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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.

 

Date Receiving Giving
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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 4.16.55 PM

 

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.

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Top 50 25/100 23/100 21/100 12/100 10/100
Top 50-100 11/100 16/100 12/100 10/100 1/100

 

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.”

 

2012 2013-2015 2016
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.

The Author

Jesse MacPherson

Jesse MacPherson

11 Comments

  1. April 13, 2016 at 2:52 pm — Reply

    You must play with some real morons who would make some of those trades. Wow. You’ve done a nice job ripping off a bunch of clown owners.

  2. matthewvroberson
    April 13, 2016 at 2:54 pm — Reply

    You must have a league full of a bunch of morons. Only a moron would make some of those trades. Wow. Pat yourself on the back for ripping off a bunch of clown owners. My league is seven years old and shows no signs of slowing down, and I’ll guarantee you we’re more knowledgeable than these clowns.

    • April 15, 2016 at 10:40 pm — Reply

      A bit harsh but congrats on playing in the awesomest league ever.

      • matthewvroberson
        August 19, 2016 at 12:35 am — Reply

        Thanks!

    • April 15, 2016 at 10:47 pm — Reply

      Seriously though, most of those guys were in Single-A when I traded for them. The other teams got guys like Scherzer, Cano, dominant closers, Kemp coming off an MVP-type season, players that helped them win money.

      The only one that was indefensible at the time was Arrieta/Chapman for Baez/Lindor. The Zimmerman for Yelich/Lindor one didn’t work out well for the other guy but that’ll happen when you’re trading prospects for end-of-prime vets.

  3. April 14, 2016 at 1:45 pm — Reply

    Good article! I wish that table was easier to view, though. The font looks a bit smeared and the table headings wrap unfortunately.

    When looking at that 2013 roster I got a little ill, as ‘stagnant’ is absolutely the right word. Making the decision to go all out rebuild is a brave one at any point and it’s good to see it worked out. You’re right in that some people can value prospects quite highly with the anticipation that they all work out, which is definitely not the case. For me I sent Kris Bryant away for Sale, Ellsbury and Braun, which will still look like a win a couple of years from now even as guys get older.

    Sending Glasnow, Bundy, and a ton for 30+ yo Donaldson may be regrettable in a couple of years, but at some point one has to compete so it might as well be now for you. As much as one would like to hold a bunch of shiny lottery tickets, one has to remember why they’re in the league in the first place: to win! Good luck.

    • April 15, 2016 at 10:42 pm — Reply

      I should have just cut a column off so the table would fit without needing to be a screenshot.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • April 15, 2016 at 10:52 pm — Reply

      Ironically, I was saved from the bad deals by my trading partners.

      Correa for King Felix was declined by the other guy

      Giancarlo Stanton for CC Sabathia way back in 2010 was hilariously vetoed by the league which resulted in the elimination of the veto button.

      Giancarlo Stanton for Verlander was rejected by the other guy in 2010 or 2011.

  4. Tim
    April 16, 2016 at 4:43 pm — Reply

    Great job turning your team around!

    It’s amazing how no one else put as much effort into collecting prospects. You were definitely rewarded in this league

  5. […] dilemma from my point of view. Based partly on my own bad luck with Tommy John surgeries and my own research on success rates for pitching prospects, I have come to the conclusion that I must avoid paying […]

  6. May 14, 2016 at 2:01 pm — Reply

    […] a dominant roster and watching it roll through the league year after year. I’m no different, in a recent post I laid out my three-year long rebuilding results, and I am thoroughly enjoying my first foray […]

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