When it comes to ranking the top dynasty keepers, there is no one magic formula. Do you look only at age? Do you care only about performance? The answer, of course, is it is a concoction of many factors. It’s a dash of gut instinct mixed in with past experience and a whole lot of what the eye sees. You know a good player when you see him.
When building a dynasty team, these are the rules I follow:
- 1. Young over old. Age is often a deciding factor on who to draft.
- 2. Draft the hitter over the pitcher.
- 3. Draft the starting pitcher ahead of the closer.
You want to build a team that wins for years to come. I’m always thinking five years down the road. Max Scherzer is great to have on your team this year, but what about next year and certainly in 2024?
But, what about…
Yes, there is always a caveat, or two.
- Caveat No. 1 – I also want to win now.
- Caveat No. 2 – I will take a more established pitcher over the newbie.
If a veteran hitter in his mid-30s veteran is on the board in round 5 or 6 and is clearly better than some of the younger players ranked close to him then I will take the veteran – just not too often. If a 26- to 28-year old pitcher is ranked close to a 22-year-old pitcher, give me the one in their mid-20s as I know their track record. But in general, in the first 10 to 12 rounds, I want as many young players as possible, and I want a hitter over a starting pitcher. Hitters are just more reliable.
Fun Fact: Since the introduction of the Rookie of the Year Award in 1947 and it splitting into one for each league in 1949, 111 hitters have been awarded the Rookie of the Year compared to 39 pitchers. In this century alone, 31 hitters have been named ROY to 13 pitchers. And who remembers Jeremy Hellickson, Andrew Bailey, or Jason Jennings anchoring anyone’s fantasy team?
So, just ignore starting pitchers?
To win your league, you still need pitchers, just don’t reach for them. Additionally, I fill out my starting staff ahead of my relievers, which can be found on the waiver wire all season as teams shuffle through the closer of the week. I have not completely ignored pitchers in my rankings. You will just see them ranked lower than what other people probably do. And out of my top keepers, you will see only one closer.
Over the next five weeks, I will be counting down the top 125 keepers. How I rank them will probably differ from how you rank them, and the number next to each player is just a guideline. However, before we get into the rankings below, I have skipped over any prospect who has not reached The Show yet.
So, this will be a list of prospects, right?
No. You won’t see Bobby Witt Jr. in these top dynasty keepers. You won’t see Spencer Torkelson, Noelvi Marte, or Julio Rodriguez either. If you need help with the top prospects, head on over to our 2022 Fantasy Baseball Prospects. These rankings will shine a spotlight only on the MLB players who should help you win this year and years to come.
Now, let’s talk keepers! (Age is as of April 1)
TIER 5: Players 125-101
|125-T||Michael Kopech | Casey Mize||SP,RP | SP||CHW | DET||25 | 24|
|124||Vidal Brujan||2B, OF||TBR||24|
|122||Lance McCullers Jr.||SP||HOU||28|
In the group above, I have two players who barely saw time in the majors last year, a veteran pitcher and two up-and-coming pitchers who I couldn’t decide who I like more, so I cheated and listed them both because, well, I can.
If Michael Kopech earns a spot in the White Sox rotation, he should be ranked higher. But if he winds up back in the bullpen, then he is ranked too high as I generally don’t view relievers as keepers. That leads to Casey Mize, the top pick in the 2018 draft out of Auburn. Mize didn’t dazzle in his first full year in the majors, but he showed why the Tigers took him with that top pick. In 150.1 innings of work, he allowed only 130 hits and had a 1.137 WHIP. A.J. Hinch learned how the Astros development team worked with young pitchers and has brought that approach to Detroit. Don’t be surprised to see Mize make a jump this season.
Vidal Brujan and Oneil Cruz saw limited action with the Rays and Pirates last year, but if these two players are still available in the 12th round of your dynasty draft, snag them. Brujan has excellent speed. In 502 career games in the minors, he has 195 steals, including 44 in 103 games at Triple-A Durham last season. He also has a great eye, striking out 265 times in 1,943 career minor league at-bats while walking 236 times.
Cruz is a physical specimen, standing 6-7 and weighing 220 pounds. While Brujan has the speed, Cruz has power. Between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Cruz slugged .594 with 17 homers in only 68 games. He then added a home run in nine at-bats with the Pirates. I may be ranking him too low, but with only nine Major League at-bats, I’m not comfortable putting him into the top 100. But he is certainly a player to watch, and Grey has a great writeup about Cruz in his 2022 Outlook.
