Ask Rotoman: Dynasty Reserve Round 1 Pick 1, Maikel Franco or Danny Salazar?

Dear Rotoman:

I’ve been playing in a dynasty league since it started in 2001.

Ed. Note: The writer goes on to describe the league rules, which are very complex and unusual, but the whole thing comes down to one fundamental question:

I’m in win-now mode and my main question is: who should be my No. 1 pick?

I have it down to Maikel Franco — the No. 26 prospect (the 25 ahead of him are all rostered) who also happens to be a 3B (unless they move him across the diamond) who would take over for Miguel Cabrera in 2015 at the hot corner, when Cabrera has only 1B eligibility, or…

Danny Salazar — who posted some obscene numbers last season over a brief 52 innings. Whomever I take, the other player will not be there at the No. 9 overall — my next pick.

Other available players include Khris Davis, Jonathan Villar, Josmil Pinto, Sonny Gray, Corey Kluber, Koji Uehara, Jim Henderson, John Lackey, Joc Pederson, Alex Wood, Arismendy Alcantara, Jose Quintana, Travis Wood, Garin Cecchini.

What say you?
“Classic Question”

Dear Classic,

For me it all comes down to the alternatives. While Salazar probably has a better shot of having a very nice and productive career, on your list of available players the only potentially transformative hitter is Franco. And while he’s hardly a sure thing, count me in the group that is dubious he’s going to put it all together, the Phillies did a great job with Domonic Brown, developing his rough skills. So there’s some reason to hope Franco will reach his potential.

And that’s enough for me to say take him. There is a chance there, while on the pitching side you have a bunch of pitchers who may be as good or nearly as good as Salazar. That gives you a shot at both a pitching and a hitting win you won’t have if you pass Franco by.


POSTSCRIPT: Which would have been the end of it, especially when the writer said that was exactly his opinion, but then he noticed that the Baseball Forecaster projected Danny Salazar to earn $21 this year.  Could he be, the writer asked, that good?

He could be. Last year Salazar’s fastball averaged 96 mph, and two years after Tommy John surgery he showed good control. In fact, he struck out better than 11 batters per nine in both minor league levels and in the majors, while walking 2.6 per nine in the majors. The only fly in the ointment? He allowed 1.2 homers per nine, not far out of line given the number of fly balls he allowed, but obviously a blemish.

The notable thing about Salazar’s major league run last August and September is that he pitched better, pretty much, than he had in any previous season in the minors. One of the best signs of a pitcher making progress is when he improves his K and BB rates as he faces tougher competition. So it isn’t at all unfair to project Salazar to be just as good next year, based on the skills he’s shown.

On the other hand, how indicative of quality is a short major league season? It’s probably worthwhile looking at other pitchers who put up limited innings (fewer than 75) in their debut season before they turned 25. Since 1973 I found 99 such players. What I wanted to see was how predictive the short season results were for the next season.

I first sorted by WHIP in the short season, then looked at the Top, Middle and Bottom thirds. The results show the classic regression to the mean:

Top: 3.70/1.24 ERA/WHIP  becomes 4.26/1.34
Middle: 4.62/1.42 becomes 5.00/1.49
Bottom: 5.77/1.67 becomes 4.56/1.41

But another way to look at it is to see how many pitchers in each group put up decent seasons the second year.

Top: 12 of 32
Middle: 1 of 23
Bottom: 2 of 21

As a group the top third didn’t collectively dominate the way they had their debut seasons, but talent definitely persisted and clustered.

Which doesn’t prove that Salazar will persist, but given his heater, his control, his ability to miss bats, he has a good chance to help the Indians this year. And he might even earn that $21. But absent a track record and insight into the way he might adjust once the hitters adjust to him, I think a much more modest bid limit is prudent.

In the Fantasy Guide I gave him a bid price of $8, and thought that was aggressive, but I’m going to bump that to $10. Given all the talk about him this spring, already, that probably isn’t going to get him. But it pushes a little more risk onto the guy who ends up rostering him.

And what I really hope for is the baseballHQ fans to get into a bidding war.