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Today, I’m proud to announce a brand new BP Fantasy column that has been in the works for quite a while that I’m incredibly excited about. Trading Post will offer insight heretofore unavailable to fantasy baseball players. Using a unique combination of PECOTA rest-of-season projections and CBS’ archive of every fantasy baseball trade that every player has been involved in this season, Trading Post will delve into the value you can expect to receive via trade for the players on your fantasy squad. It will also be able to tell you which players are being undervalued on the trade market and make for good targets. While some fantasy analysis will look at a player’s cold streak and slap a “Buy Low” tag on him, Trading Post will be able to say whether you can actually buy the player low and, if so, will be able to quantify just how “low” he can be bought.

The 2011 season has seen a flood of middle-infield prospects recalled to take over full-time jobs as rookies—Dustin Ackley, Brett Lawrie, Jason Kipnis, Jemile Weeks, Zach Cozart, Johnny Giavotella, Darwin Barney, and Dee Gordon, to name a few. In this inaugural Trading Post, I’ll look at the cream of the middle-infield crop and see how they’re being valued on the trade market, tossing in a few veteran middle infielders as well.

Trading Post Card Explanation
Each player discussed in Trading Post will receive a “Trading Post Card.” This card will be jam-packed with useful information about each player’s trading profile. It will list information about the player himself, look at every trade the player has been involved in over the past two weeks and every player he’s been traded for, and give information about the average player he’s been traded for. Hopefully these cards will be self-explanatory, but if you’re not sure what anything means, here’s an explanation of everything:

  1. League Type tells whether we’re looking at the player’s value in a mixed, AL-, or NL-only league
  2. Rest-of-Season tells us:
    a. The player’s PECOTA-projected dollar value for the rest of the season
    b. The average PECOTA-projected dollar value of the players received in trades
  3. Year-to-Date tells us:
    a. The dollar value worth of the player’s performance to date
    b. The average dollar value worth of the performance to date of the players received in trades
  4. ROS Forecast tells us what PECOTA projects the player to do over the rest of the season
  5. ROS Return (Hit) looks at all trades in which the player was swapped one-for-one for a hitter and tells us the average PECOTA projection for those hitters
  6. ROS Return (SP) looks at all trades in which the player was swapped one-for-one for a starting pitcher and tells us the average PECOTA projection for those starters
  7. ROS Return (RP) looks at all trades in which the player was swapped one-for-one for a relief pitcher and tells us the average PECOTA projection for those relievers

Dustin Ackley | Mariners | 2B

Ackley was one of the most anticipated callups this season, and he hasn’t disappointed owners who stashed him on their benches on draft day, especially in deep leagues. He hasn’t set the world on fire, but a .292 average with five home runs in fewer than 200 plate appearances isn’t bad at all from a second baseman. His year-to-date value doesn’t reflect this because of the time he spent in the minors, but despite Ackley’s moderate success thus far, PECOTA actually sees him as a hindrance in mixed leagues for the rest of 2011, worth just $2. BP’s in-house projection system sees Ackley managing to muscle just two more balls over the fences while his batting average plummets to a near league-average level over the remainder of the season.

Fantasy owners, however, couldn’t disagree more, valuing Ackley as a $15 player on the mixed-league trade market. If you’re an Ackley owner, it’s time to cash out your chips on this hyped prospect making good on his potential. Ackley doesn’t have one outstanding tool (yet), so even if you’re playing the category game, he’s unlikely to really help you.

Jemile Weeks | Athletics | 2B

Weeks was the first of our middle-infield quartet to be promoted this year, seeing his first major-league game during the first week of June when the A’s placed Mark Ellis on the DL, never relinquishing his hold on the job as the struggling veteran was eventually traded. Weeks had many fantasy owners excited because of the numbers his brother, Rickie, puts up when he’s healthy—plus the promise for even more speed. Weeks, like Ackley, has delivered on his potential, batting leadoff for the A’s, hitting .292, and stealing 12 bases.

