Keeper League Mailbag: Question #1

Over the next seven days, Brad Johnson, Derek Carty and I will answer seven Fantasy Mailbag questions with a strong focus on keeper leagues. We will attempt to cover one or two per day, with the series rounding out by Friday or Saturday. I hope these answers will help you during the offseason and as Aug. 31 trade deadlines arrive (at least for leagues that have such a late deadline). Thank you to all who sent in questions; we greatly appreciate your feedback and participation. We apologize to those whose questions weren’t chosen for answering and hope you find answers (and solace) here nonetheless.

Without further ado, I present question No. 1, which comes from Amit, who writes:

Hi there:

League: 14 Team Mixed 5×5 Roto w/ 2 Catchers
Can keep 5 at listed prices (did a lot of trading for low priced rookies).
Any Sept. Call-ups to pick up now, and hold until next year?

C. Santana – $4
Arencibia – $4
Ike Davis – $4
Ian Stewart – $13
B. Wallace – $4
Aybar – $14
Walker (PIT) – $4
Coghlan – $5
Gardner – $4
C. Young – $6
D. Jennings – $4
Smoak – $4
D. Brown – $6
CJ Wilson – $4
Feliz – $4
Hellickson – $4
Bumgarner – $4

Thanks.

Amit, of the players you can keep, I would recommend you at least keep Carlos Santana, Neftali Feliz and Jeremy Hellickson.

Santana and Arencibia may have similar power upsides (though I give the edge to Arencibia), but in both AVG and OBP leagues, Santana will be the more valuable player. Arencibia’s MLE production this season (per Minor League Splits equivocates into a .242 AVG and .286 OBP. Arencibia is a player with plenty of power (.235 MLE ISO), but his poor plate discipline (MiLB career: 350/92 K/BB ratio, 22% K%, 5.4% BB% in the minors), his extreme flyball ways (MiLB career: 47.4% FB%, good for ISO but bad for AVG) and an unhealthy popup propensity (MiLB career: 12.6 IFFB%) will forever limit his AVG/OBP upside and fantasy value. In AVG leagues, Arencibia is a Jack Cust-type eligible at catcher. In OBP leagues, he’s a John Buck clone. On the other hand, 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. Of course, recovering from a knee injury has risks of its own, but in terms of productive upside, Santana clearly has the edge on Arencibia if for no other reason than his AVG/OBP potential. I personally peg the Indians offensive lineup to be much more potent in 2010 (especially with a healthy/productive Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo in the nucleus of the order), so there should not be lingering R/RBI concerns for Santana (assuming they slot him back in the middle of the lineup again next season).

Next, you have to take Hellickson because he is not only the best pitcher of the names listed above, but he’s also one of the best (pitching) prospects in baseball. Hellickson not only toyed with minor league hitters this season (2.45 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 123:35 K/BB ratio over 117.2 IP, 3.45 MLE FIP), but he also proved himself capable of holding his own in the majors. In four starts this season against the Twins (.344 wOBA, third-best in baseball), the Tigers, Orioles and A’s, Hellickson produced a strong 2.05 ERA, a 0.76 WHIP and a ridiculous 25:4 K/BB ratio over 26.1 IP. Though Hellickson will be almost exclusively used in a relief role for the rest of 2010, there is a strong likelihood that he will garner a rotation spot in 2011—he has nothing left to prove in the minors.

Finally, I recommend Feliz as a “must keep” because he has been strong as a closer on a contending team that should also contend in 2011 (3.57 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 3.65 xFIP, 31-for-34 in save chances), but there is always the possibility that Texas returns Feliz to the starting role that he was born to play. Even with Cliff Lee and Colby Lewis hanging around, the Rangers’ 4.36 xFIP ranks in the bottom half of baseball’s pitching staffs. Rich Harden’s 2011 option is almost certain to be declined by the Rangers’ and Feliz compiled a strong 3.03 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 325:119 K/BB ratio (2.73) over 276 innings (mostly as a starter) en route to a 2.87 FIP in the minors. MLS pegs Neftali career numbers as a starter as worth a 4.10 FIP in the Arlington. That mark would best all of the Rangers’ starters this year short of Lee and Lewis.

