Prospects: Playing For This Year or Next

I am in a 20 team league, 25 roster spots with 4 DL slots. To say the least, it is pretty deep. When looking for players on the waiver wire, availibilities max out around 2%. When I started in the league, I was one of 4 expansion teams, with the other 16 teams having 9 keeps. Basically the top 144 players were taken before I even began, along with the top prospects like Heyward and Strasburg. Going into the draft, I didn’t know how much to value prospects.

I went in with the keepers(this is pretty sad, I know):

Ryan Doumit
Jose Valverde
Shane Victorino
Chone Figgins
Javier Vazquez
Matt Capps
Chad Qualls
Tim Hudson
Jason Kubel

Here was my plan and the results:

1. I was going to get batters first.

Asdrubal Cabrera
Garrett Jones
Juan Rivera
Scott Sizemore
Travis Snider

2. Go for starting pitchers with issues last year.

Fausto Carmona
Edinson Volquez (took with last pick and moved to the DL)
Ervin Santana

3. Draft a couple of top prospects in the minors, but near the majors. I never trust pitching prospects, so I only took hitters. I wanted to get them somewhat early before there was a run. In the draft, I actually started the prospect run.

Jesus Montero
Mike Stanton

4. Find whatever else I could including any SP/RP qualified relievers because the league has only 3 RP slots and counts holds.

As a whole I am fairly happy with the results of the draft. The season hasn’t gone the best so far though, but it is early.

I am just torn setting up my daily roster that 2 player will probably not be available until later this year at the earliest. It is the whole, “I can do more to win now, but how much will it hurt me in the future.” For now I will just let the 2 sit, but was wondering how other dealt with this issue of how much a keeper’s teams roster is taken up with prospects in order to try to help the team later?

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

6 Responses to “Prospects: Playing For This Year or Next”

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  1. The A Team says:

    I feel for you a bit.

    I have a 12 owner 28 player league with 3 DL slots and an auction draft (only 5 spots for bench players). It’s the first year of a keeper league, we’re allowed unlimited keeps but we have to pay $7 more than they were drafted for to keep them. I realized about half way into it that I was way too timid early on and switched from win now to bulk up on prospects. I currently have Volquez and Webb on the DL (along with Kinsler who I traded for) and Strasburg, Posey, and Carlos Santana burning 3 of those 5 bench spots. Somehow I’m actually winning the league by a healthy margin right now thanks to some lucky hitting.

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  2. Chris says:

    I’m in a 20 team 26 man roster league which drafted via the waiver system (really unique way of drafting, definitely not something I was really prepared for). The positions are pretty standard except for LF, CF, RF positions and an extra IF, OF and one Util with 7 DL slots.

    My every day players are:
    1B Carlos Pena
    2B Scott Sizemore
    3B Chase Headley
    SS Troy Tulowitzki
    IF Matt LaPorta
    LF Matt Holliday
    CF Cameron Maybin
    RF Shin Soo Choo
    OF Jason Kubel
    Util Travis Hafner
    BN Drew Stubbs

    I don’t have a starting catcher as I’m waiting on Carlos Santana to come up and I’ve got Josh Bell and Michael Brantley taking up room on my bench. My pitching staff is:

    SP Clayton Kershaw
    SP Jon Lester
    SP Ryan Dempster
    SP Ryan Rowland-Smith
    RP Luke Gregerson
    RP Kenshin Kawakami
    RP Darren Oliver
    RP Mark Lowe
    P Jon Garland
    P Jon Lannan
    BN Greg Smith
    BN Jason Hammel
    DL Jeff Francis
    DL Houston Street

    I haven’t had any real issues from not having a starting catcher (I probably would have ended up with Napoli or Marson, lot of good either one of them would have done me!) and my starting position players with the exception of LaPorta have for now been good enough to not really have to worry about needing to move guys around too much. I’m not winning the league with this team, but I’m being competitive so far.

    In another league (20 teams 25 man rosters 7 DL spots) I’m carrying Jesus Montero, Logan Morrison and Hector Rondon and am doing well there as well.

