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Approaching Rookies and Prospects in Redraft Leagues for Success


Everyone wants to be the guy to say they hopped on the bandwagon of the next up-and-comer before he comes up and breaks out. This often causes younger players to be overvalued, particularly in single-season leagues where some youngsters may not even see meaningful playing time.

Identifying the rookies that will actually get playing time, though they may not have as much potential as guys in the lower minors, is a necessary skill for managers in redraft leagues.

The first thing you have to do is forget that any player below Double-A exists. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Brendan Rodgers are all very interesting prospects with high upside but you’re better off letting a foolish league mate stash them until they inevitably realize that none of those guys are going to be making an impact in the majors in 2018.

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Approaching Prospects in Redraft

Players in the high minors are another story. Any blue-chip prospects in Triple-A can be stashed, but they might not make an impact in the majors right away. Whether you should be targeting these players late in the draft, scooping them up via free agency, or not touching them at all depends on whether you are playing in a H2H or Rotisserie league.

In H2H leagues, the goal should not necessarily be to dominate the regular season, but to make the postseason with the best roster of any postseason team. If this means getting in as the last playoff team, so be it. In H2H leagues with a playoff at the end of the year, teams generally have a lot more leeway to stash prospects so long as their team is on track to make the playoffs. The fortunate part about playing in H2H leagues is that teams can draft guys like Nick Senzel, who probably will not begin the year in the major leagues and stash him. If your team is succeeding without Senzel in the big leagues then there is no reason to not hold him, but if your team is struggling and he’s close to being promoted, attempting to deal him to a team near the top of the standings who can afford to harbor a prospect in return for an asset that would be of more immediate help is a wise strategy.

Down the stretch, stashing prospects becomes more imperative in leagues that have playoffs. Blue-chip prospects that are in Triple-A often make their debuts in the middle of the summer and these are guys that you do not want to miss out on. Stashing them a few weeks prior to their eventual call up will bolster your team down the stretch for playoff runs for a relatively cheap price.

In Rotisserie leagues, stashing prospects is an entirely different ballgame. Since there is no playoffs, prospects that do not get called up until mid-August have relatively minimal impact and can be ignored for the most part; if you can afford to stash a prospect until he comes up in the last two months of the season, you probably do not need the help. On the other hand, if you scoop one of the prospects hoping to hit a home run in mid-to-late August and rocket up the standings, chances are that it’s going to be too little too late. In H2H leagues, stashing prospects is a far easier and safer game than in Roto.

 

Handling Rookies

Rookies and prospects aren’t that different; the fundamental distinction between the two is that prospects are not yet in the majors and rookies are more guys who are being drafted and will be starting the season in the bigs. For example, Austin Hays is being drafted as a rookie whereas a guy like Kyle Tucker is being drafted as a prospect. Tucker has an outside shot at making an impact this season and Hays is guaranteed some playing time due to starting the year in the majors.

This brings me to my next point: sometimes, opportunity is more valuable than skill. There are very few people that will tell you that Hays is a better ballplayer than Tucker, but that does not necessarily mean you should be scooping up Tucker in your redraft leagues. Guys who are guaranteed to start the year in the majors and get decent playing time like Hays, Lewis Brinson, Ronald Acuna, and Willie Calhoun, to name a few, are far better draft targets than the Vlads and Eloys of the world.

So what about pitchers? In general, I like to invest in rookie pitchers that are pitching well and try to flip them near the deadline for guys who will pitch down the stretch. Yes, you might have to take a discount for them, but in H2H leagues compiling the best roster for the playoffs is your end goal. Guys like Jake Faria and Luis Castillo were far less impactful in last season’s playoffs than pitchers like Trevor Bauer, Mike Leake, and CC Sabathia. The latter names are not pretty, but pretty doesn’t win you fantasy championships (which, by the way, doesn’t stop me from drafting Kris Bryant and Kevin Kiermaier in every league of mine. If I got points for best eyes I’d have every league locked up).

In Rotisserie leagues, rookie pitchers are more valuable because you can start them while they are pitching and dispose of them once the innings limit passes in favor of a wire arm. H2H leagues do not afford you this luxury, so be sure to know your league settings heading into the year so you can best strategize how to approach rookies and prospects. Being active on the waiver wire is a crucial aspect of winning a fantasy championship, and understanding how to manage rookies and prospects goes hand-in-hand with that, so stay vigilant for youngsters who can help your team throughout the season.

 

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