Time to Sell Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright just finished a 2014 season where he posted his career best ERA and his second lowest walk rate of his career—what I want you to do now is sell him.

In dynasty leagues if you aren’t diligent about searching for new prospects and finding ways to improve your roster constantly, it is pretty easy to look at your team one year and realize that the majority of your players are on the downside of their careers. In order to prevent this unfortunate event there are many things you can do.

1. Collect the Right Prospects – Be aggressive with prospects at positions where you are aging. It is usually best practice to take the best player on the board but if you are using an aging catcher like Yadier Molina it might be better to draft Blake Swihart than Jesse Winker.

2. Make TradesALWAYS look to improve your team via trade and never say any one player is untouchable. Everyone has a value in fantasy and if you can improve your roster either by adding depth or getting younger you always need to do that. Just because Jose Bautista had a great year last year doesn’t mean you shouldn’t accept an offer of George Springer for him in a dynasty format.

3. Sell High – This is what I am going to address in this article but as the great Bill Belichick often shows us it is better to be a year early on selling a player than a year late. Players, no matter how great, cannot fight Father Time, especially without the anabolic aids of yesteryear, and therefore should not be held past the time you notice a decline in their underlying stats.

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Searching for Value with Latin American Pitchers: NL East

Last week I talked about some general thoughts on how Latin American pitching prospects can make for good investments in a dynasty league.  Going forward the plan is to look at players division by division, finding players at different levels of league competition (from a more standard dynasty league to very deep leagues).  This is also not meant as a comprehensive list, instead I am looking to highlight players for a variety of different reasons that can help you find the next crop of sleeper prospects.

Might Be Too Late:

Reynaldo Lopez – RHP – Washington Nationals
2014 Stats: 83.1 IP 1.08 ERA 42 H 10 ER 26 BB 70 K (NYPL & SAL)
For Lopez the real question is whether he is available in your league or not.  If you have in season pick ups there is a chance that he is already owned in your league, if not he is going to be one of the hot names this offseason.  Lopez has everything that a profile top pitching prospect should have, his fastball is up to the touching 90s, a bat missing curveball, flashes a changeup, and missed bats at multiple levels.  There is plenty of upside here, and he should start 2015 in a hi-A rotation with Lucas Giolito so he should continue to get plenty of coverage.  Lopez is already getting a ton of press; Baseball Prospectus ranked him the #4 prospect in the Nationals system and Baseball America had him as the #2 prospect in the New York-Penn League and the #3 prospect in the South Atlantic League.  Some people are going to be scared away by Lopez’s size (6’0″ 185 lbs), but don’t be one of the ones to put him in the reliever bucket.  His stock should continue to soar over the next year or so, so he makes a good investment right now.  It would be a bit aggressive to take him in a first year draft near guys like Aaron Nola or Kyle Freeland, but he should not go off the board too long after them either.
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Ken Giles: Strikeout Machine

Ken Giles was a virtual unknown in the fantasy baseball universe at this time one year ago. He wasn’t on any top prospect lists and aside from the fact that we knew had a live arm, the odds of him putting it all together and making an impact in the big leagues seemed remote at best. After the Phillies lost their primary set-up man Mike Adams to an injury, Giles (who had spent the better part of two months mowing down minor league hitters) got the call on June 8th and began to rack up strikeouts at a rate that fantasy owners couldn’t ignore.

It’s insanely hard not to like Giles. Just watch him throw one inning and you’re hooked. Giles arsenal features a blazing fastball that can hit 100-mph and a devastating slider that enabled him rack up 64 strikeouts and post a 1.18 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP over 45.2 innings of work as a rookie in 2014.

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Now is the Time to Sell Julio Teheran

Julio Teheran has been a fantasy stud the last two seasons, fulfilling the hopes of dynasty leaguers who have watched him grow from an uber-elite prospect into a legitimate ace hurler. Still only 23 years old with his health intact, it seems he is poised to dominate the league for years to come. So why am I advising you to trade him? Because there are some red flags in his underlying peripheral stats that warn of darker days ahead. In my opinion his value is higher right now than it ever will be again, so this winter is the ideal time to cash him in and invest in a safer commodity.

The Good Stuff

Teheran’s 2014 season was a fantasy owner’s dream: 14-13 record, 2.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 186 strikeouts spread over 221 innings. That excellent production drove a high proportion of his owners to league championships. It is no surprise that he finished the season ranked as the 14th best starting pitcher in 5×5 leagues and a top 50 overall player regardless of position. Given his  youth and name recognition, Teheran would be one of the first pitchers taken in new dynasty leagues having their inaugural drafts. His trade value is sky high.

The not so Good Stuff

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Manny Machado: This Year’s Anthony Rendon

I live in Washington, D.C. and from a baseball standpoint I was absolutely spoiled in 2014. I subscribe to MLB.tv so I can watch my hometown Red Sox and anything else going on in the league, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood to fire it up and I find myself watching the local games. Watching the local games wasn’t half bad this year since I was able to see the Nationals and Orioles both win their divisions, and I got to witness one of my favorite young players, Anthony Rendon, enjoy a breakout year.

There are few things in baseball more impressive to me than rocket line drives down the left field line that get caught by horizontal third basemen, or balls stopped deep in the hole and rifled to first. Third basemen do it all from flashy defense to putting the ball over the fence, and no one was better in 2014 than Rendon. I am here to tell you that even though Rendon is the guy coming off the MVP-vote type season, it’s Machado you want to target in your dynasty leagues.

