The Beltran Rules
Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran is one of the best playoff performers of our time. His late career resurgence has been impressive for a player whose balky knees threatened to end it a few years back. In fantasy baseball, we can learn a great deal from a player like Beltran. From his ascending to stardom, to waiver claim, his career has run the gamut of player values.
Frequently, I receive player comparisons from readers such as, “Javier Baez. He’s the next Carlos Beltran, right?” This is often done without proper context as Javier Baez stole twenty bases across High-A and Double-A while Beltran has averaged 20 per season over the course of his Major League career. Big difference! Easily forgotten is the fact one of the best switch hitters in the history of baseball was also a true five tool athlete as well. At his peak, Beltran stole between 31 and 42 bases four times while teasing a 40/40 season.
As players decline, it’s easy to forget peak skill sets and instead focus on the next big prospect (Oscar Tavares) filling Beltran’s shoes. In dynasty leagues, he’s barely worth a mid-level prospect to a team looking to plug a temporary hole, leaving Beltran owners holding on to the bitter end.
So what can we learn from players like Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and others once considered premium athletes, but obviously on the downside of their respective career arcs?
The first lesson is the best athletes in the game age gracefully. On the surface, Andrew McCutchen or Giancarlo Stanton might make you lose sleep at night, but the smart money is to invest in the Pirates star. It’s easy to be enamored with Stanton, but this is simple math. 6-foot-6, 240 pounds is more difficult to carry around than 5-foot-10, 190 pounds. I still expect Stanton to push 50-home runs per season through his prime, but the body will decline faster than McCutchen. If betting which player will be productive into his late-30’s, Pittsburgh’s franchise player is the choice to make.
Lesson two involves being willing to add players like Beltran or the aforementioned Soriano when considered to be poisonous assets. This is definitely an area of experience. Prior to 2011, I grabbed Beltran for $1 in a keeper league when his value was at its lowest. Having left the league after the season, I do not know if the owner sold or not. Holding on would have awarded the owner with .288/.356/.503 triple slash line at a combined salary of $3. This, in a $200 cap league.
After a terrible 2009, I scooped up Alex Rios for pennies on the dollar after being told he was untouchable just a year before. It was the same league mentioned above, but the difference was Rios had an undroppable contract which forced me to make a three-year commitment. 2011 was rocky, but he averaged 19.67 home runs and 22.67 steals per season between 2010-2012. Overall, it was an outstanding return on investment.
My familiarity with Rios led to my adding him for $7 in the Ottoneu Experts League following 2011. Since then, he’s produced at three to four times his salary and should continue to do so. Plus, his athleticism has me expecting five more productive years at a moderate salary.
Finally, I added Alfonso Soriano for $3 in the Ottoneu Experts League prior to the 2012 season. I, like everybody else, thought he was done. However, he was available for less than prospects at that point and I was in need of a fifth outfielder. In a 5×5 league, one could do worse. Over the past two seasons, he has averaged 33 long balls and a dozen steals. In retrospect, Soriano being an elite athlete through his prime is something I should have considered.
Another great advantage of adding five-tool standouts past their respective primes is other owners won’t really notice. In Ottoneu arbitration, Anthony Rizzo was targeted for a $6 increase. Neither Rios or Soriano received a bump as two of my five most valuable players from a statistical standpoint. Whoops, I squeezed a third lesson in there too!
The lessons above leave 29-year old Matt Kemp as a prime target for shrewd owners this off-season. Will acquiring him be expensive? Yes, but Kemp is bargain basement compared to a year or two ago. Knee and shoulder injuries might have owners looking to cash out. It’s time to strike.
Additionally, Ryan Braun should be on your radar as well. PED’s or not, he has multiple 30-30 seasons under his belt and owners who may be looking to bail. Only the best owners are able to separate production and emotion. It’s still difficult for me. Some jaded owner’s loss will be your gain.
It’s also why I’ll be looking to throw a few bucks B.J. Upton‘s way next spring.
In baseball, always bet on tools — even tools which are no longer present as even declining athletes can continue to be productive players far past their respective primes.
3 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
1-On-1 ROTO Strategy Session
The Best Of RS
- Can Alex "Chi-Chi" Gonzalez Crack the Texas Rangers Opening Day Rotation?
- Fantasy Baseball Trade Deadline 101: A Former MLB GM’s Take
- Felix Hernandez and Solo Home Run Situations: A Blueprint For Longevity
- JR Graham: Is He Still An MLB Arm For The Atlanta Braves?
- Mason Williams: Is It Time To Label Him A Bust For The Yankees?
- Mike Newman's Top-50 Fantasy Baseball Prospects Scouted in 2014
- Nick Kingham Scouting Report (2014)
- Rangers Joey Gallo, Marlins Giancarlo Stanton And Strikeouts
- The ROTOscouting Baseball Podcast
- Top-10 Fantasy Baseball Prospects By Team
- Will Mike Moustakas Finally Put It Together Next Season?