From worst to first

Per Dan Beachler’s request, here is a “how I went from worst to first” post. I suppose technically I wasn’t worst last year, and by head-to-head record I wasn’t first in 2017 either. (I was first in points!) But hey, here we are.

I should preface this by pointing out what should already be obvious: there’s a ton of luck involved in fantasy sports. Even if you talk fantasy sports a lot, for example, you’re going to find that you won’t uncover all the answers.

I thought the team I assembled in 2016 would compete. Then, Miguel Cabrera (.340 wOBA in April/May) and Joey Votto (.276 wOBA in April/May) started painfully slow. They were supposed to be my offensive anchors. Tyson Ross, a 32.52 points per game starter in 2015, got hurt in his first start and missed the season. Carlos Carrasco, my best pitcher, missed all of May. Sonny Gray turned into a pumpkin. Alex Rodriguez had a .293 wOBA in April/May. Of the first seven guys I won at our inaugural auction, only Johnny Cueto was good or even useful through the season’s first six weeks or so.

All of that is blind, dumb luck. I don’t control injuries. I don’t control Votto, one of the best hitters of our generation, hitting like Jose Peraza for over a month.

I certainly left money on the table that first auction and probably relied too heavily on boring, useful bench types as starters. I legitimately thought a cheap Trevor Plouffe was an acceptable starting 3B option. I thought I could platoon the White Sox catchers last year, an idea that played out so poorly I may as well have just played the year without a catcher slot. But mostly, my team went bust in 2016 because of random stuff that could happen to anybody. Even if they’d all stayed healthy and produced early, I probably wouldn’t have been a great team. But because that stuff did happen, I decided in May to start reworking my team by trading Cabrera and Gray for picks and prospects. That was the first step in climbing out of the cellar and to the top…

Step 1: The Miguel Cabrera/Sonny Gray trade

Sending Miggy and Gray to the Preseason Double Stuffs for Cody Bellinger, Ian Happ, Brett Phillips, Jorge Soler, and draft capitol is really what ignited my team into 2017. Bellinger, as a rookie, hit at a 1.737 points per plate appearance clip for me at a $0 cost. That’s elite production. Again, I can’t control that Bellinger hit. But he did and it helped.

The one thing I will say is, I targeted prospects that I thought would debut in 2017. Because (a) my team sucked in 2016, so if they debut and their clock starts, that’s a ding in value; and (b) points now are better than points later. I’m not super interested in an 18-year-old prospect in Single A when there’s a comparable 22-year-old prospect on the cusp of the majors. In the case of this specific trade, the Double Stuffs happened to have a few near-MLB guys that fit the bill. And I love Ian Happ, so. Obviously, there’s no science involved. The Cubs could’ve promoted Happ last year. The Dodgers could’ve called Bellinger up in September. I can’t control that stuff either. But I do think it’s possible to hedge within reason and if your goal is to get better quickly, you won’t do it with teenagers unless you’re using them exclusively as trade currency.

Happ, Soler, and the draft pick acquired from the Double Stuffs — which I assumed would suck but became the second overall pick — didn’t score me a ton, really. I did have Happ in my lineup 25 times at 5.76 points per game, so that’s pretty good. But 25 starts isn’t swinging things much one way or another. But these pieces ended up helping later on.

My other big trade was swapping Cueto for JP Crawford, Aaron Judge, and a first round pick. More on Judge in the step below. But also, damn, I had and traded Judge. Frowny face.

I should note here also that not going full scale blow-up mode helped. Hanging onto Votto and Carrasco is as big a reason as any that my team got good. The offers I got for these players were, frankly, pitiful, so that made things easy. But I could have very easily dumped them for picks and lukewarm prospects and gone into auction with $350 or whatever. I’m glad I didn’t.

Step 2: Acquiring good veterans from over-budget teams for picks and prospects at below market rates

I think this was more impactful to my team than Bellinger. Because I “tanked” the season, I was able to build up a solid minor league system and a nice cache of draft picks. But picks and prospects rarely score points. So in the off-season, when teams way over budget shopped quality veteran players, I cashed out some of those assets and bought. And because I’d sucked so badly that I had loaded up on picks and prospects, selling some didn’t mean leaving the cupboard bare.

