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