Ken Giles was a virtual unknown in the fantasy baseball universe at this time one year ago. He wasn’t on any top prospect lists and aside from the fact that we knew had a live arm, the odds of him putting it all together and making an impact in the big leagues seemed remote at best. After the Phillies lost their primary set-up man Mike Adams to an injury, Giles (who had spent the better part of two months mowing down minor league hitters) got the call on June 8th and began to rack up strikeouts at a rate that fantasy owners couldn’t ignore.
It’s insanely hard not to like Giles. Just watch him throw one inning and you’re hooked. Giles arsenal features a blazing fastball that can hit 100-mph and a devastating slider that enabled him rack up 64 strikeouts and post a 1.18 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP over 45.2 innings of work as a rookie in 2014.
Julio Teheran has been a fantasy stud the last two seasons, fulfilling the hopes of dynasty leaguers who have watched him grow from an uber-elite prospect into a legitimate ace hurler. Still only 23 years old with his health intact, it seems he is poised to dominate the league for years to come. So why am I advising you to trade him? Because there are some red flags in his underlying peripheral stats that warn of darker days ahead. In my opinion his value is higher right now than it ever will be again, so this winter is the ideal time to cash him in and invest in a safer commodity.
The Good Stuff
Teheran’s 2014 season was a fantasy owner’s dream: 14-13 record, 2.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 186 strikeouts spread over 221 innings. That excellent production drove a high proportion of his owners to league championships. It is no surprise that he finished the season ranked as the 14th best starting pitcher in 5×5 leagues and a top 50 overall player regardless of position. Given his youth and name recognition, Teheran would be one of the first pitchers taken in new dynasty leagues having their inaugural drafts. His trade value is sky high.
The not so Good Stuff
I live in Washington, D.C. and from a baseball standpoint I was absolutely spoiled in 2014. I subscribe to MLB.tv so I can watch my hometown Red Sox and anything else going on in the league, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood to fire it up and I find myself watching the local games. Watching the local games wasn’t half bad this year since I was able to see the Nationals and Orioles both win their divisions, and I got to witness one of my favorite young players, Anthony Rendon, enjoy a breakout year.
There are few things in baseball more impressive to me than rocket line drives down the left field line that get caught by horizontal third basemen, or balls stopped deep in the hole and rifled to first. Third basemen do it all from flashy defense to putting the ball over the fence, and no one was better in 2014 than Rendon. I am here to tell you that even though Rendon is the guy coming off the MVP-vote type season, it’s Machado you want to target in your dynasty leagues.
A couple weeks back I checked in on the Arizona Fall League to see how some of the more intriguing prospects toiling in the desert sun were performing. Since then the League has closed up shop for the year, and it’s on to the Caribbean and Latin American winter leagues. But while we wait for those leagues to produce sample sizes worthy of evaluation, let’s check in one last time on the AFL and talk about a few more bats that went unmentioned in my mid-season review.
Everyone wants to know who the hot new sleepers are, which in the age of the internet is a bit funny because the minute someone becomes a sleeper their value normally starts to disappear. But I still want to talk about sleepers and most of this series will be about naming names, but I do hope you walk away with how to apply this to more than the specific players mentioned. The key with sleepers is value, the idea being that you are taking a player at a value you think they will become in the near future. Most people think of this in terms of obscure or unknown players bursting onto the scene, but in many ways if a top player is going below their value that is just as valuable as an unknown sleeper, they just lack the unknown part of our definition. But I am going to talk about those guys off the radar.
One of the most untapped markets for assets gaining sudden value in a dynasty league is Latin American pitching. It is a strategy that loses some of its value the shallower the league because you lose the large talent pool to operate that allows for expansion to more risky prospects. The idea being that you can find unknown players to acquire for practically nothing and then either stick with them to major league value or flip them at a higher value in trade. It is not an easy strategy but one that allows you to churn through prospects because you know you can acquire their replacements for next to nothing. This first post is going to talk general strategy and then subsequent posts will go division by division looking at specific players. Continue reading
This past season, North Siders got their first glimpse of the remarkable confluence of talent that we analysts have been fawning over for years. First to arrive on the scene was Arismendy Alcantara, followed by the prodigious strikeout ability and Jurassic power of Javier Baez. The third player of the Cubs’ elite prospect crop that arrived last year was Jorge Soler, and he might be the guy we know the least about.
Soler defected from his native Cuba in 2011 and fled to the Dominican Republic where, after many months of negotiation, he finally signed with the Cubs in June of 2012. The terms of the deal were unique and almost unheard of, as the Cubs committed nine years and $30MM to a player who had just recently turned 20 and had yet to play in the minors or any foreign professional league. Prior to Soler signing his deal, Yoenis Cespedes was the only other Cuban position player to sign for big money, with his four-year, $36MM contract.
At the core of every strategic approach to constructing a winning fantasy baseball roster is the goal of acquiring the most statistical value possible. Fishing to acquire undervalued assets who are poised for a breakout campaign is an essential off-season exercise for all dynasty owners. One of the top targets this off-season, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock, isn’t the biggest fish in the fantasy ocean, but he may be one of the most valuable this upcoming season.
Pollock is one of the most underrated players in fantasy baseball right now because he was barely on the field last season due to a freak injury and very few fantasy owners realized how well he was playing. The 26-year old was on the verge of a monster breakout, hitting .316/.366/.554 with six home runs and eight stolen bases in 192 plate appearances, before he was drilled by a Johnny Cueto 92-mph fastball that fractured his right hand in late May. The injury required surgery and he ended up missing 79 games before returning in September.
The Notre Dame product hit only .273/.326/.386 with one home run and six stolen bases in September after missing three months of action, but still finished the 2014 season with solid numbers overall: .302/.353/.498 with seven home runs and 14 stolen bases in 287 plate appearances. Pollock’s 134 wRC+ ranked 35th out of 349 hitters who received 200 plate appearances last season. Heading into 2015, the big question remaining for fantasy owners is: what does a full season of Pollock look like? In short, the projection is very enticing.