|Fantasy Baseball: What's in a Name?|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on July 09, 2009
Itâ€™s a concept which needs to be discussed a bit.Â What exactly is in a name?Â Why value them so highly?Â And why discount a player who doesnâ€™t have a name?
I guess the first concept here is what makes a name?Â Thatâ€™s a tricky concept, and what constitutes a name varies widely.Â But here are the criteria most people seem to use -- that a player must meet at least one of the following criteria.
They have a proven track record.
They were an â€śexpertâ€ť pick or have gotten a lot of press.
They had a huge season last year or a couple of seasons ago.
There may even be others, but these are the ones which most commonly seem to be applied.Â So letâ€™s take a look at them.
Ok, a proven track record is a good thing.Â After all the backbone of every good fantasy team is the proven, CONSISTENT, player.Â Consistent as you may guess is the key word.Â Guys with a single great season arenâ€™t yet proven, even guys with two seasons under their belt havenâ€™t quite nailed it.Â Plenty of guys crash after that first, or even second, season.Â Some good examples might include former Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa, Chris Davis of the Rangers or last yearâ€™s version of Troy Tulowitzki.
But even the most consistent of players at some point in their career often take that big nosedive as skills erode (Andruw Jones over the last few years, Richie Sexson), due to injury (Chin-Ming Wang) or for no reason (the strange power outage of David Wright this season).
Those hyped by other members of the media are often worse.Â Players coming through either the draft or farm systems have tons of people touting them every step of the way.Â From agents who represent them (and want them to appear to be the next big thing to general managers whoâ€™ll write checks), to front offices (desperate to represent them as the next big thing to fans in order to increase excitement and ticket sales), to writers, sports talk radio guys who are trying to cover their local teams to the best of their ability.Â Everyone wants to believe that their farm system is turning out something that will rejuvenate their team or can be dangled as great trade bait.Â But for every Evan Longoria there are probably about ten Kris Medlens - players who may one day be outstanding, but just arenâ€™t going to be major impact players right away.
The last criteria is a pretty fair one.Â Everyone hopes to get a guy on the upswing.Â Guys whoâ€™ve had a great season or two and then lapsed into mediocrity have potential to repeat the numbers.Â That makes them great buy low candidates because as long as you are buying low there is little downside to holding them if you canâ€™t find someone a little better. Of course, plenty of players never come close to repeating that amazing season or two that they had earlier in their career, but thatâ€™s a chance you take with one of these type of guys.
While I do have a certain respect for players with â€śnames,â€ť the core of fantasy baseball is a lot simpler than just buying a bunch of â€śnameâ€ť players.Â Itâ€™s all about what have you done for me lately?Â To win championships you donâ€™t need guys with potential, you need potential delivered.Â At some point you need to make a decision with every single player and ask is this player delivering what I drafted him for?Â Or outperforming someone else you could acquire in a trade for him?
Great fantasy owners live and die by the â€śwhat have you done for me latelyâ€ť motto -- they are the ones who cut guys who donâ€™t deliver, trade away what underachieving â€śnamesâ€ť they can for players who are definitely useful this season and donâ€™t sit there waiting all season for potential to materialize.
While these players do occasionally get burned and see a guy who gets traded turn into a star again, they do what needs to be done, over and over again.Â They try to incrementally improve their team with every move.Â They donâ€™t get too caught up with any name who isnâ€™t a proven and delivering backbone of the team kind of player, unless of course the player is delivering.
Itâ€™s easy to get caught up in the name game, and trying to avoid playing it can be very hard, especially since fantasy baseball is full of intangibles beyond the control of those of us who manage our teams.Â We canâ€™t avoid the injuries, the suspensions or the real life trades that change our playersâ€™ roles or if they play in the AL or NL.Â What we can do is try to avoid those who underperform no matter what their name is.