Minor League Relievers and the Second Trap Door

I’m taking a break from putting together the rankings package, that will start to trickle out on January 14th, to preemptively answer a question which will likely come up when list posts. Why is Bruce Rondon, the supposed Tigers closer, not on the top-150 list? The answer to that has something to with Rondon himself, but it’s mostly attributable to the value of relief prospects in the context of a long-term league.

First, the Rondon-specific reasoning. The biggest reason why I do not have him ranked is that even if he’s given the Tigers’ closer job out of spring training (which I don’t think will happen, but that is a smaller point), I don’t think he’ll be very good at it. This is not an Addison Reed situation from last year, where it was a pitcher who was dominant throughout the minor league season and had the scouting reports to match. Rondon throws really really hard, but he’s also a very large man who has poor control and no legit secondary pitch to speak of. So while he may get the opportunity at some point, I’m not optimistic.

The larger issue is how to value the relief prospect overall. I’m not one to shy away from talking about mistakes that I’ve learned from as I go through this process year after year, and one from last year was my ranking of Addison Reed. On my pre-season prospect list, I ranked him 30th, as I thought he would be the next dominant closer in baseball — and knew it was an aggressive ranking at the time. The thing is, my opinion of Reed hasn’t changed all that much. I still think he will be a pretty dominant closer, and it’s reflected in my RP rankings, but Reed should not have been a top-30 prospect last year. I was putting too much stock in the path he had to the closer job (which ended up being right, as he recorded 29 of them).

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Transaction Analysis: Dickey, Hamilton, Anibal, Bauer, Dempster and More

It turns out that baseball doesn’t stop just because I go on vacation. Shocking, I know. So in the week since my last post, three of the top remaining free agents signed, a Cy Young award winner was traded, and two top prospects changed teams. And that’s not even including the monster Rays/Royals trade, which I wrote up before I left. The winter meetings had nothing on this random week in December.

For those of you who missed any of the excitement, here is a listing of the fantasy relevant moves from the last week:

* Angels sign Josh Hamilton (5 years, $125m)
* Tigers sign Anibal Sanchez (5 years, $80m)
* Red Sox sign Ryan Dempster (2 years, $26m) and Stephen Drew (1 year, $9.5m)
* Mets trade R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas to the Blue Jays for Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck and Wuilmer Becerra
* In a three-team trade, the Indians receive Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers; the Diamondbacks receive Didi Gregorius, Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson; the Reds receive Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald

There’s clearly a lot to talk about here, so we’ll save any further pleasantries for another day. Here’s how this shakes out from a long-term league perspective:

Value Up

Shin-Soo Choo

Simply enough, Choo will benefit from being in a more hitter-friendly park in the easier league. Hitting lead-off in front of the Phillips/Votto/Ludwick/Bruce outfit likely to occupy the 2-5 spots in the lineup will also potentially make him an elite run scoring option (think 110+) along with a 20-20 threat. Tough to view this long-term since he only has one year left on his contract, but for 2013, he was at #27 among OF before the deal – and is a top-20 guy for me now.

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What To Expect When You’re Expecting the 2013 Dynasty League Rankings

As I’ve alluded to in a number of posts over the past few months, I have been hard at work on a project which so far has remained behind-the-scenes as I wait to be finished with the entire thing. As some of you who have read these posts likely know, this project is designed to be a very comprehensive set of rankings, specifically created for keeper/dynasty league players. What I want to walk you through today is how I’ve set up these ranks, what type of information you can expect to find within these ranks and when you can expect to see them.

So let’s start at the beginning with a question. How are my rankings going to be different than what you can find elsewhere on the interwebs? The simple answer is that they are the only comprehensive rankings out there that are a marriage of both major league players and prospects in the specific context of a long-term format. For example, if you want to know whether I think Wil Myers is more valuable in a dynasty league right now than Austin Jackson, you can tell that straight from my rankings. Carlos Correa vs Ian Desmond? Jonathan Singleton vs Paul Konerko? It’s all there, from both a positional standpoint and from an overall standpoint. And as you’ll be able to tell from the schedule at the bottom of the post, the rankings are going to be posted from three separate angles (the third being straight dynasty league prospect rankings).

