2014 NPB Draft Review

On Thursday October 23rd, the annual NPB first draft took place. It’s been 2 months since the event, but not much of information in the language you can understand is available, I take a look at it here at TDG.

Among many things about the NPB draft that would look strange to our eyes, one of them is the fact that they do it right in the middle of the postseason. Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker addressed more details back in 2009.

This year, 104 players got their names called. You can see the entire coverage on the Pacific League guys and the Central League guys, courtesy of the great Yakyubaka.com. Some of them have upsides to be big leaguers in the future. If you’re in a deep-deep dynasty league, they’re probably worth keeping your eye on.

Tomohiro Anraku, RHP

Rakuten Eagles, 1st round

L/R, 6’2″, 187 lbs, DOB: 11/4/1996

The Stuff: low-mid 90s FB, mid 70s SL, upper 60 CV

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A Look At The Winter Leagues – AL East

Last week I posted the first in a series of columns profiling players who are participating in the Caribbean and Australian winter leagues.  You can read my intro to the series here, but it’s worth reiterating with each successive post that I am not trying to draw definitive conclusions about these players based on their winter performance.  The sample sizes are small and frankly I don’t know enough about the leagues themselves to be able to place these performances in an appropriate context.  But I do think the winter leagues provide an opportunity to look at players either on the fringe of deep and dynasty league importance or out of the current picture altogether and ponder their potential relevance in 2015 and beyond.

I covered the NL East last week and I’ll look at the AL East this week.

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Is Rubby De La Rosa The Next Wade Davis?

The similarity between the career path of newly acquired Arizona Diamondback Rubby De La Rosa and Kansas City Royals setup specialist Wade Davis early on in their respective Major League careers is striking. The future is neither pre-determined nor set in stone, and while De La Rosa will be given every opportunity to establish himself as a starter in the Arizona rotation this upcoming season, if he continues on his current trajectory, his ultimate destiny and clearest path to significant fantasy value, just like Davis, is as a late-inning reliever.

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Kevin Gausman: Potential Breakout Fantasy Ace

Baseball is really hard, and major league baseball is even harder.  This is what you should repeat to yourself over and over again when evaluating a young player in the major leagues.  In this case the player I am talking about is Orioles RHP Kevin Gausman.  On the surface Gausman has plenty of warts.  His 3.0 BB/9 and 7.0 K/9 to go along with a 3.57 ERA and pitching in the AL East doesn’t make for an attractive package.  Then there is the fact his own manager inexplicably didn’t use him in his playoff rotation (Gausman did pitch 8 innings out of the bullpen, allowing 3 hits, 1 run, walking 2 and striking out 7).  It is a player looking more pedestrian in fantasy, and with whispers of a move to the bullpen in his future, normally this tells you to run, instead go buy.

In many ways Gausman reminds me of Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole, Cole has the better overall arsenal, but in his 222.1 minor league innings pitched he only managed an 8.1 K/9.  He then made the majors and promptly put up a 7.7 K/9 in his first year, leading to plenty of questions about where his fantasy value really was.  In his second year (2014), Cole, when healthy, saw his strikeouts jump to 9.0/9 on the year, and all the way up to 10.3/9 over the second half.  All in all Cole had a breakout end of the year with 11 walks to his 60 strikeouts over 52.1 second half innings.  Cole is now positioned to be nearing the ceiling many had ascribed to him when he was picked #1 overall. Continue reading

Trade Danny Duffy Now!

The most valuable commodity in dynasty league baseball is a young player coming off an excellent season. 25 year old Danny Duffy fits the bill. He put up a 2.53 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 149.1 innings this year. He finished the season ranked #34 among starting pitchers on Yahoo, #52 on CBS and #36 on ESPN’s Player Rater. He also got a ton of media attention because his team made it all the way through the playoffs into the World Series. His owners are thrilled to have him and almost everybody else wants him. Because of his youth and great season Duffy should have a ton of fantasy value right now, right? Yes, Duffy does have a lot of trade value, but he does not offer a lot of real production value moving forward.

Unfortunately Duffy’s fantasy stats are hiding some nasty surprises. Continue reading

A Look At The Winter Leagues – NL East

The Arizona Fall League wrapped nearly a month ago.  As always, it featured a who’s who of highly touted prospects – Buxton, Lindor, Russell, Bradley, Appel, and on and on.  It is widely scouted and covered by sources familiar to dynasty league participants.  I recommend Wilson Karaman’s coverage here if you haven’t read it already.  Conversely, the Caribbean and Australian winter leagues are barely covered and the players are far less recognizable than the AFL for most fantasy leaguers.  Video is scarce and I don’t know enough about the quality of competition or the parks to weigh winter results very heavily in the overall context of player evaluation, but there is some useful information to be found if you look hard enough.

