It’s not just drafting, pickups, and trades that make a dynasty league champion. It’s also the small week-to-week roster management decisions that add up over the course of the season. Beyond the must-start players, dynasty owners need to break down each player’s schedule, taking a look at how many games they play, where they are, and against whom. When it comes to pitchers, where the games are played often takes center stage, and in no place is this more evident than when Coors Field is involved. With the biggest effect on run scoring of all of the MLB stadiums, Colorado’s field poses the question: should owners sit almost all pitchers when they play in Denver?
With the presidential primaries in full swing this week in my home state of New York, the gravity of this election has finally begun to sink in. In less than a year, we will make history when/if one of the remaining front-runners is elected president. Hillary Clinton would be our first female president. Donald Trump would be our first realty-TV-star-turned-president president. Bernie Sanders would be the first self-proclaimed democratic socialist to be elected president. And Ted Cruz would be our first Canadian president. America loves being first. We were the first to punch King George right in the kisser. We were the first country to put a man on the moon. And we were the first to put cheese inside of a pizza crust. We have many fine accomplishments on our resume, which got me thinking: what kind of firsts can we expect from America’s pastime over the next decade?
What follows is my list of firsts, a collection of bold predictions for dynasty baseball leagues. This list is a bit of a departure from my previous entries in that it A. emulates our democratic process by only partially relying on fact and reason, and B. gives me license to make wild and sometimes unsubstantiated predictions. This is about as hot-takey as I get. So sit back, crack a beer, and join me as I take a break from combing through datasets and mail in this week’s TDG submission.
It’s the time of the year where we offer congratulations to those of you brave dynasty league owners that survived the offseason. The greatness that 2016 will surely offer is upon us and that means we’ll be spending the next six weeks moving our way through the positional landscape, offering thoughts on the respective values of roughly 700 players throughout the process.
We sincerely hope that you enjoy the countless hours of hard work that went into these rankings and continue to support The Dynasty Guru by showing your appreciation through this link or via the splendid ‘donate’ button located on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.
Players are ranked where they played 20 or more games at during the 2015 season at their highest position on the defensive spectrum, e.g. Chris Davis played 30 games in the outfield, meaning he’s an outfielder for our purposes. We can’t assume that a player will have eligibility at a position in the future (so no Hanley Ramirez at 1b for these rankings) or that a player will lose eligibility at a position in the future. This should clear things up for all non-Javier Baez/Jurickson Profar players, and we’ll do our best to explain where those players are ranked when the time comes. All DH types, such as Evan Gattis and David Ortiz, appear on the 1B rankings, as we will not be doing a UTIL rankings list.
We start our starting pitching rankings off with a pitcher so great that he once inspired a complete breakdown of his facial hair throughout his career:
Congratulations on surviving another off-season. Now that the new year is upon us, it’s time to spend the next month traveling across the positional landscape, labeling players with numbers that correspond to their value. It’s the very definition of freedom. A ton of hard work was put into these rankings, and will continue to be put in as we bring you just an ungodly amount of information over the next month. We hope you enjoy the product we’ve created, and if you’d like to show appreciation for that work you can do so through this link, or via the donate button on in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated.
Starting pitcher is simultaneously the most fun and second-worst position to rank (nothing is worse than relievers). It’s phenomenally deep, especially with baseball’s offensive decline, and there’s just so many names that it’s more than a little intimidating. That said, debating the various qualities from pitcher to pitcher is a lot of fun… but then deciding who goes where and why is a bit of a headache. Let’s get to em!
1) Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 27 , Previous Rank: 1)
Adam Wainwright just finished a 2014 season where he posted his career best ERA and his second lowest walk rate of his career—what I want you to do now is sell him.
In dynasty leagues if you aren’t diligent about searching for new prospects and finding ways to improve your roster constantly, it is pretty easy to look at your team one year and realize that the majority of your players are on the downside of their careers. In order to prevent this unfortunate event there are many things you can do.
1. Collect the Right Prospects – Be aggressive with prospects at positions where you are aging. It is usually best practice to take the best player on the board but if you are using an aging catcher like Yadier Molina it might be better to draft Blake Swihart than Jesse Winker.
2. Make Trades – ALWAYS look to improve your team via trade and never say any one player is untouchable. Everyone has a value in fantasy and if you can improve your roster either by adding depth or getting younger you always need to do that. Just because Jose Bautista had a great year last year doesn’t mean you shouldn’t accept an offer of George Springer for him in a dynasty format.
3. Sell High – This is what I am going to address in this article but as the great Bill Belichick often shows us it is better to be a year early on selling a player than a year late. Players, no matter how great, cannot fight Father Time, especially without the anabolic aids of yesteryear, and therefore should not be held past the time you notice a decline in their underlying stats.
Dan Haren was the stalwart leader of many a championship fantasy pitching rotation for almost a decade. He has won 130 major league games and made three All Star teams and has even been a Cy Young contender in both leagues. He began his career back in the days of high-octane offenses during the steroid era and has thrown 200+ innings 8 times, providing tons of production for his fantasy owners. Haren’s career 4.09 K:BB and 1.87 BB/9 ratios are the best of all active pitchers, well ahead of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Adam Wainwright, King Felix, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw in the most important peripheral stats for pitchers. In fact, Haren ranks near the top in almost all of the career statistical categorys among active pitchers. That is a very impressive feat!
