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Charging the Mound: How to Rank Injured Players and Prospects - With Video

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He's also in the FSWA Hall of Fame. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson" Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 9:02am
To: "Christopher" Subject: Re: Charging

Hey Chris, I thought that I'd start this week inspired by an internal debate we had here at RotoWire. We're going to adjust how we rank injured players and elite prospects that haven't yet been called up by their parent organizations. The process of ranking players has an element of art beyond science to begin with, but factoring these two classes of players is especially tricky.

In many leagues, there are a small number of reserve and DL spots, occasionally none of the latter. It becomes a challenge to stash injured players and prospects as the injuries and marginal performances pile up. In Yahoo Friends & Family we have just three bench spots and two DL slots. What is Jose Reyes' trade value? Can you afford to stash Ryan Madson and wait for him to come back, when we don't know what his role will be, let alone how well he'll pitch? In the RotoWire Fantasy Baseball Online Championship, we have seven reserve slots and no DL, in a 12-team mixed league. Someone dropped Reyes in my league a week and-a-half ago - there are no trades, and his owner needed the spot.

Do you have a good formula for these sorts of issues? Obviously it varies from league-to-league, but what's your rule of thumb?

While we're at it, what's your impression of the following prospects that have gotten the call already?

Tony Cingrani
Oswaldo Arcia
Jose Fernandez

Are there any other rookies that have caught your eye?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss" Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 4:12pm
To: "Jeff Erickson" Subject: Re: Charging

I think we have to rank those guys, but it's important to disclose what the default cheat sheet is. The number of bench spots (as well as the number of teams in the league) makes a big difference - in some cases a bigger one than whether an NFL league is standard or PPR. So just as you'd always specify what your default NFL rankings were (PPR or not), you have to specify what your default MLB ones are too. If we say 12-team NFBC-style, then we know what we're dealing with. If we say 12-team Yahoo! style with daily moves, we get that too. Whatever you pick, it should be disclosed, and there should probably be a formula for adjusting between the different styles of leagues or adding (or subtracting) depth.

Let's say for the sake of argument, we're dealing with a 12-team NFBC style with seven bench spots and no DL. Then quality DL players (and top prospects yet to be called up) have some stash value, but have to be discounted for their opportunity cost. You rank them according to what you imagine their numbers to be when healthy, plus the replacement value for their position in the meantime, minus the replacement value of a roster spot in that league. It's not easy to be precise when a player is hurt or his call-up depends on others getting hurt and/or the whims of management, but player valuation is rarely precise even when present playing time is fairly assured and the player has a track record.

Bottom line - it's especially important to rank injured players and prospects because that's the information people actually need. No one needs you to tell them Justin Verlander is top-3 pitcher, or that Adrian Beltre is a top-3 third baseman. It's the tough calls with which people need help.

As for the rookies, I like what Cingrani did in his second start against the Cubs. I expect him to have command issues this year and probably get knocked around by a more patient team, but it's hard not to like him at this point. Fernandez has great stuff, but you can see it'll be bumpy as he learns to pitch in the big leagues. Hard to say whether he'll figure it out as the year goes on. I'm happy to own him in NL Tout, but he's borderline in a mixed league.

Arcia is worth a look because he's a real prospect that's getting a chance. It's a bad park in which to debut as a hitter, but I'm happy to have gotten him for a few bucks in AL LABR.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson" Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2013 3:09pm
To: "Christopher Liss" Subject: Re: Charging

Determining what exactly is the default cheat sheet is not an easy task. It's cool that fantasy baseball has evolved in many different ways, but it also complicates the business of giving advice. The construction you and I came up with for this week's video was to make it a 12-team league with six reserves and two DL slots - not too different from your construction above. It works for argument's sake - you don't have unlimited DL slots, but you also do have some opportunity to stash someone away if they're hurt.

We ended up doing a handful of comparisons in the video, but here are a few more - who would you rather have for the rest of the season for each, using the format above?

Guys on the DL:

Brian McCann vs. A.J. Pierzynski?
Yasmani Grandal vs. John Jaso or Russell Martin?
Mark Teixieria vs. Adam LaRoche
Aaron Hill vs. Neil Walker? Or maybe we need to aim lower - vs. Daniel Murphy?


Gerrit Cole vs. Patrick Corbin? vs. Zach McAllister? vs. Dan Haren?
Billy Hamilton (where he qualifies at SS) vs. Jurickson Profar? vs. Stephen Drew? vs. Brandon Crawford? vs. Marco Scutaro?

Incidentally, how dreadful is the shortstop position so far this year? It's hard to find guys outside of the top 15 that are interesting at all.

Billy Hamilton (as an OF-only) vs. Jon Jay? vs. John Mayberry? vs. Will Venable?
Oscar Taveras vs. Juan Pierre? vs. Denard Span? vs. David Murphy?

(I'm purposefully trying to find guys you have to consider dropping in these 12-team formats.)

From: Christopher Liss
Subject: Re: Charging
Date: April 25, 2013 11:45:39 PM PDT
To: Jeff Erickson

I've got McCann in a couple places, but I'd probably go Pierzynski given his park and McCann's latest wrist injury. I'd take Grandal if I had the open DL spot probably over Martin or Jaso on my bench. I think Jaso is basically a replacement value catcher in a 2-C 12-team mixed league anyway. Martin, I can't deal with because he's a batting average killer.

I'd take LaRoche over Teixeira, and I don't even like LaRoche. Teixeira hasn't hit well since teams used the shift against him, is out indefinitely and might not be right once he's back. I'd probably rank the second basemen Walker, Hill, Murphy. Hill's been inconsistent year-to-year, and I don't love that he has a hand injury. But Murphy doesn't hit for much power or run, so there's no real upside there.

Give me Corbin who's been good and has been throwing harder over Cole. Give me Cole over the other two, though McAllister is close.

Give me Profar over Hamilton, as the latter isn't hitting at Triple-A. But for a lot of these guys like Hamilton vs. Drew. Hamilton's the no brainer if they're both on your bench. If you're talking an only league (or a 24-team mixed), then it's a closer call whether you'd rather have Drew or Hamilton stuck in your lineup all year.