Assessing and Handling Prospects In Dynasty Leagues
In all dynasty leagues, prospects play a major role. It doesn’t matter if your rebuilding or contending either. If you don’t succeed with how you handle your prospects, at some point you’re going to find your team not competitive without much hope of improving. That’s why I wrote this article. You won’t find any specific player analysis below. But what you will find are general tips, best practices, and ways you can construct your group of prospects to help maximize your team’s potential in dynasty leagues for years to come. Hope you enjoy!
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Assessing Prospects For Dynasty Leagues
1. Important Tools
This is an area I’ve stressed more and more as I’ve gained experience in scouting and analyzing prospects. The two most important tools are the hit tool (and approach) for hitters and command/control for pitchers. Without these tools, a prospect gets dinged in my rankings. Now, I’m not saying everyone has to have batting title upside or pinpoint command and control, but if either of these tools is well below-average, a prospect’s chance of success drops dramatically.
When it comes to the hit tool, other tools are affected as well. How often have we seen a big power/speed prospect fizzle out because their hit tool was holding them back? Quite a bit. If you can’t make contact and get on base, your opportunity to steal bases dwindles. On top of that, players with questionable or shaky hit tools usually hit lower in the order as well. And hitting lower in the order means fewer plate appearances to accrue stats and lower run and RBI potential as well. So, basically, a player’s hit tool factors into their entire stat line in your basic 5×5 leagues, regardless if it’s an AVG league or an OBP league.
A player’s power is directly affected as well. Honestly, I don’t care much if you have enough power to hit the ball 100 feet past the outfield fence in batting practice. That’s all fine and dandy but in-game power outweighs raw power every damn day of the week. I’m not drafting a player because they put on a show in batting practice. Sorry, but batting practice home runs isn’t a fantasy stat category, not even on Fantrax where we have every stat you could possibly think of. Making contact is a big part of hitting home runs and players with better hit tools win out 99/100 when power is equal. I’ll bet you a large sum of money that a 55-hit/55-power player will hit more home runs than a 40-hit/60-power player 90+ times out of 100.
Plate approach is very crucial as well. I’ve seen countless prospects with significant upside bust at the Major League level or even not make it past Single-A due to a porous approach. Finding that sweet spot between aggressive and patient is a tough line to find, but players that are too far, either way, tend to see other parts of their game suffer. For example, Trent Grisham was once way too passive at the plate and it hurt his power in games. Then, once he became a bit more aggressive, his power took off, and now he’s a borderline top-50 fantasy player. I’ll get more into the statistical part of this in the next section, but just be wary of players that are way too passive or way too aggressive and strikeout at a high clip.
On the pitching side of things, command and control is just as important or even more important than the arsenal. Obviously, you need to have good stuff to succeed, but if you can’t locate your pitches and limit the walks you allow, you’re not going to find long-term success as a pitcher at the Major League level. If a pitcher’s stuff is good enough, they might be able to settle into a bullpen role where their below-average command and control can be hidden a bit, but unless they’re in a high-leverage role, their fantasy value takes a massive hit in the pen.
2. The Value & Risks of Stats
Prospect statistics are fickle and don’t always tell the entire story. In fact, they cause more overvaluing or undervaluing than anything else. This is why it’s important to understand when to look at prospect stats and how to analyze them.
The first statistics I tend to look at are walk and strikeout rates for both hitters and pitchers. Regardless of the minor league level or the quality of the competition, you can always take something away from these metrics. These can tell you a lot about what type of hitter or pitcher they are and how the rest of their tools could play.
For me, 8% and 25% are good spots to start for both. If a hitter is below an 8% walk rate or above a 25% strikeout rate, that’s when I start questioning their approach. For pitchers, 25+% strikeout rates are solid and over 30% is phenomenal. And on the flip side, I like to see that walk rate below 8%. Sometimes I’m okay up into the 9-11% range (Ian Anderson territory), but getting higher than that concerns me. Here are the main stats I look at first when looking at a prospect’s statistics.
- Walk and Strikeout rates (both hitters and pitchers)
- Pull rate
- Estimated Flyball Distance (Minor Graphs on Prospects Live)
- Groundball and flyball rates
- HR/9 for pitchers
3. Layer Your Prospects
I’m not saying each individual prospect has layers, but layering your prospects is one way to help ensure long-term success. What the bleep do I mean by this? Great question. The easiest way to layer your prospects is in your dynasty league’s initial draft. For me, I’ll target four types of players overall, two of those groups being prospects. The two prospect groupings are “contribute soon” and “contribute later”.
This is what I try to do in every single startup draft and then maintain long-term via trades or subsequent restocking drafts. I always want a group of prospects that I know will help me out soon. For example, one dynasty team I have in a 30-teamer has Forrest Whitley, Matt Manning, and Luis Patino on it. Those are all pieces that likely will start playing a role for me within the next year and hopefully turn into highly-productive longterm assets for me. My hitting prospects are the same way with the likes of Kody Hoese, Jo Adell, and Bobby Dalbec. There were others too like Drew Waters, Nick Lodolo, and Adley Rutschman but I dealt them away in deals this offseason to net me MLB pieces.
Here is what my prospect pool looks like in this particular 30-team dynasty league.
