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March 31, 2015

My Model Portfolio

Framing Decisions Around Value

by Jeff Quinton

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Overall Strategy:

Last year, I got caught in the trap of wanting an impact player in each position-player slot, which led to me taking a lot of lower-probability, upside plays that did not pan out. The problem here was not with risk, but rather with framing my decisions through something other than value. This year, my strategy was to first take all the players I like more than Mike Gianella (the creator of the values) and then tweak my roster if needed in order to avoid any category deficiencies.

Position Players:

C – Dioner Navarro $3

1B – Adrian Gonzalez $24

2B – Robinson Cano $30

3B – Nick Castellanos $4

SS – Jimmy Rollins $9

CI – Eric Hosmer $7

MIHowie Kendrick $10

OF – Mike Trout $47

OF – Matt Holliday $14

OF – Jorge Soler $9

OF – Alejandro De Aza $3

OF – Jarrod Dyson $1

UT – David Ortiz $16

UT – Billy Butler $1

Pitchers:

RPCody Allen $12

RP – Hector Rondon $8

RP – Tyler Clippard $4

SP – Zack Greinke $21

SP – Jordan Zimmermann $18

SP – Michael Wacha $7

SP – Masahiro Tanaka $6

SP – Francisco Liriano $5

SP – Wily Peralta $1

Process:

While it may appear that way on the surface, this was not a “start with Mike Trout and figure the rest out” team. Again, I just took players I like more than Mike does per his rankings; thus, I started with Navarro, Gonzalez, Castellanos, Hosmer, Cano, Kendrick, Soler, Dyson, Ortiz, and Butler on the position-player side, and Allen, Zimmerman, Wacha, Tanaka, and Liriano on the pitcher side. That left me with $107 for a shortstop, three outfielders, and four pitchers (of which I wanted two closers/relievers).

Pitching

In looking at my initial pitchers selected, I knew had a decent start in saves with Allen and plenty of strikeouts—at least on a rate basis—with Wacha, Tanaka, and Liriano. So with my remaining spots, I wanted another higher-tier pitcher to pair with Zimmerman, two closers, and another cheap pitcher. I also did not want to spend more than 33 percent of my total budget (about $86) on pitching. With $48 already spent, I decided on a $21 Greinke, $8 Rodon, $4 Clippard (a little timing here as he has officially been named the interim closer between Mike’s last valuation article and my creation of this portfolio), and $1 Peralta. This would put me at $82 dollars spent on my pitchers.

Hitting

In looking at the initial position players I chose, I felt pretty comfortable across the board, but especially so in AVG, runs, and RBI. While I thought Cano and Gonzalez where priced below my expected earnings for them, I wanted another impact bat, particularly a higher end one that could help me in home runs and stolen bases. As it turns out, I did not find as much value difference between the $10-$15 players and $20-$25 players as I did in the non-Cano $30-$40 players and Trout. So welcome aboard this fictitious ship, Mike Trout. Jimmy Rollins and Alejandro De Aza then also fit the mold of players that I thought could help me in home runs and stolen bases, while coming at a price I liked. This then left me with $14 dollars remaining of which I was first inclined to spend on the $12 Mookie Betts, but then opted for the boring production of $14 Matt Holliday, figuring I needed pop more than I needed stolen bases.

Conclusion:

In trying to follow my own advice, I tried to frame my decisions around value, while fixing the kinks in my process. This led to a balanced team, but one I think can strongly compete in all 10 categories. I think the wide variety of players I selected (from risky to boring, young to old, expensive to mid-priced to cheap, and from players coming off poor years to those coming off great years) was at least a bit of proof that I was able to execute my value driven strategy. Additionally, I did not overly fixate on players in defined roles (an error in my process last year), which led to some of my favorite values in Navarro, Dyson, and Clippard. Again there is no way of knowing, but I at least feel like I made the best bets I could make.

For quick notes on each player I selected, please kindly find the below:

Position Players

C – Dioner Navarro $3 – should see time at DH if he is not traded. A plus hitter for a catcher (especially in batting average). Another catcher that was late to bloom at the plate.

1B – Adrian Gonzalez $24 – has played in 156-plus games for eight straight years. Even if the power is not elite, he should earn his meld in counting stats and AVG.

2B – Robinson Cano $30 – earned $21 last year, but I think he gets back 5-7 home runs in 2015. These couple extra homers combined with what should be an improved lineup around him, should help him get back 20 or so runs/RBI (that’s total, not each). Just as last season is the obvious downside, I think there is additional upside in power, counting stats, and AVG.

3B – Nick Castellanos $4 – cheap and I think he will improve this year.

SS – Jimmy Rollins $9 – still stealing bases with his legs and hearts with his smile even though he is old for a baseball shortstop. 2013 looks more and more like an outlier, even if we were tricked by its directional correctness.

CI – Eric Hosmer $7 – earned $8 last year and I would consider that his floor.

MI – Howie Kendrick $10 – sneaky power upside in the park switch.

OF – Mike Trout $47 – as you suspected, from New Jersey.

OF – Matt Holliday $14 – while the power is in decline, he is still a runs and RBI stalwart.

OF – Jorge Soler $9 – this is from my 2014 Model Portfolio write up regarding unproven players: “I am the last person to pay the helium price for these type of players, but Mike’s values have correctly taken out that helium.” As a result, I am happy to take Soler at this price given the upside.

OF – Alejandro De Aza $3 – flawed and beautiful.

OF – Jarrod Dyson $1 – has been a near-double-digit earner for the past three years. His role and speed are unchanged entering 2015.

UT – David Ortiz $16 – no need to worry about being strategically constrained by a DH-only player when you are hand-picking your entire roster with no competitive consideration.

UT – Billy Butler $1 – earned $7 last year and I would consider that his floor.


Pitchers

RP – Cody Allen $12 – good closer.

RP – Hector Rondon $8 – pretty good closer.

RP – Tyler Clippard $4 – great reliever that would earn $4 without the early season closer job. There are also small, albeit valuable, chances that he does not give the job back and that he gets the job back at some other point.

SP – Zack Greinke $21 – not a 1A fantasy stud, but does not need to be.

SP – Jordan Zimmermann $18 – Greinke note + three bucks cheaper + maybe not quite as good as Greinke.

SP – Michael Wacha $7 – I love the upside/risk at this price.

SP – Masahiro Tanaka $6 – I love the upside/risk at this price. Fierce demeanor, gentle high fives.

SP – Francisco Liriano $5 – as mentioned in the Darkhorse Series, I think Liriano has been somewhat unlucky with health. When he pitches for the Pirates he is good.

SP – Wily Peralta $1 – rather than choosing a $1 pitcher based on upside given the relatively unsavory options, I grabbed a player that should help even though it won’t be anything to write home about.

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

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