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December 21, 2011

Fantasy Beat

How Profitable Are Dollar Players?

by Jason Collette

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Dollar days in a fantasy auction are a true melting pot of individuals. They include the young, the old, the promising, and the worn down. They include the well-known, the little-known, and a lot of second catchers and middle reliever sleepers as well.  Some owners are quite comfortable going into dollar days with five roster spots left while others avoid rostering any dollar players because they do not want to hand over any leverage to the other owners as they try to fill their final roster spots.

In order to participate in dollar days, you have to be confident in one of two things: your draft research or dumb luck. Little went right for me in my first year of AL Tout Wars in 2009 as only Sam Walker’s plague-ridden roster saved me from a last place finish. The one thing that did go right was drafting Ben Zobrist for $2 that season. I had him written in for my dollar days list because while he was not guaranteed a job, he could gain in-season qualifications at a few positions since Joe Maddon loves that kind of player, and he had a very good September that went a bit under the radar. Someone threw him out as a dollar player, and since I had $3 remaining for two spots, I went the extra dollar uncontested; the rest is history as Zobrist went on to turn a $24 profit that season.

That kind of profit is extremely rare in dollar days, but profits can be found. Big losses can also be found in dollar days, particularly in mixed leagues when owners take the flier on the wrong player who does not find the playing time they were projected for while missing out on players who do get productive playing time. Even when looking at the experts that populate the three different Tout Wars leagues, utilization of dollar players varies greatly. One team drafted 11 different $1 players and finished in 7th place while another team drafted six different $1 players and finished 22 points behind the other team. In all, there were 122 players drafted at $1 between the three leagues this past season:

AL-only (28, 10 percent of players drafted): Adam Moore, Austin Kearns, Bartolo Colon, Brad Bergesen, Brandon Wood, Brendan Ryan, Brennan Boesch, Casper Wells, Chris Carter, Chris Tillman, Darren O’Day, Doug Fister, Gregor Blanco, Jason Donald, Jason Kipnis, Jeff Mathis, Jesse Crain, Justin Duchscherer, Lastings Milledge, Lonnie Chisenhall, Lucas Coleman, Lucas May, Michael Wuertz, Octavio Dotel, Scott Kazmir, Tyson Ross, Vin Mazzaro, Will Rhymes

NL-only:  (51, 17 percent of players drafted): Allen Craig, Barry Zito, Bobby Parnell, Chris Capuano, Chris Denorfia, Chris Narveson, Chris Volstad, Cory Luebke, David Hernandez, David Ross, Devin Mesoraco, Dioner Navarro, Edgar Renteria, Everth Cabrera, George Kottaras, Humberto Quintero, Ivan Rodriguez, Jamey Carroll, Jarrod Parker, Jason Michaels, Jeff Keppinger, Joe Saunders, Johan Santana, John Baker, John Mayberry Jr, Jorge Cantu, Josh Rodriguez, Juan Francisco, Juan Gutierrez, Kerry Wood, Kevin Correia, Kyle Blanks, Kyle Lohse, Lucas Duda, Mark Kotsay, Mark Melancon, Matt Lindstrom, Mike Fontenot, Mike Leake, Rafael Betancourt, Ronnie Paulino, Ronny Cedeno, Ross Ohlendorf, Ryan Webb, Scott Cousins, Scott Hairston, Sean Marshall, Takashi Saito, Tom Gorzelanny, Tony Gwynn Jr, Wilson Valdez

Mixed (43, 12 percent of players drafted):  Anibal Sanchez, Bill Hall, Bobby Jenks, Brad Hawpe, Brandon Beachy, Chipper Jones, Chris Johnson, Chris Snyder, Cliff Pennington, Derek Holland, Derek Lowe, Domonic Brown, Dustin Ackley, Eric Young, Erik Bedard, Freddy Sanchez, Garrett Jones, JA Happ, Jeff Mathis, Jeff Niemann, Jim Thome, Joel Peralta, Johan Santana, Jonathan Lucroy, Jonny Gomes, Josh Thole, Julio Borbon, Justin Smoak, Kevin Slowey, Marco Scutaro, Marlon Byrd, Matt Capps, Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Octavio Dotel, Peter Bourjos, Ryan Doumit, Ryan Ludwick, Ryan Webb, Scott Baker, Scott Rolen, Seth Smith, Tyler Clippard.

As a whole, the $122 spent on those players returned just $27 in profit. 46 percent of the players turned a profit of some value while 54 percent did not. The results by league, however, varied greatly.

LEAGUE

PLAYER TOTAL

PROFITS

LOSSES

HIGHEST

LOWEST

AL-only

28

10

18

Fister $16

Mazzaro -$6

NL-only

51

28

23

Melancon $12

Ohlendorf -$7

Mixed

43

17

26

Bourjos $12

Borbon -$12

The NL-only folks saw a tremendous amount of profit as they actually had more profits than losses as a group, and their total profit was $70. Melancon was the leader, as he inherited the saves role and turned a $12 profit while 14 other players turned profits of at least $5. The American League had the two most profitable players, as Fister was a $16 profit and Boesch was a $14 profit, but only two other AL-only players—Colon and Ryan—profited more than $4, and the large percentage of players turning a loss was too much to overcome as the entire group turned a profit of just $4.

The mixed league saw two players—Bourjos and Smith—turn double-digit profits with Lucroy, Pennington, C. Jones, A. Sanchez, and Brantley turning at least $5 in profit. What hurt the overall production of the 43 dollar players in the mixed league was the big misses with Jenks, Hall, Slowey, Hawpe, and Borbon, who all produced double-digit losses to their fantasy teams. The group of 43 turned an overall loss of $47.

The overall frequency plot for the group shows that just over 46 percent of the 122 players saw their profit or loss fall within $2 of their draft price.

In all, the 67 players that failed to turn any kind of profit produced a loss of -$244, while the 55 players that did turn a profit combined to produce $271 in value.  Some can perceive that data as instilling confidence in entering dollar days, while others can look at it as a big risk since the odds of positive return are against the owner in the framework of these three expert leagues in a single season.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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