This week’s question is germane to leagues of all shapes and sizes:
While we await the wave of call-ups after the impending Super-Two cutoff, how , if at all will the trials and tribulations of the prospects already promoted affect the way you approach rookies the rest of the season?
Tim McLeod (Prospect361.com, @RunTMcP361 ): It won’t change my approach. In most formats the Free Agent pool is limited at-best. What options are left, especially when looking at SP? I’ll take my chances on the unproven rookie before betting on the Matt Shoemaker types of the world.
Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): Still gotta play it one guy at a time, taking into account team context, player pedigree and (usually limited) MiLB track record, and what you’d take into account if this were a more ‘normal’ season. It doesn’t make sense to alter your approach because of the struggles of some hot prospects in what is still a a very small sample. I am a bit more willing to speculate on catchers in my AL-only league, paid $7 at auction for rookie Alejandro ‘Captain’ Kirk of the Jays, which looked like it might pan out before he got hurt; and just the other week Jason Collette pipped me at the post on Dan Raleigh (SEA), who hasn’t even been called up, because how bad can he be compared with my current twosome of Austin Hedges and Kevin Plawecki?
Fred Zinkie (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @FredZinkieMLB): With extreme hesitation. I’ve used enough resources on the rookies who have already been promoted. This may not be the year for impact rookies, as the 2020 season didn’t do them any favors in terms of development.
Matt Williams (NBC Sports Edge, @MattWi77iams): A player told Robert Murray of Fansided that there has “never been bigger gap between Triple-A and the big leagues.” Between the 2020 minor league season being cancelled, alternate training camps, and now the uncertainty surrounding league wide offense due to Spider Tack and the new ball, there is a lot more to overcome this season than in the past for minor league talent to take the jump. There is no reason to abandon the speculation of prospects, especially with injuries diminishing the waiver wire. However, I would be more skeptical this season and not invest excessive FAAB/capital that could negatively impact my budget for the rest of the reason. However, that is always the way I prefer to play with redraft prospects.
Brian Walton (CreativeSports2, @B_Walton): Coming at this from the perspective of an AL-only or NL-only league participant, where playing time is so important, I might actually be more inclined to consider prospects this year. The reason is increased opportunity due to the epidemic of injuries across MLB. Of course, there is no guarantee that success will follow.
Brent Hershey (Baseball HQ, @BrentHQ): I’m reminded every year in compiling the Top 50 Impact Prospects section of the Baseball Forecaster (granted, we do that in October) how so few rookie pitchers return positive value in their call-up season. This history of rostering a rookie pitcher in a re-draft league is just not a profitable move in most cases. But inevitably, sometimes my actions don’t follow my well-intentioned “note to self” from the previous fall; like probably everyone here, my desire to nail the “outlier” in that case sometimes causes me to ignore my own advice. As we’ve seen so far this year, rookie hitters can struggle also, but in theory, I’ll be more likely to roster a rookie hitter than a rookie pitcher. To me, the risk is not quite as stark on the hitter side.
Perry Van Hook (Mastersball, @): There is no correlation between the players, but there might be some based on positions. Most young pitchers take a while to get settled into the major leagues and learn what to do. It is the rare bird that performs well right out of the gate AND stays at that level. Look at Tarik Skubal in essentially his second year pitching in the majors – he struggled to start the year but has been very good in his last four starts. I wouldn’t be gunshy on a young pitcher just because Daniel Lynch or Jackson Kowar didn’t start well. Both have good arms and I think will be good pitchers down the road. Much easier to look at a hitter’s stats and decide whether to take a chance on him. The one I will probably watch but not jump on this year is Jo Adell who is crushing AAA pitching so far this year. But when he gets to Anaheim will he remember this year’s early success or think about how poor he was last year for the Angels?
