Saturday, March 14, 2009

The great keeper debate

So I'm in a keeper league where I can protect up to five players entering this year's draft. I pretty much hate my team, mostly because it finished in the middle of the pack next last season and because I unfortunately don't really have a no-brainer, elite, can't-give-up-under-any-circumstance guy on my roster. It's not terrible though, and I do have some talent I'd like to hold onto.

Here's the roster I finished the season with last year:

C A.J. Pierzynski
1B Ryan Howard
2B Dan Uggla
SS Miguel Tejada
3B Jorge Cantu
OF Jacoby Ellsbury
OF Delmon Young
OF Lance Berkman
UTIL Jason Bay
UTIL Joey Votto
BENCH Jason Giambi
BENCH Pablo Sandoval
BENCH Cameron Maybin
DL Travis Hafner

P Josh Beckett
P Aaron Harang
P Daisuke Matsuzaka
P Francisco Liriano
P Bobby Jenks
P Mike Gonzalez
P J.P. Howell
P Fernando Rodney
P Javier Vazquez
P Chad Qualls
P Ben Sheets
DL Billy Wagner

So right off the bat: I want no part of Hafner or Wagner whatsoever. No thanks. You killed me last year. Get lost.

Pierzynski, Tejada, Cantu, Giambi, Harang, Gonzalez, Howell, Rodney, Vazquez, Qualls, Sheets ... no. Some worthwhile players there, but not keeper material.

I think Young will have the kind of year he should have had last year (which is why I drafted him in the first place) ... but not a keeper.

I don't belive in keeping a closer, so Jenks is out.

Votto's a nice player, but I've got at least two better first basemen already on the roster. Next.

Sandoval and Maybin are intriguing, up-and-coming players, which is why I picked them up at the end of last season when my team had already tanked ... but I can probably redraft them.

So that leaves me with eight legit choices: Howard, Uggla, Ellsbury, Berkman, Bay, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Liriano.

It's a 10-team league, and if everyone protects five guys, I should be keeping top-50-caliber players, which I believe all those guys are capable of being in 2009. It's just a matter of who I want to build a team around, and if I lean toward offense or pitching.

If I want to tackle it by positional scarcity, Uggla is the only guy who fits the bill as a second baseman. His power potential places him in the upper tier at 2B, but he doesn't run a lick, which hurts. He's probably somewhere around sixth in the 2B rankings - doesn't sound like keeper material to me.

Howard, on the other hand ... we know about his faults (no average, no speed), but he's a potential HR champ. He's in.

Berkman's probably the other safe bet. He's getting up there in age, last year seemed like a career year, and another 18 steals seems like a longshot ... but he's been a consistent producer across the board, and he's still got Carlos Lee batting behind him. Plug him into the utility spot.

So now I've got two big mashers, but what about speed? Ellsbury fits the bill. How many players are capable of 50 steals in 2009? Not that many. He won't give me a ton of power, but he won't embarrass himself at the plate like some other speed-only guys. Let's do it.

Now we come to Bay ... do I keep him too, which leaves me room for only one pitcher? The guy fills the stat sheet, seems to be built to play in Fenway, should be in his prime ... OK, I'm sold.

So now we come to the pitchers, Beckett, Dice-K, Liriano. Dice is nice, but the walks really drive me nuts sometimes. Becks, even with the injury concerns and coming off a "down" year, can strike out just as many without the drama. But the guy that really gets my blood pumping is Liriano, who who showed me that Tommy John surgery is a distant memory with his stellar post-All Star break performance (6-1, 2.47 ERA, 60 to 19 K:BB). Would he go in the top 50 in a regular start-from-scratch draft? Is he a bona fide No. 1 fantasy starter? Probably not. But he offers the most upside of any of the guys I've got, so why not take a chance?

There you have it: Howard, Berkman, Ellsbury, Bay, Liriano. My five keepers - unless I change my mind. Thoughts?

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