I acquired a way overpriced Andrew McCutchen for Soler, Travis d’Arnaud, Billy Hamilton, and I think a second round pick. Cutch mostly bounced back in 2017 (1.438 PT/PA), thankfully. I couldn’t have controlled that either, but I’m comfortable betting on a player with an elite track record. It paid off. I think that’s the key to a quick rebuild. If you’ve got budget space, use it ahead of auction and buy low to lock in a guy you think can bounce back. I think budget space is worth much more pre-auction than during auction, when you’re left picking through the risky players no one wanted. I also think if your team sucks like mine did but you want to quickly improve, you need to gamble. You need to overpay a guy or two and hope for a return to form. Also, you won’t likely have an opportunity to buy a recently elite talent at auction. And if you do, there may only be one or two of those guys, so you’ll have competition.

I also bought Russell Martin for a second round pick. Martin’s another efficient, boring veteran player. But my catcher position was the worst in the league in 2016. Martin helped fixed that.

One other trade was working a three-way swap with The Foundation and Hustle Loyalty Respect that effectively landed me Neil Walker and the 16th overall pick for the 4th overall pick. HLR used the pick to take Blake Rutherford, who I think got hurt. I took Franklin Perez with the 16th pick. Today, I think Perez is more valuable than Rutherford, though to be fair, Rutherford got hurt. Even if Rutherford’s more valuable, they’re both top-100 guys. To me, any difference is negligible. But even if Rutherford hadn’t gotten hurt, there’s no chance he (or whichever other available prospect) was scoring at a 1.338 PT/PA clip like Walker did, and doing so right now. Points now > points later, and prospects are fickle, so the guy who goes 4th and the guy who goes 16th could very easily switch fortunes over a single season. At the time, I just felt like I was slightly downgrading a prospect in exchange for making a big upgrade to my current 2B spot, which was a big weakness in 2016.

Then I acquired Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre, who presumably had affordable prices because of their age and their team’s budget situation. Again, if you’ve got budget space, attacking the trade market is worth it. Beltre cost me Amed Rosario, an elite prospect, but that’s really where stacking prospects in 2016 helped. Having JP Crawford meant feeling more comfortable shipping out Rosario.

Of course, both those old dudes could’ve fallen apart. But my team was garbage in 2016. If they did fall apart, oh well, I’m in the cellar again in 2017 and then I just cut those guys and have the cap space back. But there weren’t hitters this good in the auction (granted at the time of the trades, the auction pool was a mystery), or at least players less risky. The highest paid hitters at auction were Adam Jones, Adrian Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Lorenzo Cain. There’s some hindsight present, of course, but I’m not sure pre-auction anyone would’ve honestly felt like any of those guys were better, more efficient hitters than Cruz or Beltre. If you’re cool with a multi-year rebuild, by all means, ignore trading for old dudes like this. But I think it’s prudent to do it if you want to try winning money instead of just sinking money into a multi-year plan.

I also traded Judge for Matt Holliday, and that proved very stupid. In Holliday, I saw a one-year rental with a Giancarlo Stanton-esque batted ball profile and a cheap ($10) salary. I ended up starting Holliday 57 times for 5.9 points per game, so while he didn’t go bonkers like Judge did, he did help the cause. And with regards to Judge, his 2017 season was something I don’t think anyone saw coming. I offered him to several teams and no one bit. I had to include Grant Holmes along with Judge to secure Holliday. So yeah, sometimes trading prospects for vets will backfire, but in general I think it’s a solid, less risky strategy. I’d be curious what Dan thought he was getting with Judge when he made this trade, especially since I know he’s an old guy lover as well.

One thing I’m curious to see this off-season is if over budget teams continue selling their guys short to “get something instead of nothing,” or if teams feel more comfortable dumping to auction. Cruz was had for Dan Vogelbach and a first round pick. I liked Vogelbach as a prospect and obviously Team Hydra did too, but in retrospect, might those guys have figured out a way to keep Cruz’s bat? Or might they have been better sending him to auction and seeing if maybe they could buy him back cheaper? I’m not convinced giving teams discounts on good players is effective, even if the alternative is cutting and “getting nothing.”

Step 3: Not screwing up the auction

I notoriously left like $21 on the table at our first auction. But I also made some awful bids. Buying into A-Rod’s resurgence was dumb. I came away from auction with two 1B’s and ¬†UT player, effectively destroying all my lineup flexibility.