    Basically in deep leagues like those I can afford to not have a lot of bench talent because what is available generally isn’t worth much but the yahoo listed prospects will allow me to build for future runs.

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  3. Zac says:

    I’m in a 10-team keeper league that has two slots specifically for minor leaguers. They have to be moved to the normal roster when they’re called up. Teams fill 23 players via auction, and 5 relievers and 2 minor leaguers via draft. We only keep 5 players from one year to the next, but the keeper penalty is only $2. So if you get a guy for the league minimum and he turns into a superstar, he could be on your roster for the rest of his career. And finally, if you take a minor leaguer in the auction portion, you can’t put him in your minor league slots.

    This is a two-catcher league, so all the good catchers were kept. My plan was to get a great minor league catcher like posey or santana. Posey went in the auction (after I was out of money) and Santana went before I got a chance to draft anyone. I wanted to get one guy who would come up this season, and one guy who would be ready to go next season (there’s one additional keeper spot for a guy who ends the year in the minor leagues), and I ended up with Jeremy Hellickson and Montero. Not as sold on Montero as I was on the other two: Firstly I’m not sure if Montero has the defense necessary to be a full time catcher, and if that’s the case, he’s going to have to play DH because the Yankees have made a sizeable investment in Mark Teixeira. But I think it’s a risk worth taking, and if it happens, at least I should get one year of catcher eligibility out of him.

    Other minor leaguers who are on a team’s roster include Desmond Jennings, Mike Stanton, Angel Salome (homer pick), Brett Wallace, Pedro Alvarez, Kyle Drabek, Justin Smoak (we do weekly starts, so he won’t have to move him up until next week), Aroldis Chapman and Steven Strasburg,

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  4. Ichiro Suzuki says:

    I think it is contextual. The deeper the league the happier I am to hold onto them rather than use a roster spot on someone who is unlikely to produce very much anyway.

    I hold in a 20 team H2H league (25 man roster, 17 regulars, 8 bench players [as it is a ESPN public league take it for what its worth]) are Stephen Strasburg (11), Desmond Jennings (17), Aroldis Chapman (18) and Mike Stanton (24). I also have Jordan Zimmerman stashed on the DL……

    (Draft round in brackets)

    I also holdover Jason Heyward from the prior year.

    My keepers I had from last year were:
    C.Pena, B.Zobrist, M.Reynolds, J.Bay, J.Hamilton, J.Heyward, F.Hernandez, Y.Gallardo, W.Davis, A.Bailey.

    It’s a very rigid roster (since I only have 4 genuine bench players), but given the level of replacement talent available, I would rather have 4 high-end prospects and just enough players to cover the remaining positions than have 8 “mediocre” bench players. Also gives me trade chips rather than having to come up with a “throw-in” non-descript player in a fairly big deal, you at least have a better chance with a good prospect mixed in a deal to make one work.

    I think as the size of the league decreases, the level of available current MLB talent increases, resulting in lower numbers of prospects to keep. Even in small leagues though, I would probably commit at least one (if not two) bench spots to uber-prospects who are near the Majors (like AA/AAA).

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  5. OBassett says:

    Addressing your question:

    When you inherit a team, you have to risk current production to add guys with truly dominant upside. It’s not likely you’ll ever get Strasburg or Heyward in a trade, so go after the next tier. Stanton’s not my cup of tea; I’m more of a Hicks believer. The thing with guys like them is its always possible that the guy who owns them has lingering doubts. We all occasionally grab the guy that ranks highest over the guy we like best. Recognize the risks you want to take and go after them, especially when you sense that another manager lacks confidence in one of their players whom you covet. Unfavorable team/park/league contexts or slow starts can leave other managers devaluing their own prospects.

    Contenders with great keepers are less likely to hold onto high upside guys that won’t debut for another year. You can sometimes get pretty good upgrades by including a guy with quality 2010 production and little chance of being kept. Whenever possible, try to get guys who can exceed replacement value by more than the guys you deal and accept the risk that it might not happen soon enough to keep you in contention.

