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I’m having difficulty deciding on my last keeper in a very standard 11-team 5×5. So far there’s Wright, Hamilton, Soriano and Phillips for certain. I’m torn between Nelson Cruz and Troy Tulowitzki for the last keeper spot. I’m leaning toward Cruz and his “potential,” but scarcity at shortstop this season (and the next few?) are giving me pause. Does Cruz stand a chance to live up to the hype, and are three outfielders too many to carry? Is Tulo primed to hop back on track after injuries derailed him last season, and even if he does is he more valuable than Cruz?

Jake E

Depends on the number of spots in the outfield your league has. If you have three, I’d hate to go into a draft with only a utility slot for an OF that falls until later than he should. If you’re in a five-outfielder league, then there’s no problem here.

Ignoring position for a moment, I think Tulo’s talent is just about dead-center between his 2007 and 2008 performance. Looking at 2008, his walks were up and his strikeouts were down. His line drive rate was about the same, which makes me think his batting average should get a bit of a bump. In terms of power, HitTracker says he lost an average of about four feet on his home runs in 2008 versus 2007. Not a huge difference in measurement, but at around 390 feet, where he’s been for a couple years, four feet can make a huge difference.

Since he had about the same fly ball rate in 2007 and 2008, I think he got a little lucky in 2007 and unlucky in 2008. I’d guess, if he gets a full season in this year, 18 to 20 homers. Bear in mind however, that he’s probably not going to be in a premium spot in the lineup until he proves himself, so that’s also going to impact his runs and home run numbers.

Nelson Cruz is interesting. Certainly when someone slugs in the .380s for a couple years, then jumps to more than .600 in a sample of a mere 133 plate appearances, you’ve got to think small sample size is a huge factor in his leap last year. Again, I turn to HitTracker to get a sense of whether his power improved. HitTracker shows an average standard home run distance of 400 feet in 2007, and 410 feet in 2008. This is spectacular, because the standard distance metric controls for the small boost he received due to heat and humidity conditions in Texas (and his road games as well, of course). A 400-foot standard distance is well above average, and 410 is spectacular. He also crushed the ball in the minor leagues last year.

Add in the fact that he does get the boost from playing in Arlington, and I think you can count on quite a few home runs in 2009. As for the rest of his peripherals, his fly ball rate was down last year, while his line drive rate was up. There’s certainly a small sample size issue, as with the rest of his stats, but if even part of the line drive bump was real, it will help his weakest stat—batting average—because he strikes out quite a bit.

In summary, I think we agree that you know what you’re getting with Tulo. I’d say, however, that Cruz’ prospects for 2009 look very high. In fact, Bill James projects him for 28 HR and Chone projects 27—both in less than 140 games. He’ll be 28 years old, just about the peak of his skill, and has yet to get to the age at which most hitters see their power peak. If he gets off to a hot start, or even reasonable one, I think he’ll break 140 games played and have a real good shot at 30 HR on an already high-powered offense. Even if you’re in a three-outfielder league, I’d keep Cruz.

– Michael Lerra

In my 12-team NL only league we want to have an open auction for FAAB players so that people can bid against each other for players they want to pick up throughout. I envision it functioning just like when you bid on something on ebay. We even talked about using ebay, but that will get pricy. Know of any tools or sites for enabling this type of thing?


Sean, while using ebay is a clever idea, I agree that it is not the best way to do this. A really simple solution would be to have your league hosted on CBS Sports. They allow for FAABs (Free Agent Acquisition Budgets) to be used to add/drop players as a league option.

If you cannot have your league hosted by CBS, things get a little more complicated. The only other method I can think of is to run the system through the league message board so that owners can post when they want to add a player, and everyone else has 12 hours (or 24 or 48) to place a higher bid on the player.

That method is certainly doable, but there are nuances like keeping track manually of how much money is left in each team’s budget. If possible, I would go the CBS Sports league route.

– Paul Singman

Using Recurrent Neural Networks to Predict Player Performance
Technology is rapidly advancing possibilities in decision-making.

My home league tried CBS last year and we weren’t big on it. We switched to ESPN a week into the season and we really liked it. We did have to run our own FAAB process, though.

