Keeper and dynasty league owners have to approach drafts a little differently. The pool of players is smaller after a large chunk of players are protected. Prospects are in the mix even if they are years away. In many long term keeper leagues it’s against the rules to pick up players who weren’t signed by an MLB team at the start of the season. This means that each spring a new crop of international signings enters the pool along with players from the previous year’s amateur draft. Two such players for the upcoming 2015 season are Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas. Both are outfielders from Cuba. Both created a great deal of buzz and signed with their respective clubs for multi-million dollar contracts. Both are major league ready and could make an impact in the fantasy game immediately. And yet both are relatively unknown and have question marks just as Jose Abreu did last year. Which one should we take in our first year player drafts in fantasy? That’s a question which has appeared more than a few times in the comments and is worth looking into.

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Time to check back in on some winter league action. I mentioned him two weeks ago, but we need to talk about Randall Delgado again. Since our last update, the right-hander has pitched 12 innings with 12 strikeouts, eight hits, two walks, and one earned run allowed. He currently leads the Dominican Winter League in strikeouts with 41. Here’s what I said about him last time “Delgado isn’t a lock for a spot in the rotation this spring, but he’s throwing as a starter this winter after getting only four starts in all of 2014. Two things I like about Delgado are his strikeout numbers and his age/potential for more growth. Last season he posted a 10.0 K/9 in 77+ innings pitched and his FIP was a full run lower than his ERA.” He now has an 11.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 33 innings in the DWL. While he’s currently listed as long relief on the Diamondbacks’ depth chart, I really think he’s going to get his chance to start at some point this year and run with it. Entering 2012, Delgado was listed as Baseball America’s #46 prospect. He was still with the Braves at that point, then was traded in 2013 along with Martin Prado in the Justin Upton deal. The Diamondbacks looked like the losers, but the jury is still out on Delgado at just 24 years old. This has prospect fatigue and breakout written all over it. Here are some other recent highlights from the winter leagues…

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With the Phillies minor league preview coming up this week and recent trade rumors surrounding the Phillies’ ace, I thought it would be worth checking in on Cole Hamels and where his value stands right now in fantasy – particularly in keeper leagues. In some very early 2015 rankings, Hamels has appeared in the #10-#12 range. I don’t disagree with that ranking, but I’ve also seen him listed as a pitcher to avoid and some scuttlebutt about Amaro being to aggressive in his asking price for Hamels in trades. There is never a shortage of opinions on the internet, and attempts to devalue assets in real life sometimes carries over into our fantasy rosters – leading us to question our players. I’m hoping that’s not the case with Hamels, who remains one of the best pitchers in baseball and is deserving of the #1 slot in fantasy rotations. Anything less is undervaluing him in my mind.

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Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward is getting some love for his defense this awards season, winning his second Gold Glove award in three years. But his 2014 campaign was a tad disappointing for the more offensively-minded fantasy baseballer. Keeper league owners hoped Heyward would bounce back to his 2012 breakout form (27 homers and 21 steals) after an injury-riddled 2013 season. Instead they were dealt a bad hand in the power department. While Heyward’s 21 steals provided similar value, 11 homers was a far cry from the power numbers he put up as a 22-year-old. The Braves’ right fielder ended up as the 37th ranked outfielder according to the 2014 Razzball player rater (150th overall). One of the glaring weaknesses this season was his inability to hit lefties. Heyward hit just .169 with two homers against southpaws. That was good for a measly 39 wRC+. Compare that to his 2012 season in which he hit .224 with seven dingers against lefties. Nothing incredible, but it was a more palatable 73 wRC+. All this may lead some impatient fantasy owners to give up on Heyward too early – tempting them to throw him back into the draft in some shallower keeper formats. I think that would be a mistake.

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The Royals are in the World Series, and it’s going to be mentioned at some point that the organization moved a big prospect in Wil Myers to acquire two of the pieces that brought them so much success this year. Last season, it looked like the Rays were going to be the ones that ran away with the trade. Myers won Rookie of the Year. He hit .293/.354/.478 with 13 homers and drove in 53 runs in just over half a season. At 23, he came into 2014 with high expectations and a high preseason rank on most fantasy sites. Then they actually played the 2014 season. Myers ended up playing only 87 games thanks to a wrist fracture, and when he was on the field he looked lost at the plate. So what can we expect from the young Rays’ outfielder going forward in keeper leagues?

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If you were offered a 23-year-old ballplayer with both shortstop and outfield eligibility, who hit .319/.353/.472 with seven homers and 20 steals in 430 plate appearances…would you keep him? If you were a hot dog…would you eat yourself? These are important questions. The player is Danny Santana, whose rookie season with the Twins was useful to fantasy owners despite his May arrival and lost time with a leg injury. Santana is going to be an on-the-fence decision in a lot of shallow keeper leagues, which makes him worth discussing for the purposes of this keeper post.

