Fantasy Mailbag: More Keeper Questions

Let’s get right to the questions this week:

Just a couple of quick questions. I’m in a 5-keeper league and I know four of them, but need help on my fifth. Our scoring is OBP, errors, Avg, SB, RBI, HR and runs. Pitching categories are holds, wins, ERA, WHIP, saves and K’s. Positions are: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, OF, IF, Util, 2 SP, 2 RP, 3 P, 5 bench, and 2 DL (disabled list).

I’m certain I would want to keep Bonds, Beltran, Richie Sexson, and Adrian Beltre. The rest of my roster isn’t so clear. I have these guys to pick from: Ramon Hernandez, Ronnie Belliard, Ryan Klesko, Cristian Guzman, Dmitri Young, Shawn Green, Jermaine Dye, Randy Winn, Craig Monroe, Mike Cameron, Victor Santos, Adam Eaton, Shawn Chacon, Greg Aquino, Jeff Weaver, J.C. Romero, Bronson Arroyo, Russ Ortiz, Jose Contreras, Eddie Guardado, and Wade Miller.

I’m thinking my fifth should probably be between Shawn Green and Eddie Guardado. Would you agree?

Also, what’s a good draft strategy? After these first five rounds of keepers, should a person just target the best available for a while regardless of position, or just go straight for pitchers or what?George Monte, St. Paul, Minn.

Wow, you really have a drop-off there after your top players. Most of the guys you mentioned aren’t even worth consideration. The players I would think about keeping are Green, Weaver, Arroyo and Guardado.

Green is actually probably the first one I’d get rid of. You’ve already got a good first baseman in Sexson and two good outfielders in Bonds and Beltran. You don’t need to use what would essentially be your fifth pick in the draft on an outfielder/utility player who will probably only be about average for his position.

As for the other guy you were thinking about, he’d probably be the next player I eliminate. He’s a fine closer, but he’s 34 years old and coming off an injury-plagued season. If you let him go, you could almost certainly take him, if you want to, with your first pick of the actual draft. And you could probably get somebody better than him with that pick, too.

So, it comes down to whether you like Arroyo or Weaver better. Fantasy-wise, they were pretty similar. Weaver had a few more wins, a dozen or so more strikeouts and a higher WHIP. I like Arroyo better because there’s a good chance he’ll pitch better than he did last year and even if he pitches just as well as last year, he should win more than the 10 games he won last year.

As for draft strategy, I’d take the best player available at first as long as he’s clearly the best player available. If there’s a player who’s close in value who plays a position you don’t have yet, he’d probably be a better pick.

I wouldn’t go straight for pitchers because you don’t want to take a guy just because you feel you need that position right away. If you don’t love any of the pitchers available, don’t feel like you have to take one. You can always find bargains later in the draft, and you’re better off taking a player who you’re confident in than reaching for somebody.

You may beat yourself up if you pass on somebody you don’t like and he has a good season, but you’ll beat yourself up more if you take somebody you don’t like because you think you need that position and then he reminds you why you didn’t like him.

I am in a standard 5×5 league and need help with my keepers. We keep three and have the following players to choose from: Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, Scott Rolen, Orlando Cabrera, Carl Crawford, Aubrey Huff, Curt Schilling, and Carlos Zambrano. I am tempted to go with the first three, but that means keeping two 3Bs which doesn’t seem right to me. Any thoughts?Ben Bradford

Alex Rodriguez is definitely an automatic. I disagree with your temptations on the other two, however. On Rolen, it’s not as though he’s a bad player, but as you said, you’d have two 3Bs and you don’t really need that if you have viable alternatives. On Soriano, I ranked him first in my keeper rankings, but that’s not saying much. I don’t think he’ll come close to what he did his last two years with the Yankees and there’s no second baseman worth keeping if you’re only keeping three players.

So, who should you keep? Well, you do have three other players who I like a lot. Crawford is one of them, and I’d definitely keep him. I put him third among outfielders in my keeper rankings, behind only Guerrero and Beltran. He’s only 23 years old and improved across the board in 2004. Even if he doesn’t keep getting better, he’ll be a top 10 fantasy outfielder who helps you a ton in the hardest offense category to find production.

The other two players I’d consider are Zambrano and Schilling. I think they’re pretty even as far as keeper qualifications go, so it’s really up to your personal preference. Schilling is a more proven pitcher and he’s a decent bet to be more productive than Zambrano, especially if he is ready to go when the season starts. On the other hand, he’s 15 years older than Zambrano and Zambrano probably has more upside than Schilling.

Basically, if I were you, I’d keep A-Rod, Crawford and either Schilling or Zambrano, whichever you prefer. I’d probably go with Schilling just because I’m a Red Sox fan, but I don’t think you can go terribly wrong with either one.

