King Felix and the Toddfather—unloaded! Jason Vargas—a $21 "zombie"? Taylor Motter—$15 for that gorgeous hair.
For those not already acquainted with The Dynasty Guru Experts League, it is a 20-team (40-man roster) 5x5 rotisserie dynasty league founded by BP managing editor Bret Sayre in 2014. It is intended to satisfy the deep-league needs of all, right down to just the right amount of Alexi Amarista. We roster 23 starters: C/1B/2B/3B/SS/MI/CI, along with two additional utility hitters, five outfielders and nine pitchers. We also roster seven bench slots and have 10 spots designated for minor leaguers, although a quick scan of the league finds that most teams utilize a majority of their bench spots for additional prospects. That means that there are an additional 100-120 prospects that are rostered above the 200 spots reserved for them.
These write-ups are intended to pair nicely with Mike Gianella’s Expert FAAB Review’s, as we will take a look at the TDGX free-agent acquisitions each week, as well as include thoughts on every major trade that occurs during the season. The yearly budget for free agent transactions is $100, with $0 bids allowed for major leaguers and prospects.
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The needs of others can outweigh the needs of yourself.
It’s early, but the post-draft, post-auction, post-opening day euphoria is waning already for most fantasy baseball participants. Some players are doing better than expected, and some are doing worse, even though, only 17 days into the season, we surely are looking at an incomplete picture. Regardless, this is the time when some owners will begin looking for trades.
Is now a good time even to be considering trades? Great question. I believe it is a good time to do so, if only because our competition often is looking to make a trade now. Put differently, the way to get the most back in trades usually is to make a deal with someone else who wants to make a trade, someone who either wants something specific, or who wants to trade a particular player. We know that trades can be difficult because of the endowment effect—our tendency to value something more, simply because we possess it; thus, we always are looking for opportunities to make trades with a team dealing with factors that are counteracting the endowment effect.
Skills—for the pitcher, for his opponent and his even own lineup—all matter when picking for daily leagues. But so does ballpark environment.
In Week 1, we discussed basic strategies for picking hitters to roster in daily leagues. One of the key points from that article is that fantasy owners want to find hitters who have a good chance to be in a high run-scoring environment. Focusing on opposing-pitcher quality—meaning, finding opposing pitchers who do not usually effectively prevent runs, prevent extra base hits, or prevent baserunners—is a good first step.
This week, we'll do the opposite and focus on basic ways to pick pitchers. Generally, when picking a pitcher, I look for a few key things. I want a pitcher who has a good chance to be in a low run-scoring environment, because pitchers are docked points for allowing earned runs. I want a pitcher who will pitch deep into the game, because pitchers gain points the more innings they throw, and in some formats for quality starts (6+ IP of 3 ER or less). I want a pitcher who will get enough run support to be in position for a victory, because pitchers earn points when they are credited with the win. And I want a pitcher who is going to rack up strikeouts, because pitchers get points for strikeouts. It’s sometimes difficult to find all of these qualities in one pitcher, so I look for as many as possible.
To do this, considering the quality of the opposing team that the pitcher is facing is important, just like with picking hitters. A punchless lineup in a pitcher's park on a chilly night is going to have a more difficult time scoring runs than a high-powered lineup in a hitter's park on a hot summer night. A lineup that has a lot of swing-and-miss in it, like the 2016 Brewers, who had a team-strikeout rate near 26 percent, makes it more likely that a pitcher can generate strikeouts. A team starting an ineffective pitcher against a team that is running out their own ace makes it more likely that the ace pitcher will get run support and be in position for the win, because his opponent is starting a pitcher who is prone to giving up runs.
Looking at splits is important, too. If a lineup is right-handed heavy, starting a pitcher who eats up righties, someone like Julio Teheran, can be another good way to increase the chances of run prevention and the accumulation of strikeouts. Teheran’s numbers have been dramatically better against right-handed hitters. Since the start of 2015, Teheran has an outstanding .570 OPS against, 2.78 Fielding Independent Pitching and 26.4 percent strikeout rate against right-handed batters. Home splits are also notable. Starting pitchers league-wide are more effective at preventing runs and baserunners in home games. The reason for this could be related to the pregame bullpen. A home pitcher throws his pregame bullpen and goes right to the mound while he’s hot, while the road pitcher sits in the dugout after his bullpen and cools down for a half-inning. That’s one theory, anyway. I generally favor picking a home pitcher over a road pitcher when most factors are close because of the league splits, assuming the pitcher’s home park isn’t a haven for scoring runs due to environmental or ballpark effects.