Eric Karabell (ESPN, @karabelleric): I do not think that what happened to Jarred Kelenic or Jackson Kowar is terribly surprising and therefore it will not dissuade me from future moves. Frankly, I am often recommending going with veterans anyway. It’s contextual. Yes, Kelenic has the higher ceiling than say Andrew McCutchen and I still think Kelenic will be great, so it may depend on need. What happened to him and others is not predictive of the next promoted prospects in general. Wander Franco may or may not struggle, but not because of past prospects.
Scott Engel (Rotoballer, @scotteTheKing): You have to evaluate each player on an individual basis, but I will always recommend to not go too heavy on rookies when you are FAAB bidding. In all Fantasy Sports, players get too hyped up at times on talent and opportunity alone and overlook the necessary adjustment periods
Derek VanRiper (The Athletic, @DerekVanRiper): I’m looking for longer track record prospects, players who have seen considerable time at Double-A or above, rather than players who might have skipped an important level with the lost 2020. Basically, I’m more willing to give up some ceiling in order to target a less-hyped player who might offer a better immediate floor. As hitters go, I’m particularly skeptical of high-K% hitters at Triple-A right now making a quick adjustment to the top level. That is, I’m much more likely to trust Vidal Bruján than to trust Jarren Duran from the jump, because I expect K% to jump a lot more than usual for first-time MLB hitters.
Jim Bowden (Fantasy Alarm, @JimBowdenGM): Depends on the prospect but certainly will factor in the huge gap between AAA and MLB and take into account the dominating performance at AAA means nothing this year.
Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): No change to approach. I am far more likely to entertain chasing a rookie in “only” leagues. Playing time is King. If the MLB team hands a role to a position player and I get the chance to add to my counting stats through that player, I am going after him. Pitchers are a little different. I will try a guy if I think he will have a good K-BB, but I will keep pitchers on a short leash. Also, sometimes, beggars can’t be choosers, so need is important. So far this year I have FAAB’d Larnach in Tout-AL and drafted or FAAB’d D.Varsho, Y.Daza, Ynoa, Poteet, S.Howard in LABR-NL. I have Alzolay and Larnach in TGFBI. Not all wine and roses, but nothing murderously dreadful, either.
James Anderson (Rotowire, @RealJRAnderson): This has been a huge pet peeve of mine since I’ve been constantly asked about it, but what happened with Jarred Kelenic (and anyone else) shouldn’t have been a major surprise to anyone. He *could* have been great right away, and I’m not even saying that stashing him was a bad move from a process standpoint (although I had zero shares in redraft), but one highly-ranked prospect flopping in 92 PA is nothing more than a blip on the radar. It’s certainly not the first time that’s happened and it won’t be the last. This doesn’t change anything about how we should be viewing Kelenic long term, although hopefully it’s a wakeup call to those who didn’t think this was a possible outcome. OK, rant over.
Derek Carty (RotoGrinders, @DerekCarty): Recent flops like Kelenic and Vaughn just underscore what we’ve always known about prospects but most people are to scared or oblivious to notice: the majority of prospects flop or are blah their first go-round. You take them for the 5-10% chance they wind up as Acuna or Tatis, but most are not. Prospects are dumb. As a projection guy I hate them. Do whatever you want with them or whatever.
Brad Johnson (Patreon/BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): Has this season really been any different than normal? Or did we just forget what normal looks like after the nonsense of 2020? I will always invest when they are nearly free and pass otherwise.
D.J. Short (NBC Sports Edge, @djshort): Not really. In the end, it always comes down to roster need and the available player pool. In general, I tend to think prospect pitchers can be a trap and that was true even before this year. I think this year is unique in that it’s hard to really know what impact no minor league season in 2020 really had on these prospects. That’s in the back of my mind, but I’m still more inclined to take a chance on hitters even after names like Kelenic and Vaughn have disappointed. It’s not doing to dissuade me from stashing a Franco or Brujan, etc.