I did a lot better, I think, with my buys in 2017, adding Jaime Garcia, Francisco Cervelli, Lucas Duda, Chris Owings, Ryan Zimmerman, and Charlie Morton.

Once again, luck played a role here. I didn’t expect almost 900 points from a $1 Zimmerman. I liked his batted ball profile, but come on. I also didn’t think Morton would be more than a back-end starter, and he ended up being my most consistent pitcher and a solid SP2. I didn’t even want him. It just ended up being the end of the auction, he was the last starting pitcher available, and I wasn’t leaving money on the table again. Owings filled multiple crucial positions for only $8. I overpaid for Cervelli at $17, but he was a nice compliment to Martin because, again, my catcher spot needed help.

The thing about the auction is, all the players are supremely risky. Teams will find ways to keep or trade “sure things.” And so if you rely too heavily on auction, you’re lending yourself to luck. If Morton and Garcia don’t give me quality starts, my auction stinks and my team suffers. But I started Morton 21 times at 30.43 points per start and Garcia 14 times at 24.04.

But hey, guess what? Matt Harvey, Drew Smyly, Jordan Zimmermann, Collin McHugh, Carlos Rodon, Felix Hernandez, Garrett Richards, Francisco Liriano, and Shelby Miller were all in the same auction. At the time, not sure how any of those guys were too different from Morton and Garcia. I got lucky the guys I won didn’t injure their arms. I got lucky my darts landed where they did. I mean, I wanted Liriano really bad and just screwed up my bid on auction day. Bullet dodged. Blind, dumb luck.

The lesson here, maybe, is to just give yourself fewer dart throws to botch. Acquire talent you have conviction about pre-auction rather than finding yourself in a spot where your money is going to Shelby Miller or Francisco Liriano, and you’re totally uninspired either way. Your mileage may vary, of course. Having a bunch of money at auction is fun, if nothing else.

Step 4: I love you, Giancarlo Stanton

As part of that Cabrera/Gray trade, I secured the second overall pick in last year’s draft. I took Nick Senzel. I like him a whole lot. But I love Giancarlo Stanton and his moonshot home runs. And so in mid-May, I landed Big G for Senzel, Blake Snell, and a future first round pick.

From May 11 forward, Stanton was the third-highest scoring hitter behind Votto and Charlie Blackmon. As much as I like Senzel, you simply have to trade guys like him for elite production now. It helps that Stanton finally stayed healthy, but even if he hadn’t, we all know what he does when he is. In our format, he is an elite fantasy producer on a rate basis. It was a no-brainer for me.

As for Snell, well, I like him still, but if I wanted to win this year I knew I couldn’t sit around waiting and hoping that he learns how to throw strikes and pitch deep into games. The downside to young pitchers is they sometimes are slow to put everything together. If next year Snell’s awesome and cheap, oh well. I’ll still be happy with several mammoth months of Giancarlo.

Step 5: Keep on buying stuff that helps

During the course of the season, once I saw that my team was pretty good, I just kept trying to add. In a series of deals, I sent prospects Corey Ray, Albert Abreu, Julio Urias, Happ, and Jake Faria off for the likes of Max Scherzer, Miggy, JA Happ, Jason Vargas, and Danny Salazar. All those moves did not pan out.

Reunited on my team, I slotted Miggy into my lineup 31 times and he scored at a 2.61 point per game rate. That’s abysmal. Despite his highest hard hit rate since 2014 and the best line drive rate of his career, Miggy gave me nothing. He performed worse than any random bench player I already had, in fact. In Urias, I paid little. But I felt like I had to take the gamble. I expect Miggy to get his back right this off-season and return to an elite level in 2018. He reminds me a whole heck of a lot like McCutchen last year. His price seems way too high (he’ll get a raise to $75), but how can you easily bet against one of the best hitters the game has seen in the last decade plus? Like, would you really rather two $35 lottery tickets at auction (in the 2017 auction, Adrian Gonzalez + Carlos Rodon = $76) than one player a single injury-hampered season removed from being an elite hitter?

Meanwhile, Happ was a fantastic addition for me, scoring 28.04 points a game in 14 starts. I started Salazar seven times for more than 30 points per start. Scherzer didn’t do much for me in the playoffs, but in total, he logged six starts at 32.67 a pop. Net total, these were good, albeit short-term, trades for my team. Corey Ray wasn’t scoring me 392.5 points like Happ did. Albert Abreu didn’t drop a 65 point start on my roster like Salazar.

