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January 31, 2014 posted by Patrick DiCaprio

2014 Fantasy Baseball And The Third Pick Is…

2014 Fantasy Baseball And The Third Pick Is…
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Fantasy pundits are doing roto owners a grave disservice.

On virtually every site out there you will hear advice to the effect that you should play it safe in the first round. Fantasy GMs are misled into thinking the first round is akin to investing in a mutual fund, locking up guaranteed profits so that you can swing for the fences in the later rounds by leveraging the profit in the bank. As if it were that easy.

There is something to be said for this strategy, but most fantasy pundits out there are giving you a double whammy. Not only are they giving you the above advice, but they do not believe in it! They are lying to you and they have no intention of ever following through on such advice. Instead fantasy owners are advised to do as they are told rather than to do as the pundits do. Here are some contenders for the third overall pick, according to bigwigs (ESPN, Yahoo etc.) in the industry and there is strong unanimity among the punditry:

Andrew McCutchen

Paul Goldschmidt

Robinson Cano

Hanley Ramirez

Carlos Gonzalez 

No wonder fantasy owners do so badly at predicting the first round. Roughly speaking, you cannot have any intellectual honesty if you are a fantasy pundit that gives advice such as that above and then ranks these players as potential third overall picks.

Andrew McCutchen has had back-to-back $40 seasons. Fair enough, but go back a year and McCutchen’s last three seasons were $24, $40, $40. He also had a huge BABIP in the 2H last year and you can count the players in baseball that have had three $40 seasons in a row on one hand, maybe two. A regression back to the $24 range, or even $30, will be a loss.

This is a pick that has zero profit potential and only downside risk while falling afoul of the idea of a “dominant strategy” in game theory. This idea is that when a strategy never loses and sometimes wins it should be the preferred strategy over all others. The converse is also true: if a strategy always either loses or gives no profit then it should be automatically discarded. In McCutchen’s case we have a clear case. He will either give you a zero profit or a big loss. If you disagree, let’s talk in September. Hanley Ramirez, Paul Goldschmidt and Carlos Gonzalez  are laughable as the third overall pick and you shouldn’t need me to tell you why.

Turning to Cano, he would be a legitimate candidate were it not for leaving the friendly confines of Coors Field East and the great hitter’s parks of the AL East for the lonely confines of Seattle. He would only marginally be worth the third or fourth pick only in the interests of safety even in New Yankee Stadium, but recommending him would be intellectually honest given the “safety” advice. Given the above, there aren’t any qualms or concerns about giving you the undisputed choice as the third overall pick:

Clayton Kershaw.

This is about intellectual honesty. Giving the “safety” advice and then not picking Kershaw third is proof that a fantasy pundit is lying to you. In the last three years Kershaw has produced $40, $36, and $44. So he presents the potential for at least being no worse that McCutchen, and maybe better. He has a third year of production at that level with no reason to think he cannot make it four (unlike McCutchen’s BABIP risk). Kershaw is obviously far better than Cano. It’s possible to doctor up some risk for him by whatever means you so desire but, you can do the same for McCutchen and Cano. All else being equal, would you rather have $40, $36, $44 or $24, $40, $40?

What’s even more depressing is that Kershaw isn’t ranked ahead of McCutchen or Goldschmidt in any publication, which is another ridiculous result. for the reasons stated above. You have one real choice or you can make a mistake simply because poor analysis and bad advice from big name pundits tells you so. The choice is yours.

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