Keeper League Mailbag: Question No. 4

This question in the keeper league mailbag series comes from Adam, who writes:

Here are the rules for my keeper league. I can keep four players and it’s a dynasty league. If I pick up a player from waivers, I only lose my last available pick (essentially my last round pick) if I keep that player. If I have two players that were drafted in the same round, I would then lose my next available pick (i.e. If I decide to keep two third rounders I would lose my second and third round pick). Here are a list of players that I would reasonably choose from.

The league is head to head and is 6×6 with the extra categories being OBP and K/BB with net saves and net steals

C- Black Magic Woman (Carlos Santana)- undrafted
2B- Dustin Pedroia- 3rd round
2B- Brian Roberts- 6th round
3B- Z-Pack (Ryan Zimmerman)- 3rd round
OF- Nelson Cruz- 8th round
OF- Adam Dunn- 7th round
OF- Corey Hart- undrafted
SP- CC Sabathia- 3rd round
SP- Clay Buchholz- undrafted
SP- Madison Bumgarner- undrafted

I was thinking about keeping Cruz, Santana, D-Ped and Buchholz and then flipping CC in the offseason (because both him and Pedroia are 3rd rounders so I don’t want to waste a 2nd round pick on CC).

I’d appreciate your thoughts

THT Fan Adam

I would recommend you keep the following four players, based on a composite of their productive value, positional scarcity and cost-to-keep: Carlos Santana, Nelson Cruz, Ryan Zimmerman and Dustin Pedroia, with Adam Dunn being a serious consideration as a player you might want to keep in place of Cruz, who has proven himself to be quite injury prone over the past two seasons.

For Zimmerman and Pedroia, my suggestion to keep comes on the basis mostly of positional scarcity and production. Neither player will come cheap (costing you what appears to be a second and third round pick), but ask yourself if you think a better player will be available, especially at 2B/3B come the third round (or later) – at least with respect to proven players. Of course, some players (like Gordon Beckham heading into this season) go later and get lots of buzz, but such younger/unproven players with lack of track records (like Gordon Beckham) are hard to gauge (sample size) and often come with plenty of risk. If you want to risk your fantasy season on a risky or unknown player’s production from a scare position, by all means, be my guest. However, I am a very risk averse person and if you do want to play the risk game, you will need a fallback option in case the risk does not pan out. Not only does that burn a roster spot (and auction cash if you are in an auction league), but at a scarce position, the “later picked players” tend to drop off pretty quickly. For example, the 12th best second baseman this season (minimum 300 PA), Ty Wiggington, has a .333 wOBA. By contrast, the 12th best first baseman this season is Mark Texeira, who has a .370 wOBA.

Pedroia has a nice blend of power/speed (15-20 SB/HR upside) and comes packaged with a .365+ OBP (.327 MLB average) on a team which should continue to bat him in plenty (the Red Sox have a major league leading .349 wOBA as a team, despite a malady of injuries to key players). Likewise, Zimmerman is the nucleus of an underrated Nationals offense which will at least feature Josh Willingham in 2011. Zimmerman also comes packaged with a high OBP (.388 this season) and plenty of pop (24 HR in 115 games). Both players are top 3 at their position in terms of wOBA this season and they should continue to be productive in the future (both players are under 27 years old and have a track record of success).

Sure, Zimmerman and Pedroia are injury risks, but Zimmerman’s been healthy and proven himself capable of longevity for two-plus seasons, whereas Pedroia’s injuries (foot bone injury) are surely disabling, but less than concerning for the long term – especially when compared to the infamous shoulder/hip/oblique injury (I’m looking at you, Carlos Delgado). Pedroia has also proven himself to be an efficient basestealer, which I cannot say about other balanced assets such as Alex Rios, which should help your teams bottom line.

Santana is also a “must keep player.” Though I am firmly of the belief that catchers outside of the top 5 are completely and entirely fungible and capable of a .260 AVG with 10-15 HR and 60 RBI, Santana is a top three catcher for 2011 in my mind. In answering the first mailbag question, I noted that “Santana’s numbers this year translate into an MLE of .275.385/.500. Furthermore, Santana was producing a .260/.401/.467 line with six HR (and three SB) in less than 200 PA before going down with a knee injury.” The Indians figure to give their top prospect plenty of time to recover and when Santana is in the lineup, he should mash. Santana is only that much more valuable in a league which rewards OBP.

The last keep is honestly a toss up between Cruz and Dunn. Let me preface the following by saying that I love Cruz. I value Cruz, when healthy, as a top 5 outfielder capable of a balanced .280/.360/.500-35-20 line with plenty of R/RBI to boot. However, the key qualifier to my previous statement is when healthy, which Cruz has shown issues with in the past two seasons. Cruz is on the DL right now for the third time this season with a hamstring injury and I know he went down with a hamstring injury at least once (maybe twice) last season. Maybe Texas’ conditioning coach can work with Cruz in the offseason, but as it stands, Cruz is a high-risk, high-reward player. The eighth-round value helps to mitigate some of Cruz’s downside, but Cruz is the kind of guy who can anchor a team and team anchors need to be reliable.

