Fantasy Football Season Creates Fantasy Baseball Opportunity – Part I
We are now in the “dog days” of August. The trade deadline has passed and heavy lifting for fantasy baseball is done. The NFL exhibition season is in full swing and it’s time to start thinking fantasy football. ESPN will keep fantasy owners posted on important baseball news (as well as what Johnny Manziel ate for lunch), so put the fantasy baseball team(s) on auto-pilot with confidence, right? Hardly.
The dog days of August is the time when champions separate themselves from the ordinary — when extra work and due diligence pushes a team over the top. Of course, MLB teams in the pennant race will still have every move covered and dissected by multiple analysts and news outlets, but fewer baseball fans will pay attention. In addition, fantasy baseball championship contenders are set with a core of high performing players, leaving them unable to stash and hold talent for future seasons. This is a window of opportunity for fantasy owners looking to stash young, talented players with minimal competition.
The fantasy baseball gold to be mined at this time of year comes from the non-contenders — MLB teams out of the race working to determine how to bounce back next season. These teams quietly make moves to clear the way for a prospect to shine — and give owners a chance to strike fantasy gold! It may not be the “mother lode,” but can still be enough to provide enough push to secure a championship in a tight fantasy race. In Major League Baseball a couple of smaller flew under the radar last week and caught this former executive’s eye.
The first involves a conventional move found regularly on the transaction wire — the promotion of a young prospect. Tomorrow will provide an example of a more subtle news item with big implications. In both instances, the story behind the story helps measure the significance of a transaction.
Fantasy Baseball And The Story Behind The Story
Last Thursday, August 7, the Arizona Diamondbacks, owners of the 14th best record (out of 15 teams) in the National League, quietly selected the contract of third baseman Jake Lamb. About a week prior, injury-plagued veteran third baseman Eric Chavez announced he was going to retire, effective immediately. The next day, Martin Prado, who had logged almost 90% of available innings at third base, was sent to the New York Yankees in a trade deadline swap. This left no one remaining on the 25-man roster with significant third base experience. Arizona proceeded to mix and match a variety of journeyman type options over the next week, but it was clear no long-term solution was present. This presents a window of opportunity for the alert fantasy owner.
While Jake Lamb had been a steady performer since being selected in the sixth round of the draft in 2012, he’s never been considered a high profile prospect. Ranked the #12 prospect in the D-backs system by Baseball America coming into this season, Lamb continued to do what he has consistently done in pro ball — hit! After posting a .318/.399/.551 line at Double-A Mobile, Lamb was promoted to Triple-A Reno on August 1 — the day after Prado was dealt. Lamb proceeded to pound nine hits, including five for extra bases in his first 18 Triple-A at bats, at which time the D-Backs had seen enough for promotion.
The move was particularly notable because Arizona selected the contract of Lamb. This is a big difference from when a player is “recalled.” When a player is recalled, it means he was already on “option” in the minor leagues. In general, players have three “option” years, during which a player can be optioned and recalled as much as desired.
This is significant because Lamb did not yet fall under this criteria. He could have spent the rest of the season at Triple-A (not unreasonable, given his recent August 1 promotion) and not used any of his option years. In addition, the minor league season only runs for three more weeks. No logical reason exists for Arizona to add Lamb only to burn one of his three options by demoting him days later. It also makes little sense to bring him up to sit on the bench instead of playing everyday and gaining experience at Triple-A. (This is a consideration September call-up after the Triple-A season has ended, but not valid in early August.)
Therefore, it’s reasonable to conclude Jake Lamb was promoted to the big leagues to play everyday through the end of the season. After assessing the situation as a whole, Lamb becomes an excellent pickup for NL-only leagues or other relatively deep leagues where counting stats are at a premium. Tomorrow, a rather innocuous, matter-of-fact pregame statement from the manager can trumpet opportunity for the alert fantasy baseball owner with the ability to read between the lines.
14 Aug 2014 / Brad Kullman /
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