Projecting Prospects: What to make of makeup

One of the best parts about the offseason is evaluating new or available prospects for dynasty and keeper leagues.  We all probably follow similar processes; read the prospect lists from BA, BP, and Sickels, then project those players based on how they fit into our league rules.  Now we have websites that are doing some of that work for us, coming up with fantasy-specific prospect lists (fantasyassembly.com!).  That said, no owner plays directly from a list, as we all like to put our own personal stamp on our valuations.  Some of us like starters that are close to the bigs, others prefer middle infielders, while others lean towards five category hitters.

My process is probably pretty standard, start with the industry lists as a baseline, then start looking at age, level, tools, K%, BB%, HRs, SBs, and XBHs.  For pitchers, I take a look at their velocity, arsenal, injury history, and feel for pitching.  One element I always devalued was makeup.  I figured that I don’t need the guy to come up big in pressure situations and I won’t be sharing a locker room with the guy, so makeup was not really a concern.  More succinctly, I didn’t need the guy to be a saint, I needed him to produce.  I also figured that makeup was something that scouts like to embellish and overuse because it’s a way for them to differentiate their work from statistics; you can’t see makeup unless you’ve actually seen the guy in person.

That said, when listening to Daniel Pink’s Office Hours podcast, I came across the work of Angela Duckworth, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.  Duckworth has studied the importance of grit and self-control in predicting the future success of individuals.  Before you start thinking of Nick Punto and Kevin Towers, let me give you Duckworth’s definitions of grit and self-control:
“Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals. Self-control is the voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses in the presence of momentarily gratifying temptations or diversions.”

I don’t know about you, but the above definitions of grit and self-control sound a lot like player makeup to me.  What is interesting for fantasy owners is that Duckworth found that grit and self-control were greater indicators of success than intelligence or talent.  Duckworth found that this held true across multiple platforms, whether it be for West Point entrants, National Spelling Bee competitors, or Chicago public school students.  My prediction is that this holds true for our beloved prospects too.  By all accounts, the minor leagues is an absolute grind; thus, players who have better makeup, who can stick to their goals and avoid distractions during their long journey are the best bets to make it as major leaguers and productive fantasy assets.

All that said, am I avoiding bad makeup players all together?  No way.  Am I making makeup my number one factor in evaluating prospects? Nope.  I am, however, definitely changing my equation.  I will be making makeup a bigger part of my prospect projections going forward.  How will I do so?  Most likely, I will value “good makeup” prospects as assets with a higher chance of reaching their potential and a better chance of overcoming flaws in their game.  Conversely, I will probably reduce the chances of “bad makeup” prospects reaching their ceiling and will value them as having a higher bust rate.  If you were already taking makeup into account, great; if you were not, like I was, I recommend doing so.

To find out how much Grit you have you can take Duckworth’s 5 question survey here.

If you like thinking about thinking, I highly recommend Daniel Pink’s podcast Office Hours as well as his books A Whole New Mind and Drive.

Sources:

Duckworth, Angela. (2013, August 1). Research Statement | The Duckworth Lab.
Retrieved November 10, 2013, from https://sites.sas.upenn.edu/duckworth/pages/research-statement

Jeff Quinton

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Born in 1988. Living and working in central Jersey. Proud Blue Hen (graduated 2010). Going for my MBA part-time. Fascinated by how people think and the decisions they make.

4 thoughts on “Projecting Prospects: What to make of makeup”

  1. Great piece Jeff. I scored a 4.25.
    I took makeup too seriously perhaps with Shelby Miller. Loads of rumours about his poor makeup led me to devalue him 2 years ago after I was very high on him. Following him on twitter made me even more concerned (geesh). I’ve stopped following prospects since ha 🙂

    1. It’s tough because we are trying to project probabilistic outcome with prospects. No prospect is a sure thing to turn out one specific way. I just try to follow good process, and evaluate my process base on results. I try not to be over-reactive to singular events (even though it is tough when you get burned). For me, I found that I was not weighing makeup enough, but the opposite could easily hold true for someone else.

      I scored a 3.15. I wish they gave this test to prospects and we could see their scores. The test would need to be reconfigured as it would be too easy to game as currently constructed.

  2. Makeup is vitally important. Perhaps more so in baseball than any other sport. How players deal with adversity that will inevitably come during the 162 game grind determines how quickly they rebound from slumps.

    If a hitter has negative thoughts as they enter the batter’s box, what is the likelihood that they have a good AB? Grit and self-control allow players to remain confident in their approach even during times where things aren’t going as well.

    1. I agree Tommy. I kind of lost sight of that earlier in my fantasy baseball days because as an actual baseball player I was all grit and limited ability. I would see those who didn’t give 100% outperform me because of their superior abilities. But I realized that discounting makeup is the wrong way to look at it. While ability sets the range of potential outcomes, makeup plays a big part in determining where a players ends up in that range.

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