Somebody Please Math This To Me

Yesterday, I ran into one of those full stop moments. In a 20-team dynasty league, a rival offered me Todd Frazier for Danny Salazar. Despite a need at third base, I passed on the offer. Dee Gordon was also on his trade block so I reached out about a possible Salazar-Gordon swap. I could use a middle infield upgrade on Jed Lowrie. Both Salazar and Gordon would have ranked #14 on my keeper list. And I have J.D. Martinez and Anthony Rizzo to help offset Gordon’s whopping zero in the home run category. It all smelled fine to me.

You probably can guess the response I received – a flat no. I asked some questions to determine if the issue was our valuation of Salazar or Gordon. He told me Salazar is a top 150 asset – smells right to me. Per my rival, Gordon is a top 50 player. Full stop.

Any time I choke on somebody’s valuation, I immediately consult other industry resources. In the Rotowire Dynasty Invitational, an ongoing fresh 20-team draft, Gordon was selected 39th overall. ESPN’s Tristan Cockcroft ranks him 50th. The Dynasty Guru hasn’t updated since last March when Gordon was ranked 62nd. A Fake Teams draft saw Gordon go 27th, a spot ahead of Jose Ramirez. PitcherList ranks him the 38th best hitter – so somewhere around 45th overall.

Add it all together, and it’s pretty clear that I’m wrong. I consider him on par with Salazar – somewhere between player 100 and 150. The consensus says I’m a fool. I’ve never been one to worry about looking foolish. Let’s finish this exercise and unpack Dee Gordon the Dynasty Asset.

Player Profile

Dee Gordon
Descriptive Statistics
2018 Age: 30
2018 Eligibility: 2B
Projected New Elig: OF
Projected R Above Average: +10
Projected RBI Above Average: -40
Projected HR Above Average: -20
Projected SB Above Average: +48
Projected OBP Above Average: -.010

A few mathy notes… My projections above average are meant to be illustrative rather than rigorous. I calculated them by finding the average output per lineup spot for all contenders in my deepest league. Yep, N=1. Like I said, it’s illustrative. I tweaked Steamer projections upwards since they seemingly penalize him for missing time due to a PED suspension.

It’s also worth noting that this is compared to the average roster spot. A typical first baseman should have a different distribution of stats from a second baseman or middle infielder. In truth, you can probably mentally shift all of those values closer to average for 2018. Disclaimers done; let’s continue to further analysis.

The Mariners acquired Gordon to serve as an outfielder. In leagues that require 20 games for positional eligibility (i.e. CBS), only a Robinson Cano injury will save Gordon’s 2B status. Since the outfield position is relatively deep compared to middle infield, Gordon’s value will take a huge hit if he’s an outfielder only. While replacement level middle infielders may only produce 10 home runs, replacement level outfielders still pop close to 20. They also steal as many bases as middle infielders.

So what we have here is a soon-to-be 30-year-old outfielder who probably has bonus second base eligibility for one more season. He almost singlehandedly carries the stolen base category, helps with runs, and doesn’t really hurt your OBP (he helps with batting average). In today’s game, it’s not too challenging to find 20 extra home runs in the other lineup spots. A single standout catcher can get the job done. The 40 RBI can be a deceptively challenging barrier to overcome unless you happen to own a Nolan Arenado. Or that catcher with the extra 20 home runs.

One detail that isn’t listed here – Gordon is a soft contact king. That doesn’t really hurt with his profile since he parlays his speed into bonus infield singles. It could affect his longevity though. In fact, I estimate he has about 3.5 years left as a starting major leaguer. A future move back to second base could extend that window. Generally, non-elite players are getting cycled out of full time active duty around their mid-30s. Light bats fall into platoon roles after one shaky season. Gordon already has a few of those in his history.

I expect a top 50 dynasty asset to either offer elite present value or over eight years of core production. For example, there’s a decent chance you can sell Rhys Hoskins for almost as much in 2022 as you can get right now. He’ll be on the back end of his prime. That’s a top 50 asset. Joey Votto may not have many years left in the tank, but he projects for easy top 10 production. That’s a top 50 asset.

By comparison, here’s what the auction calculator thinks of Dee Gordon – he’s ranked as the 100th best player in 2018. I happen to disagree with a few of the assumptions made by the calculator, so I’d mentally bump him to around 80th. My original point still stands. Never mind dynasty considerations, he’s almost in that top 100 to 150 range for 2018 alone. It’s only going to get worse going forward.

Help Me…

As you can see from the above analysis, I tend to use broad strokes when setting values. I briefly had a rigid valuation period and found it to be horribly ineffective. Rather than spend a lot of time creating “perfect” rankings that break as soon as games are played, I aim for good enough in as little time as possible.

I imagine this is where my approach is breaking from the consensus. There must be some math that shows Gordon is far more valuable as a dynasty asset than my quick smell test. Please explain it to me. Really. I’m being sincere. Hear my plea baseball twitter. And show your work.

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Sonny L
Sonny L

Where is Gordon’s current owner on the league win curve? If this is someone competing in a limited/late window I can see them valuing Gordon’s likely final season as a 2B near his peak ADP. In which case it makes sense for that owner to weight his 2018 much more than what comes after when he’s maybe a rich man’s Dyson.

I’ve never played in a 20t dynasty. If you don’t mind could you share a little bit about the league’s makeup? How many teams in a given year are playing for the future, today, 3y window etc?