Stars and (not so) Scrubs
Let’s talk about “stars and scrubs.” Every fantasy owner has tried it, and sometimes it can pay off if you hit on the right combination of high-priced talent and roster filler that evolve into much more. Short-term, immediate success shouldn’t be the only goal. In dynasty leagues, the idea is to compete and dominate on a yearly basis when you find yourself in the right stage of the contention cycle. It’s important to acquire the best possible players, yes, but it’s just as important to find value with your less expensive guys at the back end of the roster. If you miss out on an elite talent, there is usually a way you can try to replicate that production later in the draft. Stars and scrubs can work, but often times only if you can find a way for your scrubs to be less, well, scrubby.
Player A: .262/.361/.562 – 47 HR, 117 RBI (ADP: 25th overall)
Player B: .262/.310/.449 – 22 HR, 64 RBI (ADP: 182nd overall)
This one looks like an obvious mismatch. Yes, the 47 homers belong to Chris Davis, and he’s really good at hitting home runs. Even though he’s been really great some of the time, there are still question marks about him coming into 2016. Davis has hit 47 and 53 home runs two of the last three years, but those totals book end his 2014, where he only hit 26 homers. A lot has been a lot made about his therapeutic use medical exception being approved for 2015, but what if he’s a little streakier than we thought? Davis strikes out a ton, 31 percent in 2015, and had a home run to fly ball rate of 29.4 percent that is very, very high. Davis is really good. However, if Davis keeps a high strikeout rate and his home runs per fly ball dips a little, you’re already losing a little on your investment.
Player B just happens to be a new teammate of Davis. Mark Trumbo came to the Orioles for backup catcher Steve Clevenger as part of what can only be described as the most “meh” trade of the off season. That said, there is a lot to like about Trumbo. Power has always been Trumbo’s calling card, and moving from Safeco Field, the 22nd ranked park for power, to Camden Yards, which ranks number two, can only mean good things. Trumbo hasn’t reached Davis’s level of power, but he also doesn’t strike out nearly as much, with a career rate of 24.2 percent. Trumbo also exhibits the ability to hit the ball to all fields, which should help him in his new, homer friendly home.
Sure Chris Davis is the sexier pick, and 50-homer potential is nothing to scoff at. However, Mark Trumbo could offer huge value coming over 150 picks later. With Trumbo coming back to the American League, especially in a homer friendly ballpark, he could certainly capitalize on a familiarity en route to a 35 homer season, and recoup a great deal of value compared to other sluggers.
Player A: .226/.274/.289, 57 stolen bases, 454 PA (ADP: 71st overall)
Player B: .250/.311/.380, 26 stolen bases, 225 PA (ADP: 325th overall)
The 57 stolen bases probably make guessing the identity of Player A less suspenseful. Despite an OBP typically reserved for the pitcher, Billy Hamilton remains a hot commodity, especially in rotisserie leagues, due to that sweet, sweet speed. The fantasy community, and probably the Reds too, I’d imagine, keeps waiting for Hamilton to show anything at the plate to really take advantage of the elite speed, but for the second year in a row he’s produced an OBP under .300. That’s less than ideal. The scary thing is that even with the questionable bat, Hamilton is still far and away the top stolen base threat in the league. What’s even scarier is that he has the ability to steal nearly 60 bases while missing two months of the season and producing sub .300 OBP. Hamilton is still good, but there’s only one of him.
Which brings us to Player B, who just won a ring as the fourth or fifth outfielder for the World Champions. Jarrod Dyson has always been a speed first, defensive replacement outfielder, but as of now he’s the strong side of a right field platoon. In his career, Dyson carries a line of .255/.320/.341, but in his role as a platoon player that will likely only face right handed pitchers, he’s been a little better at .266/.329/.367.
Coming into 2016, with more regular at-bats, Dyson could give you a boost in the speed category without tanking batting average in the process. His career 8.3 percent walk rate and 18.3 percent strikeout rate are about league average, which means he could probably put up something around .260 in a platoon role. This type of batting average means he’s going to get opportunities to steal some bases. Let’s face it, with players the type of Hamilton and Dyson, that’s all you’re looking for.
Obviously Hamilton is an elite stolen base threat. However, there are legitimate questions as to whether his bat is going to allow him to maximize his potential. Meanwhile, while Dyson is clearly not quantitatively in Hamilton’s league as far as stolen base totals, his regular playing time could lead to a nice bump. It is foolish to believe that you can replicate Hamilton’s productivity on the bases with another player, especially when it’s possible he could see improvements in both skill and playing time in 2016. That said, coming over 250 picks later, Dyson could be an interesting gamble to pick up some stolen bases if you miss out on Hamilton.
Player A: .287/.347/.450 17 HR, 43 SB (37th overall)
Player B: .278/.314/.399 12 HR, 25 SB (158th overall)
Since gaining everyday playing time in 2014, Player A, (Charlie Blackmon) has done nothing but put together a very well rounded stat line for fantasy owners, and sure, the Rockies too. Over the last two seasons, Blackmon has averaged 18 home runs and 35 stolen bases while hitting .288. These numbers are very good. Blackmon also has the added benefit of playing half of his games in Coors Field. This is also very good. However, Blackmon is approaching 30 years old, an age where he could see a decline in speed as well as power.
Player B came into the 2015 season as an after thought and easily established himself as one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. This is important, because it means that he’s carved out a niche for himself that should be rewarded with playing time. In 2015, Kevin Pillar burst onto the scene making highlight reel catches. Under the radar, however, he also had a very productive year at the plate. Pillar doesn’t walk much (4.5 percent in 2015), but he also makes a great deal of contact, striking out only 13.5 percent of the time. In addition, he shows great base running abilities, swiping 25 bases in 29 attempts, an 86.2 percent clip. If Pillar could cut down on his infield fly balls (an inflated 17.7 percent in 2015), he could definitely make strides with his batting average, which would in turn provide more opportunities for steals. A potent Blue Jays lineup could also help in other counting categories, making Pillar a great value at his going rate.
We all want the best players, but the best players are also usually easier to project. By spending the time to make your “scrubs” count, you can make up for any deficiencies caused by missing out on the biggest studs from earlier in a draft. Make your “scrubs” work for you. Turn them into stars, or at least close approximations of them.