The rest of the keeps are personal suggestions. I like Gardner’s pricetag given his AVG/SB upside (7.9 speed score this year) and improving walking skills. If Gardner continues to get on base more than 35% of the time, he will easily bust the 50 SB mark in 550 PA. Swisher and Granderson will almost certainly occupy two of the three available OF spots for the Yankees in 2010, but there is no reason (short of Carl Crawford) that the 27-year-old Gardner (.357 wOBA, +21.6 UZR/150 as an OF this season, +26.8 career) won’t see the majority of the playing time in 2011—even if Thames (.388 wOBA in 2010, .338 career) or Kearns (.418 wOBA, .343 career), both of whom have expiring contracts, returns to wear pinstripes in 2011. If you think Crawford is going to sign with the Yankees (and not re-sign with the Rays), however, perhaps Domonic Brown (.292/.330/.472 MLE) would be a better OF keep.

With your final keeper spot, I would also recommend stashing away Desmond Jennings for 2011. He’s torn up minor league pitching in his MiLB career (combined .300/.382/.443 line) and while “the next Carl Crawford” has not flashed much Carl Crawford power (MiLB career: .102 MLE ISO), he’s stolen his fair share of bases (168/200 in stolen base attempts over 413 MiLB games). MLS is bearish on Jennings’ career MLE (.241/.303/.343 (.646 OPS)), but Jennings’ increased line drive propensities in Triple-A this year, combined with an increased groundball rate, should lend to a higher MLE AVG (and OBP, when paired with his above average 10.5 percent walk rate in the minors).

Other guys like C.J. Wilson, Domonic Brown and Madison Bumgarner are certainly enticing options based on their minor/major league performances this year (as is Justin Smoak if for no other reason than his minor league career numbers), but some combination of xFIP splits, high xBABIPs and LOB%’s, a history of injuries or a lack of a proven track record in the majors makes these four guys more risky in my view. Brown is the most enticing keeper of the four listed here, as his MiLB numbers are nothing short of superb (plus, if someone won’t trade you for Roy Halladay, you are probably pretty good). As someone who likes to evaluate players not absolutely, but in terms of profit (risk-production-cost analysis), I see Santana, Hellickson, Feliz, Gardner and Jennings as the best options to keep.

In terms of September call-ups to watch out for, at least in the AL, I would keep an eye on Dan Johnson, Ivan Nova, Chris Davis, Kila Kaaihue, Brandon Allen, Chris Tillman, Mike Moustakas and Lars Anderson. This will be the topic of this week’s AL WW column (No. 1), so I’ll leave this analysis for later in the week.

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Comments

  1. Ross said...

    AL Only 5×5 roto keeper 8 teams (keep 4):

    Miguel Cabrera $50 (decided)
    Robinson Cano $20 (decided)
    Elvis Andrus $3 (decided)

    So, pick 1:
    Choo $20
    Butler $16
    Carlos Santana $1

  2. Jeffrey Gross said...

    -Butler at 16 is no bargain, given the deepness of 1B
    -Choo is nice, but no bargain at $20
    -Santana at $1 is criminally necessary

  3. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Agree. Posey has the potential to be just as good as vmart, is younger (no health issues (yet) too), and will likely cost a fraction to keep.

    Longoria over Miggy. Firstbase is too deep to justify such a keep. Paul Konerko and branyan, always productive, were ranked 19 and 20 amongst just 1B. Longoria is a stud as a relatively shallow position and he’s also one of the best in the game. Him, Wright, Tulo and Hanley are the auto keeps of the first round

  4. Bill said...

    In my AL keeper league we have a bit of an unusual set up.  Players can only be kept once, at the end of year they were drafted, but a player can be kept for up to 3 years by signing a longer term contract worth more money (+$5 for a 2 year deal, +$10 for a 3 year deal).  For example, Brett Gardner was $3 in the draft, so I could keep him for 1 year for $3, 2 years for $8, or 3 years for $13.

    I can keep up to five players:
    C. Santana $1
    B. Gardner $3
    LaPorta $4
    T. Snider $3
    D. Jennings $7
    Morneau $21
    G. Floyd $7
    B. Matusz $3

  5. Bill said...

    I’d go with Longoria over Miggy as well, unless you already had a couple of speedsters to offset the difference in steals.

  6. Brad Johnson said...

    In a 28 roster slot, $310 auction league, would you keep Longoria at $41? I already have Cabrera ($36), Wainwright ($29), Posey ($16), C Santana ($8), Cruz ($26), and Liriano ($12). That’s 127 over 6 players, Longoria would leave me with $142 for 21 more.

