For fantasy purposes, ottoneu rosters are large. (40 rosters spots that can be split between hitters and pitchers, including all minor league players.) This leads to many platoon players and prospects being rostered as ways to fill our rosters. Many times, these back of the roster types end up being $1 plays on prospects who are many years away. However, what if we took a different approach and went with players who could have an MLB role entering 2017, while still offering some potential upside?
Certainly, the argument can be made that these prospects are really just trade chips for rentals in season, and I buy that argument. However, I don’t think that every prospect owned is a trade chip, or at least an enticing one. Generally, there are the prospects most teams want (the top-20 or so) then various options throughout the rest of most top 100s that appeal to different owners depending on their biases. Could we be better off going with uncertain MLB players to fill these spots in place of the less notable minor leaguers?
Today, I wanted to go through several players I am rostering as $1 plays in several of my leagues. Thought process being, that I will have a pretty good idea of if they are a $1 player, or useful piece some time within the next month or two. At that point, I can cut them if they don’t pan out, and pick up the prospect I would have drafted originally.
Yandy Diaz: I included Diaz in my bold predictions two weeks ago. Since then, he as made the Indians opening day roster along with Michael Martinez with Giovanny Urshela being sent to AAA. Diaz has experience at 2B, but is eligible at 3B and OF in ottoneu. While he is not assured of playing time, injuries to Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis (both on the 10-day DL) provide an avenue for plate appearances. So far, he has started both the first two games of the season for Cleveland. As Carson noted yesterday, Diaz has the makings of a league average player, drawing similarities to his teammate Jose Ramirez.
However, there is a larger theme for ottoneu owners. Often lesser known prospects, even those in close proximity to the majors, can be had very cheaply. Diaz was the 39th or 40th man to be added to my teams at the end of auctions, and it only cost me $1 in each of my leagues.
Tyler Anderson: Coors Field. Those two words blacklist nearly every pitcher who ever plays at the venue. Ubaldo Jimenez was good for a couple seasons, but besides him, Jhoulys Chacin may be the most viable starting pitcher to come out of Colorado over the past decade. (No, Aaron Cook, 2008 doesn’t count). That may change this year. While the park definitely mutes their upside, this Rockies rotation has the change to be the most fantasy relevant of any from the Mile High City from the past decade. John Gray is the most expensive, and probably the most talented of the bunch. He certainly has the most notable pedigree.
Enter Tyler Anderson. While he isn’t going to cost nearly as much as Gray (can be had for $1 in most leagues), I believe Anderson is being penalized too severely for Coors field. He is elite at managing contact. From Tony’s ball in player review:
This is exactly the type of pitcher whom the Colorado Rockies need. A respectable K/BB foundation and a solid grounder rate, to be sure, but the highlight is his ability to suppress contact authority across all BIP types (Fly Ball, Liner, Grounder and Overall Adjusted Contact Scores of 70, 87, 79 and 76, respectively). The color spectrum doesn’t fully do him justice: his overall, fly ball and liner authority allowed were all over two full standard deviations lower than the NL average. This guy is for real and is part of an organizational effort to put strong contact managers in place.
While Tony’s reviews present one way of looking at the data, it appears other metrics will be confirming Anderson’s status as a contact manager. Statcast will be introducing hit probability in 2017, but has given us a brief excerpt. Anderson ranks 9th among starters behind all the names you would expect Kershaw, Hill, Syndergaard, Hendricks, Darvish, Scherzer, and Fernandez.
Adam Frazier: (Jeff mentioned Frazier yesterday. So some of this will be reiterating.) The primary rumor out of Pittsburgh this offseason was that Andrew McCutchen may be traded. However, the Pirates appear to have looked into trading Josh Harrison as well. While neither Harrison nor McCutchen were traded, the narrative is indicative of where the Pirates find themselves this offseason. With the Cubs and Cardinals in the division, their chances at making the playoffs based on our playoff odds here at Fangraphs currently sit at 13%. Certainly much can change as we go through the 2017 season, but the Pirates less than ideal playoff odds are something the team will be conscious of in 2017. Their odds are better than many teams, but also far from a sure thing. For a small market club, there is a fine line between competing and restocking, and the Pirates are likely to walk it in 2017.
This potentially difficult spot makes a player like Frazier very interesting. As a club controlled pre-arb player, he will make the minimum and if plans shift toward the future, has positional flexibility to cover several positions. While he will likely never be a star, he does have the opportunity to fill in games for ottoneu owners while picking up multiple eligibilities. He doesn’t posses much power, and he chases too many pitches outside the zone for a player so dependent on balls in play, but he does make good contact – popping up only 3.6% of the time. Additionally, Frazier – like his teammate Josh Bell – goes to the opposite field often, hitting the ball to the opposite field 37% of the time (6th in the league). Consider him another $1 buy like Diaz, but with middle infield eligibility.
None of the 3 of these players are likely to be stars in 2017. However, they each appear to have opportunities for playing time and should provide owners with depth plays for this season. However, they all have redeeming skills that could benefit ottoneu owners, and if things break right, there are scenarios where each becomes a $10 player. That’s a very tradeable piece. At a time when the back of a roster is typically used on A ball prospects, you may have more luck investing in those likely to have some form of impact in 2017. Then, if they don’t work out, cut them and pick up the prospect you were originally targeting.
Joe works at a consulting firm in Pittsburgh. When he isn't working or studying for actuarial exams, he focuses on baseball. He also writes @thepointofpgh. Follow him on twitter @Ottoneutrades