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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

Picking rookies and prospects is among the diciest, and yet most satisfying aspects of building an Ultra League Franchise. In fact, for me, tearing apart a team and trying to reconstruct, particularly in a deep format, is where it is at.

In some of my leagues, like the XFL, players are often snatched up years before they achieve any big league success. For example, Carlos Carrasco was identified by Lord Zola back in 2008, as was Yu Darvish by Trace Wood. Carrasco did debut in 2009, but as we know has yo-yo'd up and down, tantalizing since, while it was a full four years before Darvish saw any active daylight on Trace's roster.

Needless to say, because of the rules of the league, and the fact that Carrasco has bounced around since his debut, he has been a longshot up until this year. But, Darvish, now priced at just $13 in the league, is still residing on Trace's roster.

Of course, it is so hard to correctly predict the arrival and success of a player ahead of time, but how much easier is the task a year into the process?

Well, in the MidWest Strat-O-Matic League, we have the luxury of that hindsight, but apparently having a rear-view mirror doesn't always point to prolonged success.

For, in Strat-O-Matic, players do not get cards and ratings and use till the year following their debut in the Majors, and even then depending upon innings/at-bats earned.

In the MidWest League, we have 30 teams, and can freeze up to 29 players from year-to-year. There are no salaries, but strict penalties for over usage of a player, who is allotted 20% over the previous season's innings or at-bats.

So, I thought I would look at the past five seasons of MidWest drafts, and then add in this year's gambles as we are in the throes of that draft right now.

Note that in 2013, all the free agents were thrown into a common pool, but prior, we had split the draft into separate American and National League lotteries. So, for 2011-12, I listed the NL and AL top five picks, respectively.

Pick 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
1 Carlos Correa Jose Abreu Jose Fernandez Bryce Harper Freddie Freeman Jason Heyward
2 Kris Bryant Jorge Soler Xander Bogaerts Matt Harvey Yonder Alonso Buster Posey
3 Francisco Lindor Yordano Ventura Jurickson Profar Lucas Harrell Dee Gordon Starlin Castro
4 Corey Seager Joe Panik Yasiel Puig Mike Fiers Brandon Beachy Stephen Strasburg
5 Noah Syndergaard George Springer Shelby Miller Jean Segura Cory Luebke Giancarlo Stanton
6 Lance McCullers Jacob deGrom Jedd Gyorko Manny Machado Mike Trout Carlos Santana
7 Kyle Schwarber Nick Castellanos Wil Myers Yu Darvish Eric Hosmer Austin Jackson
8 Addison Russell Gregory Polanco Julio Teheran Will Middlebrooks Michael Pineda Jeremy Hellickson
9 Miguel Sano Rusney Castillo Hyun-jin Ryu Yoenis Cespedes Brett Lawrie Colby Lewis
10 Byron Buxton Marcus Stroman Gerrit Cole Jarrod Parker Mike Moustakas Carlos Carrasco

Obviously, Buster Posey, Bryce Harper and Jose Abreu have held their value well, but what of Colby Lewis, Will Middlebrooks, Mike Fiers and Rusney Castillo, all of whom seemed like impacting contributors now and several years on?

Conversely, though I have had my failures with first rounders like Ike Davis and Jhoulys Chacin, similarly, I have had great luck with later picks like Marcell Ozuna (second round) and Derek Norris (fourth round). This suggests that the most obvious is not always the best investment, and that looking at age and opportunity as much as anything can be that harbinger to future success.

So, as we enter the busy drafting season, remember that picking the perfect prospect can be as ephemeral as picking the right first rounder in your snake draft. Baseball is a funny game.

Follow me @lawrmichaels

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