Trade: Rocky Mountain Oysters | Long ball to LF

Long ball to LF sends: SS Francisco Lindor ($40) & 1B/LF Hanley Ramirez ($15)
Rocky Mountain Oysters sends: SP Kenta Maeda ($21)

Jordan’s thoughts:¬†I really don’t like shipping off Kenta Maeda here. Five starts into his short MLB career so far, and he’s been better than advertised. 38 points per start. He’s efficient, able to get deep into games and strike hitters out. He also is quite fun to watch, which probably has less value in fantasy that I give it for.

Maeda just had his worst start where he finished with 27 points. His pitch counts have been well managed and there’s just so much to like about him. Even if Maeda gets hammered by greed dollars, he’s still keepable at under $50. I hate sending him away for anything less tier 1 ace return.

Long ball gets an ace, and they send off some overprice pieces. You’re not a baseball fan if you’re not aware of where Hanley Ramirez‘s value stands. So far this season, he’s not walking, striking out more and the power isn’t making up for it. A .696 OPS for a first basemen is not good enough. The Red Sox have a problem on their hands. Hanley was overpriced in the auction is certain to be dropped at the end of the season. While he does provide some what consistent low bar production, he’s a throw in for this kind of deal.

Francisco Lindor is the presumed prize coming back. He’s been good. Not great, but good. Andrew’s already written about positional adjusted values. Short stops this year have been all good. Lindor’s 5 points per game should have been top 5, but right now its 10th. Aledmys Diaz, Jean Segura, and Zack Cozart are names you should not expect to hold on to finish ahead of Lindor, but they are there now. Guys like Trevor Story, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Starlin Castro, and Corey Seager should not be surprising. If all the sudden short stops are a deep enough position, there’s just no prize here. Guys like Jed Lowrie, Brock Holt, Asdrubal Cabrera have all been better than average for years past. They’re all basically free. If you can get a player who’s an everyday guy without punting the position you are golden. If we knew what we knew now in the draft, I have to imagine that Lindor is going for $25-30. That isn’t insignificant. He’s good, but that perceived value is just gone when the 2nd and 3rd tier of a position show up.

Dusty has really won many trades in this league so far, and this was not one of them. Lindor replaces Jose Ramirez in the line up. It is an improvement. But, now Dusty is one less ace short in a world where you cannot have too many.

Johnny couldn’t cash this check fast enough in my opinion. He gets value for a player he didn’t need. Dallas Keuchel wasn’t enough to carry the rotation, adding Maeda to that makes his pitching staff leagues better. Fantastic move.

Andrew’s thoughts: I know Dusty really likes Lindor and has a solid pitching staff with or without Maeda, but I’d rather have the pitcher here.

For starters, Lindor is probably overpriced. He’s young and a shortstop¬†though, so hooray, $40! I just don’t like his price — or Hanley’s, for that matter — and think Maeda’s a bargain. Anything can happen, of course. Maeda had some questionable medicals and he’s just making his first run through the league, so maybe we’re seeing the best he has. Even still, I wouldn’t view this as a “sell high” in a league where pitching is at a premium. To me, Lindor and a potentially finished Hanley aren’t a big prize.

But hey, who knows? As I said, Dusty still has pitching and now his offense should be slightly improved, salaries be damned.

Side note: Dusty previously traded Hisashi Iwakuma for Khris Davis, then abruptly cut Davis because he was underperforming through less than 20 games. Just thinking aloud here, but would you rather have Davis on your roster or Hanley? I think most would say Hanley. He’s got the longer track record and qualifies at an extra position. And that isn’t a bad answer. Point is, is the gap between Davis, who was cut flat out, and Hanley, who was a key piece in dumping off a really good starting pitcher, really that big? I don’t think it is.

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.

2016 Auction Review – Long Ball to LF

Long Ball to LF

lblf

Where have all the first basemen gone… Alright step back take a second look. Perhaps Hanley Ramirez does take over at first base for Boston, qualifies, and now you have Michael Brantley in left, Jacoby Ellsbury in center. Eh. I mean, the best news for Hustle Loyalty Respect and Long Ball to LF, is that between them, the shortstop market is all but cornered. And except when they play each other, they should handily win that position battle each week. This was one of the hardest teams to project. I see the logic behind the roster, but I don’t love forcing the issue of transactions to get better roster utilization.

Hitters – Alright

This¬†group is so close to good you can almost taste it. There is just pieces missing at key positions. First base is a concern even with Hanley presumably taking over. Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista are awesome in Toronto, but was last year the ceiling? Brantley appears to be ready to go to be ready close to opening day, but he’s had issues staying healthy. I don’t think any of us wanted a short stop to be a primary utility guy, and there’s almost no way around it here. Matt Kemp and Ellsbury sure, but they’ll be mixed into the outfield often enough. Just seems like a first basemen short. LBLF has that same rotating door utility problem. It’s not a glaring issue, but it can turn into one with an injury or two. It is not a huge problem that LBLF is also relying on Devon Travis, but three Blue Jays means on Toronto off-days this roster may have open slots.

Pitchers – Uh-oh

Dallas Keuchel is amazing. Now that he is out of the¬†way. He’s capable of being dominate in 2-start weeks. That’s fine. The other 12 weeks when he’s not starting twice, you’re depending on Wheeler being healthy, Leake being above average, and a bunch of maybes and hopefuls. Sure, pitching is a finicky bitch and perhaps 6 good starters come out of this group of 12. It just seems like a ballsy risk in order to own three shortstops. The bullpen isn’t great either. Best case scenario is that six or seven guys from this group flesh themselves out to be good enough fast, and two or three make themselves easy to chop and replace with other depth.

Depth – Good

So while things on the pitching side don’t look amazing, the depth here is actually good. I just dogged the group of guys in the back of his rotation as guys you want to depend on, but I like Tyler Skaggs, Aaron Nola, Josh Tomlin, Taylor Jungmann, and Daniel Norris, they could be quite dependable. It’s not unrealistic. And while I assume one of the short stops is getting traded for something, even if they don’t. The hitting depth in the outfield is great, catcher is good, and if you find some 1B to move Logan Forsythe to a backup roll, even better. Those pitchers should¬†be able to fetch something on the market and you can count on that happening most likely. Even with the Toronto issue¬†on offense, I like the depth here.

Why 2016 would be bad…¬†

Both Xander Bogaerts and Francisco Lindor trend downward and become possible candidates for release next off-season. Keuchel loses his touch. The team never finds a first baseman. Take your pick. This team will take some real grinding to push to the top, especially if the market for shortstops does not bring something equivalent to what was spent.

Why 2016 would be¬†good…¬†

I could just be wrong. Lindor and Bogaerts are amazing, they are good enough even if they have to server the utility role. Devon Travis stays healthy and ends up a top 5 2b. Hanley Ramirez ends up being a steal and hits like a top 15 first baseman. Michael Brantley returns to 2014 form. Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson nail their encore. Of the twelve starters just six have to be good. There’s trade bait all around this team.