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May 28, 2014
Success Stories in the Endgame, Part One
After a very slow start, George Springer arrived with a vengeance this past weekend. His sizzling 1.091 OPS in May is seventh-best in the majors for the month and the buzz/wow factor or whatever the heck you want to call it is extremely high. For the purposes of comparison, Springer has a 268/348/500 slash line in his first 155 major league plate appearances. Mike Trout had a .220/.284/.376 slash over his first 155 plate appearances. It’s an apples-to-bananas comparison given that Springer is almost two years older than Trout is now, but it is nevertheless amazing how quickly Springer has broken through.
It is also an aberration.
Earlier this month, I documented the performance of Baseball Prospectus’ top 20 hitting prospects between 2009-2013 in mixed league formats. Over the last five years, 26 of these prospects have accrued 100 or more plate appearances in a single season. Only half of these hitters were mixed league worthy (12-team league) and only three—Buster Posey in 2010, Bryce Harper in 2012, and Wil Myers in 2013—finished among the top half of mixed league hitters. Hats off to you if you drafted Springer this year, but if you were counting on elite production, you were really hoping that Springer bucked historical trends.
In keeper leagues, performances like Springer’s lead some owners to inappropriately value all rookies and bet entirely on the upside. Contenders ask for the moon and the stars for their elite prospects, and far too often the teams out of contention pay the full asking price.
There is another avenue to building a competitive team if you’re playing for next year, and that is mining your opponents for lower-profile players on the cheap. This week I will take a look at the hitters who fit this profile; next week I will focus on the pitchers.
Many owners don’t even consider this approach because at first glance the ROI from seems underwhelming.
Table 1: Rate of Return on $1-3 AL and NL Only Hitters: 2009-2013