Thursday, March 11, 2010

The great keeper debate

My primary baseball league the past few years has been one run by some of my newsroom cohorts. It's a 10-team keeper league with a regular snake draft, and it's pretty competitive (I've finished in the bottom half the past two years, much to everyone else's delight).

With the deadline for keepers rapidly approaching - each team must designate 5 players they'll "keep" from last year's squad - I thought I'd take you through my thought process.

Luckily it wasn't a very tough decision, but that's because my team last year just wasn't that talented. While some of my competitors had as many as 10 or more players they could legitimately make a case for keeping, I narrowed my list down to seven.

But first, some guys who didn't make the cut: Dan Uggla, Elvis Andrus, Alex Rios, Franklin Gutierrez, Alcides Escobar, Nolan Reimold, Scott Kazmir, Ricky Nolasco, Rick Porcello, Joba Chamberlain. All useful players, but not really keeper material in this format. We've never really had a "long-term" focus in this league; the way I see it, our keepers should more or less represent the top 50 (5 keepers a team, 10 teams) fantasy players. None of those guys qualify.

Next, the no-brainers: Ryan Howard, Jacoby Ellsbury, Felix Hernandez. Howard is a top-10 talent and my big thumper. I've come to love Ellsbury, one of the few players capable of single-handedly keeping you afloat in steals while not killing you in other categories. And King Felix is, in my mind, a potential top-5 starter this year.

Now, the tough decisions. I've got two keeper spots left for four players: Ryan Zimmerman, Jason Bay, Josh Beckett, Matt Wieters.

Wieters is obviously a great long-term keeper, as he has a real chance to develop into one of the game's top 2 catchers (along with Joe Mauer). But is he top-2 this year? Is he a top-50 player this year? I think not. Keeping Wieters will put me at a disadvantage. Sorry Matt.

How about Zimmerman? Last year's numbers (.292/33/106) were great, and third base is fairly weak this year. A slight improvement (far from impossible for a 25-year-old) and he could surpass contemporaries Evan Longoria and David Wright and finish behind only Alex Rodriguez among fantasy second baseman. I'm keeping him.

So that leaves Beckett and Bay for one spot. Beckett can be a top-15 pitcher this year if all goes well. Bay can be a top-15 OF. In a perfect world, I'd have a more sure thing to choose from, but these guys are the best I've got. I don't foresee a lot of pitchers being kept this year, which should leave the redraft pretty flush with them. Outfielders capable of 30 homers and 30 steals? Not so much. Bay it is.

So there you have it. Ryan Howard, Felix Hernandez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Zimmerman, Jason Bay. Let's go get em, guys.

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