The Most Critical Times of the Year for Prospect Hunting (Fantasy Baseball)
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Everyone wants the next big thing. In fantasy baseball, we call that shiny new toy syndrome. When there’s a top-tier, can’t-miss prospect that comes along, we all want him on our team.
To trade for them, you have to pay a king’s ransom, which is fine, because you get your guy. But what if, instead of trading for them and giving up key short or long-term assets in the process, you could get them for just a few FAAB dollars or a rookie draft pick?
Being able to identify the top prospects is key in dynasty leagues, but knowing when to go prospect hunting to find the best value is just as crucial. Below are the different times of the year that you should pay the most attention — doing so will help you identify future stars before their value skyrockets.
Arizona Fall League
Every year, without question, you’ll hear about players who stood out in the Arizona Fall League. And after evaluators hype them up, they’ll start to gain a lot of traction in fantasy circles. Their draft price will increase. You’ll see guys get elevated in first-year player drafts and start to be talked about more in trade talks.
It’s a time when a lot of fantasy scribes make the trip to Arizona to watch these guys in person, too. So if you follow the conversations carefully, you’ll see who stood out from a fantasy perspective as well.
If you don’t have a deep understanding of the minor leagues, or you don’t follow them all that closely, the Future’s Game during the All-Star break is the perfect time for you to see the up-and-comers in action. Most memorably, the 2016 Future’s Game marked Eloy Jimenez’s breakout to the mainstream baseball audience — he went 2-for-3 with a three-run homer, a double, and four RBIs.
The downside to the Future’s Game is that even the managers in your league who fade prospects will be more likely to tune in, so you won’t get quite the advantage over them that you might have gotten some other time.
The mid-June annual draft is a fun time in baseball: it’s summer, and teams are starting to hit their strides. At this time of year, you’ll also have lots to read lots about the minor leagues. There are innumerable Twitter accounts to follow and sites to read, so take the time to learn about the players who are going to be drafted out of high school and college.
The landing spots don’t mean everything, but there are organizations that you like for fantasy (Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres), those you don’t trust (Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies), and those who are fifty-fifty (Tampa Bay Rays).
Learn the talent, find the guys who you want to target, start preparing for your FYPD, and let the trade talks start to acquire draft picks to move up.
The International Signing Day doesn’t get the attention that it deserves, even though it’s the bridge to the MLB for many of today’s stars. MLB.com and Baseball America do a great job of breaking down the top international players each year, but they’re often overlooked in FYPD circles.
Don’t make that mistake.
If you can wait on some of the players who will require a few years of seasoning, you should invest in them to get the next Marco Luciano, Jasson Dominguez, Erick Pena, Noelvi Marte, or Julio Rodriguez.
July 2nd is a great time to familiarize yourself with these players. You should also pay special attention to what the scouts say about them and which teams are interested in signing them.
The fantasy trade deadline
Of course, there is the fantasy trade deadline. Regardless of whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you can capitalize on this date to bring in some prospects to replenish your farm system.
If you’re a seller, you’re likely looking to acquire draft capital or young, controllable pieces. Maximizing the return on each of your trade assets is key, so if you can’t swing a deal for an elite prospect, try to get some B-level pieces in return — and don’t be afraid to ask for a throw-in piece.
On the flip side, if you’re a contender that’s giving up young, elite pieces to make a title run, try to identify a prospect who you like from the team that you’re trading with. We’re not talking about a top-50 guy, or even a top-100 guy, but find someone who intrigues you that could take a leap and vault into the top-100 discussion for the following year.