Again though, these trades could look brutal in just a few months. What if Scherzer gets hurt? What if Urias overcomes his injury? What if Ray ascends and JA Happ grows old quick? I don’t know. But I think if you’re in a spot to seize a chance to win now, you need to be okay with these types of calculated risks.

The other thing to note is that the in-season trades didn’t necessarily have a ton to do with going worst to first. The Stanton trade, sure. The other trades just bolstered a team that had been mostly assembled in the off-season.

In closing…

I think the biggest reason my team got it’s shit together so quickly was simply putting in the work to do it. When a good player became available, I asked for a price tag. When I saw a team was way over their budget, I inquired about expensive players with good track records. I wasn’t too worried about riskiness because well, my team was a dumpster fire. Getting worse than bad isn’t much of a risk. Staying worse, and paying into a league to not even try to fight for wins now, seems way riskier to me. I placed the highest value on today and worried less about if the prospect I’m sending away will be a fantasy monster in 2021 (or in Judge’s case, 2017) or if all the old guys will decide to retire simultaneously.

Clearly, there’s a strategy to this game. If there wasn’t, we probably wouldn’t play. What’d be the point?

But ultimately you only control so much. I think the only way to really approach things is to give yourself the best hand possible and hope for the best. In hold ’em poker, a 2/7 will beat a K/K, for example, some of the time. But the odds say more often than not, the stronger hand will prevail. So I just tried to do stuff that I thought made my hand stronger, then accepted all the luck I could get.

Another look at stolen bases and their value…

Almost a year ago to the day, Jordan wrote a post exploring Billy Hamilton‘s value in our league. To sum his piece up: Hamilton doesn’t have much value because his only offensive skill is stealing bases, and our scoring system does not reward those much (and in fact, penalizes caught stealings more heavily than it rewards the steals themselves).

So the first question then is: why aren’t SBs worth much here?

The short answer to that is, our scoring system uses linear weights, which tries to match how points are awarded to how valuable real life events are. I suggest pausing this post, reading this explanation of linear weights, and then coming back. It does a better job explaining it than I would, and the explanation is already written. So go do that, then come back.

OK, got it?

Now that you’ve read that and understand the philosophy behind our scoring mechanisms, let’s ask this question: what, then, are SBs worth? We do give points for them, so they aren’t worth nothing.

Of hitters with 1,000 plate appearances between 2014 and 2016 (235 qualified hitters), Hamilton ranks 219th in on-base percentage, 192nd in batting average, 217th in home runs, 232nd in slugging percentage, and 234th in wOBA. Objectively speaking, these numbers define Hamilton as one of the worst offensive players in all of baseball over the last three seasons.

Of course, he ranks first of that same group in stolen bases with 171. Dee Gordon comes in second with 152.

These two players are actually very interesting, because Gordon has proven valuable in our scoring while Hamilton has not.¬†It’s not like Gordon has any pop at all.¬†They have very similar infield hit and line drive percentages, but the dramatic difference is a whopping 14.8% disparity in ground ball percentage and fly ball percentage. Basically, by putting the ball on the ground more, Gordon avoids easy outs, gets singles instead, and ratchets up his points totals little by little.

(To be fair to Hamilton, he’s a tremendous defender. I guess ideally defense would be rolled into our scoring, but there’s just not a good way of doing that just yet.)

Anyway,¬†in a category (4×4, 5×5, whatever) league where stolen bases count, Hamilton goes from being one of the worst offensive players in baseball to being a weapon that can singlehandedly win you a category. Current NFBC ADP data has him as the 12th outfielder off the board and the 54th overall player¬†off the board. But we’ve already established that he has only one offensive skill, that that particular offensive skill is not particularly valuable to real life run scoring, and that literally every other component of his offensive profile ranks at or near the bottom of leaderboards¬†over an ample three year period. So you see the flaw¬†here? Like, it’s very, very clear, right?

Through the lens of our league’s scoring, let’s look at Hamilton over the last three years with (top) and without (bottom) stolen bases:

In 2014, Hamilton got caught stealing a bunch of times. Getting caught stealing a base is one of the worst things a baseball player can do on the offensive side of the ball, and so doing it 23 times in a year will wipe away most of the value provided by those successful steals. Even still, he added over 70 points in 2014 from his baserunning abilities. He’s been more efficient in the two seasons since.

