MASTER NOTES: What's in a name? Everything.

As fantasy leaguers, we constantly face psychological obstacles in building our rosters. Some of these are pretty blatant.

For instance, if you get a dozen Mets fans into a room, you can be sure that David Wright will be bid up over $30—even though the third baseman has reached that level only twice in the last six years.

Then there are those guys who are so hell-bent on drafting the obscure prospect who becomes the next Mike Trout that they completely undermine any chance of winning today.

And during an auction, many of us get so caught up in the adrenaline rush of bidding that we lose touch with all the hours of intensive draft preparation.

There is an even more underlying, subversive psychological pitfall that goes to very core of the most basic of analytical processes. And that is the player's name.

Consider... if I say the name "Clayton Kershaw," you immediately draw a picture in your head without considering even one piece of analytical data. Your brain is saying, "the best pitcher in baseball" and then either "I will pay what it takes" or "he'll be too expensive."

Similarly, if I say "Troy Tulowitzki," your brain immediately becomes conflicted, caught between the high skills upside for a shortstop and the injury risk.

We can't help but create preconceived notions from the mere mentioning of a player's name. From Bryce "Huge Unfulfilled Upside" Harper to Francisco "Closer without a Job" Rodriguez to Tommy "No Usable Fantasy Stats" LaStella, every player's name creates a rough draft value in our head.

But what if we were forced to evaluate each player without the benefit of knowing his name? What if all we had were a few basic data points? Could we do a more objective job of projecting the future if all we had was a player's Rotisserie earnings over the past few years and his age?

Maybe.

If I told you that a player's Roto earnings over the past three years were $54, $48 and $43, it probably would not take much of a stretch for you to surmise that this is either Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw. If I added the fact that this player is under 25, then you immediately know it's Trout. But knowing that this is Trout defeats the purpose of trying to analyze the data. Now you know that the $54-$48-$43 trend could well point to a $45 projection for 2015. The fact that you know it's Trout impacts the way you evaluate the data.

But what if I gave you the data points of $32, $33, $26 and told you that this player's age is between 30 and 34. Now this becomes a completely different process. There is really no way for you to know who this is without doing the research.

$32, $33, $26 and in his early 30s. How would you evaluate this? You might consider that, with what little we know, this player might be at the beginning stages of a decline. The three data points alone might point to a 2015 projection of maybe $28 or $29, assuming that trends don't necessarily progress in a straight line. Given his age, there might be more downside, perhaps even falling below his $26 performance in 2014. If I had to settle on a number, I might stop on $28.

Currently, the projection for this player at BaseballHQ.com is $30. Now, there's not a lot of difference between $28 and $30, but it does beg the question of why the HQ projection is slightly more optimistic and whether too much subjectivity might have entered the forecasting process.

But the goal is to separate the name from the data and not try to figure out who this player is. Because if I told you who this is, you might think, "oh, that new ballpark really trashed his numbers last year and I wouldn't expect there to be much improvement." And maybe that little tidbit adds enough bias to the analysis to skew your objectivity. Because maybe the ballpark had nothing to do with it. Maybe last season was just a natural decline for an aging ballplayer. Who knows?

Beginning next week at the First Pitch Forums, we are going to perform these types of analyses for 45 players—essentially re-setting the first three rounds of the draft using only data points and no names. No real names, anyway. Yes, Trout and Kershaw will probably still end up at the top, but from there, it's anyone's guess. It will be a fun, interactive exercise that everyone will take part in. Beginning next weekend in Chicago and Cincinnati, then Washington, New York and Boston on March 6-8 and wrapping up on the West Coast the following weekend. Registrations are open now at BaseballHQ.com.

I'm still trying to decide whether or not to tell you who this player is, because, well... some of you are probably champing at the bit, waiting to hear. It's that little bit of OCD in every one of us, that need for answers, the need to complete the pattern, the need for closure. I could torture you with the open $32, $33, $26 string, but is it really that important?

For those who do need to know—and I won't think any less of you—I've posted the answer on my Facebook page.


 

Unlock all of our insights on your way to a fantasy title! See what our season-long coverage offers and then subscribe to BaseballHQ.com.


Click here to subscribe

  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.