Thursday, January 27, 2011

Finding Keepers: New York Mets

Not a ton seemed to go well for the New York Mets on the field in 2010 but they did manage to have some fantasy-relevant players and some of those performances translate into keeper selections.

A lot has been made of 3B David Wright's increasing strikeout numbers and decreasing walk numbers but he still managed to finish the season as the 20th-ranked fantasy player overall and the 2nd-ranked third baseman (on ESPN). Why's that? Because most leagues don't care about strikeouts and walks. Fans will continue to focus on the negative because they expect big(ger) things from Wright but fantasy managers shouldn't get caught up in all that and simply focus on the statistics that matter most in your leagues: .283/87/29/103/19.

OF Angel Pagan earned his first full season's worth of at bats and responded with a very nice fantasy line of .290/80/11/69/37. Pagan is slated to be the Mets right fielder in 2011 but what type of numbers should be expected? If this is the ceiling on his production, then one must assume his numbers will be down this season. RotoChamp has him producing a line of .278/79/11/64/30 in 561 at bats while CAIRO sees him at .278/54/8/42/17 in just 383 at bats. That's quite a disparity. I had him as a fringe keeper in my mind before doing the research (because of the steals) and would not be willing to gamble on him at this point with such a limited body of work.

From 2005 through 2008, SS Jose Reyes was a fantasy baseball god. He averaged 195 hits, 32 doubles, 16 triples, 14 home runs, 66 RBI, 113 runs and 64 stolen bases per season. He only managed 36 games in 2009 and 133 in 2010 but still managed to stay on pace with his career numbers. If you look at the 169 game totals for the last two season, this is what you get: 200 hits, 36 doubles, 12 triples, 13 home runs, 69 RBI, 101 runs and 41 stolen bases. Look familiar? This may be the year to buy into him as turning it all around and putting up the numbers that made him a top 5 pick in years gone by. PS, Reyes is still just 27 years old.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Finding Keepers: Philadelphia Phillies

(In a COSFBA first, this article is coming to you by someone other than me. A unique opportunity presented itself to me via Twitter and I pounced. Writer Paul Boyé offered up his services to compose this edition of Finding Keepers and I couldn't be happier with the results. Paul currently writes for Be sure to check out his body of work there and follow him on Twitter @Phrontiersman.)

In making the NLCS for the third consecutive year, the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies further cemented their status as one of the Senior Circuit’s top clubs. Their defeat at the hands of the eventual champion San Francisco Giants, however, seemed to expose some flaws in their armor. In the offseason, OF Jayson Werth flew the coop for a huge contract with the Nationals and, suddenly, with all of the incumbent players a year older, things seemed a little dubious for the Phils and their top-tier status.

Then along came SP Cliff Lee, and things didn’t seem quite so bleak anymore. Sure, questions still remain about their future, but for 2011 and 2012, you can find keeper-quality players in plenty of places.

One of the no-doubt-about-it keepers on this team is SP Cole Hamels. The 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP followed up a rough 2009 campaign – one compounded by both sub-par stuff and bad luck – with an excellent 2010, and at 27 years old, he’s entering his prime years. Playing in Citizens Bank Park as a flyball pitcher means Cole will always give up more than a homer per nine innings, but he gives you enough everywhere else – high-strikeout, low-walk numbers, along with wins if the offense supports him – and durability isn’t a problem. He could be a top-20 SP in 2011, and should be just as good for the next few seasons.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Finding Keepers: Oakland Athletics

The 2010 Oakland Athletics were a team with a highly-effective pitching staff (lowest team ERA in the AL) and that was reflected in the fact that their top fantasy performers were three starting pitchers and their closer but how does that translate into keepers?

At just 22 years old, SP Trevor Cahill came out of nowhere to post a very good 18-8, 2.97 ERA, 1.11 WHIP season for fantasy owners but let's take a deeper look at some numbers. Cahill only struck out 118 in 196.2 innings while walking 63 for less than stellar ratios of 5.4 K/9 and 1.87 K/BB. His BAA of .220 was 40 points below the MLB average of .260 while his BABIP(*) was .237 compared to the MLB average of .298. So from my relatively low understanding of BABIP is that either he was very lucky or that he played in front of a very good defense or a little of both. Are you willing to bet a valuable keeper selection on him to find out if he can repeat this at such an early age? In your standard 5x5 league with 60 total keepers, I say no. In much deeper dynasty leagues with expanded scoring categories, maybe.

(*)NOTE: This is the first time I've quoted BABIP in an article. I'm trying to expand my knowledge and understanding of the more commonly referenced sabermetric statistics seen in articles these days. Please call me out if I have misinterpreted or misused BABIP.

SP Dallas Braden (27), SP Gio Gonzalez (25) and SP Brett Anderson (22) make up the rest of Oakland's very young and talented rotation but each comes with pros and cons in the keeper debate. Braden owns a perfect game but has a career W/L record of 25-35 (.417%), a 4.20 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and just a 5.5 K/9 ratio. Gonzalez owns the highest career K/9 ratio at 8.5 but also the worst BB/9 ratio of 4.7 to go along with his 4.43 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. In 49 career starts, Anderson owns some of the more impressive numbers of the group such as a 3.57 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and ratios of 7.0 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 3.36 K/BB. Again, depending on the depth of your keeper selections, I wouldn't question trying to capture lightning in a bottle by selecting any of these four as a keeper but the risks involved have me leaning towards no in most formats. I'd rather target them all at a specific point in my draft and if they aren't there simply move on.

