Friday, March 28, 2008

The Phantom Upside Menace

Every year there's two or three "can't miss" prospects. How often do they perform at the same level as established veterans? Not very often. And far more than you would expect, they turn out to be fantasy disasters.

Consider Evan Longoria. He may be a great fantasy player. But not this year. Or, at least, not for the entire year. I've seen him taken ahead of guys like Mike Lowell in some mock drafts. Or consider Delmon Young last season. He was a good speed/power speculation pick, but I took him too highly in every league (which should have been a warning sign). Same thing with Alex Gordon: he has a long, promising career ahead of him, but last year he was basically a fantasy bust.

The list goes on and on. Be very careful taking players with little to no major league track record. And, if you do, pick your spots. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is looking like a wasted pick at this point, but if there's a position where you want to take a risk, it's catcher, because the fall to the waiver wire is that much softer. When your starting first baseman or center fielder implodes, typically you need a good stiff drink before looking for a replacement.

The track record is even worse for rookie starting pitchers. I basically never take rookies, and I almost never expect a pitcher to perform better than he has in the past. If a pitcher has never achieved a particular level of performance, even for a month or two, you can't count on it to happen in any given year. To a lesser extent, the same goes for position players (though their career arcs seem to be far more predictable). With starting pitchers, on the other hand, you may end up trying to repair the damage that a Homer Bailey or Kei Igawa has inflicted.

Why do fantasy owners love upside so much? Well, at its core, fantasy sports is gambling. Maybe not with money, but it's a game consisting more than we like to admit of luck. Everyone wants that big-time, big-money wager. People remember the Pujolses, Ryan Brauns, and Oliver Perezes (of 2005) and forget the Dallas MacPhersons, the Howie Kendricks, the Rickie Weeks, and the myriad other rookies that became roster black holes.


Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that of the handful of rookies that were pretty good last year, none were drafted or touted as draftable by "experts".

C. Young
Pena (not really a rookie)
Tulo (drafted in some, but not most leagues)

This is proof that speculating on rookies before your last couple picks is foolish. Keeping your high waiver pick till mid season, however, is wise.

Go for the mid season call ups, not the rookies that start in the majors.

waters96 said...

I agree. Plus, you can use your waiver priority to pick up players who get off to a slow start and are dumped - like Figgins and Atkins, and belive it or not Aramis Ramirez. Believe it or not, I picked up all three of these players in competitive active leagues because I kept my waiver priority (it was the only advantage I got to seemingly draft last in every league I was in last year).