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…
How many players can be kept?
This is one of the most important factors. The number of players kept can be as few as one or as many as your entire roster. That’s kind of a wide range and it’s what makes ranking and discussing keepers a little tricky. I describe leagues that protect anywhere from 1-12 players as a “keeper” and leagues that protect the majority of their roster as a “dynasty”. Simply put, the fewer players I’m able to protect, the more proven production I’ll want from them. Give me 10 or more players to dance with, and I’m going to be more willing to gamble with my selections.
How long can you keep a player?
It doesn’t do us much good to invest in a lot of prospects and 22-year-old major leaguers not named Mike Trout if we are going to have to throw them back in two years. A lot of leagues let you keep a player for anywhere from three to five years, but there are some that allow you to keep a player for as long as you’d like. The longer the term, the more valuable those really young players can be. Five years gets most players into their primes, but it’s always a bummer to have to throw somebody back just when they start to turn it on at 26 or 27 years old. On the flip side, it’s a pretty miserable feeling to realize you’ve got three years left on a contract for a player that is clearly well past his prime.
What is the cost of keeping a player?
Most of the leagues I’ve come across have some sort of cost attached to protecting players. This is where things get really interesting because now we can start to really look at value. Whether it’s a draft pick or some sort of salary inflation, a “better” player might not necessarily be a better keeper when you consider his cost. For example, even after a terrible season riddled with injury, a $1 Wil Myers that you can keep for 5 years with $5 inflation per year could still be a better keeper than a $35 Matt Holliday at the same inflation rate. Value is where it’s at in redrafts, and that’s even more true in keeper formats.
Is there a farm or N/A system for stashing minor leaguers?
If you only keep a couple players or you have to throw players back quickly, prospects might not be worth much to you. But if your league provides some sort of farm or minor league system where prospects can be stashed without penalty, it adds another dimension. Prospects are fun to dream on, but they are rarely a safe bet. Take a look back through the last ten years of top 100 prospect lists when you’ve got nothing to do one day this offseason. Still, prospects are usually cheap to protect in keeper formats and if you hit on one it’s a lot like hitting the lottery. When rebuilding, they can be good pieces to target. When contending, they make fabulous currency. Which brings us to our last item…
Is your team a contender or are you in a full or partial rebuild?
Rebuild doesn’t necessarily mean you have to nuke your whole team. Sometimes a partial rebuild can be just as effective, where you keep a “core” of young players together but make moves around them to prepare for contention down the road. The one thing that is crucial is that you know your team’s real standing. Many times, loading up on prospects in rebuilds that don’t quite pan out while selling off major league talent just puts a team in purgatory. They get stuck in between. Plans are huge in keeper formats. If contending, don’t be squeamish about selling off prospects. If rebuilding, be ready to weather a season or two of growing pains.
At any rate, there’s a lot to discuss when it comes to keeper formats but we’ve got all offseason to do it. I’m sure there are more league setting variations than we can shake a stick at, so make sure you have a good understanding of your league before taking anybody’s keeper rankings as gospel.