Keeper League ‘Would You Rather?’ — Roy Halladay or Stephen Strasburg

When the FanGraphs meet-up took place in San Francisco on Tuesday night and the group was sitting around the TV hanging on each and every pitch thrown by Stephen Strasburg, inspiration hit for today’s Would You Rather column.  Proven talent versus monumental upside.  Seasoned veteran versus young upstart.  Future Hall of Famer versus….future Hall of Famer?  There are a lot of pros on each side and very few cons.  So if it were up to you…

Would you rather keep Roy Halladay or Stephen Strasburg?

To a certain extent, it’s somewhat pointless, or should I say redundant, to start listing different statistics here.  Halladay has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the game since 2002.  Including this season, he’s thrown 200+ innings in 10 of the last 12 seasons with the only two “off-years” being 2004 when he was dealing with shoulder problems and 2005 when his leg was broken by a line drive back at the mound.  Since then, he’s just been ridiculous with a rising K/9 and dwindling BB/9 over the last three full seasons and a current SwStr% of 10.7%, which again, has risen steadily over the last four seasons.  The guy is a horse, plain and simple, and will anchor any fantasy rotation in top fashion.

Strasburg, obviously, has a much shorter pedigree but has consistently been dominant at every level.  High school was a breeze, he was almost unhittable while at San Diego State, absolutely dominant as the only collegiate selected for the Olympics, cruised through the minors last year and looked fantastic in his 2010 Major league debut.  The injury curtailed a meteoric rise to greatness, but after exactly one year removed from Tommy John surgery, Strasburg was back to his old tricks on the hill and returned to throw five shutout innings of two-hit ball against the Dodgers in his return.  He had four strikeouts and was dealing a 92 mph change-up to go with his 99 mph fastball.  His return was a thing of beauty to witness and you should really check out Jeff Zimmerman’s Pitch F/X analysis, if you get a chance.

So with both pitchers being who they are, the question for keeping in fantasy leagues comes down to cost and longevity.  Both are certainly worthy of being held from year to year, but do you go with Halladay who likely has a few great years still left or Strasburg who now has, what should be, a stronger arm but could possibly have future arm issues?  There are plenty of pitchers to come back from Tommy John and have continued their careers in solid fashion, but for how many years are we talking about?  We’ve seen the likes of Kerry Wood, Francisco Liriano, Adam Wainwright and Josh Johnson all return but with issues in subsequent years, so the risk of losing Strasburg after just a couple of seasons is certainly there.  Keeper league owners love the upside of the youngsters, but for me, the proven talent of Halladay is nearly impossible to pass up.

Vote on the poll and discuss…

Who Would You Rather Protect?

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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site,, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at

25 Responses to “Keeper League ‘Would You Rather?’ — Roy Halladay or Stephen Strasburg”

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  1. David says:

    Halladay, and frankly it isn’t close.

    The only situation where I’d choose Strasburg OVER Halladay would be if this was a deep keeper league and my team was made up of nearly all young stud prospects, and I didn’t expect to compete for 2+ years yet. Even then there would probably have to be some sort of absurd cost difference in play. Halladay would be worth almost any cost, of course. Even at the cost of a 1st round pick or an auction overpay he would be worth tons in trade to a contender midseason. But if I had Strasburg at some absurdly low auction cost or a 20+ round pick … well then MAYBE I’d cut Halladay loose. MAYBE.

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  2. Mark says:

    This is the stupidest topic I have ever heard. It’s like asking who would you rather date – Kim Kardashian or Maggie Gyllenhaal. They are both in totally different classes

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  3. Andy says:

    Well, I have this exact dilemma and it’s mostly because of cost that I will be keeping Strasburg. Our league is an auction draft and I paid $47 for Halladay and only $1 for Strasburg. Therefore, I can keep Halladay for $57 (120% of previous year’s auction amount, rounded up) or keep Strasburg for $2. Most likely, I can throw Halladay back into the pool, get him for less than $57 and keep Strasburg for just $2, which is way below the amount that I would pay to get him on the “open market”.

    Yes, all else being equal, Halladay is the better bet for success next year, but Strasburg is cheaper and doesn’t prevent me from getting Halladay again next year.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      How did Strasburg go for $1 in your keeper league? He went for $1 in my NON-keeper league. I play 3 keepers and he went for $8 (with +$7 keeper cost), $7 (ottoneu), and 17th round (+2 rnd cost).

