Fantasy Baseball: Down on the Upside

by MastersBall.com on March 7, 2012 @ 10:11:46 PDT

 


By Greg Morgan

We all want the shiny new toy. Whether we're industry writers trying to make a name for ourselves, or cagy NFBC veterans trying to prove our mettle to rest of the world, everyone wants to be the one to grab the young studs with upside. The problem is that this champing at the bit to draft hyped players drives up their price and decreases the chance for profit for those who invest in those same up-and-comers. So, the question becomes what good is it to draft the young thoroughbred with 'upside' if he has to reach that upside for us just to break even on our investment?

Well, these are guys I see generating buzz this draft season, and while they all indeed attractive, for the most part, it is potential we are savoring a lot of the time.

Tampa Bay Rays SP Matt Moore
Just say no

Giancarlo Stanton currently has an ADP of 23, but in recent drafts I've often seen him go early 2nd round or even late 1st. I love Giancarlo, but his price is not attractive to me. We all know about his upside. He mashed at Double-A back in 2010. Some touts see him as the next Babe Ruth.

That's all fine and dandy, but let's look at his actual fantasy production in the majors thus far. In 2010 in 100 games Stanton posted (.259/45/22/59/5). Projected over 150 games the totals come to (.259/67/33/88/7). In 2011 Stanton put up (.262/79/34/87/5). Very consistent production two straight years, but not something that entices me to spend an early 2nd round pick on.

Yes, Stanton has outstanding potential, but will he break out this year or like Adrian Beltre will he bust out a few years down the road? The outfielder did become more patient and increased his BB% from 9% in the first half to 15% in the second half last year, but his 68% contact rate doesn't scream batting average upside. Stanton stole five bases, but was also caught five times, so a surge in steals doesn't seem to be in the cards. Stanton is an OF with almost no speed and a .260ish BA. That's not the ideal offensive cornerstone given position scarcity in the infield player pool and the relative abundance of outfielders.

What if he turns out to be another Adam Dunn with a slightly better BA? Is that worth such a high pick? Jay Bruce (.256/84/32/97/8) put up slightly better numbers last year, has similar upside this year, and has an ADP of 47. I would take Bruce in the 4th before I'd take Giancarlo in the 2nd.

Brett Lawrie stormed onto the fantasy scene in August last year, compiling a fine line in just 43 games (.293/26/9/25/7). This has (.290/30/25) written all over it, doesn't it? Maybe. No doubt the potential is there. With the power-speed combo at 3B it's justifiable taking him at his current ADP of 43. At the same time the risk is very high. Forty-three games makes up too small of a sample size to have much confidence in. During his first 26 games Lawrie posted (.340/15/7/20/4) but pitchers started to adjust and in his last 17 games Lawrie put up just (.214/11/2/5/3).

Can Lawrie make the changes to justify his lofty ADP? The answer to that question will determine whether or not you want to take the plunge here. I'm on the fence, but his excellent bat speed has me leaning 'Yes.' The power and speed are legit (he stole 30 bags at Double-A in 2010). There is considerable batting average risk, but the reward is great given what follows in your third basemen cheat sheet. There is room for profit here even in the third round.

We've all heard by now that Yu Darvish is not Daisuke Matsuzaka. How "this one is different." Déjà vu all over again. I vividly recall hearing similar mantras back in 2007 when Matsuzaka joined Red Sox nation.

Over his seven-year career Darvish posted an 8.87 K/9 rate, a 3.75 K/BB ratio, a 1.99 ERA, and a 0.98 WHIP. During Daisuke's eight-year stint in Japan, the hurler posted an 8.69 K/9, a 2.75 K/BB ratio, a 2.94 ERA, and a 1.14 WHIP. Yu is taller, has better command, and throws with more velocity than Matsuzaka. Of course, all of this is true, but as the sage of wisdom Bill Murray once proclaimed, "It just doesn't matter!"

The aforementioned is trumped by the fact that Yu is still a rookie with no MLB experience and is used to pitching every 6th day. That's not what I'm usually looking for in an 8th round pick (NFBC ADP of 122 currently, but that will surely rise as we approach the end of March). I'll likely stay away, but I want to watch him this spring to see how he responds to pitching on shorter rest and in his new environment before submitting the final verdict.

A roto savant somewhere once said, 'There's no such thing as a pitching prospect.' While this proverb isn't true in the absolute sense, living by it has helped me avoid many a minefield during drafts over the years. I can live with the fact that I miss out on heavily hyped rookie pitcher that actually pans out every once in a while because I avoid so many busts it more than makes up for it.

Enter Matt Moore. There are no blemishes here. Some will compare him to David Price, but Price lacked that third quality pitch as a rookie. Moore doesn't. He has an excellent fastball, an excellent curveball, and a good changeup. His minor league numbers are off the charts, and when he was called up late in the season he didn't miss a beat. During the playoffs he had ice in his veins.

So what's not to like? Nothing, except that he's still a rookie getting drafted in the 6th round. That's too early for someone without a track record in the big leagues. I need to see what happens once teams get to face him and second and third time, once they get more film, better scouting reports, and start to make adjustments. Resist the temptation. Don't give in. Just say no to Matt Moore.

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