OpinionJanuary 28, 2010

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Whistling in the Dark – Why are we so in love with the could be? - 12 comments

By MaudDib

I have been knocking around different ideas to write about.  The problem arises because I am not great at numbers and outside of that I am not sure how helpful I can be.  The one thing I might be good at is sharing my opinions and just not care whether people find it of any interest.  After replying to a post earlier (more on that in sec), I decided to give it a try and see what happens.  Maybe people will like it and read it or not and maybe something else will evolve out of it.  So here it goes…

Why are we so in love with the could be?

I responded to a post a few days ago and it was one of those times where I just couldn’t understand the other side of the issue.  I feel that I am pretty good at seeing both sides of issues so I was surprised, as this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often.  Even in the most lopsided of trades there is usually a good reason that the other owner is making the deal.  Maybe he is building for the future or thinks that a player is about to take a huge step forward or a big step back.  Saying that, the question had to do with Jason Heyward and David Price, and who would be a better keeper.

This is where my surprise came in.  Everyone choose Heyward over Price for the future, a guy that has yet to play in the majors over a starting pitcher who was just last year exactly what Heyward is now.  Nothing but projections.  Now don’t get me wrong Heyward has the ability to be a special player and could easily be a top 10 guy in five years if not sooner.  But here’s the thing: he has a lot of work to do.  Every year there is a minor league player that everyone wants — last year it was Matt Wieters and David Price.  Both of these guys turned in OK years, but disappointed many owners that drafted them higher than what their end of season totals would have suggested.

David Price showed improvement in the second half of last season and should build on that, into something like an ERA under 4.00 and about 180 Ks; again, not great but worth drafting especially in a keeper league, as that success should continue into next year.  Heyward is unlikely to start in the majors out of Spring Training.  We have seen from the past that teams are becoming less and less likely to call up guys early because of the benefit of keeping said player’s arbitration clock from starting for one more year.  So immediately you are keeping a guy that will take up room on your bench for the first two-and-a-half months.  Even then there is no guarantee that he gets called up — maybe he struggles, or maybe the Braves just can’t find room for him. Until he gets called up, there is no way to know when he will get called up. The odds are likely he does play before September, but what can you really expect from Heyward?  My feeling is something like what Wieters did last year: 10 HR and 40 RBIs with a BA of .280.  Not bad for a half a season but not worth wasting a keeper spot on.  And don’t forget that Heyward is 20 years old, which makes his odds for success right out of the gate even slimmer.

I think the problem comes down to fantasy players wanting that next great player.  We want to turn on the TV or the computer and see everyone talking about one of our players.  It is even better when he is a guy that seemed to have come from nowhere.  Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria and Ryan Braun fueled the fire and now we are willing to take a risk just to have that feeling again.  But the thing is, top prospects no longer fly under the radar.  Everyone seems to know about them and want them, and they are willing to pay a high price for them. That makes owners have to reach even higher for them, and when you do that you lose all value that the player might have had.  The best way to have success in fantasy sports is drafting guys who will give you more value than what you paid for them.  If you draft a guy in the 10th round and he gives you fifth-round stats, you got great value for that player.  But when you draft a 20th-round guy at best in the 12th round, he has to give you 12th-round stats just to break even.

Here’s the thing, though — taking a guy like Price who has been in the majors and has not done much yet, you can get them at the price they are worth or even cheaper.  Plus, they are so much more rewarding when that player does break out because very few people saw it coming.  It’s hard to brag to your friends if Heyward goes against the odds and puts up Longoria numbers, because they were all trying to get him as well.  It is when you take a guy like Price and he takes a big step forward that you can really gloat to your friends because none of them had Price on their radar.  They were to busy trying to get the next big thing.

Sean Brown is a want to be fantasy experts who writes for the Cafe. You can catch up with Sean in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of MaudDib.
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12 Responses to “Whistling in the Dark – Why are we so in love with the could be?”

  1. Great article. I think we all tend to fall prey to the “hype machine.” I’m trying to temper that myself this year with Aroldis Chapman, S. Strausburg, etc.

  2. tribefan08 says:

    always choose a hitter over a pitcher… price went in my league last year in i believe the 8th round, wow was that guy disappointed…

    basically these “rookies” that aren’t coming up til june should be drafted SUPER late, odds of heyward pulling a Braun are 1 in a MILLION. Not worth chancing an early draft pick. He’s on my radar but not before any of the rounds that begin with TWE and end with NTY….

    like tortilla said “the hype machine” gets too alot of people, but if you take them too early you lose all value….