In terms of the pitcher's own skill set, the primary stats I look at when picking pitchers are OPS against, ERA, FIP, and strikeout rate (K%—not K/9). I prefer K% over K/9 because K% uses the total number of batters faced and paints a more accurate picture of strikeout skill. Finding pitchers who are efficient with their pitch counts also is helpful for finding pitchers who can get deep into games and rack up points for innings pitched.
So, for example, yesterday I picked Carlos Carrasco for a few reasons. Obviously, Carrasco’s own skills are really good, but the matchup he had is what grabbed my attention the most. Carrasco was facing a below-average White Sox team at Cleveland that has a lineup projected to score in the bottom five league-wide in total runs for the rest of the season. The opposing pitcher for the White Sox was James Shields, one of the least-effective pitchers in baseball over the past year. Carrasco looked like a good bet to prevent runs, get run support and be in position to get the win. Shields ended up only giving up one run, so run support wasn’t there like I had expected, but Carrasco pitched well enough to score well in fantasy by logging seven innings pitched, getting seven strikeouts, and allowing one run and four hits. Identifying favorable situations like these is something I find important when making pitching choices in daily leagues.
For those not already acquainted with The Dynasty Guru Experts League, it is a 20-team (40-man roster) 5x5 rotisserie dynasty league founded by BP managing editor Bret Sayre in 2014. It is intended to satisfy the deep league needs of all, right down to just the right amount of Alexi Amarista. We roster 23 starters: C/1B/2B/3B/SS/MI/CI, along with two additional utility hitters, five outfielders and nine pitchers. We also roster seven bench slots and have 10 spots designated for minor leaguers, although a quick scan of the league finds that most teams utilize a majority of their bench spots for additional prospects. That means that there are an additional 100-120 prospects that are rostered above the 200 spots reserved for them.
These write-ups are intended to pair nicely with Mike Gianella’s Expert FAAB Reviews, and we will look at each week’s TDGX free-agent acquisitions, as well as include thoughts on every major trade that occurs during the season. The yearly budget for free agent transactions is $100, with $0 bids allowed for major leaguers and prospects.
This installment covers the first two FAAB periods and any trades that have taken place since the draft. If you missed the recap from this year’s amateur draft, you can check that out here.
“There's a lot of risk that I'm taking on here, but Strasburg can lead a fantasy rotation in a league as deep as TDGX, even with the requisite stint on the DL for a sore elbow/shoulder at some point. Owings and Upton might not seem inspired but I'm in dire need of speed and in something of a competitive year with mainstays such as Nelson Cruz, Yoenis Cespedes, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lucroy, and Edwin Encarnacion. I didn't have the luxury to wait on Maitan to mature, though there's a good chance I would have made a bigger profit off the pick a year from now. I like to churn my prospects, and I still have plenty of them, and while losing Cutch hurts in the present, I had 7 startable outfielders as is, in a league that allots 5 outfield spots, so it was dealing from a strength, and Upton provides speed insurance in case Leonys Martin tanks. Strasburg gets added to a rotation that includes Archer, Duffy, Nova, and Eduardo Rodriguez, which should have the upside to compete and the downside to sink me. It should be a fun season.”
“Without question, this is the biggest deal that I’ve made since joining the league at the start of last season. I ultimately felt that a staff headlined by Madison Bumgarner, Carlos Martinez, and Joe Ross, and one that also has depth pieces like Tanner Roark, Charlie Morton, and Patrick Corbin (among others) could withstand the loss of Strasburg--who truth be told I have been interested in moving since the beginning of last season due to his obvious health concerns. In this league, we start five outfielders and two utility bats, and I felt that I needed to add another bat, preferably an outfielder, and am happy to add a (hopefully) motivated Cutch to the fold. Entering his age-30 season, I’m not expecting MVP-candidate Andrew McCutchen to roll through the door anytime soon, but I do think he’ll get a bit of a BABIP bounce-back (his .297 mark was his lowest since 2011) this season, and if he hits for better than a .260 AVG and adds 20 or more home runs with 10 or more steals, that works just fine for me. My other outfielders are Carlos Gomez, Michael Conforto, Adam Duvall, Carlos Beltran and Brandon Moss, so I think you can see why I wanted to add another outfielder.
As for Kevin Maitan, I have him as No. 30 overall among fantasy prospects on my personal list, and I firmly believe he will be a top-10 fantasy prospect by the end of the season. I strongly disagree with the perception that he is “forever away” as I’ve seen referenced by some this winter. He turned 17 in February, and the Braves are an organization that started Jason Heyward in the majors from day one of his age-20 season, promoted Ozzie Albies to Triple-A last season in his age-19 season, and is currently slated to begin Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka at Double-A in their age-19 seasons in 2017. Maitan, by most, if not all, accounts, is an advanced (if not generational) talent and I fully expect him to rise quickly through the Atlanta system and see the majors by his age-19 or age-20 season. I do very much like Chris Owings, but I couldn’t let him stand in the way of acquiring Maitan’s upside.”
