Keeper League Mailbag: Next Question

The latest question comes from Paul, who has one week before playoffs in his head-to-head league. Paul sports the following roster and can make just three roster moves:

C Kurt Suzuki
1b Prince Fielder
2b Robinson Cano
3b Chase Headley
SS Starlin Castro
OF Andre Ethier
OF Scott Podsednik
OF Andrew McCutchen
UTIL Aubrey Huff
BN Matt Kemp
BN Mark Reynolds
SP Ricky Romero
SP Tommy Hanson
SP Jonathon Niese
RP Joakim Soria
RP Rafael Soriano
RP Daniel Bard
RP Joaquin Benoit
BN Mat Latos
BN Trevor Cahill

With Suzuki slumping badly and strong options available at other positions, Paul’s wondering if there are some moves he can make to improve his team for the stretch. Some of the better waiver options include Michael Brantley, Jim Thome, Danny Valencia, A.J. Pierzynski and Yadier Molina.

I should probably warn you before continuing that I’m not exactly a quant when it comes to making fantasy baseball decisions. A hypothetical quant might tell you that Kurt Suzuki is a better baseball player than A.J. or Yadier and therefore you should bank on positive regression in the coming weeks while citing Rest of Season ZiPS to support his or her case. I make my decisions based on perceived risk, strength of upcoming opponents, and “feel.” And I figure if you wanted me to regurgitate RoS ZiPS you would have looked them up yourself. Of course, feel only works if you watch a player play. I’ve seen a grand total of one A’s game in the last month, so I can’t tell you if Suzuki’s uncharacteristically low BABIP is mostly bad luck or mostly bad contact or something else entirely.

Clearly the catcher’s spot is the most difficult decision you have to make. And honestly, you could probably agonize for hours over the right answer and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. It’s ultimately up to you to decide if you think Suzuki will put up his normal performance in the coming weeks or continue to struggle. I can tell you that A.J. is probably a safer replacement option than Yadier. Baseball Prospectus’ John Perrotto recently quoted a scout who said that Yadier’s bat has been sluggish of late. With LaRue already sidelined via Johnny Cueto‘s foot, Molina isn’t likely to get the rest required to freshen up his stroke. Then again, A.J. could lose at-bats to Tyler Flowers in September if the Sox want to get him working with the major league staff. Not the best set of options, two guys struggling at the plate and an aging veteran who could see his time absorbed by a youngster.

Moving along, you’ll notice I mentioned some other names, including a pair of Twins. So long as Justin Morneau remains sidelined with his concussion, Danny Valencia will see regular turns at 3b and Jim Thome will get to break out the whoopin’ stick on all righties. Personally, I’d be happy to plug and play the slumbering giant known as Mark Reynolds and just hope for the best, but if you plan on going with Headley multiple days of the week, you may want to consider Valencia. Both players are going to give you very similar rate stats, but Valencia benefits from a far more potent supporting cast. The hope is that this would translate to better counting stats. It’s a bit of a zero sum gamble but something to consider.

On to Thome, the case for him is rather simple. He annihilates righties and if you’re willing to manage him he could be your best hitter when he starts. With Fielder, Huff, and Kemp all kind of putzing around lately, there’s plenty of room for Thome starts in the Util slot.

I mention Michael Brantley because I really dislike relying on or even owning Scott Podsednik. Brantley has the speed to hopefully snag you some steals while also contributing in average and power categories. Go with what you’re comfortable with here. I’ve been ripping owners for rostering Pods all year and he keeps making me look dumb. I have a natural aversion to players who are overdue to turn back into pumpkins.

I think the theme here is that you really don’t have to do anything. The only move I’d really push for is to add Thome, perhaps at the expense of Huff. Thome and Kemp could platoon at Util. I might lean toward gambling on the steady, empty production off A.J. Pierzynski over Kurt Suzuki at this point, but it’s not a move that has to be made. The Brantley and Valencia suggestions are just things to mull over. Neither player is anything more than a lateral move, but sometimes those pay off.

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buck turgidson
buck turgidson
Why are Kemp and Reynolds on the bench while Headley and Podsednik are in the lineup?  That’s quaint. Suzuki is a better hitter than the other two and lower injury risk, especially if Yadier is tired, and he looked great in the Texas series.  He also is a good bet to catch 6 days a week, so that alone makes him a good candidate. But really, I agonize not over catchers.  They are all big injury risk.  If you have a good one you are lucky, but really only the very best (Mauer, McAnn and maybe Soto) are difference makers. … Read more »
Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson
I should have stressed usage a little bit more. Podsednik serves a very specific purpose on this team, he’s the source of steals. Really he’s the only source, to the point where there will be some weeks he can’t hope to compete. In those kinds of matchups, forego Pods in lieu of a stouter hitting option. As for Kemp and Reynolds on the bench, I would be playing them, especially Reynolds. However, they’ve both been fairly mediocre (at least as of the writing of the article) and when it comes time for fantasy playoffs, riding the hot hand (or avoiding… Read more »
Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

I should also note that I tend to prefer talent over streakiness when setting my own rosters so I’d be playing both Kemp and Reynolds. It’s up to his preferences.

Jeffrey Gross
Jeffrey Gross

Agree with your last comment Brad. Streakiness is fine in roto, but H2H is about the hotbat. IMpatience is a virtue in H2H playoffs.

buck turgidson
buck turgidson

Sort of missed the H2H part.  I can see that.  Wow Kemp has sucked – sorta missed that too.