If you lurk in the comments section of any fantasy baseball blog, you’ll see a plethora of “who should I keep” type questions. Keeper leagues – no matter how many players you can protect – are eventually going to require you to choose between players on the fringe of your roster. Who you decide to keep and who you decide to set free is important, especially when your team is competing. You can always trade your fringe guys for draft picks or something like that, but then you’re still choosing between who to put on your block and who to keep for yourself. I used to agonize over these decisions. But after a while I started to see some patterns in the good choices versus the bad ones, and now it’s not such a big deal. I also started taking a lot of downers at that time, but I’m sure the two events are in no way related. If you want to ignore this and do your zag thing, go ahead. I’m just going to try to explain how I personally decide on keepers when there’s a “tie” on my list and only one seat at the table.
- Upside trumps everything
Upside – the positive or favorable aspect of something. Upside – the potential amount by which a market or stock could rise. Upside – that tingly feeling you get deep in your nether regions when you see a player. Mr. Durst did it all for the nookie. We do it all for the upside. This would be a good time to tell you that I try not to select my keepers based on an assumed need or position scarcity but rather just keep who I feel are my best players.
- Hitters trump pitchers
There’s some debate over this, but I still plant my flag firmly on the side of hitters. It’s been my experience in just about every format that the gap between the arms on rosters and the arms on waivers isn’t as large as the same gap between rostered hitters and free agent hitters. In other words, I place my premium on hitting because I feel it’s harder to find. Personally I also think it’s more reliable. So in the case of keepers, when I’m looking at two players of basically equal “value” I lean towards the bat.
- Power trumps speed
Both power and speed help your fantasy team, which is why we covet the guys who can do both. But if I had to choose between a power bat with flaws and a speedster with flaws I’d take the power. Every homer ticks four of the five standard fantasy cats (so that’s good) but more importantly, power seems to peak a little later and last a little longer. The speed guys are a fun ride, but that ride can end abruptly.
- Youth trumps…not youth?
This should be fairly obvious. If you’re looking at players for their long term value, it makes sense to go younger. The trap some fantasy owners fall into is going too young or completely ignoring veterans, but for the most part when I’m trying to decide between two similar players I take the one entering his prime instead of exiting it.
- Starters trump relievers
I say this a lot in the minor league previews, but relievers make terrible long term investments. In any format where I have to look beyond the current year, I’m basically viewing relievers as a luxury my team will invest in when its competitive window is wide open. Otherwise, starters seem to hold their value longer. It’s why scouting reports for pitchers say “bullpen risk” instead of “bullpen upside”.
- MLB* trumps MiLB
I put the little asterisk after MLB because sometimes I look at prospects who are really close to the majors as basically MLB players. A.J. Reed and Corey Seager are examples of these types this year. But otherwise, all else being equal, I’ll go with the player who’s already in the majors over the one who could get jammed in AAA, or heaven forbid AAAA. Prospects are a lot of fun and they’re obviously my bread and butter here on the site, but man it doesn’t change the fact that a majority of them still fail.
- A+/AA/AAA trumps Rk/A(ss)/A
This one’s pretty straightforward. I don’t trust the lower level performances as much as the upper level ones. Bad defenders and extreme parks can kill pitchers. Straight pitches and those same parks can inflate hitters. Shorter seasons make sample sizes smaller. Higher levels means better competition, more plate appearances/experience, and therefore a more reliable stat line.
- Tools trump stats
Sometimes players are really young for their level. Sometimes their power or control – tools that can develop late – haven’t kicked in yet. Sometimes they have a nagging injury, or a personal problem, or got traded, or…well you get the idea. The stats provide a snapshot of a player’s year and are valuable. But a scouting report can talk to us about what a player’s tools look like now and what they can become. It’s that “can become” part that we’re the most interested in.
- Strikeouts trump control
Control is really important, but it’s not the first thing pitching prospects tend to develop. I’d rather take the guy with the better chance for strikeouts, which is usually a fantasy cat, and run the risk he never polishes things up. The alternative is a player who helps my WHIP and stays out of trouble with a very vanilla K/9, and that’s just meh to me in most fantasy leagues.
- Arsenal trumps velocity
If pitcher A can throw heat but that’s his only pitch and pitcher B throws 3 MPH less but has another plus pitch, I’m going with the more developed arsenal. Diverse arsenals can lead to better starting chances, which in turn leads to more fantasy value. Velo is sexy, but you need more than one pitch to get it going.
There you have it. Just remember UHPYSMATSA…it’s that easy!