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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Without getting too preachy here on a Sunday morning, let’s take a look at some basic ideas for keeper leagues that I have found to be effective. I use the term ‘commandments’ loosely, since what works for me might not work for you. That said, these are the principles I live by in keepers. They should give some insight into where my head’s at when answering questions in the comments as well. You know your leagues, and if you’re winning then just keep on doing what works. But if you’re never getting to the promised land in your keeper league, take a look at the ideas below and see if they make sense to help improve your game. Here are my ten keepr commandments (in no particular order). Cue thunder and lightning…

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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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Happy Wednesday gang, hope you’re ready for this week’s Panning For Gold – Finding The Prospect Hidden Gems - our weekly glance at some of those lesser-known prospects that are beginning to generate the type of buzz that starts their climb up organizational ranking lists, which will in turn lead to more discussion about them in more well-known circles. Think of these guys as players you may not necessarily have at the top of your lists in shallow keeper leagues, but names you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on as you begin to participate in deeper leagues – the types of player you can wind up scooping before your mates, in your quest to become another fantasy baseball “guru”…respected and adored whenever draft time rolls around (not to mention mumbled about under your opponents’ breath) for years to come.

This week we’re going to shine the light on Kyle Wren, an OF for the Atlanta Braves (Okay, insert your homer comment here!!!) [Jay’s Note: Will do. Homer.].

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The trade deadline passed in standard leagues. It’s just over. I feel like I’ve had an awesome couple of months talking to and hanging out with a girl, only to hang out with her, have an amazing night, and then find one unbelievably annoying thing about her and call everything off. It had to happen, but it still hurts. “Just try this. No, it’s not gross… it’s good. Of course the chef cooked it fine. No, it’s not going to kill you. Well how the hell do you know you don’t like if you’ve never tried it? People eat it all the time and they’re fine. Just go away. No, you’re stupid. Yes, you are stupid. No I’m not stupid, you are stupid.” Then you curse at her, she indignantly bails, and you’re left sitting there with what seems to be your pinky up your anus, a full check to pay, and some food that does actually look pretty bad. Hopefully you made your moves when you had your chance — that is, hopefully you listened to sha boi and are reaping the dividends. If not, there’s still hope, although I hate you a little. Not all keepers are acquired at the trade deadline or during a draft, but that’s obvious. At this point, we need to look at some small/disappointing/untrusted names that could pop from now until game-162, and who could see their stock skyrocket before the end of the season — we need to look at the guys we should pick up now so we can have them next year at value. Get it? Yes, you do. Know that old adage, “you’re only as good as your last game?” Well, it’s really stupid, but applies here. The ends of seasons have huge impacts on perceived value.

Quick note: so I appeal to more people, and so you’re not looking at me (my writing) and saying “HAY, I KAYNT HAFF HEEM. HE’S AWLRADDY TAYKEN,” I’ll limit it to guys who are owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues.

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We had a photo-shoot today at the mag. One of the models — that is, one of the people who were getting their photo taken because they were being featured in our next issue — was a blonde 26-year-old female. Another one of the models was a 28-year-old brunette. Neither was ugly. “Dude, that blonde is so incredibly hot,” one of my office friends said to me as we creeped covetously from a dark corner. “No, sir, she’s not. The brunette, on the other hand…” “You’re an idiot.” “LOL, why? It’s kind of subjective, don’t you think?” “Not really, the blonde has boobs, a nice bod (he did say bod), a cute face — she’s the definition of hot.” Eventually, after some high-horsing from me on the subjectivity of beauty, we agreed to poll the rest of the guys in the office, and whichever guy’s girl got more votes, he’d get $20 (I work in a weird place). This, friends, is where my metaphor goes off track, and where I start comparing guys like Everth Cabrera to beautiful women.

The beauty of keepers is mixing standard fantasy analysis and our perception of how we think baseball players will be perceived by fantasy players. It’s not just, “this guy mashes I want to pick him,” it’s “this guy mashes, how much will my enemies be willing to pay for his mashing?” I agreed on our “girl bet” because I thought that most of the guys in the office would perceive the brunette as prettier — I applied a value to her because of what I thought others would think about her. Unfortunately I screwed up, but fortunately (or maybe not) I study fantasy baseball a lot more than I do girls, so let’s just delve into keepers before I stare at the $20 void in my impecunious wallet and wallow in my geeky lameness. That is, it’s fantasy keepers time.

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I had a dream last night that I was fifteen and Derek Jeter was caught with steroids and suffered the same consequences as Ryan Braun and those who will be suspended from their Biogenesis connections. Smart, interesting people dream about other worlds, space, love, mustaches, breasts, and loads and loads of money — I, on the other hand, seem to be stuck thinking back on my adolescence and how neurotic, nervous, and unconfident it eventually made me. I grew up in New York as a Yankee fan — 2001 ALCS game 7 is my fondest moment that doesn’t involve sex, alcohol, or gambling — and if Cap Jeets was indeed ever connected to PEDs, HGH, IGF, ATD, or any other incriminating acronym, my entire perception of good and evil would be forever skewed. All the Luke Skywalkers, Frodo Bagginses, and Disney Worlds on Earth would be incapable of convincing me genuine goodness exists. I’d probably become homicidal. I’m not even really sure if I can say I’m kidding. All underdog stories would be a joke, right? Did Luke really use his targeting computer? Did Frodo actually just fly one of those giant eagles all the way to Mordor?! (and why didn’t he just do that?) Did Rudy take steroids?! The possible deceptions are endless! My faith wouldn’t keep. I’d be an empty soul. I’d be… Ryan Braun, the soulless rat who could grow back into a prince if we play our keeper cards right.

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Monday was probably the most welcome reprieve from fantasy baseball I’ve had in years. After a first half crapped upon and spoiled by my rosters’ inclusions of Jason Heyward, Jose Reyes, Yovani Gallardo (I sympathize, almost every commenter we have), and Andre Ethier, I was saved the Gom jabbar-caliber torture of merely looking at my roster—not setting it, not thinking about it, not watching my team suck giant Andy Dirks, but simply just seeing who’s on my roster. This week, I actually enjoyed a Monday night. I went out with friends, got a few cocktails, had some sushi, chitchatted about things that “actually matter” (FANTASY SPORTS MATTER, MOM! NO I’M NOT HUNGRY), and lived a social life untethered by the emotional and intellectual restraints of staring at stats and hoping for the best. But, despite my melodrama—similar to the past few sentences I just wrote—I’m right in contention in every league. So, pretty reader (hey ;)), let’s take a gander at some guys you might/won’t want for the rest of 2013 and for 2014, 2015, etc. IT’S FANTASY TIME AGAIN YAYYYYYY.

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