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Emergency Transaction Analysis: The Wil Myers Trade

The stakes of these off-season trades just keep getting bigger and bigger. It was one thing when the Marlins dumped half their roster on the Blue Jays — I mean, the Marlins do that every half-decade or so. But a trade like this is arguably even more rare. Yes, elite prospects get traded all the time. You don’t even have to go back 12 months to find a top-10 prospect who got traded (Jesus Montero). However, the last time a reigning Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year was traded was all the way back in 1998. Paul Konerko was the 1997 award winner and was dealt from the Dodgers to the Reds (yes, he did play 26 games for the Reds) in July of 1998. Other than that? Never.

With that said, I do think the Rays certainly got the better end of this trade — and I think you’ll understand why when we get into the individual player values affected below. But first, here’s the trade in its entirety:

Kansas City Royals receive James Shields and Wade Davis (plus a PTBNL/cash)
Tampa Bay Rays receive Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard

Value Up

Wade Davis

The clear winner from a fantasy angle in this trade is Davis. There was going to be no room for him again in the Tampa Bay rotation for 2013, and it was a long shot at best for him to get saves. Now, he’s moving to another pitcher-friendly park, which comes in handy when you have a 43% career fly ball rate, and he’s going to be given every chance to make the Royals rotation. Now, with all that said, I don’t expect great things from him. At this point, I think the best you can hope for with him in the near-term is that he can throw 180 league-average innings (4.00 ERA or so) with a 7.0 K/9. So even that would make him a solid #4 in a mixed league rotation. I’m very curious to see where the hype train goes with him through February and March, as he has very real and serious concerns about staying in the rotation long-term. But he will get his chance.

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Transaction Analysis: Ten Players Whose Values Changed During the Winter Meetings

Let’s be honest, the first five weeks of the off-season were pretty boring. However, the last week or so has seen some big time free agent signings and trades – and it’s no coincidence that this lines up with the Winter Meetings in Nashville. So since there’s been a lot of news lately, in the interest of timeliness, I’m going to quickly run through ten players who have seen their fantasy outlook change in a meaningful way because of one of these transactions – whether it’s up or down. So, for example, I’m not including Mike Napoli in this post because I think he’ll more or less be the same Mike Napoli in Boston as he was in Texas. And in the interest of further timeliness, this is the end of the introduction.

Shane Victorino

The Flyin’ Hawaiian is the source of many GIF’s, but he also might be a nice source of value in 2013 drafts and beyond. Yes, he hit a whopping .245/.316/.351 for the Dodgers after the mid-season trade from Philadelphia, but the 32-year old still has a lot to offer. Batting average will be easier to come by in Boston, and so will counting stats. On top of that, he’s going to be playing under a manager, in John Farrell, who has a track record in Toronto of being a bit lead footed when it comes to stolen bases. To be fair, Victorino is a guy who I liked to have a bounce back season in 2013 even before I knew who he signed with, but playing in Boston will give him the opportunity to be a top-30 OF again.

Joe Blanton

Leaving the “friendly” confines of Philadelphia for Anaheim is a net gain for anyone, but especially a pitcher like Blanton, who has been homer-prone in his career. Despite being more of a ground ball pitcher, Blanton has given up more than a HR per inning each season since leaving the A’s. Including partial seasons, here are his HR/9 rates with Philly: 1.38, 1.38, 1.09, 1.37, 1.49. So while his K-rate will likely go down moving to the AL, if his new ballpark can keep his HR/9 rate right around 1.0 and his HR/FB rate below 10% (which it hasn’t been since his days in the Coliseum), Blanton could be a helpful back-end starter for the next two years.

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Rebuilding a Dynasty League Roster, Part 12: The Prestige

“Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called ‘The Pledge’. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called ‘The Turn’. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call ‘The Prestige’.” – Cutter

This quote may not exactly be about managing a dynasty league roster, but there is a parallel here. Turning your team into a contender is a nice trick, but keeping your team a contender over many seasons is the hardest part, and what I’m referring to here as “The Prestige”. Anyone can contend for a season, or even two – building a perennial contender requires two continuing skills which we’ve been working on throughout this entire series. The first is the ability to restock the minor league cupboard without (for the most part) dealing away major league talent. The second is the ability to know your team’s weaknesses and act swiftly and decisively to remedy them. In order to give a real-life example of this, I’ll infuse some examples from the same 18-team dynasty league I’ve been referring to the last few posts which is now in the contention stage.

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