Old Prospects: A Dynasty League Blind Spot
The NLCS has left me pondering old prospects and how to identify them in dynasty leagues. In thinking back to the dynasty league I left prior to the 2012 season, a number of players starring in the series were the game ones I poo-pooed as too old for my team.
By now, you’ve read at least one mention of my 22-24-26 rule for identifying dynasty league talent.
22 = star caliber player
24 = above average regular
26 = bench player
In that league, an owner offered to throw in Cardinals Allen Craig just to sweeten the pot and I thought he was trying to pull one over on me. At the time, he was 25 with no position and a strong minor league resume. He was the type of player I’d seen, on paper and in person.
Two years later and Craig is one of the better hitters in the National League. How did I screw up so badly?
Matt Carpenter has also been a force after being late the the Major League debut party. A college pick, he spent the better part of three years in the minor leagues before debuting in 2011. Like Craig, the talk about Carpenter was of his being a bench asset or fringe starter – the going rate for a 25-year old on the scale. Coming off a seven win sophomore season, he’s a legitimate MVP candidate and catalyst for the red birds.
On that same 2012 team, I added every young backup catcher in the game hoping to land a starter eventually. Tyler Flowers? Check. Tim Federowicz? Check. Wellington Castillo? Check. Hell, I even started drafting and trading for catchers on the hope one would develop into something decent. Enter A.J. Ellis, a player one could not even consider a prospect. When a team has no catching options (it happens), how sweet would it have been to add Ellis as a warm body?
Even David Freese has been a valuable dynasty league plug in after earning the opportunity to play.
Sure, we’d all love to take advantage of one of dynasty baseball’s greatest market inefficiencies, but how do we identify them?
Here’s a couple of ideas. Feel free to do a little crowdsourcing to see if they stick, but this is what I look for in an older player.
1. Opportunity – In Freese’ case, he was dealt from San Diego to St. Louis at a time when the Padres had a surging Chase Headley a full level ahead. He was never going to play and the Cardinals had a declining Scott Rolen. Overnight, Freese went from black hole to real opportunity.
Look for older players coming off of big years at the upper levels who would be replacing an outgoing free agent or positional black hole.
2. Think C’s as in catchers and corners – Other than Dan Uggla and Zack Cozart, I can’t think of another older player who broke through and proved to be an asset up the middle. Yes, Carpenter wound up at second base, but he was more of a utility type to begin with. Players who slip through the cracks are productive “tweeners” who lack a defensive home. The bat first player who breaks through is likely to play a position of little defensive value unless its behind the dish.
3. An older player must maintain, or increase output in MILB – Across four full minor league seasons, Allen Craig‘s OPS’ were .909, .867, .921, .938. Other than a Double-A blip likely caused by a big jump in talent level, Craig’s production increased year-over-year. Carpenter was a similar story. A.J. Ellis‘ first year in Triple-A resulted in a .892 OPS. He posted a .885 OPS in his fourth go around.
On the flip side, Athletics outfielder Michael Taylor‘s OPS numbers peaked in Single-A at .968 in 2008 and bottomed out at .750 as a 24-year old in 2010. Since then, he’s held steady in the low-to-mid .800’s, but there’s been no real growth leaving him a “blah” option.
4. Be prepared to churn and burn – Dynasty leagues are a marathon, not a sprint. It can take years to build a winner and older players should be viewed as a bridge, not a solution. Regardless of age, a player’s prime is in his late-20’s and early-30’s. If a player surfaces at 27, it means the window of productivity will open and close faster. Remember, we are discussing “bad body” players too. Allen Craig is a valuable asset today, but astute owners will be looking to flip him in a year or two before the decline phase begins.
To capitalize on these players, one must keep in tune with more than just upper level league leaders. Depth charts play a vital role as you are fitting the pieces of a puzzle together and anticipating a big league organization’s next move.
3 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
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