A trio of studs compensates for the defending champs' barren farm system.
Champions of baseball, collection of various fantasy baseball talents. We all know the headliners: Posey, Pence, and Bumgarner. Beyond that, there is an unresolved third base role to go along with a lot of veterans and role players. The only interesting 25-or-under talents other than Bumgarner are Joe Panik and Andrew Susac, and interesting is being used liberally here. The Giants minor-league system is even less interesting for fantasy purposes. Anyhow, it is often the boring, the old hat, the suboptimal that gets overlooked in fantasy, and it is these very players that can turn some of the nicest fantasy baseball profits. Continue reading for analysis.
A note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to ourTransaction Analysiscoverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.
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Why does the value a team places on a draft pick seem to change from situation to situation?
“The Yankees never made an offer to David Robertson; determined they’d rather sign Andrew Miller and get the draft pick [compensation] for Robertson.” – Buster Olney, via Twitter
All other factors equal, it is preferable to sign a free agent who is not attached to a qualifying offer than a free agent that is QO-attached. This is obvious. What is not obvious is by how much, or whether that “how much” is always constant from free agent to free agent for each team. First round pick protection, competitive window, payroll limit, state of one’s minor-league system, and upcoming draft class will all determine how each team costs (values) losing a draft pick. According to traditional financial, economic, whatever-you-want-to-call-it theory, weighing these factors all makes sense. But, according to traditional theory, each team would individually weigh the cost of giving up a draft pick equally across all QO-attached free agents. Example time:
Team X puts the cost of losing its first round pick at $8M. Absent the qualifying offer, Team X values Max Scherzer at six years, $150M and Ervin Santana at two years, $25M. Taking the cost of losing a first round pick into account, Team X should value Scherzer at 6 years, $142M and Santana at 2 years, $17M.
Cool, makes sense. Alas, mental accounting, which posits that “people spontaneously generate their own mental accounts, and where we place these boundaries subtly (but profoundly) influences financial decision making,” indicates that our traditional theories may be oversimplifying things here. Specifically, it notes that we create topical accounts, in that our decisions are altered by the context of the situation. Whereas most think it absurd to drive 15 minutes down the road to another car dealership to save $75 on a $25,000 car, many will stand in line for an hour in the middle of the night to save that same $75 on a $250 smart phone.
Question: What does this have to do with QO-attached free agents?
Answer: Given the use of topical accounts, we could hypothesize that if GMs categorize Scherzer as an impact player and Santana as a role player—and are less willing to give up a draft pick to get a mere role player—that teams might be either (i) undervaluing the cost of the QO when valuing top free agents (saving $75 on the car) and (ii) overvaluing the cost of the QO when valuing lower-end free agents (saving $75 on the smart phone).
While we wait and see how the Cubs navigate this offseason, their current roster returns exciting young hitters, Jake Arrieta, and a lot players who would probably play lesser roles on more competitive teams. And they also have all those awesome prospects too.
The important question, for fantasy purposes, is how do all these pieces fit? There really is no good way to answer this question right now given that we do not know how free agency will unfold and the uncertainty inherent in prospects. What we can do is evaluate the players as they currently stand and make adjustments for playing time as we get more information. That said, let us get to it.
A follow-up to last week's piece, explaining how to take advantage of offseason trade-market inefficiencies.
Last week, we discussed the ways that the default effect influences our dynasty- and keeper-league offseason trade markets. Today we will take a look at some ways to deal with and take advantage of these market realities. These ways can be broken down into two categories:
Logic dictates that offseason trade activity should be virtually endless, so why doesn't this happen?
While no Major League Baseball games are currently being played, the offseason maintains a tight hold on our attention. The offseason brings every team back to 0-0 (for both major-league and fantasy baseball), and we are captivated by the hope of the new season and intrigued by the strategy each team will deploy.
Whereas in-season trades and moves tend to be limited by the competitive landscape, the offseason tends to be less limited, because more uncertainty exists about the upcoming season. In fantasy baseball, potential moves and strategies are even less limited in the sense that all teams have closer to equal resources because of parity-promoting rules and constructs such as salary caps, keeper limits, auction dollars, and draft rounds. Given all of this to go along with person-to-person inconsistency in valuing uncertain future assets (baseball players), one could assume that the offseason would be a time of torrent trade activity. In theory, each owner would continue to trade until he or she possesses each asset that he or she most values among his or her peers (obviously this depends on the value of the assets one originally owns, but you get the point). Put differently, because every owner would rank the top 300 players (or top 300 values in leagues with contracts) differently, one could assume that there would be trade after trade after trade until every discrepancy in valuation has been corrected.
With a new GM and without a skipper at the moment, the Rays' future, real and fantasy, is up in the air.
There has been a lot of Rays baseball activity already this offseason, but none has been player related. The general manager and manager (a title that somehow seems even more general than general manager) have left. Not much changes for us fantasy baseball folk besides potentially more day-to-day lineup consistency. Will these changes impact player performance? There is no way that we can tell; thus, there is nothing to additionally factor into our valuations.