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We’ll be here every week this offseason discussing keepers and prospects – enjoying the MLB playoffs, the fall foliage, and eventually the Polar Vortex and loss of extremities to frostbite (hard to type with nubs).  By the time next March rolls around and we emerge from our hidey-holes, we’ll be well prepared for regular season action with our keeper league teams. I’m admittedly partial to keepers. Currently the only league I’m in that isn’t a keeper is the RCL. Each of the keepers I play in has a different depth and league setting, making each one kind of unique. So while it may be a little lonely around these parts compared to the summer months, I’m really looking forward to talking shop with Razzball nation’s keeper league population.

The plan is to discuss certain players to target, help make keeper decisions between players, and maybe even dabble in some keeper rankings by position. Go ahead and post suggestions for players or topics in the comments. It will help me tailor the posts and make them as helpful as possible. With that, let’s start with some basics that you’ll need to think about if you are joining or returning to a keeper league in 2015…

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Little known facts about Sky. Not only does he do some Deep League thinking, he plays in a keeper league. A deep keeper league, if you will. And for those new to the Razzball world, he also writes on the Fantasy Football side. But if you’re new to the site, everything is news to you. In fact, I think I could lie my arse off. Maybe we should play one lie, two truths as a way to get to know each other? But then again, why would we want to do that? Let’s just stay friends…well maybe distant friends…better yet, let’s not be friends. I’ll go with casual internet acquaintances. I have problems with commitment…but of course when it comes to keepers, my Sterling Archer-like mommy issues go out the window and I fall head over heels for guys that I want to hold and snuggle tight to my bosom. Wanna know another truth? I drafted Matt Harvey in my keeper league last year in the 8th round and was downright ecstatic. Then he pitched like he did and I was straight up twitterpated over the man. But then September hit, his arm basically fell off, and my heart felt like it had been ripped through my backside via roto-rooter. All this to say, I’m not keeping him and chances are many players in keeper leagues will do the same as me and throw him back into the draft day pool. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be mine again. Oh yes, he will be mine again. So here’s why I’m targeting Harvey the wonder pitcher in keeper leagues for 2014 Fantasy Baseball…

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Seinfeld is on. George — the show’s best character, I do not care what you think — just brought a book into a bookstore’s bathroom, which is apparently frowned upon. As George tries to put it back on the shelf, a store clerk sees him and forces him to buy the book. Being a cheap bastard, George’s plan is to return the book later that day once the bookstore’s employee shifts have turned over and new people are working. Unfortunately for the now trapped cheapo, the book’s been flagged in the bookstore’s computer and is unreturnable, which is not an actual word. What is George now? Well, everyone, George is now trapped. The book now stinks, smells like poop, is unwanted, yet there’s no way to get rid of it. Also, for the sake of metaphor, throwing it in the garbage is not allowed. This might seem like something you’ve experienced recently or are experiencing right now — this might be like your fantasy baseball team, friend. Earlier this year you might have picked up a guy to test him out and see what he’d do, and now, through injuries or ill-advised bathroom usage, are stuck with the ho. Mike Moustakas comes to mind, but I’ve written about him enough. But, who knows? Maybe, some day, George will sit down on the pooper and thoroughly enjoy his French impressionist-painting book while relieving his rectum. Just like you, who feel stuck with a crappy keeper, might reap that crappy keeper’s benefits next year or down the road. Also, enough with the scatological speak; the keepers you might feel you’re stuck who you’ll enjoy, and some you won’t:

You.

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You’re the only one here. And I’m talking directly to you. You, unlike so many who lost their fateful battle with attrition and the baseball season’s relentless length that still persists, are still frequenting fantasy baseball sites because you, Great One, have made your fantasy league’s playoffs. You’re currently face-to-face, hand-to-hand with some scum who dares vie to destroy you and ruin your winter — except, of course, for fantasy football. You, my friend, are smarter than everyone else — you’ve gotten this far and there’s no looking back now. You’re so close to victory and a bundle of jelly beans and winter-long cloud-nine, you… oh, you’re not in the playoffs? That’s why you’re reading a fantasy-keepers column? Your winter’s already ruined and you’re here to commiserate with fellow losers and quixotically dream big about 2014 and the glory it will bring you? Now, now, we’re here. We’re here to help you pick the right keepers for next year. Loser.

I, though, am not in your boat — and if I was, I wouldn’t tell you, because I have a credibility to hold. I write a lot about fantasy baseball and therefore am pretty good at it, so I’m in the playoffs in three out of four leagues. But, with just as much of-courseness as my not being in your boat, I’m also a keeper writer, so write about keepers I will. Because I love you. I… love… you, poor fantasy player. I love you. Let’s figure out how to salvage 2013.

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