The Keeper Conundrum Vol. 2

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening– whichever is applicable to you. With the close of the 2016 Fantasy Season quickly approaching, the year-end roster inventory has already begun. In keeper leagues I’m beginning to determine who my Keeper targets are. In redraft leagues I’m looking at the things that went right, as well as, the things that went wrong. Over the years it has become apparent to me that the difference between the two teams can most always be found in the draft results, with the GM who makes 14 or 15 trades that work out successfully throughout the year being the rare exception.

Teams that find the nice values in the mid to late rounds fare better than those who end up with a complete overhaul at the back-end of their roster. Your building block pieces (early round picks) must have roster stability. You draft them, put them in your starting lineup, and let them play. Good, bad, or league average; their level of play has no major bearing on their roster status (barring an injury).

With each draft pick selected you have less and less commitment to that individual. If a 18th round pick struggles out of the gate there is little to no hesitation to cut him loose. When you cut him loose you’re picking up a player from the free agent pool who may provide gains, but who’s just as likely to offer much of the same. Considering the importance associated with late round gems, I take great pleasure when completing my year-end inventory and seeing several late round players who paid huge dividends.

With the end of the season comes a new beginning as the 2017 draft prep work begins. Last week I looked at Keeper types who were drafted among the Top 60 in NFBC drafts. This week I am going to take a look at players drafted in the mid-to-late rounds who played their way into keeper consideration this season. If you missed last week’s post, shame on you: the quality of work was prize worthy. I’m not one to hold a grudge: I’ll once again briefly go over my personal keeper standards. 

I start with the number of keepers; for the purpose of this post I’ll state this league has 5 keepers. I then take the number of teams; for the purpose of this post I’ll state this is a 12 team league. As a former multiplication champion I can state with confidence that 12 x 5= 60 – so 60 is my reference point in terms of sleeper consideration. Any player who I didn’t see top 60 potential in would not be considered for a keeper, regardless of potential value that could be found. For young players who have yet to hit their prime seasons, a top-60 mandate doesn’t apply, but for me to consider keeping that type of player I have to see a clear path to the top 30-40 overall. 

Now that you’re all caught up, here are some players worthy of keeper debate. (Players name will appear with their NFBC ADP from March in parentheses.)

Daniel Murphy (160) and Brian Dozier (71)

They seem to be in a tier by themselves as both have played their way into top-20 players this season.  That alone should warrant Keeper consideration, but I have my hesitations. Both are veteran players who, prior to this season, had established a seemingly reliable statistical profile. Murphy was a solid AVG source whose value was tied to volume in addition to a little stolen base potential. Dozier was a solid power source with some stolen base potential coming off back to back 100+ run seasons. Let’s first deal with Murphy first.

Murphy has managed to hit .347 this season with 25 home runs and 104 RBIs batting in the middle of the Nationals Lineup. While everyone and his brother has alluded to a change in his swing, suggesting that his power growth is legit, the reality of it is Murphy has managed 25 home runs when everyone in baseball seems to be hitting 20+. This leads me to wonder exactly how much his power has genuinely improved.  His .349 BABIP is 30 points higher than his career norm, and a standard deviation above the MLB average of .299. So, despite improved hit rates I still question how repeatable an average north of .320 really is.

For Dozier I don’t see much statistically different from his recent career trends aside from the increased home run total this season. Dozier managed 28 home runs in 2015. Does that really “feel” like the 14 fewer home runs than this season? I would answer no. Like Murphy, Dozier’s average is inflated to some degree. His .279 mark this season is 31 points above his career total. Ultimately this post is about a keeper decision.

I personally feel both are keeper worthy, but I would favor Brian Dozier opposed to Daniel Murphy. Murphy would find himself toward the back-end of the top-60, whereas Dozier will likely fall into the 40 range for me. In sum, neither player is the no-doubt keeper that his 2016 totals would suggest.

