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: We Talk Fantasy Sports| Capital City Income

Capital City Income trades away
Happ, Ian ($0 prospect)
Faria, Jake ($0 prospect)
2018 Draft Pick, Round 1 (The Foundation)
Owings, Chris ($8)

We Talk Fantasy Sports trades away
Scherzer, Max ($88)
2018 Draft Pick, Round 3 (Hustle Loyalty Respect)

$10 Auction Dollars 2018

 

 

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Controversy

 

A bitter angry source (not really but maybe kinda) who will remain nameless (but hint: there is a vowel in his first name) has come forward saying he had a deal agreed to for Max Scherzer but this one was accepted instead. I had a chance to review the package ( ͡º ͜ʖ ͡º) from my source and I think it’s relatively on par with the one Bailey offered. The centerpiece in that deal I believe has more upside than anyone acquired here, but was also considerably more unproven.

 

Hustle’s EXTRA ULTRA TOXIC $.02

 

I guess we should really look at this trade through WTFS’ eye. For Bailey? He’s getting one of the 3 best pitchers in the game. He’s losing 2b depth, but for this year at least he has Neil Walker, Howie Kendrick, or Marwin Gonzalez who could slot in there. I think worst case scenario he’s averaging maybe .5-1 ppg less from his 2b spot for the rest of this season, but probably not. The value Max will give to his team more than makes up for it. Additionally his team looks like a monster for next year It’s a big win for CCI.   Not sure if the market might have cooled because Max slept on his neck poorly one night, but it might have. Ultimately, can you really trust a guy with different colored eyes?

 

Per Keith, WTFS has 423 next to spend next year and that’s before dumping Buxton (BREAKING NEWS) and Upton resulting in an additional $90. That alone pays for Scherzer IN FULL with decent money left over. You’re not going to get someone as good as Scherzer in auction with the 130 or whatever they will have, so why not just keep him? Additionally looking at WTFS rotation next year we see Faria, Moore, and Kennedy. There is no way getting around the fact that this is bad. You can add some pieces in auction, but it’s a gamble thinking you’re going to walk away with more than 1 quality SP all year from auction. For those that have gotten 2 or more this year, kudos… I think you’re in the minority…. And I am not one of you.

 

Looking at the assets. The headliner is Ian Happ who is cost controlled for another 6 seasons. Currently averaging 5.56 ppg (I really should do points per pa like Bailey does, but haven’t figured that out yet). I like Ian Happ a good amount and he certainly seems like a long term keeper for WTFS, but if his upside isn’t being an elite guy, then I don’t like this as a headline piece. Furthermore, one of the most attractive parts of Ian Happ is that he will only cost $1 next season. A $1 and 5.5 ppg or even 6ppg 2b for $1… rookie on the Cubs?… SIGN ME UP! But when you have over $100 cap space and you’re giving up $10 to do it, the $1 deal is considerably less valuable. You might as well think of Ian Happ as $11 next year, which is still a great price for current pace. Faria is nice but I think is clearly overachieving, his LOB % is still over 80%, FIP 3.8, XFIP 4.5. He is potentially a decent starter to keep for a few years. Chris Owings is $10 next year and is averaging 4.7 ppg this year. He’s probably a keeper? Unexciting but useful. I like draft picks, but best case scenario you’re getting a back end top 100 guy here with this pick.

 

I guess I don’t love this package. I’m not sure the tipping point is the $10 or not, but it might be. If the plan is to compete for next season, I think this trade is a lose for WTFS barring Scherzer’s performance and health. A pitcher can lose it at any point and quick or get hurt, as we saw with Thor earlier this year.

 

There are a lot of mid range good cost pieces coming back to Keith here, but nothing really game changing. Nothing that’s really going to compete with a core of elite talent like Scherzer, Mccutchen, Stanton, Carrasco, Bellinger, and Denard Span….supplemented with useful good cost pieces. Other top teams based on point scored are similarly built.

 

Auction budget doesn’t guarantee you much, Squids had overwhelmingly the most of it last auction and wasted $70 on Richards and Harvey. $70 alone was more than double some teams had to spend this last auction and they have done almost nothing for Squids. Looking at Squids Auction he hit on a $42 Keuchel, but that’s not a super value going forward. He also had plenty of other wasted picks like $18 on Alex Gordon and $23 on Shelby Miller. For the record, my auction was probably worse than his… I just had less money so I’m focusing on the guy who had the most.

