TDG is seeking new writers

Dear Faithful TDG readers,

We’ve survived yet another wild season of fantasy baseball, and now it’s time to transition into what baseball fans might consider a dark period, but what we like to call ‘transaction season.’ While baseball slumbers, us dynasty baseball connoisseurs are wide awake and busy slinging deals, drafting top amateur and international prospects, and building our teams for an exciting 2017 season.

Here at TDG, our goal is to make the incoming avalanche of crucial roster decisions a bit easier. In addition to regular articles, we’ll also be rolling out the detailed dynasty rankings you’ve all come to know and love. But we need your help to accomplish this. You drive this site forward by reading our articles and providing insightful comments, and now is your chance to improve TDG as a new writer.

Each year, we uncover a number of hidden gems (undiscovered talent) in our search for new contributors, from the lead writers you’ve come to know at TDG to those you may have seen at other major websites. From Craig Goldstein, Ben Carsley, Jeff Quinton, Wilson Karaman, Greg Wellemeyer, George Bissell and J.J. Jansons (who now all write at Baseball Prospectus) to Jake Devereaux at BP Boston and Nick Doran at Rotoworld, TDG has provided a vital starting point in their journey to becoming well known dynasty baseball writers.

If you’re looking to start on a similar path and want a great place to receive exposure, TDG is perfect for you. Here’s how you can join the team:

– If you are a writer with experience at either your own blog or another site, send us an email ( with links and some information about yourself.
– If you are a dynasty league player without writing experience, send us an email explaining why we should consider you for a writing position at TDG and we will give you a writing assignment of approximately 600-700 words on a given topic. Those who have submitted entries before will be given first priority, as there were plenty of good submissions that we had to pass on due to the sheer number of entries received.

We look forward to hearing from those of you who are interested and hope you’re all excited to see what the future of The Dynasty Guru has in store.

The Top 250 Dynasty Football Rankings 5.0 – Week 6 Refresh

Rankings PSA: these #Dynasty250 rankings are designed for 2QB and superflex leagues, so if you play in single quarterback league, fade the QB’s.

What will stand out about my rankings is how low I am as compared to ADP on running backs. I’m a #zeroRB disciple and I play to have an elite contender every year, a combination that has me wary of ever holding expensive workhorse running backs when I can get much cheaper good-enough-options. The younger and more perceived job security and long term value that a running back has, the more I like to flip them. My priority is to make sure I always have X+1 blue chip wide receivers, where X = the max number of WR’s your league allows you to start each week. +1 allows you injury insurance and/or bye week help. I wouldn’t blame anyone who preferred X+2!

There’s no other position other than running back where you can stash a few players, almost for free (besides roster opportunity cost) and frequently have a must-start player within weeks due to running back carnage and churn. Sure, some weeks you’ll be at an RB disadvantage, sometimes even a large one, but if you build your team to have advantages at every other position you’ll have a more resilient and higher scoring team for multiple seasons.

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Let’s Be Patient: Aaron Nola*

Aaron Nola was selected by the Phillies in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2014 draft, and immediately breezed through the minor leagues. As a polished college prospect, the Phillies were aggressive with Nola’s development. The right-hander never saw competition below High A. All told, he spent 164.2 innings in the minors, posting a 2.57 ERA with a 1.057 WHIP. His strikeout numbers weren’t dazzling (7.5 per nine innings), but his meager walk totals (1.5 per nine innings) more than made up for his lack of whiffs. Nola entered the 2015 season as the 60th best prospect in the league, according to Baseball Prospectus, and his production did little to dissuade anyone that, at the very least, the Phillies had a no-doubt middle of the rotation cog for years to come.

Nola got the call to the big club in July 2015 and posted solid, if unspectacular numbers from the jump. In 77.2 innings after his call-up, he was perfectly serviceable, striking out 68 batters, compared to only 19 walks. He posted a 3.59 ERA, but was probably even a little better than that number, as his 3.38 DRA might suggest. Again, solid, if unspectacular. While Nola showed signs of promise in his first stint as a big league pitcher, none of his skills seemed to translate into him becoming an elite pitcher. His ERA ranked in the top 50 among starting pitchers, as did his 47.6 percent ground ball rate. His 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings were slightly better than league average, and the same can be said for his cFIP of 91. None of this is meant to disparage Nola in any way. A slightly above average major league pitcher is super valuable. Mike Leake got five years and $75 million, after all.

