What To Do About Aroldis Chapman

Those of you who drafted Chapman for this season, took him hoping that he would make the rotation out of spring training. He certainly looked the part – with a 2.12 ERA, 18 K and 2 BB in 17 innings. Yes, they are spring stats, but with Chapman, it was all that we had (other than a handful of starts at Triple-A back in 2010) – and the scouting reports were positive.

We all know what happened from there. Chapman ended up getting bumped from the rotation in favor of Mike Leake and ended up turning in one of the greatest seasons a relief pitcher has put together in the last decade or two. He threw 71 2/3 innings with a 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and a 122-23 K/BB rate. Not only was he completely dominant, but he took over the closer’s role from Sean Marshall in May and racked up 38 saves in essentially four months on the job. If Chapman was going into 2013 as the Reds’ closer again, he’d be the #1b at the position to Craig Kimbrel’s #1a (who’s making history in his own right).

However, things appear about to finally change for the flame-throwing left-hander. The Reds signed Jonathan Broxton to a 3-year deal earlier this week, and not only gave him closer money, but also spoke publicly about wanting to move Chapman into the rotation for 2013. And therein lies the dilemma for keeper/dynasty league owners. In this off-season of both role and performance uncertainty, how do you value Aroldis Chapman?

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John Lamb and Trusting the Process

Tommy John surgery is something that we, as a baseball community, have gotten a lot more comfortable with over the past decade or so – at least at the major league level. When a star pitcher like Stephen Strasburg or Adam Wainwright or Tim Hudson undergoes the procedure, we set our watches to 12-14 months in the future and wait for our beloved stars to return. We then all talk about how it really takes 18-24 months for a pitcher’s full arsenal (stuff + command) to come back once they go under the knife. By most sources, the success rate of Tommy John surgery across the board is roughly between 80% and 90%, and this appears to be universally accepted by even the casual fan. So why is it that we overrate the procedure when it comes to prospects?

The latest example of this is John Lamb – a left-handed starting pitching prospect in the Royals farm system. Lamb was a 5th round draft pick of the Royals back in 2008, although he was considered a first-round talent prior to a car accident which caused him to miss his entire high school senior season. He repaid the Royals belief in him early by pitching well in his 2009 debut across the Appy and Pioneer Leagues, but it was 2010 which put him firmly on the prospect map. Between Low-A, High-A and Double-A in 2010, Lamb went 10-7 with a 2.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 159 K in 147 2/3 IP. He entered 2011 as the #18 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America and the #11 prospect according to Baseball Prospectus. His star was firmly on the rise as a potential #2 starter who could be within 12 months of making the big league team.

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Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 11: Pushing In Your Chips

The final step of the rebuilding process can be a very difficult for owners to wrap their heads around, but in almost all cases, it’s absolutely necessary. You have spent a long time cultivating the right collection of young talent, both at the major league and minor league level, but you cannot become too attached to your roster. If you rely solely on the players in your farm system to fill the holes in your roster, you’re going to be disappointed.

Everyone has at least one owner like this in their league. They have meticulously built up a really great farm system and appear ready to contend, but can’t bring themselves to let go of the talent they’ve accumulated in order to improve their team. They ask for the moon and stars when you inquire about their prospects, as they’re so in love with their own process, they can’t see the likely disappointment of these “can’t miss” prospects right in front of their face. So as the minor leaguers in their farm system start to fail, they replace them with more high-end prospects, until it becomes a never ending cycle of near-contention.

Let’s go back just five years to see this materialize. Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list in 2007 included many stars, but let’s just take a look at the top-10 – the elite of the elite. Evan Longoria (7) and Justin Upton (9) are elite fantasy players. Alex Gordon (2) and Cameron Maybin (6) have been OK, but great disappointments based on their expectations. Same with Daisuke Matzuzaka (1), Phil Hughes (4) and Homer Bailey (5) on the pitching side. The other two we haven’t covered? Brandon Wood (8) and Andrew Miller (10). Ouch. It goes on further down the list. How about Reid Brignac (17), Andy LaRoche (19), Mike Pelfrey (20), Fernando Martinez (22) or Adam Miller (23)? Those didn’t work out so well. So yes, maybe Wil Myers and Jose Fernandez do turn into superstars. But if you can get an ACTUAL superstar for the two of them, you’re putting yourself in a better long-term position.