OF Coco Crisp was Oakland's highest-ranked position player and considering he only appeared in 75 games doesn't speak well of this team's offensive abilities. Crisp now comes with the label "injury-prone" in fantasy circles and that's never a good thing when talking keepers. His 162 game averages of .277/92/12/65/30 make him a very good fantasy asset (when healthy) but too risky to tag him a keeper target.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Finding Keepers: Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers had a very productive offseason, acquiring two very exciting young arms but it remains to be seen if they gave up too much in doing so.

OF Ryan Braun is at the core of this team's offense and finished the season as the 13th-ranked fantasy player with a .304/101/25/103/14 line. It's hard to find fault with those numbers even though each was below his career average (per 162 games played) of .307/111/36/118/18. The Brewers are a team that injected a lot of optimism and energy into their 2011 season and I'd expect a player like Braun to benefit from that and produce another MVP-caliber season.

Okay, enough beating around the bush. Acquiring SP Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals sent a message to the rest of the NL Central (and all of baseball) that the Brewers were ready to make a run at winning now even though it meant sacrificing a few young players. Greinke is one season removed from winning a Cy Young award while on a very bad team. I look for him to regain his dominance and you should too by making him a keeper selection in all fantasy baseball league formats.

OF Corey Hart seemed to figure it all out after a horrific 2009 and wondering if he'd even be a starter in 2010. Merely a late round afterthought in most drafts (ADP 232.7), he rebounded to produce a .283/91/31/102/7 line, which was good enough to finish the season as the 17th-ranked outfielder. Hart is a two-time 20/20 player but has seen his stolen bases slip to just seven last season. It would be great to see him produce a 30/15 season in 2011 but regardless of the stolen bases deserves to be a keeper.

It's hard not to call a player that was drafted with an ADP of 8 and finished the season ranked 100th overall a disappointment, but I'm sure that's exactly what most 1B Prince Fielder owners would say about his 2010 performance. Fantasy managers were definitely expecting big things from Prince after his .299/103/46/141/2 line in 2009 but would be foolish to think he's not going to put up monster numbers again, especially while seeking a mega-millions type contract. If he were made available in a keeper league, I'd be questioning if the league was even worth playing in.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Finding Keepers: New York Yankees

Rare is the team that can make a case for a keeper at nearly every position, but so is the case with the New York Yankees.

2B Robinson Cano finished the season as the top-ranked fantasy second baseman and the 11th-ranked player overall . His .319/103/29/109/3 was enough to garner him a third place finish in the AL MVP voting. Cano will be drafted in the first round of most drafts and continues to show his value as a keeper. I'm still not sure we've seen him reach his full potential and that should excite any fantasy owner lucky enough to have him on their roster for years to come.

You'd think 40 wins and nearly 400 strikeouts over the last two seasons would have been enough for SP CC Sabathia to win a couple of Cy Young awards but such is not the case. His 2010 season left him as the 7th-ranked starting pitcher on ESPN's Player Rater. Sabathia owners should just sit back and enjoy the quality seasons he's putting together, lock him up as a keeper and work to build a quality pitching staff around him.

Any guesses which other Yankee ranked within the top 50 fantasy-valued players? Hint: His yearly salary was a whopping $452,500. OF Brett Gardner finished the season with a .277/97/5/47/47 line, ranking him 47th overall and he deserves the same consideration as a keeper that a Juan Pierre or Michael Bourn would be given. Would you rather a 20/20 outfielder or a 5/50 one?

Some people would argue that 3B Alex Rodriguez is no longer the player he used to be. Maybe that's true but he's STILL a player that hit 30 HR and had 125 RBI last season and that was good enough for 6th best at his position and is a no-brainer keeper. He probably won't be drafted in the first round of many drafts this season and could fall past the second round. All I know is that if he falls and I have the next pick, I'm buying that his line gets better in 2011.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Finding Keepers: Los Angeles Dodgers

Going into the 2011 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers have some very nice fantasy players but how many of them deserve to be keepers heading into draft day?

If you put together your "All Disappointment" Team of 2010, most would have OF Matt Kemp earning a spot in the starting lineup. Google searching seems to prove he earned it. But is it deservingly so? Kemp, a full-time player since 2008, did reach career highs in extra-base hits (59), home runs (28) and walks (53) but also in strikeouts (170) and caught stealings (15). His slash line of .249/.310/.450 was below his career slash line of .285/.336/.472 but not significantly other than in batting average. In my opinion, the perception of his season as being "down" comes from Kemp being drafted as a first-rounder (8.8 ADP) but only providing owners with an 83rd-ranked performance. With Joe Torre and Rihanna out of the way, Kemp's focus should be on returning to an elite fantasy baseball outfielder and definitely worthy of a keeper selection in all formats.

