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.

 
  1. JPoo says:
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    If you had the option to keep 12 without cost and for an unlimited time period, which six would you nix? Arismendy, Xander, Mookie, Cespedes, Puig, Soler, Wong, Dickerson, Pederson, Goldschmidt, CarGonz, JoFer, Kluber, Stroman, Scherzer, McHugh, Keuchel, Latos.

    Especially concerned about the young second base options…

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      hmmm….I would go with Goldy…Xander, Betts, and Wong…Puig, Cespedes, Soler, Cargo, and Dickerson… Kluber, J-Fer, and Stroman

      I could see keeping Pederson over CarGo with all of his injury problems. Other than that, I think you cut the extra pitching and roll with the offense

      • JPoo says:
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        @Mike: Thanks so much, Mike! Now… what if you were an idiot like me and forgot that we keep 10 instead of 12? OY! Which two of those you mentioned would you cut? Sincerest apologies!

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          haha…no worries

          Cargo would get the axe…then I’d choose between Stroman and Dickerson for the final spot. Leaning Dickerson (hitter over pitcher IMO) but you may prefer arms

  2. Eddie the Mush says:
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    I’m in a keeper/contract league. My current contracts coming with me to next season are [email protected] $29, Posey @ $25, [email protected] $23, and [email protected] $5. I have 4 wild cards to bring with me (gained extras through trades) and have the following players and their current prices to consider…each player goes up $5 once kept.
    Options (in order of current thoughts)
    Tulo $24
    Harper $5
    Strasburg $16
    Frazier $5
    Dee Gordon $1
    Arrieta $0

    Which four would you choose? Thanks.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Frazier, Harper, Tulo, Strasburg

      Great values in Arrieta and Gordon though. I see trades in your future…

  3. Curt says:
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    I have a choice between Tanner Roark or Garret Richards, if Richards is healthy, which one would you keep?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Richards

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      anytime…

      My gut says Tanaka if he’s healthy. Alky if there is any doubt that he is not…

  4. Matt says:
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    I need some trade advice for a keeper league (HTH points) that way overvalues SP and HR. There is a penalty for Ks. Here are two trades on the table. Any opinions would be appreciated! I’ll also post on the (later this morning) post.

    #1
    Give J. Zimmerman, R. Soriano, Brittain
    Get C. Davis, Salazar, and either Putnam or Reddick

    #2
    Give A. Jones, R. Zimm, Rondon or Simon
    Get Wacha, Shields, C. Carter

    I’m leaning towards yes on both-my OF will already have stanton, marte, k. davis in 5 OF slots with Carter coming aboard. I’d love some help!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Both C Davis and Carter hurt with the Ks obviously so I’m guessing you know that going in…

      I think in both deals you are giving up the best players in J Zimmermann and A Jones. They are fair trades, but I’d actually hold…

      I like that you’re using closers as chips though. That’s a great idea. Nice outfield too!

  5. Frank White says:
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    Sup Mike… If the A’s lose and Seattle wins then they would be tied for wild card. Who gets the spot and why??

    • Tigres says:
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      One game playoff, no? But I’ve got Sonny going today, so hoping A’s will pull thru.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      yeah, there are a bunch of game 163 scenarios for Monday…

  6. Tigres says:
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    Mike, great that you’ll be doing this! I was worried I’d have to pay attention to football… I will save the keep X vs Y qs for now and spread them out over the off season.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      awesome…I’m glad it will be helpful

  7. Lville Jim says:
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    13 team all keeper no cash values league. We have 5 n/a spots. Currently holding Gallo, Correa, Sims, and K. Stewart. Although Sims pitched better later in the season he overall regressed and Stewart dealt with a shoulder issue are they still projectable as front end starters or should I look for a possible upgrade in next seasons draft. I will have either the 7th or 8th pick next year.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Tough to project front end starters, and both are still a ways away. The shoulder thing didn’t look serious for Stewart though.

      If there was a nice hitting prospect I liked at that 7-8 slot, I might be willing to throw back one of the two arms (prefer to keep Stewart)

      • Lville Jim says:
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        @Mike: Thanks, was also leaning towards sending Sims packing if the right player showed up at my pick. As you said earlier, for the most part it’s nothing but a crap shoot.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          anytime Jim

  8. Jay says:
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    Mike – so glad were getting a regular keeper thread now. Thanks.

    All my leagues are keepers so I’m right there with ya.

    I traded away most of early round picks to go for the title this year and it comes down to today to see how that works out.

    So I don’t pick until the 11th rd. first 5 rds are keepers. I have to choose from freeman arenado puig j upton Stanton sale and Scherzer.
    I’d like to hold onto a pitcher due to my pick situation so I don’t totally miss out on an elite option. I know pitching is deep but still.
    Now my league allows offseason trading as well. My initial thought was being as I have three top OF I could keep freeman arenado Stanton sale and one iof puig or upton. I would try to trade one in the offseason.

