March 15, 2011
Drafting mistakes in fantasy baseball come in all shapes and sizes. There are rookie mistakes and veteran mistakes; early-round mistakes and endgame mistakes; simple mistakes and complicated ones. We'd like to put most of the missteps on the neophyte owners at the end of the table, but there's one common mistake that even smart baseball people constantly make.
We reach on players. We over-aggressively pursue players like we have an answer key. We throw away value while we chase upside, or ego, or both. We overpay when we shouldn't, or when we don't have to.
Let's discuss some of the most common reaching errors and see if we can iron this problem out of your game this year (or perhaps you'll go the other route – feel free to defend reaching in the comments).
The Buzz-Rookie Reach
This phenomenon reached it's zenith in 2009 with the arrival of Matt Wieters(notes). The PECOTA projection from Baseball Prospectus signified that Wieters would hit the ground running like a mid-70s Johnny Bench; it called for a .311 average, 105 runs, 31 homers and 102 RBIs, along with a .939 OPS. In BP's defense, they certainly weren't the only ones on the Wieters bandwagon (though they seemed to be driving it).
Alas, Wieters hit the bus running – the bush-league bus, that is – as the Orioles understandably (and predictably) didn't want to get his arbitration clock started. When Wieters finally arrived in the majors, he was respectable but not other-worldly. There was nothing wrong with wanting Matt Wieters in advance of 2009, but many overzealous owners wasted a premium pick on someone who was never guaranteed an opening-day spot, or immediate success.
Buzz-heavy rookies might not cost a lot in unsophisticated leagues, but in sharper groups these are generally the worst players to invest in – there's almost a silent war going on with owners in the room trying to one-up each other and out-scout each other. I recall one expert/magazine mock over the winter, a 15-teamer, that saw Domonic Brown(notes), Jeremy Hellickson(notes) and Daniel Bard(notes) go to the same owner in Rounds 10, 11 and 12. For my money that's absolutely the wrong way to do business. Let those players come to you, and if you don't get them, fine, you don't get them.
The Improvement Priced-In Reach
This brand of reach generally occurs with young and talented players that are popular in the room. Owners see the possibility for growth and are willing to pay for that expected growth at the table, therefore sucking out most of the value (and profit potential).
There's a very simple rule of thumb to keep in mind here: If a player needs to get better, or do something he's never done before, to justify the price you're paying, you're reaching. Never forget that the objective is to get the most bang for your buck at the table; again, this is the wrong way to go about it. Looking at you, Jay Bruce(notes) Nation.
The Closer-In-Waiting Reach
Everyone knows that the saves market is a mess year-in and year-out – a handful of closers will lose their jobs in 2011, some of them big-name stoppers that we all liked in March. But the dirty little secret to the saves chase is that the No. 2 men in every bullpen are no bargain either; the track records on these guys are just as volatile as the men in front of them, and often the newly-minted closers that come into the league come from candidates no one considered in spring training. John Axford(notes), come on down.
Last year's middle relief hero is generally this year's rotten value. I'm not saying you can't draft the Hong-Chih Kuos of the world, but again, let them come to you. Don't get frisky over them. There will be a bunch of Kuos that no one drafts; better to find the new model rather than pay the upgrade for last year's one.
There are other reaches, of course. The Hometown Player (or Pet Player) Reach. The Overreaction To Positional Scarcity Reach. The Overreaction To Mid-Draft Stat Need Reach. The No One Can Stop Me From The Last Piece Of Pizza Reach (in that realm, I truly am unstoppable).
Maybe this entire column was a reach. Bring your best snark to the comments, or better yet, try to further the conversation, gamer. And if you still want to take Jeremy Hellickson in Round 11 of a mixer (sandwiched between Dom Brown and Dan Bard), I don't know what to tell you.
Reaching Jay Bruce courtesy of Associated Press