OF Andre Ethier was hitting .392 with 11 HR and 38 RBI before fracturing his pinkie in batting practice on May 15th. His season never felt the same after that. Ethier still managed to finish 2010 hitting .292 with 23 HR and 82 RBI and deserves to to be keeper.

We all learned from watching Felix Hernandez earn a Cy Young award this season that wins aren't the truest measure of a pitcher's value. SP Clayton Kershaw finished the season 13-10 with a 2.91 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 212 strikeouts (9.3 K/9). Those are fantasy ace numbers. Oh, by the way, he's just 22 years old. 22! With so much still to learn about pitching at the major league level, Kershaw deserves to be a keeper now and for many years to come.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Finding Keepers: Minnesota Twins

Question: Who was the top-rated fantasy player on the 2010 Minnesota Twins? Mauer? Morneau? Liriano? Capps? Cuddyer? Span? Pavano? Thome? Answer: None of the above.

OF Delmon Young was the Twins highest-ranked player on ESPN's Plater Rater, coming in at 56th overall, with a .298/77/21/112/5 line and even garnered some MVP love with a 10th place finish in the balloting and receiving as high as a fourth place vote. At just 24 years old, Young's potential is enticing enough to keep him on your team's roster for the 2011 season and hope for even better numbers to come.

C Joe Mauer continues to be the most productive catcher in baseball even though his home run total dropped significantly in 2010. Mauer has only reached double-digits in two season: 13 in 2006 and 28 in 2009. His career average for home runs per 162 games played is 16, which is fantastic for a catcher with a career batting average of .327. Lock him up as a keeper and enjoy being the envy of the owners that are struggling to draft between Chris Iannetta and Mike Napoli.

Is this the season that SP Francisco Liriano breaks out to become the fantasy baseball stud we all envisioned after his incredible 2006 season? Here are some encouraging stats that make me think so. In 2010, Liriano made a career high 31 starts covering 191.2 innings pitched and produced 14 wins. He stuck out 201, allowed 184 hits and only surrendered 9 homers. His 3.62 ERA and 1.26 WHIP were both below his career averages for those stats. He's 2+ seasons removed from Tommy John surgery, still just 27 years old and plays for a team that wins ballgames. I see no reason why Liriano can't 16 or more games in 2011 and validate using a keeper selection on him.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Finding Keepers: Houston Astros

The Houston Astros are a franchise that has made the decision to go young and so that is going to limit the number of fantasy keepers on their roster that are proven stars but that doesn't mean that don't have keeper-worthy players.

OF Hunter Pence is this team's no-brainer when it comes to finding the keepers. At 27 years old, Pence is showing consistency and growth potential. He's hit 25 home runs in each of his last three seasons, batted .282 in his last two season and reached a career high in stolen bases with 18 in 2010. I think you know what you're getting with Pence and that is a very attractive quality in a keeper candidate.

OF Michael Bourn has averaged (per 162 games played) a line of 78/3/31/.263/50 compared to Juan Pierre's line of 92/1/44/.298/54. I was on the fence whether or not to call Pierre a keeper. I feel even less strongly about whether Bourn is a keeper. If you like the thought of a guaranteed 50 stolen bases on your roster then both of these players are probably keepers in your mind. Again, single-category dominance is definitely a factor when evaluating a keeper selection but Bourn will hurt you in four of the five standard scoring categories. It's a "no" for me.

Based on SP Wandy Rodriguez's first-half statistics (18 GS, 6-11, 10 QS, 1 ND, 4.97 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 1.93 K/BB), Wandy was barely worth rostering. Based on his second-half statistics (14 GS, 5-1, 13 QS, 8 ND, 2.11 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 3.61 K/BB), he threw up some elite numbers. The question remains: Which Wandy shows up in 2011?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Finding Keepers: Los Angeles Angels

I know this article is supposed to be about identifying fantasy baseball keeper targets but I can't help but mention how badly this offseason has played out for the Los Angeles Angels. I've been delaying writing about the Angels because I kept expecting to have to discuss the signings of such top free agents as Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre and/or Rafael Soriano as possible keepers. They seemed to have the financial resources to sign any combination of these players, if not all three, and as it stands today they've signed none. WOW!

Okay, now let's discuss their potential keepers going into 2011. SP Jered Weaver had a great season in every aspect of his game but his 13-12 record doesn't necessarily reflect it. He lead the league with 233 strikeouts in 224.1 innings pitched while compiling the 5th best ERA at 3.01 and the 3rd best WHIP at 1.07. Weaver even garnered some Cy Young Award love by finishing 5th in the voting. His name may not roll off the tongue when discussing the elite pitchers in baseball but it's worth noting that he finished as the 6th best starting pitcher according to the ESPN Player Rater ahead of such big name pitchers as Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, David Price and Jon Lester.

SP Dan Haren is another Angels pitcher that should be kept in all fantasy baseball league formats. His overall numbers in 2010 were nothing spectacular (12-12, 3.91 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 216 K in 235 IP) but still very good. In his 14 starts with the Angels, Haren went 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Those are the numbers that should be encouraging to owners going into 2011.