Trade: Hustle Loyalty Respect | Preseason Double Stuffs

Hustle Loyalty Respect sends: SP Kyle Funkhouser
Preseason Double Stuffs send: SS Brandon Crawford ($18)

Andrew’s Thoughts: This seems alright. For Hustle, this cheaply helps fill the void of losing Carlos Correa. It also gives him a starter today at short against me, which is the part of this trade I find awful.

Speaking of awful, Brandon Crawford has been. He’s at 0.8261 points per plate appearance right now. To put that in perspective, Byron Buxton is at 0.8779. That’s gross. Kudos to the Double Stuffs for getting anything at all for Crawford. Crawford’s been good enough in the past that maaaaaybe a good stretch to end the year makes him keepable at $20, but probably not. The Double Stuffs lone option at SS is now Jorge Polanco and they still made this deal, which tells you all you need to know.

Kyle Funkhouser is whatever. I’ve heard of him, so that’s good. He’s a college pitcher so he should debut sooner than later. That’s nice. Also, he was acquired for a player worse than Buxton, so the price was definitely right.

Jordan’s Thoughts: [redacted]

Trade: Rocky Mountain Oysters | Preseason Double Stuffs

Preseason Double Stuffs sends: 2B/3B/SS Cesar Hernandez ($3), 1B/OF Ben Paulsen ($3)
Rocky Mountain Oysters sends: SS Brandon Crawford ($14)

Jordan’s thoughts: Well when you get Francisco Lindor, clearly you don’t need Brandon Crawford anymore. So you give him away. Hernandez has some value from being a strong backup at three positions. Do not confuse him with actually being good. Paulsen is fine, he hits in Coors.

Double Stuff win themselves a likely top ten short stop candidate, even in a field that has risen to the occasion. If Crawford ends up just being top 16, they ended up paying two bench pieces for a starting player. It’s a winning deal. I doubt any of these players have any long term value.

Andrew’s thoughts: I like this one for the Double Stuffs. As Jordan said above, two utility bench players is worth it for a starter. I don’t like Crawford much at all, but for $14, he’s more valuable to a roster than Hernandez or Paulsen.

This is sort of a weird follow up to Dusty’s other deal. He basically bought someone here (Paulsen) who plays the same spots as Hanley Ramirez but not nearly as well, so he acquired someone his previous deal made superfluous, and downgraded his back-up to Francisco Lindor from Crawford to Hernandez.

Musing on positional scarcity and age…

I always feel compelled at the beginning of these posts to remind the rest of the league: I swear, I’m not trying to sway your personal valuations or opinions. I just want to riff on fantasy baseball. If I happen to use a player on your team as an example and view him unfavorably, oops. I would hope we’re all capable of coming to our own conclusions. It’d be pretty boring if we all had exactly the same valuations.

So, having said that… how valuable are good-not-great players at super top heavy positions? Or positions that aren’t even top heavy, but rather mediocre all throughout?

Two positions immediately jump to mind here, and that is catcher and shortstop. Let’s look at shortstops.

Through nearly three full weeks, here are your top five overall scorers with the salary they went for at auction:

shortstops
Carlos Correa was our league’s highest paid shortstop at $81, so it’s nice that he’s pictured here. He was also the fourth highest paid hitter in the league, which means he’s being paid to be an absolutely, unquestioned transcendent talent and fantasy producer.

The obvious thing that jumps out is that four shortstops who were practically free either at auction or in our minor league draft currently sit atop the landscape at the position. In fact, Trevor Story, Jean Segura, Aledmys Diaz, and Eugenio Suarez cost just 11.1% of what Correa costs combined.

Granted, we’re only 19 days into our fantasy schedule. But our regular season is 148 days long, so we’re already over 12% of the way through the season. No one would be surprised if Correa ends up as his position’s best producer by the end of the season, but what we have so far shines an interesting light on the shortstop group. It has paid to not pay for these guys.

Behind Correa in terms of salary at shortstop are Xander Bogaerts ($58), Corey Seager ($54), and Troy Tulowitzki ($46). Bogaerts ranks ninth in scoring, Seager ranks 28th, and Tulowitzki is 29th.

For the sake of argument, let’s just look at those three guys, whose average salary is $52.70, or $53 to simplify. Of course, no one went for $53 at auction, but we did have Francisco Liriano go for $54 and a couple go for $52: Kyle Schwarber and Edwin Encarnacion. Some big names and reliable fantasy producers that cost in the mid-to-high $40 range: Cole Hamels, Justin Upton, George Springer, Sonny Gray, Chris Davis, Jose Altuve.

Hypothetically, if that list of players played the same position as Bogaerts, Seager, and Tulowitzki, would they have gone for less? I’d argue not. There are pitchers mixed in, so the positional view is wonky, but what if the shortstops were left fielders instead? Is Seager getting $54 to play the outfield? Hell, right fielder Matt Kemp cost $11. If Seager played the same spot, are you really paying him $43 more? Go look at Kemp’s last two years worth of stats before answering, because they’re likely to be better than you think.

In terms of having ever accomplished anything worth banking on, only Tulo has done it out of this group for more than a single season, but his age and injury concerns chew up some of his value.

