May 13, 2013
Dumping Targets, a Look Back
Most fantasy web sites and other resources do little if any analysis on playing for next year, or what is known less elegantly as “dumping.” Some analysts refuse to even acknowledge that it is part of the game and advise that it is always best to trade with this year in mind and worry about future consequences next year.
In reality, if you’re in a keeper league, you will probably have to give up and play for next year sooner or later. If other teams are building rosters for 2014 around cheap players such as Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey, and Shelby Miller, and you are sitting back while your team languishes in seventh place with little hope of winning, you are not doing yourself any favors.
One of the challenges of playing for the future is that it is hard enough to predict what is going to happen this year. Predicting what might happen in 2014 and beyond is even trickier. For this reason, the best players to target are players like Harper or Mike Trout: young superstars with contract control that you can build around at an affordable price. The catch is that even in a Rotisserie-style league, owners are reluctant to trade players like Harper or Trout. If you want to try to hit the jackpot, you often have to dip into the murkier world of minor leaguers.
There are owners in my leagues that will gladly mortgage the future for the Byron Buxtons and the Carlos Correas of the world. But what is the return on investment— both in the short term and the long term—for the best prospects in baseball?
Below is a look back at the top prospects in baseball in 2008. Why 2008? In a Rotisserie-style league with long-term player contracts (no dynasty rules/keep “forever” formats), five years is usually the longest you can keep a player once he makes the big leagues. Assuming that you decided to rebuild in 2007 and restocked your team with future studs for the 2008 campaign (and possibly beyond), how did you do?
Table 1: Top 10 Baseball Prospectus AL Hitting Prospects, 2008
Table 1 and all of the tables in this analysis draw from Kevin Goldstein’s Baseball Prospectus Top 100 Prospects list of 2008. All 10 hitters were in an American League organization heading into the 2008 season. Rather than omit a hitter like Carlos Gonzalez because he was traded to a National League team, all of his seasons are included in the table above.
It’s always easy to look back at a chart like this and snicker at the inclusion of “obvious” busts like Clement, Snider, or Brignac. So in the interest of intellectual honesty, here were Baseball America’s Top 10 AL hitting prospects that year: