Overvalued Minor League Draft Picks

While preparing for minor league drafts, the easiest way to get started is to find some top prospect lists by top sites like Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.  However, it is important to remember that these sites are creating lists for real life, not fantasy, so defense and intangibles are part of the thought process.  As fantasy owners, our scouting report is much simpler, and predetermined by league settings.

In Dynasty Grinders, we do not count runs scored or RBI, and ERA is not a big deal. ¬†So while scanning all of these lists, it’s important to look a bit deeper into a players’ past production, read the scouting reports, and find players that fit our specific league scoring system.

A member of the r/FantasyBaseball community on Reddit was kind enough to put together a top 100 list that combined multiple top 100 lists from reputable sites.

I’ve complied a list of multiple Top 100 Prospect lists into one. This is purely a mathematical based list not based on any scouting. The formula is based on how many lists they are on, the rage of their positions on the list, their high and low position, their average position and scores weighted more towards fantasy than real life prospect lists.

Now again, your league will determine how valuable each individual player is, and in this league, we could not draft certain players that had limited MLB experience.  After removing them from the list, leaving us with 85 players and moving what was left up the rankings, here are the players that we overvalued by 10 or more draft slots, when you compare our draft slot versus their ranking.

MILB Draft Overvalued

FND, HYD, LB and WYH each selected two players at least 10 spots ahead of their top 85 ranking.

However, it was GAU with the “worst” pick of the draft, selecting Brady Aiken with the 34th overall selection, when he was rank 70th. The differential, 36, was actually higher then the draft slot! Obviously Aiken is a well known name around baseball after being selected 1st overall in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft by the Houston Astros. However, he did not sign and was then selected 17th in the following draft by the Cleveland Indians. He has yet to throw a pitch in a game that counts as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

We have discussed the Foundation’s selection of Jeff Hoffman with the 18th pick a lot in our Slack chat, so I will let this one go, as to not embarrass his owner any more. But FND also selected Jesse Winker ahead of his rank, 34, with his first round pick and did so even before selecting Hoffman in round two. Prior to 2015, MLB.com ranked Winker¬†the 26th overall prospect in baseball and with 14 Top 100 prospects removed from our list of eligible players, the selection does make some sense. He is often compared to Jay Bruce, mainly because they came up through the Reds farm system. If Winker turns into 2012/2013 Bruce, this pick will be a steal.

Team Hydra may have reached for Pirates 2B Alen Hansen, but I think they got a real nice piece in Bobby Bradley, a player we were targeting with our next pick. Hanson is slotted in at 2B for the Pirates this season with Neil Walker being traded to the Mets and Jung-Ho Kang out to start the season. Hanson can fly and if he can get on base could be a valuable piece to the Pirates as a utility player this season. However, our league does not count runs scored and Hanson has a .320 OBP despite a .275 BA over two seasons at AA ball.

The Rays drafted Taylor Guerrieri way back in the first round of the 2011 draft out of Spring Valley High School in South Carolina. ¬†Who’s Your Haddy selected him 30 picks ahead of his rank, with the 53rd pick. ¬†Over four minor league seasons, and 206.1 IP, he owns a 1.61 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP with 178 strikeouts. ¬†Those are some nice numbers. ¬†He just turned 23 in December and will look to join the Rays rotation by early 2017. ¬†However, he is one full season removed from Tommy John surgery and has faced a 50 game suspension for a positive drug test. ¬†The Rays are loaded with pitchers and Guerrieri is their 3rd or fourth best pitching prospect. ¬†WYH hopes to not see him land in the bullpen, and a trade wouldn’t be the worst thing, as long as it is not to the Colorado Rockies!

With the 44th pick, WYH drafted Cubs OF Billy McKinney, despite being ranked 71st.  Chicago is loaded in the OF, signing Jason Heyward this offseason in addition Kyle Schwarber, Dexter Fowler (just re-signed), Jorge Soler and prospects Albert Almora and Ian Happ.  MLB Pipeline ranks McKinney the Cubs #2 prospect behind SS Gleyber Torres, ahead of Almora and Happ.  He is actually a perfect prospect to own as he is a high BA/high OBP guy.  He just needs Soler to be traded.

Long Ball to LF drafted two MLB ready players ahead of their rank, but I like both Jameson Tallion and Willson Contreras, despite both going a round earlier than their rank suggests.

What is Billy Hamilton worth?

When debating value of fantasy baseball players there is always going to be some discrepancy between one league to another. There’s even a difference when you look at different daily fantasy sites. They all have slightly different scoring or valuation of each player, causing some need for adjustments on the user end. This is more true with Billy Hamilton than almost any other player. Standard Roto fantasy baseball has Hamilton as a quite valuable outfielder. Stolen bases are 20% of hitting value and Hamilton whether or not a good ballplayer, is amazing at stealing bases.

