Keeper League Strategy: A statistical analysis of prospect success.

Keeper Prospects: Using a risk analysis approach in the assessment of assets.
 
‘’I just made a killing in the stock market — I shot my broker.’’
– Henny Youngman

It has happened to all of us.
 
You’ve been sitting for what seems an eternity, studying the players at the table, and you look down in early position to see a sweet ace matched up with an smiling queen of hearts.
 
Suited aces in early position. Oh the allure.
 
In his ground breaking book Super System, Doyle Brunson nicknamed the hand ‘The lonesome road to Dallas’. In his own words, ‘’there’s no better way to make sure your walking the lonesome road back to Dallas, than playing Ace-Queen’s.’’
 
Now, suited aces are fine if you’re limping in late position with 3 or more callers in front of you. The reason the hand extends to a state of value is because you won’t get caught with yer pants down if you flop a flush draw. The odds of flopping a flush draw are 10.9|PERCENT| – slightly less that flopping a monster hand while drafting elite keeper prospects in fantasy baseball.
 
Today we’re going to talk keeper league strategy in preparation for this month’s drafts. Acquiring top ranked, minor league prospects is a common strategy in keeper leagues. As you are about to see, this strategy is more speculative than it may appear.
 
Webster’s definition of a ‘Speculative Stock’:
‘’A general term describing a stock with high risk relative to any potential positive returns. Speculative stocks are often purchased by those who believe the stock will appreciate in value without performing a detailed analysis.’’
 
While looking at all the top prospect reports coming out this time of year, it is important that we keep the hype in perspective. Our question is, what percentage of top 10 prospects ever reach All Star status in the major leagues.
 
The following are Baseball America’s Top 10 prospects, by year. I made a 10 year chart, from 1998-2007, so that it’s easier to do the math. As well, I put in italics the players who had a solid but not spectacular MLB career, and put in bold print those who were impact players.
 
The chart looks like this:
 
1998
1. Ben Grieve, of, Athletics
2. Paul Konerko, 1b/3b, Dodgers
3. Adrian Beltre, 3b, Dodgers
4. Kerry Wood, rhp, Cubs
5. Aramis Ramirez, 3b, Pirates
6. Matt White, rhp, Devil Rays
7. Kris Benson, rhp, Pirates
8. Travis Lee, 1b, Diamondbacks
9. Carl Pavano, rhp, Expos
10. Miguel Tejada, ss, Athletics
 
1999
1. J.D. Drew, of, Cardinals
2. Rick Ankiel, lhp, Cardinals
3. Eric Chavez, 3b, Athletics
4. Bruce Chen, lhp, Braves
5. Brad Penny, rhp, Diamondbacks
6. Michael Barrett, 3b/c, Expos
7. Ryan Anderson, lhp, Mariners
8. Pablo Ozuna, ss, Marlins
9. Ruben Mateo, of, Rangers
10. Matt Clement, rhp, Padres
 
2000
1. Rick Ankiel, lhp, Cardinals
2. Pat Burrell, 1b/of, Phillies
3. Corey Patterson, of, Cubs
4. Vernon Wells, of, Blue Jays
5. Nick Johnson, 1b, Yankees
6. Ruben Mateo, of, Rangers
7. Sean Burroughs, 3b, Padres
8. Rafael Furcal, ss, Braves
9. Ryan Anderson, lhp, Mariners
10. John Patterson, rhp, Diamondbacks
 
2001
1. Josh Hamilton, of, Devil Rays
2. Corey Patterson, of, Cubs
3. Josh Beckett, rhp, Marlins
4. Jon Rauch, rhp, White Sox
5. Ben Sheets, rhp, Brewers
6. Sean Burroughs, 3b, Padres
7. C.C. Sabathia, lhp, Indians
8. Ryan Anderson, lhp, Mariners
9. Ichiro Suzuki, of, Mariners
10. Nick Johnson, 1b, Yankees
2002
1. Josh Beckett, rhp, Marlins
2. Mark Prior, rhp, Cubs
3. Hank Blalock, 3b, Rangers
4. Sean Burroughs, 3b, Padres
5. Carlos Pena, 1b, Athletics
6. Juan Cruz, rhp, Cubs
7. Joe Mauer, c, Twins
8. Wilson Betemit, ss, Braves
9. Drew Henson, 3b, Yankees
10. Mark Teixeira, 3b, Rangers
 
2003
1. Mark Teixeira, 3b, Rangers
2. Rocco Baldelli, of, Devil Rays
3. Jose Reyes, ss, Mets
4. Joe Mauer, c, Twins

5. Jesse Foppert, rhp, Giants
6. Jose Contreras, rhp, Yankees
7. Brandon Phillips, 2b/ss, Indians
8. Hideki Matsui, of, Yankees
9. Gavin Floyd, rhp, Phillies
10. Francisco Rodriguez, rhp, Angels
 
