Dylan Bundy and the Post-Top Prospect Problem
Dylan Bundy is no longer fun to read about. You can trace the history of ‘Dylan Bundy Reading Enjoyment’ in headlines over the past 3 years here at TDG: The Number One Prospect for 2014 Is… (April 2013), Early Injuries to Three Major Prospects (April 2013), Forgotten/Undervalued MiLB Players (October 2013), Dylan Bundy and TINSTAAP (June 2014). You can trace Dylan Bundy’s rise and fall in Bret’s top 500 over the past 3 years:
|Feb 2013||June 2013||Feb 2014||June 2014||Feb 2015||June 2015|
|Dylan Bundy’s TDG Top 500 Rank||83||167||138||146||134||180|
It was just a few years ago Bundy was a consensus best arm in the minor leagues. If he wasn’t the first Minor League arm picked up in dynasty leagues in 2012/2013, he probably should have been. Since 2013, Bundy has pitched all of 63 innings. He heads into 2016 out of options, and has to be in the big leagues or will be exposed to waivers. He’s still got huge upside, but carries more risk than the average SP with injury concerns plus questions about the Orioles’ ability to develop arms.
You’re welcome to predict where Bundy will rank in the top 500 in Feb 2016. If he’s in the top 250, I think we’d all be surprised. In June 2015, Bundy was ranked ahead of Luis Severino, Hunter Harvey, and Jose De Leon, and I think putting him behind that group in 2016 is still probably being liberal with Bundy’s likelihood of near-term success.
At this point, the book is written on Bundy, and I’m not going to pretend to know more about his future than you. The real question I want to explore is what to do with Bundy and players like him in dynasty leagues. Top prospects who cost a high pick or hefty price in trade to acquire in your dynasty league, are already owned, and whose price has plummeted. Maybe Bundy isn’t owned in your league, but Jurickson Profar, Jameson Taillon, or Jonathan Singleton are. And it’s almost a certainty that some recent top-5 overall prospect will become the next Bundy/Profar.
So what if I told you there was a path to returning value for these types if you own them in your league? If you had the number one overall pick in 2012 and spent it on Bundy, you might still have him in your roster. Maybe you got Profar or Singleton back as the key piece in a trade and were planning your rebuild around them at the time. If you paid top 10 or top 25 prices for a prospect who you fear is falling outside the top 50/100, you have options to try and recoup as much value as you can.
There are really three main options, two are simple and one takes a little explaining.
Hold Him– This is the easiest option. Waiting out the risks and concerns that caused the player’s value to sink can pay off in a big way if things snap back. If a player has name value and upside, a strong showing even in spring training or a call up followed by a hot month can do wonders for perceived value. For many top prospects, there is a high probability they make it to the big leagues at SOME point, and even if Bundy turns into a relief ace or Profar spends a year in super utility purgatory, you could still get some return even if it’s nothing near what you paid for. Sometimes, though, you’re holding for a long time waiting for that value to appear. I owned Zach Britton through his troubles as an Orioles starter and finally cut him a month before he turned into a top closer. Someone in your league probably still owns Bubba Starling. If you decide to take this approach, understand that the downside is getting a negative return, eating a roster spot with dead weight and watching multiple chances pass to sell even for a nickle on the dollar.
Fold Him- The easiest way to return SOME value is to sell your player as part of a package. If you’re already working on your blockbuster offseason move, see if the other team will take the risk of your former top prospect in exchange for a little bit more coming back to you. For instance, I traded Yoan Moncada, Jorge Soler, and Andrew Heaney for a VERY expensive Mike Trout in one league, and got a very cheap Jurickson Profar as a throw in. At peak value, Profar should have returned a lot more than that, but the owner got a tiny bit more from me and got players who will be worth a lot more on his roster in current value.
Re-Invest Him- Let’s jump back to looking at Bundy for a second, and look at a trade that we saw before the Trader’s Corner in March 2015. One savvy owner made a trade of Dylan Bundy straight up for Rougned Odor. At the time, TDG readers were even split on the value returned- 51% favored the Bundy side, 49% favored the Odor side. This was a risky bet on both sides at the time that has paid off well for the Odor owner. Mike Newman formerly of Rotoscouting once said a good trade is any trade both sides are hesitant to pull the trigger on, and judging by TDG readers we all agreed this trade was very close at the time. By now, the split should be much higher than 50/50 and heavily favor the Odor side even despite Odor’s lower ceiling. Bundy’s peak value, based on the TDG top 500, was at the very beginning of his career. Odor’s value was rising at the time of the Spring 2015 trade, with a significant risk that it could fall off the table completely (see Odor’s first half), before its current peak. The difference is that at Bundy’s peak value, he couldn’t contribute anything to your team unless you moved him, while Odor can contribute either as a player OR as a tradeable asset. If you have a prospect like Bundy on your dynasty team flipping them for a player on the rise like Odor can be a great way to turn a roster spot into present-day value and profit.
There’s risk, of course, that Bundy will turn into the ace we all expected him to be by now and Odor has maxed out as a mid-tier 2b who you’ll always be happy to own but isn’t a franchise building block. Identifying the sell-high point is complicated, and most of the time we miss that window. With top tier prospects who carry a lot of risk, often after the value falls it can stabilize as the market tries to evaluate whether the player’s ceiling has moved at all. Moving these former top prospects in exchange for bubble prospects or unproven young players on the rise is a good way to re-invest the spent value. You stand an opportunity to recoup value fairly close to the original price you paid.
Understand here that the risk you have to be willing to take on is in direct proportion to the current value of the player you’re moving. You could move Bundy for Odor straight up in March 2015– Bundy’s value had plateaued while Odor’s was on the rise. Since then, Bundy’s value has dropped so you may need to go after a player similar to where Odor was last year who have an opportunity to increase their value with more big league playing time, a reasonable floor, and moderate upside (Jose Peraza or Wilmer Flores may be good targets in the MI, for instance).
When you re-invest your former top prospect, there’s no sure path to success. It’s entirely possible that the best thing to do with Bundy next year is keep holding on to him to see how his development advances in the bigs or on the DL. Ditto Profar, Taillon, and Singleton who should all expect some playing time in 2016 and may show flashes of success that either make you believe again or let you get value closer to the original price in return. As with any prospect, volatility and risk are always a factor. But when you’ve paid a ton for a prospect only to see their value fall precipitously, re-investing them for the increased chance at near-term value can pay dividends.