A tale of two keepers

Leagues with long-term keeper rules often present their owners with dilemmas: “Should I keep Player X (who’s a better value for next year) or Player Y (who could be much more valuable in two to three years)?” Some examples might include: Paul Konerko vs. Eric Hosmer, Kevin Youkilis (or Alex Rodriguez maybe?) vs. Brett Lawrie, and James Shields vs. Jeremy Hellickson.

Clearly important factors include any price increases your league imposes on keepers, and how competitive you expect to be next year. But one key factor is often overlooked: the field. Don’t forget the field.

Fantasy talking heads love comparing keepers, particularly a long-term keeper versus a short-term one. Here’s a good-natured example from Fangraphs.

There seems to be hardly a wrong answer. One can talk about how good the older player is but also how many years are on his body and that his skills show some signs perhaps of declining. One can also talk about how promising the young player is but that he hasn’t yet proven himself over several seasons.

It is a lot of fun to compare one player to another. But when it comes to long-term keeper comparison, it is essential to remember that there are many, many other players that are implicitly figuring into the equation.

Here’s a simple example: An owner can keep up to four keepers for each year at the cost of $23 each. There’s no inflation. He’s already decided to keep Matt Kemp, Jose Reyes and Robinson Cano and is trying to decide whether to keep Rodriguez or Lawrie as his fourth.

Rodriguez may be the better bet for next year and, in standard leagues, would probably go for more than Lawrie—and also more than the $23 price tag. So Rodriguez is undoubtedly worth keeping.

What about Lawrie? Let’s say that you expect him to be less valuable than Rodriguez next year but more valuable thereafter. You still must answer these questions before you can know whom to keep:

Is Lawrie going to be getting much better in the future or is Rodriguez going to be getting much worse? Probably the answer is some of both, but of course how much of each is the key.

Even if Lawrie will be better than Rodriguez, will he be good enough to warrant keeping? Answering this question is subtle—and key. This question asks: what are the chances that, however good Lawrie becomes, you still have four better keepers on your roster at the end of next year?

Next season, you’ll have a roster full of potential keepers. It is very possible that by next September, Lawrie will be a keeper candidate (i.e. he’s worth at least $23), a better keeper candidate than Rodriguez (i.e. Lawrie’ll go for more in an auction than Rodriguez), but that you will have four players that are more valuable as keepers.

This means that you should discount distant future performances, perhaps greatly depending on league format. For the example above, as a rule of thumb, I wouldn’t keep Lawrie over Rodriguez unless I believed that Lawrie would be worth at least $35 two years from now.


Print This Post
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Brad Johnson
Guest
Brad Johnson
I am facing a very difficult conundrum in my linear weights league next year. Upon joining last year, I immediately discovered that the value of an elite SP over an average one (about 600 points) greatly exceeds that of a great position player over average (about 200 points ignoring the odd Bautista). We are allowed four (maybe five) keepers. You lose a draft pick for each keeper, the round they were drafted minus 2. So Justin Verlander who I took in the 2nd round costs a 1st round pick. Now here’s my conundrum. Cost in parenthesis. I have Halladay (1),… Read more »
Larry Hanson
Guest
Larry Hanson
I have kind of a conundrum, as I am an expansion team, but I think I can compete next year because I have loaded up on draft picks. It’s a total points league, and usually middle infielders are at a premium on draft day and pitching is usually what separates contenders from pretenders (most teams’ hitting totals are pretty bunched up). Each team must keep 5 and exactly 5 players, then the draft starts. You can keep a guy forever if you want. My for sure keepers are: Joey Votto, Felix Hernandez, Adam Wainwright and Jordan Zimmermann. My candidates for… Read more »
Brad Johnson
Guest
Brad Johnson

Larry,

It depends on your keeper rules a little bit, but Bryce Harper is a great keeper under several formats. If he’s costing you the equivalent of a 5th round pick, I don’t think you really want to keep any of those guys. If he’s costing you something like the round you drafted him in, keep Harper.

Similarly, if you can only keep a guy a year or two, try someone else. If you can keep them semi-indefinitely, Harper is your guy.

Larry Hanson
Guest
Larry Hanson

Thanks for your help.
Our keepers are basically the equivalent of our first five draft choices.
We have to keep five players. The flip side is if I keep Harper (or draft him way earlier than anyone else would think about it) is I could keep him all the way until he’s 40.
Any thoughts on Darvish or Oswalt, giving me a starting crew of:
Felix
Wainwright
Zimmermann
Darvish/Oswalt?

Brad Johnson
Guest
Brad Johnson

Well depending on when you have to make your decision, Oswalt is a retirement risk.

harry mamis
Guest
harry mamis

Keeping Rodriquez over Laurie is not a wise decision. Rodriquez faces time on the DL.

Derek Ambrosino
Guest
Derek Ambrosino
Larry, The only guy out of that group I can see producing at a 5th round level is Choo. I’d keep him. I also don’t see Zimmerman as a serious 4th round keeper. Sure, he could emerge as a top 15/20 SP, but there will be plenty of similar options available for several rounds on draft day. I don’t know if you want to trade picks, as you seem to be in the midst of rebuilding too, and picks are key to rebuild. Perhaps though you could get two 4th/5th round keeper types for Felix Hernandez, or a legit 4th… Read more »
Derek Ambrosino
Guest
Derek Ambrosino
Oh, as you can tell from my previous responses, I’m a bird-in-hand-is-worth-two-in-a-bush guy when it comes to keepers. I think some of us who think we’re real smart at this stuff have a tendency to outsmart ourselves on this. Take the money and run! Teams with big bankrolls use prospects to acquire proven elite talent and let somebody else take the gamble. They have resources at their disposal that allows them to avoid some of the risk of prospects (not that high-priced vets have no risk). While we don’t have payroll advantages in fantasy, we do have resources advantages if… Read more »
Brad Johnson
Guest
Brad Johnson

Thanks for the reply, I’ve been leaning towards keeping my big pitching trio and then making a last minute call on Lawrie/Ellsbury/Wainwright/Gordon. It’s not entirely clear whether or not we will have 4 or 5 keepers at this point, we’ve talked about both options.

One reason to like Ellsbury even more is that we use CF which can be a very thin position.

wpDiscuz