Hitters: Jo Adell, Kody Hoese, Bobby Dalbec
Contribute Later (The Next Layer)
Hitters: Bobby Witt Jr, Robert Hassell III, Wilman Diaz, Jordan Nwogu, Owen Caissie
Pitchers: Jack Kochanowicz, Mason Denaburg, Cade Cavalli, Jared Kelley
With these layers of prospects, I feel confident that my team should be in a solid place consistently moving forward.
4. ALWAYS Churn Over Your Bottom Prospects
The importance of this is too high for me to find the correct vernacular to use. You should NEVER hold onto your bottom prospects because they might break out or because you just like them. These bottom prospects should be churned over again and again until you acquire a piece or pieces that turn into long-term assets for your dynasty team. This is pertinent in trades also. Recently, I’ve made a bunch of deals in my dynasty league where the final piece included to get a deal done was a prospect I knew I could easily replace through the draft or waiver wire.
For example, including a Drew Rom, Jimmy Lewis, or Simon Muzziotti to get a deal done is never something you should hesitate to do. It always depends on the depth of your league, but if including one of your bottom prospects (assuming you’re not in a shallower league where your bottom prospect is Kody Hoese, for example) is what it takes to get the deal done, do it. You can always replace those guys and lose absolutely nothing in the long run.
5. No Prospects Are “Untradeable” or “Off Limits”
This is one that I see a lot of people struggling with. Listen, I get that it can be hard to part with one of your top prospects. We’ve all been guilty of holding on to prospects longer than we should have or saying something like “I don’t really want to trade (Insert prospect name here).” The goal of dynasty leagues is to win and every trade you make should somehow get you closer to your overall goal. This obviously isn’t be saying to trade your top prospects for whatever, but making them “off-limits” in trade talks can cause you to miss out on getting closer to winning a championship.
For example, I traded Adley Rutschman, a top-20 dynasty prospect, earlier this winter in a deal that netted me Kris Bryant. Did it hurt to trade the top catching prospect in the game (by a mile)? Absolutely. But look at what Kris Bryant has done prior to his down 2020 season? Say what you want about Bryant moving forward, but it would be a 90+ percentile outcome for Rutschman to reach Bryant levels of success and value. Trust me, if someone made me an offer that made my team better in the long haul, I’d take it even if it meant I had to deal Jarred Kelenic or Wander Franco. I’ll repeat, your goal is to win and every transaction you make should be with that in mind.
Something we all need to remember is that prospects require patience. Not every prospect can dominate from the get-go. In fact, most don’t. Remembering this can be detrimental to your own team and can also give you a leg up in trade talks, especially if the other manager isn’t the patient type. When a prospect comes up and struggles, it’s not the end of the world. It’s really not, folks. Heck, both Ronald Acuña Jr and Mike Trout struggled initially, and look how they turned out. Granted, those are extreme examples, but you catch my drift.
Remaining patient and capitalizing on those who aren’t can pay big dividends in dynasty leagues. Recently, top prospects like Gavin Lux, Jo Adell, Joey Bart, and a smattering of pitchers have struggled at the Major League level and have seen their value drop as a result. This is when you pounce. If the person that has Gavin Lux is looking to sell, you swoop in and get this great talent at a slight discount. This leads me into my next section.
7. The Ideal Times To Buy Low or Sell High
This is something I’ve preached for a while now. There are three ideal times to sell high on a prospect. These times are absolutely crucial if you’re looking to capitalize on a prospect’s value and receive top dollar back in trade.
- Right after they’re drafted or signed: This time is very ideal to trade a prospect, especially an elite one like Spencer Torkelson, Austin Martin, or Zac Veen. Right now, Spencer Torkelson is being valued as a near top-50 overall dynasty asset. If you can swing him for a current top-50 asset like Anthony Rendon or George Springer, that’s a great deal to make if you’re a win-now team. Could Torkelson wind up better than those guys? Sure could. But that’s a risk worth taking as a contender.
- When their debut is imminent: This is when a prospect’s hype is usually the highest. Just look at my boy Jarred Kelenic for example. I’m not saying you should trade him, but just look at how enormous the hype is surrounding him right now as we all know he’s going to debut early in the season.
- After They’ve Debuted And Succeeded: This really should just be called the “Randy Arozarena bucket”.
This is the trickiest of the three because we all need to question and determine if the prospect’s initial success is legitimate or not.
On the flip side, the best times to buy low are…
- Right after they’ve debuted and struggled
- Struggle initially in the lower levels
- Are injured/have recently been injured
That first timeframe is what I was mentioning in the section above. Do your best to capitalize on other manager’s overreactions on players that you still believe in and have high hopes for. If I can get Gavin Lux or Joey Bart at 90% of what I think their cost should be, I’m going to make a deal like that all day.
The second timeframe is a bit trickier. Obviously, if a player struggles initially, we tend to wonder if maybe we overhyped that prospect. That can sometimes be the case, no doubt about it. This is when trusting scouting reports is crucial. Whatever analyst(s) or site(s) you go to and value the most, trust their reports and what they’re saying regarding a prospect’s tools and long-term value. Remember, lower-level domination isn’t everything.
I hope this article was beneficial to everyone!
Media Credit: Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire
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