The fantasy baseball season just ended for all of us and with another fantasy season under our belts our attention tends to wander to other topics, like say, next year’s fantasy draft and wondering when the 2009 crop of fantasy guides are going to be out (FYI the first usually hits the newsstands about January 1).
Since the time for strategy is gone in all but keeper leagues, we’ll take a look at keepers for today’s column.
In evaluating keeper there are basically five factors to look at and balance in deciding which players you are going to stash for next season (or the next several seasons).
1) Quality of the player. Sure this is the simplest thing in the world to look at - any keeper, at any position should be an above average player, and ideally will be one of the elite players either in the game or at their position. Essentially that means that the replacement cost of someone of this player’s caliber will be at the high end of the scale come draft day 2009.
2) Positional Scarcity. If you possess an above average player at a one of the shallow positions (C, 2B) where few above average players exist, or an elite player in a deeper position, he should be on your short list.
3) Age/experience. How old is the player? How much experience does he have? Young players are often inconsistent (How many people paid big money for Michael Borne this year?), while older players often show signs of declining skills and are more prone to injury. These should be factors in your keeper analysis.
4) Upside/consistency. Is this player likely to get better? To play at his current level? Or was this a fluke year. Players with proven track records are always more reliable. You might well get another amazing season with a guy like Cliff Lee, but based on his track record can you rely on it? Many established players have a great year or two and then fall on very hard times.
5) Injury risk. Some players are prone to injuries, just ask anyone who’s ever owned Jeff Kent, Mike Cameron, Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez or Nomar Garciaparra. Older players with good skill sets are wonderful to have, but not at high prices. Any older player or player coming off a significant injury (especially pitchers) need to be treated cautiously. Most guys with minor issues are still worth drafting but it’s always wise to see which players are having their knees, elbows, shoulders, etc worked on once the season is done. Knee issues are probably the number one issue to downgrade speedsters.
And if you play in a financial league a sixth factor comes into play. This also applies to some degree in drafting leagues (depending on if you might be able to get this player back easily enough if you want them, or find a comparable player at about the same time)
6) Cost. No matter how good a player is you have to balance his worth against what he is going to cost you out of your draft allocation. In an ideal world every player you keep will be players who, because of this season would cost you much more on next season’s draft day. (Cliff Lee went for $1 in most leagues, but likely will be a $30+ pitcher next season. Conversely sometimes a player is just too expensive, especially if they are coming off a mediocre season, or bad season which will hurt their auction value next year.
Sometimes though it’s just about price. A-Rod, Jake Peavy, Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Ryan Howard, Ryan Braun will all be expensive players when a few years into a contract and might be too expensive to keep, especially if you have other high priced players on your keeper list. And that’s a place only you can really make a judgment call on.
I hope that helps all of you that have been sending me keeper questions and congratulations to all you that finished in the money in their leagues this year. Keep watching AHP during the winter and spring for more fantasy baseball notes, strategies and tips.