I’ve recently been contemplating a trade opportunity that would net me Nelson Cruz. I don’t need to do it, I’m well behind the first place team who seems poised to take his fifth first place finish in six years. I seem to be locked in a two-man battle for second. Without Cruz, I’m confident that my team will eventually pull away from my competitor. At the same point, not only is Cruz’s production this year of interest to me, he shows no real signs of slowing down and might produce a few more years of good power production for my team. This piqued my interest to determine how projectable decline is for players in their mid-30s.
I had previously compiled stats for all batting average qualifiers from 2008 through 2015 so I simply made a few alterations to measure increase or decrease in power production – home runs and RBI – and ran a few regressions.
Here at The Dynasty Guru, we’re looking at under-the-radar prospects at each position in the field. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of these players, as none made an appearance on the 2016 TDG Consensus Dynasty Rankings or the Top 500 Overall. So far we’ve hit upon third baseman and outfielders, and next up are four starting pitchers you should get to know. It may not yet be time to add these prospects (depending on the depth of your league), but at the very least it’s worth keeping tabs on them throughout this season.
Ah, post-hype prospects: one of the best opportunities for dynasty owners to get a leg up on their competition. You know these guys, they often come to the big leagues too soon and take a few years to get accustomed to Major League pitching. After two or three of those so-so years, owners in search of The Next Big Thing in dynasty leagues often leave behind top prospects. Nick Castellanos definitely falls in that bucket. Despite being just five months older than Maikel Franco and two months younger than uber-prospect Kris Bryant, Castellanos came into the year having been all but written off in many dynasty leagues. Even in redraft leagues, owners weren’t expecting much growth, as he was getting drafted as the 20th third baseman off the board according to NFBC’s ADP.
This week saw the likes of Trevor Story, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, Drew Smyly, and Jose Abreu changing hands frequently. Lots of big names got moved in some mega-deals. There are also a couple of multi-part questions to ponder.
I will forego a long introduction and save my thoughts for commentary on the individual trades below.
You can join in the action two ways: 1) Vote on these trades to make your opinion count. 2) Submit your own trades for us to vote on in the next Trader’s Corner. Use the form below to submit your trade.
Vote for the players you would rather have.
Let’s kick off the action with a trade I made with D.J. Short of Rotoworld in the TDGX experts’ league this week. It is a 20 team 5×5 dynasty with 30 MLB and 10 MiLB rosters.
Every fantasy owner knows, that if a player – let’s call him Buster Posey – is eligible at catcher and first base, it would behoove you to play him at catcher, the relative weaker position. Intuitively, most owners also have a sense of the general hierarchy with regard to positional value. Depending on the number of players used at each position, the general assumption places decreasing value on the following positions – first base, third base, outfield, middle infield, catcher.
I was interested in putting numbers to these assumptions, so I computed values for every major league player beginning in 2008. I not only wanted to know for sure if a second baseman was worth more than a shortstop, I also wanted to see if these values remained constant over time.
Expectations for Porcello were understandably low after a disastrous 2015, but a massive turnaround this season has Porcello on his way to a career year. The biggest driver for Porcello’s success is his sinker usage, which he ramped up from 29.8% last season to 42.3% this season. The sinker is excellent at inducing grounders, so his ground ball rate is trending back up to pre-2015 levels. Somewhat surprisingly, Porcello is still giving up his fair share of home runs—this should improve as the season goes on, given the ground balls and past HR/9 marks.
Porcello’s also seen his whiffs/swing on the four-seamer jump 13.9% to 28.04%. The pitch itself hasn’t really changed, but Porcello has kept it down. In addition, throwing it in tandem with the sinker should allow both pitches to play up. Another factor in play could be health. Porcello hit the disabled list in July of 2015 with a strained triceps and looked like a different pitcher upon return: a 5.81 ERA pre-injury gave way to a 3.82 ERA post-injury. It’s also worth mentioning that Porcello’s new battery mate, Christian Vasquez, is a clear upgrade over Blake Swihart.
Luck has played a role in his resurgence as well. Porcello’s .332 BABIP last season was bound to improve and it has—all the way down to .266 this year. The BABIP could trend back up and the strikeouts may not remain as high, but this should be offset by fewer home runs. This gives hope that Porcello can maintain (or even improve) his solid ratios, while keeping his strikeouts at a high enough level that he can be a very good pitcher in fantasy leagues.
A wise man once said, “there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s.” That same philosophy applies to player development. It’s almost never exactly linear, and there’s no standard timeline prospects follow on their ascent to the big leagues. Every player has a different journey. It’s easy to comb top prospect lists to find the next gem in your dynasty crown. Everyone does it. If you go the extra mile, and really try to analyze a prospect’s path, you might be able to make better projections about his future. Here is just one example of that process in action.
Back in 2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates had one consensus top-10 pitching prospect. Jameson Taillon, the second overall selection in the 2010 MLB Draft, was seen as a blue chipper well on his way to anchor the Pirates’ rotation for years to come. Fast forward almost six years later, to 2016, and the Pirates still have just one top-10 pitching prospect that many believe can be a complementary stalwart to Gerrit Cole in the Bucs rotation. This time the honor belongs to Tyler Glasnow, an unheralded fifth-round pick, drafted one year after Taillon, in 2011. Despite very different paths, they each find themselves in an identical situation, pitching for Triple-A Indianapolis, and on the precipice of a call-up to the major leagues.