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.