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Charging the Mound: Breaking the Needle

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Director of Media for, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire's shows on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210).

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: Derek VanRiper
Sent: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 4:31pm
To: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Broken Needles

I'm proposing a new type of league. You've been well above double digits with your league played count as long as I can remember so before you scroll down to the first question mark in this article and start up your reply, hear me out on this one.

My new league is one that has a re-draft every six weeks. To avoid confusion, the schedule for each re-draft date would be known well in advance, and each team would be allowed a co-owner as well to ensure that no adjustments are required to that plan.

This idea struck me Monday during a draft with many of our friends over at Yahoo, and after pondering Ron Shandler's quest for better alternatives to our current game.

We spent some air time Tuesday discussing the results, including Brad Evans' decision to take Jean Segura in the fourth round (10-team mixer, 36th overall). My first instinct was to agree with the take of Pat Daugherty in that section of the draft recap article and say that the selection was crazy.

And not just in a Brad Evans "Team Huevos" sort of way.

After all, Segura was a 15th-round pick of Steve Gardner in Mixed LABR back in February. Al Mechior bought him for $6 in mixed Tout – both leagues have 15 teams.

Yet with just 34 games to reassess Segura's value, he vaulted ahead of Starlin Castro on Monday, who was the 34th overall pick in the aforementioned LABR draft and a $25 player at Tout.

Based on Monday's draft, Segura is up roughly $20 in value – or 12 rounds.

We've both agreed – and this is something I emphasized immediately after the move happened in early April – that Segura's value changed significantly with his move up in the order. Projected to hit eighth in front of the Brewers' pitchers, there was little reason to be optimistic about his short-term chances of maximizing his stolen-base upside. It was reflected appropriately in his projection, in my opinion.

Even if we had re-calibrated Segura's value on April 15, I would have suggested a $10 mixed league player based on the strength of the lineup around him and his new placement in it. Perhaps a move into the top-150 overall, and a selection in the first 10 rounds of a LABR redux?

Still wrong.

There was a mistake in the process. I have been adamant that Segura's power is completely unexpected based on the idea that he's never provided a steady supply of long balls as a minor leaguer.

Do you ever feel as though you already know everything you need to know about a player?

I thought Segura was an eventual leadoff-hitting slasher with plus-speed. The type of guy who scores 100 runs and steals 40-45 bases annually at his peak while hitting for a decent average and drawing his share of walks.

All of that might be true, but I missed a key part of the write-up on Segura even though it was right in front of my eyes from Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus and Matt Eddy of Baseball America in the 2012 Prospect Handbook. Both cite Segura's strength and bat speed as a source of future power. Goldstein forecasted 15-18 homers annually, while Eddy suggested as many as 20 homers at Segura's peak.

For some reason, I chose to ignore two very bright folks who have analyzed prospects for years and just stick to my own opinion, which seems to be a relatively popular one in the pieces I've seen about Segura thus far.

Bottom line, I missed a huge part of his skill set that would have made me more intrigued with him on draft day had I not overlooked them completely. I've been trying to buy high on Segura recently as a result.

What do you think his final line will be – factoring in the numbers he's delivered already. Is he a clear-cut top-10 shortstop the rest of the way? Top-five? Higher?

Sometimes the needle just breaks. (see 2:34 below)

It can go both directions. R.A. Dickey's value may have bottomed out (155th overall), as his start Tuesday night included a season-high 10 strikeouts. How have you adjusted his value since late March?

I'll throw out some names, but dig up anything else that stood out from Monday's results. Some other big movers in each direction: (Up) Chris Davis, Matt Harvey, Carlos Gomez, Starling Marte, Dexter Fowler, Shelby Miller and Hyun-Jin Ryu. (Down) Josh Hamilton, Yovani Gallardo, B.J. Upton, Brett Lawrie, Fernando Rodney and Ike Davis.

Whose performance has truly broken the needle for you?

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Erickson
Sent: Thursday, May 16, 2013 3:31am
To: Derek VanRiper
Subject: RE: Broken Needles

I'm intrigued by the concept of the new league, though in practice I'm also cowed by it (as I'm reminded by nearly everyone in my life that I need to get more rest, that I play in an insane number of leagues, and I know that they're right about both). But I'm interested in the mechanics of this format. Do you bank team stats at the redraft and have cumulative standings, or do you just have separate "seasons"? What would be even more insane would be to bank a few selected players stats from previous periods, with the proviso that you're stuck with whatever they do next.

One thing I'd caution is to not declare victory or defeat regarding Segura or any other outlier this early in the season. Yeah, sometimes Mike Trout keeps it up all season long; other times there's a significant adjustment period in the offing. And of course we don't know everything there is to know - especially when you're trying to analyze these guys on the fly. Even when someone is blessed with photographic memory skills and thus might have the advantage of remembering everything written about every player, they still have to synthesize that information, and they have rely upon that source to be accurate. KG and Eddy are awesome at what they do (or in KG's case, the writing aspect, "did"), but that doesn't mean that they don't have the same shortcomings. So don't beat yourself up on this.

That said ... Liss and I talk about this topic all the time. It's not just that a player is an outlier, it's also the magnitude of that outlier. When the needle merely moves on the seismograph, it's easy to dismiss the outlier. When it jumps off the page like it has with Segura, we sit up and take notice. Right now according to our In-Season Auction Values, Segura is a $38 hitter, second only to Miggy. He struck out thrice Wednesday night ... but that still gives him 22 K's on the season. He's going to hit for average this year the rest of the way, high BABIP or not, because he puts the ball in play and is fast. Either he has to get hurt or get fat-and-happy for that to change. He has a big platoon split, but that difference is between seismograph-silly heights against lefties (1.249 OPS) to merely very, very good against righties (.884).

