Ottoneu Arbitration Targets – Prospects

“But wait, Chad,” you say. “You have told us so many times that allocation arbitration dollars to prospects doesn’t make sense! Why even write this article?”

“You’re right,” I reply. “I probably shouldn’t. But I am going to do it anyway. Let me tell you why.”

And the “why” is pretty straightforward – people are going to do it anyway. Almost every year in almost all of my leagues, someone puts a dollar here or there on a prospect. And there are prospects who it makes more sense to hit with allocations and prospects who it makes less sense to hit with allocations. So if you are going to ignore me about allocating to prospects, maybe I can get you to listen to me about which prospects.

Besides, there are cases where a team doesn’t have many targets. Or where, by the time November 14 roles around, all the best options have been filled up and you need to find another place to dump your dollars.

In those cases, the prospects you want to target have a few things in common:

  1. They’ll definitely be kept through January 31. The last thing you want to do is allocate to a prospect likely to be cut anyway.
  2. They have enough upside that there is a chance they’ll have long-term value. Dollars put on a potential star have a higher likelihood of continuing to impact a team long-term than dollars placed on a guy who might be MLB-ready but unlikely to have double-digit value.
  3. They are likely to be in MLB soon. This is tied to #1 and #2, but guys who are a long ways off could easily stumble on their way to MLB. James Wood, Noelvi Marte, and Druw Jones might all be stars, but probably not anytime soon.

So if you are going to target prospects, here are the least objectionable.

  • Gunnar Henderson (BAL, Median Salary: $5) – Is it cheating to pick a guy with 132 MLB PA to his name? No, no it is not. He is a prospect, he is arguably the Rookie of the Year favorite, and he has at least shown us he can handle MLB. No one is cutting him, the upside is there, and he is far more likely to succeed than most prospects because he’s already had success. I expect Henderson to just keep doing what he was already doing, which isn’t going to make him an elite Ottoneu bat immediately but will give him value from Opening Day and there is a path to increased power and increased value as he develops. The initial 2023 Surplus Calculator has him at $20 and while I think that is a little optimistic, it’s certainly in play. Bumping his salary to around $10 via arbitration isn’t the worst idea, but I’m more likely to wait and hit him with a full $3 next year if needed.
  • Josh Jung (TEX, Median Salary: $5) – I did it again! He doesn’t have quite as many MLB PA (just 102) and he wasn’t as successful, but the profile is a great fit for the Ottoneu points system and he is going to play. The big risk with Jung is that his 2022 was not great, but I am willing to bet that the quick return from a rough injury had more to do with that than any decline in skills or anything like that. He certainly has more “bust” risk than Henderson (not that Henderson has none; just less) but if you are really struggling for a place to put a dollar on a team, I could see giving him his sixth or seventh dollar, though not more.
  • Ezequiel Tovar (COL, Median Salary: $4) – Tovar reminds me a bit of Oneil Cruz at this time last year. Not as a player but in terms of how he is viewed and what his path might be in Ottoneu. He’s a better-regarded prospect, overall, but both has similarly-strong fantasy upside; he already made his MLB debut but has barely played above Double-A; and I think most fantasy players are expecting him to be in Denver next season but that isn’t guaranteed. Talent + Hype + Coors is an equation that makes him nearly impossible to cut, even at double his current median salary, which makes him a relatively safe target, at least among prospects. In some ways, a path similar to Cruz (starting in Triple-A, coming up later than expected) could be better for him as an arbitration target. If he comes up right away and either plays an underwhelming MLB season or “earns” a demotion back to the minors, he becomes an easier cut late next season or next off-season. Regardless of his path, I am okay pushing him to $6, maybe $7, as a last resort.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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2 months ago

Ugh, Chad, stop it! I traded for Josh Jung early last season, after the injury, understanding that he would likely play in the majors in 2022 and earn himself a $2 raise. But when someone placed a dollar on him this arb cycle, I was slightly annoyed. If your article gets him a second or third dollar, I will write you a nasty note the likes of which you have never received.