As far as the roster, the Rays have again traded away an expiring, expensive-via-arbitration ace in David Price for cheaper, more controllable assets. The always cash strapped Rays could also be looking to trade Matt Joyce and Jeremy Hellickson for cheaper, more controllable assets this offseason.
A look at how to avoid allowing biases to influence your projections.
As soon as the baseball season comes to its inevitable and saddening end, baseball, as it does each year, will enter the offseason. For the fantasy baseball community, this means we will be entering ranking and projection season. After following “our players” and players of interest all season, we are now asked to take an all-encompassing look at the league’s baseball players. The result of doing projections periodically, as opposed to continuously, is that we are likely to invite certain biases into our processes, which can negatively impact our results. We will take a look at why we do periodic projections, the biases that come with such a process, how these biases manifest themselves, and some ways to hopefully de-bias our process.
The devil’s advocate in me asks, “if periodic projections causes certain problems, why not do continuous projections?” The short answer is that doing continuous projections is not feasible or desirable for most of us. A computer program could certainly perform continuous projections, but we—as mere people (note: people are awesome)—do not have the ability to continuously adjust our valuations on such a large scale. Sure, each time we watch, read about, or hear about a player, our impression of said player will be altered or reinforced consciously or subconsciously, but that is not what I am getting at. Rather, what I mean is that we cannot watch all players play every one of their plays, and we cannot fully analyze all of what we see or all of the available data. The result of all this humanness is that we can really only fully update our projections on a league-wide basis come decision times; those being the offseason for auctions and drafts, as well as, to some extent, the trade deadline. While we constantly update our valuations for the players we follow, my assumption is that very few people follow every player and those who do probably do not do so diligently enough to properly continuously update each player’s projection.
The Cardinals center fielder isn't a sexy late-draft option, but could he still hold fantasy value in 2015?
The 29-year-old Jay has seemingly been around forever, but he has in fact only been playing baseball at the major-league level since 2010. Honestly (but there is no way you can really know), heading into the 2014 season, a playoff spotlight on the former second-round pick out of the University of Miami was the last thing I thought I would be writing in October. Why? Because after an unexciting 2013, Jay seemed destined to be replaced by the newer and apparently shinier Peter Bourjos. Additionally, super-prospect Oscar Taveras and notable prospect Randall Grichuk were waiting in the wings.
While players like Jay have almost no use in shallow leagues, finding affordable (cheaply acquirable) players to fill out your roster is a key to success in deeper leagues. Prospect theory tells us that when our expectations are lowered, such as at the end of drafts or auctions, we tend to be more risk-seeking (think buying lottery tickets). Consequentially, boring, lower-ceiling players like Jay tend to be passed up in favor of boom or bust type players (in the fantasy sense) such as Borjous, Cameron Maybin, or Chris Young. Sometimes these lottery tickets workout, but in knowing our behavioral biases, we know that the odds are not in our favor. Conversely, steady players like Jay with no ceiling to dream on can often come at a discount. Given all of this, let us see what happened in 2014.
Once again, the Tigers suspect bullpen loomed large in a loss to the Orioles, but did their manager put them in the best position to succeed?
Game Two of the 2014 ALDS featured a lot of starting pitchers, at least as defined by their regular season roles. Wie-Yin Chen and Justin Verlander only pitched 3 2/3 and 5 innings respectively. As a result, each team went with a starting pitcher as their first pitcher out of the bullpen. All four pitchers (Chen, Verlander, Kevin Gausman, and Anibal Sanchez) pitched excellently their first time through the order. While Sanchez was pulled after facing six hitters, the other three all got to take a shot at their opponent’s lineup a second time and, in Verlander’s case, a thirds time. Those results were bad.
A look at ways to avoid a moment that all fantasy owners dread.
There is a moment of dread that almost all fantasy baseball owners have faced, the moment when you are informed that a player you have been intending on targeting gets traded to another team. The metaphorical sibling of this moment is when you are informed that player has been traded and at that moment you realize that you should have been targeting that player, especially given the price tag. The typical response to such a trade usually goes like this (I have removed the profanity and replaced it with the meaning behind the profanity): “That’s really unfair, Team X did not get enough in return.” The best part follows: “I would have given Team X more for that player/those players.” Sometimes, we even get the cherry on top: “Well, we can all pack it in now and hand the trophy to Team Y (the trade partner of Team X).”
Allegedly unbalanced trades usually result in complaints of injustice from team owners who were not involved with the trade and even end up with owners trying to veto trades (my solution: do not play in leagues with vetoes). This is typical human response: Get worked up about unfairness and demand fairness, but do not attempt to fix the root cause, especially when the fixing involves action on our behalf. J.P. Breen (smart dude) sums this phenomenon up nicely in these two tweets: