The Value of a Prospect
In a deep dynasty league, the quality of your minor league roster can be nearly as important as the major league portion. There isn’t an easier way of improving your major-league team without losing any current contributors and the majority of future all-stars are rostered here.
In early 2013, I lost patience with my dynasty team as it appeared to be fated for yet another fourth or fifth place finish. So I pulled the trigger and put the Houston Astros to shame. I unloaded every player of value, except for Giancarlo Stanton, for as many top prospects as I could. Concurrently, I turned my focus to the minor leagues and scooped up every top available tooIsy prospect I could identify.
Flash forward to 2016 and I am one of the three contenders for my dynasty league championship. So who is on my current roster? Lots of stars, but very few of the prospects I attempted to build my team with. As I watched my second summer in last place pass by I started to worry. How many of my prospects will fail? What if half fail? More? A quick look at the success rate of Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus annual prospect ranks showed that even in the top 20, a success rate of 50 percent is about the best that you could expect, and even then not in a timely manner. Combine that with the fact that not every successful major leaguer is a quality fantasy contributor and I became a bit more skeptical of my anticipated end game.
I had the good fortune of being the only rebuilding owner at the time that I acquired my prospect core, and had to foresight to leverage my good major-league players for maximum return. Two years later I had cornered the market on prospects and with several teams now attempting their own rebuild I sensed another opportunity. I decided that a select few prospects would be my future core. In my judgement, Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, and Kris Bryant were the only three “untouchable” prospects, although I later changed my mind on Buxton when an excellent buying opportunity became available.
Here are the trades I made: Note that offensive strikeouts and OPS are categories in my league, along with Holds and K:BB.
|5/17/13||Xander Bogaerts, Will Myers, Zack Wheeler, Mike Zunino||Jason Heyward, Huston Street, Scott Kazmir, Ichiro|
|5/27/13||David Robertson, Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer, Starlin Castro||Matt Kemp, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Halladay, Jarrod Parker|
|6/30/13||Tyler Skaggs, George Springer||Daniel Hudson, Greg Holland|
|7/9/13||Jason Kipnis, Javier Baez, FAAB||Robinson Cano|
|7/14/13||Carlos Correa, Gary Sanchez||Max Scherzer, David Robertson|
|7/19/13||Christian Yelich, Francisco Lindor||Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Olt|
|7/8/14||Julio Urias||Gary Sanchez|
|3/15/15||Jameson Taillon||Neftali Feliz|
|4/26/15||Jake Arrieta, Aroldis Chapman, Brandon Nimmo||Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, Robert Stephenson|
|7/1/15||Starling Marte, Desmond Jennings||Miguel Sano, Rusney Castillo|
|10/24/15||Josh Donaldson, Brad Boxberger||Byron Buxton, Alex Reyes, Julio Urias, Jameson Taillon, 2nd round draft pick (Kyle Tucker)|
|10/28/15||A.J. Pollock, Bryan Shaw||George Springer, Silvino Bracho|
|11/17/15||Hector Rondon||Daniel Norris|
|2/22/16||Mitch Moreland||Dylan Bundy|
|3/24/16||Kenley Jansen, Nick Gordon||Tyler Glasnow, Cornelius Randolph|
From the day I decided to rebuild until the beginning of the 2015 season, I basically acquired every top prospect I could get my hands on through trading, drafts, and FAAB then flipped them for major leaguers when my window of competitiveness opened. In doing so, I avoided most of the risk that is inherent in owning and relying on prospects.
While I may regret some of those trades in time, the following lists show Baseball Prospectus’ top-20 prospects from 2010-2014 along with their fantasy value as calculated by standard deviations above average.
From the prior table – I fudged a few positive 2013 rankings onto injured players – we can see that for the top-20 prospects from 2010 only 14 positive value seasons were returned out of 40, in 2011 there were 17/40, in 2012 8/40, in 2013 6/40, and in 2014 6/40. Looking at 2012, it seems that that it might have been an outlier as a very poor year and I believe that a number of players on the 2013-2014 lists will still yield positive value. However, as you can see, not only is there no guarantee that you’ll reap any benefits from owning even the best prospects, it also might take many years to see that return. If I had been attempting my prospect hoarding strategy in 2010 I would quite likely have ended up with duds like Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, and Dustin Ackley.
Extending to the top-100 lists, the following success rates were observed.
The point of this isn’t to dissuade you from trusting prospects, it’s just to draw attention to the fact that it might take three or four years for you to start seeing dividends if that’s your primary way of building your team. And that’s if you’re lucky and get some that pan out.
As a case study, compare my “stagnant team”, “prospect team” and my “new team.”
|C||Mike Napoli||Devin Mesoraco||Devin Mesoraco|
|C||Jarrod Saltalamacchia||Mike Zunino||Blake Swihart|
|1B||Justin Morneau||Eric Hosmer||Eric Hosmer|
|2B||Robinson Cano||Jason Kipnis||Jason Kipnis|
|3B||Ryan Zimmerman||Kris Bryant||Kris Bryant|
|SS||Jimmy Rollins||Carlos Correa||Carlos Correa|
|CI||Mike Olt||Miguel Sano||Josh Donaldson|
|MI||Josh Rutledge||Francisco Lindor||Xander Bogaerts|
|OF||Giancarlo Stanton||Giancarlo Stanton||Giancarlo Stanton|
|OF||Matt Kemp||Mookie Betts||Mookie Betts|
|OF||Curtis Granderson||George Springer||A.J. Pollock|
|OF||B.J. Upton||Byron Buxton||Starling Marte|
|OF||Jason Heyward||Christian Yelich||Christian Yelich|
|UT||Jedd Gyorko||Javier Baez/Xander Bogaerts||Wil Myers|
|UT||Gary Brown||Starlin Castro||Starlin Castro|
|SP||Brandon Morrow||Yu Darvish||Jake Arrieta|
|SP||Josh Beckett||Carlos Martinez||Yu Darvish|
|SP||Jeremy Hellickson||Michael Wacha||Noah Syndergaard|
|SP||Chad Billingsley||Marcus Stroman||Marcus Stroman|
|SP||Phil Hughes||Noah Syndergaard||Carlos Martinez|
|SP||Daniel Hudson||Robert Stephenson||Michael Wacha|
|SP||Max Scherzer||Julio Urias||Patrick Corbin|
|SP||Roy Halladay||Tyler Glasnow||Aaron Sanchez|
|RP||Glen Perkins||David Robertson||Kenley Jansen|
|RP||Neftali Feliz||Greg Holland||Hector Rondon|
|RP||Joe Nathan||Neftali Feliz||Brad Boxberger|
|RP||Huston Street||Aroldis Chapman|
Even if you believe in your prospects, it might be worth it to see what they could bring you in return. Major leaguers are much more a of sure thing – why oh why did A.J. Pollock dive head first into home? – and even the best dynasty league won’t last forever. Don’t spend the bulk of your dynasty-league ownership rebuilding.