These rankings could function as end-of-year rankings, but with a twist. Young players on the way up get a bonus, especially since many keeper leagues allow you to keep young players as long as you like without penalty. Older, more filler players don’t get listed because you can find them next year in the late rounds of your re-stocking draft anyway. These rankings are also for regular 5×5 roto, despite the fact that we’ve got wOBAs listed. It’s just an extra piece of information, right? The age listed is their age going into the 2011 season.
The Top Targets:
Robinson Cano, New York AL (28 yrs old, .326 BA, 29 HR, 103 R, 109 RBI, 3 SB, .389 wOBA)
Chase Utley, Philadelphia (32 yrs old, .275 BA, 16 HR, 75 R, 65 RBI, 13 SB, .373 wOBA)
Dustin Pedroia, Boston (27 yrs old, .288 BA, 12 HR, 53 R, 41 RBI, 9 SB, .377 wOBA)
Ian Kinsler, Texas (28 yrs old, .286 BA, 9 HR, 73 R, 45 RBI, 15 SB, .357 wOBA)
This feels right as the first group, but where does Utley belong? He’s the oldest of the crew, and loves getting hit by pitches. He averaged 25 per year from 2007-2009 (18 last year), and each of those is akin to a round of Russian Roulette these days. Then again, he’s hurt his hip and his thumb on the base paths, so maybe each of those stolen bases is really the cause for worry. In any case, the two guys behind him prove that it doesn’t take being old to have injury problems, so we’ll go with the upside here. Do you want to penalize Kinsler for being injury-prone? He’s averaged 124 games per season in his career, so we’ll put him last, but he’s also averaged 18 home runs and 21 home runs per season even in those few games, so we’ll keep him here.
Strong Secondary Options
Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati (29 yrs old, .275 BA, 18 HR, 100 R, 59 RBI, 16 SB, .332 wOBA)
Dan Uggla, Florida (31 yrs old, .287 BA, 33 HR, 100 R, 105 RBI, 4 SB, .381 wOBA)
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee (28 yrs old, .269 BA, 29 HR, 112 R, 83 RBI, 11 SB, .368 wOBA)
Kelly Johnson, Arizona (29 yrs old, .284 BA, 26 HR, 93 R, 71 RBI, 13 SB, .377 wOBA)
Martin Prado, Atlanta (27 yrs old, .307 BA, 15 HR, 100 R, 66 RBI, 5 SB, .352 wOBA)
Phillips and Uggla feel like old men, but they aren’t that old yet. Uggla shouldn’t see the same batting average, and Phillips’ ISO has been dropping for four years – so some sort of decline is in order, just not a precipitous one, hopefully. Weeks is risky because of the injuries, of course, and Johnson slugs so much better in Arizona that there’s some risk there too. Prado doesn’t seem as risky, but also doesn’t have the same upside in counting stats. It’s a good strong group though, and there’s little shame keeping these guys in mixed leagues where you keep more than five keepers.
Riskier But Young-ish, Best as Deep Dynasty League Options
Neil Walker, Pittsburgh (25 yrs old, .296 BA, 12 HR, 57 R, 66 RBI, 2 SB, .351 wOBA)
Aaron Hill, Toronto (29 yrs old, .205 BA, 26 HR, 70 R, 68 RBI, 2 SB, .291 wOBA)
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay (29 yrs old, .238 BA, 10 HR, 77 R, 75 RBI, 24 SB, .323 wOBA)
Now we’re in a group that shouldn’t really be kept unless you are in a deeper league or a near-dynasty situation. None of the first two guys is really well-balanced – but that also means deeper league owners could use them to plug certain holes. They’re all solid keepers for teams that need a little power boost and can afford some batting average risk. Edit: Zobrist was a cut and paste I forgot to paste back in because I wasn’t sure where to put him. I think his 2009 still provides enough upside to consider him here, but if the power doesn’t return, he doesn’t seem to have elite speed, and he could really belong in the bottom group.
Veterans Better Drafted Late For Bounceback Than Kept
Brian Roberts, Baltimore (33 yrs old, 4 HR, 28 R, 15 RBI, 12 SB, .340 wOBA)
Chone Figgins, Seattle (33 yrs old, 1 HR, 62 R, 35 RBI, 42 SB, .302 wOBA)
I mean, you could keep these guys, but they’d be easy pickings at the draft next year as well. Both are young enough and have long enough track records that they could easily bounce back next year and provide good value on their return. And, on leagues that are deep enough or keep enough players, they could also work as final keepers. Second baseman that steal 30 bases don’t grow on trees. If you’re wondering why other veterans didn’t make this list, it’s because they don’t have the same upside. I mean, yes, Mike Aviles had a great end to the season, but he’s 30, doesn’t have much power, and only about average speed. Not to mention the team has a younger option at the position that was hurt while Aviles went off.
Only Worth Keeping in the Deepest of Leagues Because They are Younger and Could Get Better, Maybe
Gordon Beckham, Chicago AL (24 years old, .252 BA, 9 HR, 58 R, 49 RBI, 4 SB, .305 wOBA)
Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles AL (27 yrs old, .279 BA, 10 HR, 67 R, 75 RBI, 14 SB, .317 wOBA)
Danny Espinosa, Washington (23 yrs old, .214 BA, 6 HR, 16 R, 15 RBI, 0 SB, .301 wOBA)
Eric Young, Jr., Colorado (25 yrs old, .244 BA, 0 HR, 26 R, 8 RBI, 17 SB, .281 wOBA)
Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay (25 yrs old, .251 BA, 9 HR, 53 R, 40 RBI, 13 SB, .316 wOBA)
This is the bargain bin. Beckham almost made it north with Zobrist, but what he’s shown was not as impressive as the season Zobrist showed, so we’re not sure what upside we’re really chasing. Kendrick probably won’t get much better, but if the team gets better around him and he has some BABIP luck, he could be a younger, slightly more powerful version of Placido Polanco, right? Though Espinosa came up and hit some home runs right away, his power in the minor leagues wasn’t more middling than impressive (.185 ISO), and it’s a little bit more about speed (25 SBs, 69% success rate) with him. He’s a decent sleeper for next year even with the slight batting average risk (25.7% strikeout rate). Eric the younger? Well, he’s got blazing speed and could be a deep league boon if he wins the job next year – the risk is obvious though.
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