Week 1 FAAB Transactions
Jeff Zimmermann, FanGraphs - Sal Romano SP | CIN - Won at $6
“The only first base-eligible MLBer on my entire team was Yonder Alonso, so that alone is enough to explain this move. Plus, now that Jung-Ho Kang looks unlikely to play this season, Freese should be in for more at-bats. He’s boring, but in a 20-team league he should be owned.”
Tom Trudeau/Craig Glaser MLB.com - Phil Bickford SP | MIL - Won at $4
“Montgomery had an awfully impressive spring and is still in the running for the last spot in the Yankee’s rotation. A strike-throwing SEC product with a strong minor league performance record is my kind of undervalued prospect. He will get a chance in the Bronx at some point in 2017, even if it’s not right away.”
James Anderson, Rotowire - Yandy Diaz, 3B | CLE Won at: $16
“With Pedro Alvarez and Trayce Thompson starting the year in the minors and Luis Valbuena on the DL, I am not utilizing either UTIL spot, so the fact that Diaz has a shot to get everyday at-bats in the short term was appealing. I also think he has the type of plate skills to have success as a rookie, despite being a bit older than the typical prospect. I'm not expecting much power or speed, but his OBP skills could lead to some runs and RBI with the potential for a solid batting average, which made him unique among the available hitters.”
James Anderson, Rotowire - Jason Grilli, RP | TOR Won at: $13
“Saves become available in this league far less frequently than in a standard 15-teamer, so the chance to bid on a guy who will have a chance, especially early in the season, is unique. I was pretty aggressive about bidding on Jeanmar Gomez last year, and not only did that work out, but there were not many other opportunities to buy saves with FAAB after Gomez.”
"We all have players that we just can’t quit, and for me, Alcantara is one of them. He made the Reds opening day roster and I expect him to move around the diamond quite a bit while hopefully picking up some cheap steals. For reasons that remain unclear to me, he never really got a chance in Oakland, but ‘Mendy’s skill set is much better suited for the National League, and he could work his way into a bigger role once Zack Cosart is inevitably dealt or an injury occurs to a starter."
Bret Sayre, TDG - Alexi Amarista 2B | COL Won at: $2
This is the time of the year that Bret picks up a Rockies bench player that will both play more than people expect, and post better numbers while doing so. It’s a TDGX tradition unlike any other. Amarista is a Bud Black favorite, and stole nine bases in just 150 plate appearances in 2016 with the Padres, and I’d take the over on him toppling both marks in 2017 with the Rockies.
Nick Doran, TDG & Rotoworld - Trevor Cahill, RP | SD Won at: $2
D.J. Short, Rotoworld - Daniel Hudson, RP | PIT Won at: $1
The Braves bench is absolutely awful, and I expect Peterson to receive 300-400 plate appearances this season by default, and gain eligibility at a number of positions. Hopefully he can recreate the .758 OPS that he compiled in the first half of last season and not the .685 OPS of the second half.
Greg Wellemeyer, BP/TDG - Hector Santiago, SP | MIN Won at: $0
J.P. Breen, BP - Tyler Stephenson, C | CIN Won at: $0
Scott White, CBS Sports - Gavin Cecchini, SS | NYM Won at: $0
J.J. Jansons, BP/TDG - Derek Norris, C | TB Won at: $0
Examining how to wield the power of the trade offer, both when sending and receiving, more effectively.
When it comes to trades and negotiation, we have already covered a wide array of topics, from anchoring to negotiation styles to the default effect to choice architecture. What we have not covered, though, is the effect of the focusing illusion on fantasy baseball trades. Daniel Kahneman coined the term, and in discussing the focusing illusion, he famously said, “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.”
Our means of trading is the trade offer and the trade offer inherently causes us to focus on particular players (the player being offered or requested) or a particular type of trade (a pitcher for a hitter or an expiring asset for a long-term asset). As a result of this, the focusing illusion likely plays a large role in determining the trades that get made, but how so?
Jeff explains what to look for when scanning leaguemates' roster in search of offseason trade opportunities in keeper leagues.
I don’t have anything to say specifically regarding third base, so I wanted to use this week’s article to discuss a subject we have not yet touched this year in this column: pre-draft and pre-auction trades in keeper leagues.
