Dan writes in:
I’m in a 12-team 5×5 keeper with the typical categories. League rules on keepers are that each team keeps five plus a minors spot, with the cost being the pick it took to get a guy (free agents are a last-round pick) moving one pick closer to round one each offseason. Finally, any player chosen in the first five rounds cannot be kept.
I have some easy choices: Hanley Ramirez costing me a 21, Clay Buchholz costing me a 22, Josh Johnson costing me a 7, and Matt Cain costing me a 12. I have Michael Pineda as my minors keeper. (We started the league in 2006 and not everyone figured out the importance of keepers right away, so Hanley was a free agent to begin ’06.)
Here’s my dilemma: I took Colby Rasmus in round 10, so I can keep him for my tenth rounder this year, and I have Brian Matusz who was my minors keeper from the end of 2009, so he’ll be a last/very-late-round pick sacrifice. I like the idea of having four good SPs, allowing me to build my offense through the draft, but I’m high on Rasmus’ potential to take off this season.
You certainly have some great deals in Ramirez and Buchholz. Cain is worth giving up a 12th-round pick for, and Johnson is just barely worth a seventh-round selection. Johnson’s going around that round because of his late-season shoulder concerns so, if you want to keep him, you’re assuming some extra injury risk, but at least being paid to do so.
For what it is worth, Rasmus’ average draft position (ADP) at Mock Draft Central is 94 (which makes him the 89th-best player), and that was also his draft spot (89) in THT Fantasy Focus’ own expert mock draft. There seem to be quite a few folks that share your high opinion of Rasmus.
I am not one of them.
Rasmus suffers from twin risks: playing time and ability. In order for Rasmus to be worth an 89th pick, he has to perform better in all scoring categories than he did last season. Most projections have him instead regressing or flat-lining in these categories—not surprising given his .354 BABIP last season and perennial high strikeout rate.
Rasmus also isn’t in his manager’s good graces, and if he starts the season poorly, he could easily lose some playing time to Jon Jay. Of course, if Lance Berkman gets injured again, there should be enough room in the Cardinals outfield to accommodate Rasmus on a full-time basis no matter what.
Given that Rasmus is only going to cost you a tenth-round pick, he may still be a decent value for you even if he isn’t worth an 89th pick. I’d personally prefer Shane Victorino or Carlos Lee, both of whom have worse ADPs.
Alas, Matusz is no great shakes, even in the last round. Depending on whether that’s a reserve round or not, Matusz is probably exactly worth the round he’d cost you. He has some upside, but, given that he pitches in hitter-friendly Camden Yards and in the slugger-loaded AL East, he poses a lot of risk to your stats nearly any week that you’d start him.
Depending on when your draft is, Matusz may not even be worth the risk of prematurely locking him onto your roster. But he does have upside potential, too, in that if he did somehow shine this year, it would be quite cheap to keep him again the next year. Rasmus isn’t as likely to keep offering you keeper value.
An incredibly important caveat to this advice is that your league may be so out of whack that typical ADPs do not apply. If many other teams have great keepers in ridiculously low rounds, a tenth-round pick is not like any other league’s tenth-round pick, but is actually worth much less. Thus, the keepers that you could keep for that pick are worth more.
Lastly, I definitely wouldn’t worry about having too few or too many of a certain kind of keeper. Keep the players that give you the best value, and there will be plenty of picks in the draft to repair any imbalance.