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…
1. Thou shalt not keep pitchers over hitters
Certainly an ace arm is a wonderful thing to have. With all else being equal, I’ll still protect the hitter over the pitcher. Pitching is deep, especially when you consider most of us are playing in 10-12 team leagues. There are a handful of elite options that I would protect, but for the most part I tend to treat a limited group of keepers the way I’d treat the early rounds of a redraft, and that rarely includes arms.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee graven images of keeper rankings
This was mentioned in last week’s post, but it’s important to reiterate that keeper rankings can be really difficult to interpret. There are too many variations on costs and contract lengths – let alone sizes, scoring, and roster makeups – to make it worth sweating any one preseason keeper ranking. Take them all with a grain of salt and cringe at the arguments they create – as if any of us can see that far ahead into the future.
3. Thou shalt not be guided by price and age alone
A cheap price doesn’t automatically mean a good value. There are only so many players worth $30 or more based on their performances. It’s usually worth it to pay them for those stats. I’m just as likely to keep a player with a bigger price tag as I am a $1 “bargain”. The same holds true for age. A player who is 22 years old isn’t necessarily the default better keeper than a player who is 31. If I’m going for rings, my roster won’t cut it with only $1 players or rookies. Just like in real life, it’s all about balance.
4. Remember thy league settings, to keep them holy
There’s a big difference between keeping 3 players and keeping 12, keeping guys for two years or forever, or keeping one prospect versus keeping 40. Knowing all the the little ins and outs of your league settings is especially important in keepers that can have lots of little tweaks in contracts. Just look at last week’s comments. Tons of variations. One of the biggest mistakes I make is assuming a rule instead of taking the time to read or ask about it. And since we’ve got a morality thing going here with the commandment theme…you can’t find the loopholes if you don’t know the rules. [wink]
5. Honor thy veteran and thy bounce back
Don’t ignore the vets and players coming off of down years. Just because they are older or had some issues doesn’t always make them unworthy of a keeper slot. They sometimes end up being the best bargains the following season.
6. Thou shalt not kill thy prospects too early
Julio Teheran is a decent example here. He was a top prospect, struggled, fell a bit, then swung the other way and became a good value. The moral of the story is young players are supposed to struggle. It’s totally normal. Give the some them time to cook – or at least 600 plate appearances – before giving up. There’s nothing worse than owning a guy through the rough patches only to see him turn it on for another squad after you cut the cord too soon.
7. Thou shalt not commit to catchers or closers
Two-catcher leagues are different animals, but for the most part I don’t keep catchers. Wilin Rosario looked like a nice keeper heading into 2014…young, homers, Coors, boom. Then they actually played the season and cue fart noise. Catchers take a lot of wear and tear, there always seems to be a bunch with similar stats, and they aren’t reliable to play everyday. I will say that players like Buster Posey and Carlos Santana can carry more value because they can be slotted at other positions for their real teams. This gives them a few extra at bats and a little less wear and tear. That said, it only works for fantasy if you’re slotting them in your catcher slot. Playing Posey at first base kind of defeats the purpose. Closers, well, I can’t project closers in redrafts so trying to project them in keepers is almost impossible. I tend to just look for cheap and talented relievers in drafts and hope they end up in high leverage situations. I like using closers as trade chips and almost never keep them.
8. Thou shalt not expect steals to last forever
Speed doesn’t slump, but it sure does evaporate quickly. That’s not a huge issue in redrafts, but keeper league owners need to be mindful when their speedsters are getting long in the tooth.
9. Thou shalt not put position scarcity above talent
Player X is just kind of meh, but he plays (insert “scarce” position). I want to assemble the best team of keepers possible, and that means looking at what stats they’ll put up and how big of a value they are. Rarely does it come down to the position they play unless I need balance. For example, I don’t like to go into a season keeping a full outfield, but needing to fill all three corner slots…or vice versa.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s keepers (or manservants)
It’s easy to get trigger happy in the offseason when there is no baseball going on. We’re anxious to get things started. One of the things I love the most about keeper leagues is the active offseason, but self-control is a must. It’s not that I won’t make an offseason trade, it’s just that a lot changes between December and April in real baseball.