2004
1. Joe Mauer c, Twins
2. B.J. Upton ss, Devil Rays
3. Delmon Young of, Devil Rays
4. Edwin Jackson rhp, Dodgers
5. Rickie Weeks 2b, Brewers
6. Alexis Rios of, Blue Jays

7. Kazuo Matsui ss, Mets
8. Greg Miller lhp, Dodgers
9. Grady Sizemore of, Indians
10. Prince Fielder 1b, Brewers
 
2005
1. Joe Mauer, c, Twins
2. Felix Hernandez, rhp, Mariners

3. Delmon Young, of, Devil Rays
4. Ian Stewart, 3b, Rockies
5. Joel Guzman, ss, Dodgers
6. Casey Kotchman, 1b, Angels
7. Scott Kazmir, lhp, Devil Rays
8. Rickie Weeks, 2b, Brewers
9. Andy Marte, 3b, Braves
10. Hanley Ramirez, ss, Red Sox
 
2006
1. Delmon Young, of, Devil Rays
2. Justin Upton, ss, Diamondbacks
3. Brandon Wood, ss, Angels
4. Jeremy Hermida, of, Marlins
5. Stephen Drew, ss, Diamondbacks
6. Francisco Liriano, lhp, Twins
7. Chad Billingsley, rhp, Dodgers
8. Justin Verlander, rhp, Tigers
9. Lastings Milledge, of, Mets
10. Matt Cain, rhp, Giants
 
2007
1. Daisuke Matsuzaka, rhp, Red Sox
2. Alex Gordon, 3b, Royals
3. Delmon Young, of, Devil
4. Philip Hughes, rhp, Yankees
5. Homer Bailey, rhp, Reds
6. Cameron Maybin, of, Tigers
7. Evan Longoria, 3b, Devil Rays
8. Brandon Wood, ss, Angels
9. Justin Upton, of, Diamondbacks
10. Andrew Miller, lhp, Tigers
 
 
 
 
Everyone in bold print is a no brainer. Let’s leave that at that. The italicized players we can debate but by and large their representation as solid, yet unspectacular, keepers is sound. (Keep in mind that Hank Blalock and Brad Penny had nice careers and were fantasy keepers during their apex. Mark Prior I included though his stellar career was cut short by a small, Syrian uprising in his shoulder tendons led by the General Dusty Bakerios.) Subjective analysis that it is, the observations above highlight a few very important trends.
 
Out of the top 100 prospects in the last 10 years, we see clearly that:
 
  1. 22 names on the list reached All Star status (out of 100 – obviously, a 22|PERCENT| hit rate)
  2. Another 19 were good enough players for them to be clear keepers on your roster, even though they drive you nuts (Hello Rickie Weeks – 19|PERCENT|)
  3. 5 All Stars were pitchers (out of 35 total pitchers on the list – a 14|PERCENT| hit rate)
  4. 17 were hitters (out of 65 total hitters on the list – a 26|PERCENT| hit rate)
 
In other words, here’s how we should view the following list from Major League Baseballs 2012 prospect rankings.
 
2012 prospect rankings from MLB.com:
 
1. Matt Moore, LHP, Rays
2. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
3. Mike Trout, OF, Angels
4. Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves
5. Shelby Miller, RHP, Cards
6. Manny Machado, SS, Orioles
7. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas
8. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pirates
9. Trevor Bauer, RHP, D-Backs
10. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles
 
The first thing we do is throw out the starters. As starting pitchers comprised a 14|PERCENT| hit rate we’re going to bet the come line and take them out of our wheelhouse. They’ve just proved to be too much of a risk to gamble a roster spot on them. Remember, we don’t use emotions to compile our team, we use data.
 
This leaves us with Harper, Trout, Machado and Profar as our value assets. My recommendation to you if you hold these players is to trade them for proven assets.
 
‘’The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy and the time of maximum optimism is the best time to sell.’’
 – John Templeton
 
Of the top offensive prospects in the 10 year span that we analyzed, 75|PERCENT| never made a fantasy impact. In statistical terms these prospects implied value is far above their actual value, especially in the bubble of a keeper league.
 
Your goal is to use their perceived value to lock up reliable players who have already made the transition to major league viability. In financial terms, value assets are important to identify because they can be used to accumulate capital. Capital is what wins fantasy championships. The stock tip here is, if you can acquire low priced assets, to leverage into capital, your portfolio will show dividends at the end of the season.
 
High upside talent is extremely speculative. By trading this talent for actual major league value, you will be not only strengthening your position in the league standings but you will be weakening your opponents. A mindful eye and an active approach before the draft is vital to your seasonal success.
 
Enjoy your draft research folks. And keep a watchful eye on the difference between implied and actual value.
 
Happy gambling.