Stolen bases in Dynasty Grinders here have value, but it is no where near 20%. Much like in real life, stolen bases lack value. They are sexy, they are exciting, but even in the post-steroid era where smallball is making a comeback, their value is capped off well below 20%. Dynasty Grinders gives you 2.5 points for every stolen base. A hitter getting on base and stealing a bag is worth a bit less than a hitter who just gets a double. Why? Well the run scoring valuation of a double is higher than a single and stolen base. Doubles score runs more often. Simple as that.

Last year, Billy Hamilton the hitter was quite awful on all accounts. .251 wOBA, 52 wRC+, his offense was worth -12.2 runs according to FanGraphs.com. That being said Hamilton the baseball player does add value, his base running made up that difference adding 13.4 runs, plus his defense in center field by all accounts is quite good. In standard Roto you can eat the bad hitting and make it up elsewhere, but last year he stole 57 bags, and that’s hard to find these days. Billy Hamiltion’s potential for 70+ steals is category winning for Roto. His potential for Dynasty Grinders is not winning you much of anything.

Yet that does not make him worthless. In, 2014, Hamilton would have added some value. If Billy Hamilton is more like 2014 than 2015, he’s certainly worth a flier in DG. If you think he’s better in 2016 than he’s ever been (low bar to jump over), he starts making some serious sense. Last year his OBP was .274. His BABIP was .264. Adjusting that to 2014 levels using regression is easy enough. Hamilton’s walk rate did slightly improve last year and he struck out less. What little power he did feature before 2015 disappeared. Maybe that comes back? It’s quite possible.

What makes Hamilton so intriguing, is that you hear about him in the mainstream fantasy media all the time, he’s a top 20 OF. In Dynasty Grinders he’s not likely a top 20 CF. But for him to jump into the top 10 he only needs to be a little bit better. If he improves his walk rate a little. Improves his luck on BABIP (if you’re so damn fast get on base more often, pop up less!). Gets some of his power back. Plays everyday. If he can do all of that. Well then we’re talking. He’s 25 years old. If he somehow slashed a .250/.310/.360 slash line with 70 stolen bases (again not as valuable but they do count). It gets interesting.

All that wishing and hoping aside, there is just a good of a case that in a 16 team league with 30 man major league rosters, for Hamilton to go undrafted in the initial draft. He probably will get drafted. The stark difference between Dynasty Grinders and traditional fantasy is crystal clear when evaluating Hamilton.

The injury prone player, what are you good for.

Oh the ballad of Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton. Could you guys just play a full season and stay healthy the whole time, please?

Easier said than done, baseball is a hard sport to play and some players seem to be more prone to not being able to play the long season as well as everyone else. With that in mind, that doesn’t mean that these kinds of players have lost all value.

In fact these players have quite a bit of value yet. It hurts so bad when they get hurt, because typically they’re quite great when they’re healthy. So what’s their value? You have two parts greatness, one part injury concern, and one part luck. When drafting Stanton or Tulo, you’re taking a risk. They’re great players, but are you getting 140 games played?

Well Stanton played 145 in 2014, but only 74 in 2015, 116 in 2013 and 123 in 2012. That’s three partial seasons and almost one full season. This is not a great track record. But, when he plays he’s great. Stanton is one of those guys you will see 50 point weeks. The average weekly score in our league should sit around 550-600, 50 is a lot! Even better when Stanton gets hot, he could score 100. It’s been done. Crazy!

That’s some wicked value from a talented player. It hurts when he doesn’t play. Over the course of a long season, perhaps you cannot count on Stanton or Tulo to get you a full season worth of work, but does that mean you should settle for Nick Markakis or Erick Aybar because they’ll play everyday? Probably not.

You lose the player when they get hurt, but you don’t lose the roster spot. You can replace them. And their replacements put up value, granted not as much, but its not zero. Heck, 400 PAs from Giancarlo according to Steamer Projections is worth about 610 PAs from Brett Garnder. Steamer has Gardner projected for the 45th best OF.

And that’s with playing Gardner everyday. If you play Giancarlo for 400 watch him get hurt and replace him with a replacement level guy (worst case scenario) for 210 PAs you still have almost a 900 point player for the season. Wow. Or Ryan Braun.

Plus we discussed the one part luck, what if Giancarlo is healthy, plays 150 games. Well then you have a top 2-3 hitter on your hands, congratulations!

