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