Mailbag: Keepers Minus Two

Reader Jonathan G. asks:

I’ve got an upcoming decision for my keepers to make which I can use some FanGraphs expertise on. The keeper rules are that you forfeit a draft pick of the round your keeper is in minus 2. So if you keep a guy you drafted in the 5th round, you forfeit your 3rd round pick. My best keeper options (with rounds I would forfeit) are as follows:

-Chase Utley (forfeit 1st round)
-Adam Lind (forfeit 19th round)
-Adam Jones (forfeit 15th round)
-Gordon Beckham (forfeit 25th round)
-Andrew McCutchen (forfeit 25th round)
-Ubaldo Jimenez (forfeit 17th round)
-Jon Lester (forfeit 6th round)

My league is standard 5×5. My thoughts right now are to keep Utley, Lind, and Jones though I’ve given a lot of thought to keeping Beckham instead of Lind/Jones/Utley because of the value I’d get from keeping him in the 25th round.

I’d appreciate any time + thought that you can give to helping me out.

You didn’t explicitly say, but I am going to answer this with the assumption that you are limited to three keepers. Generally, you want to maximize value with your keepers. We can use the ADP numbers from as a proxy for value. Here are the numbers for your guys:

Utley – 4 – first round
Lind – 46 – fourth round
Jones – 87 – eighth round
Beckham – 93 – eighth round
McCutchen – 90 – eighth round
Jimenez – 105 – ninth round
Lester – 57 – fifth round

Here, Utley and Lester give you the least amount of value, relative to what you have to give up to keep them. I would also eliminate Jones, because of concerns around both his GB% (55.4) and Contact% (74.6).

Of the remaining four players, I think you can make a good case for keeping any of them.
Lind’s HR/FB rate is a bit worrisome, but he has a better batted ball profile and BB/K rates than Jones. His BABIP was slightly elevated but nothing too concerning. If you keep Lind, you do have to be a tiny bit concerned about his lack of SB.

Beckham begins the year as a 3B and should pick up 2B eligibility by the end of the month, assuming your league allows mid-year qualifications. He held his own as a 22-year old and had his best power month in September (6 HR). He did most of his damage on the road last year and given the hitter-friendly tendencies of his home park, it is not too hard to see him developing into a 25-HR guy as he matures. Ideally, he would have a higher LD% and a lower IFFB%.

McCutchen hit more HR than was expected last year. None of the preseason projections has him maintaining last year’s pace. Still, a 15 HR and 30 SB year is within reach and it is not impossible to see him topping those marks. One thing to keep in mind is that McCutchen did very well last year against FB but was below average against both CB and SL and will probably see more breaking balls in his sophomore season.

Jimenez is a ground ball pitcher that piles up strikeouts. He has three quality pitches and is clearly an ace-type pitcher. The Razzball Player Rater had him as the 57th best fantasy player in 2009. Jimenez did have a low HR/FB rate (7.8%) which gave him an xFIP higher than his ERA. But in 506.1 IP in the majors, Jimenez has an 8.3 percent HR/FB mark.

I would go Jimenez, Beckham and Lind.

The possibility of losing Utley is no doubt painful. But if everyone else has a first-round keeper, you get to re-draft him and keep him regardless. And if other owners opt to keep value picks, you should have other first-round talents to choose from when it is your pick.

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22 Responses to “Mailbag: Keepers Minus Two”

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  1. Jimbo says:

    Great analysis. Lack of value on Utley/Lester makes sense.

    One question I’d have is about future keeper status. I think Lind’s ceiling is known, but not McCutchen’s. If 2010 is the only year you can keep one, I’d agree with Lind. If you could potentially protect McCutchen next year, and beyond, then I’d have to consider his ceiling before letting him go.

    And not that end of the draft picks are that exciting, but forfeiting your 25th instead of 19th upgrades another roster spot a bit. More likely to land a decent veteran/sleeper before round 20 in most drafts.

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  2. DonCoburleone says:

    Yeah I don’t quite understand why you’d keep Utley if dropping him means you get to keep your 1st rounder. And the 19th round for Lind is nice, but I’d go McCutchen. Lind just strikes me as somewhat flukey last year. No way he tops 30 homers again IMO. I say 25-28 bombs for Lind, 12-15 for McCutchen, or a 12ish HR difference whereas in steals Cutch could easily put up 35 to Linds 2. Plus you forfeit a 25th round pick instead of a 19th. So I say Jimenez, Beckham and McCutchen.

    As a side note, why isn’t Jimenez getting more respect in drafts? The one draft I have done so far I got him in the 13th round, 25th starting pitcher taken overall. He’s got one of the best fastballs in the game, he strikes guys out, gets ground balls, has pitched 415 innings over the last 2 years and he’s heading into his age 26 season. Do his walks scare everyone off? Playing at Coors? Don’t you think if his walks continue trending downward (4.67BB/9 in ’08; 3.51BB/9 in ’09) and he gets a little bit of BABIP luck he could be a Top 10 starter in 2010?

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    • manuscript says:

      i agree with everything you said, both about keepers and ubaldo.

      regarding ubaldo, i think it comes down to the fact that he pitches in colorado. it still scares people off. and maybe it’s not without some justification, one bad pitch in colorado is much more likely to become costly to a pitcher than most anywhere else in the league. that means a few bad pitches – despite possibly otherwise good outings – could inflate a starter’s ERA and WHIP a bit.

      for now, though, don’t feel puzzled about ubaldo sliding – you should be gloating on the inside.

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  3. Jay says:

    It seems that it would also make sense that the higher the round, the players who are closer to their ADP should be considered. For example, one of the guys I’ll keep is Ryan Braun, who I’ll get in the 2nd round. I’m sure there are guys I drafted late last year who are much better values in terms of difference between ADP and where I’d get them, but I’d rather get Braun in the second round than Billy Butler in the 25th to give my team a jumpstart in all five categories. That said, I wouldn’t keep Braun in the first round for the reasons the analysis explained regarding Utley. Jonathan has some really great late-round choices to keep that will keep his options available for more than half of the draft…

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  4. fitz says:

    I disagree with Jay. You should keep Butler and give up a 25th, over keeping Braaun and giving up a 2nd. Although, Braun is clearly the better player and would help you ‘jumpstart in all five categories’, you have to think in terms of value. You will be able to grab a player of almost Braun’s value in the 2nd round while gaining a 6-8th round player in Butler (don’t know his ADP) and only giving up your 25th round pick.

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    • Jay says:

      It’s something to think about. My other two are Kinsler in the 8th and Mark Reyonolds in the 16th, so those are definitely more value picks (and you can see why I’d want Braun to offset some of the batting average risk with those two).

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    • Jimbo says:

      Jay’s keeper issue is different from the one in the original post I think. Keeping Braun for a 2nd round pick is a lot different than keeping him for a 1st round pick. I’d definitely keep Braun and have a shot at another superstar with my first pick.

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  5. scott says:

    In this keeper league, you would be forfeitting your 1st round pick if you decided to keep a player from the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round the previous year, correct? And if you decide to keep two players from rounds 1, 2, or 3, do you just forfeit the second round?

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    • Jon G. says:

      Many thanks for the responses to my original email.
      Yes, in my league anyone drafted 1/2/3 is a forfeited 1st round pick. If you keep your 1/2/3 from 2009 you forfeit your 2010 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks.

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      • scott says:

        what if you keep someone you picked up off waivers?

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      • scott says:

        or what about subsequent years? for example; justin upton 10th round in ’09…is he an 8th round selection each subsequent year, should i decide to keep him past ’10?

        i ask these questions because i’ve yet to see a keeper league we re-draft rules (that isn’t auction) that doesn’t have some holes in it.

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  6. Jay says:

    I’d probably go with what Brian said too, but I’d consider McCutchen instead of Jimenez, mostly because pitchers just get hurt way too often. Also, if you’re in a league where you keep five outfielders, multiply that by the number of teams in your league and you’ll see that in a sense it’s not as deep as it seems. If you only draft three, though, that’s a different story…

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  7. Jon G. says:

    Only 4 OF in my league. We play with C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, OF, OF, OF, OF, ULT

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    • Jay says:

      That’s not too bad. I don’t have a cheat sheet in front of me, but I seem to remember OF getting pretty thin after around the first 45 or 50 OFs, so assuming your league has 12 or fewer teams, you should be in decent shape whether you start with one outfielder or two.

      The leagues I don’t understand at all are the ones that keep two catchers. It’s frustrating enough to even choose one…

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  8. Rob says:

    But isn’t there something to be said for certainty? Drafts have over-rated players before and while all of those young guys have upside and should produce based on the data we have, they may not. At least with Utley you are sort of guaranteeing at least one player who can lead a team (I know nothing is certain).

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  9. Chaz says:

    Maybe I’m missing something but wouldn’t keeping Utley depend on what # pick you have in the first round?

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    • Saga says:

      Since I am not very high on Jimenez personally (high walk rate, park factor scare me), if like Chaz said your 1st round pick is not very high, I think keeping Utley does have its merits.

      Lind and Beckham are no-brainer keepers indeed, especially Mr. bend-it-like-you know who.

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    • Mike says:

      Theoretically, you’re totally right. If your first two picks are something like 11 and 14, you wouldn’t be able to get someone as good as Utley with your first pick, plus you’d be able to pair him with a fringe first rounder. Thinking about it, if others in this league are likely to keep their 1st round picks from 2009, keeping Utley might be more important than originally thought. Like Tim Belcher says: nobody’s going to drop Pujols or Hanley back into the pool…so Utley becomes a de facto number 1 or 2 pick…If a lot of people keep guys who go in the first round, you might end up drafting someone like Ian Kinsler or David Wright with your first pick, while some other guy gets the Utley that’s rightfully yours.

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  10. Tim Belcher says:

    All in all, not keeping Utley is terrible advice. Let’s say you keep Jimenez, Beckham and Lind. Now you have those three, plus picks in rounds 1, 2, 3 and you have forfeited picks 17, 19 and 25. For your #1 pick (the one you gained by getting rid of Utley), you’re picking 7 of 12 and four of the six people in front of you have chosen to forfeit their first rounder in favor of a keeper. The two people picking ahead of you finished poorly the year before and had weak rosters, thus they decided to drop all their 2009 high picks back into the player pool (Reyes, Santana, Sizemore, Pedroia etc.). No one in your league is stupid enough to drop Pujols, Hanley or Arod. So with the #7 overall pick you get to take the third overall unprotected player: Congratulations you’ve just swapped Chase Utley and a 17th rounder for Ubaldo Jimenez and Troy Tulowitzki.

    No thanks. And by the way, it’s a keeper. Meaning Utley’s price is capped, whereas every guy you’re keeping will cost you more to keep next year.

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  11. Nelbowski says:

    It’s difficult to predict how a keeper draft is going to go unless you’ve been in the league, so obviously this is all in the hands of the owner. In his league (like mine), pitching may be scarce in the draft, so non-keeper aces are all gone by the middle of the third round. Or, depending on his first round draft position, he may be able to keep three other guys and re-draft Utley, though I’d like to think he thought that one through already.

    What it comes down to for me is making the best team possible for this season. I love all the young, cheap options the owner has, as pretty much all of them will go way ahead of the rounds they can be kept in. However, I’m all in favor of keeping your best players, so I’d go with Utley, Lester and Jimenez. Of course, that all depends on the circumstances of the league though.

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  12. Brian Joura says:

    Let’s assume your scenario with players available is correct. And let’s use 2009 dollar values from Razzball to show why you’re still better off cutting Utley.

    Average 1st round pick – $43
    Average 17th round pick $3

    Chase Utley $31
    Ubaldo JImenez $22
    David Wright $20
    Troy Tulowitzki $31

    So if you cut Utley and draft Wright (the worst of your choices) you end up with $42 of value. If you keep Utley you end up with $34

    The value of getting Jimenez as your 17th round pick is huge, much more so than the drop off from going from Utley to whoever else becomes your first rounder.

    And it is still possible to wind up with someone better than Wright (or that Wright rebounds to 2005-08 value) to make it even more stacked in your favor to keep Jimenez.

    The only reason to cut Jimenez is if you don’t think he will approach last season’s value. And if you make that decision, you’re still better off protecting one of the other low-round picks.

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  13. Tim Belcher says:

    Simply adding up the dollar value of the players is not an accurate way to judge the talent on each side.

    (I could be wrong, but I also think you calculated the Avg. 1st round pick value by summing the top 10 and dividing by 10 – which falsely assumes that the first round of the draft was a selection of the top 10 most valuable players by year end value. This is a poor method of discerning the expected value of a 2010 first round pick.)

    But back to the main point, is Utley ($31) + a 17th ($3) better than Jimenez ($22) + Tulo ($31)? The dollar values are heavily in favor of Jimenez/Tulo, but you wouldn’t argue that trading Lester ($25) + Choo ($22) for Hanley ($41) is shrewd.

    What this method fails to account for, other than the obvious projected value of a player in 2010 versus his actual 2009 production, is that Utley provides consolidated value. The 17th round pick is almost inconsequential. Utley will likely outperform both Tulo and Jimenez and provide premium value at 2B. You’re not stuck with $3 of value from your 17th round pick. You may end up with a steal, you may end up with a dud. If the latter, you drop him and pick-up a player from the free agent pool.

    I am also not assuming the role of a player who will make league average decisions in this scenario. If we’re discussing strategy, I think it’s fair to project that you will make decisions which will outpace the majority of your competitors. This is an important distinction because you can take on additional risk with your roster and feel confident that you will be able to fill in gaps during the season. Ultimately it may come down to a difference in projections for Jimenez/Tulo/Utley. But I’ll take Utley every day of the week and glean whatever I can from the 17th round or the free agency pool.

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