Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number
A team on the cusp of a dynasty championship doesn’t always need to make any major moves to get over the hump. Trading top prospects may bring you a significant haul in return, but once you’ve leveraged your premier talent to get to the doorstep, targeting undervalued veterans can be just the thing to take you inside.
On the flipside, a rebuilding team can make incremental gains, trading overvalued assets to contenders desperate for a title, while hanging on to their larger pieces in hopes of future title runs.
Whichever side of the win curve you’re on, oftentimes making a handful of smart, smaller moves involving overvalued or undervalued lesser talent can do the trick.
Below are six hitters whose current one-year values, measured by 2015 ESPN Player Ratings and 2016 ADP, are not quite lining up. Some are being undervalued because of previous down years or an injury-prone label. Some are being overvalued, often because of injuries or laurels from long ago. Either way, pinpointing the right veterans in dynasty leagues can be a much cheaper and safer way for a championship run or a quick rebuild.
Ryan Zimmerman (ESPN 1B Player Rater: 29, Current 1B ADP: 22, Difference: +7, Overall ADP: 226)
Zimmerman’s debut happened over a decade ago, which makes sense since it feels like the 31-year-old has been around forever. Back-to-back injury-marred campaigns have left him discounted in redraft leagues and collecting dust in the dynasty discount bin. Despite the abbreviated season in 2015 he showed some flashes of life when healthy, with his best ISO in six years and plenty of room for positive BABIP regression. Especially for competitive teams with some depth, he can be a nice piece.
Shin Soo Choo (ESPN OF Player Rater: 10, Current ADP: 37, Difference: -27, Overall ADP: 131)
Coming into 2015, Choo was left for dead, coming off the board as the 54th eligible outfielder. He bounced back, though, tying a career high in homeruns and displaying his usual excellent on-base skills. Though he’s not the 20-steal threat he was earlier in his career, a healthy Choo is able to chip in across four categories, with a significant bump in value in OBP dynasty leagues. Managers in redraft leagues clearly don’t believe a repeat season is in the cards, and that means an even greater opportunity to grab the 33-year-old on the (relative) cheap in dynasty formats, where his value is likely to be discounted further.
Curtis Granderson (ESPN OF Player Rater: 12, Current ADP: 46, Difference -34, Overall ADP: 174)
Granderson’s inconsistency has owners hesitant to spend a high draft pick on him in redraft leagues this year. In the last ten seasons (excluding his injury-shortened 2013) Granderson’s homeruns have ranged from 19 to 43, and his stolen bases from eight to 26. That’s despite playing a similar amount of games in those seasons. Last year was one of the better ones for the Met outfielder, but his recent production doesn’t seem to be enough for owners to forget his down 2013-2014 seasons. But even on the lower end of his range of production, Granderson still provides decent production atop the Mets lineup, and the potential reward doesn’t seem to be priced into the risk re-drafters are affixing to his draft value. Inconsistent 35-year-olds are not generally coveted assets in dynasty formats, so the price should be right to round out your outfield if you’re making a move.
Nelson Cruz (ESPN OF Player Rater: 5, Current OF ADP: 16, Difference: -11, Overall ADP: 44)
Cruz’s PED suspension had fantasy owners questioning his legitimacy at this time last year, but Cruz came back with a vengeance, bombing 40-plus homeruns for a second consecutive season. Last year even came with a BABIP-aided .302 batting average, for good measure. Despite a weaker supporting cast that led to lower counting stats, Cruz was still able to finish in the top five for outfielders. Even with a near-MVP season, owners in re-draft leagues are overlooking his power, and potentially focusing on Cruz’s climbing age. Dynasty league owners in need of some power have a great opportunity here. The standard risks of an aging slugger (in a bad ballpark to boot) apply, though for cost relative to healthy production he’s an excellent gamble.
Alexei Ramirez (ESPN SS Player Rater: 28, Current SS ADP: 17, Difference +11, Overall ADP: 262)
Ramirez is not the flashiest of players, but he has remained consistent, playing in over 150 games for the sixth straight year in 2015 and ending the season with double-digit steals and homeruns. He did, however, post career-lows in batting average, Runs and RBI. He also landed in a bad park for hitters, signing with the Padres in the offseason. Despite all of this, he’s still getting drafted 13 spots ahead of his positional rank last season. If the respect for Ramirez carries over to dynasty leagues, now may very well be your last best chance to ship him for decent value if you’re not fielding a competitive team this season.
Jacoby Ellsbury (ESPN OF Player Rater: 49, Current OF ADP: 27, Difference +22, Overall ADP: 100)
Fantasy owners just can’t give up on Ellsbury. When he plays, he’s a solid contributor in stolen bases, chips in some homers, and has a decent batting average. The issue is, he doesn’t always play. Ellsbury has missed considerable time in three of the past six seasons, making his durability a perennial concern. He’s also 32 now, and the MVP-like 2011 season is getting further and further in the rear-view mirror. Speed usually doesn’t age well, particularly for guys with (increasingly extensive) histories of leg issues, so Ellsbury’s biggest asset is a big ol’ question mark. This might be the last year that a team is able to unload him off name value alone for close to retail price. Teams on the lower end of the win curve should find a trading partner immediately.
Targeting undervalued veterans can be an integral part of a championship run, without selling the farm along the way. Teams on the cusp of an elite team can often overreact, trading the last of their top prospects for all-stars and giving in to a win-now mentality that puts their future in jeopardy. Savvy owners can pinpoint undervalued players, often analyzing redraft-league values, and make smaller trades to keep their core intact, while improving their teams incrementally. On the other side of the win curve, rebuilding teams need to be able to find overvalued players and generate surplus future value. Identifying which veterans fall into which asset category is critically important, and next week we’ll turn to looking at some veteran arms.