With dynasty leagues, along with pretty much everything else in life, the biggest successes come when you are realistic about both how and when you go about it. In this respect, you really have to operate like a major league front office. When an MLB team in the rebuilding phase views their future, they will look at it through the lens of their time horizon. That means they are establishing a target date in the future in which the goals they have been building towards become feasible.
Take the Kansas City Royals as an example. Dayton Moore has been fortifying their farm system for a few years now, and they are starting to see the fruits of that labor with bats like Hosmer and Moustakas already having shown promise at the major league level. These players are likely to be free agents after the 2017 season, and the Royals know that they may not be able to keep them beyond their arbitration years. So what they appear to be doing is focusing on ways they can give themselves the best chance of winning during the time period from 2014-2017. You can see this in a few different ways. This is part of the reason why they were focused on getting a college SP with their first round draft pick. You can also see this in the financial flexibility they’ve given themselves as a franchise – I believe Sal Perez is now the only player who is under contract for the Royals in the 2014 season. This will make it easier for them to take on salary in trades and sign complementary pieces over the next two seasons. It’s all a part of the process.
Much more on this after the jump…
So let’s apply this to the team featured in this experiment. What we’re going to do is break down the entire roster into categories. For major league players, the categories are going to be Pre-Prime, Prime, Post-Prime 1, Post-Prime 2 – and this will all be irrespective of talent level, for now. The concept is simple and mostly age-based. Pre-Prime players are under 27 years old, Prime players are between 27 and 31 and Post-Prime players are older than 31. All ages are as of June 1, 2012. The breakout between Post-Prime 1 and Post-Prime 2 deals with how much future value I believe that player has – a Post-Prime 1 guy is someone I still expect to be fantasy relevant three years from now and a Post-Prime 2 guy is not. Let’s take two Yankees for example. Mark Teixeira is 32 and I think he’ll continue to be a contributor for the next 4-5 years, whereas Mariano Rivera will not.
So how does this roster break out? Let’s take a look:
Pre-Prime – Matt Wieters (26), Jemile Weeks (25), Chris Davis (26), Yonder Alonso (25), Chris Marrero (23), Kyle Drabek (24), Jeremy Hellickson (25), Derek Holland (25), Lance Lynn (25), Zach Britton (24), Danny Duffy (23), Travis Wood (25), Carlos Carrasco (25)
Prime – Yunel Escobar (29), Alex Rios (31), Eric Young Jr (27), Jeff Franceour (28), Chris Johnson (27), Jonathan Broxton (27), Brandon Morrow (27)
Post-Prime 1 – Albert Pujols (32), Jayson Werth (33), Chase Utley (33)
Post-Prime 2 – Aubrey Huff (35), Kevin Youkilis (33), J.J. Putz (35)
When the team is laid out in an objective manner, you can then start to assess it in a subjective manner. It’s great that there are so many more names in the Pre-Prime and Prime categories than in the others, but when you look at the names, they are not exactly a laundry list of guys who have lived up to expectations or are having good years. Alex Rios, Lance Lynn and Brandon Morrow are the only three guys who are really performing from those two groups. Beyond that, Wieters, Davis and Hellickson have been good. In the Post-Prime categories, it’s Pujols and the walking wounded. Not a pretty sight.
Now, we’re going to separate the minor league players into different buckets. These four buckets will be High Upside Close, High Upside Far, Low Upside, Low Probability – they should be pretty self-explanatory. I’m drawing the line of demarcation between close and far at the chasm between A-ball and AA-ball. I’m just warning you, this list will not be pretty.
High upside close – Yasmani Grandal, Brett Jackson, Matt Davidson, John Lamb
High upside far – George Springer
Low upside – Max Stassi, Jiovanni Mier, Julio Borbon, Ryan Kalish, Michael Taylor, Zack Cox, Phillippe Aumont, Chris Dwyer, Christian Friedrich, Kyle Gibson, Ethan Martin, Brett Oberholtzer
Low probability – Dellin Betances, Edinson Rincon, Donavan Tate, Carlos Perez, Stetson Allie, Luke Jackson, Adys Portillo
My first thought is that a 5 to 19 ratio between high and low guys is not good. My second thought is that even in the High Upside close group, there are no real potential stars there for a format like this outside of Matt Davidson and possibly Yasmani Grandal if his K/BB rate translates to MLB. My second thought is that this is not the end of the spectrum that I usually like my farm system in a dynasty league to be on. I skew much more towards the high risk/high reward side, but that’s a discussion for another day.
When you look at this team as a whole, it’s pretty obvious that I’m going to have a difficult time competing in 2013 as the roster is currently constructed. But it’s also worth noting, that I have some big name players who I expect to keep playing at a reasonably high level for at least the next 4-5 years. This leaves me with one of two options as far as how to position my team’s time horizon. The first option is to completely blow it up, trade away everyone who’s not Pre-Prime and hope to be competitive starting in 2016. The second option is to trade away a few key pieces to rebuild both the upper and lower levels of the farm system, while keeping players who I expect to continue to be solid performers in anticipation of competing in 2014.
Now you may have just asked yourself, “Why would he rebuild the lower levels of his farm system in order to create a 2014 time horizon?” You are absolutely correct that those players will still be in the minors at that point, but the building blocks of your trade chips can be just as important as the building blocks of your roster – but again, much more on that later.
In the end, my decision was to make 2014 my time horizon for this team – and it was for three main reasons. First of all, the values of many of those Post-Prime trade chips are very down right now. Jayson Werth and Chase Utley both continue to be out, Kevin Youkilis is both hurt and struggling and Albert Pujols is still in the early stages of getting his numbers back to his usual Pujols-ian levels. Timing is key here, and the quicker I put these things into motion, the quicker I will get back into contention. Secondly, I’m not in love with the futures of some of my higher-profile Pre-Prime players and think I’ll need to replace them with better ones. Unfortunately, the only way I can do this is by dealing for guys who I think can develop into the future stars that I’m not sure my current players are. And finally, it’s more fun. All things being equal, you want to make a run at it sooner. Rebuilding can be a fun project, but being competitive is more fun.
Once the time horizon is established, it’s time to start evaluating your roster from a talent standpoint to see which players you are going try and build around and which you are going to try and trade. But we’ll get to that in Part 3…