It’s weird comparing player values — particularly the lower dollar guys — post-auction. Just for the heck of it, I went into Fantrax, searched all owned players, and went looking for guys priced similarly whose values I think are way off. For this exercise, I just picked three pairs to look at.
Here we go…
Matt Kemp ($11) vs. Max Kepler ($10)
This, to me, is a great example of how nomination order can influence a player’s value. Max Kepler, a top-50 or so prospect depending on whose opinion you buy, was the fourth player nominated overall and went off the board for $10. I like Kepler a lot. I have him in my minors in my other dynasty league. But I was not in the Kepler market at $10.
Strategically, I think you’re better off drafting/adding prospects, stashing them in your minors, and hoping they can develop and you can cash in on their cost controlled status. I mean, if you can get Kepler for a buck, sure. But $10 is a pretty hefty price tag. And you’re not really buying him for his 2016. I suppose if he’s completely over-matched, you could cut bait after the year at no real detriment. But if you’re buying a player with this profile for $10, you’re hoping for some long term gains. So you’re looking at a $12 (minimum) player in 2017 before you can realistically hope for profit and you sort of have to ride him out until then, because if you bought him for $10, cut him because he disappoints as a rookie (plenty of rookies do), then breaks out as a soph, you’ll feel silly.
Matt Kemp, meanwhile, went for a buck more. The Padre outfielder has averaged 623.5 plate appearances over the last two years, so while he’ll always be an injury risk, it seems fair to say that he’s defied his reputation over our most recent and relevant sample. He finished as the 43rd highest scoring OF in 2015 and in 2014 he was 13th. In a start-up league, this is production in line with a team’s third or fourth best hitter.
And for the same price as a player with seven plate appearances to his name.
Kemp’s best years are behind him and Kepler’s are likely ahead of him, so I get why you’d be inclined to invest a little heavier in one than in the other. But for 2016? Or the next two years? It’s tough to imagine Kepler out-producing Kemp. It’s certainly not impossible. But it’s tough.
Trevor Bauer ($6) vs. Bud Norris ($6)
Again, nomination order had some impact here. Bud Norris, who I guess is going to make the Braves pitching staff (?), came up seventh overall and Trevor Bauer‘s name didn’t show up until nomination #361. Huge gap.
Having said that, I think it’s tough to justify Norris under any circumstances for more than a dollar. He’s just not any good. It’s totally within the realm of possibility that the Braves coach him up, squeeze value out of him a la Aaron Harang, and as a result you have a league average or slightly better pitcher until sometime in July when a desperate contender with a worse coaching acumen trades for him. And that’s valuable.
And look, I don’t particularly like Bauer. The strikeouts are awesome, but he walks everybody and serves up a ton of home runs. But he’s also just 25-years-old and is in one of the best organizations in baseball as far as developing pitching talent. And he’s super talented. Guys that aren’t don’t have 8.47 K/9 rates at the big league level.
I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest the floor for both of these guys is pretty similar. Norris has the same flaws as Bauer but without the strikeouts. He’s also six years older and I’m not sure you can argue there’s much more untapped potential in that arm. For that reason, if you’re dropping $6 on a guy whose best case is league average-ish, you may as well just drop it on the younger, more talented guy who could be an adjustment away from being a Tier 2 type. I mean, if Bauer gets that HR/9 rate under 1.00 and shaves a walk per nine, is he not suddenly a very valuable piece?
Matt Holliday ($8) vs. Billy Hamilton ($8)
Other than “he’s old,” what’s the knock on Matt Holliday? Even last year when he was hurt, he put up a .351 wOBA. He has a .389 career mark. Sure, some of that is padded from his time in Colorado, but he’s done enough in Oakland and St. Louis to dismiss any Coors effect out of hand.
Holliday is awesome. He walks a ton, he gets on base a ton (.386 career clip), and he’s always at or above 15 homers. He may also be unlocking first base eligibility too, which isn’t super valuable, but it’s better to have than not. If he plays a healthy season, even with the expected regression for a 38-year-old, he’s arguably a top-25 overall outfielder and a team’s third best hitter. For $8, that’s pretty incredible. Please trade him to me, whoever owns him (Dan?).
Billy Hamilton, meanwhile, is a guy we’ve discussed a bunch. In real life, he’s defensively valuable, a nightmare on the base paths, and just generally a fun guy to watch. But his sabermetric stats mostly stink.
He only walks about 6% of the time. He has a career .287 on-base percentage and his wOBA is even worse because he lacks power. So yeah, he steals a ton of bases, but that skill is really only useful — or valuable in this league — if he’s getting on base.
Realistically, I think in order for Hamilton to be worthy of being on a roster in Dynasty Grinders, he has to get on base at a .300 clip minimum. That means he needs to be .026 better than he was last year. That’s a fairly significant growth requirement. And even then, because he’s not launching homers or lashing liners, he’s not overly valuable. I think his best case scenario might be a reserve centerfielder worth a dollar or two.
So while Holliday and Hamilton went for the same price, their values are worlds apart. The only way Holliday gets cut postseason is if he retires, gets hurt, or age rears its ugly head. Even with a $2 raise, he’s a guy you probably want around for $10 in his age 39 season. Hamilton may not be on a roster past June.