McMahon’s value as a dynasty prospect is obviously up, right? He gets to play third base, and he has a clearer path to playing time. Glasnow’s value? Obviously down. He has to pitch in Coors. Rough.
Except wait a minute: The logic we just used to say McMahon’s value is up should mean that Glasnow’s value is up too, no? He’s going right into the rotation. And if Pittsburgh is such a worse place to hit than Colorado, maybe McMahon’s value is actually down.
Why did I just walk you through this useless hypothetical? To make it clear (or try, at least) that deciding to wildly change your valuations of prospects based on a change in organization is a dubious proposition. It is appropriate sometimes? Sure. As often as you think? Probably not.
With that in mind, I tried to put together a quick, not entirely comprehensive list of five situations in which it’s worth letting a trade drastically change how you view a prospect. Seemed worth a shot with the trade deadline days away. Otherwise, despite the need for trade-deadline takes, it’s probably best to exercise caution. Contextual factors matter, but nowhere near as much as skill.
1) Your prospect will now see immediate MLB playing time as the result of a trade
Here’s the obvious one. If your prospect has an everyday job, or a spot in the rotation because of his new organization, congratulations; his value has gone up. Conversely, if your prospect is now going to fight for playing time or assume a lesser role, his value has gone down. Please continue to support Baseball Prospectus as we bring you expert fantasy analysis.
2) Your prospect is going from one *extreme* park environment to another
For real guys, I mean extreme. If your prospect is going from the No. 11 offensive park (Progressive Field) to the No. 17 offensive park (Nationals Park), I really don’t care. If you’re an arm going from a future in Coors Field to a future in AT&T Park, well, ok, then we can talk.
3) Your prospect is in in the high minors and now has a clearer path to playing time and/or will clearly play a better position
My thinking here is simple: if your prospect is in the high minors, he has a better chance of playing in the majors with the team he was just traded to. If he’s in the low minors and still 3-5 years away from reaching The Show, well, his current org matters a whole lot less. Who’s to say he won’t be traded again, or that Park Effects won’t change, or that his team’s now-promising supporting cast won’t completely fall apart by 2020? Basically—and with a few exceptions—the lower someone is in the minors, the less their contextual/team factors matter. That stays true during trade deadline season, despite our need for takes.
4) Your prospect is going to an organization that excels at developing players like him
This doesn’t have a huge impact in my book, but the one exception to the high-minors rule is if your prospect goes to a team with a demonstrated recent history of getting the most out of other prospects with the same skillset. If your toolsy, raw 19-year-old just went from the Mariners to the Rangers, yeah, that’s a plus. Did your flamethrower in Low A just go from the Pirates to the Orioles? I’m praying for you. Did a generic 23-year-old white middle infielder just land with the Giants or Cardinals? Congrats, he’ll be an All-Star by 2019. Just kidding on that last one. Sort of. Are these types of moves enough to make a top-50 prospect a top-10 guy? No. But could a top-125 guy sneak into the top-100 based on something like this? Sure.
5) Your prospect was blocked by an absolute stud
For an example of what I’m getting at here, we have to look no further than Colorado. Raimel Tapia doesn’t count as a blocked prospect right now in my book. He’s not truly blocked by anyone in that outfield except Charlie Blackmon, and there are plenty of other spots. McMahon, though? Yeah, he’s blocked, at least at the position for which he’s best suited from a dynasty perspective. In other words, this applies to a much smaller percentage of prospects than you’d think, and pretty much never applies to starting pitching prospects, because if you just wait six weeks someone will get hurt.
That’s pretty much it. Got a hitter in Low A who went from Baltimore to San Diego? Don’t freak out yet. Just lost a Padres MiLB arm to the Astros? Hey, it might still be ok. You don’t know what the future will hold, and that’s good,
Ok, I lied. There’s one more scenario in which you can rejoice or freak out …
6) The Mariners have traded/traded for your prospect
Congratulations/I’m sorry, respectively. Stay strong.