Without the steals, Hamilton is just kinda…¬†bad? He would have scored 288.2¬†points in 2015 and 417.1¬†points in 2016. Even with the steals, he’s not worth much. But in 2015 he gained 118.5¬†points from steals and in 2016 his totals were¬†bumped up by 122. That’s¬†a lot! His steals are¬†essentially adding almost six¬†per week to his totals. It seems small, but in 2016, the difference between being worth 418.1 points and 539.1 points might be rosterability. The former might not even warrant a spot. The latter seems like¬†a useful bench piece.

The other problem with Hamilton specifically is that, because he’s such a horrible hitter, he lends himself to being used as a pinch runner. This means that he likely isn’t in the Reds’ lineup on a particular day, thus he’s not in your fantasy lineup that day, and maybe he pinch runs and steals a base or two. So he’s accruing those points, but your team isn’t. That matters.

But this isn’t about Hamilton. It’s about stolen bases. So let’s look at a couple guys near the top of the SB leaderboard in 2016…

Last year, Jonathan Villar led baseball with 62 stolen bases. But of qualified hitters, he also ranked 23rd in OBP and 42nd in wOBA. So SBs aside, he had quite a good season hitting the baseball. With SB and CS included, he scored 1,042.2¬†points last year. Without them, he scored 941.2. But while he led the league in steals, he also led the league in times caught stealing, so he sort of cannibalized some of the value of his stolen bases.¬†Still though, what he did on the base paths added more than 100 points to his total. That’s significant.

One of the most efficient base stealers last year was, surprisingly, Paul Goldschmidt. He swiped 32 bags and only got caught 5 times. With those factored in, he amassed 1,197.1 points and without them he would’ve accrued 65 fewer. So that’s 6.5 points per week which, again, is quite a lot even if it doesn’t seem like much.

My take away from this is that stolen bases actually are valuable in our league, but the offensive profile that goes with them must be sound. It’s not really a new revelation, rather confirmation of an existing one. Being fast and fast alone does not (and I’d argue should not) morph you into a valuable player, but being a quality hitter that is also fast can provide a nice opportunity to grab¬†some extra points along the way.

Trade: We Talk Fantasy Sports | Capital City Ironmen

We Talk Fantasy Sports sends: CF Andrew McCutchen ($71), 5th round 2018 Draft Pick
Capital City Ironmen¬†send:¬†C Travis d’Arnaud ($22), LF Jorge Soler ($18), CF Billy Hamilton ($10), 2nd round 2018 Draft Pick

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†Andrew McCutchen just had the worst season since becoming a super star of Major League Baseball. It was so awful that he finished as the 11th best center fielder. Let that sink in for a second. A super star, gets paid a lot, under performs and his apparent floor is 11th best in the league at his position.

Granted I would rather not be paying super star keeper money for a guy finishing as the 11th best at his position, but that has to be his floor right? I think so. I think McCutchen gets back into the top 5, possibly even the top 3 of center fielders next season. I absolutely love this trade for CCI as they gave up almost nothing, and got back a potential superstar. If he has back to back mediocre seasons, then you cut him or trade him for some poo poo package next year and you’re out nothing. The odds that CCI would spend the $71 on a better gamble in the draft are really low in my opinion.

For WTFS, I don’t understand this trade at all. I would almost certainly rather risk McCutchen to the draft with intentions of drafting him for less cash at auction. I don’t see how you keep d’Arnaud at that price. Soler is easier to keep since he got traded to Kansas City, but that’s not a prize piece. Billy Hamilton doesn’t get points for defense, and doesn’t really get enough points for steals. I just don’t see the upside of forcing this deal.

Andrew’s defense:¬†Projection systems are far from infallible, but Steamer has Andrew McCutchen pegged for a .363 wOBA, the 15th highest mark among hitters. As Jordan mentioned, last year was a down year. But Cutch’s floor remained pretty high — he still grossed 829.9 points — and his second half numbers look on par with his career norms. He posted a .355 wOBA in August and a .374 across September and October. He actually had a .333 in March/April and a .343 in May (not $71 good, but pretty good still), so really the .250 in June and .300 in July are what dragged his season totals down. I think seven-plus seasons of production are more telling than two crappy months, particularly because of that strong finish.