I spent about the same amount on Smyly and Rodon.  Rodon has had maybe 1 ok game in my lineup along with a -42…. And when you combine those two scores for negative whatever… it’s still more than the 0 Smyly has given me.

 

This is a long way of me saying….expensive priced players like Scherzer are good for your team if they are good. Cap space is considerably overrated. David Price is going to be in the auction, but there are going to be quite a few teams that can drop more than $50 on a player if they want, and there aren’t going to be many players (if any) who you will feel great about paying $50 for. I know this won’t happen, but if you’re a team that’s out of it, it’s not the worst idea to deal some prospects for a proven $20-50 guy who you want to keep next year.

There are quite a few teams already where I am comfortable writing off their 2018 chances of a championship. Anything is possible as Kevin Garnett once said (you could be 1st place in august with 10th most points in August), but it’s going to be an incredibly difficult task. Multiple teams building for 2020 isn’t wise because well, multiple teams are doing it. Additionally, the top teams aren’t going to start sucking. Many of them have better farm systems than the teams who actually need them.

Ultimately I don’t like this trade for Keith because he has a ton of cap space and his pitching for next year looks in trouble. If the plan is to build long term and tap out for 2018, I might have opted for more upside.  The ways this does work out for Keith is

 

  • Scherzer has a lengthy injury
  • He becomes not an Ace. At 33 years old, it’s not crazy and Scherzer likely doesn’t have more than a couple years of this level left.
  • Faria stays this good and Happ improves.

 

So, I think this trade could work out for Keith, I just don’t love the probability of it.

Like the referees told UNC after Chris Webber called a timeout with no timeouts left. “Enjoy the Turnover”.

Trade: Capital City Income | Pre Season Double Stuffs

 

Capital City Income trades away
Urías, Julio ($1, first controlled year)

Preseason Double Stuffs trades away
Cabrera, Miguel ($73)

Hustle’s $.02

First things first. We must recall that a little over a year ago PDS acquired Miggy from CCI.  In sum from these two deals Bailey got a 1st round pick (Senzel…which was the center piece for Stanton), Soler (which was a big piece in his acquisition for Mccutchen), Ian Happ, Bellinger, and I guess Brett Phillips for damaged goods Urias and Blake Snell If I’m missing vital parts of these two transactions, I’ll be happy to edit.

CII gets reunited with Miggy. Miguel Cabrera is having a disappointing year and at his age, there’s a pretty high chance he’s not getting kept at $75.  That being said, I don’t think he’s dead (unlike Urias). His numbers are down, most notably his slugging, but I kind of don’t buy one of the best hitters of all-time is done at 34.  5 points a game is a disappointment by Miggy standards, but I think better times are ahead. David Ortiz had some bad stretches in his mid 30s and was a superstar late, and I don’t think he was the hitter in his prime Miggy was.

I totally get a rebuilding and moving on from Miggy and getting whatever value you can, but looking at PDS’s roster there aren’t a lot of cost commitments here. I see well under $100 bucks of keepable pitching and probably under $250 of keepable hitting. I’d say those figures are conservative and should be lower  I’d say at a minimum (without other trades) PDS is going to have a ton of cash in the next auction. Auction cash is great, I probably overrate it more than most people, but having good players is better.  PDS current projected 2018 roster highlights seem to be JD Martinez, Schoop, Jordan Montgonery (one of the year’s best pickups) and I guess Lance Lynn. All nice players. . That being said, I think this core is going to struggle in 2018, which is perfect for Urias , because I don’t think he’ll be pitching much in 2018.

As a Dodgers fan, I hope I’m wrong, but Urias’ effective or even complete career may be over.  I think Bailey was very wise to get what he could for Urias now, because the best case scenario is he’ll be an OK pitcher in 2019. He’s damaged goods.

Urias’s injury sends shock waves through the Dodgers’ organization as only a handful of pitchers have ever had this surgery, and only Chris Young of the Royals has come back and pitched effectively at the Major League level after it.  Other pitchers who had capsule surgery are Rich Harden, Mark Prior, and Johan Santana.”

Chris Young Royals upside!  I mean, he won a World Series pitching for them. #ringz.

We were all really excited that first minor league draft and Urias was in the mix to be #1 overall. I think the shine has wore off considerably just because of this unfortunate injury. At least Urias will be DL eligible throughout the entire recovery process so a roster spot won’t be wasted. I expect Urias to give PDS very little if anything next year, but at least his $3 or whatever will be a drop in the bucket and won’t prevent them from spending on available assets.

