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.

Trade: Capital City Ironmen | Preseason Double Stuffs

 

PDS Receives: Blake Snell $1 (P), Nick Senzel $0, CCI 1st round pick 2018

 

CCI Recieves: Giancarlo Stanon $74

 

Hustle’s Thoughts: I think today marks the exact one year anniversary of their trade last year (the Sonny Gray, Miggy, Bellinger deal)  and my how the tables have turned (180 degrees). The deal itself is pretty similar to last years, just a lot less pieces ( I believe 10 players were involved last year).

 

Anyway Bailey and Ferns being in a trade makes it very easy for me to rip on one of them, but truth be told it’s pretty reasonable.

I think a healthy Stanton at $74 is probably a very good value and someone Bailey would have no problem keeping at that price, or even $10 more. Problem is the obvious, health. Chances are if Ferns is out of this in a month or 2 he runs the risk of Stanton being hurt and having to make a difficult decision in the offseason or take less. Timing wise, it’s a pretty good time to trade Stanton if you’re a seller and can get a haul.

The Haul. In terms of the pick, who knows.  Per Joe Rawlings the draft is weak this year and this is likely to be a pick somewhere between 10-16. That being said, there’s always going to be a good player to grab and this lottery ticket puts you in a position to get one.

Nick Senzel (.124 ISO  .350 WOBA 2017) seems like a good prospect. I don’t think he has the offensive upside of a Stanton, but he seems to be a lock to make the majors by next season at the latest and be the future 3b for the Reds.  Currently Ferns has Ryon Healy and Maikel Franco, both are pretty young. I guess the hope is one of these guys will break out and be their sure fire 3b or they could all be just solid 4.5 ppg producers. Senzel will obviously be the cheapest one to carry next year at 0 or $1.

 

Blake Snell: Snell was an early pick in last year’s inaugural prospect draft and I believe Bailey traded into the first round to get Snell.  Currently he’s averaging just under 16 points a start. His HR/9 is up, his K rate is down, but he’s young.  Playing in the AL East will do him no favors but the ballpark should contain some damage.  I’m not sure we know how much Snell will cost next year, but I can’t imagine it will be that much at the rate his season is going.

If one of these three assets hit big, then it’s a good haul for Ferns, but we won’t likely know for a while, and in the meantime his team is considerably worse without Stanton.

All in all, I see this as a Ferns getting 3 interesting pieces for one of the best bats in the game.  One wonders if with Stanton gone if Miggy will stay put on PDS. After all, Ferns now has the overwhelming amount of budget space to keep Miggy and then some.  In fact, he could probably look to add a piece with the budget he’s created. Perhaps Giancarlo Stanton on 5/11/2018?

 

 

 

Trade: Preseason Double Stuffs | Rocky Mountain Oysters

Rocky Mtn Oysters send: OF Giancarlo Stanton ($72), SP Lance McCullers ($26) SP Luis Severino ($17)
Preseason Double Stuffs send: OF Bryce Harper ($109), SP James Shields ($28)

Jordan’s thoughts: I have now rewritten the introduction to my thoughts on this trade six or seven times and I copped out to talk about how flabbergasted I am. I enjoy trades, I do. They give me breath of life into writing which I always need practice doing. Clearly. This one is another fascinating one, but as we are all learning (or for some of us relearning) Dusty is shooting for the moon constantly.

Let’s look at this trade on the table. I see it as the second best hitter in MLB and a fringe #2 tier starting pitcher on his way down traded for a top ten MLB hitter capable of being a top three, a tier #3 starter and a fringe tier #4 starter. That’s where my pre-draft rankings had them. High/low whatever.

On paper I’d rather have Harper, Shields. Hands down. I’m still quite high on Shields and I would buy the over on any Shields over/under, and would bet the under on both Severino and McCullers. I think if both Harper and Stanton play a full season, Harper is the better OF four out of five times. Both have a checkered enough past, that its easy to say whoever ends up playing more games, ends up being better.

Dusty was in a great position, created by himself, to make this trade. He trades two decent, younger, and inspiring pitchers who could be great this year for an aging former ace who you know at any time could fall off or return to greatness. Pitchers are fickle.

