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.
Starlin Castro (35th overall, $25 to start 2013; 90th, $12 next year)
There’s a school of thought in baseball that coaches shouldn’t try to change players into whom they want them to be, but to construct a team based on players’ abilities. That is, solving that puzzle so that each player, doing his own thing the best he can, will be doing it in the right spot for the team to succeed. This is kind of where the new strikeout-who-cares philosophy has come from. “A player is who he is, and if he’s good at one thing, don’t change him to try and get better at something else.”
There’s a logical point there.
Unfortunately, Castro’s not really that good at any one good thing. For his strikeout rate, he doesn’t have enough power, and for his speed, he doesn’t get on base enough. Except for a freakishly low .290 BAbip, Castro’s not really doing anything different than he’s always done… except for striking out more, which is obviously an alarming transgression. He’s actually overmatched more now than he was when he came up as a 20-year-old. He’s declining at the exact time he’s supposed to be improving.
Earlier this year I thought he’d turn it around by year’s end, and he has a little — he’s hit in 11 of his past 12 games — but regardless of how he ends this season, Castro’s draft position will sink way below where it floated in the beginning of 2013. You won’t get value, and at this rate won’t be getting much production. There’s still hope — even if he’s not improving at 23, he’s still 23—but the decrease in ADP makes keeping him a waste.
Cabrera’s sure got some great numbers this year, but his K rate, HR/FB, and LD% are all declining. Better to abandon the ship one year earlier than one year late. LOL, jk.
Carl Crawford (138th, $8 this year; 78th, $14 in 2014)
You could make the argument that Crawford’s like Castro. His season totals will depress his ADP come Draft Day 2014, but Crawford will be right in the mix of what will be an awesome Dodgers outfield to start next year — Andre Ethier probably won’t be with the team, and if he is, he won’t be an everyday player. “Ethier’s unmovable! 6 years/$95.5 million!” you say? You’d have a point if Crawford wasn’t in the middle of 7 years/$142 million. Lol, the Red Sox. Oh right, they got bailed out. Yes, I Googled “sad gif”, and I picked that one.
The cumulative stats aren’t pretty, but Crawford — when he plays this season — is back to Tampa Bay Crawford. He’s got the highest contact rate he’s had since 2004 (83%), is back up to a 23% LD-rate, is only striking out 13.7% of the time compared to walking 7%, and is right on par with his 0.98 career GB/FB. His HR/FB is at an improvable 3.7%, and I think the power/speed/average/consistency combo that he was in Tampa returns for 2014. He’ll hit atop a great Dodgers lineup that’ll (maybe) have a healthy Matt Kemp, and should score plenty of runs and steal bases again. 33 isn’t young, but he should be even healthier next year. The peripherals are there and the hype will be there next year.
Yoenis Cespedes (50th, $20 in 2013; 100th, $11 in 2014)
An increased LD%, higher contact rate, the same HR/FB, same IF/FB, yet a BAbip at .266 and 80 points lower than last year’s, which naturally begs the question: Who’s the real Yoenis? Which naturally begs the answer: Somewhere in between. Unfortunately, somewhere in between is not what merits a top-20 outfielder.
The power is legit, but will he stay healthy? Does his health risk limit his homer cap around 25-30 homers? Will he run less because of the risk? Yeah, I think he will. He’s better than he’s been this year and he’s shown it, but paying a similar price next year to what you paid this year would be paying a huge surplus.
Ian Desmond (60th, $18 in 2013; 30th, $25 in 2014)
It took me a while to hop on, but I’m riding Desmond. You can take that how you will.
You can excuse an increased strikeout rate when a guy is hitting line-drives 25% of the time he puts a ball into play and produces 20/20 with a plus average. He’ll be the five-hitter in a lineup that’s a lot better than it’s been this season, and will have plenty of run-scoring and run-driving-in opportunities. He’s got the speed to retain the highest BAbip of his career — .341 (especially with that LD rate).
After a 5.9% and 4.% HR/FB in 2010 and 2011, respectively, Desmond’s rates have climbed to 13.8% and 10.8% in 2012 and 2013. You’d expect those rates to drop a bit to around 8%, but an 8% HR/FB and plus-average from a shortstop is fantasy gold. He’s exceeding expectations despite a disappointing Nationals season that was devoid of Adam Laroche and a consistently healthy Bryce Harper, so the opportunities will only go up next year — the fantasy world will know that.
Terse spoke about leap-of-faith keepers last week for those who might not be in the position to keep guys like those listed above. You can find that column here. If you don’t know what this article’s title means, go here. Follow Terse on Twitter @TerseRazzball, because he’s a loser in real life and needs digital friends to make him feel better.