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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

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

bubba3m

While this is very interesting and a nice analysis, I believe you are missing one key valuable aspect of a $1 player- they are imminently droppable. I'm guessing many of the players on the left hand side of your distribution curve did not actually hurt their owners to that degree.

Dec 21, 2011 11:33 AM
rating: 4
 
MichavdB

I was going to make a comment similar to Bubba's. I don't expect any production out of my $1 players. The worst that can happen is that a you end up using a bad $1 for a couple of weeks before you discard and replace.

Dec 21, 2011 11:49 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Sure, they are immediately droppable. That doesn't mean they should be throwaway picks as someone that you're going to replace as soon as the new flavor of the week pops up on the FAAB wire. My main point here was to show that more often than not, these picks are not turning much of a profit so if you're going to rely on too many of them going with a stars and scrubs theory, you have to score with at least one of them AND be deft with your FAAB skills.

Dec 21, 2011 11:52 AM
 
RossBlums

I agree with the two previous commenters. Your analysis also needs to include unauctioned players as well. You cannot segregate the two universes - $1 players are unauctioned players "drafted" at the end of the auction. The question your study should focus on is of the pool of $1 and unowned players, what is estimated profit.

Also, you are presuming that FAAB applies to all free agents, which may be the case in single-league leagues but is often not the case in mixed leagues, where FAAB applies only to waiver players.

Dec 21, 2011 13:47 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Where do I stop? Do I take the $1 player, then every single move that was made to replace that roster spot for the rest of the season?

I was working within the parameters of the league which requires FAAB for every move as has been the case of the leagues I am most familiar with nationally (Tout, NFBC).

I think profit from reserve picks & undrafted players can be an entirely separate piece because that can focus on just how much profit can be found within a season that was left on the draft table that would speak to the importance of draft day itself compared to a burn and turn approach of cycling out talent.

Dec 21, 2011 13:56 PM
 
RossBlums

True - it is much more difficult.

Assuming you do that study of reserve picks & undrafted profits, it will be more indicative of $1 player values than the one you have done above. Thanks for the efforts though!

Dec 21, 2011 14:25 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

What's the threshold for the tossaway player? $2, $4? That's where it gets complicated. A $2 player is typically just a $1 that someone else had slightly more interest in.

Dec 21, 2011 14:27 PM
 
gardner37

Nice analysis Jason. I think the focus should be on the percentage of upside picks because, as others have said, the ones who don't produce are droppable. The 15 $1 players out of 51 who returned at least a $5 profit in the NL shows you can find some useful players that late.

Maybe the reserve picks could be lumped in as part of the analysis. I know my NL team benefited from Emilio Bonifacio, who immediately replaced a $1 Everth Cabrera and was probably even more valuable than Melancon.

But the main point still stands. You'd have to figure that the success rate with reserve picks is even worse than the success rate for $1 players since all of those $1 guys are already off the board.

Dec 22, 2011 09:13 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

Thanks, Steve. I had planned on addressing reserve pick value as a separate strategy and do what I can to comb through the in-season transaction data to see who was acquired via pick-up for value.

Dec 22, 2011 09:15 AM
 
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