Coming into the 2013 season, there was a generally accepted belief that the new class of young superstars in this league began and ended with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. It’s not that there wasn’t a next tier, it’s that the gap was well established — even when you dropped to also-studs like Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward and Starlin Castro. It’s the difference between the usual level of greatness that we see, and the greatness only exuded by the generational talents who have the skills to change the conversation. But as it turns out, there may be room for a third wheel in that class.
Manny Machado was, in some ways, a victim of his own success in fantasy circles. It’s no secret that he was consistently challenged by the Orioles with his assignments, tackling Low-A at age 18 and Double-A at age 19. So, simply by holding his own at the levels he was assigned to was a strong statement about his talent — and those gaudy minor league numbers, like the ones many of the “household name” prospects put up, never came. But that didn’t deter the Orioles from seeing what he was capable of, as he was promoted to the major leagues just one month after his 20th birthday, and all he did was post a 98 OPS+ in the middle of a playoff race. Not to mention that he was playing great defense at a position he only played two games at during his entire minor league career.
I know I shouldn’t. I really do. I have an analytical mind. I’m aware of what a small sample is. I know what Spring Training statistics are good for. There are a thousand things that I know which all should prevent me from joining the growing ranks of Puig-A-Mania, but my gut doth protest too much. Every time I see him destroy another ball, the synapses in my brain which control the most primal of urges start firing off like an Mcycle with a laser gun on a defenseless cyborg.
Of all players in professional baseball, I’ve gotten the most questions about Puig this spring, and for good reason. He clocked in at #62 on my Top 150 prospect list from mid-January, and he was my #74 outfielder, a couple of weeks later. Here was my blurb on him:
“Ranking a Cuban defector who’s only amassed 82 professional at-bats is really just guesswork, so I’m not going to pretend that this is much more than that. And he’s different from Cespedes or Chapman because he never played for the top Cuban national team (which more scouts have access to). However, rumors that he was out of shape quickly dissipated when he showed up in Arizona this summer. Puig’s game is strength first and everything else later. He could be a big-time power hitting OF, or he could not make enough contact for it to matter.”
There are two very distinct sides to the crop of outfielders out there today. The most obvious side that we see is the star side, which is as deep as ever – led by as strong of a top-10 at the position as we have seen this century. And not only are they a strong group, they’re a young group as well, including four players 23 years old or younger. And nearly all of these players are of the five-tool variety, except for potentially off-the-charts power guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Hamilton.
The dark side of the outfield position these days is the underbelly, which really shows itself once make your way beyond the top-40 or so. Essentially, the middle class of outfielders has nearly eroded – dropping the position quickly from your solid #3 OFs to your seemingly never-ending string of fliers. And the results of this are twofold on how you have to evaluate the position. First of all, high floor players are of greater value than at many other positions, and Nick Markakis is a great example of this. We’re not exactly waiting with bated breath for him to be a star anymore, but at least we know we’ll get some level of production from him. Because of this, he makes the top-50. Second of all, while it doesn’t show up in a positional list, the bulk of fliers out there for your final OF spot or two causes the entire group of players to get devalued on an overall standpoint. So unless there’s a particular guy you really like, you can wait and wait and wait – there will be outfielders starting the 2013 on waivers that will outperform most of the 4/5 OF types being drafted. So be patient and be prepared to scour the waiver wire.
And now your top 50 dynasty league outfielders, with commentary:
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.
This is a fun exercise I’ve wanted to do for a while now. Right now, Opening Day 2017 is four and a half years away, but there’s absolutely no reason I can’t start speculating about who will lead the standard 5×5 rotisserie categories that season. Who knows if the 5×5 format we use now will still be the most commonplace scoring system that far into the future anyway? Maybe a standard ESPN league will be using OBP and QS instead of AVG and W. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to assume that the categories are remaining the same.
Now, this isn’t an all-prospect list – although there are some prospects on here. And if you think I’m understating the impact of prospects in this exercise, here’s a fun fact for you. If we did this exercise after the 2007 season, looking at the 2012 category leaders, guess how many of the categories would be led by players who had not played a game in the majors at the time? The answer is 5 out of 10. And if you expand out to the top-3 in each category (including ties), you get 13 out of 33, which is 39%. Of those 13 top-3 category finishes, 7 were from players that debuted in 2008, 2 were from players that debuted in 2009, 2 were from players that debuted in 2010 and 2 were from Mike Trout, who was a junior in high school when the 2007 season ended. In fact, Trout and Buster Posey were the only two players who finished in the top-3 of any 5×5 fantasy category in 2012 to be drafted AFTER the 2007 season.
Anyway, that’s enough of an introduction – let’s go to the Future Dynasty Guru for the breakdown of what happened in 2017:
Batting Average: Miguel Cabrera (.341)
It feels like Miguel Cabrera’s been around forever, but he only turned 33 on Opening Day 2017. While his power has started to wind down (this was his first season with under 30 HR in over a decade), Cabrera continues to maintain a high batting average. The two main reasons for this are: 1) he’s still a fantastic hitter to all fields and 2) by the laws of physics, it’s been impossible for him to get any slower than he was back in 2012. Runners up: Oscar Taveras (.334), Starlin Castro (.328)
It was entirely predictable. Once Mike Trout got the call to the majors on April 28th and decided to immediately become the best player in baseball, you could see the next question out of people’s mouths from a mile away. Who is going to be the next Mike Trout?
The problem with that question is that there are many ways you can define it. If you take it strictly on face value and are wondering when we’ll see another player come up from the minors and be as talented as Mike Trout, the answer is probably not for a while. Trout (along with fellow rookie Bryce Harper) is a generational talent, the likes of which we may not see again for another 15-20 years, if that. But you can also look at that question as meaning “who is the next player who was a little overlooked in the draft, but has superstar potential?” That’s a question we can work with in theory, but it also sets us up for extremely unrealistic expectations — and therein lies the bigger problem.
Mike Trout’s immediate and ridiculous success at both the minor and major league levels have turned this fairly innocuous question into a very loaded one. Now when you’re in a dynasty league, you’re always looking for that guy — a player who isn’t going to go in the top 5-10 picks in your draft, but has the upside of a fantasy stud. I was in two dynasty leagues prior to the 2010 season, and in both drafts, Trout went outside the top-15 picks (#17 and #20, respectively). So we look for signs as to why this happened, and what jumped out at me was the combination of Trout’s age when drafted and his initial success in rookie ball. So in the 2012 draft, I looked for hitters drafted in the first round that turned 18 within 3 months of draft day (June 4) and performed at a higher level that was anticipated in his first taste of pro ball. That list ended up being 4 players deep — and here they are, with their 2012 stats below: