rickie Weeks to add Jeff Keppinger to play second base, I suppose.

Hey, good for Duda, right? It's all about opportunity, and he's been playing regularly at first base lately and doing a fine job. Duda has raised his batting average from .248 to .276 in 10 days, with a few solo home runs, seven walks and only two strikeouts. A left-handed batter, Duda is clearly a threat against right-handed pitching (.286 with 13 extra-base hits over 105 at-bats this season) and he's hitting .327 with a .900 OPS at challenging Citi Field. Duda hit .302 with 10 home runs over 38 games at Triple-A Buffalo, and a year ago for Buffalo and Double-A Binghamton, he had 23 home runs, 40 doubles and a strong walk rate. The Mets think he can be a regular player. I can't add him yet in a standard league, but I'll be watching to see how he performs. Certainly he's going to get the chance to shine. If he was on the Giants right now, I'd take him over Schierholtz and Torres.

The Mets acquired Giants top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, but fantasy owners do not need to worry about him for 2011, and probably not until 2013. As colleague Keith Law noted in his blog entry, Wheeler has huge upside, but the Mets have no reason to push him. Plus, Mike Pelfrey hurled a complete game Wednesday! No worries!