Nick Tropeano does not get mentioned as an elite prospect. In fact he rarely gets mentioned at all. He didn’t make any of the top 100 prospects lists that have been released this Spring. He doesn’t have a blazing fastball. Nor does he have a picture-perfect windup and delivery. He didn’t play at a major college. He didn’t get drafted until the 5th round. He didn’t get his first cup of coffee in the major leagues until he was 24.
What he does have is some striking similarities with several other unheralded pitchers who achieved unexpected success last year. What do the likes of Jacob deGrom, Matt Shoemaker, Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, James Paxton and Yusmeiro Petit have in common? A few things actually:
On February 23rd, a mere four days ago, the Boston Red Sox struck what was to many an unexpected deal with the latest Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada for 31.5 million dollars. It was known that the Red Sox would be in the running for Moncada but the need was simply not there in the same way as it was for the Yankees and Dodgers. The Dodgers refused to sign him until after July 2nd but were reportedly willing to go as high as 35 million and the Yankees felt anything past 27 million was too rich for their blood.
In getting Moncada the Red Sox keep him from a division rival and in my opinion this move vaults their farm system which was lacking impact talent at the top into the top three in all of baseball. The Yankees roster on the other hand continues to get older as their last four major free agent hitter signings of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Chase Headley have all been over 30 years old at the time of signing. The path to playing time would have been clearer had he ended up elsewhere but he is still worth chasing in all dynasty leagues.
Despite a record-setting payroll, the Los Angeles Dodgers abysmal bullpen ultimately destroyed their playoff hopes last season. Among the myriad of moves the overhauled front office made, led by former small market masterminds Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, formerly of Tampa Bay and Oakland, respectively, the most critical centered around rebuilding a pen that was among the worst in baseball a season ago. The Dodgers biggest offseason acquisition was 39-year old veteran Joel Peralta, whom Friedman sniped from his former employer in a November trade. Peralta was a savvy pickup, but Friedman managed to grab another reliever in the deal as well, one who might end up ultimately having a far greater impact for the Dodgers, and fantasy owners as well, a guy pretty much nobody has ever heard of, outside of the Rays hipster prospect scene (if that’s even a thing), Adam Liberatore.
The 28-year old southpaw was arguably the top relief pitcher in the Triple-A International League last season when he posted a 1.66 ERA with a 0.89 WHIP and 86 strikeouts in 65 innings with the Durham Bulls. Liberatore checks all of the boxes when it comes to “the trifecta” of core statistics fantasy owners should look for in a pitching prospect. He strikes out well over a batter per inning (11.91 K/9), significantly cut his walk rate (2.08 BB/9) and gave up just one home run all of last season.
At this time last year, Bret and the gang created the Dynasty Guru Experts’ League (TDGX) and I was lucky enough to participate in the inaugural season. The twist heading into last year’s initial draft was the Invisible Hand method of determining the draft order. It’s been covered before on this site, but in a nutshell each team placed blind bids on draft slots with keepers as their currency. I sacrificed 15 of my 35 keepers to draft from the #1 slot. I believe the next highest bid was 13 keepers, so I have no regrets as far as the number I sacrificed. How this decision has shaped my roster is a different story and it’s why I wanted to come back to post on this a year later.
In the initial draft, it was about taking the best players available, and whether they were in the major or minor leagues wasn’t as big a factor – value was value. With Trout in hand, the team could go win now or win later, since the main building block was the best player in baseball at 22 years old. Win now was a daunting task in a 20-team league, and if my team wasn’t strong enough to take the crown in 2014, the idea of throwing back half the roster prior to this year would only make it more daunting. For this reason I decided that building around a young MLB core but making a more concerted effort to win in say 2016 or 2017 might be the smarter play. Selling off an older piece like Pujols in order to acquire a younger bat like Soler is one example of a move that fit this strategy/change in direction.
We spent the better part of a month running through our consensus rankings and while it may seem like we discussed every relevant player for dynasty leagues, there are plenty of players we left out that are worth monitoring. Unless you’re in an extraordinarily deep league, you can build your entire draft board with our rankings but I’m going to spend the next few weeks talking about some players that you should add to your scout team or watch list as we wait out the arrival of Opening Day.
Maintaining a group of players you’re keeping an eye on, even if you don’t think they are draftable or ownable at present, is an important part of being a dynasty league owner. Being diligent about keeping a scout team allows you to get to the big league promotions and fast-rising prospects more quickly and cheaply than your league mates.
There are two classes of players I like to track heading in to a season. The first are high-floor/low-ceiling prospects that are on the verge of major league playing time. Expectations are often low for this kind of player because they rarely place on well-publicized prospect rankings. Opportunity is an important part of fantasy relevance and being prepared to evaluate a prospect’s first taste of the major leagues can provide an early buying opportunity. You’re unlikely to find a franchise cornerstone in this group but you can discover the kind of back-of-the-roster depth that is critical in dynasty leagues.
People no longer spend offseason staring out the window and waiting for baseball. Nowadays, we spend winter talking about projection systems, top prospect rankings, guys in BSOHL, and which breakout players from the previous season will come back down to earth.
Danny Santana has been a lightning rod of those discussions this winter. The 24-year-old shortstop is coming off a stellar rookie campaign where he hit .319/.353/.472 and 7 long balls in 430 PA while swiping 20 bases in 24 attempts in order to land at the 31st spot in our consensus shortstops rankings and 442nd in Bret’s top 500 overall rankings.
As you know by now, the industrious team of writers here at The Dynasty Guru put together a complete set of rankings for players at every position. If you haven’t seen them yet you should definitely check them out HERE! These rankings were built especially for use in dynasty leagues. Of course player values in dynasty leagues are dramatically different than in re-draft leagues but all the lists on other fantasy baseball sites were made for yearly leagues. We created our dynasty rankings as consensus lists compiling the opinions of all the TDG writers into the ultimate ranking system for dynasty leagues anywhere on the Net.