2020 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Strategy: Selling Prospect Helium

by Paul Anderson
2020 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Strategy: Prospect Helium

2020 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Strategy: Selling Prospect Helium

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Current Helium Prospect

Let’s use Spencer Howard as an example. He’s a 24-year-old whose only thrown 30 innings above A-ball. As their No. 36 prospect, MLB.com believes he has a bright future. I agree. I also know that prospect growth is rarely linear. Prospects, especially of the pitching variety, are the most fickle type of player in fantasy baseball.

If you want to see prospect helium in action, check out Twitter from Saturday and Sunday. Howard was the talk of the town. There were GIFs galore of his pitch arsenal. After throwing 4.2 innings of four-run ball on Sunday, his debut can be labeled mediocre.

Even so, fantasy owners are excited. Imagine if he had thrown 7 innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts? What if he puts together a solid three or four-start stretch with over a strikeout per nine and a sub-3.00 ERA?

Should a three or four-start stretch change how we view him? No. However you viewed him two weeks ago, not much should have changed. Most fantasy experts believe Casey Mize is a superior pitching prospect. If you would have drafted Mize ahead of Howard before the season, should a handful of starts change that? Of course not.

Prospect Helium In Action

Let me give you an example. In 2017 I had Sean Newcomb on a competing dynasty team. Despite where he is now, he was once a big-time prospect.

Drafted 15th overall in 2014, he pitched to a 2.38 ERA with an 11.1 K/9 during the 2015 campaign. That year he shot up to MLB.com’s No. 19 prospect. When he debuted there was some serious prospect helium. I wish I could say I knew spotty control would catch him but I didn’t. I knew I had a guy who threw 100 mph that everyone was excited about.

Through his first four starts, he threw 24.1 innings with a 1.50 ERA. I traded him in a deal that landed me Matt Carpenter. In OBP leagues Carpenter used to be kind of a big deal. He led me to a championship that season and was great in 2018. Newcomb finished the 2017 season with a 4.32 ERA and has yet to find his footing in the MLB.

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Dynasty baseball is like playing poker. Good poker players stick to the odds. They make the right mathematical move every time. It doesn’t always pan out and luck still gets the best of them from time to time. But over the long haul, these are the players who win.

The same goes for dynasty baseball. In every trade, you’re trying to increase the “value” on your team. If you can consistently trade a lower value package for a higher value one, over time you’re going to have the best team. If I make enough Newcomb for Carpenter type trades, my team ends up being a winner.

Are You Contending or Rebuilding?

Anytime you make a trade consider where your team is. If you have a legitimate contender, you need to trade for a player who will help you win this year. You also want them to be productive for a few more seasons following the trade. The most extreme example to pair with a helium prospect like Howard is Nelson Cruz.

Remember, flags fly forever. If your team is a bat away from putting it together, you should at least consider it. Most dynasty lists have the two players closely ranked. If you agreed with those rankings a few weeks ago, one so-so start shouldn’t change your mind.

Let’s take a look at a less extreme example.

Alex Verdugo is a guy who has had some prior MLB success and is continuing it with Boston. He’s the same age as Howard. As a position player, you’d expect his window of fantasy relevancy to be longer. Who knows, you might even get a surprise and someone offers you a slumping top-100 player, take it and run.

On the flip side, a re-building team can benefit from the prospect sell high too. Michael Kopech is similarly ranked in most dynasty rankings. Let’s assume you would have drafted him over Howard to start the year. If a contending team owns him, there’s a chance they’re open to trade since he’s sitting out the 2020 season. You’re rebuilding so that doesn’t matter. If you can trade Howard for Kopech and another solid prospect, jump all over it!

Keep Your Eye Out for Opportunity

I know Howard is the only prospect I’ve talked about. This idea applies to all top young talent. Mize, MacKenzie Gore, Sixto Sanchez, and Dylan Carlson are all prospects who should debut in 2020. Gore is the highest rated of the bunch. The package coming back for him should be much higher than Howard’s. Even with a player of his caliber, it’s worth exploring your options.

Buying low and selling high isn’t as easy as it used to be. The average fantasy baseball player is much sharper now. With easy access to information and analysis, guys generally know what your angle is. Prospect helium creates a great opportunity to add value to your team that is hard to come by otherwise. You might only do it once every two years but if you do it right you can catapult your team in the right direction.

Check out the rest of our 2020 Fantasy Baseball content from our talented team of writers.

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