This week’s article is going to look and sound a little different than weeks previous, but change is good. The MLB All-Star break is going on, and while the minor leaguers have already gotten back to playing after the Futures Game, there is something more pressing going on. I know a lot of you out there have mid-season pickup points for prospects, whether it be through scooping them up off the waiver wire or a draft of some sort, so this week I will try and give you helpful strategies for how to attack those opportunities to get new life on your team.
Clearly, this will be geared towards keeper and dynasty leagues since only the elite level prospects factor in a non-keeper situation, as you are hoping they see time during 2017.
The first thing I will say is that it takes a lot of research to get good at nabbing prospects that turn in to something valuable and are worth keeping for a few years. Sure anybody can just go to any old prospect ranking and pull the highest-ranked prospects that aren’t owned. But do you know why they are that high? Or how do you interpret the differences in the rankings? That’s where research comes in, and hopefully reading my articles (shameless plug I know). Looking at stats, standard and advanced, reading multiple scouting reports and assessing other prospects at that position in that MLB team’s farm system, all come into play. Oh, and knowing the characteristics of the league they play in is critical too. Just like we take into account hitter’s and pitcher’s parks for their big league brethren, doing the same for the up and comers matters too. The best example of this is the IL versus the PCL in Triple-A. Batters have a long history of boosting their numbers significantly when coming to the Pacific Coast League in terms of power and AVG, but knowing that the entire league is a hitter’s haven lets you take those numbers with a grain of salt. I know that sounds like a lot, but you are making a time investment, a investing a roster spot, for this guy so you want him to pan out.
Going hand in hand with the research phase is to have a plan. Knowing what the premium positions in your league are is certainly part of that, but also factor in how you like to build your roster. I personally like to build around cheap, good pitching and then spend on big bats. That means I spend a lot of time gathering pitching prospects that I can hold for a few years together to give me a cheap pitching core. If middle infield is a premium group, meaning short on talent and expensive to get (either in price or round taken), then investing in those types of prospects could save you big down the line. However there is a caveat to this as well, knowing the depth of each position in the minors also plays a part. This is where the research comes in. Upon looking at the top-10 Shortstop prospects on any site, you will quickly see there is about to be a boom in young, very good, offensive Shortstops, which means there won’t be quite so few fantasy relevant guys at that position in the next year or two. So maybe you don’t have to focus on that quite so much since it will be easier to draft one for cheap and later.
Trade bait. It’s what MLB teams use their prospects for in reality, so why can’t you do the same in the fantasy realm? There are plenty of owners in each league that fall in love with what a guy could be when he’s in the minors and will pay you with an MLB player to get that upside. Picking up prospects mid-season who are close to coming up, or lock like starters beginning next year, is a great way to get yourself a key keeper you may be missing. Trading an excess prospect you may not need for an impact bat is a type of trade that comes to mind. That kind of strategy can be employed fairly easily, if you know your fellow owners properly.
Your place in the standings will also dictate the type of minor leaguer you want to look at since getting your hands on the next hot name being called up could give you that final push you are seeking. At this point in the season there are few, if any, major leaguers left on the waiver wire that will really help you out with anything more than injury protection. But that’s not the case with the bevy of prospects that are available. As we come out of the All-Star break and get to the last part of the dog days of Summer, more teams will be looking to add fresh arms, and legs to their 25-man rosters, and now is your time to strike. If guys like Yoan Moncada, Clint Frazier, Amed Rosario, or Josh Hader are still available to be picked up, then why are still reading? Go get them now. For those of you not checking your league’s free agency market for those guys right now, the further down the standings you are, the more you may want to look for the next crop of guys in the rankings. Everyone always wants to win every year, but only one guy or gal is going to pull that off. The rest of you should be looking to build for coming seasons, at every chance you get. If you are near or at the bottom, scouting Double-A guys, or ones just getting to Triple-A is more worth your while so that you have the stable of prospects to win with for the next few years.
If played correctly, keeping a stable of prospects can become easier to do, but can pay real dividends in the end with a championship!
Matthew Selz has been writing and covering fantasy sports for Fantasy Alarm for more than two years and has nearly 20 years of experience playing fantasy sports in numerous leagues. He is always available on Twitter @theselzman and through comments on this and his other articles for Fantasyalarm.com