Any time someone enters a dynasty league it is most important to understand just how committed you are to the long run. Are you in it to compete for 3-5 years, place in the money a couple times and then “bounce,” in which case age is not a major importance? Or, are you in it for the long run, essentially until the league dissolves?
In addition to asking that question, you must also understand if you are playing in a league with friends that you see lasting a while, or is it a “public” league that aside from the league being called “dynasty” it’s essentially a year to year league where there’s truly no telling when the last year will be?
Regardless of your answer, the biggest error I see committed by owners in dynasty leagues: they buy into the hype of top prospects and top draft picks far too often, without actually doing the homework on young minor leaguers. We look at top 100 prospects in Baseball America and on MLB.com, and from there we find a very narrow list of minor leaguers to target for your dynasty team. The only problem: everyone sees and has that exact same list. By no means am I proposing that I know more than the experts that create those lists, I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t. However, their lists are not a perfect science by any means, either. If it were, guys like Mike Moustakas would not be drafted ahead of the likes of Jason Heyward, Madison Bumgarner, Ben Revere, Rick Porcello, and the list obviously goes on considering Moustakas was drafted number two overall in 2007. We have all seen the movie Moneyball right?
Set aside the “name brands” and high draft picks like Byron Buxton, Kris Bryant, Noah Syndergaard, Jon Gray, Kyle Zimmer, and the list goes on, none of whom have actually made a contribution at the Major League level yet. Take that one step further, let’s look at Gregory Polanco, Bryce Harper, Wil Myers, the late Oscar Tavares, and Zack Wheeler, none of which have truly panned out and reached their maximum potential as of yet. Expand out even more and we welcome the likes of Moustakas, mentioned above, Brandon Belt, Matt Wieters, Travis D’Arnaud, etc.
Do We Even Know The Best Dynasty League Prospects?
Perhaps you are in a dynasty league that is guaranteed to run another 10 years, and perhaps you are locked into playing those next 10 years out. In which case, I’m not going to tell you not to take a shot on drafting Bryant, Buxton and Syndergaard a little early and potentially having the combination of Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Harvey on one team in three years. Obviously those who did that with George Springer last year have made out nicely. But, I propose these questions. Who was Yordano Ventura at the end of the 2012 season? Who was Jose Peraza or Joey Gallo at the start of the 2013 season? Who was Goldschmidt even a year before he debuted in Arizona? For that matter, who was Goldschmidt when he debuted with Arizona? The answer to all those questions, not elite prospects like Bryant, Buxton, Wheeler, Belt, Polanco, etc. Ventura was ranked outside the top 50 prospects pre-2013, after a season in which he posted a 4.60 ERA in 6 starts at Double-A. Even though Peraza stole over 60 bases with a .288 average for the Braves Single-A affiliate in 2013, had yet to crack the top 100 prospects list. Gallo had some hype pre-2014 after hitting 40 home runs across two levels of the minor leagues in 2013 and being a first round selection in 2012, but still did not rank in the top 50. Goldschmidt, an eighth round pick in 2009, never ranked among the top 100 prospects, despite posting two seasons of 30 plus home runs and three seasons with a batting average well above .300. Yet, now, Ventura’s the opening day starter for the defending American League Champions, Goldschmidt is a perennial first round draft pick in Fantasy Baseball, and Peraza/Gallo are considerably hyped prospects after even bigger minor league seasons in 2014.
Instead of looking at the simple top 100 list of prospects however, I propose actually looking at minor league numbers at the start of the 2015 season, and more importantly, minor league game logs. What players are beginning to click, beginning to figure things out? At the beginning of 2011, it seemed like Salvador Perez had no business in the batter’s box of a Major League Baseball team. He batted .263 with 4 home runs from April to June. Then, one homestand it clicked, in four games from July 22-26 he went 10-16 with 3 home runs and 15 RBI. and debuted with the Royals less than two months later on August 10. No, he will probably never match Buster Posey type numbers, but he’s proven capable of providing a high batting average with 15 home runs, certainly a valuable commodity out of a catcher.
I remember watching Ventura mow over people for 9 starts with Double-A Northwest Arkansas at the beginning of 2013, before becoming a true “household” name. He was a free agent in a newly drafted 2013 dynasty league I was in, while guys like Syndergaard were taken in the middle rounds.
Again, my thinking is by no means perfect, either. Moustakas absolutely raked at every level in the minor leagues and it just has not transferred to Major League success. Vice versa, though, Buxton has not exactly destroyed minor league pitching, and yet no one is concerned about that? I’m not naïve, I understand that while some guys do not pan out, several top prospects do, such as Jose Fernandez, Starling Marte, the aforementioned Trout and Harvey. But, do not punt the first couple seasons of your league, and then place all your hopes and dreams on assembling that all-star Fantasy roster two years down the road. The top prospect list is about as volatile as the closers role for the Houston Astros and there are numerous, very talented, young minor leaguers that may have just as much skill, but lack the hype and draft status, thus remain on your free agent list. And, even if guys like Belt or D’Arnaud do eventually pan out years into their career, such as a Carlos Gomez, are you going to have the patience to wait 3-5 years after their Major League debut for them to reach their ceiling? Lest I remind you that would mean 5-7 years after the initial dynasty draft, that your “prospect-laden, all-star roster” is finally paying off.
I was lucky enough to be a guest on the SoCalledFantasyExperts.com podcast this past Wednesday with host Travis Pastore, and we discussed dynasty leagues in depth. The only problem with discussing a dynasty, the conversation can run for hours, just as this article could run for pages. Considering the league lasts several years, the true art and excitement of a dynasty league comes from the idea that no strategy, no team is ever complete. If you are joining a dynasty league, it’s likely because you want to truly entrench yourself in the team, so don’t take the shortcut of simply eyeballing a top 100 list. Do the homework, and hey, maybe even catch a Northwest Arkansas Naturals game with Brandon Finnegan on the hill.
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