    That was prior to the last two weeks of the season. I’m now thinking of holding all OF and moving freeman.
    I don’t like filling my OF as quickly as that would but its hard to throw one back. I know I could get a decent return for one too. But freeman was not that impressive this year.
    10 tm 5 keeps H2H

    WWMD?

    • Jay says:
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      @Jay: no keeper cost or restriction.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Thanks Jay…

      Stanton, Arenado, Upton, Puig, and Sale would be my five.

      Should be able to get back picks by shopping Freeman and Scherzer in the offseason.

  9. Peter says:
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    15 team, 5×5 mixed. Auction ($260). Options: J. Abreu ($27), T. Frazier ($9). M. Melancon ($1), N. Feliz ($1), AJ Pollack ($2), A. Garcia ($4), P. Hughes ($1), C. Owings ($1). I can keep 3, & for only next year. Which 3 do I keep?

    Thanks

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Abreu, Frazier, and Garcia/Pollock. Since it is for next year only I might lean Pollock…

  10. gg says:
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    Hey Mike, glad to see that you’re doing a keeper thread. Thanks for the tips as always.

    In a 10 team H2H – $200 budget w/ steep luxury tax on faab (4 USD to 1 fantasy) if over cap…

    Can keep 10 (salaries increase 10% per year). Salaries below are for next season. Here’s who I would probably keep.

    1b – Goldschmidt – $29
    2b – Dozier – $4
    3b – Frazier – $3
    SS – Baez – $13
    OF – Stanton – $35
    OF – Rusney – $18
    OF – Brantley – $3
    OF – Soler – $3
    DH – Chris Davis – $6
    SP – Ross – $3

    keeping the 10 above would cost 117/200 and I’d only need to pickup a cheap catcher, 4SP and 3 RP, + bench.

    I also have:
    Votto – $3
    Gardner – $3
    Avisail – $3
    Myers – $3
    Pedroia – $6
    Rios – $4

    Am kind of on the bubble w/ Baez but not thinking I’ll do much better in the draft, the best options will be kept, and the scarcity of the position will drive up prices.

    Also not 100% on Rusney at $18, but after the way he’s shown last week he’s too hot to put down, I think.

    as for arms, also have
    Homer – $3
    Wood – $3
    Smyly – $3

    …but having a hard enough time keeping Ross over some of those bats, so couldn’t imagine keeping another upside arm. Maybe Wood.

    Would you hold the 10 I’ve mentioned above or would you swap in/out any of the others?

    Thanks!!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Thanks GG (nice avatar by the way)

      Those keepers look good, and I agree about Baez. The luxury tax is an interesting quirk.
      Ross at $3 makes the most sense to keep of the arms.

      My only thought would be to consider keeping the $3 Myers over the $18 Castillo. Not sure how aggressive your league is, but that price tag doesn’t feel like as good a value as Myers, and the $15 you save could give you more draft options at pitcher. Can’t go wrong with either player, though.

  11. Wilson says:
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    Hi Mike, about keeper, 3 keepers / forever keeper / no extra cost

    Keeper candidates ?Kershaw , Abreu , Stanton , Rizzo , J Upton , Donaldson
    Pick 3 , thanks,

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Stanton, Kershaw, Abreu

      I wouldn’t argue with Rizzo over Abreu though since he’s a couple years younger and it’s keep forever…

      • Wilson says:
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        @Mike: Yup … It’s hard to choose between Abreu and Rizzo … And it seems Rizzo has much down side so Abreu could be a safer option…

        • Montezuma's Revenge... right now says:
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          @Wilson: i would think abreu is the one with downside, more than rizzo. abreu is the one who had the bad 2nd half, and never had to play against good pitching until this year.

  12. studPL says:
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    Hi,

    How do you rank those pitchers for next season?
    McHugh, Ryu, Cashner.

    Thank You

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Cashner, Ryu, McHugh

  13. Bill says:
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    In a 5 player keeper league (10 teams) where there is no cost, penalty or limit on your keepers. I typically don’t keep pitchers, but think I may need to keep two this year. Who are my best 5 to keep?
    Strasburg
    Kluber
    Trout
    Harper
    Betts
    Longoria
    Baez
    Hosmer
    Heyward
    Wong
    Bogaerts
    Machado
    Gordon

    I’m leaning toward the first 5 listed. Betts will have 2B and OF eligibility in my league. Tough to throw Longoria back though. Through trades I will have picks 9,10, 12, and 15.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Trout, Harper, Machado, Bogaerts, Kluber would be my five with no limits.

      That’s a nice team Bill.

      • Mike

        Mike says:
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        Actually, I’d take Strasburg over Kluber since he’s got two years on him. Tough to choose between those two arms!