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Scouting the Statline: Three More Interesting Bats from the AFL

A couple weeks back I checked in on the Arizona Fall League to see how some of the more intriguing prospects toiling in the desert sun were performing. Since then the League has closed up shop for the year, and it’s on to the Caribbean and Latin American winter leagues. But while we wait for those leagues to produce sample sizes worthy of evaluation, let’s check in one last time on the AFL and talk about a few more bats that went unmentioned in my mid-season review.

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Searching for Value with Latin American Pitchers: An Overview

Everyone wants to know who the hot new sleepers are, which in the age of the internet is a bit funny because the minute someone becomes a sleeper their value normally starts to disappear.  But I still want to talk about sleepers and most of this series will be about naming names, but I do hope you walk away with how to apply this to more than the specific players mentioned.  The key with sleepers is value, the idea being that you are taking a player at a value you think they will become in the near future.  Most people think of this in terms of obscure or unknown players bursting onto the scene, but in many ways if a top player is going below their value that is just as valuable as an unknown sleeper, they just lack the unknown part of our definition.  But I am going to talk about those guys off the radar.

One of the most untapped markets for assets gaining sudden value in a dynasty league is Latin American pitching.  It is a strategy that loses some of its value the shallower the league because you lose the large talent pool to operate that allows for expansion to more risky prospects.  The idea being that you can find unknown players to acquire for practically nothing and then either stick with them to major league value or flip them at a higher value in trade.  It is not an easy strategy but one that allows you to churn through prospects because you know you can acquire their replacements for next to nothing.  This first post is going to talk general strategy and then subsequent posts will go division by division looking at specific players. Continue reading

Just How Good is Jorge Soler?

This past season, North Siders got their first glimpse of the remarkable confluence of talent that we analysts have been fawning over for years. First to arrive on the scene was Arismendy Alcantara, followed by the prodigious strikeout ability and Jurassic power of Javier Baez. The third player of the Cubs’ elite prospect crop that arrived last year was Jorge Soler, and he might be the guy we know the least about.

Soler defected from his native Cuba in 2011 and fled to the Dominican Republic where, after many months of negotiation, he finally signed with the Cubs in June of 2012. The terms of the deal were unique and almost unheard of, as the Cubs committed nine years and $30MM to a player who had just recently turned 20 and had yet to play in the minors or any foreign professional league. Prior to Soler signing his deal, Yoenis Cespedes was the only other Cuban position player to sign for big money, with his four-year, $36MM contract.

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Can A.J. Pollock Be A Big Fish?

At the core of every strategic approach to constructing a winning fantasy baseball roster is the goal of acquiring the most statistical value possible. Fishing to acquire undervalued assets who are poised for a breakout campaign is an essential off-season exercise for all dynasty owners. One of the top targets this off-season, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock, isn’t the biggest fish in the fantasy ocean, but he may be one of the most valuable this upcoming season.

Pollock is one of the most underrated players in fantasy baseball right now because he was barely on the field last season due to a freak injury and very few fantasy owners realized how well he was playing. The 26-year old was on the verge of a monster breakout, hitting .316/.366/.554 with six home runs and eight stolen bases in 192 plate appearances, before he was drilled by a Johnny Cueto 92-mph fastball that fractured his right hand in late May. The injury required surgery and he ended up missing 79 games before returning in September.

The Notre Dame product hit only .273/.326/.386 with one home run and six stolen bases in September after missing three months of action, but still finished the 2014 season with solid numbers overall: .302/.353/.498 with seven home runs and 14 stolen bases in 287 plate appearances. Pollock’s 134 wRC+ ranked 35th out of 349 hitters who received 200 plate appearances last season. Heading into 2015, the big question remaining for fantasy owners is: what does a full season of Pollock look like? In short, the projection is very enticing.

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To Catch an Undervalued Thief: Stolen Base Efficiency and Upside

We’re still a few weeks away from the dawn of rankings season and the cold winter winds do whip and howl, quelling once more the flames of baseball and leaving us with nothing more than the occasional Gammons #burn from which to draw warmth until spring rekindles our souls once more. Well maybe the off-season’s not that poetic for you, but there’s really nothing else going on right now, so we might as well get into it a little bit, right?

Last year around this time I wrote a couple pieces outlining some of the little quick and dirty stats I like to peak at as I start to move into off-season list-building mode, and one of my first annual checks in recent years has been for potential breakout speed guys. And as my BP colleague Mike Gianella pointed out in an excellent column on valuation the other day, stolen base volume has been trending pretty emphatically down across the league over the last few years, and the ripple effect of that trend in fantasy baseball value terms has been to significantly increase the potential for speed-only guys to return surplus draft value. Sometimes finding a couple bench guys who steal bases at a high percentage relative to their playing time can be a nice way to set yourself up strategically for a long roto season, and obviously the deeper your league the more this will ring true.

To this end one of my starting points involves taking a look at the PA/SB metric I discussed here. Now, standard disclaimer, this is NOT meant to be an exercise of scientific precision. The goal is not to get to the bottom of this article and triumphantly cheers to unlocking the secret speed sleepers for 2015. Rather, the goal here is to discover a couple guys that we might not otherwise have on our collective radar and track their situations through the winter and into spring training. Most of the names I’ll be able to take away from this exercise are part-time players, so a lot of their value heading into 2015 will be dependent on roster moves that will be made over the next couple of months. I’ve always liked PA/SB as a starting point for evaluating speed guys, though, because there’s a kind of built-in accounting for things like playing time opportunity and organizational philosophy that is valuable to recognize up front. Not all 15 stolen base guys are created equal, and figuring out which ones have a shot at increasing their totals with more playing time or a uniform change is a nice advantage to give yourself.

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