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): I posted a tweet wondering if some of the Double- and Triple-A numbers from the top prospects are inflated since most of the players hardly played last year while some had the luxury of developing at the alternate training site. The notion is these top prospects’ numbers would be higher than normal, relative to typical seasons, raising fantasy expectations even higher than normal. By some of the previous replies, it seems there is something to it. As such, while I agree with most of the replies with respect to being contextual, always being cautious, etc., I think the stats of the top prospects could be a bit precarious so be even more wary of someone hitting the ground running. This applies to everyone, even Wander Franco. As an aside to Red Sox nation clamoring for Jarren Duran, careful what you wish for (though I’m excited for his future).
Shelly Verougstraete (Dynasty Guru, @ShellyV_643): Not at all for me. We all know there is a risk for prospects to flop but I’ll take a gamble on the younger guys, if it fits my team. In a bunch of my re-draft leagues, I’ve been looking for hitting help as opposed to pitching help. While it hurt not to get in the bids for Manoah and Kowar, there have been some interesting bats as of late, like Trammell and Olivares.
Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): If they have been productive and I have a hole to fill, I’ll give them a try. But as many have found out, it’s lot tougher in the big leagues! I’ve noticed some to have early success, only to see adjustments made and they struggle. It’s when they can make that next adjustment, they are ready to contribute.
Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): I will preface my words by first stating that I generally am very cautious with rookies. Part of the poor performance this year is the fact that there were no minor leagues during 2020. There is a big step up to the major leagues, and even a decent step up from AA to AAA, etc. So far in ’21, the evidence is mounting that the minors indeed are needed to develop prospects; teams cannot just rush many of them up. For the rest of 2021 – it will certainly matter on a case by case player basis. But in the back of my mind, that piece of info (no minors in ’20) will be at the forefront of my FAAB bidding.
Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): The early season struggles of some highly touted rookies will have little to no impact on how I approach rookies for the rest of the season, especially hitters. The early season call-ups generally had extremely small sample sizes in the minors this season prior to their call ups after having no minor league season in 2020. By the time the Francos, Brujans, and Durans get called up, we should have larger current minor league season samples, and therefore a greater comfort level with investing FAAB in them. That said, relying heavily on rookies to improve your place in the standings is generally going to result in disappointment.
Andy Behrens (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @andybehrens): As others have said, banking on any prospect to save your fantasy season is usually a terrible plan. (Related: I’m totally banking on Vidal Brujan to save my Tout season.) The best approach with new arrivals in any non-dynasty format is to use them as trade sweeteners. At least one manager in pretty much every league is infatuated with prospects.
Ray Flowers (Fantasy Guru, @BaseballGuys): Put another log on the fire for me. Year after year, the majority of guys getting their first shot disappoint. Often times, the rookies that pop aren’t even the ones we were expecting too. Nothing that’s transpired to date will change my thoughts the rest of this year. It is more of the same randomness we should all be used to by now.
Adam Ronis (Fantasy Alarm, @AdamRonis): It won’t change much. We are seeing it’s very difficult for established players to hit right now and it’s maginifed for rookies. Still, it’s very difficult to find offense on the waiver wire in deeper formats so I will take shots if some rookies are available, but won’t invest much FAAB. I am less likely to take a shot on pitchers and most overpay.
Chris Welsh (Sportsgrid, @IsItTheWelsh): Personally, it doesn’t change MY approach, but it has put a bright light on rookies as a whole for many. From an “industry” I imagine most responses will be, little change, but from a consumer perspective I do believe you will see people more gun-shy than ever before. Craig Counsell made an interesting statement when talking about not a rookie, but Keston Hiura, but it applies. Counsell said that there has never been a bigger gap between triple-a and the bigs. That’s quite a statement. If you think about it though, with a lost season of minor leagues and weird development, I believe it tracks a bit. Rookies will always have struggles with ups and downs. We should bank on that, but with so much lost from last year you may have players pressing more than in previous years, while also what has been asked of these guys is unlike previous years. I could keep going, but at the end of the day, you have to take your shots. I’ll always take my shots on higher prospect hitters in their rookie year. I’ll most likely stay away from rookie pitchers. This year hasn’t changed that, but things do like worse for the young dudes!