Weeks won’t bring power, but the name value and the speed have owners overpaying drastically for this keystoner. PECOTA sees Weeks as a flat $0 player in mixed leagues, but fantasy owners think he’s worth $9. Despite the early returns, there seems to be too much downside to think about buying Weeks, or to even consider holding him if you’re an owner in a mixed league. The speed has been good—but not fantastic—and PECOTA sees him slowly down a tad with just four more stolen bases the rest of the way.

Brett Lawrie | Blue Jays | 2B/3B

Lawrie has played third base exclusively this season, but he played second last year and still qualifies there in most fantasy leagues. The most recent callup of the four, Lawrie has raked since his callup less than a week ago (data in Lawrie’s Trading Post Card has only been taken since the day of his callup), topped off with a grand slam last night. Owners looking to trade him early based on the hype of his much-awaited call-up have done well, receiving $11 more than PECOTA believes he is worth.

Like Ackley and Weeks, PECOTA sees Lawrie as a replacement-level hitter for the rest of 2011 in mixed leagues. The hype often exceeds the reality for prospects, and that seems to be the case for our first three Trading Post targets. They’ve done well so far, but their minor-league performances don’t back up what they’ve managed to do in a limited major-league sample.

Jason Kipnis | Indians | 2B

Kipnis has made perhaps the biggest impact of this group of elite middle-infield rookies, batting .295 with six home runs in just under three weeks of major-league play. One would think that, given this ridiculous performance, fantasy owners would be able to extract more value out of Kipnis than they could the other three. In reality, they haven’t; Kipnis is being traded for even value. Part of the reason for this is that he wasn’t quite as hyped as Ackley or Lawrie coming up and doesn’t have the family pedigree that Weeks has; the other part is that PECOTA really likes him. While many fantasy sites are lauding Kipnis as a great “sell high” candidate, this doesn’t appear to be the case.

PECOTA likes Kipnis’ power and gives him healthy RBI and runs totals, likely due to his cushy spot in a good lineup. PECOTA views him as an $11 player in mixed leagues. After his 5-for-5 outburst last night, Kipnis’ trade value may improve a bit, but it may still prove difficult to extract as much value out of him as you might have originally thought. If you own him, you’re probably best off riding the season out. If you don’t, he’s probably not worth pursuing since you’ll need to pay at least even value for him. There will probably be cheaper trade target. One possible candidate…

Derek Jeter | Yankees | SS

The Captain has had a disappointing season to say the least, but while he’s substantially underperformed expectations, he hasn’t been useless. You wouldn’t believe that if you were looking only at his trade-market value, though. Despite producing $9 in value this season, Jeter is being traded for players that have produced -$3 in value. It’s not even like he’s being traded for players that have been decent. He’s simply being dumped.

Worse still, Jeter has a great history, and we’re looking at just two-thirds of a poor 2011 season; PECOTA projects him to be worth $16 over the rest of 2011, meaning he’s being undervalued by $19 (!) on the trade market. And it’s not as if PECOTA’s projection for Jeter is outlandish. It projects a modest .278 average to go with a little power, a little speed, and a reasonable number of runs and RBI given Jeter’s entrenchment as the leadoff/second-spot hitter in one of the best lineups in baseball.

It’s likely that Jeter’s owners are frustrated with him, and all of the media attention given to his poor season (in relative terms, mind you, since they’re comparing to the Jeter of old) hasn’t helped. At age 37, it seems fantasy owners are writing him off as an old player incapable of helping much longer.

While Jeter is not the player he used to be, he still has a lot of value and can be had dirt cheap. The absolute best return owners have received in one-for-one trades over the past two weeks have been Joe Mauer and Alexei Ramirez. Others have settled for the likes of Andres Torres, Carlos Zambrano, John Lackey (twice!), Yuniesky Betancourt, and Jed Lowrie. Despite his struggles (which are perceived to be much worse than they’ve been), Jeter is a worthwhile addition to a fantasy squad.

