Fantasy Baseball Strategy For IFA’s
Colorado Rockies outfield prospect Raimel Tapia has become a hot commodity after his inclusion in both Baseball Prospectus’ Top-100 prospects list and fantasy mock draft. Emails asking for trade advice come in on a daily basis with Tapia being targeted more often than ever before. With a .357/.399/.562 triple slash line in short season, I don’t blame owners for trying to strike, but pursuing international free agents via trade after a short season breakout is the perfect way to overpay.
For fantasy baseball owners international free agents are sexy picks. As a new dynasty league player, swinging for the fences in drafts made sense and the result was my drafting a number of 16-year old players I knew little about beyond a few swings on video and the usual prospect snippets we all have access to. This led to swings (Gary Sanchez, Carlos Martinez and Xander Bogaerts) and misses (Wagner Mateo in multiple leagues, Adonys Cardona, Edward Salcedo).
This was acceptable considering so many top prospects and star level Major Leaguers came from other countries. Scouts fueled my addiction by talking about trips to the Dominican Republic and how “depressing” it was to return to the United States to scout mid-80’s arms and bad body athletes.
As my infatuation with IFA’s grew, the next logical step was to trade for them. So I did. As my prospect roster filled with “next big things” pried away for top dollar, it became more difficult to remain a championship contender between replacing talent and having few close to ready Major League prospects. I was committing the equivalent of fantasy baseball hari-kari.
To add insult to injury, international prospects were volatile to own. Rosell Herrera followed up a .284/.361/.449 2011 short season campaign with a disastrous full season debut (.202/.271/.272). Owners cut bait and the infielder punished them by winning the South Atlantic League MVP with a .343/.419/.515 line. In Herrera’s case, his second or third owner will reap the rewards.
Rangers Jorge Alfaro, Braves Christian Bethancourt and Cubs Arodys Vizcaino are also players I’ve owned who surged, bottomed out and have regained prominence again. It’s a typical career arc for international players who generally have more tools and less skills than their American counterparts.
The key for acquiring international talent is to identify a low point and strike. Blue Jays Adonys Cardona would fit this criteria as a former top-10 prospect in the organization who has fallen outside of the top-20. Having not seen the right-hander personally, I can’t endorse him from a scouting standpoint, but Cardona can be had for next to nothing and he’s not even 20 yet. Remember, this is a pitcher who signed for 2.8 million.
With international free agents, there’s value in drafting a player first. However, there’s even more value in owning the player last. If you have the stomach and patience to buy early and hold a 16-year old signing for years, then carry on. If you don’t, then resist the temptation to dabble and develop a safer draft strategy while waiting for highly regarded international players to stumble.
As for Rockies Raimel Tapia? The outfielder might develop into a prospect force, but resist the temptation to add shooting stars at peak value. Play the odds and trust he’ll stumble along the way.
9 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman / 4
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