Given Haren’s remarkable track record of success, why is it that he was available for free in so many fantasy leagues last summer? He was actually unowned in 50-75% of Yahoo, CBS and ESPN leagues during June through July of last year. Why would a proven ace pitcher who had been so good for so long suddenly get dropped by so many fantasy owners? Well, after a stellar year in 2011 (16-10, 192 Ks, 3.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP!) in which he was a Cy Young contender, Haren had a shaky and somewhat disappointing season in 2012. It was not bad enough to dump him, but then came a shockingly rude stretch of poor pitching in 2013. Most of his owners gave up on him way too quickly and allowed some patient, observant bystanders to snap him up with a few well-timed mouse clicks. Let’s take a closer look… Continue reading
Its time to have fun with some predictions. Some of my predictions are bold and some are BOLD but none of them are crazy. All of these things have a decent chance of actually happening, at least in my mind anyway. I can’t wait to brag about my psychic prognostication skills come October.
I am stepping out on a thin limb here with my first bold prediction because this rare feat has been done only one time in the history of baseball…
1. Billy Hamilton will steal 100 bases while scoring less than 100 Runs.
Take a look at Vince Coleman’s strange 1986 batting line:
PA — 670
R — 94
H — 139
2B — 13
3B — 8
HR — 0
RBI — 29
SB — 107
CS — 14
BA — 0.232
OBP — 0.301
SLG — 0.280
OPS — 0.581
OPS+ — 62
That is all sorts of ugly. Coleman got a lot of fanfare that season because of his antics on the basepaths, but he was just plain terrible batting in front of Tom Herr, Jack Clark, Andy Van Slyke, Terry Pendleton, Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith. The two are often compared, but Billy Hamilton is likely to be a much better all-around player than Vince Coleman both offensively and defensively. Hamilton won’t hit many home runs but he will get a lot more doubles and will hit for a much better slash line than Coleman, who finished his career with a very poor .668 OPS. My bold prediction is Hamilton will match Coleman’s dubious feat his rookie year but will get much better as time goes by.
2. Joey Votto will be the National League MVP. Continue reading
By the time this post publishes, my partner and I will have selected Mike Trout first overall in the new Dynasty Guru Experts League. Participating in this league is going to be a challenging ride. In fact, challenging describes the process through which our team got the #1 pick in the first place. To put it simply, each team will have a 40-man roster of both major and minor league players. The default number of keepers each year is 35, but since this is the inaugural season, teams were permitted to “bid” on draft positions by sacrificing a certain number of keepers in a blind auction. Our bid of 15 keepers did the trick for the #1 spot. Bret spelled it out in more detail on Tuesday. In this post I’ll try to lay out our thought process in our bid for the first pick.
I should probably introduce my co-owner, Paul Clewell. We’ve been playing fantasy baseball together for years, and he’s one of the reasons I started writing in the first place. After countless conversations about baseball on the phone, we decided one of us should write some of it down. We even pipe-dreamed about playing in an experts league one day. Well, here we be. So how did we arrive at the number 15, and what were we thinking? It really boils down to 5 points…
From the 21st of January to the 20th of February, the writers at TDG will be taking you through our rankings position-by-position. As I mentioned in the primer, this year we’re doing things a little differently. Instead of having my personal rankings up on this site, like last year, these rankings for 2014 are of the consensus variety and being brought to you by all of the TDG staff. Everyone put a lot of work into this project, so we hope you enjoy the end result. And if you are looking for my personal dynasty league rankings, you can find them this off-season at Baseball Prospectus.
So we hope you enjoy the rankings package that we’ve put together here. And if you do, I hope that you will make a donation to show appreciation for the content you’ve seen here at the Dynasty Guru. You can do that through this link, or by clicking the “Donate” button on the top-right corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated.
Starting pitching is always tough to evaluate as a whole since the group of usable starters is sooooooo big, but we have seen a shift towards more high-level performance out of younger and less-experienced hitters. In fact, were it not for Matt Harvey’s elbow explosion (dibs on that for a band name), we could have seen two pitchers in the top-five who came into 2013 with less than 60 major league innings combined. However, with great performance also comes great responsiblity–and that responsibility is for the fantasy owner to determine whether their young pitcher who was surprisingly good can continue at a high level over a long period of time. We’re pretty confident we know Jose Fernandez is going to be great, but can you say the same thing about Michael Wacha, Sonny Gray, Danny Salazar and Tony Cingrani. I’m not so confident. The other noticeable thing about starting pitching is that some of the depth we’re used to seeing is drying up a bit. But you won’t notice that with this group of studs (just wait until Thursday and Friday).
Now the 20 best starting pitchers in dynasty leagues, starting with a unanimous pick at the top spot among all TDG rankers (like you really need to ask who it is):
There are nearly a million ways to construct a starting staff for your dynasty league team. However, I cannot stress how important it is (especially for starting pitchers) to know your league’s scoring system inside and out. The rankings you’ll find below are for a standard 5×5 rotisserie league, but more and more leagues are switching over to a points format, which makes pitcher valuations a little trickier. Does your scoring system value overvalue or undervalue strikeouts? Does it give a lot of weight to wins, losses and quality starts, or not? How important is it for a starter to accumulate 225+ innings? The easiest way for you to determine where you can take advantage of your scoring system is by looking at previous season totals and comparing them to standard 5×5 end of season valuations (like the ESPN Player Rater). No matter how sharp the guys in your league are, there’s always room for arbitrage.
There is a lot of great information out there, when it comes to individual starting pitcher analysis, but nothing more comprehensive than Paul Sporer’s Starting Pitching Guide. If you don’t know what it’s about, check out the link here. And if you do, and haven’t ordered it yet (like I have), you’re starting out at a disadvantage. He’s running a 33% discount off the regular price, which you can get if you order it before my dynasty league rankings are complete on February 14th.
And now your top 50 dynasty league starters, with commentary: