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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 MockDraftCentral.com 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.