In theory, we should see two types of trades: the at-different-points-of-the-contention-cycle trade and the challenge trade. The first happens when teams value players differently because of their difference in distance from competing for a championship. A team, for example, competing for a championship this year might find great value in Victor Martinez, whereas a team that will not be competing for a championship the next two years will have no value for Martinez other than what he can return via trade. Meanwhile, a challenge trade happens when two teams just value players differently. Because of our old friends the endowment effect and defensive decision-making, these trades rarely happen.
How to identify the players you should seek in your upcoming fantasy barters.
Earlier this week our wonderful fantasy staff put together their Second-Half Buys. I, absent such fullness of wonder, did not participate, and for that, I apologize. To make up for this, my plan is to help us try to develop some tools for finding our own second-half buys, our own trade targets.
This skill, finding trade targets, is incredibly important, obviously, but it is likely even more important in today’s (fantasy baseball) game. Why is it more important today than it was ten years ago? Because, as we have said many times, the internet has made it difficult to differentiate via information asymmetry. Put differently, as soon as we posted our staff’s “second-half buys,” those players likely became more difficult to acquire—either their acquisition price in trade or FAAB went up or someone looked to scoop them from the free agent pool. This does not hold true for every player or recommendation (some fantasy baseball participants do not read fantasy analysis and some only read some sites), but it holds true for more players than you, or at least I, originally thought. Why? Because these recommendations are not random strokes of genius. We, as a fantasy baseball analysis community, largely follow the same twitter accounts, read the same articles, and are thus likely to write-up and analyze the same player because those players are most likely to be top of mind. This is not a criticism, it is just how our brains work, and I point it out in order to highlight the increased importance of finding trade targets outside of and in addition to recommendations from fantasy baseball experts. Moreover, the more players we can target, the more we can shop around for the best price. Lastly, not everyone wants to put in the effort, so those willing to do so can often get better than expected deals.
Staff picks for players you might want to acquire in your fantasy deadline deals.
The members of fantasy team here at Baseball Prospectus have each selected one player they have their eye on targeting for the second half in trades. Some are more expensive to acquire than others, but they are on this list because their current market value is lower than their expected value the remainder of the way. Here are those players, in alphabetical order:
Javier Baez, INF, Chicago Cubs
The return of Dexter Fowler has seemingly relegated Baez to a more traditional bench role. Baez started in only three of six contests over the past week, including just one of three since Fowler’s reinstatement. I can’t tell you when and where the at-bats are going to come from; with a full-time outfielder back in the fold, there will likely be fewer appearances on the grass for Bryant and Zobrist, and therefore less opportunity on the dirt for Baez. It’s that uncertainty that makes him a target, though, as it should drive his price down. When he’s gotten the chance, Baez has shown the kind of multi-dimensional skillset that will make him an early-round selection in the coming years. He’s on the verge of double digits in both home runs and swipes in 250 plate appearances. Most importantly, his average sits at an unexpectedly excellent .285, with PECOTA projecting a tolerable .244 the rest of the way. Improvement in his contact rate even as he’s gotten more aggressive have upgraded his outlook from the batting average sink I once thought he’d be. I find it hard to believe the Cubs will stagnate the 23-year-old’s development by making him a twice-a-week player going forward, especially as they sit on a comfortable lead in the Central. Invest if Baez’s current owner doesn’t have the patience to wait for the path to become clear. – Greg Wellemeyer
Why most barters occur on the day weekly transactions are processed, and how to take advantage of such trends.
Fantasy baseball trades, as we have discussed previously, tend to happen at certain times. They happen after the last of the big free agents sign in the offseason, right before the keeper deadline, and right before the league’s trading deadline. More than anything though, at least in the leagues in which I participate, trades happen on the day of weekly transaction. For many leagues, this day is Sunday. These days, especially at this time of the year in leagues with active trade markets, are fun days. If we’re lucky, the messages, emails, and texts are flying as we see what is out there and try to improve our team.
Examining the tacticts behind consummating a swap if you're in first place or dealing with the first-place team.
First, to clarify, by leader, we mean an entity that all others are trailing in a competition, not an entity that others follow in action.
Right now, and always, we are either leading, tied for the lead, or not leading; that’s fantasy baseball for ya. Here at The Quinton, we tend to have our discussions more in terms of teams that are focused on the short term (buyers) and teams that are focused on the long term (sellers) as opposed to teams currently in first and teams not currently in first. The reason for this is that, in theory, which team is in first place should not matter; each team should be focused making decisions that will most increase their odds of winning. As we have so often said, though, “in reality, this reality ain’t theory.” In this case, it does matter which team has the lead. It also matters whether the league is in a redraft or dynasty/keeper league. We will discuss each of those scenarios below, what behaviors those situations tend to cause, and what we can do take advantage or best deal with those behaviors. (Lastly, the scenario we are going to be discussing is when a team has clear lead.)