Prospect Targets for Dynasty Owners
The calendar is quickly approaching May, and while that’s simply too early to feel like you’re either completely out of it or definitely winning your roto league, those in dynasty leagues who are off to a slow start will soon be focusing on next year’s contests.
Some may take this concept as a bit of a downer, but a smart owner knows what they have on their hands and that sometimes the best chance longterm is to capitalize on other owners. That’s why it’s now or never to go after some prospects who can help your team in the future.
For example, in the prestigious Die Nasty Dynasty Baseball League, of which I am a founding member, I’ve been in rebuild mode for the last several years. This season I’ve gotten as high as fifth in the standings but currently have plummeted to 12th (it’s a 15-team league that keeps 20 MLB players and 20 MiLB players) — a full 60-plus points out of first place. It would be easy to say that the bad week I just had is the sole reason for my drop in the standings and a few more good weeks could have my team on the cusp of sitting in the money. But, no, I’m smarter than that.
I know that good starts from my young players like Dansby Swanson, Matt Chapman, and Teoscar Hernandez are helping to elevate my team, and frankly that’s exactly what I want to see from those players. As I slowly transition from rebuilding into competing, I know I will have flashes of brilliance from my prospect studs and as they get called up my roster gets that much deeper. This year alone I have prospects like Jesse Winker, Swanson, Chapman, and Hernandez all set to make an impact on my team, and guys like Dustin Fowler, Franklin Barreto, and Sandy Alcantra on the way to making my squad deeper and potentially ready to compete. But I also understand that my team also has enough question marks and lack of depth that even with the hot start (which has already begun to fizzle) I need to understand that I am not likely going to compete this year.
So, with this in mind, there are plenty of teams in my league who do believe they are going to compete, and perhaps they might be sitting on some struggling players while their team languishes five or six spots below where they feel they should be. It’s this type of owner who is the proverbial “blood in the water” that I, the shark, can smell and need to capitalize on. If I can see that the Joey Votto owner is treading water and needs a pick-me-up, perhaps I can swoop in and offer some nice older player that will provide a boost this season while netting me a top prospect along the way. However you see it playing out, now is absolutely the time to attack and nab that coveted prospect from the anxiety-ridden team in need of a boost.
[Related: Dynasty Dugout: Breakout Outfield Prospects]
Of course, the owner of Ronald Acuña or the recently recalled Gleyber Torres aren’t likely going to move their players unless they are absolutely blown out of the water, and that’s because these guys are going to help their team this season. But the next tier of talented guys — prospects not likely to get the call this season — are likely up for grabs. Let’s take a look at a few names and try to see what kind of a price tag they might be available for.
Victor Robles – OF, Washington Nationals
I don’t like to look at your elite, top-tier guys in this regard because they usually cost an obscene amount, but if the owner in your league is fighting for a top spot he or she might be a bit more inclined to move the studly Nationals outfielder for a number of reasons. First, he did have a horrific slip earlier in the season and he bent his elbow in a manner that elbows are not supposed to bend. Though fortunately nothing was seriously broken, it’s still an injury that will take a bit of time to heal. Instead of missing the entire season, he’s likely to only miss a sizable chunk of it. Plus, Robles hasn’t exactly been hitting like the stud most projected him to be. Although his minor league numbers prior to the injury looked fantastic, it was a small sample size and his performance in the majors last year left a lot to be desired.
Dating back to last season, through multiple levels ranging from High-A to the majors, Robles has only managed to hit 10 homers and steal 29 bases in his 538 plate appearances. While not atrocious, these numbers are a far cry from what scouts projected. But you need to remember that this kid is merely 20 years old. And any 20-year-old who holds his own in Double-A and the majors deserves a second chance, especially if the team is wise enough to get him some consistent seasoning in the minors. The short answer is that I’m definitely looking to trade for Robles if the owner needs some depth pieces to make a run or if they are scared off by the elbow injury.
Because of his status as a top prospect on a good team, he’s still not going to come cheap, but if you were going to ever find a low point in value you can look no further. I think it takes a top 30 player and a lesser prospect to get the job done here, but if you’re sitting on a Starling Marte or a Dee Gordon, perhaps you can move them to a contending team and pick up Robles. Both of these guys are on the nearing if not on the wrong side of 30, and though I do believe both hold some value you should definitely jump at the opportunity to move them since we’ve seen chinks in their armor in the form of drug issues (both were suspended) and ineffectiveness. Trade for Robles and enjoy the production he gives you as we roll into the new 20s.
Lewis Brinson – OF, Miami Marlins
Brinson is a bit different from Robles in that he was given a starting job in the majors this year, and he’s done nothing but blow the opportunity despite a recent power surge. Even though I’m one of the biggest Brinson homers around, I think it’s about time to give up on the young phenom for the 2018 season. You can’t walk less than 5% of the time, strike out over 35% of the time and succeed at the highest level. He clearly looks overmatched in the majors, and these struggles might be just enough for not only the Marlins to demote him but his fantasy owner to lose faith as well.
