At the end of last week's Round Table, I made a comment suggesting the role and hence necessary fantasy trust in rookies could be in transition. So I thought I would pose this notion to the Knight to see what they had to say.
Conventional wisdom is not to trust rookies. Let someone else take the chance. But has the landscape changed? Am I wrong in sensing that it is no longer the smart thing to categorically dismiss a rookie call-up?
One reason I personally believe this to be true is the later Super 2 deadline, keeping the top prospects in the minors just a little bit longer.
Is this a knee-jerk reaction or do you feel rookies are hitting the ground running a little better now than in the past?
Glove first, bat ... let it develop
Nicholas Minnix: I think that landscape began to shift a little while ago. There have always been folks who are more excited about most rookies than those rookies warranted, but in the past couple of years, their excitement has been justified just as often as, if not more often than, not.
The Super Two deal could be a factor. How much longer do those players stay on the farm, though, a month or so? I think that helps. I think that the crackdown on all kinds of PEDs has made it tougher for older players to extend their careers. I think the talent of some of the players we're talking about, combined with the advances in technology (including evaluations of those players, training methods, coaching, foreign academies, etc.), has helped to discover them with greater precision and to mold some of them into advanced players more quickly.
Some of these top prospects are coming to the bigs armed with an understanding of the strike zone and importance of adjustments, and it has to be in some part because of some organizations' changing emphasis on skills they deem important to development. Some young pitchers with incredible gas are no longer coming in just to see how high they can make the radar gun go. They certainly haven't perfected the process by the time they've arrived, but they seem to understand that a big-league hitter isn't going to be intimidated by a nasty break or some sick heat alone, and that they have to own the plate. I think younger players are becoming a little smarter as older players are becoming a little more obsolete.
Not all, of course, but some. I don't think it's time to dismiss old players categorically. I learned awhile ago that I can't dismiss rookies categorically. There appears to be a slight shift in the paradigm, though.
Ryan Carey: When I started to think about this question, the first thing that popped into my head beyond the Super 2 deadline, was that this "change" was a result of the PEDs crackdown, so I guess I fall in behind Nick on that count.
I agree that you are going to see fewer players extending their careers into their late 30s and 40s, and that in turn will open the doors to younger players, with fresher bodies and legs. It isn't just the PEDs, but the myriad of other substances players have been using for decades that baseball has tried to crack down on. As the older players lose ways to play through injury and shorten the healing process, younger player will begin to reclaim the game. I took a look around at my teams, and in some of the deeper formats I was shocked by how many rookies I had on some of them. It is in many ways a direct result of losing veterans to injury.
I am not an expert in training or scouting techniques, but I don't doubt that there have been numerous advancements in identifying and developing talent. You only need to look at the success certain organizations have to realize that some people are just doing a better job at that part of the equation than their counterparts.
Todd Zola: I think another reason younger players are coming up earlier is defense.
Brian Dozier, Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius, Jose Iglesias, Adam Eaton -- the game is shifting to more athletic, all around players and not just DH's wearing a glove to get their bat in the lineup.
NM: Yes, excellent point!
About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com
Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.
Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.
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