Then a funny thing happened. In 2016, Nola decided to stop being slightly above average. In 2016, Nola decided to be awesome. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and no a 4.78 ERA isn’t awesome. I agree, but there are factors that point to Nola being a little unlucky with his earned runs. Let’s unpack that number a little. One adjustment that Nola seemed to make heading into 2016 was an effort to throw his sinker more. In 2015, around 23 percent of his pitches were sinkers. In 2016, that number jumped to 44 percent. The result: more ground balls. This season, Nola induced 55.2 percent ground balls, a number that ranked 7th best among starters. Ordinarily, this would be great news for run prevention. However, the Phillies were the 8th worst team in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus defensive efficiency.  Hitters posted a .334 BABIP against Nola, good for 12th worst in the league. In addition, his 60.6 left on base percentage (league average is 72.9 percent) was second worst in the league among starters, with only renowned hurler Tyler Duffey posting worse numbers.  So, yes, a 4.78 ERA isn’t great, but bad defense paired with a little bad luck does not help with rate stats. To further illustrate the puzzling nature of Nola’s season, he posted a 3.08 FIP and 2.35 (!) DRA.

While Nola’s rate numbers weren’t great, he made serious strides elsewhere. The “knock” on Nola coming out of college was that he just didn’t miss enough bats, a symptom that would keep him from ever being a truly top of the rotation pitcher. By adjusting his pitch mix (relying more heavily on his sinker and curve), Nola added nearly two strikeouts per nine innings in 2016. He struck out 4.17 batters for every walk issued, a rate that would include him in the top 20 of all major league starters (Just an aside that has nothing to do with Aaron Nola: Clayton Kershaw led the league with 15.64 strikeouts per walk. Second place went to Rick Porcello, with 5.91 strikeouts per walk. Good lord.). Nola’s new arsenal unearthed a 75 cFIP, a number that put him in elite company, sixth best in baseball behind only Kershaw, Jose Fernandez, Noah Syndergaard, Rich Hill, and Carlos Carrasco.

*Ok, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to address the giant 600-pound elephant in the room. Nola was shut down on July 28, and diagnosed with a sprained UCL. There’s really no way to spin that into a positive, that isn’t good. That said, it could help to explain Nola’s dip in production. According to Brooks Baseball, Nola’s average velocity began to fall slightly in early June, basically coinciding with his slide. In his first 78 innings before the decline, Nola posted a 2.65 ERA and 0.99 WHIP while striking out 85 batters and walking only 15. After June 11, he tossed 33 innings with a 9.82 ERA and 2.06 WHIP. He still struck out 36 batters, but his walk rate took a huge jump, ballooning to 3.82 per nine innings. On one hand, it’s another lively round of “Fun with Arbitrary Endpoints”. On the other, it’s a tale of two seasons: one healthy and one not, with the injury playing the major culprit in Nola’s rough patch.

Within the last week, Nola has started throwing again to test his elbow. The fact that those dreaded three letters still loom over his head, or more aptly, his elbow, makes him a very tricky player to assess heading into 2017. Time will tell whether the strain is a bump in the road or a major setback in his career. That said, Nola was starting to show ace-level skills early in the 2016 season and right now it’s unlikely he’s being valued as an ace-level pitcher. If you have the stomach for risk, and if you can weather the worst case scenario, now might be the perfect time to scoop up Nola in your dynasty league.

Follow Mark on Twitter @hoodieandtie

The Top 200 Dynasty Basketball Rankings – October 2016

Welcome, to the inaugural #Dynasty200, fantasy hoops fans! If you’re reading this you already know that fantasy basketball is arguably the best fantasy sport. It’s a happy medium between high variance fantasy football, where the best team usually loses to the field, and the relative predictability of fantasy baseball where we can say things like “trust the back of the baseball card.”

These rankings are designed with head to head, nine category fantasy leagues in mind, but I will often note when a rotisserie league owner and/or 8 category owners might want to fade/increase rankings of players.

For example, Andre Drummond, due in part do his unwillingness to try underhanded free throws, will not be on many championship rotisserie league teams. His free throw percentage is just too poor to overcome in that format. However, he becomes a superstar as part of a “punt FT” h2h strategy in which owners seek out similar players discounted by their wart(s).

As for my methodology, I rely on non-equal parts experience, historical rankings, PER (player efficiency rating),’s CARMELO projections, Kevin Pelton Rookie WARP projections, ESPN’s rookie model, summer league performance, draft pedigree and genius. I try to have a balanced approach between future and present, but I prefer to set up dynasty owners with a chance to have a long run of success than narrow windows of contention.

