Arbitration allocations and voting off players in ottoneu leagues start this Wednesday. Brad Johnson and I have both shared guides to the process in the past (both for arbitration allocations and vote offs), but this year I want to focus on one point.
Prospects. Every year I touch on this briefly and every year a couple prospects are among the most allocated-to. So this year, I want to explore allocations to prospects/rookies a bit deeper.
Let’s use Kris Bryant as a case study. I think at this point we can all agree that Bryant is the most likely prospect to see an allocation this off-season. I could be wrong – I am sure someone could make a case for someone else – but he is a top prospect, likely to be up before long next year, and has huge potential.
Bryant is owned for $11 in all three of my ottoneu leagues, so I am going to assume he is generally owned near that price in most leagues.
So, here are your choices: one, you could allocate to someone more established and less likely to have the bottom fall out, but also less likely to completely break out; two, you could allocate to Bryant.
Let’s assume, for a second, you take option one. If you do, Bryant is still $11 going into the season, and the teams that Bryant is on all take ~$25 in allocations (exact number will vary by league). Let’s assume that Bryant puts up a huge 2015. Huge. MVP-caliber season. This is pretty unlikely, but…let’s assume. His season is now worth $60, or thereabouts. And after 2015, every team in your league nails him with a $3 allocation and now he is paid $46 ($11 for 2015+$2 natural price increase+$33 allocation increase). In the meantime, his owner also took $25 in allocations this year that he still has to consider. Basically, they are hit with $58 of allocations over two years, $33 to Bryant.
Instead, let’s assume Bryant is a bust. His power doesn’t translate, or he can’t hit MLB breaking pitches or something. Instead of Stanton, he is Delmon Young or something. It’s not pretty. Now the owner has a $13 Bryant (who no one will allocate to, still has the $25 they were hit with in 2014, gets hit with about $25 more, and has to decide if he wants to deal with paying $13 on the chance that Bryant bounces back. Basically, they are hit with $50 of allocations over two years, $0 to Bryant.
Let’s step back now and assume you took option two and allocated to Bryant. Actually, for an extreme case, we’ll assume most of your league does the same and he ends up costing $25 this year. So your league allocates $1-2 each to Bryant, plus another $11 to his team. Same $25 as above. If Bryant breaks out, he gets a bunch more allocations next year, probably about $25 worth, and ends up costing $52, total. Maybe a bit more. We’ll also assume that $25 is all that owner gets hit with. So now he has been hit with $50 over the two years, $39 to Bryant.
And the last scenario – you allocate that $14 to Bryant this year, and he busts. The owner cuts him (no reason to keep him at $27) after the season, and you allocate another $25 to that owner’s team in 2015. In this case, that owner has been hit with $36 in total allocations ($50 minus the $14 he was able to duck by cutting the busting Bryant). None of your allocations to Bryant really mattered.
So that gives us four cases, as follows:
|Bryant Breaks Out||Bryant Busts Out|
|Allocate in ’14||$50 to team, $39 to Bryant||$36 to team, $0 to Bryant|
|Don’t Allocate in ’14||$58 to team, $33 to Bryant||$50 to team, $0 to Bryant|
When I look at that table, this is what I see – no matter what you do this year, the price to keep Bryant in 2016 is going to be relatively similar, if he breaks out. Maybe you can get him up to the mid-50s instead of the mid-40s, but if he is really worth that much, you can correct that in 2016 anyway. And the other owner gets hit with about the same total allocations over the two years.
But if Bryant busts, his owner is much better off if you allocated to him instead of someone else.
From another angle, assume a team has 25 keepers for a total of $250, pre-allocation. No matter who you allocate to (Bryant or someone else), that team now has $275 in keepers (roughly). If we assume all those players are keepable in 2016, too, they will total $350 ($50 in increases, $25 in allocations) going into 2016. But if you allocate to Bryant, and he busts, that $350 goes down to $336. Enough for that team to buy an extra solid player.
In some cases, of course, a team won’t have anyone else worth allocating to. And in that case, if you want to throw $1 at Bryant, fine. But if there is literally any other player on the team worth keeping, you will be better served allocating to that player. If Bryant is a star, he’ll cost $50ish in 2016, no matter what. So why potentially waste your 2015 allocation dollars on a player who could be worth close to nothing a year from now?
This applies to any players with breakout potential – Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, George Springer, Jon Singleton, etc. If you focus on allocating to players who are more stable and more likely to be kept in 2016, you a) don’t really impact the long-term price of the prospects and b) do more damage to your opposition. It’s a pretty clear choice.
Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.