  14. Cafuné

    Maxi says:
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    12 team, H2H, daily league, SLG and OBP, no AVG with 5 keepers. I’m about to lose the fantasy championship by a category unless Sonny Gray throws a CG 10K gem.

    I believe this upcoming season will be our last year with these keepers, and our last year doing a snake draft before moving to an auction draft (PUMPED!). Most of our managers live out of the country, so that’s been the hardest part about getting a live auction.

    For my keepers, it’s a bunch of OFs, and we only start 3OF + 2 UTIL:

    Abreu (4) – people said I drafted him too high this year, but I ain’t complaining
    Lucroy (7)
    Céspedes (8)
    Avisail (19)
    Corey Dickerson (25)
    Wong (25)
    Soler (25)

    I’m generally against keeping pitchers, especially with so few keepers but I got some worth thinking about:

    Strasburg (7)
    Gray (20)
    deGrom (25)

    obviously these decisions will be made easier come spring training, just would like some preliminary input. Thanks and have a nice offseason!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Thanks Maxi and good luck today! I’m guessing the number in parentheses is the round kept…

      since you only have 1 year left with these guys you kind of have to go for it and not worry about the real young guys…

      Abreu, Cespedes, Dickerson, Wong and Strasburg seems like a good five to work with. You’ve got extra pieces to play with so I’d definitely explre some trades too

      • Cafuné

        Maxi says:
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        @Mike: yeah, those are the rounds they will be kept in. do you like wong over avisail? I’m stuck between the two of them…gonna look into trades this offseason for sure

        also, Jose Abreu’s not playing today, was hoping for some Sunday magic.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          Bummer about Abreu…

          I like Avisail a lot as well and wouldn’t argue if you wanted to keep him over Wong. I was looking at position with everything else being equal…

          • Cafuné

            Maxi says:
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            @Mike: sonny gave me that CG!!! but I still lost on Ks by 4 and HRs by 1

            placed 2nd in two leagues and I’m looking forward to joining an RCL next year

            now it’s time to enjoy some playoff baseball and pray that lester takes down “big game” james…any idea why he’s called that? can’t be that important…

            • Mike

              Mike says:
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              nice job! RCLs are awesome

  15. Brown L says:
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    Hey Mike, thanks for all the great content this season!

    I’m at the end of a big flameout year in my keeper league (keep 7, no time limit of penalty) and I grabbed a bunch of young players at the end of the year. Any ideas as to who’s worth keeping?

    No brainer keepers (4): Adam Jones, Corey Kluber, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista

    Injured former studs: Carlos Gonzalez, Prince Fielder

    The pile: Alex Cobb, George Springer, Avisail Garcia, Javier Baez, Danny Santana, Kenny Vargas, Wil Myers, Kolten Wong, Jake Arrieta

    Any thoughts? Thanks again!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      no problem, Brown…thanks for reading!

      you’ve definitely got some good players to choose from…

      I’d go with Springer and Myers in the outfield, then Baez up the middle. You can package some of those young pieces together to get some more studs

  16. Peter Nincompoop says:
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    Long time no comment, but I’m slowly starting to reemerge from the terrible season that was 2014. Riddled by injuries and in last place for 2/3 of the season, I started selling off my healthy veterans to contending teams in a complete rebuild for the future. Ended up with the best record over the last six weeks and winning the consolation bracket, and the #1 pick in next years draft. Anythehoo, I’m in a 10-team, H2H, 6×6 scoring league where you get to keep 6 players with the competitive balance restriction that you MUST keep at least two hitters and two pitchers.

    Although I don’t like keeping three OF’s, right now I have three no-brainer keepers of Stanton, McCutchen and Harper. I have one more hitting keeper position to fill and having a difficult time deciding between Machado and Arenado. Decisions don’t need to be made till January, so I can always wait and see how Machado’s knee injury plays out, but there’s interest in both and I’d like to move one instead of just losing him to the draft pool. Which direction would you go?

    On the pitching side of the equation, I have Chris Sale as one of my pitching keepers and then the fight for the other spot is extremely difficult. I could always package Machado/Arenado and a pick(s) and try to get a top-flight arm like Strasburg or Felix (already been approached on that type of a deal), but as it stands right now here are the five guys I need to select one from: Wacha, Wood, Latos, Gonzalez and Miller. Leaning towards the combo of Sale & Wacha, but interested to here your advice.

    Thanks for what you do, in addition to starting up a keeper-league thread for all of us with nothing to do anymore with the fantasy baseball season over.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Thanks Peter…I had a similar tough decision between those two guys and I went with Arenado since his price was a little cheaper and the Coors factor. I think it’s really a coin flip between the two, with Manny being a little younger. I’d say see which one of the two brings back more in a trade and just keep the other. Love both players…

      I’d go after a top arm like Stras or Felix with your extra pieces if that’s on the table…

      The other arms are solid but I’d rather have another ace

      • Peter Nincompoop says:
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        @Mike: Thanks Mike. Appreciate your feedback as always.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          anytime

          • Montezuma's Revenge... right now says:
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            @Mike: you forgot to include the very real worry about machado’s injuries, i would think that alone would move arenado over him.