Dan Uggla | Braves | 2B

I talked a little about Uggla on Monday, but I wanted to discuss him again because of how much value there is to be had. Despite his recent hot streak (I’ve only included the past 10 days in his Trading Post Card to catch as much of it as possible), fantasy owners simply aren’t noticing, continuing to treat him as a below replacement-level player (-$4) on the open market. While PECOTA currently thinks he’s an $8 player, if his early-season struggles are indeed behind him, that number has a world of upside. It’s a different kind of upside than the youngsters we discussed today, but it’s the kind of upside I would love to gamble on, especially when it’s coming $15 cheaper via trade.

Concluding Thoughts
Hopefully you have all enjoyed the first Trading Post as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing it to you. I’d love to hear what you think of it. Starting next Tuesday, the rest of the BP Fantasy crew will get in on the action, bringing you a weekly Trading Post until the end of the month when the majority of fantasy trading deadlines have come and gone. If I see some interesting players while I’m diving through the numbers, maybe I’ll bring you another couple as well.

Special Thanks
Special thanks go out to John Burnson and David Gassko, who helped develop the idea for Trading Post while we were all at THT Fantasy. We were unable to implement it technically at the time, but hopefully they’re happy to see it come to life here at BP.

Special thanks also go out to Rob McQuown for all of his hard work making this happen on the tech side. Without him, Trading Post would not have been possible.  

Thank you for reading

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Have the player trades been adjusted for position? Trading Jeter for a $0 value catcher is a lot different than trading him for a $0 first baseman.
I disagree. They are both worth $0. That value is adjusted for position, so there is no adjustment needed when looking at trades.

That is not to say that there may not be market inefficiencies at certain positions. If you can always get a few more dollars in value when trading for a catcher, then that is the result of people not properly evaluating the position in light of market scarcity.
Yes, position has been accounted for. So a position-adjusted, $0 catcher would be treated the same as a position-adjusted, $0 first baseman. The first baseman will have better raw stats, but they'll both be replacement level.
Excellent idea. One question, though: don't we have to be careful of the fact that some of the trades in CBS leagues are dump trades in keeper leagues? That might skew the data.
This was one of the biggest concerns and something we didn't have an easy way of figuring out. The best we could do to account for this is to ignore trades that involve players who haven't made it to the majors yet. I think these rule out a good chunk of trades, especially the ones where Jeter is being dumped for players like Mike Montgomery and Matt Moore. CBS simply doesn't give the data necessary to differentiate any further, so we'll have to make due, but I imagine/hope these are a pretty small percentage of trades anyway.
You "hope"? Sorry, but we have a keeper league on CBS. I can tell you for a fact that young players with cheap salaries (or reserve status) on the cusp of ML call-ups (or recently called up) are gold when dump season arrives. This will include a large number of players who will have small amounts of service time in 2011 and therefore not be culled - the exact description of players like Ackley, Weeks, Kipnis and Lawrie. And the "name" guys will be even more valuable. And I can also tell you our league has more dump trades than non-dump trades and, from my experience, there are plenty of other leagues where this is true.

And who will these players be traded for? Overpaid veterans or veterans in the last year of contracts who aren't deemed likely to be kept next year but are much more valuable than those rookies making their ML debut when trying to win a fantasy championship - players like Jeter and Uggla.

As such, Jeter-for-Lawrie or Uggla-for-Weeks are extremely common dump trades - and would reflect the types of values you are seeing in your research.

Therefore, until you take into account which trades are in keeper leagues and which trades are in single-season leagues, you can't reach any conclusions about what fantasy owners are thinking about the respective players. Which makes this whole exercise futile.

Without accounting for keeper leagues, about the only place this has value is with established players traded for one another, and even then there will be some uncertainty due to not knowing the standings of the two owners and who had the chance to gain what with the trade (i.e. I may be inclinded to deal a top SP for a lesser level hitter if doing so didn't hurt my P standings but I had a chance to gain several points with the hitter).