Would I rather take the Cutch leap at, like, $50? Sure. But I’m really not confident he would’ve made it back to auction for that opportunity to present itself. And I think the main¬†utility of¬†$1 prospects like Trevor Story and Sean Manaea is to create so much surplus that it enables you to spend elsewhere, be it on risks or safe bets.

 

Trade: We Talk Fantasy Sports | Rocky Mtn Oysters

We Talk Fantasy Sports sends: SP Kyle Hendricks ($18), 2017 5th Round Pick
Rocky Mtn Oysters sends: CF Byron Buxton ($32), 2017 2nd Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts: What a great, great deal for Dusty’s Oysters.

First of all: I love Kyle Hendricks. You can ask Jordan, I privately gushed about him leading up to the season. I still ended up with no shares of him, but that’s fine. Here’s why I liked him so much: between 2014 and 2015, Hendricks posted a 3.34¬†FIP and a¬†0.73 HR/9.¬†In our format and in the real world, those are some pretty fantastic peripherals. After striking out barely anyone in 2014, he K’d more than eight batters per nine innings last year, which showed growth and the promise for more.

I also loved that Hendricks came into this season largely underrated. In fact, I remember reading debates about whether he or Adam Warren would win a spot in the rotation. He’s responded to the tune of a 2.89 FIP and a 0.39 HR/9¬†rate. For comparison’s sake, Jake Arrieta is currently putting up a 2.47 FIP and a 0.29 HR/9 rate. Arrieta is striking out more guys and going deeper into games, but those numbers are otherwise interchangeable. Hendricks is really, really good. On a points per game basis, he’s SP28. He’s basically a team’s number two starter.

As proof that the 26-year-old (he’s super young, too!) Hendricks was being undervalued, I present this: he went for $18 at auction. Eighteen! I’m embarrassed not to have him at a price that low. Even with a $2 raise and every team slapping him with their greed buck, he’s still a good value a year from now. And beyond, probably. Given that every single team competing in this league has been actively pursuing pitching, it’s not a stretch to suggest Hendricks as one of the league’s ten or so best values.

And then there’s Byron Buxton.

Just to lay some groundwork, here are some centerfielders paid comparably to Buxton and what they’ve done this year:

Yoenis Cespedes: $32, 334.4 points, 8.36 PPG, 2.03 PT/PA

Christian Yelich: $24, 299.1 points, 7.12 PPG, 1.71 PT/PA

Charlie Blackmon: $27, 169.9 points, 5.66 PPG, 1.32 PT/PA

You know what, I need to just stop there. Because there are so many productive centerfielders that went for so, so much less than Buxton did at auction that I’d be doing this all day. Adam Eaton went for $15, Jackie Bradley Jr. went for $3, Dexter Fowler went for $12, Charlie Blackmon went for $27, Brett Gardner went for $14, Odubel Herrera went for $2, Denard Span went for $4, Colby Rasmus went for $7, Marcell Ozuna went for $14. You get the point. There are a bunch of nicely priced centerfielders.

And then… there’s Buxton.

We all know who this guy is and what he represents. He’s a stud prospect that some have boldly compared to Mike Trout (uh, okay). He’s got all the skill in the world: speed, gap power, and athleticism to burn. He’s raked at every minor league stop. The one thing he does not have — not even a little bit — is Major League production.

Over Buxton’s first 187 plate appearances, he’s put up 117.5 points*. So he’s hitting thus far in his young career at a 0.62 points per plate appearance clip. To put that futility of inefficiency into perspective: Billy Hamilton, who can steal bases and do nothing else offensively, is hitting at a 0.91 PT/PA rate through 124 PAs this year.¬†Jeff Francoeur has had 98 plate appearances this year and has scored at a 0.83 rate. It’s only 187 plate appearances, so take it for what it is, but the point is that Buxton has been arguably the worst possible hitter on the planet in those opportunities. Factor in his salary, and he’s just been an absolute vortex of suck.

*Let the record show that in 2011, Trout debuted and had 135 plate appearances. He slashed .220/.281/.390, so he was quite bad in his first taste of the big leagues. He amassed 141.1 points, meaning he hit at a 1.04 PT/PA rate. So while Trout was bad, he was 67.7% more productive¬†over his first 135 times in the batter’s box than¬†Buxton in his first 187.

