Likely in an event to avoid as much HOF news as possible today, my mind drifted to the topic of the best contracts in our Ottoneu league. I believe the “Trade Value” series originated when Bill Simmons was The Sports Guy, writing his blog in Boston, but it has evolved to the point now where writers in all sports attempt to analyze players as assets by looking at their production, contract, age etc. (Dave Cameron does the series for Fangraphs, Jonah Keri for Grantland on the baseball front). As we approach the January 31st cut down date across Ottoneu leagues, I though that I would attempt a similar look at our Ottoneu league (so the dollar values you see below are the contract prices for each player in our league).
The “rules” for the trade value series are here, but to generalize, the main point is that we’re not looking at mere production, we’re looking at production, age, positional scarcity, projection for the future, and of course price. Add on top of those rules the Ottoneu specific rules regarding starting lineups and rosters (162 Catcher games rather than “two catcher” leagues, 40 man rosters, inflation for both major and minor league players, 1500 IP pitching limits). In theory, the resulting list would me in a one for one swap, you’d trade anyone on the list for anyone above him, and you wouldn’t make the reverse deal.
The biggest challenge for me was sorting the 2013 stats and players and cutting down to a manageable number from which to choose. Ultimately, I split into hitters and pitchers, and then sorted by FPTS, by Points/Game or Points/IP, and by Points/$. I identified about 20 or so hitters and 15 or so pitchers, and from there created a master list that included the categories mentioned above as well as age (with the presumption that pretty much everyone knows which position these guys play). If anyone wants a copy of my spreadsheet with all the information, it is messy but I’m happy to share.
Before I present the top 10, a few comments on those guys that didn’t make it:
— The best hitter and best pitcher in the league didn’t make the cut. Mike Trout ($70) and Clayton Kershaw ($56) were passed over, obviously not for reasons of on field production. Cutting Trout was much easier in my mind, OF is a position in Ottoneu where replacement production can be found either in cheaper but still elite production, or by piecing together games by platoon-type mashers (think Brandon Moss). Kershaw is tougher – his price is so high at $56, but aces are much harder to find or replace and getting nearly 1500 points out of one SP is absurd. Still though, if he sat on my roster I would be madly shopping him on the assumption that those $56 could be better allocated elsewhere.
— In most of my revisions before finalizing, Yadier Molina ($13) was safely in the top 10. Ultimately, I pulled him out primarily because of his age (31 in 2014), though the low bar of catcher production leaves me thinking that I may regret that decision.
— I love both Kyle Seager and Carlos Gomez at $9, and while I think they’re great assets, I struggle to see either of them surpassing 2013 numbers — which isn’t a criticism, but their lack of upside is the primary reason to leave them out.
— Matt Carpenter is the subject of great debate in our Ottoneu league currently. He nearly made the list, ultimately though I guess I’m in the “unbeliever” camp for Carpenter, because while I love his production, (a) he’s going to lose that 2B eligibility this year, and (b) I can’t ignore the fact that though he mashed as a 27 year old in St Louis last year, he was also a 24 year old stuck in AA and looked to have utility infielder career path before last year’s break out. If he had even one more strong season under his belt, he would likely be on the list.
With that background, here’s my top 10:
Without going through each player in detail, I’ll try to offer some thoughts on my reasoning:
— Toughest decision on the list was 1 and 2. I still don’t really know how to answer the question. As between elite SP and elite Hitters, the hitter carries so much more certainty, and here the prices are almost identical. Of course, some may say that I’m biased in favor of a player that I own (Darvish), but the interesting thing about this exercise is that, were Durham to offer me Davis for Darvish, I should accept the deal according to this table. I wouldn’t – because I’m so afraid of how to find replacement (elite) SP. However, if the situation were reversed, I also wouldn’t offer Davis for Darvish for fear of injury. So, I’m trying not to cop out, but I really don’t know what the right way to order those two assets.— I suspect that Jean Segura is ranked higher than most would rank him. I feel like he’s the victim of some post-sleeper hype, a highly valued prospect who changed teams and perhaps got lost amidst the Harper/Trout/Machado prospect shuffle. He is only 23, plays the hardest to replace position in fantasy baseball, and is the cheapest player on this list.— Andrew McCutcheon at $42 may seem like an odd inclusion, but he is awesome across the board, and I struggle when I look at the guys who just missed to see who I should replace him with. He is the same price as Paul Goldschmidt – I would take McCutcheon. Similar analysis for Stephen Strasburg. If Yadier Molina were 3 years younger he’d bump Cutch out, but alas . . .— The two youngest players on the list are Machado and Fernandez. Fernandez is probably an obvious one, Machado perhaps not (both got significant arbitration dollars thrown at them in November). For me, all pitchers are injury risks so in some ways that’s why I ran Fernandez up the list. There is no certainty in pitching, he’s proven to be elite over an admittedly small sample, but given that SPs are shooting stars, ride it out while you can. Machado perhaps is more controversial (and coming off a knee injury, though he is expected to be ready for the start of the season) – he has yet to hit like an elite player, but the fact that he is putting up slightly above league average at ages 19 and 20 is everything as you project him.
— I really don’t know what to think of Yasiel Puig. He’s electric, but (a) he plays the easiest position to replace in Ottoneu, and (b) his plate discipline causes me great concern, especially for those of us playing in linear weights leagues. The talent is undeniable though, so he makes the list easily.
So there you have it. Please let me know who you think I left out (or ranked incorrectly).