Player A vs. Player B

Fantasy baseball provides you with interesting decisions all the time, even when sometimes you don't realize that you have an interesting decision on your hands.

The inspiration for this article started innocently enough - a league-mate sent out the standard pre-protect deadline e-mail on which players he had available to trade. This was the DwMurphy Scoresheet League - one I've discussed before. It's a 24-team mixed league, one where we protect just eight players or less per team, plus you can use your 19th round pick (and up to two other 19th round picks that you acquire in trades) on a prospect. You can't protect additional prospects at the back end of the draft, as you can do in standard Scoresheet dynasty leagues. That e-mail prodded me into reviewing our team (I share the team with Josh Paley, from, to remind me what sort of keepers we have heading into this year.

For a team that didn't do all that well last year, we're not in terrible shape. We don't have a first-round player or second-round player on the team, though, and that's problematic, as talent in baseball, like really any other discipline, isn't distributed proportionately. We lack the core players to build a team around. But I believe that we have plenty players that would fit within the first eight rounds of a standard dynasty league draft. Four of them are pretty obvious, I think: Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren, Matt Wieters and Matt Harvey. You might quibble with Harvey's inclusion, but I'm a believer, and even if he doesn't rate that high this year, his trajectory is high enough for my liking that I wouldn't consider tossing him back. Remember, "wins" don't matter in Scoresheet.

Anyhow, to get to the thrust of this article, when reviewing our outfielders I stumbled upon a comparison where there was a lot more than meets the eye. If you follow me on Twitter (@Jeff_Erickson) you probably already saw the results of this debate. Here are the two players in question:

Player A:

- Age 25, turns 26 in May.
- Last year hit .288/.348/.402 in 609 plate appearances.
- Scoresheet assigns him a 2.16 defensive rating.
- Plays in a pitcher's park - the three-year park index there is 93 (on a scale of 100 = league average).

Player B:

- Age 28, turns 29 in August.
- Last year hit .246/.298/.454 in 633 plate appearances.
- Scoresheet assigns him a 2.15 defensive rating.
- Plays in a slightly favorable hitter's park - the three-year park index there is 102. This is his first year in that park - he signed as a free agent this offseason.

On the surface, it appears that Player A is the better keeper. He's younger, he's slightly better defensively, and he relies more on on-base skills than power to get his overall value - and if you have to choose between on-base and sluggling to get the same result, on-base is the better skill to have. But the information we have so far is pretty thin, and its foundation is on one year's stats, creating a big risk of employing a recency bias. So let's provide more background.

- Player A's 609 plate appearances was more than 100 than his next biggest year - he has been a stable regular for only two year.
- Player A's .750 OPS was nearly 50 points higher than his next best season.
- He arrived with his current team as the secondary part in a trade for a big-time major leaguer, though he's outlasted the primary prospect in his current organization.
- Similarly, he was considered a good but not great prospect at the draft, getting selected in the seventh round by his original team.

- Meanwhile, Player B has had 548 or more plate appearances or more in his last six seasons.
- His best season was his age 22 season, when he had a .894 OPS. His last four seasons have been some degree of disappointing, though.
- Unlike Player A, Player B has an extremely high pedigree, getting drafted early in the first round by his original team.
- His old park is a pitcher's park, though maybe not as extreme as it's portrayed. It had a 94 three-year park index after last year.
- Despite that, Player B was far better at home last year (.814 home OPS, .687 road OPS) than on the road, so his new park isn't necessarily a panacea for his ills.
- Player B strikes out a lot - he has a 134 or more K's each of the last six years, with a career high 169 last year. Player A doesn't strike out nearly as often.

On the whole, the additional information probably narrows the gap between the two outfielders, but I'd argue that Player A is still the one more likely to be kept. But the identity of those two players might flip your decision. The easier one to guess is Player B - B.J. Upton. The trickier one is Player A - Michael Brantley. In a standard roto league, Brantley's skills are undervalued, and that's reflected in an ADP that's nowhere in the same universe as Upton. The stolen bases that Upton provides, and his homers, are more valuable that Brantley's walks and ability to make contact. But that's not the case in Scoresheet - baserunning is important, but not driven in the way where you have to get stolen bases.

Would you flip your decision based on the identity of the two players? How much does pedigree (and perceived higher ceiling) matter to you when comparing two otherwise fairly equal players? If you had to choose between the two players as your final keeper, who would you choose? Or would you choose to keep neither outfielder and take your chances on what will be in the draft pool, given that the league is a soft eight?


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