Scott Wilderman (OnRoto, @): I’ve always been a numbers guy, but while I do believe the numbers don’t lie, they do get ahead of themselves sometimes by a year or two or three. That’s okay for keeper leagues, but for winning now, there are very few safe bets. The thing to look for is no drop off in production at each promotion. The great ones don’t need a half-season to adjust to each new level. But that said… with the number of injuries this year, some of us are desperate, and I’ve already taken some chances on players I normally wouldn’t touch — especially pitchers — and I’m afraid I’m going to have to keep doing it. I’ll still be looking at progressions through the minors, but I won’t be able to back away from guys who appear to take a half season to adjust.
Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): My approach won’t change much…I never have been a big believer in over spending on a rookie call-up. Whether it be Jarred Kelenic or Mike Trout, who hit .220 when called up in 2011, young players need time to develop. Although I’m excited to see Jo Adell, Bobby Witt and more called up to the big league level, I will not be the player who busts his FAAB trying to have them on my team.
Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): No difference to me. It’s always been the case that some guys hit the ground running while others struggle at first (and sometimes always).
Paul Sporer (Fangraphs, ESPN Fantasy Sports, @Sporer): No, it won’t greatly deter me. I’ll still approach each guy on their own and make my assessment of interest based on their perceived PT and skills as well as my team needs. Guys like Vidal Brujan and Jesus Sanchez are firmly planted on my radar and I’ll be ready to make the appropriate bids as they arrive.
Justin Mason (Friends with Fantasy Benefits, Fangraphs, Fantasy Alarm, @JustinMasonFWFB): It doesn’t change my approach for the most part. Prospects are often suspect until proven otherwise, so unless I feel a guy has the potential for a big impact with a clear path to playing time, I tend to be less likely to over invest.
Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): No, every player is different, so I don’t care whether Prospect A performed well or poorly upon his promotion when trying to project Prospect B’s performance when he’s recalled.
Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, The Process, @jeffwzimmerman): No. The key, IMO, is to make sure they have a place to play. The callup isn’t for an injured pitcher out for the week. Or it isn’t for a spot start in the rotation. I’ll take a hard look at B-level prospects on noncontenders. The MLB team will like to see how they perform no matter the short term results.
Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): In my opinion, not at all. People tend to want the new shiny penny and are willing to commit a large percentage of the FAAB to any of these prospects. I’ll take a proven rookie or a slumping player over one of these prospects. Plus I spent the remaining $299 I had in FAAB on Patrick Wisdom anyway. That’s worked out quite well to date.
Alan Harrison (The Fantasy Fix, @TheFantasyFix): No, one player’s performance – or, lack thereof – will not impact my approach with rookies the rest of the season. For me, if a player is a fit for my team either from a roster construction/statistical need standpoint I will likely make a play for them via FAAB. However, I’m not sitting on my stash of cash with the hopes of striking gold if/when player “X’ will be recalled.
Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm, @RotobuzzGuy): Rookies are on a case-by-case basis. Yes, it’s a bummer that Jarred Kelenic struggled so badly, but we’ve seen that before in the likes of Mike Trout and Aaron Judge, both of whom flopped during their first stint in the big leagues. If a hitter has a strong skill-set like Bobby Witt Jr, you have to still try to push all-in on him when he eventually arrives. Lesser rookies like Chris Gittens or Josh Lowe, you can go after, but you don’t want to blow your whole remaining FAAB on them. Young pitchers, on the other hand, might be trusted a little more this year given the ball and the way some lineups struggle against the unknown. So again, case by case basis, but a struggling rookie isn’t going to deter me from being interested in someone else just because he’s young and unproven.