            • Mike

              Mike says:
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              that’s a concern for sure. He’s young enough to bounce back, but it could be the difference

  17. BSW says:
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    Do one game playoffs count in espn leagues? I feel like they used to but don’t anymore.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      I think they do. I remember stocking up on players one year for the game 163…not sure if they’ve changed it since then. Guessing they would throw up one of those banners on the league home pages…

  18. manormachine? says:
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    Dynasty league questions:

    Here are the players I’m on the fence about cutting ($260 budget)

    Wily Peralta $3
    CJ Wilson $9

    Cut one of:

    Josh Hamilton, Khris Davis, Marcel Ozuna (all $1)

    Kolten Wong $3 or Neil Walker $1

    Also, I can keep Hunter Pence for one more year at $2 or extend him for two years at +10 or three more years at +15.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Prefer Peralta to Wilson at that price in a dynasty

      I’d cut Hamilton and Walker of those two groups

      Pence for one year at $2 seems like the best play unless you would have the option to still cut him if you went with the +10 contract

  19. SwaggerJackers says:
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    Keeper leagues are awesome. Here are some players I’d like to see featured on during the offseason:

    Baez
    Dickerson
    Rusney
    Myers
    Polanco
    Betts
    Wong
    Duda
    JD Mart
    Arrieta
    Pineda
    Stroman

    Here is my obligatory keeper question:

    OBP instead of AVG, QS instead of W

    Keepers increase in price by $3 each year. Please pick 5:

    Rizzo ($23)
    Altuve ($21)
    Abreu ($14)
    Carlos Gomez ($14)
    Bautista ($13)
    C-Dick ($4)
    Arrieta ($4)
    Stroman ($4)
    Mesoraco ($4)

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      nice…interesting names there

      I’d go with Rizzo, Abreu, Altuve, Gomez, and Bautista

      • SwaggerJackers says:
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        @Mike: Interesting. I’m a little surprised you’re in favor of the two guys over $20. They’ve both solid but don’t represent a ton of value.

        Then again, I could be undervaluing them.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          I don’t think you’re undervaluing them, I just prefer to go with the five best players with only five keepers…and their prices aren’t crazy assuming its a a standard 260 budget, so I didn’t even blink at their prices…

  20. Kerry Klug

    Kerry K says:
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    I’m looking to keep 3 of these 4. Which 3 would you keep in their round?

    Abreu (10th round)
    B. Hamilton (13th round)
    Puig (15th round)
    R. Castillo (20th round)

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Abreu, Puig, Hamilton

      • Kerry Klug

        Kerry K says:
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        @Mike: Thanks for your advice! What if I could trade B. Hamilton for a 6th round pick from someone else? Would Castillo be worth it?

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          anytime…no knock on Castillo, but I’d still want Hamilton

  21. Logan says:
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    Keep 10… No restrictions
    My 10: x. Bogaerts, Machado, votto , segura, w. Myers, g. Polanco, Braun , cespedes, hosmer, carlos correa…. Other options: pujols, josh Hamilton, Matt Adams, joe Mauer, Brandon belt, d . Jennings, z. Greinke, s. Gray, m . Wacha, tanaka, j. Shields

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      I think you’ve got the right ten.

      Might consider an arm like Gray or Tanaka over one of the older pieces like Votto/Braun, or at the very least consider packaging them in trade to upgrade. They aren’t bad players, just on the wrong side of 30 now…something to consider

  22. manormachine? says:
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    Couple of questions about my dynasty league:

    Keep Wily Peralta at $3? Or is he not a top 100 pitcher?

    Keep Hunter Pence for one more year at $2 or extend him for 2 more years at $12 or three more years at $17?

    Which player to cut? Josh Hamilton, Ozuna, or Khris Davis?

    Neil Walker for $1 or Kolten Wong for $3

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      hmmm…I think I got you above in the previous comment…

      Peralta, Pence for one more year, cut Hamilton, I’d keep Wong in dynasty but it’s a coin flip

  23. manormachine? says:
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    Sorry my computer froze and I didn’t think my comment went through. If I cut an extended player early, then I’m still on the hook for half his salary, so maybe no extension for Pence.

    Thanks for the input, don’t have to make these decisions for months, but what else am I going to think about all winter?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      yup no worries…

      Makes sense on Pence…

      ha! exactly

      • manormachine? says:
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        @Mike:

        Is it Pence’s age? He’s not flashy but I always think of him as a mini Goldschmidt: someone who plays every day, is consistently good, and who will always find a way to fill the stat line even when he has an off day.