Just for fun. JUST FOR FUN.  Top 10 things I’d rather have than Julio Urias right now. (Again, I truly hope I’m wrong about Urias’ career.)

1) one first round pick

2) Aaron Hicks

3) $6 auction dollars.

4)  Jordan’s greed dollar in perpetuity

5) Byron Buxton (so I have the ability to cut him.)

6) Tyler Oneil

7) Miguel Cabrera

8) Wander Javier‘s younger brother

9) The right to mention _____ in a trade review not involving him.

10) A damaged good prospect who has a lot of value in trade.

I know you all thought I would mention Sucre, but I take this seriously.

 

 

Trade: Hustle Loyalty Respect | Team Hydra

Team Hydra sends: 3B Nolan Arenado ($71), SP David Price ($75), LF/CF Tommy Pham (FA), 2018 5th round pick
HLR sends: LF/RF/CF Aaron Hicks (FA), SP Yadier Alvarez, C Zack Collins, 2018 1st & 2nd round pick

Andrew’s Thoughts: Roughly a year ago, I traded Miguel Cabrera, Sonny Gray, and stuff for Cody Bellinger, Ian Happ, Jorge Soler, and what ended up being the second overall draft pick plus other stuff. Alex from Team Hydra commented on the trade as such: “to be fair Bailey said those guys were on the block. He just didn’t say they were going to be given away for free.”

Fast forward to yesterday and, well, to be fair, Alex said these guys were on the block. He just didn’t say they were going to be given away for free.

Two of my first thoughts upon seeing this trade were that (a) Aaron Hicks is the best piece going to Hydra, and (b) Tommy Pham may as well be the same guy. I did a quick Google search and here’s some random Cardinals blog that thinks the same thing. So there’s that. Hicks is hitting at a 1.644 PT/PA clip, whereas Pham is at 1.502. Pham’s older and has one less outfield position. They were both free agent adds that will start at $5 salary next year. They just feel very same-y to me, to the point where if one is your main piece and you’re giving up the other, the point feels a tad defeated.

I really didn’t think David Price was going to go for much. He’s got a lot of mileage, has developed a homer problem (who hasn’t?), and there are lingering injury concerns. Also, he’s been pretty bad this year. At $77 next year, I think he’s an easy cut or Hustle will just give him away the moment the season ends and clog up some other team’s budget. I thought he should’ve been cut this year (pre-injury). So whatever team bought him was likely doing it on a rental basis, and I just didn’t see teams spending big to rent anyone. I thought maybe a pick and a prospect would get it done. In that vein, I don’t think sending Collins or Alvarez, or maybe even both, for Price as a rental is that bad on its own, assuming you really believe Price can get it going and help your team this year. Given the pitching landscape, gambling on Price seems like a reasonable bet.

So we haven’t even gotten to the big gun in this trade, and I feel like Hicks and Pham have cancelled each other out and a moderately valuable Price has fetched a couple pieces. There aren’t a ton more assets floating around here.

As for Arenado, well, I’m not sure all the pieces going to Hydra is enough for him alone. He’s expensive, sure, but he’s young, in his prime, plays a premium position, and plays in Coors. His salary is only going to go up by $2/year. That’s nothing. He’s a superstar, priced reasonably at $73 next year, and yet he didn’t land someone universally viewed as an “elite prospect”? I mean, maybe you think Yadier Alvarez is. That’s fair. Everyone’s prospect valuations are different. But he’s pitched 45 innings at A+. The lead time on him is a factor and that assumes that he dodges injury and experiences no developmental speed bumps. He’s already struggling with command this year.

And I like Zack Collins as a hitter, but if he doesn’t stick at catcher, a lot of his value will be sapped in a world where Ryan Zimmerman, Justin Smoak,  Yonder Alonso, Mark Reynolds, and Logan Morrison are awesome and can be had for free. Heck, the Braves are moving Freddie Freeman to third base (I imagine this factored into Hydra’s long-term calculus for moving Arenado) to make room for Matt Adams‘ bat. First base is not lacking for depth. And the cost control aspect is neat but if Collins is $1 and Alonso gets greeded up to like $5, is that really significant value?