    I’m also on the fence about Jose Reyes at $27 and Johan Santana at $26…

    Of course, I’m planning to try to trade the pricey guys for cheaper future studs (like Mike Stanton ($8). But let’s just say this is the group of keepers and cost constraints…What would you do?

  7. Brad Johnson said...

    Bill,

    I would gamble on Santana’s health and sign him 3 years.

    Snider I might sign to a 2 year deal on the off chance he explodes.

    I’d give Morneau a 2 year deal assuming he eventually recovers from this round of concussions.

    Gardner really depends on what happens in the Yanks offseason. If Granderson and Swisher remain and Crawford is signed then he doesn’t have a place to play. You’ll have to gamble that the Yanks find him time or trade him.

    As for the rest, Laporta is in danger of getting forgotten so maybe a 1 year keep (or cut). I just don’t like Floyd and his inconsistency, but for $7 maybe he’s worth it for another year. Desmond is up to you and how you view his long range prospects, a 3 year deal has some risk but a decent enough chance of paying off big that it might be worth it. I’m not nearly as enamoured with Matusz as most people are, I think as a Baltimore Oriole he’s going to have a hard time providing fantasy value regardless of his ceiling.

  8. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Bill:

    You NEED to keep Santana for sure, as a top tier AL catcher for 3 years at $11 is insanely cheap. Floyd for $17/3 years I think is also a steal. I agree that LaPorta is on the border of getting lost in the shuffle of it all and you might be able to get him for less than $4 next year. I very much like Gardner, but the Yankees possible pursuit of Crawford leads me to say that Jennings, despite the higher cost, would be the better keep.

    I would not keep mornaeu for three years at that price. $21 seems pricey enough and signing him for more @3 years for a guy who does not stay healthy year to year and whom I view as as having overperformed his real numbers for his career (people tell me I have an irrational hatred of Morneau because he stole both an MVP and HR Derby title). You can get just as good of a first basemen next year for just as much or maybe less, IMHO. Resources are better allocated elsewhere.

    I also do not think Matusz is ready to reach his potential and needs some more time to hone skills in AAA. Hence, I’d take: Santana (3 years), Jennings (3 years), Floyd (3 years), Morneau (1 year, maybe trade him). If you want to keep a fifth, either LaPorta (3 years) or Snyder (1 year, dont risk too much on him given the high Ks).

    Sorry if the above does not make sense. I’ve been running a fever of 102+ for the past 72 hours and am on plenty of meds at the moment.

  9. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Brad:

    I’d surely keep Longoria at $41. I paid $45 for Wright in a 23 roster league ($260 budget) and Longoria is better than Wright IMO. I’d seriously consider trading Cabrera for a cheaper stud, maybe votto, to free up the extra cash. For instance, Votto went $26 in my league where as miggy went for $36. If you can get the extra cash in what I view a parity swap with extra value returned, Longoria will only become that much cheaper.

    Also, I would not take either Reyes or Santana at $26/$27. Santana’s peripherals have been on the decline for too long and he’s not the pitcher of old. He’s a Roy Oswalt type now and if you’d pay $26 for Oswalt, I’d politely call you insane.

    As for Reyes, it’s your call. I think he’ll likely go for more than $27 next year given his total performance over less than a full season this year, but there’s also injury risk and less power than there used to be. I’m all for spending big on 2B/SS/3B, so I’d probably say Reyes is worth it if you think he’ll stay healthy.

  10. Brad Johnson said...

    I ended up trading Wright, Starlin Castro, and Chris Tillman for Longoria earlier in the season when Wright was in a mini slump and Longoria was destroying the world. Since then Wright has been the better player. Castro would have been on my bench behind Scutaro, but it would have been nice to have him next year.

    I agree with you on Reyes and Santana. I’ll be marketing them heavily to other clubs and I don’t think either is the worst keep at those costs, but considering how much I’m already set to spend, I won’t be keeping them.

    I’m already in a Cabrera for Mike Stanton ($8) talk (which will get serious once the season ends), I also have the option of keeping Travis Snider, Mitch Moreland, or Michael Brantley for $8 if I think their circumstances improve.

  11. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Not a fan of Moreland (sre last week’s Al WW), Snyder’s a big risky in my eyes ad brantley doesnt steal enough (at least he has not yet) for me to recommend him.