Echoing the sentiment Wilson expressed in his AFL recap, the sample sizes are minute and I’m not looking to make any grand conclusions based on winter league stat lines.  Small sample notwithstanding, players can gain momentum in these winter leagues and alter their perception in the prospect marketplace.  For example, Gregory Polanco built on his strong 2013 minor league campaign by slashing .331/.428/.494 in the Dominican and created even more buzz heading in to 2014.  Jesus Aguilar hit 18 bombs in Venezuela last winter and perhaps foreshadowed his strong AAA season.  The winter leagues are also a popular destination for veterans in their mid-20s looking to make adjustments to their games.  A virtually unknown 26 year old named Collin McHugh struck out 20 against 4 walks in 19.2 innings in Venezuela last winter.

I will cover players in each division in separate posts, beginning here with the NL East.  Sorry Braves fans, I couldn’t find anyone interesting to talk about.

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What To Do With: Stagnant Hitting Prospects

Patience, as it relates to dynasty leagues is often times a curse rather than a blessing. If you’re stuck holding onto a failed prospect when you had an opportunity to get value in a trade, or missed an opportunity to add a better option for free because you just couldn’t let go of your beloved, (now) failed prospect, patience is often the cause of missing out on more valuable options. One of the most difficult aspects of evaluating a minor league roster at the end of the season is deciding which prospects to cut bait with and which prospects are capable of fulfilling the promise that caused you to acquire them in the first place. Non-elite prospects who reach the upper levels of the minors and struggle are often times the most difficult to evaluate, because it can be dangerous to overreact to one ‘bad’ minor league season. Do you hold on and hope the prospect makes the adjustments necessary? Do you try and sell high if you feel the prospect has reached his peak value, or just plain cut bait if you can’t find a trading partner?

Let’s take a look at 5 prospects who were among the Top 101 fantasy prospects according to Baseball Prospectus at the beginning of the year who did not take a step forward and now are in danger of being leapfrogged by other options this season:  Continue reading

Dynasty Deals: Best Hitters Over 35

In dynasty leagues by far one of my favorite things to do is to stockpile talent where my opponent isn’t looking for it. This strategy can be played out in many ways from researching and stashing a high ceiling prospect before he becomes mainstream to exploiting a classic dynasty league bias—player age.

Over the last five years I have witnessed countless owners in my own dynasty league decide they can’t win—they then go all in on the rebuilding process. Without fail the first part of their rebuild is trading older players who don’t fit their window of competing. Not unlike real baseball teams dynasty owners take their older talented players and cash them in for younger ones. These players can often be obtained for much less than their yearly value and can help you win your league this year.

Below are ten hitters who will be over 35 on opening day that I believe are great targets in all dynasty leagues. Next week I will be back with pitchers in the same age bracket. Enjoy!

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Searching for Value with Latin Pitchers: NL West

Part of the inspiration for this series was the San Francisco Giants coming into 2014.  Their minor league system had 4-5 Latin pitchers (some of which are about to make a repeat appearance right now) that had varying levels of upside and risk, but all had anonymity on their side.  This year their names are a little better known and their futures have advanced forward and so their value is a bit more solidified.  Overall the NL West has a good mix of high upside top line arms, and some younger arms with more safety than you would expect, that may be able to help you in deep deep dynasty leagues.

Standard Dynasty

Jose Martinez – RHP – Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 Stats: 6.0 IP 6.00 ERA 4 BB 3 K
If you were in a deep dynasty league last year, Martinez was a hot name towards the end of the first round. The diminutive RHP lost the year due to injury (stress fracture in his elbow), but overall all of the stuff is still there.  The stuff is electric with a fastball up into the upper 90s, a plus plus curveball, and feel for a changeup.  There are plenty of red flags around Martinez from the injury and his slight frame, but his upside is not easily found.  The injury and lack of hype really creates a buying opportunity here, especially since the reports indicate that Martinez will be healthy going into 2015, and his age and experience suggest a possible full season assignment.
Buying Opportunity: Injured player who has fallen off of people’s radars Continue reading

Under the Radar Prospect to Target: Matt Olson

Everybody who plays in a dynasty league loves prospects. Even if you didn’t care about minor leaguers before joining a dynasty league you quickly learned how critically important young players are. There is a good chance it opened up your mind to the wonderful world of prospecting. That’s what got me started. We all crave those elite prospects for our minor league rosters, so much so that their trade values soar into the stratosphere. The key to success is to spot those future superstars before your leaguemates do. If you wait for the annual top prospects lists from Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America to be published it will be too late. That might have worked 5 years ago but the volume of prospect information available to fantasy leaguers has exploded. So unless you grab them early you will be scrambling for the next Mike Trout and Matt Harvey at the same time as everyone else in your league. What you really need to do is identify those studs before they hit the big lists that everyone sees. You need to dig early and dig deep so you can snare these guys cheaply before their values skyrocket. That is the Holy Grail of dynasty league dominance. Here at The Dynasty Guru we will keep you up to date on the future stars you need to know about.

Many of the top 10 most elite prospects in baseball spent time in the low minors as relatively unheralded nobodies before shooting to the top of the lists. Many guys who become elite prospects were not 1st round draft picks nor celebrated amateur players. Some of the best players in the major leagues were never considered elite prospects. Guys like Paul Goldschmidt, Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, and many more elite fantasy players never made it anywhere near the top of a prospect list. That means we could have obtained those guys for free if we had been smart enough to predict how good they would become. Let’s take a shot at doing that now. Continue reading