In reading a post debating whether Eric Gagne is draftworthy for 2006 I was prompted to post this perspective.
The glory of competing in fantasy baseball is the reality of baseball where everything is truly relative. Whether we will ever see Eric Gagna become a first or second round caliber selection is debateable and he certainly is not one at this point. That being stated, the relative nature of fantasy baseball is truly inherant when slotting a player such as Gagne.
For when you draw up projections for fantasy baseball you accept the relativeness of risk as it poses opposite possible and likely reward. This example is best exemplified by my drafting of Paul Konerko & Morgan Enseberg last season.
I had always been highly critical of Konerko and in fact had never owned him previous to last season. Yet my grading of this player was never too critical that I would not select him and it was objective enough to notice that he had in fact made strides in 2004 in all power categories. When that was combined with the fact that I was severely downgrading many power hitters due to a gradual decline in power statistics, a player like Konerko held their value over more traditional power hitters and first basemen.
I selected him in the seventh round and was very satisfied with the results I gained.
With Ensberg the relative aspect of his statistics, potential, and situation in Houston allowed me to see value where others had lotted him on a "do not draft" list. Two seasons prior Ensberg was a much hyped rookie with boundless ability. After losing his starting role in 2004 and tinkering with several stances and approaches at the plate it was unclear whether he would ever regain en everyday role in Houston.
However, there were some clear positives to be seen when reviewing Ensberg's situation in Houston. First off, the team was in a desperate situation regarding middle of the order power. With Berkman injured and Bagwell's skills clearly in decline, Houston had few alternatives to Ensberg in trying to solidify the middle of the their line-up. While certainly no Barry Bonds, Ensberg could pose a moderate threat in that role should he prove to have matured as a more consistent power threat. And when it was reviewed further, it was clear that he had been the victim of "over-hype" a little moreso than was apparant due to the fact that he did little to ome close to the high expectations early in his career. The fact that he only had to fend off Mike Lamb in order to secure he third base/middle of the order role he was in line for made his relative risk v. reward surprisingly higher than most people gave him credit for at the onset of the 2004 season.
I selected him as a late-round back-up to Scott Rolen and was very satisfyed when he supplanted Rolen with much the same number I had expected from Rolen.
It is this aspect of evaluating the liklihood that a baseball player will yield a higher level of statistics than your competitors believe they will that attracts me to fantasy baseball. And there are always aspects to a player's development that go either unnoticed or undervalued when approaching a fantasy draft. Many times the "value picks" can not be predicted until you are actually drafting players, but the preparation for the drft is just as important because it is up to you to decide exactly when to take the risk on the player (and when to lay off as well).