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A Second Look at a New Keeper Draft

This year Paul started a new keeper league, with 20 active MLB players, 15 minors slots, and 5 bench players. The draft format was unique to me in that teams can take major or minor leaguers at any time. You can read more about Paul’s take in his post. I’m going to discuss my personal approach, things I would do differently in hindsight, and some general comments about the draft.

Early Draft

My approach was very much focused in the MLB camp. Do I like guys like Buxton and Correa? Yes. But there was no way I was going to pass up on a veteran MLB producer who was under 32 to get them. Some teams, and one in particular, went prospect crazy early in the draft, grabbing many players who are likely a few years away, or not yet producing above average results in their first taste of MLB life. The earliest unproven picks were Bogaerts in round 1, Machado and Profar in round 2, and Buxton in round 3. And one team took three of the four guys I listed. It’s possible the team with this strategy will dominate the league in 4 years, but that’s a long time to wait for your plan to hatch. Elephants’ gestation is two years, so even they would be tired of waiting by that point.

And of course, the other hot commodity were MLB players who were under 28 – these players were flying off the board, sometimes earlier than their current production warrants. Anthony Rizzo and Matt Moore in the 3rd round are examples of this for me: they have some talent now, and they may become even better, but their 2013 value wouldn’t warrant a pick that high.

Though I didn’t go super-young with my early MLB picks, having some guys in the 29-31 range will still carry my team for the immediate future, say 3+ years. Andrew McCutchen is only 27 and in his prime, with an improving lineup around him. Oh yeah, and he happened to win an MVP in 2013. Edwin Encarnacion in the 2nd round has monster power with a BA better than most sluggers, and he’s only 31. Madison Bumgarner was my 3rd round pick, and at 24 he’s passed Cain as the Giants ace. Yoenis Cespedes in round 4 might also seem like a bit of a risk, but I expect an improvement on his 2013 season, and he’s still in his prime at 28. Adam Wainwright is my oldest early player at 32, but in round 5 he’s an incredible value. Even if he declines quickly after 2014 for some unforeseen reason, he’s a huge boost to my “win now” attempt in 2014.

Prospect Approach

Nick Castellanos was my earliest prospect at round 8, but he’s a guy who should have the job in 2014 because he’s (hopefully) MLB-ready. It was the same thing with Jameson Taillon in round 12. I wanted my first prospects to be near the MLB level because there’s less chance of disaster striking. For example, Carlos Correa is still very young, and he’s still only in single-A. He’s at least 2 years away from the majors, and more likely 3+, so there’s a lot of time for him to fail to improve like he’s projected to, or get hurt.

After I’d nearly filled my active roster, that’s when I targeted prospects. My first truly long-term “gotta wait a while” prospect was Aaron Sanchez in round 17, and I like him because he projects to have a pretty high floor. Compared to the top-25 prospects, my selected prospects may have a bit more risk/uncertainty to them, but any MLB-average production is a win for me given the round in which I drafted them. If they don’t show any improvement in 2014, they simply won’t make my cut of 20 keepers. Besides, prospects are often a very big crapshoot, especially when it comes to getting above-average fantasy production within the first few years. I’ll take the slightly higher risk guys and hope that 3-5 pay off to be keepers for 2015, but most of my keeper slots are going toward MLB players; I’d estimate a ratio of 14 MLB, 6 minors at this point.

Hindsight Alterations

Looking back, I have no major regrets, but I would probably make a tweak or two. First, I’m a SP-happy manager, and I’ll always take a solid staff compared to overreaching to ensure I get a decent CI or OF when they’re flying off the board. Normally, 3 SP in the first 10 rounds isn’t that bad a ratio for me (Bumgarner in round 3, Waino in round 5, Ryu in round 9). However, far more teams chose to wait on pitching than I’d projected. I could have waited another round on Wainwright and likely picked him up in round 6 — or skipped him altogether to better solidify my hitting. Shin-soo Choo would have been the player who went later in round 5 that I would have considered taking instead of Wainwright.

My next alteration would be Allen Craig in round 6. I do think he’ll get back to 20 HR, but not much more than that. I also think he’ll continue to be an RBI machine, though perhaps not as amazing as he was last year. However, given he’s already 29 and is injury prone, I might have been better off grabbing Pence or even Kris Bryant, who went between my round 6 pick and my round 7 pick. (Okay, Bryant would be breaking my “wait on prospects” rule, but he appears well polished, and hey, I’m a Cubs fan.) Had I skipped Wainwright in round 5 for a hitter, round 6 would have been an opportune time to pick up a still-great SP: Greinke, Zimmermann, Shields, and even Taijuan Walker went in round 7.

