Before I begin, I wanted to get something out of the way first. I have never played in a keeper league for more than a season (therefore never having the opportunity to make keeper selections), and so I might be wrong about my feelings on this strategy. But, I don’t think I am. On Saturday, I was asked to participate in an online auction for a FanGraphs reader who was unable to attend. Being the awesome person that I am and unwilling to pass on a chance to participate in another auction, the player selection format I enjoy significantly more than the snake draft, I said yes with little convincing necessary.
This was a 12-team 5×5 mixed rotisserie keeper league, where if an owner chooses to keep a player, his salary would increase $3. Standard roster size, except the league uses just one catcher instead of two. Oh, and you also use your auction budget ($270, instead of $260) to bid on your 5 reserves. Anyway, having had little experience in a keeper league auction to compare, this one seemed insane. Let me tell you how.
Given the $3 yearly salary increases and the shallowness of the league, I did not expect salary inflation to be very high. Unfortunately, the owner whose team I drafted does not calculate inflation or estimate it, so I was in the dark and just guessing. When the auction began and went a couple of rounds, it seemed clear that I was right. There didn’t appear to be any inflation at all, simply from knowing single-season 12-team mixed league prices. At this point, all seemed normal.
Soon though, it got a little crazy, as I did notice inflation. But it happened for a certain set of players – prospects! Surprise, surprise. Who would have ever thought that prospects would be massively overvalued in keeper leagues? Let’s get to some specific names.
Oscar Taveras is definitely an awesome prospect. But, there is no room for him in the Cardinals outfield. Sure, their outfielders are brittle and Jon Jay is no guarantee to perform well. However, there is a strong chance that Taveras see limited playing time in St. Louis and earns nothing this year. So how much was his new owner willing to pay for the privilege of watching him bash minor league pitching? $13. Who else went for an auction value around that level? Paul Konerko at $12 and Ike Davis at $11. Those guys certainly could have helped this year. The chance that Taveras not only earns his $13 salary, but also is worthy of keeping for $16 next season is almost nil I’d imagine. This is exhibit A of out of control prospect love.
Next up on the prospect roller coaster are a pair of starting pitchers who were nabbed by the same owner. Again, Gerritt Cole and Zack Wheeler are fantastic talents, but this is a 12-team mixed league, as shallow as can be. These two were paid $5 and $4 for their services, respectively. In any non-keeper league, they aren’t getting drafted. So the assumption here must be that they have a good shot of providing keeper value at $8 and $7 next season. Is it possible? Sure. But considering who else this owner may have been able to set winning bids on, it just makes it that much more of a head-scratcher. Check out this list:
That is quite a decent list with some real bargains mixed in. I must ask — is this owner trying to win this year or just collecting prospects so if they ever pan out, he could pat himself on the back and tell his competitors “I told you so!”?
Last, we move on to another pair of offensive prospects who were won by a different prospect-loving owner. Here we find the drool-worthy prospect Jurickson Profar, who seems to be getting way overhyped no matter the league format (he went for $9 in the LABR AL auction that our own Eno Sarris participated in). In this league, he went for $5. Who else could this owner have potentially gotten that is nearly guaranteed to earn positive value this season? Alexei Ramirez and Howie Kendrick, who both went for $4. Hmmm, will my team be better off with a minor league all-star or a solid contributor at the Major League level?
This owner also purchased Avisail Garcia for $3, for reasons unbeknownst to me. Instead, he could have ended up with Carlos Quentin, who went for a measly buck, Peter Bourjos who went for $2, or bid $3 for Domonic Brown before I made that winning bid in the endgame.
I totally understand that these owners will be utilizing bench spots for as long as these kids remain in the minors. But bench spots are valuable, especially to rotate in two-start starters each week and also to handle injuries.
Look, I get the excitement that a prospect brings, especially in keeper leagues when you have the opportunity to draft them young and then potentially reap the benefits later. But every single year there is going to be a group of top prospects available that won’t help you for at least another year. Shouldn’t the goal be to win every year? The only way to do that is to stop speculating on these minor leaguers who will provide you with no value and instead scoop up the undervalued veterans. If you are always chasing the next big thing, you will never have the current big thing or anything close to the current big thing.
Please loyal readers, make us proud and try to win every year! It might be boring to fill your team with a bunch of Konerkos, but value is value, and if you are acquiring those stats for less than they are worth, it doesn’t matter whose name they are attached to. So stop trying to play for next year and impress your league mates with your prospect knowledge. All it’s going to lead to is a spot in the cellar, and no one likes being in the basement, right?
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