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Dynasty Baseball Offseason Prep: Step 2 – Scout

Dynasty baseball is fully in the offseason now.  Free agents are signing, Japanese players are being posted, and everyone wants to speculate on what is next for 30 MLB teams.  The goal for redraft players is to know who they will draft in March.  For us dynasty players, the 2024 whereabouts of Blake Snell and Cody Bellinger are relevant, but not essential for what is next. Last time we looked at dynasty baseball offseason step one: assess last year.  Now we move on to the next step; scout.

If you aren’t playing your dynasty leagues on Fantrax, you’re missing out on the deepest player pool and most customization around. Just starting out in a dynasty league? Then check out Rick Haake’s Top-400 Overall Fantasy Prospects and Tyler Bowen’s Top-500 Dynasty League Rankings.

Dynasty Baseball Offseason Prep: Step 2 – Scout

How valuable are your picks?

Before next season starts, the value of some of your most important assets is going to change dramatically: your rookie draft picks.  Like the value of a new car driven off the lot, the value of the on-the-clock draft pick tends to be higher than the player just selected.  How valuable are the picks you have now? The only way to know is to figure out who you can get with them.

“Rookie drafts” vary widely, and so will your draft lists.  Some leagues allow drafting free agent pros and prospects interchangeably.  Others allow prospect free agents and 2023 MLB draftees.  Others are limited strictly to 2023 MLB draftees and 2024 J15 signees.  My favorites allow unlimited minors rosters but with no in-season prospect pick-ups.  Different rules create different values.  Larger available prospect pools make more options for each pick and more possibility the players you want are drafted later.  Fantrax will allow you to download and sort the players available in your pool.  If your draft is anything but a first-year player draft, that pull can be invaluable.

Narrow your draft pool

How much time you should spend on the prospect draft depends on how many picks you will make.

If you only have one selection in the draft, your preparation might be brief.  You might even find it more valuable to cash out your picks than spend a lot of time for a few bites at the apple.  For the sake of my offseason fun, I always hope to participate.

Just like you would not just draft your redraft team from a magazine, you need more than a list to draft your rookies.  First-year player draft rankings and ADPs, like the ones you find here at FantraxHQ, can be very useful to start your research.  Unlike consensus information on pros, however, it is nearly impossible to predict how players will go in a rookie draft.  That goes double for drafts where more than just first-year players are available.  Take public lists as the starting point for your research, not the end.

There is no drafting for value here

In redraft, you can draft for value. In prospect drafting, that can backfire.

If Michael Harris II is left undrafted three rounds after his ADP in your redraft, there is still good reason to select him. While Harris underperformed his ADP in 2023, he remains a proven hitter in an elite offense in Atlanta.  There is a value floor to most healthy redraft players.  A prospect’s floor value is never making the big leagues. Do not draft a prospect who ‘slips’ in your draft below a public consensus value unless you have scouted him and still believe he will make it.  You still need to take big swings.  Just do not make them based on ADP alone.

What are you scouting for?

Rather than taking someone else’s word alone, scout.  You want players not just to man your bench but to help you win.

There are exceptions to any rule and league settings to challenge every philosophy.  You should develop your own preferences, backing your evaluations up with facts and observations.  That said, here are some of the general principles I use to eliminate players from my research:

  • Players exposed to a Rule 5 draft.  Fangraphs and other places will show you if a player was rule 5 eligible in the past and not placed on a 40-man roster.
  • Anyone with ‘reliever risk’ consistently in scouting reports.  Do not believe anyone who is in the minors is about to turn into a high-end closer.  As MLB’s Cory Schwartz used to say: ‘the road to 5th place is littered with closers of the future.’
  • Players whose profiles are carried by their arm or fielding.  As you read reports, try to see if there is any thought a player has power, hitting aptitude or both.
  • Players older than 18 striking out 35% of the time.  This is a sliding scale but players who strike out a ton in the minors tend not to succeed in MLB.

Instead, I spend my time scouting players:

  • With athleticism, baseball IQ, and work ethic – to the extent these can be discerned.
  • Far away players with growth projection.  On my show Fantasy Hockey Life, we talk about ‘The Funnel.’  The Funnel means young players have a wide range of outcomes, positive and negative, that tend to narrow down as they develop until, one day, they are what they will end up as.  A 5% chance at Ronald Acuna is preferable to a 50% chance at Avisail Garcia.
  • From the international classes.  I take every crumb of news I can get about those players.  Some of MLB’s biggest stars start out as anonymous names among the January signings.

The biggest thing of all: watch the video for yourself.  You can watch a season’s worth of archived games on MILB tv, or just do some creative web searches for video.  You do not have to be an expert scout.  Just make observation of the players a part of your process.

In the end, be humble.  We do not know as much about prospects as we think we do.  That is what makes it so fun when we get one right.

Jesse is the host of the podcast Dynasty Sports Life, covering Dynasty Baseball, Football, Basketball, and multi-sport leagues.  He also co-hosts the podcast Fantasy Hockey Life, focusing on Dynasty Hockey.

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