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      • Andy says:

        I don’t know. Probably because half the league are people that aren’t that serious and the other half didn’t want to stash him on their bench. Maybe the fact that they thought it would be mid-2012 before he was fully healthy. I had him on my team last year and didn’t keep him because I thought I could get him for less than what I paid the year before. Also because my three keepers were pretty cheap (CarGo, Bautista and Heyward).

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    • JamesDaBear says:

      Can you keep both?

      I ask this for a reason: You said half the league isn’t serious. This means you can afford to go high end up with a player like Halladay (even at his extreme price), and use your skill advantage to pick up cheap, productive players without risking losing out on Halladay at all. It would be worth the $10 bump in cost. Bautista, Halladay and Strasburg would be a great triumvirate (even if the first two assuredly would come at extreme cost).

      Your best asset in a league with an auction draft is getting a read on your competitors and learning how high they’re wanting to go for a player and make sure he doesn’t go for a cent lower, especially when you know you can get “stuck” with a player and still compete.

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  4. Brad Johnson says:

    There are two parameters that really should be expected to affect this decision. The first is cost. Strasburg should cost considerably less since cost is usually linked to where the player is drafted, although some leagues don’t include cost in the decision. The other parameter is how long a player can be kept. Many leagues have escalating costs or contracts that prevent players from being kept indefinitely.

    You can create a kind of matrix using those parameters to answer this question. Because it’s the comments section, I’ll have to display it as a list. The cost I’m considering is draft round + 1 or draft price +$3. There is no standard way of applying cost, but these seem to be fairly standard. I’m going to call Strasburg a 20th rnd/$5 player and Halladay a 2nd rnd/$38 player

    Cost – Strasburg – A team that is heavily built for 2012 might choose Halladay
    No Cost – Halladay, duh

    Escalating cost – Strasburg
    Contract – Halladay
    No limits – Halladay – team composition could make Strasburg better investment

    Ostensibly, one of the biggest arguments in favor of Strasburg is his youth. However, due to his short track record, Halladay’s efficiency and health, and Strasburg’s injury history, I think it’s reasonable to say that both pitchers should be expected to remain elite for roughly the same amount of time. Certainly Strasburg has that possibility of being a 5 or 10 year keeper (depending on format), but Halladay is a much more certain commodity.

    This is a rather apples and oranges scenario.

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  5. Everett says:

    If its a straight keeper, with no weighting, Halladay, clearly. However, if there’s some sort of weighting given to where they were taken/what they cost, Strasburg almost certainly, as the value would be much better. It’d depend entirely on the rules of the league.

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  6. Luckily , i do not need to worry about this dilemna in my keeper league. They are both on my team & i will be keeping both.

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  7. Tom B says:

    Who could possibly have Halladay at a reasonable cost? No one should be keeping him.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      I have him at 1st round cost in a linear weights league where he’s probably a top 8 player. I think that’s a reasonable cost to pay. I also have Verlander and Lee at round one cost. So I’ll be keeping all three. I expect to win the league since I have 60 IP in hand and a 120 point lead over the only other team within range. I’ll be giving up the 12th, 13th, and 24th picks. For that trio.

      I won’t have a pick for the first three rounds at least but owning 3 of the top 5 pitchers should help me defend my title. My 4th keep may be Ellsbury – 5, Gordon – 25, Trout – 21, Wainwright – 16, Pedroia – 1, or Lawrie – 25.

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  8. Twac00 says:

    I don’t have to worry about a Strasburg vs. Halladay dilemma. However, I do have to decide which 5 to keep out of Carlos Santana, Buster Posey, Jesus Montero, Eric Hosmer, Ian Kinsler, Brett Lawrie, Dustin Ackley, Alex Gordon, Mike Trout, Shin Soo Choo, and Cliff Lee.

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  9. Kyle says:

    would anyone else rather keep Kershaw? still only 23 and a completely proven beast?

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    • adohaj says:

      yes… very yes

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    • Kyle 2.0 says:

      I’d definitely take Kershaw, Verlander and the insane choice of Fister(he costs less obviously.)

