Tuesday night was the ottoneu keeper deadline and every owner was busy deciding who had earned a roster spot for 2012 and who was being tossed back into the pond. While I was debating a $40 Matt Holliday and a $26 Pablo Sandoval, others were wrestling over a $42 Roy Halladay or a $27 Mat Latos.
The kept players can provide some great insight into where the ottoneu owner universe stands on the ottoneu player universe as we head into auction season.
For starters, there were 929 individual players kept in at least one league. 929! Obviously a lot of players were kept in multiple leagues (473 were kept in at least 20% of leagues) but 929 players is more than exist on active MLB rosters on any given day (30 teams x 25 roster spots is 750 players) and pretty close to covering every player on every 40-man roster (30 teams x 40 roster spots = 1200 players). This says a lot about how large the ottoneu player universe is, and also about how varied people’s opinions are. It’s not like there was a set of players who everyone loved and kept, with the rest getting thrown back.
The average team kept about 25 players, which means that in the average league, you will need to auction off 180 players, compared to the 480 you had to auction last year. Should go much quicker.
How about specific players? Well, no one was kept in every single league. The three closest, all kept in 93% of leagues, surprised me a bit. I expected some top prospects — Jesus Montero, maybe? Bryce Harper? — to be kept in every league. These guys, for the most part, didn’t do anything to disappoint last year and seemed likely to get kept. But the top 3? Matt Cain, Jose Bautista, and Matt Kemp. Bautista and Kemp make a lot of sense – both had question marks pre-season due to prior struggles (2010 for Kemp, every year before 2010 for Bautista) but both played incredibly well and now have a track record that people can believe in. Cain, on the other hand, seems to simply be a case of a guy who was fairly valued, perhaps a bit underrated in fantasy circles. Not surprisingly, the only leagues where Cain was cut were 5×5 leagues — the only leagues that count wins. The most popular rookie, with just over 90% of teams keeping him, was Jesus Montero.
The most expensive keeper, by a long shot, was Albert Pujols. Owners who kept him (about 53% of Albert-owners) paid $59 on average. Only three other players were kept at an average of more than $50 — Hanley Ramirez ($52), Troy Tulowitzki ($52), Miguel Cabrera ($51). Pujols also earned the distinction of being the single highest-paid player in all of ottoneu: one owner in a FanGraphs points league kept him at $70. That owner is in good company though — multiple other owners kept him a $69 and Hanley earned at least one $69 keeper slot, as well. The highest priced pitcher was Felix Hernandez, at $45 in 73% of leagues.
Despite this, his somewhat low keeper rate means that 10 other players had more total money spent on them (average salary x leagues kept). Miguel Cabrera earned that honor, being kept in 89% of leagues at his $51 salary. Roy Halladay outpaced King Felix by this measure, being kept at $44 in 90% of leagues.
Halladay was a hotly debated player, actually. At $45 in the FanGraphs Experts League, I was able to trade him for a $6 Howie Kendrick and a $3 Dee Gordon, but might have had to cut him. ottoneu chief Niv Shah received a tweet today from a disgruntled owner concerned that he over-spent on a $42 Halladay, but clearly he was not alone in this. In fact, when you consider that Halladay was kept at prices as high as $54 (and that Hernandez was kept as high as $63), $42 for the Phillies ace seems like a downright steal.
There were a few guys that were kept less often than I expected. Bryan LaHair, even with a potential Quad-A tag attached to him, seems like he is going to get some playing time next year, and should have been pretty cheap in most leagues, but was kept in just over 5% of leagues. Rubby de la Rosa was only kept in a quarter of leagues. Sure, his value in 2012 is next to nothing, but when people are paying a good price for top prospects, a young pitcher who has flown through the minors and shown solid potential in MLB seems like a keepable asset. Nolan Arenado is a top prospect with a shot at a job in Colorado as soon as this year, yet more than 75% of owners cut him loose.
At the other end, I was surprised that Prince Fielder was kept in so many leagues, more than 90%. He is moving to a tougher park in a tougher league and surely came at a high price last year, almost all owners felt he was worth paying for in 2012, as well. Thought more people would cut Mat Latos, as well. Despite having a year that was slightly down from his 2010 and making an extreme move in terms of how his home park plays, more than 78% of owners held Latos for another year.
Looking at my keepers, my three best keepers were Ryan Zimmerman ($17 compared to an average keeper price of $39), Chase Utley ($12 compared to $22) and Paul Konerko ($8 compare to $17). My three worst were Matt Garza ($16 compared to $11 on average), Hunter Pence ($26 compared to $21, although I kept him for $21 in another league), and Michael Pineda ($17 compared to $11). I also kept one player, a $4 Nestor Molina, that no one else kept in any league. Guess I’m the only believer in the White Sox prospect.