If he does stick at catcher, that might push his MLB ETA out further. Again, for me personally, Alvarez and Collins are guys you can afford to spend on a rental player or two or just a quality lineup upgrade, not really key cogs to dealing a stud.

And those picks are… something? It’s going to be a late first rounder and a pick somewhere in the second round, but this year’s MLB Draft class was weak. Looking at last year’s draft, I feel like around the 11th or 12th pick is where it started really being a coin toss. The first belongs to Hustle and the second belongs to Haddy. Today, that’d be pick 16 and pick 27, I think. You can definitely land good talent there, but your odds of whiffing also go up considerably the deeper you go.

Look, I won’t argue anyone’s prospect evaluations. If you think Collins is going to be a star and Alvarez is going to quickly develop into an ace, awesome. I definitely think, at least in Collins’ case, he’s a better fantasy prospect than real life prospect. But I don’t really know. I doubt you know either. We’re all making our best guesses. But I really do have a hard time imagining that, in terms of prospect currency, no one was willing to beat Alvarez and Collins even if, as the buyer, you’re super high on them both. Arenado’s not some declining veteran, win-now salary sell off. He’s a player that even if you’re at the bottom of the standings, you should probably be in on. I’d be curious how many teams even inquired here.

In terms of dynasty rankings Collins and Alvarez are… top 50? Maybe top 30 guys? (The rankings are irrelevant, of course. I don’t recall Bellinger being an “elite” guy a year ago.) I’m not sure if HLR had added Vladimir Guerrero Jr to this package it’d still feel totally right, but it’d at least be closer. At least then there’s a consensus “elite prospect” in the mix.

There’s no telling how this will play out. If the prospects turn into anything decent, Hydra’s probably content. I think some of it will depend on if teams sell players at discounted prices in the off-season like last year, at which point Hydra can put some of the cap space they’ve freed up to use. I know Hustle’s probably thrilled to just plug in Arenado every day instead of oscillating back and forth between Yuli Gurriel and Nick Castellanos.

Hustle’s Take

TRADE: Foundation + Capital City Ironmen

 

 

Hustle’s Take

Oh look, the commissioners trade with each other again, and only a few days before the one year anniversary of the infamous James Shields trade. Truth be told, the trade is very similar in structure.  Two upgraded picks for a player. The picks are worse this time.

 

That being said I love this trade for Bailey.  He has a glut of 2b in Devon Travis (hey Dusty), Neil Walker (who Jordan traded to Bailey), Marwin Gonzeles, and  Chris Owings. Also, he has Ian Happ in his minors that he could call up at any moment. Basically, there’s no way he’s going to remotely miss Jed Lowrie.

Jed Lowrie is 33, playing in Oakland, very injury prone, and currently over performing. He’s over 6 points per game at the moment, which is very good for any player and even better for a 2b.  Generally I think Jed Lowrie is an underrated player in this format when healthy and has a clear role, but he’s nothing special. When you’re owning Darwin Barney, I think you probably need to make a move for some middle infield depth or be more aggressive on the wire.

That being said, I think two 2nd rounders is a pretty steep price for Lowrie.  Does Bailey actually say no to one 2nd rounder with that depth? Did he? I’d say it would be pretty irresponsible to say no to 1 for him unless he was confident he could milk 2 (which he did).

I get Jordan hating prospects and picks, but a 2nd rounder was selling for 5-7 bucks last year.  I can’t get behind selling 2 of them for Lowrie. As our minor league player pool shallows out with getting 5 spots a year, the upper round picks in theory should be worth more. I also think Jordan could have used the other 2nd rounder as a trade chip in a different more impactful deal down the line. Now we probably see Bailey use Jordan’s pick somehow.

I’d be pretty surprised if Lowrie moved the needle for Jordan this season, but if it does, it’s worth it.

The first big “sell”…

Yesterday, I pulled the trigger on a 14-piece trade that could succinctly be described as the first “sell” move of 2016. That is to say, the first trade aimed toward improving a team in the future more so than the present.

The deal, agreed to with the Preseason Double Stuffs, is outlined and analyzed by third parties right here.

First things first: though there are a bunch of pieces in this trade, many of them are superfluous. Some guys went to the Double Stuffs that would have been cut from my end to make room for new guys and I received one player back that they would have cut. In my mind, the deal was this:

I sent 1B Miguel Cabrera ($71), SP Sonny Gray ($49), SP Nick Tropeano ($1), C Carlos Ruiz (free agent) and a third round pick in 2017 for LF/RF Jorge Soler ($14), prospects CF Brett Phillips, CF/RF Ian Happ, 1B Cody Bellinger, and a first round pick in 2017.