Given that you are in an OBP league, Dunn (career .381 OBP, though he is walking at a career low 11 percent clip this season) makes an intriguing keeper option. With a seventh-round draft tag, he is not too pricey (about market value, maybe one round later than where he should go in terms of production in an OBP league) and offers plenty of value (high OBP, 35-40 HR consistency, plenty of R/RBI chances). Considering that “defense” is not a category in your fantasy league, Big Donkey (Dunn) could be quite valuable – especially if he lands on the Yankees as their DH come this offseason. Unfortunately, Dunn will lose his OF eligibility in all leagues after this season (0 GP in the OF), which hinders his value (as noted above and as I have noted before, first basemen are as deep of a group of players as it gets). However, Dunn will still produce for you in five/six categories, which I cannot say about most players.

For me, the question of Cruz v. Dunn, 326 U.S. 310, is a question of risk aversity and strategy. If Cruz plans on being one of your team’s key cogs, I would instead consider Dunn. If, however, you are willing to make the gamble, Cruz gives you a fantastic return on your investment. Keep in mind that Cruz still batted .321/.381/.587 with 16 HR and 12 net SB in the 77 games he’s played. Per Baseball Monster, that kind of production makes Cruz a top 100 fantasy player. That is, despite three DL stints.

Some brief thoughts on the rest of your players:

Mental Health and the CBA
A particular bit of language in the latest CBA could have negative consequences for some players.

-Corey Hart has been a successful player in 2010, but I have never liked Hart (see also this rant). Hart never walks (not even this year, with Hart posting a 7.6 percent BB%), so even if he retains his power burst (.249 ISO in 2010, career .206 mark) next year, a regression in his .328 BABIP (.310 career BABIP) on the season would seem to limit Hart’s value to an OBP league. Hart has also been caught stealing in one-third of his SB opportunities and has not even attempted 20 steals in either of the past two seasons (plus he has a declining speed score). Nuff said here.

-I like Buchholz in theory, especially given the litany of groundballs he is inducing (51.6 percent) and bargain basement price (last round pick), but this is not the Buchholz of his no-no days a few seasons back. Buchholz’s xFIP is two full runs higher than his ERA and while he gets more hitters to swing and miss a bit more than the average pitcher (9.6 percent this season versus an 8.4 percent MLB average), Buchholz’s strikeout rate is nothing to write home about (career 7.04 K/9). He’s more of a trade candidate (for a better keeper) in my eye.

-Call me irrational, but I do not particularly like C.C. Sabathia. I cannot bring myself to rank him as a top 10 starter. Call me a hypocrite for owning him in the second half, but in the third round, C.C. is not cheap and somewhat overvalued given his brand name. Of my favorite starters for 2011, you can likely get Josh Johnson, John Lester, Francisco Liriano and Chris Carpenter in rounds 4-6 of next year’s draft. That would give you better production at a lower cost.

-There is no need to keep both Roberts and Pedroia and Roberts is aging and, correspondingly, witnessing a speed decline. The pop was nice in 2009, but Roberts’ 34-year-old, post-steroid era bat is not worth a top 6 pick.

On a final note, I’d like to suggest the following two resources as invaluable sources of prospective player valuation for auction leagues (click the name links below). Both tools have customizable parameters to meet even the most unique league specifications:
Diamond Draft Player Values
Last Player Picked’s Price Guide

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Jeffrey Gross is an attorney who periodically moonlights as a (fantasy) baseball analyst. He also responsibly enjoys tasty adult beverages. You can read about those adventures at his blog and/or follow him on Twitter @saBEERmetrics.
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I am in a 10 team keeper dynasty league with 6 keepers. 6×6 like the gentleman above, with the 6th being OPS and pitching losses.
Thinking about
Posey over V Mart (do you project Posey as a top 5 for ‘11?)
Stephen Strasburg

Considering B-Phillips. Of my other pitchers, Carpenter and Johan I thought about keeping over strasberg in light of the recent injuries. What do you think?

Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson
We talked about Johan in the other thread a little bit because I own him at a keepable cost. One of the writers (I forget which) compared him to Roy Oswalt which I think is apt. When you have the options you mentioned, you don’t want to keep Roy Oswalt. I would seriously consider finding a way to keep Carpenter. That could be by attempting to package say McCutchen and Braun for Longoria. Likewise, perhaps you can use Phillips and someone else and target Cano or Utley. As for Posey or VMart, I’d pick Posey every time. He’s younger and… Read more »

Thanks a lot. Problem is my trade deadline passed. Possibly an offseason deal before keepers are named in February would help that.
I also have Hunter Pence, but didn’t consider keeping him. Is he someone that cracks my list? If so, who to leave out?

Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

Yea, those are offseason deals to pursue anyway. That’s when it makes sense to send two talented players away for a slightly more talented player. During the season, unless you have a really good backup, that’s helping the other team too much.

No to Pence. I doubt you can even market him via trade. He’s a decent player by himself, but his surrounding cast is pretty turrble.


True enough. Thanks for the advice. Good luck the rest of the way


What happened to Question #2 and #3?

Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

They’re coming, don’t worry.