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Wrapping Up

At this point in the fantasy season, there are likely no more suggested pickups that can help you win your league. In all likelihood, the money places have already been determined. Rather than suggesting players who won’t help you until next year or minor leaguers who haven’t played in nearly a month, I thought I’d use this space to reflect on a few controllable miscues that happened along the way for a team that was expected to be a contender from the first day of the season. With two days left in the season, I’m currently in second place with 130 roto points, just ahead of my bitter rival with 127. Although my chances of “winning” second place seem to be decent, it did not have to come down to this.

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AFL Potential Value Surgers – OF & C

Last year it was Josh Hader and Lewis Brinson: prospects whose stock made significant jumps during the regular season, each capping them off with outstanding performances in the Arizona Fall League (AFL). Hader was under the radar coming into 2015, but was fully on the map after a lights-out AFL. Brinson was a toolsy first-rounder with an impressive all-around profile, but was left off most industry top prospect lists going into 2015. After capping a breakout season with a glowing performance for the Surprise Saguaros, Brinson was considered a Top-50 guy across the board.

As a dynasty owner, it’s imperative to stay up to date with the player valuation landscape. Since the AFL is the only minor league baseball happening from October through November, each individual player can see their value swing drastically before the industry lists come out in the winter. In the middle of June, going three-for-four with two home runs can get swept under the rug, but that same performance is rewarded with Minor League Player of the Day during the Fall League. This sets the stage for legitimate jumps in perceived value, yet a poor performance in the AFL is often discounted for fatigue, inexperience, or injury (see: AJ Reed, 2015). Here are some outfielders and catchers who could see a bump in dynasty value with even a solid performance in the AFL:

Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago Cubs

With a truly electric fall, Jimenez could jump into the conversation for top prospect going into 2018. He’s already the Cher of minor league baseball, going simply by first name in many circles. He’s a consensus top-25 guy at this point and his stock should only continue to rise. The 6-foot-4, 19-year-old Dominican has tremendous power, and it should be fun to see what he can do in the thin desert air. He also has the cushion of the ‘aggressive assignment’, where a weak showing will be chalked up to his age. If he wasn’t already in your sights early this year, his mammoth home run and spectacular catch in the Futures Game likely caught your eye. He has a boost from being in the Cubs organization already baked into his value, but the 2016 Midwest League MVP has earned every bit of praise he’s received.

Anthony Alford, CF, Toronto Blue Jays

While Jimenez only looks like a football player, Alford actually was one — at Southern Mississippi and Ole Miss — during the first three years he spent in the Blue Jays organization after being selected in the third round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Listed at 6-foot-1, 215 lbs, Alford is obviously an elite athlete for the diamond. Since he’s always split time between two sports, he’s still slightly raw, but he has some of the easiest pure physical projection in the minor leagues. His stock skyrocketed last year after he hit nearly .300 across A-ball and High-A, displaying a hit tool more polished than anyone expected. He followed it up with a down year, missing most of April to a knee injury, and sitting out almost two weeks after a collision in the outfield in early June. He hit just .236/.344/.378 (with 9 HR and 18 SB in 92 games) this year, but still took walks at an impressive clip, despite his strikeout rate jumping back up to almost thirty percent. He’s already fallen out of the top-50 on midseason lists, but the Blue Jays organization has had success developing power, so many are still bullish on Alford going forward. A strong AFL would go a long way in regaining some of that preseason 2016 hype.

Christin Stewart, OF, Detroit Tigers

Power will always play in the Major Leagues, and Stewart has it in spades. Hitting a combined 30 dingers between Advanced-A and Double-A, Stewart showed off the tool that made him worthy of a first-round pick in 2015. The parks in the AFL are big, but the air is warm, the altitude is high, and the pitching is often pedestrian. Stewart’s probably not in Detroit’s plans for 2017, but he could be knocking on the door by next season’s end. He has some serious competition for playing time with J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton, but for a system that has had success finding and developing big league power, a loud AFL campaign could provide a healthy boost to Stewart’s already-rising stock. Most of his damage in 2016 was done in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, but he was slightly old for the level at 22. He’ll likely never hit .300 in a big league season, but it would be very interesting if Stewart shows signs of improved barrel control this fall.

Ramon Laureano, OF, Houston Astros

Laureano hit the same number of home runs as Yoan Moncada at the same levels this year (High-A and Double-A), and came two stolen bases short of tying the consensus number one overall prospect. The relatively unheard-of Laureano should be on just about everyone’s radar after his 15 home run, 43 stolen base season, and is worth a speculative add right now. With a big AFL — and perhaps a trade to a more opportune organization — Laureano could provide serious returns as early as next year.