  12. Brad Johnson said...

    I know, I’m not really planning on keeping any of them, but they all have some potential to be worth $8. The keeper deadline is February 20th, so I can see if anything interesting happens over the offseason before making a decision on them.

    I added Peter Bourjos to that mix today.

  13. Brad Johnson said...

    It’s not impossible to imagine a scenario where Moreland hits 3 or 4 timely bombs in the post-season while batting .350 and turns into a hot commodity in the off-season trade market. It’s not likely or anything, but it’s possible enough to gamble on.

    Snider I like in a Luke Scott kind of way and I plan on trying to win him in the auction for $3 or less rather than keep him.

    I think Brantley can be a $10-15 player and might end up keeping him if he continues to play well the rest of this season. If not he’s another guy I’ll be hoping to get for under $4.

    And Bourjos…well I’m kind of just hoping he sets the world on fire in September and can be a useful throw-in. Maybe people will look at him as next season’s Borbon? You never know.

  14. Brad Johnson said...

    Jonathan,

    It’s a 12 owner, 28 roster slot (standard deep rosters), $310 budget league. Keepers are unlimited but cost previous draft price +$7.

    I expect the elite players like Longoria would get very pricey as a few teams quit very early and locked up deep, cost effective rosters. The two I’m thinking of specifically will have a ton of auction dollars to spend on very few roster spots and both really lack elite talent.

    One important thing to note, it’s a league entirely a Phillies fans right now (that could change in the future, I intend to replace two owners each of the next two seasons). That hurts the value of Reyes and Santana as we all expect the worst of them. I drafted Santana for $19 and Reyes has been traded 7 times before finally settling on my roster. I also drafted Wright for $28 but traded him and goodies for Longoria.

    I guess talking through it has made me decide Longoria is a must keep even at the high price. Maybe I’ll try to get Cano ($25) with him.

  15. Jonathan Sher said...

    Jeffrey – Sorry to hear you’re in hospital. I hope you are feeling better soon.

    Brad -

    Is that 28 active players or 23 active and a 5-man bench??

    Your point about it being a Phillie league is no doubt important. The web sites Jeffrey linked can be useful — I’ve used lastplayerpicked — but there’s no substitute for knowing your own league. My auction league is based in London, Ontario, halfway between Detroit and Toronto, and most of my rivals root for the Tigers of Blue Jays, though one is an avid Indians’ fan with the delightfully politically incorrect team name of Morty’s Tribe.

    If you can pry away Cano at that price I’d do it. His track record isn’t as consistent as Longoria and his OPS is more BA-dependent and more subject to swings but he is the better value at half the price.

  16. Jonathan Sher said...

    Bill -
    The only-fire keepers are Gardner, Jennings and Santana, assuming the latter is healthy. Having Gardner and Jennings would take care of two-thirds of your stolen base needs and allow you to focus on guys who hit for power or average but without speed.

    LaPorta and Matusz are similar in that they both have talent but may still struggle some next year and are likely to go for a reasonable auction price because of struggles this year.

    That leaves you with a choice of two of three: Floyd, Morneau and Snider. Floyd is probably the safest pick at that price, Snider has the highest ceiling but also some risk, and Morneau may face some questions after his difficulties recovering from a concussion. If it were me, I’d try to package Morneau and Floyd in a trade for an established, low-priced hitter, preferably in the middle infield or third base, and keep that player along with Snider.

    As for long-terming, that depends upon a few things (my auction league has a similar rule for contracts). First, how many owner are in your league. If it’s 10 or less, Floyd is not much of a value at $17; if it’s 12, he is of some value. Second, you need to decide whether you are well positioned to win next year compared to other owners. If you thought your keeper list would be close to the best, I’d be more inclined to keep contracts short at one or two year; if you think it’s not, I’d be more inclined to go three years with Santana and Gardner and maybe two for Jennings.

    Brad -

    How man owners in your league? How many keepers can an owner have?  Prices can be better evaluated in that context. In a 23-owner league with 15 keepers, I would expect the following prices at auction:

    Longoria: $50
    Cabrera $48
    Wainwright $33
    Posey $23
    Santana $18
    Cruz $32
    Liriano $23
    Reyes $33
    Santana $30

    With fewer owners and/or fewer keeper, those prices would drop.

    It should be clear from those prices which olayers I think are better values, though value at auction is just one way of judging keeper value.