Another alteration I’d make isn’t tied to any specific round: I ended up waiting too long to fill my MI slot. For a while I had a list of names I liked, and they kept surviving round after round. Then suddenly on a long swing back to me, they all went. Again, had I opted for only 2 SP in the first 10 rounds instead of 3, I could have taken someone like Andrus, Gyorko, Dan Murphy, or Starlin. As my MI queue dwindled, I became set on Neil Walker in round 17, but the team right before me took him. As it is, I ended up with Alcides Escobar at MI, but with Jed Lowrie as my primary SS I’m sure I’ll need Alcides at SS from time to time, meaning that even later in the draft I had to pick up another MI option for my bench, and it was getting really thin. I grabbed LeMahieu with the hope that Rutledge struggles again and DJ gets the most AB at 2B.

Results and Final Thoughts

I didn’t go for prospects early, and I opted to take veterans in their prime. There are only so many MLB players on the “top players under 25” lists, and if they were going a bit early compared to “older” players in terms of value, I was happy to take the best “win now” team while avoiding the much older elite guys like Cliff Lee. Like I said, I feel that a core group of players in the 27-32 range will still keep me quite competitive for the next few seasons. I can take gambles on some prospects or young MLB guys while retaining my proven veterans. When others zig, it’s best to zag to get the most value. Too many teams were targeting youth only on the dreams of building a 10-year dynasty. I’ll let them have that dream and compete for the the title for 2014-16.  Here’s my team, along with age and round chosen. I chose 5th overall, and it was a snake draft. My MLB roster is in the chart, and I’ll simply list prospects afterward with the round in parentheses.

Pos Player Round Age
C AJ Pierzynski 24 37
1B Allen Craig 6 29
2B Aaron Hill 7 31
3B Edwin Encarnacion 2 31
SS Jed Lowrie 10 29
CI Matt Adams 11 25
MI Alcides Escobar 23 27
OF Andrew McCutchen 1 27
OF Yoenis Cespedes 4 28
OF Carlos Beltran 13 36
OF Kole Calhoun 16 26
DH Nick Castellanos 8 21
BN DJ LeMahieu 27 25
BN Michael Saunders 38 27
BN Lonnie Chisenhall 39 25
SP Madison Bumgarner 3 24
SP Adam Wainwright 5 32
SP Hyun-jin Ryu 9 26
SP Alex Wood 14 23
RP Casey Janssen 15 32
RP Rex Brothers 20 26
P Tyson Ross 18 26
P Hiroki Kuroda 22 39
BN Bruce Rondon 30 23
BN Robbie Erlin 35 23

Minors: Jameson Taillon (12), Aaron Sanchez (17), Joc Pederson (19), Hunter Dozier (21), DJ Peterson (25), Rosell Herrera (26), Luke Jackson (28), Matt Barnes (29), Alex Colome (31), Jorge Bonifacio (32), Luis Sardinas (33), Jose Berrios (34), Erick Jagielo (36), Anthony DeSclafani (37), Ty Hensley (40)

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Kevin Jebens
Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.
Kevin Jebens

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13 comments on “A Second Look at a New Keeper Draft

  1. We would have grabbed Wainwright later in the 5th round, so don’t kick yourself for pulling him out early.

    • Haha, thanks, Neil. It’s not so much taking him too early as the fact that plenty of good SP were still around, and I didn’t need to take 3 in the first 9 rounds. But good to know that others would’ve capitalized on his value in the 5th round!

  2. Nice job in the article and drafting, it will be interesting to watch the progress of this League throughout the season.

    • Thanks, Mike. You’ve got a nice core with the Baltimore threat of Davis and Jones, and veterans like Ortiz will offset any struggles you might see from Donaldson or Gyorko.

  3. Great articles! Kevin, do you use projections for players when drafting and if so where can I find a reliable set of projections for my 12 team h2h points league. Most rankings I see are for rotisserie leagues which don’t fit my league scoring. Any help will be greatly appreciated! Thanks, J.

    • J, I don’t always rely strictly on projections when making choices, but when I do, I use several sources. BaseballHQ requires a subscription but provides a lot of the data I use — not just standard 5×5 stuff but singles and triples. They also provide the sabermetric aspects such as contact rate and HR/FB and groundball/fly ball/line drive estimates, so if I feel more positive or negative about those things, I know to manually adjust BaseballHQ’s projections accordingly.

      The most important thing is that whatever projections system you use, be sure you give it a once over and alter things as you see fit. No single projection system is going to get things perfect, and they may be more optimistic or pessimistic than you on certain players.

