Folks, it’s time to shake off the rust, roll up your sleeves, and get to work for the 2017 baseball season. I’ve shared 10 principles I live by in the NFBC Main Event:
1. Ignore Spring Training Stats
2. Fade the Hype
3. Fade Catchers
4. Ignore position scarcity in the early rounds
5. Two elite aces anchor your staff
6. Limit downside in the first 10 rounds
7. Trust your gut over experts
8. Don’t elevate your tools above your intellect or your eyes
9. Don’t be a slave to ADP
10. Favor upside over backups in the closing rounds
Today we’re going to start with principle 2, fade the hype. No matter how many rookies or sophomores disappoint the previous season, every spring the Sirens return to lure fantasy patrons, only to have their shiny new toys dashed upon the rocks as the season unfolds. Yasiel Puig has claimed victims two consecutive years. Carlos Correa commonly went in the early first round last year based on one half year of production. Maikel Franco came nowhere close to living up to his draft position. Miguel Sano, Ken Giles, Chris Archer…the list of no longer shiny old island of misfit-bust toys is long. Yes, Mookie Betts worked out well, but there is also a lot of carnage in the fantasy hype realm. Who is everyone chasing this year?
Here are some hyped players that don’t have a long enough track record for me to warrant the market’s price:
Trea Turner (ADP-13, as high as 8)
Carlos Correa (ADP-17, as high as 12)
Corey Seager (18, 15)
Gary Sanchez (45, 36)
David Dahl (91, 77)
Alex Bregman (96, 77)
Willson Contreras (98, 84)
Somebody on this list will earn their draft day cost. The majority will not. You can stray from the reservation every once in a while and get away with it, but the best formula for success in the Main Event is to avoid land mines in the early rounds. I will do my best to have zero shares of any of these players. Once in a while, roster construction and position runs might force me to make an exception, or I might try something unconventional in a Draft Champions format, but for the most part I will avoid having these names on my rosters.
So, who is the exception to the rule? Possibly Jose Ramirez. He only hit 11 homers in 2016. I don’t know if he will harness it this year, but there’s latent power in that bat. I called Joe Mauer’s power breakout back in 2009, and we could see something similar from the Indians sophomore. You can’t draft him assuming a similar breakout, but one of these years it’s going to happen, and I think once he taps into the power, he’ll keep it.
Next on the list is fading catchers. This one is pretty straightforward. The opportunity costs are just too great when you try to land a stud such as Buster Posey. The edge you gain at catcher you give back at whatever position you faded in order to take a catcher early. Not to mention catchers are injury prone, either spending time on the disabled list or playing hurt, so there is more variance in their statistics. Gary Sanchez presents an interesting problem. A lot of people will write off his 20-homer burst at the end of 2016 as an unrepeatable fluke. I at least partially disagree. It wasn’t a fluke. Batted ball data tells us that Sanchez produced so well because he squared up the ball well and it flew. That’s the result of skill, not luck. The problem is that baseball is a game of adjustments. Eventually, pitchers will find a hole to exploit. The question then becomes how long will it take for the hitter, in this case the Yankees’ star in the making, to adjust? My general rule of thumb is to not take a catcher in the first 10 rounds. Most teams aren’t going to have studs donning the tools of ignorance. So, slumming it at catcher during the reserve rounds doesn’t set you back that much, and it also sets you up for significant profit if you can work some magic on the wire, like many who picked up Willson Contreras or the prodigious Yankee rookie last year.