The good news is that ESPN now has an in-house auction system set up, and it seemed to work very well for fantasy football this past year. I’m not sure if they’ll be doing FAAB, but from my experience, it’s not really a big deal to run it on your own. Just make sure you pick someone trustworthy to handle it.

– Derek Carty

I am in a keeper league in which we can sign players to one, two or three-year contracts. The first year costs the player’s’ “base year” (what you had him for the year before you signed himto a contract) +$5, the second year costs an additional $3, and the third an additional $1. So if you sign a $1 player to a three-year contract, he will cost $6, $9, and $10 over the next three years. You can just keep signing him to one-year contracts, but then he’ll cost $6, $11, $16, etc.

I’ve thought for a couple years that Jonathan Broxton would make an excellent closer, and now he’s getting the chance. I essentially have him for $1, so I could not ever hope to get him any more cheaply than I have him now. I have sufficient money to sign him, and there is no restriction on the number of keepers. I’m wondering whether to sign him to a one-year or a three-year contract.

On the one hand, locking him in for three years now means he costs less than average until the third year (26 roster spots and a $260 cap, so the average roster spot costs $10, and the average starter costs more if you assume most bench spots will go for about $1). If I sign him to a one-year contract, then decide I want to keep him again, he’ll already cost more than that the next year ($11).

Furthermore, Broxton has a better skill set than most current closers, and I expect to get more value out of him than just saves. However, closers turn over so quickly that giving a closer a three-year contract strikes me as somewhat foolish. Additionally, closer and setup man speculation can save dollars that I can allocate toward starting pitching and offense, which seem both harder to come by and more critical to my success.*

If I can get an elite closer for $6, that seems like a pretty good deal, but I’m not sure an elite closer for $9-10 really is (I’ve never had the option to test myself on this at auction, as most closers with a reasonably secure job go for more than $10). Finally, although I do think Broxton has a better skill set than most closers, signing him for three years also seems potentially too aggressive given that he hasn’t even been a closer for a full season. If he doesn’t pan out in his first full year, I’m on the hook for quite a bit of money.

Although I’m hoping this question generates general discussion of reasonable auction league salaries for closers and for Broxton in particular, it might help to know what my league settings are. Our categories are W, K, SV, ERA, WHIP on the pitching side, and R, RBI, SB, OBP, SLG on the offensive side, and it’s a head-to-head category league.


*Last year, my team cleaned up in the regular season with my most expensive closer purchase at auction being Kerry Wood for $1; I was at or near the top in most categories except saves, in which I was middle of the pack. Unfortunately, I lost in the championship round of the playoffs, though lack of saves/poor closer performance was not the problem.

Todd, you laid out all of the points quite well; now it’s just a matter of putting them on the balance scale and weighing them. I think we can agree that Broxton’s skills, combined with a situation in which he can rack up saves, is worth at least an average of (6+9+10) / 3 = $8.33 per season. The conservative approach would end up costing you (6+11+16) / 3 = $11 per season.

As you said, there are mainly three parts to this issue: on the down side, he could get hurt. Also, there’s a lot of closer role turnover. On the plus side, he’s shown as a setup man that he has the skills that should let him keep and hold the job securely.

I think it’s a wash. I’d say the insurance of being able to decide year-to-year whether to keep him is worth the $2.67 per season premium. I’d say the expected value of both of your options is probably about the same (which is why it’s a tough question). When faced with similar options, I go with my gut. My gut tells me Broxton can pitch at a high level, he’ll get a decently long leash at the beginning of the season if he struggles (due to having to wait so long as an elite setup man) and he isn’t too big an injury risk due to his size and weight. So I’d lock him up for three years.

– Michael Lerra

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Sal Paradise
Sal Paradise

Sign Broxton, let him get saves and amass the gaudy peripherals he will get, and then flip him off for some other players mid-season that are discounted but look to have good upside for a 1-year contract or more next year.

Craig Birkemeier
Craig Birkemeier

I’d keep Tulo over Nelson Cruz.

If Broxton stays healthy and keeps his closer role all year, he’ll have become a capital C Closer and his leash will get much longer. I’d say to sign him to a one-year deal, and then revisit the issue next offseason. He’ll be more expensive, but some of the risk will have gone away.


CBS Sports offers FAAB for free, or is it for their premium leagues?  When I set one up it did not mention that option anywhere…