  4. Kevin, when drafting hitters, how much stock do you place on where they hit in the batting order? I tend to think the #3 hole is the best slot for fantasy production. Thanks, J.

    • I’m not Kevin, but as for myself, I try to get guys batting anywhere between 1-4. The guys batting 1st or second will be primarily run/average/speed guys while the 3 & 4 hitters are for power & RBIs. You can get solid production from anyone of these positions, it all comes down to what categories you’re going after. There are some that bat fifth that deserve a look as well (V.Martinez, J.Bruce, H.Pence), but you have to be picky here.

    • J, obviously the earlier in the order players bat, the better. More AB per game occur at the top over the course of season, so anyone in the first half of the order benefits. That being said, guys like Brett Gardner did well enough hitting at the bottom of the order when the Yankees were stacked. I place less value on lineup position than I do on general playing time. If I have to choose between two players, I’m looking at whoever has the most regular gig. If everything else is equal, but one bats at the bottom while the other bats at the top, I’ll probably take the guy at the top. But things are never that equal — factors like team and home park play a greater role for me than lineup slot.

      It can be a factor, but I don’t put a ton of weight on it. Sluggers will hit in the middle of the order, so naturally the #3 hole is the best slot for fantasy production — but that’s because generally the best hitter on the team bats there. Your worst hitters are put at the bottom (often catchers, or defense-first fielders), and therefore those spots are generally less valuable. There’s correlation there, but the causation is actually reversed: a player’s skill determines his spot. The spot in the order doesn’t greatly determine the player’s value.

  5. Just a followup question, Kevin. The Dom/Dis stats (from Baseball Hq) for starting pitchers. How much credence do you give that stat when ranking/drafting starters for upcoming year for h2h points league. Thanks, J.

    • I like DOM/DIS more than the generic Quality Start, because they’re a better measure of value and performance. There are clearly some pitchers who can consistently score high DOM/DIS splits, and they should be given an extra dollar or two at auctions: Kershaw’s DOM has been above 80% for years, and his highest DIS in the last 3 years is 6%, so he’s going to give you a good outing almost every time.

      If comparing two starters, I’d look not just at who has the higher DOM and lower DIS, but also their personal trends, both over years and comparing first half and second half. Matt Cain’s DOM has been falling for 3 straight years, so even though his DIS is pretty low, it indicates to me that he’s not a top-20 SP anymore, or at least he’s a risk if I draft him that high. Charlie Morton has been increasing his DOM and decreasing his DIS for 3 years, so even though he’s not an elite option, it tells me that he’s a good end-game option with upside. Tyson Ross’s DOM jumped off the chart in the second half once he got control of his nasty slider, so there’s a solid chance he’ll reach a new level in 2014 and makes a great sleeper.

      DOM/DIS is yet another factor to consider, especially for H2H leagues. It’s not the most important, but I do factor it into my own rankings most of the time.

      Of course, any pitcher can have trouble, and in any week. Last year Kersahaw and Wainwright didn’t have many bad games, but they both had horrible appearances in the same week — when my team was fighting in the playoffs. Normally I expect 25+ points from each of their starts. They had 5 starts between them in 2 weeks, but 3 of those starts were under 5 points, and one was negative points. Those two pitchers being off their games in the same period killed my chance for first place, and I had to settle for third.

  6. Kevin, my h2h points league draft is coming up soon (26 rds). Can you give me some endgame sleepers, hitters/pitchers, that you really like. Thanks, J.

    • J, the number of teams would help me determine what your player pool is, to give a good definition of your league’s end game. That being said, some guys that I feel are going later than their value include Tyson Ross and Alejandro de Aza. For daily leagues, Carlos Quentin is a great pickup as long as you have an extra OF to substitute when he’s hurt, but he’s a solid contributor when he plays. Scott Kazmir is a risk, and many people aren’t sold on his comeback or his health, but he has the potential to produce good value in the late rounds. In terms of older players who had bad seasons but could possibly bounce back, look to Ian Kennedy and Dan Haren — the NL West should help them out a bit. I recently picked up Mitch Moreland late in a 14-team draft for my bench, and he has 25 HR upside with a BA that won’t kill you. If you want to wait on a catcher in a one-catcher league, Pierzynski is good for 2014, and Wilson Ramos may finally have his health and reach 20 HR. DJ LeMahieu could be helpful to roto leagues due to his high BA and okay SB, and he qualifies at 2B and 3B, so he makes a good utility player.

      If you need to look even deeper than these names, Pete’s got some good articles in his series Dollar Draft.

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