Today we have a thought exercise to, uh, think about.
Yoan Moncada is the number one prospect in baseball. Manager John Farrell goaded the Boston front office into rushing Moncada to the majors where he promptly flopped in epic fashion. The Red Sox recently traded him to their bleached counterparts in Chicago, a possible sign they’ve cooled on their former top farmer. Or maybe they just liked Sale that much.
It seems plausible Moncada will return to the majors in 2017. The White Sox have Brett Lawrie and Tyler Saladino sharing second base, but neither player can block a prospect of Moncada’s ilk. And with Todd Frazier almost certain to be traded this winter or during the season, Lawrie and Saladino can always slide to the hot corner.
Prospects with Moncada’s talent and proximity to the majors are usually stashed in all but the shallowest (or thin benched) re-draft leagues. He’s already owned in your keeper and dynasty leagues.
Let’s review the facts. We have a number one overall prospect who fizzled in his first taste of the majors and then was traded in a blockbuster. I’ve comped the profile to prime Alfonso Soriano in the past, but that’s assuming he can make semi-regular contact. We should still be very confident about Moncada’s fantasy future even if there’s a hint of trepidation. Byron Buxton was at least as touted as Moncada, and his profile is similar. He still hasn’t really gotten going.
Yesterday, I was asked a question on Twitter:
As you may have guessed, it’s the question that inspired this post. Let’s ignore any concerns about Moncada’s contact ability. Let’s forget we’re talking about Moncada specifically. On one side, we have a generic, number one fantasy prospect with five category upside. It’s not all actualized quite yet. On the other side, a top 10, five category fantasy prospect who’s already had success in the majors and has Coors Field on his side. Which is more valuable? Do you think a second piece is needed with the number one prospect? If so, what kind of piece?
If you answered the first question with “it depends,” then you’re on the right track. In truth, there probably aren’t many (any?) OBP leagues where Moncada is worth more than Dahl. However, in sufficiently deep leagues – think somewhere around 800 player rosters with at least 400 keepers – Moncada and Dahl should be roughly equivalent. Especially if the Dahl owner is rebuilding and the Moncada owner is contending.
As we go from the true dynasty formats into deep keeper leagues, Moncada’s trade value declines. This is a matter of opportunity cost and replacement level. In those famously deep leagues, waiver wire gems consist of players like Austin Slater – i.e. somebody you haven’t heard of if you aren’t a Giants/Fringe Five* fan.
*Slater didn’t actually appear in the Fringe Five, but he is that type of prospect.
In shallower leagues, prospect replacement level might have been closer to guys like Aledmys Diaz, Tyler Naquin, Ryon Healy, and Max Kepler. Yes, I cherry picked some modest prospects who played way above expectations last year. The point is, in a typical keeper league, these guys were free on the waiver wire or $1 to draft. In such an environment, the major league asset (Dahl) is much more valuable than the hyped minor leaguer.
Going back to the twitter question, the owner plays in a 10-team, 30-man roster league. That’s the type of setting where you can expect to find a Diaz or Naquin for free. You’ll need some luck to catch the right guy, but you can always grind the waiver wire until you find him. The higher replacement level makes it easier to deal away Moncada and still contend in future seasons. In a 20-team, 30-man roster league, Moncada probably represents close to 10 percent of the trade value on the roster. Cut the league in half and he’s probably a quarter of the value.
- Your league depth matters. Generalized fantasy advice tends to assume a 10 to 12 team redraft league. If that’s not the ecosystem you live in, then you have to learn how to adapt one-size-fits-all analysis for your setting.
- The value of prospects increases as the depth of the league increases. Duh. But also very important to know. I often suggest passing on prospects in favor of actual major leaguers. That advice is for redraft and shallow keepers. Once you get deeper than an ottoneu league, prospects become a necessary evil.
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