      Crazy obviously, but I saw his fastball go from 90-91 to 91-94 after being traded, having a fastball that when it’s 92 it looks much faster with late movement. He never walks anyone, doesn’t give up homeruns, and somehow is valued at 4.8 WAR which is higher than Beckett, Lincecum and Lester. I might be high after watching his past two starts(one where he struck out 13 guys and had hitters looking straight retarded.) And he gets more swings at pitches outside the strikezone, throws less strikes but more first pitch strikes than most. Out of the elite pitchers Verlander is the only guy who throws less pitches that are strikes. Getting the lowest run support of any starter in baseball with the Mariners, he’s helped the Tigers go 30-11 since they acquired him. They have him for four seasons, he just turned 27, and should have great numbers in that field in his prime.

      So yeah… I really have to lay off the booze, but Fister is showing just how good he is considering Porcello, Scherzer, and every starter the Tigers have gotten to follow Verlander and not suck.

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  10. stumanji says:

    I traded Strasburg in my 12 team 6-keeper roto for Ricky Romero (stud) and Gio Gonzalez (dud) about 6 weeks ago. At that point I was in the race and needed help for this year. Now am trying to decide between Romero, Ian Kennedy, and Josh Johnson to keep as my 2nd SP (behind Felix).

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  11. Random Collmenter says:

    Would you guys keep Matt Moore or Wainwright? Question marks surround both, obviously, but I need to keep two pitchers (Hamels is my ace) and these guys are the only ones I’m considering (also have Latos, but don’t trust him).

    Liriano really screwed me this year.

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    • Toby Ziegler says:

      Tough call. Moore is the best pitching prospect in the minors right now, IMO. I’d probably go with Wainwright. Moore has an extremely bright future, no doubt, but we don’t even know if he’ll start the season in the Rays’ rotation and what kind of innings limit he’ll have. Wainwright was a top 5 pitcher before, and lots of pitchers have come back from TJ.

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    • Kyle says:

      Wainwright… he was injured later in his career unlike Liriano, Prior, Kazmir and other guys who looked like they’d be the new school of aces right now. And young, ridiculously talented pitchers don’t always gel for a while. Look at Clay Buchholz(who’s now obviously hurt)or just guys like Cliff Lee.

      He has a teammate who had Tommy John surgery who came back an ace, and a team that knows how to handle pitchers. Wainwright is 6’7, 230 while Carp is 6’6, 230 and big guys come back from this surgery better than smaller guys. And Wainwright just turned 30, and was one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball(maybe different with Verlander, Kershaw, Hamels, and Weaver going into beast mode but…. since Moore will rock eventually I looked it up. Tommy John surgery has an almost 80 percent success rate, and takes no velocity while adding it in certain situations. Carpenter came back throwing harder… and Moore might keep getting shelled this year, get sent down so the Rays can save money on him and hold him longer.

      Sorry for the novel… but keep Adam Wainwright. If I’m wrong, I must admit I know nothing about fantasy baseball, haha.

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  12. daniel heit says:

    hey Tom B, if you have been losing year over and year it’s probably because you think it’s a no brainer to not keep Halladay at all. Obviously, roto is about value but at the same time if you were to build a team around a guy would rather have Ervin Santana or Halladay. Ervin has been a proven pitcher for years pitching 200+ innings multiple times, has had a season with a WHIP of 1.10 (in line with Halladay), strikes out a fair amount of batters and pitches on a decent enough team that he could win 17 games if things break right (like last year). More importantly he is not flashy and is probably a lot less than Halladay. If the goal is to win, the 5 more wins, 50 more K’s, 190 innings of at least a 1 run better +++ in ERA plus an additional 50 innings of a 2.5 ERA and a guaranteed better WHIP can move you 3 to 4 spots at least in the standings. Just look at the list of top pitchers this year that were cheap. None were truly proven and while Fangraphs gives us the tools to make better guesses on future performance it will never allow you to win if you don’t keep the top guys. Trying to outsmart the non-SABR guys in your league because you got picked Jaime Garcia and Ervin Santana on the cheap and like their potential will get you killed when the other team spends the money on Halladay and then pick up a guy like Beachy on a winning team to replace that second spot.

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  13. kdog nasty says:

    stras will be elite is 2 year ( 2013)

    i predict stras to get 600 pts in 2013 ( default pt h2h leagues )

    at the same time halladay will be about 550-580 pts in 2013

    halladay 2013 200ip 14W 175K
    stras 2013 190ip 13W 240K

    halladay 2014 195ip 14W 170K
    stras 2014 200ip 13W 250K

    halladay 2015 150 11W 130K
    stras 2015 185ip 13W 260K

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