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Drafting a Dynasty League Roster: Minor League Draft, Rounds 17-25

The Context –

I signed up for a newly-formed 20-team dynasty league so that I could write about building a roster the old-fashioned way (as opposed to the series on my rebuilding project). It is a 7×7 H2H league that uses all of the standard 5×5 categories, plus OPS/Total Bases for hitters and Quality Starts/Holds for pitchers. The active rosters are one player per position (OF are broken out by LF/CF/RF) plus a Utility player on offense, and nine pitchers (2 SP, 2 RP, 5 P). On top of that, there are 7 reserve spots, 3 DL spots and 25 minor league spots. So, all in all, it’s a very deep league with an active lineup that skews a little towards pitching and deep minor league rosters (500 total prospects will be rostered, as the draft was expanded to 25 rounds). Oh, and by the way, I’m the Minnesota Twins.

As opposed to doing a full round review at this point in the draft and going through the best picks that other teams made (we’re far, far too deep to draw much from that anymore), I’m just going to go into my picks and why I made them. Hopefully this helps with either your valuations of these prospects or the preparation for your own dynasty league draft. But admittedly, your draft would have to be pretty crazy deep in order for you to start considering some of the guys I took in the final rounds here.

Round 17 – Rio Ruiz (3B, Houston)

The Astros liked Ruiz enough to go way over slot for him in the 4th round of the 2012 draft ($1.85mm) – in fact, Jeff Luhnow referred to Ruiz as a first-round talent when speaking about his draft philosophy. As one of the younger players available in the draft, Ruiz hit .271/.361/.412 in the GCL before getting a taste of the Appy League towards the end of the season. He’s certainly a high risk guy, but if he hits, he could be an offensive third baseman who can help in batting average and the power categories.

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Ten Things That I’m Thankful For This Thanksgiving

It’s been ingrained in our heads ever since we were little kids: on Thanksgiving, you take a step back and do a little reflecting upon what you’re thankful for. We all do it, and as much as it’s overdone, it’s also important. So, while I didn’t get to finish this post in time to actually post it yesterday, I still wanted to finish and post it, since it’s the concept that’s much more vital than the timeliness. The Dynasty Guru’s regularly scheduled programming will continue tomorrow, but for today, here are ten things that I am thankful for this year – in absolutely no particular order.

MLB Extra Innings and MLB At Bat: I’ll start off with a no brainer. I don’t want to sound like a commercial, but I can watch almost every game of the season for less than dollar per day. I can listen to Vin Scully from my couch in New Jersey. I can flip from game to game to check out players who I want to get a closer look at for either a post or my own research. The stats are great, but actually watching the games is where you can draw the most information from. On top of that, the At Bat app allows me to follow along pitch-by-pitch no matter where I am, listen to any game on the radio and watch highlights which get uploaded so quickly it feels like it’s in real-time. If you love baseball like I do, this stuff is mandatory.

PSE&G: There’s been no shortage of bad publicity about power companies over the past month here on the east coast, but yesterday something pretty amazing happened. I have a furnace that is legally old enough to drink, and awoke on Thanksgiving morning to find that it had mysteriously stopped. Because it’s so old, we have the worry free guarantee on it – so we called at 8am to see what they’d be able to do (not expecting much since it’s Thanksgiving). They scheduled us from 12-4pm that day, the repairman came at 1pm, the busted motor on our furnace was replaced by 2:15pm and we were on our way out the door to our regularly scheduled holiday activities at 2:30pm. It’s things like this which don’t get attention, but PSE&G saved our Thanksgiving.