I think his intriguing blend of speed and power are both too good to pass up, and though he may never be a great batting average hitter, I believe the “fantasy relevant stats” are going to be good enough to carry him into a pretty solid career. Unfortunately, though, “career” may not translate into this season. He’s better than his MLB .130/.219/.268 line suggests, but it’s becoming abundantly clear that his .287/.353/.502 minor league slash line is also probably a pipe dream… at least for now.
So if the Brinson owner in your league is contending, they likely are getting fed up with the man already. That means he’s likely at the lowest value in his career as of right now. I’m personally even going to put some feelers out for him in dynasty leagues that I’m actually contending in as well. Provided you have the bench depth and it’s a keep forever league, he just might be worth it in the long run.
As far as cost, I think a major league outfielder is a given to replace Brinson’s spot on the roster, and perhaps fluff the deal with a lower-tier minor league piece as well. Yahoo Fantasy has a great tool where you can search a player’s name and see what kind of trade’s he’s been involved in, and although Yahoo appeals mostly to redraft leagues, it’s still a useful tool when checking out a player’s value. An interesting trade of Brinson, Stephen Piscotty, and Nick Pivetta for Albert Almora and Joey Lucchesi went down, and that’s definitely the case of the hot hand (Lucchesi) being dealt for some solid pieces and the upside of Brinson. Read your league wisely and see what your owner thinks, because this could be a really nice upside play for you.
Virtually Any Pitching Prospect
The beautiful acronym TINSTAAP (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect) has never been more relevant. For the Brent Honeywell, A.J. Puk, and Jose de Leon owners out there, it hit extra hard as all three pitchers underwent the knife this year. And, sure, it’s a much simpler process than it used to be with most guys coming back from it just fine, but it costs two years of development time. It sucks. It hurts inside and makes even me, the most optimistic (not true) of people, upset by the standard pitching prospect.
I generally push for the offensive prospect over the pitcher in nearly every scenario. But sometimes that doesn’t always play out and you’re left taking a pitcher as the best player overall. In the league mentioned above, I am an A.J. Puk owner and also own another top-flight pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore, thanks to the way my first-year player draft panned out. It’s unreasonable of me to assume that Gore will get hurt, but the odds of it happening are seemingly higher in my personal opinion without any real data to back that up. Perception matters, folks.
After the Puk news broke my first thought was to entertain some offers on Gore and see what I could get. I decided after some soul searching that I wasn’t going to offer up trades, but that I would be open to moving the stud pitcher if someone sent me an offer. Most owners know that to get a prospect of that caliber they would have to send quite the deal, so I haven’t received anything and thus still have him on my team. Once this article comes out I’m sure I’ll receive a handful of offers to trade Gore for some peanuts, and although I know I can hold off enough to make sure I don’t give him away for free, I’ll probably still take my time and consider moving the player if the deal seems right.
So the short answer here is that if you think an owner in your league is wary of pitching prospects because of injuries to your Puks and your Honeywells, it’s worth taking a look at their roster and to see if they have any other highly sought after pitching prospects. I still adhere to the TINSTAAP philosophy, but obviously you need to gain a pitching edge somehow and if there’s an owner out there willing to receive, say, a top 30 hitting prospect for a top 10 pitching prospect, you could certainly do worse. And if it’s a contending team in need of some major league pitching, maybe you can move a young number three or four starter for one of these ace prospects. Put feelers out and see how bitter and cranky the other owners in your league are, because buying opportunities may not come up like this every year.
Alex Verdugo – OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s becoming very clear that Alex Verdugo apparently isn’t good enough in the Dodgers’ eyes to be on the major league team. Matt Kemp is playing like he’s eight years younger so kudos to him, and even though Yasiel Puig is struggling he has a long leash. Enrique Hernandez is destroying the ball, but Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson aren’t doing much with their playing time, either. Pederson’s case in particular is frustrating for Verdugo owners since the Dodgers have shown a willingness to send him down. I think the inevitable Verdugo call-up has to be soon, but we honestly don’t know that answer for sure. If the Verdugo owner in your league is hurting for an outfielder, they might have lost faith, and if you can send a player who is currently performing above their means or is a little older you might be able to pry Verdugo off of him for less than he should go for.
JP Crawford – SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Crawford isn’t going to be the next Carlos Correa, but particularly in OBP leagues he brings plenty of value to the table. Unfortunately for his owners he’s rocking a pretty bad .185/.241/.333 line with two homers and no steals so far this season in his 60 plate appearances. If we check his game log, his last 35 plate appearances have included a .290/.353/.548 slash line with both of his homers. You don’t have a lot of time to make a move here because his owners might have already noticed, but if you’ve got an owner just looking at the surface numbers combined with a fading pedigree, perhaps you can move a Jed Lowrie type who is performing above his means to the Crawford owner and get a real steal out of it.
Franklin Barreto – SS/2B, Oakland Athletics
Mysteriously called up earlier in the season only to not see a single plate appearance, the Barreto owner in your league might be getting fed up with the A’s bizarre handling of the sweet swinging prospect. Coupled with slightly underwhelming numbers last year in Triple-A, you just might be looking at a frustrated owner looking to deal for major league help now. Shoot out an offer and see what you can get and you might just reap the rewards of a nicely hitting middle infielder. That is if Billy Beane gets his head out of his ass.