This is a good time to point out that Buxton is still a phenomenal talent that was likely rushed to the majors and then mishandled by the Twins (who buries their elite prospect ninth every day?). He could be special. He could be called back up this week and suddenly hit everything thrown his way. Two years from now, he could be a top three or five centerfielder. There’s really no ceiling to what this guy could do. I still like him a whole lot as a prospect, but the underlying theme here is that he is paid like a regular in your lineup, not like a prospect.

He’s being compensated¬†$32 to be a question mark. (Might be totally irrelevant but since our league is comparable to FanGraphs’ Ottoneu, I was curious so I looked it up: across all Ottoneu leagues, Buxton’s average salary is $11.54.) Technically, since we have no in-season cap, he’s being paid nothing and WTFS can sit on him for 2016 before making a decision leading into 2017.¬†This move is obviously WTFS’ way of looking ahead to¬†next season, but he’ll cost $34 minimum on Opening Day. Buxton is also a great target for every team’s greed. You want to make risky players like him more expensive to either force a decision from that team’s owner or make their risk even tougher to pay off. It’s conceivable that Buxton costs $40 heading into 2017 on the glimmer of hope that he becomes Trout (uh, okay), all the while getting out-produced by lesser paid players. Guys like Fowler and Span are “boring” and “old,” maybe,¬†but I’d rather have boring, old, productive, and cheap than possibly exciting, young, unproductive, and expensive.

I guess what it boils down to is that on the spectrum of good and bad values, Hendricks is one extreme and Buxton the other. Hendricks at his current rate of production won’t be priced out by raises and greed (assuming teams even hit him with greed) for two or three seasons minimum. He’s young and he plays a position that’s coveted. Every pitcher is risky, but it’s just great process on Dusty’s part to flip someone he probably would’ve had to cut for someone that will make an impact for his team now and that he can plan to keep at a good rate going forward. Hendricks’ price and production dictate that you make cuts to accommodate keeping him, not the other way around.

Buxton, meanwhile, appears at this moment in time to be unkeepable¬†into next year at $34+, and acquiring him at that price is not particularly good process. Again, maybe he hits. Maybe he emerges. It’s just that he has to hit at such a level to be worth the bloated salary he’s already getting, and then even more¬†to provide surplus value, especially when compared to his centerfield peers, most of whom are already producing and many of which are doing so at a significantly lower cost.

Jordan’s thoughts: ((picks mic off the floor))

Holy shit Bailey how do you really feel? Good lord that’s a lot to dig through and it’s about a player who offers very little for his value. I think Kyle Hendricks offers quite a bit of value to about any team in DG. So far in 2016 Hendricks has been one of the more reliable starters in the league:

h2016

This shouldn’t surprise anyone as Bailey already said, here’s what he did in 2015:

h2015

So far he’s avoided the “awful” starts, and been pretty damn good this season. I don’t need to pile on what Buxton’s worth. I think for Buxton to be worth keeping for me next season, he needs to be something sort of a top 30 hitter from the All-Star break on. I don’t believe he’s that good period, so he’s not worth keeping around.

The fact that Dusty got something for a mirage, bravo. Even if Buxton does come back and blow through and create some sentiment of an argument, great. You hit the 5% projection. Bad bets still hit.

Fun with similar price points…

It’s weird comparing player values — particularly the lower dollar guys — post-auction. Just for the heck of it, I went into Fantrax, searched all owned players, and went looking for guys priced similarly whose values I think are way off. For this exercise, I just picked three pairs to look at.

Here we go…

Matt Kemp ($11) vs. Max Kepler ($10)

This, to me, is a great example of how nomination order can influence a player’s value. Max Kepler, a top-50 or so prospect depending on whose opinion you buy, was the fourth player nominated overall and went off the board for $10. I like Kepler a lot. I have him in my minors in my other dynasty league. But I was not in the Kepler market at $10.

Strategically, I think you’re better off drafting/adding prospects, stashing them in your minors, and hoping they can develop and you can cash in on their cost controlled status. I mean, if you can get Kepler for a buck, sure. But $10 is a pretty hefty price tag. And you’re not really buying him for his 2016. I suppose if he’s completely over-matched, you could cut bait after the year at no real detriment. But if you’re buying a player with this profile for $10, you’re hoping for some long term gains. So you’re looking at a $12 (minimum) player in 2017 before you can realistically hope for profit and you sort of have to ride him out until then, because if you bought him for $10, cut him because he disappoints as a rookie (plenty of rookies do), then breaks out as a soph, you’ll feel silly.

