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Trade Your Prospects

A big fuss has been made over the Royals considering dealing their top prospect, Wil Myers, for starting pitching help. And the fuss is for good reason. On the field, Jeff Francoeur‘s totally unexpected demise left the Royals with a gaping hole to fill in right field. That reality coupled with owner David Glass’s frugalness – read the second half of this excellent bifurcated piece by Rany Jazayerli – has left many wondering why the Royals would trade almost seven seasons of a potential all-star right fielder for two years of an aging pitcher with a mortgage. But, the game played on natural grass is far different from the one that requires a username and password. Today, I’m here to tell you trading your prospects isn’t only okay, it’s encouraged in many formats.

The Simple Truth
Most prospects fail. According to a study by Scott McKinney, 70% of all prospects fail to a win and a half during their team controlled years. Moreover, just 22% of position players and 10% of pitchers average above two and a half wins. Only you know how deep your league is but in all likelihood most prospects will never perform well enough to start for your team because fantasy leagues have a much higher replacement level than Major League Baseball.

The Present Value of a Prospect
With the first overall pick of the 2012 Rule 4 draft the Houston Astros selected Carlos Correa. Correa has fantastic tools, ranked first on Mike Newman’s Best Shortstops of 2012 and Bullpen Banter’s 2013 Houston Astros lists, and will be a consensus top 25 prospect this winter. That’s great news for the rebuilding Astros, but Correa is a 17-year-old in the Appalachian League and will not likely help your team within the next several seasons. While Correra’s ceiling is sky high, if you adjust his future potential performance with a reasonable failure rate and his distance from the Major Leagues you should be left far less excited.

Restocking
Leagues employ many mechanisms to add prospects into their ranks. Whether through a draft(s), waiver wire, keeper designation or another protocol most leagues allow you to replenish your system quickly. Take advantage of your leagues’ rules to ensure you continue to develop valuable assets.

An Anecdote
As I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t play much fantasy baseball. I’m in one league. I only joined because the league was really deep; included walks and total bases; and I preferred to use my prospect knowledge for personal glory instead of aiding my friends’ conquests. Two seasons ago, following an early exit from the playoffs and Manny Ramirez‘s suspension, I was left with little depth in my outfield. Unsettled, I quickly worked out a deal with my friend Scott for Andrew McCutchen. The price? Jurickson Profar, Carlos Martinez, Casey Kelly, Jarrod Parker and the third overall pick in our 2012 Rule 4 Draft who we both knew to be Dylan Bundy. That’s a massive haul for Scott, but since the trade McCutchen has been a top fantasy performer and only Jarrod Parker has cracked his lineup. It looks like things may turn out well for both of us as Profar, Bundy, and Kelly could have great fantasy impact in 2012. The operative word, however, is “could.” Two years later Scott has finally added projected Major League talent to his roster, but whether they surpass the league’s high replacement level and become valuable commodities cannot be assumed. To be honest, I hope this deal works out for Scott too, but there are many owners I’ve done similar fair trades with which have not been so fortunate.

Do it!
Trading highly ranked prospects who are years away from beginning their Major League career can be your ticket to adding that final piece to your roster or accelerating a rebuilding process. If your league allows you to quickly replace talent you have moved, you’d be foolish to hold onto players for long.