Freddie Freeman (84), Wil Myers (206), Jonathan Villar (325)

All are former top prospects to varying degrees, all having seemed to find what the fuss was all about around the same time. Freeman will push .300 with 30+ home runs and nearly 100 runs scored. Despite the otherworldly .374 BABIP, a 32 point increase over his career mark, a strong walk rate, and respectable K% suggest to me that .280+ can still be expected year in and year out. Over the last month the Braves have been amongst the best offenses in baseball. While I question that sustainability, I do expect improvements over the entirety of 2017 making Freeman a legit .280/30/100/100 type player and an absolute lock for keeper consideration. 

If keeper extension were mandated at the All-Star Break, Wil Myers, would have been an instant top-25 option.  A .218/.311/.694 slash line in the second-half really dampened the excitement surrounding what appeared to be a coveted 30/30 guy. His second half struggles have essentially left the plate discipline numbers mirroring his career marks, leaving me to wonder which half is the outlier? Myers is keeper-worthy for the 30/30 threat alone. I personally would have him closer to 50th than the 25th he would have been in June.

Villar’s prospect clout wasn’t anywhere near the level of Myers or even Freeman, but for fantasy owners the whispers of his stolen base potential have been around for some time. Villar’s 25.9% K rate isn’t desirable for a speed driven player, but solid walk rates help to negate some of the strikeout struggles. With double-digit power to go with 60 stolen base potential Villar will find himself firmly amongst the top 50 players in drafts for 2016.

Gregory Polanco (81) and Christian Yelich (102)

Polanco and Yelich both stood out to me as players who were being overrated in March. Both feature across the board production that has helped rank both of them among the top-100 players for 2016. Yelich has featured the better batting average while Polanco has nearly double the amount of stolen bases. Keeping only 2017 in mind, I would find it difficult to view either as a top-60 player overall. At the same time, youth is on both their sides as Polanco (25) and Yelich (24) both figure to have more to offer at some point.

In a point based or roto league, solid yet non-spectacular production has more value than in a H2H format when the hopes for big impact weeks holds value. League size would be another item of interest in this decision. For me a 10-team format would eliminate any consideration for either player, while a 14 team or deeper would add value to those across the board numbers both are capable of.

Jake Lamb (350), Stephen Piscotty (190), Trevor Story (252)

Lamb was another popular commodity around the All-Star Break. With 20 home runs and hitting .291 at the break, it appeared as though Lamb had arrived. He has managed to lose 100 points in batting average in the 2nd half along with only 8 home runs during that span. LHP continues to be a problem for Lamb, who has a .652 OPS vs. LHP and, most troubling, regularly loses playing time because of it. He rarely gets starts vs LHP, and on a last-place team. Without being subjected regularly to LHP, how is one to ever improve? If a player gets relegated to a platoon is there any avenue to a top 50-60 level of production? I happen to think not.

Piscotty has managed his numbers using a more consistent approach. Despite a 55-point drop in average, Piscotty has managed just 1 fewer home run in the 2nd half despite playing in 22 fewer games. Long-term Piscotty has a Matt Holliday feel to him. He’ll run into 30 home runs one season, he’ll clear both 100 runs and RBIs at some point, and he’ll swipe double digit bases at some point – just so you are aware that’s part of his game. Does this all ever happen in the same season? Ultimately, that is the deciding factor in Piscotty’s keeper value potential. In a Dynasty format I would be more favorable of retaining Piscotty. As for a Keeper format, I feel a better short-term value can be had somewhere else. 

Unlike Lamb and Piscotty, prospective Story owners don’t have a full season’s worth of data to go by. With 27 home runs in 97 games, it’s hard to question his power. On the downside, Story had a K% of 31.3 and a minor league track record to suggest that last season home run total may ultimately be an outlier. My skepticism from last season was never really validated, yet here I am still warning others against him.

Ian Desmond (107), Hanley Ramirez (120), Mark Trumbo (158)

All of these veterans had a similar ADP this season, and all rank among the top-60 players in Yahoo standard scoring.  Do any of them warrant keeper consideration for next season?  Desmond essentially returned to 2012 form with better counting numbers.  While the numbers warrant consideration, Desmond’s situation may not. With a one-year deal and a deep Rangers system, it would appear to be a one and done for Desmond in Arlington. Desmond has managed a .882 OPS at home and .714 on the road. That number alone steers me away from keeper consideration.

