Three Dynasty Lessons I Should’ve Learned Sooner
The 2014 season is three-quarters over and my favorite team is bad and most of my fantasy teams are middling or bad, so I’ve already started to think about my ranking process for 2015 and beyond.
Unfortunately, I still haven’t given any thought to my intro-writing process, so you’re stuck with this.
1) At a certain point, proximity outweighs upside
Lesson No. 1 I’m going to take into my off-season rankings has a lot to do with the age-old debate of upside vs. proximity. Historically, when push comes to shove, I’ve given the nod to upside. The more deep leagues I play in, though, the more tempting investing in players close to the majors becomes.
I began the year, as did many others, with players like Lucas Giolito, Clint Frazier and Jorge Alfaro ranked quite highly on my personal Top 150 dynasty prospects list. And if you understand what these players can become at their peaks, it’s not hard to see why.
But as I watch the likes of Marcus Stroman and Yordano Ventura and Chris Owings and George Springer and Kolten Wong come up and produce meaningfully for contenders this year, I become increasingly less patient with high-upside, pie-in-the-sky type players.
There’s a very real tipping point at which upside must be acknowledged, of course. While someone like Giolito should’ve been ranked behind Taijuan Walker and Kevin Gasuman and even Robert Stephenson, in my opinion, he shouldn’t be ranked behind a guy like Matt Wisler. Clint Frazier maybe shouldn’t be ranked ahead of Stephen Piscotty, but he should be ranked ahead of, say, Jackie Bradley Jr.
I think this point is especially true of No. 4/5 starter types who find themselves creeping into the back of Top 100 dynasty prospect rankings every year. At this point, I’m getting ready to ignore them almost all together. When are you not going to be able to pick up a guy like Anthony Ranaudo or Zach Lee or Adalberto Mejia or Erik Johnson on the waiver wire?
For players such as this, the upside/proximity spectrum remains as it is, in my mind. For most others, though, prospects in Double-A or higher are getting a serious bump this offseason.
2) Ultimate upside and rookie performance look nothing alike
Xander Bogaerts, man. I still truly believe he’s going to be a perennial Top 3 shortstop who hits .300 with 25-plus bombs and 100 RBI on a regular basis. I think he can stick at shortstop for a few years. I’m not super worried about his future, despite his bummer of a rookie season.
But he’s killing me in a few leagues, and I swung and missed pretty hard on him with my preseason prognosis. I had Bogaerts down for .270/.330/.450 or something of the like this year. He’d have to hit like Barry Bonds to get to that point by 2014’s end now.
This just illustrates another point that I know and that you know, but that we’re all too happy to ignore every April: rookies struggle. For every Michael Wacha, there are 10 Trevor Bauers. For every Yasiel Puig, there are 10 Gregory Polancos.
Making fairly nebulous statements like “he could be a fantasy first-rounder” or “he could top a fantasy pitching staff someday” is useful insofar in that it gives readers an idea of what a player’s ultimate upside may be. But it’s really, really dangerous for owners who draft rookies needing production now.
Fool me 1,432 times, shame on you, baseball. Fool me 1,433 times, shame on me. I’m going less rookie heavy from here on out, even if I get fewer oohs and ahhs in drafts.
3) Don’t completely discount older/non-prospects
This point is most difficult to analyze and speak to, at least in my perspective, because it flies in the face of a lot of the common knowledge we drop on TINO and over at BP all the time.
Age relative to MiLB level matters a lot when you’re scouting prospects for fantasy purposes. Post-college sluggers should be destroying Low-A. Twenty-one-year-olds should not be destroying Double-A. If you can’t keep caveats like this in mind when looking at minor league leader boards, you’re going to run into a lot of trouble.
But when a player who “we,” as in “the scouting industry,” weren’t high on hits the majors, when do we owe said player a second look, and when can we brush him side? 2014 has been rife with examples of how owners can be trapped both by buying into and ignoring these players.
On the one hand, guys like Khris Davis, Brock Holt, Dallas Keuchel and Jacob deGrom were never considered much as prospects. Yet they’ve all enjoyed wildly successful years, and all three should probably be drafted even in 12-team leagues next season.
On the flip side, what happens to player who bought in on Chase Whitley, Conor Gillaspie or Lonnie Chisenhall? If you were able to pick these guys up on waivers and ride a hot streak, that’s all well and good. But what about owners who bought them in major deals?
Being able to identify which out-of-nowhere players are real and which should be ignored is a hugely important skill, and one I know I need to refine moving forward.
4) Never trust an Upton
(this is a few years old, but still relevant.)
Not sure that’s fully true. JUP has been a decent boon to my 5×5 OBP team. Not below average at anything, not amazing at anything. Just a solid dude.
Depending on how deep the league is, and the related farm systems, i have a few rules that i live by for prospecting purposes. 1) I never invest in any true LF prospects. Most of the time, LF at the mlb level will be defensive transplants anyways. They pop up all of the time, so don’t waste your time buying in on a prospect that has already been switched to LF, unless the bat is a game changer. 2) I don’t invest too heavily in highly touted pitching prospects until they show me a season at AA. There are too many variables in play during their journey up the minor league ranks. AA performance is a big key for me to even look at highly touted arms. I might pay a bit more for these players than others did by investing earlier on, but i balance that out with not having to take huge losses on those A, A+ level pitchers that don’t pan out. 3) When ranking players for my own personal use, i never combine hitters and pitchers, and very rarely combine positions, like CI or MI. I have different things i look for within each group, so mixing them together muddles the overall process.
Pretty sound advice from Andy. I’ve adopted #2 now heavily, it’s why I was so willing to drop Stephenson in one of my dynasty leagues (with no minor bench).
A small nitpick…Just because Polanco isn’t a Puig doesn’t mean he isn’t helping a lot of teams. Polanco has been a top 20 OF in my dynasty league the past month.
Great article Ben. Pretty insightful. I always try to take away at least one big lesson learned each year.
Nice article, Ben. I would say to not underrate “No. 4/No. 5 starter types who creep to the back of top 100 lists” though. Odorizzi was that kind of guy going into this year. He only made 7 of the 13 top-100 lists I checked (BP had him but Bret did not) and people were talking about him as a safe #4. I would say those guys are worth giving a shot to if you can see a path to playing time. Once a guy is going every five days he can surprise you with upside. I am less likely to bother with a “safe” type who is headed to AA or lower. Give me delicious delicious upside for those guys.