Harrison Bader, CF, St. Louis Cardinals

After an incredibly loud start to the season at Double-A Springfield, the 2015 third-rounder looked to be the breakout prospect of the season. He was hitting .286/.350/.491 with 13 home runs and nine stolen bases (on 19 attempts) prior to earning a promotion to Triple-A. He hit just .231/.298/.354 in the Pacific Coast League before receiving a demotion back to Springfield, where he finished the regular season on a slightly better note. There might not be another prospect whose stock saw the same highs and lows as Bader’s did this year. The AFL is a huge opportunity for Bader to flash the tools that made him such an interesting name earlier this name. The strikeouts never got too out of hand, and the walk rate was steady around seven percent across levels, but the 50 percent success rate on stolen bases is worrisome. As of today, he projects as a potential solid Major League piece — think something between a Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk — but a huge AFL could change some opinions.

Jacob Nottingham, C, Milwaukee Brewers

After a stellar start to 2015 in the lower levels of Houston’s system, Nottingham was dealt to Oakland for Scott Kazmir. After arriving in the bay, he didn’t quite go as hyphy has some had hoped, but he hit a solid .299/.368/.409 in 43 games at High-A. One trade is good for a prospect’s value; a second trade can be worrisome. Oakland dealt him to Milwaukee just a few months later as part of the package that netted the A’s big league slugger Khris Davis. The Brewers were aggressive with Nottingham, assigning him to Double-A right after his 21st birthday. He responded with a .234/.295/.347 campaign which left a lot to be desired from dynasty owners. His strikeout-rate spiked to slightly over 30 percent and his walk rate plateaued around six percent. He displayed athleticism for a backstop, swiping nine bases while hitting 11 home runs in 456 PA, but his future projection is much murkier today than it was this time last year. On the bright side, the AFL provides an opportunity for Nottingham to point his stock in the right direction once again.

Taylor Ward, C, Los Angeles Angels

Ward already has some name value because he’s near the top of all Angels’ prospect lists for the same reason that we’re stuck with our current presidential candidates. There’s no telling how far the Angels’ catching prospect would fall if he was in the Dodgers system (seriously, it could easily be in the thirties), but while he’s still a member of the AAoLA, he’s a de-facto “top prospect”, and just a few weeks of high BABIP  away from being a sell-high candidate. The 22-year-old’s .249/.323/.337 triple-slash in the Cal League this summer was ghastly, but to his credit, Inland Empire is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the league. I wouldn’t hold my breath on Ward posting promising numbers for the Scottsdale Scorpions, but much crazier things have happened.
Zack Collins, C, Chicago White Sox

Collins is in an interesting situation, as he might be the only player in the AFL who was drafted in 2016. Considering plenty of new-player dynasty drafts are held off until the winter, this gives Collins a rare opportunity to increase his already-strong draft value. With an impressive AFL, Collins could prove enough to entice owner’s to draft him over the injured Kyle Lewis, or many of the high-upside arms available with a top-5 pick. He could also gain value out of sheer laziness from owners in your league due to recency bias and the bump in press he’ll receive. The White Sox have been notoriously aggressive with their recent draft picks, and the AFL could easily be the White Sox way of seeing if Collins is ready for an early-2017 call to the show.

Carson Kelly, C, St. Louis Cardinals

2016 was a huge season for Kelly. He entered the year coming off a very lackluster campaign in the Florida State League, and just nine months later, there’s reason to believe he’s the heir-apparent to Yadier Molina’s throne. Projected as an above-average defender, Kelly hit nearly .290 across Double-A and Triple-A before getting a September call-up to the big league club. There will likely never be too much power to his game, but he keeps his strikeouts in check, and has always shown at least a passable eye at the plate. While I don’t expect him make too much noise in the AFL, I feel the assignment alone is reason to believe the Cardinals want to see if he really is their next franchise backstop. Even a solid AFL would go a long way in cementing the jump in value his stock received this year.

Offseason Prep: The Sell-High Candidates

With the 2016 fantasy baseball season drawing to a close, dynasty league owners will soon turn their attention to the 2017 season.  The offseason provides a unique opportunity for savvy owners to take advantage of their opponents’ propensity to value players solely using their seasonal stat lines, with little consideration given to the manner in which the player arrived at the outcome.  This week, we’re going to take a look at a few players whose final stat lines will be significantly skewed by a short-lived uncharacteristic performance.

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