I am in an eight-team keeper league that allows eight keepers per team, and uses six categories for hitters and pitchers. The categories are the usual ones for 5×5, plus OPS for hitters and K:BB for pitchers. I did a lot of wheeling and dealing towards the end of last season in order to increase my number of top-tier keepers, but I still have a number of question marks. My absolute no-brainers are Vlad, Beltran, A-Rod, and Santana.

The rest of the situation is more difficult. I am considering keeping Victor Martinez, Hank Blalock, Hideki Matsui, Oliver Perez, Aubrey Huff, and Lance Berkman. I’m leaning towards Perez, Martinez, Blalock, and — owing to Berkman’s injury — Matsui. But I’m not certain of this at all. I have a lot of depth at 3B, but I’ll worry about where to play everyone after the draft. Losing Berkman and Huff in order to keep less proven players like Perez, Martinez, and Blalock makes me nervous, not to mention the fact that Berkman and Huff will likely outdo Martinez and Blalock in the categories of batting average and OPS. Who should I keep?Jeff Watts, San Francisco, Calif.

Three of the four guys you’re leaning toward are guys I would definitely keep — Perez, Martinez and Matsui. Perez might not be completely proven, but he’s about as good as you can ask a 23-year-old pitcher to be. The only complaint you can make about him is that he pitches for the Pirates.

Martinez is the best catcher to keep, in my opinion, and definitely worth keeping if you need to keep eight players. Adding OPS to the equation won’t hurt him because there’s a decent chance he’ll have the highest OPS of any catcher, and he had the most homers and RBIs of any catcher last year.

Matsui is definitely worth keeping because what he did in 2004 is probably much more indicative of his abilities than what he did in 2003, when he was likely just adjusting to the majors. He doesn’t have a high ceiling, but he’s also not a high risk to decline much from where he was last year.

The player I left out is Blalock. He’s been solid the last two seasons, but his second-half tailspin last year is worrisome, you already have A-Rod and there are plenty of players — both at third and at other positions, since you don’t need another third baseman — who are better keepers than him.

I’d probably keep Berkman instead, but you want to monitor his health closely. Houston GM Tim Purpura says Berkman should miss the first month of the season, but Berkman says he’ll be back before then. If you can get a good idea that he’ll be back early before you have to make your choices, take Berkman. If you think he’ll miss the full month, then it’s almost a toss-up because Berkman could very well match Blalock’s production — his OPS, at least, will be much better — with one less month of playing time.

I’m in a 12-team, 5×5 roto league that covers the entire ML. We were a draft team last year, but this year we’re doing auction. We get to keep nine players, for a total of three years, and their salaries will be assigned from a magazine that comes out this year.

I have 10 guys that I think could be keepers. Last year we only kept 3 players, and the players with (2)’s next to their name can only be kept one more year. Albert Pujols(2), Scott Podsednik, Johnny Damon, Aubrey Huff, Rafael Furcal, David Ortiz, Jorge Posada(2), Brad Lidge, Armando Benitez, and Billy Wagner(2).

Our starting lineup is 5 OF, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CO (Corner Infield), C, C, DH, and 9 pitchers, starters or relievers. We didn’t have a bench last year, this year we’ll have 5 guys to choose from, if we have money left. Other guys that might be on the bubble are Jeff Bagwell, Mark Bellhorn, Livan Hernandez, Dontrelle Willis and Bobby Madritsch.

My question is, of the 10 players I listed first, should I not keep Pujols because of his salary and because he’s only got one year left on his contract? Ortiz is going to put close to what Pujols does, and they both only qualify at 1B now, but Ortiz is $14 less than Pujols. With a $260 budget, $42 is a lot, even for Pujols. Seems to me that’s like Minnesota paying $12M for Santana. Anyway, tell me if I’m crazy or not for not wanting to keep Pujols and trying to find more value somewhere else. At the very least, I could try to get him in the auction, and if I get him for less than $42, it would be a bargain, right?Jim Greer, Baltimore, Md.

Jim, you’re not crazy. With a $260 budget, you can spend on average of $11.30 on each starting spot in your lineup. If you keep Pujols at $42, you’ll be able to spend an average of $9.91 on each of the other spots in your lineup. If you instead keep Ortiz at $28, you’ll be able to spend an average of $10.55 on each of the other spots in your lineup.

Now, 64 cents may not seem like a ton, but it’s an extra 6.5 percent per spot. I don’t think Pujols is a big enough improvement on Ortiz that you would want to give up that extra 6.5 percent for everybody else to keep him.

If you do go ahead with your decision to keep Ortiz over Pujols, however, I wouldn’t necessarily try to get Pujols back. Even if you can get him for, say, $38 instead of $42, you’ll still be spending $66 on your 1B and DH. That would leave you with less than $200 to spend on the other 21 spots in your starting lineup, with all the really tough spots still in need of filling.

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