Matt Kemp, meanwhile, went for a buck more. The Padre outfielder has averaged 623.5 plate appearances over the last two years, so while he’ll always be an injury risk, it seems fair to say that he’s defied his reputation over our most recent and relevant sample. He finished as the 43rd highest scoring OF in 2015 and in 2014 he was 13th. In a start-up league, this is production in line with a team’s third or fourth best hitter.

And for the same price as a player with seven plate appearances to his name.

Kemp’s best years are behind him and Kepler’s are likely ahead of him, so I get why you’d be inclined to invest a little heavier in one than in the other. But for 2016? Or the next two years? It’s tough to imagine Kepler out-producing Kemp. It’s certainly not impossible. But it’s tough.

Trevor Bauer ($6) vs. Bud Norris ($6)

Again, nomination order had some impact here. Bud Norris, who I guess is going to make the Braves pitching staff (?), came up seventh overall and Trevor Bauer‘s name didn’t show up until nomination #361. Huge gap.

Having said that, I think it’s tough to justify Norris under any circumstances for more than a dollar. He’s just not any good. It’s totally within the realm of possibility that the Braves coach him up, squeeze value out of him a la Aaron Harang, and as a result you have a league average or slightly better pitcher until sometime in July when a desperate contender with a worse coaching acumen trades for him. And that’s valuable.

And look, I don’t particularly¬†like Bauer. The strikeouts are awesome, but he walks everybody and serves up a ton of home runs. But he’s also just 25-years-old and is in one of the best organizations in baseball as far as developing pitching talent. And he’s super talented. Guys that aren’t don’t have 8.47 K/9 rates at the big league level.

I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest the floor for both of these guys is pretty similar. Norris has the same flaws as Bauer but without the strikeouts. He’s also six years older and I’m not sure you can argue there’s much more untapped potential in that arm. For that reason, if you’re dropping $6 on a guy whose best case is league average-ish, you may as well just drop it on the younger, more talented guy who could be an adjustment away from being a Tier 2 type. I mean, if Bauer gets that HR/9 rate under 1.00 and shaves a walk per nine, is he not suddenly a very valuable piece?

Matt Holliday ($8) vs. Billy Hamilton ($8)

Other than “he’s old,” what’s the knock on Matt Holliday?¬†Even last year when he was hurt, he put up a .351 wOBA. He has a .389 career mark. Sure, some of that is padded from his time in Colorado, but he’s done enough in Oakland and St. Louis to dismiss any Coors effect out of hand.

Holliday is awesome. He walks a ton, he gets on base a ton (.386 career clip), and he’s always at or above 15 homers. He may also be unlocking first base eligibility too, which isn’t super valuable, but it’s better to have than not. If he plays a healthy season, even with the expected regression for a 38-year-old, he’s arguably a top-25 overall outfielder and a team’s third best hitter. For $8, that’s pretty incredible. Please trade him to me, whoever owns him (Dan?).

Billy Hamilton, meanwhile, is a guy we’ve discussed a bunch. In real life, he’s defensively valuable, a nightmare on the base paths, and just generally a fun guy to watch. But his sabermetric stats mostly stink.

He only walks about 6% of the time. He has a career .287 on-base percentage and his wOBA is even worse because he lacks power. So yeah, he steals a ton of bases, but that skill is really only useful — or valuable in this league — if he’s getting on base.

Realistically, I think in order for Hamilton to be worthy of being on a roster in Dynasty Grinders, he has to get on base at a .300 clip minimum. That means he needs to be .026 better than he was last year. That’s a fairly significant growth requirement. And even then, because he’s not launching homers or lashing liners, he’s not overly valuable. I think his best case scenario might be a reserve centerfielder worth a dollar or two.

So while Holliday and Hamilton went for the same price, their values are worlds apart. The only way Holliday gets cut postseason is if he retires, gets hurt, or age rears its ugly head. Even with a $2 raise, he’s a guy you probably want around for $10 in his age 39 season. Hamilton may not¬†be on a roster past June.

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.