Fantasy baseball, in essence, is a game of prediction.
Expand the time range and you expand the difficulty ... and the fun. That's the idea behind dynasty leagues, and as a longtime dynasty/keeper-league player, I'm always trying to predict the future. That's the excitement of all this; don't forget that this game, at its core, is for fun. I'm using whatever available data I can acquire to project forward, but at the end of the day, some of this game -- a sizable portion of it -- is impossible to predict.
That doesn't mean it's not worth trying.
Let's take a long-range example: 2010, to go four years back. That year, Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Gonzalez, Roy Halladay and Billy Wagner led their respective positions on our Player Rater. This season, they rank 35th (among first basemen), sixth, sixth, 11th (among outfielders), fourth and 76th, with both Halladay and Wagner retired. Much has changed in those four short years, as you can see.
Four years back, I also predicted who might be our 2014 Player Rater leaders, with a column called my "All-2014 Team." It's an idea I've used for several summers and, since I've never been afraid to admit my mistaken predictions, it resulted in more hits, but also a number of clear misses. Among the 23 players selected for that squad, four rank among the top 25 on our 2014 Player Rater (though several more members of the top 25 were "best of the rest" selections). The four hits: No. 2 outfielder Andrew McCutchen, No. 1 starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, No. 4 starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw and No. 7 first baseman Miguel Cabrera. But Tommy Hanson and Daniel Bard were also on that team and, gee thanks, Matt Wieters and Prince Fielder, did you have to get hurt this season?
Looking at the current Player Rater, it serves as further evidence that much of the future is indeed impossible to predict: Mike Trout, the No. 1 outfielder, was only a calendar year into his professional career by the 2010 All-Star break, albeit with growing prospect stock. Jose Altuve, the No. 1 second baseman, was in Class A ball and not considered a blue-chip prospect. Jose Abreu, the No. 1 first baseman, was a 23-year-old in Cuba, albeit one in the midst of a tremendous season there. Todd Frazier, the No. 1 third baseman, was 10 months shy of his big-league debut but was in the midst of a .781-OPS campaign in Triple-A. And Jonathan Lucroy, the No. 1 catcher, was two months into his big-league career yet not widely regarded to be a future All-Star at the time.
Again, that doesn't mean it's not worth trying to predict the future. This merely illustrates the wide range of probabilities, which is why dynasty-league owners want to aim for high-ceiling, educated guesses, while also keeping in mind the significant chance that future events could change those projections.
This column is where we take those high-ceiling, educated guesses. Just as I did four years ago, in 2010 with an eye on 2014, I'm again picking my fantasy stars four seasons from now: This is my "All-2018 Team."