Mike Trout’s Effect on Roster Building

Everybody everywhere talks about diversifying your assets. This obviously applies to fantasy baseball too. Today, the topic is using picks to manage volatility. I recently participated in an industry mock draft, the results of which are supposed to be private. The organizer said it was alright to tweet out a few picks. I take that to mean I can also write about my first three selections.

I picked first. When it comes to mock drafts, first is my least favorite spot to select. It’s boring. Yes, of course I picked Mike Trout. What kind of philistine doesn’t pick Mike Trout. Remember last year when some people actually thought it was a good idea to select Bryce Harper instead? It wasn’t.

Starting a roster with Trout has important cascading effects with respect to volatility. Usually, we’re choosing between some degree of high ceiling or high floor. Other early picks like Paul Goldschmidt combine the two traits, but not to the same degree as Trout. He has the highest ceiling and the highest floor. This affords a certain freedom to pursue a wide range of strategies.

Picking first also meant I selected 24th and 25th. I knew I was taking Jonathan Villar with one of those picks. He is fairly volatile for a top 25 player. Villar stole over 60 bases last year. He had to prove himself, and it would not be surprising to see him drop to between 20 and 40 steals in 2017. In fact, I expect it. Villar’s also a ground ball hitter, making his modest power somewhat unreliable. It helps that Miller Park is his home.

I have a soft spot for multi-position eligibility early in the draft. Villar qualified as 2B/SS/3B. Even if he plays to the low end of his projections – about 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases – his flexibility will help me make up the ground elsewhere. Not only will he help me to manage my roster in-season, I also gained the flexibility to pick the best value at second or third base.

I picked Villar first because I had trouble deciding on my other selection. There was no question, I was selecting a shortstop – either Xander Bogaerts or Trevor Story. In my Way Too Early Rankings, I had Bogaerts second and Story fifth. Sounds like a no brainer, right? Well, no, I took Story. My decision here is the raison d’être for this post.

Bogaerts is reliable because he’s a high floor asset amidst a potent Red Sox lineup. Story undoubtedly has a higher ceiling than Bogaerts, but the risk is nontrivial. What if he’s the Chris Davis of shortstop? That sounds like a really good thing, right? Don’t forget Davis hit .196/.300/.400 with 26 home runs in 2014. You’ll be wishing you took Bogaerts if Story posts similar numbers in 2017. Duh, that’s how risk/reward works.

With Trout anchoring my roster and Villar serving as a backup in case Story has us completely fooled, I had the luxury to chase the ceiling. If it all goes wrong, I have a chance to manage my way out of the hole I made. If it goes right, I’ve built indomitable leads in every offensive category but batting average. Taking Bogaerts wouldn’t have allowed for that upside.

Your decision to take on additional risk often depends on league quality and settings. An noncompetitive league can be won year after year by setting a high floor and grabbing late draft sleepers. Show up every day to manage, arbitrage your way through a few trades and waiver moves, and you’re almost guaranteed a top three finish.

Competitive leagues tend to produce winners with high volatility rosters. Those late sleepers don’t really exist when playing against savvy rivals. In fact, they’re usually too costly to roster (Randal Grichuk says hi). In these environments, it’s easier to add upside by taking players like Story over Boegarts rather than relying on a 25th round player to carry your team. Maybe you’ll get this year’s Villar, but that’s always unlikely.





You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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Story’s UCL tear in his thumb doesn’t bother you?