    ON THAT NOTE: Heyward is going to be a stud this year, everyone should draft him in the 8th round!


  3. Good article but like tribefan08 said I’d take the hitter over the pitcher almost every time if I think they are close and in a keeper league I think the value Heyward and Price are close.

  4. User avatar MasterX1918 says:

    Screw this, i’m drafting Heyward in the 3rd round. Next Matt Wieters.

  5. I appreciate people who write articles on fantasy sports as they help me deal with boredom. But, am I the only one that Sean doesn’t have a very good argument? Lets take a look at what he said…

    First, he states his argument, a problem no doubt everyone suffers from: “Every year there is a minor league player that everyone wants…but disappointed many owners.” Really Sean, thats your argument; that there are players that people want but don’t perform up to expectations?

    In my opinion, Sean is discounting managers’ intuition. People look deeper than prospect rankings to find breakout players that will adjust and ideally excel quickly. Im not saying Heyward is the guaranteed guy to choose over Price, but I will say that I put more into my thought process than just the heat from top prospect rankings.

  6. User avatar MashinSpuds says:

    There may be some that look beyond the hype train, but slumdogbillionaire you have to admit, most people don’t. In mock drafts people are more excited about an early Wade Davis pick than the steady veteran pick because of what ‘could be’ versus what already is. It’s that go for broke mentality that either miraculously wins a season or (more likely) makes a season more difficult for an owner. Some people can’t resist name value no matter how unproven in the majors.

    The Pujols and Brauns are the exception. The Jesse Fopperts, Homer Baileys and Alex Gordons (so far) tend to be the rule of overdrafting hype. Still, I guess that’s what makes it fun like the lottery.

  7. User avatar MaudDib says:

    My point is that you have to get good value for a player to win a league. Heyward in a keeper league is bad value. Right away you are saying that he has to produce as a 10th round pick just to break even and the odds aren’t in his favor. If he had already played a month in the majors and was guaranteed an opening day roster spot, he might be worth it but not when you don’t know when he will play. And I don’t see why people are willing to take a minor league player over major league players with upside. I can see Heyward in the last 5 rounds or so. Most of those guys are crap shoots anyway. And the list of minor league players with lots of hype producing immediately is very short. Heck even Braun wasn’t in the realm of Heyward. Very few people drafted him and the hype was no where near guys like Weiters, Price, Heyward and Starsburg.

    I guess if anything I wasn’t trying to argue anything. I was trying to give advice. Take it or leave it but I am willing to bet that Heyward and Starsburg are half forgotten players at this time next year.

  8. User avatar Remotethumb says:

    I’ve played in a keeper league with my college buddies for the past 11 years. We draft 5 minor leaguers every year and stash them in our farm system. About 6 years ago people started getting married, having babies, etc. so there were rumblings from some of the other managers about “this may be my last year having time to play.” 6 years ago I had a team close to championship-caliber, so I traded off my great minor leaguers for solid and proven everyday players to make a championship run. It paid off, and although I was happy to have that trophy I was worried I had mortgaged my future. But the next year, the same thing happened again and I came in second. From that day forward, I’ve adopted a “win now” attitude and am famous in my league for being the only manager willing to trade stud prospects for solid major leaguers. And I’ve finished in the top 4 (12 team league) every year since. (For what it’s worth I adopted this same strategy in fantasy football keeper league I’m in and it works there as well)

  9. User avatar moochman says:

    A lot of it comes down to the same base emotion that makes us love the game and all of its derivatives. Its the same reason that we all somehow convince ourselves that this will be the year. We have to have hope, without it the joy of anticipation and dreams is lost, and without that there is no reason to watch sports. So we drool over the promise of an unkown, while recoiling over the after-taste of an unknown who couldn’t live up to our often unreasonable hope and expectation. So go Heyward, keep hope alive.

  10. Francisco says:

    The answer to your question “why are we so in love with the could be” is because in a keeper league that is really the only way to climb the ladder. Get those could be guys and in the next round get a safer pick.

  11. User avatar Carnac says:

    Who was the pitcher a couple of years ago that was the next “greatest pitcher who ever was.” And who can forget Chris Davis last year? We all, occasionally, fall prey to the endless parade of experts touting the “next great thing.”

  12. Smipims says:

    @moochman: Though it may feel good to ride the emotional roller coaster with high-risk low-reward rookies, what feels even better is winning a league. I’m going to make the smart choice over the emotionally traumatizing choice (unless my strategy is to draft high-risk high-reward which I sometimes do in public leagues).

    Good read.


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