    I agree with your desire to trade for some lower-priced talent.

    Also, what categories does your league use? Reyes is a lot more valuable in a league that counts runs and BA and less so in one that excludes runs but includes OBP.

    I’m much more of a fan of Moreland and Snider as well though at $8 it’s not as easy a call as if they were at sub-$5.

  17. Brad Johnson said...

    23 active, 5 bench. So yea, I do budget $300 for the 23 active spots and about $10 to clean up the last 5.

    Somewhere, someone said to trade Cabrera for someone like Votto. Unfortunately, Votto is more expensive than Cabrera in our league. Both I and another owner really liked him coming into the season and I ended up losing the bid at $35. I was prepared to go to $40 heading into the draft, but I “accidentally” won Cabrera at $29 with the 3rd overall pick.

    I say accidentally because I only bid to raise his cost. I did the same with Wright when I won him for $28. I meant to pick up Zimmerman for about that cost.

  18. Brad Johnson said...

    One of the owner’s strategies was to bid on any player I wanted…I suppose that’s a complement.

  19. Jeffrey Gross said...

    A few comments, of which these will be my last because I am in the hospital at the moment:

    1) Why are people so high on Moreland? I realize he has nice doubles power, but his numbers only translate to a 700-750 (low AVG) OPS at the Arlington.

    2) For auction valuation, I tend to use Diamond Draft, a free service. They give a good beat on what you can expect to pay.
    http://www.diamonddraft.com/Screens/PlayerValues.html

  20. PJ said...

    12 team Combo League, 10 keepers per team, 5×5 Rotisserie.  Which of the 10 would you keep?

    Olivo, Miguel
    Konerko, Paul
    Phillips, Brandon
    McGehee, Casey
    Young, Michael
    Rodriguez, Alex
    Tulowitzki, Troy
    Bruce, Jay
    Hamilton, Josh
    Span, Denard
    Lee, Carlos
    Hart, Corey
    Nolasco, Ricky
    Lincecum, Tim
    Hamels, Cole
    Cahill, Trevor
    Chacin, Jhoulys
    Minor, Mike
    Soria, Joakim
    Wilson, Brian
    Romero, Ricky

  21. Brad Johnson said...

    Young, A-Rod, Tulo, Hamilton, Lincecum, Nolasco, Hamels, and Cahill are the top guys I’d keep. The last two spots would probably be Phillips and Soria since you’d already have 4 starters in the fold and McGehee won’t have 2b eligibility next year (barring some surprise spot starts for Weeks).

    Honestly, you might be better off trying to upgrade to Roy Halladay with Lincecum and McGehee (don’t mention he’ll only be 3b eligible).

    I don’t like/trust Hart.

    Do your best to package two guys for a better one as often as you can during the offseason, it’s not the best squad of keepers you have there…Aside from Tulo and Hamilton don’t get too attached to any of them. And if anyone treats Hamilton as a top 5 player, don’t be afraid to execute a trade there either. Unfortunately he’s a considerable health/relapse risk.

  22. PJ said...

    What about Jay Bruce?  With an offseason of rest, maybe that wrist will be back to full strength and he can pop his projected 25-30 HRs?

    Agreed on Hamilton, McGehee (however during my first pass of who my keepers would be, I had him over Michael Young), and Hart.  I made some questionable keeper effective moves before the deadline to strengthen my run at this year (I am in 2nd place, believe it or not).  I left off a couple guys on my roster who I would not even consider keeping.

    With respect to age, you think Halladay is still a better keeper than Lincecum?

  23. Brad Johnson said...

    PJ,

    If we’re talking about just next year, then yes, I think Halladay is both better and safer. Even if Lincecum rebounds they should at least be very similar. I tend to get very concerned when a pitcher’s velocity steadily tumbles.

    As for Bruce, if you do enough 2 for 1 trading up, Bruce isn’t the worst pick to gamble on. Because it’s a roto league his inconsistency won’t kill you as much and you can look for hot streaks. Hoping he can pop 25-30 is quite the gamble though.

    I like Young because he’s very consistent year to year and will continue to have that nice Texas offense around him. He’s definitely a guy I would be throwing into packages, but I get the sense that he’s a bit undervalued.

    This is a bit of a theme here in Fantasy Focus, but who owns Carlos Santana in your league? See who he wants for him. Even if you don’t have a chance to buy low on him he’s an excellent target.

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