Frankly if you like the two pitcher package, you could argue that both could be or will be better than Shields and I’d take your commentary as valuable as mine. So lets review the trade as it currently fits their teams.

Dusty wins this trade on his side. He upgrades at right field with Bryce over Giancarlo. If Buxton flops, he slides Bryce into center and rolls the dice with Preston Tucker or Josh Harrison. He gets a better player and has some flexibility back. Less reliant on Buxton. As far as my projections go, Shields is rated higher than both pitchers traded away, so Dusty replaces their output with better output. A win on both levels. RMO is now rated at 581.6 points per week, good enough for 4th best. Bravo!

Sadly I believe our Preseason Double Stuffs lose this trade. You trade away Bryce for a right fielder that you did not really need. The best three hitters by projection are Stanton – RF, Shin-Soo Choo – RF, and Jorge Soler – RF. That inflexibility limits what you can really do. Or forces you into future moves. Gomez in center is fine. Shields to McCullers is a slight drop in projected value, more so in that McCullers is only projected for 26 starts this year. Severino is however 26 projected starts of improvement over Ian Kennedy and Jerad Eickhoff. Why not shop Bryce around?

Andrew’s thoughts: Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the end, the Preseason Double Stuffs have traded Max Scherzer and Shields for Stanton, Severino, and McCullers. Is that correct? Because if so, that seems sub-optimal.

I know Ferns wasn’t thrilled with his team post-auction, but I feel like this may be an over-correction. I disagree with Jordan on Shields. I’d rather have Severino and McCullers, for no other reason than Shields burned me in Dy-Nasty last year and I’m not overly interested in more stock. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that both of those guys are 30 PPG starting pitchers and, if so, the dynamic changes.

I think my big objection is that I had no idea Harper was available. Did you? Not that I have the pieces to go get him and probably wouldn’t have tried, but you’d think the market would be tested a little. Maybe it was and I just wasn’t aware. I don’t know.

I also think salaries are being insanely overrated in the early trade market. You can go over your budget in season, people. You have a year to get right for 2017. To me, if you’re selling one of the 3-5 best players overall (Harper), you need to hold out for bonus pieces. You need to pry a prospect or two, a pick, some budget cash next year, something else extra away. The season is still two weeks away. There’s no urgency to rush this stuff. You mean to tell me that if you don’t sell Bryce this week, you won’t ever have a chance to free yourself from his $109 salary? I get that sometimes you just find the pieces you need and take it, but I just think I would’ve tested the market first.

And for Dusty, I just don’t even know. I’m a fan of big game hunting in trades too. What’s the point of expending energy trading for replacement level guys that you can manufacture through platoons or otherwise? I like turning Stanton into Harper and he doesn’t have a particularly big use for Severino and McCullers, particularly if the latter’s injury is a big deal. He’s clearly all-in for 2016, and that’s cool.

But I also see a team with two gaping holes at the UT spot (depressingly, Ryan Howard and Yonder Alonso are there now) and a team where Byron Buxton went from the first or second guy off the bench to the starting CF. Maybe Buxton pops this year. He’d better, because if he plays like last year, that’s a black hole in your starting lineup. There’s no quality depth at 2B, 3B, or SS, or in the outfield. Actually, even 1B is lacking on the depth front. The offense just looked so, so much better before all the wheeling and dealing and while the pitching is improved, I didn’t think it was a glaring problem to begin with.

Of course, Dusty still has pitching to deal, and if there’s one thing Dusty will do, it’s deal. I said yesterday and I stand by it: a smart team looks at Dusty’s roster and recognizes that he needs to turn pitching into hitting, then uses that for leverage. And frankly, I’m not sure you’re getting an impact hitter for Mike Fiers or Hishashi Iwakuma (and I’m a big Kuma fan). Maybe you try to convert Kenta Maeda‘s strong spring into a haul and someone bites, I don’t know. At some point Dusty runs the risk of robbing Peter to pay Paul. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s clear there are more moves to come and so in two, three, four days, we’ll have to completely reevaluate how we perceive this roster anyway.

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.

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.

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!