We are still a few weeks from the arbitration deadline, but owners are starting to get their allocations (and votes, where applicable) in. My three leagues all use the allocation system, and there are some interesting patterns emerging in the allocations so far.
So far, 16 teams have completed their allocations across the three leagues, while three other teams have allocated $11 of their $25 (those teams are all mine, actually, and I can explain why I did that).
Let’s start with a table:
Those are the 21 players who have had at least $7 allocated to them total across the three leagues, and there are not any major surprises among the bunch. I made the “major” qualification because there are two names on there that I did not expect to see so high.
The first is Yasiel Puig. I thought Puig had a pretty uneven performance this year and there were signs to suggest that he wasn’t as great as the hype. Now, having looked at the numbers, I realize that this is only kind of true. Along with this other-worldly June and great august, Puig was merely very good in July and September. All in all, I don’t think Puig is quite the guy you would expect from all the talk about him – but “overrated” is not the same as “overpriced.” In fact, even if you expect Puig to take a step back next year (perhaps his September line is more what you expect from him) his price in most ottoneu leagues is still rather low and still worthy of arbitration dollars.
The second is Manny Machado. Machado is clearly one of the best young players in the game, having just posted a 6.2 WAR, good for 10th among all position players and fifth among 3B-eligible ottoneu players. Why would I be surprised to see the tenth best player in baseball, especially a guy so young, getting so many dollars allocated to him? Because he derives a large chunk of his value from defense. In fact, if we only take offense into consideration (say using wOBA) Machado (.325) is more Martin Prado (.328) or David Freese (.322) than he is Miguel Cabrera. The fact that Machado is a better real player than a fantasy player does not mean that he is inherently not worth allocating to. And I can certainly see expecting a nice step forward with the bat. But at the end of the day, I am surprised to see Machado this high on the list – he is worth some attention, but top 20 seems a bit much.
Looking at this more generally, there is significant bunching of the dollars. Across these three leagues, 106 players have seen at least a $1 allocation and the average allocation per player is just over $4. The top 21 players (19.8% of the total) represent 59.4% of the total dollars allocated. Basically, once a guy gets hit with $1, there is likely at least $1 more to follow. There are likely a couple reasons for this – one is that there are only so many “good values” in each league, and guys who vastly outperformed expectations (Chris Davis, Paul Goldschmidt, Max Scherzer) are going to attract a lot of attention.
The other is that the allocation system allows for groupthink. Because allocations from others are visible when you go to enter your own, you are given a nudge by every owner who came before. “Hey, check out this guy – I gave him a dollar and you should probably check why!” This is why I put in $1 per team, even though I was not ready to put in my full allocations. In some cases, I felt guys were being overlooked, and by putting in a vote on each team, I was able to have my own small voice in what other players see when they go to allocate.
For me, the other owner allocations have been eye opening. As I said, I was a bit down on Puig, but seeing all the dollars put towards him, I looked closer and came away more impressed than I was before.
In addition, there are a number of dollars allocated to prospects or near prospects (Byron Buxton, Danny Salazar, Kevin Gausman, etc.) which is coloring my perception of how prospects are valued in ottoneu leagues. I’ve been vocal in the past that I think allocating to unproven players makes no sense. Sure, Buxton may be a star – but you will have time to allocate to him if and when that happens. In the meantime, you are letting Buxton’s owner keep much better, much more valuable players at lower prices, which I cannot understand. But, I am realizing now that owners will do this. I am going to take one major lesson from this – overpay for top prospects in the auction. When I have the cash, I can overpay for a guy like Buxton, essentially use him as a shield for my more valuable players, and then cut him loose, effectively removing allocation dollars from my roster. I haven’t employed this strategy yet, but I will this off-season and we’ll see how it plays out.
The last note I want to make is that across these leagues, there is only one player who is among the top five most allocated to in all three – Paul Goldschmidt. Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig and Chris Davis each make two top fives, but only Goldy hit the trifecta. The reason? Even though the same players outperformed expectations across all three leagues, rosters vary tremendously. The team that owns Davis in the FanGraphs staff league also has Machado and Mike Trout, who are attracting attention and keeping Davis’s numbers down. Keep this in mind when you are doing your allocations – your league may look very different than another and values are all relative.
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