Right out of the gate, my decision to sell was really pretty simple: my team is last in record, last in points, and has two major injuries (Carlos Carrasco and Tyson Ross) that make digging out of that hole extremely difficult. If those two guys are healthy, I’m not selling yet (and frankly, my team is probably significantly better to the point that selling parts hasn’t even entered my head).

Our championship bracket allows only four teams in, so I saw my team as being in a deep hole five plus weeks in and needing to jump 12 teams to get into that bracket. That’s a tall order, particularly without the pitchers I mentioned before for at least a few more weeks (I’m not sure Ross makes it back this year, but who knows?).

When I ultimately decided to sell and set out to do so, I’m pretty sure I told everyone I spoke to that I wanted multiple pieces for any of my impact players. And my preference was to check multiple boxes. By that, I mean a minor league piece, a major league piece, a draft pick piece, and/or an auction cash piece. I didn’t need all four, but I wanted a multi-faceted return.

Without divulging private conversations, I can tell you that almost every team I spoke to was balking at that. Draft picks were being viewed at a premium and most teams seemed unwilling to offer more than one prospect in return.

The obvious question is: does waiting a while longer change that? If in the next month a contending team suffers a few injuries, do negotiations change? Probably. The flip side of that is, with Gray coming off three rough starts, he could conceivably just be broken and worth nothing in a month’s time. He’s suffered some velocity decreases recently and he’s a little guy, so that’s worrying. Personally, I think he’ll be fine. He’s a top-20 pitcher two years running and $49 for that type of performer is a bargain. But still, there’s a chance that he’s broken and the risk of waiting to find out just didn’t seem worth it.

Side note with regards to approaching Gray with trepidation: I don’t trust a word Billy Beane says and if Gray does end up getting traded this season, I think most logical destinations sting his value. Going to the Dodgers isn’t so bad, but the Red Sox? I don’t like that.

It’s also possible that a month from now, two or three other teams see the walls close in on their 2016 and enter the market. I’d rather just be the first buyer.

Anyway…

I look at this deal as getting five pieces back that check three boxes: minor league piece(s), major league piece, draft pick piece.

In Phillips, Happ, and Bellinger, I see three top-100 prospects — Phillips and Happ are, at least in my mind, top-50 types — that are relatively close to the majors. In our minor league draft, these guys went 25th, 57th, and 104th overall. MLB.com ranks them 29th, 72nd, and 97th on their prospect list. Baseball America says 57th, 87th, and has Bellinger way up at 54th. Lists are what they are. Take them or leave them, whatever.

I don’t need these guys this year, so not debuting until 2017 is fine. Coupled with my recent addition of Clint Frazier, it’s conceivable that I have an entire outfield in 2017-18 that costs essentially nothing.

The low cost of prospects and the freeing up of over $100 of budget is an added bonus of this deal. In that sense, I could argue that my fourth box, auction cash, was checked as well. The Preseason Double Stuffs are now well over budget for 2017, which means there’s $100+ worth of cuts floating out there. Look at the Rocky Mountain Oysters as well. That team is also well over budget for 2017. It’s too early to put too much stock in future budgets, I think, but what I’m getting at is, next year, I could have a shot at buying Miggy back, or at least buying back a few players that add up to Miggy because other teams will be in a position where they’re forced to make drastic cuts to keep those high salaried players.

As for Soler, he’s still just 24 years old and ZiPS/Steamer project him for a .322/.319 wOBA the rest of the season. Coming into the year, ZiPS pegged him for a .333 wOBA and 17 homers. Playing time is a major concern for him, obviously, but a player with those numbers is useful. Maybe he gets sent down to AAA to get regular at-bats, maybe he gets traded, who knows? I think he’s a gamble worth taking. As Jonny pointed out in reviewing this deal, if we did our auction a year earlier, Soler likely goes for $30-$40 based on his performance the year prior, age, and upside. I mean, Byron Buxton went for $32 and his wOBA at the major league level is .066 points lower than Soler’s (small sample size, I know).