The argument I’m making is that Bogaerts and Seager had “being a shortstop” baked pretty heavily into their price. Age was baked in there too, I’m sure, but whatever. Bogaerts was the top scoring shortstop in our format a year ago, so good for him and all, but Jhonny Peralta ($7) was number two and Brandon Crawford ($14) was number three. Peralta being hurt to start the year is a wrinkle, but those guys got pretty heavily punished for not being 23-years-old and presumably keepable for a decade. Maybe age was an even bigger factor than position?

Speaking of Bogaerts and 2015: he scored 810.5 points last year and yes, he led the way for shortstops. But compared to all other hitters, he ranked 55th. The two guys below him: Nick Markakis ($4) and Brandon Belt ($12). The two guys above him: Evan Longoria ($20) and David Peralta ($17).

So you could have literally bought the four hitters directly surrounding Bogaerts in 2015 net points and still had $5 left over!

Also, while Bogaerts was the 55th highest scoring hitter last year, he’s the 17th highest paid hitter this year. He’s also not priced to be immune from greed and his salary is going to grow by $2 a year. So… yikes.

Just as easily as it is to envision that $81 Correa being tops at short in August, it’s not crazy to see Bogaerts and Seager in the top five or even three. But it also seems fair to suggest that even if these guys lead the charge at their position, they’ll come out behind in the greater landscape of hitters at large.

Last year, Bogaerts averaged 40.525 points per week as the top shortstop. The 16th highest scoring shortstop, Erick Aybar ($3), averaged 27.325 points per week. So a 13.2 weekly edge between the best possible “starting” shortstop and the worst. (I grant you, this is a bit primitive. It assumes the top 16 scorers are spread across each of the 16 teams, it ignores platoons, guys got hurt and that screws up their net output, etc. I get it.)

Crush Davis, who you’ll recall went for less money and was just the second best right fielder (but also has 1B eligibility) behind MVP Bryce Harper, averaged 55.835 points per week. Kole Calhoun ($10), the 16th best RF, averaged 38.805 points per week, a difference of 17.03 between second best and 16th.

So, through that lens, you’re better off just having the better overall player in Davis than you are having the top guy at a weak position. Having Davis instead of Bogaerts, again in this admittedly simplified example, gives you a 4+ point weekly edge over the worst possible starter at each position.

Starting Davis/Aybar gets you 83.16 a week. Starting Bogaerts/Calhoun gets you 79.33. Also, the total cost of Davis and Aybar is lower than the cost of Bogaerts and Calhoun by $19, meaning that, at least theoretically, not overpaying for perceived positional scarcity affords you more resources to help your team.

Personally, I like to view players across their broader peer groups: pitchers against other pitchers, hitters against other hitters. Yes, a player may be the third best shortstop or the fifth best catcher, but that ranking is not interchangeable across positions.

Buster Posey is so good, he does not have a peer group at the catcher position. He is a tier, the two tiers below him are filled with chirping crickets and sawdust, and then other guys start falling in line after that. Yeah, you’d like to have whoever is second or third best, but if you have to settle for that 16th guy, it probably won’t be overly painful. The difference is negligible.

The Call Up: Our league’s first cost controlled minor leaguer has been promoted

One of interesting details of this league are cost controlled minor leaguers.  In a nutshell:

Cost Controlled Keepers:

All players acquired through the minor league draft are cost controlled eligible. They are free to keep until after their first MLB season.

1st off-season: $1
2nd off-season: 20% of FanGraphs Auction Calculator Value
3rd off-season: 40% of FanGraphs Auction Calculator Value (or +$2 whichever is greater)
4th off-season: 60% of FanGraphs Auction Calculator Value (or +$2 whichever is greater)
5th off-season: 80% of FanGraphs Auction Calculator Value
6th off-season: Graduate to Major League Keeper eligibility.

In the fifth round of this year’s inaugural minor league draft, following a trade with Beach Bum, I took Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story. He was my primary target at the time of the trade for reasons I’ll get to, but I thought I could trade down, add a higher pick later, and still get my guy. Luckily, I did. Anyway, he’s an interesting prospect in an even more interesting situation.

In short, Story’s a power hitter with a whole lot of swing and miss in his game. He’s a bit like Ian Desmond in that regard. He plays a tough position to fill too, and now that he’s won the starting gig, plays in the most favorable fantasy park in the game. The guy presumed ahead of him, Jose Reyes, is likely to be suspended and even if he’s not, he’s yet to join the team. And the Rockies didn’t seem to like Reyes too much anyway.

When I drafted him, I did so gambling that a few dominoes would fall. First and most importantly, that he’d earn playing time. With Reyes’ legal issues, I knew he’d be mostly out of the way through spring training and the Rockies didn’t look to me like a team plentiful with options. They could’ve signed Desmond, but that never felt like a viable fit to me. So first, I picked him hoping he’d get ABs sooner rather than later.

Next, I obviously love the park. Who doesn’t want their fantasy players taking the field 81 times at altitude, where pitchers can only serve them meaty fastballs? My logic was that at the absolute worst, Story’s skill set lends him to being roughly average at home. Unless you have an elite shortstop, average is valuable. And because he’d cost me nothing in 2016 and a buck in 2017, an average starting shortstop meant I could punt the position at auction (which I obviously did).