    The one caveat is that you can sometimes get more help for next year by stockpiling useful veterans that can be dealt near the deadline. If you don’t think Figgins will net you great prospects now or down the road, you might package him to get another veteran that will. If you find a fellow cellar-dweller that’s higher on Snider than you, and a contender that needs steals and infield flexibility (a la Figgins), see if you can make one deal that will help your chances of making another. There are worse things a rebuilding team can do than deal fringe prospects to get veterans then flip them to a contender after a couple months for better prospects.

    Gratuitous details about my own experience:

    Three examples from my inherited team illustrate some possible benefits and costs of this approach. Mind you, my team had more assets and probably greater reserve space to work with. You might love or hate these moves, but they all have a similar flavor. The league is a 14-team points H2H with 9 minor league reserve slots. At auction I fell into Randy Wells cheap and bought Granderson because he was the last pricey guy that had the upside to net me talent I could keep for next to nothing. By opening day I packaged them and keepers Niemann, Andrus and Carlos Pena to load up for the future, with an eye to landing potential frontline starters. Aces make or break teams in this format.

    Trade 1: Granderson and Hagadone for Rasmus and Hicks – Based partly on my suspicion that Rasmus will outproduce Granderson this year and at a keepable salary, partly that the dream comparison for Hicks is Braun or Kemp, while the best I can imagine for Hagadone is Papelbon. Post-hype guys like Rasmus are ideal targets for rebuilding teams, especially when salary comes into play. Hicks’ horrendous 1 for 31 start has been neutralized by an equally dramatic 14 for 25 rebound. The opportunity to buy low may be closing. This one elicited strong opinions from other league managers but looks helpful so far. Hagadone was dropped after a week and a half.

    Trade 2: Niemann and Andrus for Neftali Feliz, Chapman and Lars Anderson – Lars was just a throw-in as far as I was concerned but in retrospect, he may yet add value. My real target here was a chance at one, maybe two true aces. The league does not reward great defense and Andrus may be middle of the pack among middle infielders while his salary is still low. I’m sad to see Niemann kicking butt on somebody else’s team but Feliz’s stint as a closer might ease the sting while I dream of the two flamethrowers frontlining my 2011 staff.

    Trade 3: Pena and Wells for Liriano and Hellickson – I had to take the chance on the pitching upside. Letting go of Pena is tough in a league that pays bigtime for power and RBI and values BB as much as singles. Nonetheless, I devoted a huge portion of my salary to Pujols (if not to contend, to trade), I made sure to land LaRoche as an alternate corner infielder and filled my utility spot with Hideki Matsui for a buck. The hit I take week in and week out won’t be enormous. This deal was about netting a difference maker for the rotation. Wells could have a whole lot more room to progress than most people expect. The fact is, he and Pena are exactly the kind of guys that materialize mid-season and have helped me win leagues in recent years. Before the trades, I had no staff ace and little expectation that the next Tim Lincecum would be found on waivers. Liriano gives me my best shot at a short-term ace while Hellickson gives me a third potential ace whose salary will stay low for years.

    I hope that some of the above is useful and/or interesting. Transforming an inherited team is tougher than anything I’ve tried yet (fantasy-wise). Your keeper options were about as weak as any inherited keeper list I’ve seen. I’ll be pulling for you.

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  6. Ian says:

    I’m in a new 20-team, 25-man roster, 12 keeper league, and I’m playing all for the here and now, even though my offense is pretty abysmal. I could be completely wrong about this, but even in a deep league, I don’t see why it’s a good strategy to stockpile tons of prospects. Take a can’t miss prospect like Brett Wallace. If I owned him, it would take a lot for me to spend a valuable keeper spot on him going into next year. Say he only gets called up in September, or not at all. Am I going to use 1/12 of my keepers on a risky prospect, albeit a top-notch one? No. I think I’m better off not using one of my keeper picks and drafting a round early in the draft. I could turn out to be wrong about this since this is the first year I’ve been in such a deep league, but to me, even the best prospects aren’t worth spending a keeper pick unless they show some production (i.e. more than a month’s worth) at the big league level.

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