I think this is a good idea. But you have to take into account keeper leagues vs. single-season leagues. Simply "hoping" that keeper leagues won't skew the data is not enough.
The other issue is that you are using the Pecota value for the rest of the season. I doubt Pecota is able to very accurately project 7 weeks of stats when it doesn't do a particularly good job of projecting a full season's worth of stats. Even if it did, the range of possible outcomes over 7 weeks is very large. And in September there will be lots of players shut down and lots of rookies getting playing time so the level of competition is pretty variable.
Do you have a suggestion for improving this column, or should BP just abandon the crazy notion of identifying players trade value quantitatively because we don't know exactly how players are going to perform for the rest of the season?

And PECOTA is a statistical approach that provides a weighted average of many possible outcomes, some of which include likely September call-ups (see Jesus Montero). If you have a more accurate method for projecting player's remaining stats, please provide. I may even be willing to subscribe to your webpage if it also had quality writing, quality analysis, updated stats, etc.
Well, I'm not sure where PECOTA "doesn't do a particularly good job of projecting a full season's worth of stats" comes from. PECOTA is a fully functioning projection system that is just as good, if not better, than any other system out there.

As to projecting over the rest of the season, it's the same as projecting any other time period. There will be larger error bars, sure, but the overall accuracy will be the same. Just because there is error doesn't mean the projection is useless. If someone offers you Derrek Lee for your Albert Pujols, are you going to take it because anything can happen over a small time period? Of course not. The better percentage play is Pujols.
Hope wasn't the best word choice. It undersells my belief that these keeper leagues are a small percentage of leagues and shouldn't unduly affect the values. Yes, dump trades do happen, but I don't think they're as prevalent as you seem to think. Maybe we'll try to get in touch with CBS and get an answer to this.

Even if you disagree, the affect would still impact a player like Ackley and Weeks the same, adding value in that you can compare the two.

As for trades made for categorical needs, that kind of thing will come out in the wash.
We also need to remember that not all keeper leagues deal with salaries. Some are merely "Keep your best 5 players," in which case it wouldn't make as much sense to trade Jeter for Ackley. It's my belief that the percentage of keeper leagues with salaries is low enough to place this data firmly within usable limits.
I really like this column idea and am looking forward to getting more of it! The cards are great, and I like the brief write-up for each player. And it is a very useful presentation of a players market value (the perceived vs. the actual). As you say, that is sorely missing in the typical FBB trade article.
Great idea. Keep these coming for the rest of the season please!
this is really cool. can other fantasy platforms be incorporated into this? i ask just because i notice ownership percentages over at cbs frequently are significantly different than espn/yahoo (which seem to generally be in step) which implies to me a different type of playing environment where "different" is as of yet undefined. though that is purely speculative and observational at this point on my part.
It would certainly be cool to do all three, but CBS is the only one that gives the data, to the best of my knowledge, so that's what we've drawn from. I believe Yahoo! used to offer this data as well, but when I looked for it earlier this year I couldn't find it.
Wow what a great article concept.

Jose Altuve?
Thanks :)

Altuve was in the running to be written about, but there were only so many spots. PECOTA projects Altuve to be worth $4 in mixed and $17 in NL-only, ROS. Over the past two weeks, Altuve has been worth $12 on the mixed league trade market and $18 on the NL-only trade market. So he's being traded for a good profit in mixed but at value in NL-only.
This is a good idea. I would echo some of the sentiment above though that some of this article's players seem like classic, (I wouldn't call them dump trades, but...), trades between teams going for it and others trading for good keepers for next year. I'd bet that there would be a statistically significant difference between the implied values if you could separate between single season and keeper leagues. However, there should also be material differences between straight draft keeper leagues and auction leagues, and that's the biggest difficulty here. It's not enough to just say the expected performances between two players is different, but what has to be included is the contracted dollar value as well. A Derek Jeter for John Lackey even up is one thing, but if for whatever reason the contract values are significantly different, then that would have to be added into the analysis. For example, a $7 Dustin Ackley for a $20 Derek Jeter would sound like a pretty decent trade for someone looking out to next year's keeper draft.
Derek, this is such a great idea. I agree with some of the comments above though. If there's a way to separate out the keeper leagues from the other leagues, I think the information will be alot more useful.