Injury prone guys have their risks, but they are attractive because they are often worth it anyway. Sure there’s a chance lady luck is against you and the player misses the whole season, but that can truly happen to any player.

A little thinking out side of the box and it’s not hard to see how the risk and reward of these kinds of players is truly worth.

Opportunity costs: the values of platoons and the elite tier

In all familiar with the fact that, in general, baseball teams have 27 outs to spend in any given game. Managers send out their players in what they believe will give the most return (in runs scored and runs prevented) on any given day in return for those 27 outs. Simple game.

Dynasty Grinders has its own out-like currency. Each week you have 10 hitter positions that could be filled each day. You also can fill three relief pitcher slots each day. Starting pitchers work a bit different, as you can only use seven starts each week, you have days with one or as many as five.

MLB managers get the benefit of knowing they will have an opportunity to use all 27 outs. In head-to-head weekly fantasy, we don’t get that benefit. We have to deal with off-days, rain outs, day games, player rest days, and surprise injuries among others.

We’re all facing the same struggle.

That being said, we can construct our roster to mitigate these pains as much as possible. Thirty man active rosters give ample opportunity to have backups at every position. Perhaps with some creative construction, and depending how many pitchers you plan to carry, you could have three players deep in most cases.

The advantage to having a good spread of players should be clear, but if it is not here’s the bottom line:

1.15

One point one five. That’s what Steamer projections have the average plate appearance worth if you take the projections from the top 350 hitters in our league. So what does this have anything to do with platoon players or the elite tier?

Elite players will average much more per plate appearance than 1.15. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are both projected for over 1.8 points per plate appearance. They also do great things like finish games, play every day and are typically platoon proof.

These are all great things. If you have a player like this, lock it up, toss him in with a replacement level player and you have one powerful punch on your roster. This also probably gives you extra flexibility elsewhere on your roster.

0.93

Zero point nine five. That’s what Steamer projections have for the average plate appearance worth for the next 100 hitters. This is not an exact science, but as you can plainly see, the difference between what’s likely to be freely available and the typical average hitter is not a huge difference on this scope. At least not compared to what Trout and Harper mean. But, the difference has significance at the weekly level.

Say, ¬†on any given week if you start replacement level players in any one position, you could count on something around 29 points scored. The average player in the same time scores 36 points. 7 points per week is significant. But, also consider the talent level of the players we’re discussing. I’m using 4.5 PAs per game x 7 games played.

Better players get more PAs. Better players play daily. How many replacement level players do you need to get those seven¬†days filled? Three? Mike Alives, Clint Barmes and company do play, they do perform to some degree, but we all know they’re not regulars.

This is where platoons come in. If you are planning for them, even better. Just because overall these players might be at or around the 1.00 PPPA (points per plate appearance) mark, they might hit against lefties or righties at a much better rate. That matters. The clever manager could manipulate some tier 2 or tier 3 production out of some lower level talent by just using them when they’re in favorable positions to succeed. If you can afford the roster spots to juggle them around a bit, why not?

Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera are great, because they’re set it and forget it type players. And they’ll fetch a premium in the draft because of it. But there’s a plethora of really good players in niche situations that could be put into positions for you to take advantage of. You’ve just got to find them first.

Pre-auction valuation of players, an introduction.

It is fairly commonplace now days to have a multitude of resources that help you compete in fantasy sports. Whether you use magazines, subscription websites or various crowd sourcing tools, there is usually little problem in drawing what a player’s value will be in any fantasy league.

Dynasty Grinders is not different enough to make those types of tools useless. Quite the opposite, I believe in having more information to gather to draw my conclusions. The crowd definitely has information for you to draw from.

That being said, there are differences. Dynasty Grinders is a head to head, points based scoring, dynasty fantasy baseball league. It is similar to FanGraphs‘s version of Ottoneu, but different. We have a larger budget, draft different positions, more players. It is similar to standard dynasty leagues, but different, mostly because we are not roto.

That being said they all offer a synopsis of sorts about how the crowds are assuming players are going to perform from year to year. They are just projections, but these projections offer a baseline. This baseline is necessary to judge assumed value of any given player. The trick here for Dynasty Grinders is how to calibrate various projections or draft utilities to Dynasty Grinders’ settings.

FanGraphs does offer a nice auction calculator utility. It actually works quite nicely. But, alas, it also has its short comings. Take for instance the values of these top 5’s using Steamer Projections and with standard roster construction:

FanGraphs Auction Calc – Standard Hitters

Name Team POS PA rPTS Dollars
Mike Trout LAA OF 671 1256.1 $89.8
Bryce Harper WAS OF 647 1174.0 $78.5
Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 647 1127.2 $72.0
Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 658 1123.7 $69.7
Miguel Cabrera DET 1B 649 1091.9 $65.3

Phew, $90 for Mike Trout? Hot damn. That’s a hefty price for the guy who’s won four¬†one MVPs. But, in a sixteen team league, and with the projection of 1256 points, he has a value that it would take several players to make up at other positions. Let’s take a look at pitchers.