You're correct and proper to buy-high on him for those reasons, I think. Besides, the state of shortstop offensively in major league baseball is a sorry lot. If I'm drafting today, at worst he's my #4 shortstop, which probably puts him around 50-60 overall. Look at our shortstop rankings right now - we've got Tulo #1, fine, no argument there at all. Starlin Castro and Ian Desmond are #'s 2 and 3 respectively, and I think I could dance to that. But would we really rather have Jimmy Rollins next? He has hit above .250 once since 2009, his strikeout rate is climbing steadily and he's running less frequently. Asdrubal Cabrera and Ben Zobrist have similar batting average concerns. Elvis Andrus will hit five homers all year if he's lucky.

I get not playing the positional scarcity game at the draft table, but I came into this article thinking that Brad was off his rocker. He is, but not for this, at least. Rest of the way: .290/ 12 HR/ 20 SB.

Lightning response to other needle-movers:

R.A. Dickey - Hasn't moved much because I don't know the answer to the health question yet.

Chris Davis, Matt Harvey - Believe in both - see last week's Charging for more on Harvey.

Carlos Gomez - Still waiting for a BA correction, but do expect the power and speed to maintain. Once the Brewers gave him that contract, the playing time became a lock.

Shelby Miller - I'm a Sad Panda because I have no shares of him.

Downward moving hitters - Nearly all of these guys are high-strikeout, low batting average goofs. And that's the unifying trend of my teams that aren't off to a great start so far. Those that are doing well don't have that profile. It's my biggest blind spot in this game we play. Throw Pedro Alvarez onto that burning pile of rubble, too. Lawrie is probably the outlier in this group - he was hurt, and probably came back too soon.

Fernando Rodney - Verdict isn't out yet, in my opinion. Sunday and Tuesday provided some hope that he just needed a mechanical tweet tantamount to last year's sea change to get him back on track.

One more needle-mover for you, and it's not a surprise, given the pedigree - Manny Machado. Better to be a year too early with these elite guys, eh?

-----Original Message-----
From: Derek VanRiper
Sent: Thursday, May 16, 2013 12:39pm
To: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Re: Broken Needles

With the multiple re-draft format, my idea was to maintain one set of cumulative standings throughout the process, but I am open to ideas for wrinkles such as allowing one keeper if the player was drafted after a particular round. Scoring wise, perhaps adding the standings points together for each period makes more sense, because it might keep teams that are struggling in the first portion of the season in a more viable position to compete again if they draft well in subsequent phases. I wouldn't mind hearing some thoughts from readers on this concept in the comments.

Not surprisingly, my attempts to acquire Segura have been futile.

In our 18-team Staff Keeper league, Segura (keepable for $3 through 2015, w/extension possibilities longer) straight up for Matt Kemp ($55) was turned down.

Steve Gardner didn't think Jonathan Papelbon was enough straight up for Segura, and saves could be worth 10 standings points to him if he's able to add 25 of them from this point forward. I don't think either offer was unfair, but I don't blame them for turning me down.

Just to put the value and rarity of 15-homer, 30-steal season into context for a first or second-year player, it's only happened 12 times since the start of the Expansion Era in 1961.

Even considering that, I agree with your projection for Segura for the rest of the season, and I would also take him over Jimmy Rollins if we are drafting today.

Thinking about the high praise Manny Machado received as a prospect – he was ranked as a top-10 overall guy at a very young age, and even drew comps to Alex Rodriguez (when he had functioning hips). We're spoiled. A .790 OPS at Double-A from a 19-year-old (playing shortstop, no less) should have made the masses much more excited than it did.

So what is the takeaway?

First, it's borderline impossible to make a fair deal for Segura or Machado types right now.

Second, if Jurickson Profar gets a second-half bump to Texas this season, and is available with a similar ADP as Machado was this season when drafts are taking place next spring, we're fools if we don't have him in at least half of our leagues in 2014. I think you can swap out Profar for other elite prospects that are very young for the level such as Oscar Taveras and Miguel Sano.

Also, why did we both choose not to make a low-cost investment in Shelby Miller?

I was fixated on how terrible he was in the first half of the season at Triple-A last year. It was easy enough to think that he would struggle at times – perhaps he still will – against big league hitters in his first full season given the adjustment period he required in Memphis.

Humbly learning from the mistakes and trying to correct the blind spots is the only long-term gain here.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Erickson
Sent: Thursday, May 16, 2013 5:37pm
To: Derek VanRiper
Subject: Re: Broken Needles

In a salary-based keeper league with an in-season salary cap, it's almost impossible to extract good value on a player like Segura. He's in his first year as a $3 player and can kept there at the same price next year. Only after the 2014 season does Roger have to decide what sort of contract extension to give him. How many current year's dollars do you have to get to give up Segura's present and future dollars of production? $100? $150? And how can you possibly fit that all under the in-season cap (we start with a $260 auction cap, add another $100 in in-season cap, which includes purchase prices for free agent pickups.)? You'd have to have a major player with a season-ending injury and cut him, or trade off a similarly high-priced player. Not many contending teams can siphon off a Roy Halladay to make room on the cap.

In a non-keeper, I don't know if I'd accept any closer for Segura but Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman or Mariano Rivera. Papelbon is getting the ratios, but not that many save chances and fewer K's than before.

Glad you mentioned Profar. I'm holding out with him in two leagues, but perhaps the better construction is to try to emulate the Trout/Machado/Segura experience and get him in Year 2, rather than hope he pulls a Harper in Year 1.

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