As for Ramirez, I’m rather confident a repeat performance is entirely in the cards. Even with that in mind, Ramirez will be 33 and health has never been his strong suit. In six seasons he has managed 130 games only twice; you just can’t make that type of commitment for such an injury risk.

Trumbo is also on a one-year deal. Unlike Desmond, I would be rather surprised if Trumbo isn’t back with the O’s. At 31 Trumbo should have another 2-3 years of sustained success given his profile and player comparisons. The power is obvious, and I can easily see an improvement in batting average with a solid off-season program. A lack of walks will likely cap his run potential around 90 . Still, .260/40/90/100 is production you can survive with.

Trea Turner (299) and Gary Sanchez (480)

As we sit here today, what intrigues me the most about 2017 rankings is where exactly these two will find themselves? By the time the offseason hype train rolls into the station I see Turner settling into the 2nd round while Sanchez will likely be a 3rd/4th rd pick and the 2nd Catcher off the board after Posey. While I may find these potential prices to be foolish, the question at hand today is “What is their keeper outlook?”

Long-term I see neither of these players being what they have shown thus far. Sanchez’s home run-a-day play will be replaced in finality by a 25 home run catcher who will hit .260-.270. Is that next season or in three years? Both of those totals are excellent for the position, but lose a little of their luster when compared to the entire league’s numbers. Catchers simply hold no keeper value whatsoever for me.

As for Turner: the speed will play from day one, making 40-50 stolen bases the norm. Hitting could be where the discrepancies may lie. His current K% of 18.1 is the best mark in his baseball career. Naturally one should expect a slight regression past the 21% mark if you look at his minor league track record. Should that issue surface and combine with his troubling 3.2 BB% then you could be looking at a .250-.260 hitter. Despite this potential risk, Turner would certainly be a Keeper target for me. 50 stolen base potential is just hard to find. So even if it’s .260 with 10 home runs next season, if the stolen base totals are there, so will be the value.


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Josh Coleman

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Father of four SP1 children. Replacement level husband to a top tier wife. I love my family, value my friendships, and spend as much time as possible (too much according to the aforementioned Mrs. Coleman) dedicated to the pursuit, of another Fantasy Championship. I'm the oddball at the bar who prefers Fantasy Baseball to Fantasy Football.

2 thoughts on “The Keeper Conundrum Vol. 2”

  1. Thanks for getting an early start on these. My season ended early, due to some really bad luck in H2H format, followed by 1/3 of my team ending up on the DL (seriously – I had 8 guys on the DL at one point).

    we’re unusual in that we can keep up to 9, but as few as you want. most guys keep between 5 and 9.

    You touched on a few of my players last week and this week, (Bautista – might be time to move on, Dozier, yes, Turner – not sure for our league. It’s a points league, so steals don’t bring a whole lot of value on their own).

    I’m wondering about SP’s. We’re a pretty pitching heavy league, usually about 25-30 SP’s get kept. I kept Kershaw, Cole, deGrom, and Stroman, and then most of the SP’s I drafted to be 2 start guys were awful (Miller, Garcia, Chen to name a few). That’s partly why my team crumbled!

    I did pick up some good innings from Duffy, and he became an every week guy while everyone else was hurt, but his recent struggles have me turning away from him. I also have Taillon, who is intriguing. I’m not going to keep Stroman again (his first half killed me), but I’m wondering your thoughts on Cole. This was a rough year!

    I’m leaning towards Kershaw, deGrom, Cole, and calling it good. Am I good counting on bounce backs from deGrom and Cole? Or would Taillon be a better/additional option? Or is Duffy a long term answer?

    it’s early, but I’m already thinking about these things.

  2. Thanks for reading. I plan on covering Cole in a post this week. In hopes you come back to read I don’t want to give it all away, short version I’m not a Cole fan. From a keeper standpoint however, he’s a player who’s market makes him worth keeping. For example I’d prefer Stroman to him, yet I’d keep Cole over Stroman knowing that whomever drafted Stroman would quickly send me Stroman and a bat or closer for Cole. So to summarize yes on Cole being keeper worthy but for me the value is in the marketplace not the production.

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