I play in a league named after Sidd Finch. Google “Sidd Finch” should you be curious about the history of this fictitious name. Wikipedia has a nice article on it.
The first draft was held in spring of 2011, the second last year, and the third and last this year coinciding with the beginning of the competition. Let me repeat to make it clear, we drafted two years ahead of time. What is different about Sidd Finch from other fantasy baseball leagues is the pool from which we could pick up players. Only those players that were clearly marked as minor leaguers and foreign players not on a Major League roster were draftable. Baseball America had to show a player as minor leaguer at of the beginning of the season for that player to qualify for the draft.
We had a plethora of sources to study, including Lawr’s Top 250 Prospects, BaseballHQ’s Minor League Baseball Analyst and several websites, such as www.baseballprospectus.com. In other words, finding study material regarding minor league players was not a problem. On the other hand, scouting foreign players required digging for rumors.
I will report on the experience throughout the season. Perhaps it is too soon to draw any lasting conclusions but allow me to report on my first impression: predicting pitchers is next to impossible.
The league has 11 teams. Each team can place five pitchers on the active roster. There is a total of 55 active pitchers. Of these, only eight have produced any substantial number of points up to now. They are Mike Minor, Matt Harvey, Yu Darvish, Ryun-Jin Hyu, Chris Sale, Matt Moore, Aroldis Chapman and Hisashi Iwakuma. No team has more than two of these top eight hurlers on their roster. Those teams who have them are far ahead in the standings.
The lesson here for those of us who play in keeper leagues and draft prospects is a simple one: picking up minor league pitchers may be a high risk, high reward gamble.
We know by experience playing in keeper leagues that the profit is returned by no more than 30% of minor league players drafted two or more years before they appear in their first Major League game. That probability of 30% is frustratingly lower when hurlers only are taken into consideration. On top of that, a good number of highly touted pitching prospects need the so-called maturing. It may be counter-productive to activate them too soon, see Brandon Maurer’s struggles this year.
That’s all nice and reasonable. The problem is that when time comes to pick long-term prospects, some of us often rely on instinct; we find a guy’s name and we just got to have him. Didn’t someone say, “Heart has reasons that reason cannot know”?