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Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 10a: The Makings of the Turn

Before I get into my push towards contention in the 18-team league I began discussing in the previous post, I wanted to go back and discuss how I got the team ready to make the turn – as it’s now been long enough that it makes for an interesting perspective and, in most cases, for proper judgment. What I did not get into in the last piece was that the team I took over in early 2009 was the fourth place team in the league during the 2008 season, and I began my ownership trying to keep the party going. Here were all the players on that roster which were at least 50% owned in CBS leagues at the end of the 2008 season:

Brian Roberts, Jimmy Rollins, Garrett Atkins, Jason Bay, Lance Berkman, Jermaine Dye, Torii Hunter, Mark Buehrle, Johnny Cueto, John Lackey, Braden Looper, Andy Pettitte, Adrian Beltre.

Don’t laugh – how quickly we forget. Garrett Atkins was coming off a .286-21-99 age-28 season. Jermaine Dye was coming off a .292-34-96-96 season. Jason Bay was on the Red Sox and putting up studly numbers (.286-31-101-111-10 in 2008) and so was Lance Berkman with the Astros. John Lackey was still the pre-Boston John Lackey and Jimmy Rollins was one season removed from his MVP. In fact, even the two players who look the best now (Beltre and Cueto) were among the worst of this group at the time. And this was only four years ago!

Today, we’re going to go chronologically through the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons to see how I got to the point where I was ready to move toward contention in order for the last part of the series to be as instructive as possible.

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Drafting a Dynasty League Roster: Minor League Draft, Rounds 13-16

The Context –

I signed up for a newly-formed 20-team dynasty league so that I could write about building a roster the old-fashioned way (as opposed to the series on my rebuilding project). It is a 7×7 H2H league that uses all of the standard 5×5 categories, plus OPS/Total Bases for hitters and Quality Starts/Holds for pitchers. The active rosters are one player per position (OF are broken out by LF/CF/RF) plus a Utility player on offense, and nine pitchers (2 SP, 2 RP, 5 P). On top of that, there are 7 reserve spots, 3 DL spots and 20 minor league spots. So, all in all, it’s a very deep league with an active lineup that skews a little towards pitching and deep minor league rosters (400 total prospects will be rostered). Oh, and by the way, I’m the Minnesota Twins.

So here is a review of rounds thirteen through sixteen of the draft. I’m going to look at who I picked and why (along with others I was considering) and who the best picks of the round were (mine excluded) from both a value perspective and an upside perspective. Hopefully this helps with either your valuations of these prospects or the preparation for your own dynasty league draft.

Round Thirteen –

13.1     Texas Rangers: Ryan Verdugo (SP, Kansas City)
13.2     Colorado Rockies: Carlos Sanchez (2B, Chicago AL)
13.3     Toronto Blue Jays: Alfredo Silverio (OF, Los Angeles)
13.4     Seattle Mariners: Junior Lake (3B, Chicago NL)
13.5     San Francisco Giants: Juan Jaime (RP, Atlanta)
13.6     Oakland Athletics: Chris Reed (SP, Los Angeles NL)
13.7     Cincinnati Reds: Travis Harrison (1B, Minnesota)
13.8     Houston Astros: Gioskar Amaya (2B, Chicago NL)
13.9     Detroit Tigers: Joe Musgrove (SP, Houston)
13.10  Chicago Cubs: Daniel Robertson (3B, Oakland)
13.11  *Minnesota Twins: Drew Vettleson (OF, Tampa Bay)*
13.12  Washington Nationals: Barrett Loux (SP, Texas)
13.13  Los Angeles Angels: Francisco Peguero (OF, San Francisco)
13.14  San Diego Padres: Mark Rogers (SP, Milwaukee)
13.15  Pittsburgh Pirates: Rafael Ortega (OF, Colorado)
13.16  Baltimore Orioles: Jed Bradley (SP, Milwaukee)
13.17  Milwaukee Brewers: Tyler Pike (SP, Seattle)
13.18  New York Mets: Dellin Betances (RP, New York AL)
13.19  Arizona Diamondbacks: Elier Hernandez (OF, Kansas City)
13.20  Boston Red Sox: Bobby Borchering (1B, Houston)

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