FanGraphs Auction Calc – Standard Pitchers

Name Team POS IP rPTS Dollars
Clayton Kershaw LAD SP 217 1430.3 $118.4
Max Scherzer WAS SP 212 1264.2 $95.6
Chris Sale CHW SP 210 1251.9 $93.9
Jake Arrieta CHC SP 208 1189.3 $85.3
Corey Kluber CLE SP 211 1183.4 $84.4

And there you have it. Starting pitchers! Now, nobody is arguing who is on the list. Those guys are studs, and in weeks that they start twice, your team is sitting in the clear driver seat.

Why the higher values? Well the context matters. First, this auction calculator is not considering that we’re a dynasty league, so while Max Scherzer is quite good, it might be better to throw the extra dollars on Corey Kluber who should be fairly easy to keep for the next half decade.

Secondly, Three of these guys are projected to outscore Mike Trout for the season. Now, any rational betting man would probably put their money on Trout to meet projections more than any other player. Pitchers are volatile, perform a job that biomechanically impacts their ability to stay healthy, and their statistical floors are just lower.

Finally, FanGraphs is tied to OttoNeu which doesn’t do head to head. They’re doing roto. This makes a difference too. Dynasty Grinders allows 7 starts per week. The guys listed above are going to get every chance to start no matter what. However, our league is likely to be prone to people not carrying 7 man staffs and streaming starts like FanGraphs assumes.

No, more likely you’ll be carrying a 9 or even 10 man starting pitcher staff. Why? Because, after the third or forth tier of starting pitcher, match-ups start to matter quite a bit. So while most teams will have their first four or five starts each week pigeon holed, those last ones often leave tactical match-up decisions.

Being able to keep 30 active players, it makes sense to grab more starters to have more choices, and also limit the streaming ability for other teams in a way. If you could pick 6 good starters who won’t get hurt, you could just do that. For those of us who can’t predict the future, we will be hedging.

So what does that change? Well let’s tweak the auction calculator, instead of letting it use the bench spots wherever, lets tell it that all 16 teams are carrying the following roster:

2 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 SS, 1 3B, 1 CI, 1 MI, 6 OF, 2 UT, 10 SP, 4 RP

Yes, while we’re not able to capitalize on all these players as full-time starters, these guys who we will be bidding on backups, do offer coverage on a week to week basis. Each week offers an extremely limited opportunity in getting starts at each position. If Mike Trout is only playing 5 games one week, you’d rather have a backup play the other two days if possible, rather than leaving the spot open. You’d also rather have a starting capable player over the replacement level one. We’re all trying to win here…so what does the FanGraphs Auction Calculator say now?

FanGraphs Auction Calc – Adjusted Roster Hitters

Name Team POS PA rPTS Dollars
Mike Trout LAA OF 671 1256.1 $55.3
Bryce Harper WAS OF 647 1174.0 $49.7
Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 647 1127.2 $46.5
Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 658 1123.7 $44.0
Miguel Cabrera DET 1B 649 1091.9 $41.9

Well, that’s quite a difference… Let’s see those pitchers again…

FanGraphs Auction Calc РAdjusted Roster Pitchers

Name Team POS IP rPTS Dollars
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers SP 217 1430.3 $71.1
Max Scherzer Nationals SP 212 1264.2 $59.7
Chris Sale White Sox SP 210 1251.9 $58.9
Jake Arrieta Cubs SP 208 1189.3 $54.6
Corey Kluber Indians SP 211 1183.4 $54.2

Now these prices almost seem too low. They probably are. The truth is that the prices are most likely in between these two values of sorts. If you click on the links that I provided. You’ll see the difference more so.

In the original list, FanGraph’s AC is setting the replacement level ($1) for players ranked 16th, 17th, 18th. That’s certainly low. Addison Russell, Erick Aybar, and Brandon Crawford are all in that “zone”, and they’re all going for at least a few dollars, if not even more.

In the second list, where the replacement level for SS is being set much lower, those three guys are all being rated around $7. Low or high? Who knows. In the case of Russell, a rookie last year, perhaps its low, as the young guys attract value in dynasty leagues.

But, when you tell the calculator that there will be money spent on the bottom of the roster, that lowers how much can be spent on the top players. Over the next two and a half months leading up to the draft, I will be going over these valuations much more. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, Happy New Year!