Fantasy baseball lessons: Acquiring value buys

by Nicholas Minnix on October 27, 2010 @ 14:00:00 PDT


Buying opportunity abounded in fantasy baseball drafts this past March. You had some in mind. Ego drives fantasy baseball players. We like to think we see something others don't or believe something is more important than others do. We like to be right. How far are we willing to go to be right?

  • New York Yankees OF Nick Swisher
    What a bargain!
    The Tampa Bay Rays' Carlos Pena looked like he might be a good undervalued play at first base because his batting average dipped in 2009 and his average on balls in play was atrocious.
  • One could have made the argument that the 2010 season - before he suffered a broken thumb at the end of spring training - looked like the one in which Alex Gordon (Kansas City Royals) would finally ... do something.
  • Many were skeptical of shortstop Marco Scutaro's "breakthrough" campaign, which came with the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite his move to the powerful Boston Red Sox's lineup and some positive indications about his improvements as a hitter, he wasn't a highly sought commodity.
  • Nick Swisher put in extensive work with New York Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long at the end of 2009, and it was paying off. His first-base eligibility seemed like the cherry on top of the reasons to pursue him as an underrated corner infielder, where the list of suitable options for that spot dried up quickly.
  • J.J. Hardy's career with the Milwaukee Brewers nosedived in 2009, after two very good seasons, but his relocation to the Minnesota Twins' clubhouse provided the background for reasons to hope for a bounce-back.
  • Milton Bradley's name translated into Latin is "Caveat Emptor" - weird, huh? - but he's an incredibly talented hitter. He unraveled, at some point, in America's largest cities where he played but was at least above-average in his years with small-market clubs.
  • Magglio Ordonez's career appeared to be all but over because of his 2009 he had. In the offseason, Maggs recovered from an emotionally trying year off the field and rededicated himself to finding his stroke. Preseason accounts of his workouts screamed comeback.
  • No one entirely wants Jose Guillen. The Kansas City Royals weren't sure that they did. He wasn't quite an afterthought entering spring training, but this was clearly his last year in KC, even though he seemed healthy and began to prove that he could still hit.
  • Forgotten players? Everybody forgot Andruw Jones, on whom the Chicago White Sox might've been the only team willing to take a chance. He joined the ChiSox with no expectations but also a renewed outlook and a vastly improved physical condition.
  • The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim gave up little to acquire Scott Kazmir from the Rays. In the final month of 2009, the Halos also seemed to hit on ways to extract the most from the southpaw's abilities.
  • Boston Red Sox SP Josh Beckett
    What the....
    The Toronto Blue Jays were going to depend on Shaun Marcum - who didn't pitch in the majors in the previous season because he had Tommy John surgery before it - as their ace. He looked like a potential No. 1 starter in his breakout 2008, before elbow problems sidelined him, but the move was bold.
  • Kerry Wood didn't have a very good first season with the Cleveland Indians. However, he didn't miss significant time and was remarkable in the second half, after he modified his arsenal and approach.

Fantasy baseball managers are willing to take chances on seemingly undervalued or risky players with a few of their roster spots. In one league or another, many folks owned one or more of them. At the conclusion of at least one league's auction in the vast AL-only universe, it turns out that each of the players on the above list - yes, every single stinking one of them, as well as the non-stinking ones - occupied a roster spot on the exact same team in that league.


That's quite a learning experience, to fall for too many what-ifs. You want to pinch pennies somewhere, but if you don't spend an additional buck or three on more players who are historically reliable, you are likelier to need cleanup in Aisle 3. On draft day, you may feel confident that your undervalued targets aren't much different from more dependable commodities. When Josh Beckett throws the first pitch of a new season, though, all bets are off.

Speaking of Beckett, who had a miserable 2009 and was entering a contract year (at the time), he seemed like a nice relative value in the fantasy ace bin.

Always come armed with buy-low targets. Then, remember that those players are "undervalued" for reasons that could be larger factors in their performance than you realize or care to admit. Avoid rationalizing that your assembled roster will get the job done based solely on your projections, which you should use simply to provide yourself with possible relative value.

Don't forget to use the bit of predictability that is at the fantasy baseball player's disposal. And don't forget about Milton Bradley in 2011.

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Acquiring value buys | Negotiating trades

About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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