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Early Drafters: Handling the Latest PED Drama

The names just keep coming. Yesterday, the name of yet another Major League player was reported to be found in the records of Tony Bosch, the director of the Biogenesis wellness clinic in Florida. This time, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta finds himself in the middle. So far, we have learned that a number of players relevant to fantasy owners have been linked to this clinic. They include Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera, Jesus Montero, Ryan Braun, Francisco Cervelli, the aforementioned Peralta, and of course, Alex Rodriguez. Some of the names were tied directly to performance-enhancing drugs in the records, while the connection isn’t as clear for the others. With a full investigation sure to follow and the very real possibility of multiple suspensions handed down, what’s an early drafter to do?

Unfortunately, I am in that very predicament. In the earliest draft for a league to be played out that I have ever participated in, the mixed LABR will be drafting next Tuesday. For those who have no idea what LABR is, it stands for League of Alternative Baseball Reality, and along with Tout Wars, is one of the two most recognized “expert” leagues. To make matters more interesting, the draft order for this 15 team league has been decided, and I randomly drew the fourth overall pick. What this means is that there is a very real possibility the latest PED drama spooks the owners in slots one to three and they all pass on Braun. Then, I have a decision to make.

While I am still finishing up all my player projections, and as a result, have yet to run my dollar values, I would be surprised if Braun did not appear at the top of my list. Of course, his case is a bit different than the others and our own Wendy Thurm did a fantastic job clarifying the situation yesterday. Given Wendy’s analysis of Braun’s explanation, it would seem that he would be less at risk for suspension, which would make it more difficult to pass on with a top three pick.

But what about Cruz, Gonzalez and Cabrera? The notes connected them to specific drugs, which may very well lead to suspensions. Cruz is coming off a disappointing season and his stock was already down, while most owners had already been shying away from Cabrera for obvious reasons. Gonzalez, on the other hand, is coming off a huge season and is currently being selected as the 13th starting pitcher off the board on Mock Draft Central. Do you completely ignore the trio, no matter the cost? Of course not. The best approach would be to use probability analysis to derive a value.

This method would work fine if we could figure out what the chances are of the three receiving suspensions. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone really knows. But, let’s assume a full season of play for the three and in a standard 12-team mixed league, you value Gonzalez at $20 and both Cruz and Cabrera at $10. We’ll say there is a 25% chance of a 50-game suspension, which means the expected number of games missed would be 12.5. That’s just about two weeks worth of games, or around 50 at-bats and 3 starts/19 innings pitched.

Take whatever at-bats and innings you had been projecting, and revalue those players based on what the probability analysis yields. You also shouldn’t forget that you would be slotting a replacement level player in to fill the suspended player’s spot. With only one ratio category, the replacement hitter would certainly provide positive value and narrow the gap between the suspended player’s value and his original value pre-suspension. A replacement level pitcher, on the other hand, won’t be as kind. With two ratio categories to work with, the boost to your wins and strikeout totals will likely be offset by a damaging ERA and WHIP. However, given how much easier it is to find breakout pitchers on free agency, it’s really not such a bad situation.

Finally, you have the rest of the players not directly linked to any PEDs in the records. These players seemingly have a much lower chance of being suspended, so it would probably be most prudent to ignore the drama.

The bottom line is that all the players that have been mentioned so far should be docked in value to account for the possibility of a suspension. That said, it should only be a nominal reduction in value for the the trio directly linked to specific PEDs, while the remaining players should see even less of a reduction in value.