The last piece coming my way is a first round draft pick which, if the season ended today, would be fifth overall. Of course, adding Cabrera, Gray, and even Ruiz to improve the catching situation a bit likely improves the Preseason Double Stuffs enough to worsen that pick — perhaps significantly. The pick could end up anywhere. Either way, I’ve now secured myself two picks in the top-16 and four in the top-32, so when our minor leagues expand by five slots, I’m in a more favorable position. (Aside: I’ve got a 3rd rounder that I’d like to attach a useful player to in exchange for a 1st or possibly 2nd rounder, so get in touch if that’s something that might interest you.)

So where does my team go from here?

Offensively, a week from now I get Alex Rodriguez back and he slides into a UT spot, effectively replacing Cabrera in my lineup. He’s a lesser hitter, but I’m not sure the gap between them is going to be super noticeable given our head-to-head format. ZiPS says there’s a .042 difference in wOBA between them the rest of the way, which is significant but not disastrous.

My offense has a lot of similar, productive players — Nick Markakis, Corey Dickerson, Michael Saunders, Mike Napoli — that have made choosing a daily lineup difficult. I’ve had points on my bench instead of in my lineup a few times just from the coin falling on heads instead of tails, essentially. A fringe benefit now, I suppose, is having fewer choices and being able to just ride a core group of players. I’m only thinking of this now, it certainly wasn’t a driving force in doing a deal.

My pitching, which was supposed to be my strength, is probably going to suck, but it has sucked already anyway. As of today, I’ve lost more points to home runs allowed than any other team and I’m dead last in net pitching points by more than 100. Eventually Carrasco and hopefully Ross return and there’s a lot of positive regression due — the last I checked, my SPs’ HR/9 was somewhere north of 1.70 which just isn’t a thing that happens — but ouch.

Like I said, I do expect Gray to get it together, so not having him around when/if that happens will sting some. Tropeano would have been useful, but he was still likely a match-up play, as his 4.90 FIP and 1.71 HR/9 (with just a 13% HR/FB rate) alludes. And hopefully one or both of Blake Snell and Jake Thompson find their way into a major league rotation this summer anyway.

I’m also not sure at this juncture if there’s another big move in the pipeline. And by that, I mean whether or not Johnny Cueto ($60) or Joey Votto ($70) will get moved.

On Votto, I suspect he will not. He is available, but I never had it in my plans to purge both he and Miggy, so the offer would have to be compelling. He’s greed protected in 2017 by virtue of being one of the 30 highest paid players, so he’ll get his $2 raise to $72 and be perfectly keepable as an offensive anchor.

Selling Cueto, on the other hand, is a more likely option, if only because pitchers are pitchers and in the sense that they are all ticking time bombs, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for them to get closer and closer to going off on a roster that isn’t competing. But I really don’t like losing. I want to keep competing. With Cueto, who is the 7th best starting pitcher based on points per start as of this morning, my team can at least compete weekly, even if it’s futile in the grand scheme of things. Without him, my pitching floor is terrifyingly low until Carrasco comes back. And I’d absolutely love to have him back as a staff ace in 2017.

(So as I was looking up Cueto’s points, I noticed that he’s second overall in points for starting pitchers. He’s also started eight games, while most have started just seven. Anyway, Clayton Kershaw is predictably number one. He’s also started eight games. But get this: Kershaw has 128 more points than Cueto. 128! In the same number of starts! Jose Altuve is the top scoring hitter and he’s 113.4 points behind the Dodgers’ ace. My goodness, Clayton Kershaw is not of this Earth. He is so good that I am going to end this post that has absolutely nothing to do with him on a note about him.)

Trade: Capital City Ironmen | Preseason Double Stuffs

Preseason Double Stuffs sends: LF/RF Jorge Soler ($14), CF Brett Phillips (ML), CF Ian Happ (ML), 1B Cody Bellinger (ML), LF/CF/RF Alex Presley (FA), 2017 1st Round Minor League Draft Pick
Capital City Ironmen send: 1B Miguel Cabrera ($71), SP Sonny Gray ($47), 3B Rio Ruiz ($1), SP Nick Tropeano ($1), C Carlos Ruiz (FA), C Mike Zunino (FA), SP Zach Lee (FA), 2017 3rd Round Minor League Draft Pick

Jordan & Jonathan’s thoughts: Instead of writing words, we used the podcast format to get our thoughts out! Check it out above! TL:DL Bailey’s a sellout, and Ferns is making a bold move.

Overvalued Minor League Draft Picks

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

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

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

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

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

MILB Draft Overvalued

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

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

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

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

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

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

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