The last thing that led me to Story in our draft was his projections, specifically how ZiPS pegged him. ZiPS generously projected him for a .244/.308/.441 slash line with 18 homers and a .322 wOBA. That’s pretty good at a weak position. To lend that some context, here are the qualified shortstops who had higher wOBAs in 2015: Xander Bogarts, Troy Tulowitzki, Brandon Crawford, Jhonny Peralta (also on my team!). That’s it.

In 2014, only Hanley Ramirez (no longer a shortstop), Peralta, and Starlin Castro and Ian Desmond, whose shortstop eligibility expiration date is rapidly approaching, had higher wOBAs.

So basically, I saw a guy that ZiPS was projecting as a top four or five player at a weak position. Admittedly, I viewed these projections as optimistic. But even if you take some of the helium out, you’re looking at a serviceable player. Marry that to the other stuff — limited competition, opportunity, ETA, a dream of a ballpark — and this was a very enticing player at draft.

That brings us to this past Monday.

Trevor Story

With these cost control guys, there’s an advantage to letting them season in the minors. Of course you’d like to siphon as much value from them as possible while their cost is nil. But most prospects don’t hit the ground running, and adding a sub-par, developing player to your major league roster means effectively playing a guy short. Which in itself is something to consider. If you promote your prospect, what’s the opportunity cost of adding a viable major leaguer? In more cases than not, I don’t think promoting a guy in this league is as simple as “well he got called up by his major league team.”

But with Story, it sort of was that simple. I drafted him for this exact situation. I like Marwin Gonzalez and Wilmer Flores just fine — in fact, they’re bad asses against lefties — but these aren’t every day guys. How bad would Story have to be to be worse than a guy that isn’t in the lineup that day?

So I called him up and put him in my lineup. For the first time in the very young history of our league, a player drafted as a minor leaguer was in a starting lineup.

And he hit two homers. And another the next day. And another the day after that. For a player that costs nothing, it’s been a fun half week.

But it’s still just a half of a week. It’s totally conceivable that he stops laying into hangers and starts striking out at a 35% clip. There’s always a hitter that tears through the league for a week, then descends back into anonymity.

For now at least, the plan is unfolding about as well as I could’ve wanted. I wanted this player and got him, and the dominoes that needed to fall have fallen. Now I just need the toppling to continue for another five or six months.

2016 Auction Review – Rocky Mountain Oysters

Rocky Mountain OYSTERS

ss+(2016-03-13+at+11.06.00)

The man stole Bryce Harper from me. May as well crown him as champion. Kidding aside, Harper, Giancarlo Stanton on the same team with George Springer and the tantalizing possibility of Byron Buxton. Is it to borrow from a close friend…fake or for real?

Hitting – Very Good

If Vegas was taking odds on likelihood of me ending up with Bryce Harper or Bailey ending up with Giancarlo, they would have been favorites. The odds that Dusty ends up with both of “our guys”, was the parlay of the century. Between the two RMO paid about $91 a star. That is a fair price now and going forward. Springer and David Ortiz clogging up the utility spots is a good problem to have (or as it turns out: no problem at all). In a team primed for 2016, I would have liked to see Byron Buxton‘s money buy Adrian Gonzalez, but I could be wrong anyway. Neil Walker, Josh Harrison, Brandon Crawford and Brett Gardner are all good enough to build around. The trade has already happened, but Yonder Alonso is probably not good enough to stick with at first base all year long.

Pitching – Alright

I really had a hell of a time rating this pitching staff. First lets get out of the way, the bullpen is forgettable. This rotation has three Houston Astros pitchers, Lance McCullers, Colin McHugh and Mike Fiers. Is that exciting? No. Is that bad? No. Kenta Maeda, Hisashi Iwakuma, John Lackey are all good in my book, but they have their concerns. Seven dollars Dylan Bundy. C’mon. I should knock the rating down one peg just for that. I think this pitching staff will perform honestly. And it’ll be alright.

Depth – Alright

The depth exists, it is alright. I like the pitching depth, I like the outfield depth although you hope not to need it. There’s a lack of first basemen on this roster, but that is probably easily solved. No backup catcher. But, it’ll be easy enough to mill through these guys and get points where you need them when you need them

Why 2016 would be bad… 

Things go South quickly if Giancarlo fails to play 100 games again, and the pitching staff is just mush. The first base spot on this roster creates a weekly deficit that is hard to make up. David Ortiz plays out his final season like Derek Jeter, just half assing it. If shit goes downhill fast, Dusty’s roster is better prepared to reload for next year than to save this season.

Why 2016 would be good… 

You can see it now Giancarlo and Bryce are clearly leading each other in the home run race where they both clear fifty bombs. Maeda is as good as advertised, Iwakuma is actually healthy and the Dodgers used the medical to save face when the bear wanted to stay in Seattle. Buxton silences doubters by being a top ten fantasy center fielder goes a long ways on this roster even though Dusty doesn’t technically have room for him.

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 – Adjusted 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!