I love Luis Garcia, and not because of the entire dance routine he does during his windup. After appearing in five games in 2020, Garcia started 28 games of the 30 games he appeared in last year for the Astros and posted a 3.48 ERA with a 1.178 WHIP and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) to finish second in the Rookie of the Year voting. He also had a 26.4 strikeout percentage (23.3% is the MLB average) with a 7.9% walk percentage (8.8% is the MLB average).
Blake Snell is why I have my love/hate relationship with starting pitchers. He has all the talent in the world, but you never know when he will flash it. After posting ERAs of 3.54 and 4.04 his first two years with Tampa Bay, he goes wild in 2018 by going 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA, 0.974 WHIP, and 11 SO9 to win the Cy Young at the age of 25.
You’d think he be an ace to anchor your staff for years, right? Nope. 2019 sees him post a 4.29 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. In 2020 he had a 3.24 ERA but followed that with a 4.20 ERA in San Diego last season. But his strikeout rate has been 11.0 or higher each of the last four years, so that is why I would still draft him.
I wasn’t on the Jake Cronenworth bandwagon after the 2020 season. Guess I was skeptical of a 26-year-old rookie. But Cronenworth walloped 21 homers last year, slugged .460 and had an .800 OPS. And he did this while playing three different infield spots (plus a game at third and one appearance on the mound)!
Tarik Skubal could be ranked where Casey Mize is and Mize moved here. But I like the Detroit lefty and his 10.0 K/9 career rate. He also was above MLB average in strikeout rate and below the walk rate last year. And again, I think the Tigers will be able to develop Skubal into a solid No. 2 pitcher, which helps any dynasty staff.
Dustin May underwent Tommy John surgery on May 11 of last season after leaving his May 1 start against Milwaukee. Up to that point, he had a 2.74 ERA with 35 strikeouts and only six walks in 23 innings of work. He began throwing in November and recovery from TJ surgery is no longer the scary process it used to be. In fact, it is almost expected for pitchers to have the surgery at some point in their career. It will probably be June, likely July before he takes the mound again for Los Angeles, and that is the biggest reason why he is ranked this low. If you don’t mind parking him on the IL for a while, then go ahead and take him higher in your draft.
Dansby Swanson is not going to help your team in batting average or on-base percentage, so if you value those highly, he’s not your man. But if you want solid power production from the shortstop position, then take Swanson as he enters his peak years. He slugged .449 last season (second to his career-high .464 in 2020) and posted career highs in homers (27) homers and RBI (88). Since his first full season in the majors in 2017, his home run percentage has increased each season.
Because of the wacky 2020 season, Ian Anderson has twice finished in the Top 10 in Rookie of the Year voting, finishing 7th in 2020 and 5th last season. In 128.1 innings pitched, Anderson allowed only 105 hits. He does walk too many hitters right now, issuing 3.7 walks per nine innings. And he has shown that he can pitch in high-pressure situations. In eight career postseason starts, he is 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 1.037 WHIP, allowing 20 hits and 17 walks in 35.2 innings of work with 40 strikeouts.
Thanks for reading and next week will the Tier 4 players, No. 100-76.
I don’t understand how you can list O’Neil Cruz and Vidal Brujan in these rankings but you don’t list a guy like Julio Rodriguez. Brujan has 26 MLB at-bats. Cruz has even less with just three MLB games and only 9 at-bats.
How can you recommend drafting Brujan and O’Neil for your dynasty team, yet ignore a player like Rodriguez, who is supposed to get the call quickly this year as in around May 1st.
If you’re going to actually build a dynasty team and draft like you are building one, then it makes no sense not to include the prospects, especially those like Rodriguez, Witt and Tork, and especially prospects on the cusp of breaking into the Bigs.
I think you need to reconsider how who this list is comprised of. I’ve been in a dynasty league for 14 years now and this list is “incomplete” at best.
First, thanks for reading.
Second, I explained above why you aren’t going to see a host of prospects in this list – because this isn’t a prospect list. We have prospects covered thoroughly on this site.
Cruz and Brujan saw action in the majors last season, so they are included – and ranked low due to not proving themselves. But that will be the extent of the prospects you will be seeing.
Third, there are all types of dynasty leagues out there. I run two in which we have two drafts every year – one for prospects and one for MLB players. For leagues like this, owners want two different lists – one of prospects, one of MLB players.
Other dynasty leagues just throw all players into one pot. But within that pot, some owners don’t give a hoot about prospects, some want nothing but prospects and others want a mix. Some dynasty leagues only allow players who have been in the majors to be drafted. Not many, but I know of a few.
How an owner gives weight to a prospect is up to him. But without ever seeing Bobby Witt, Jr., Noelvi Marte or Julio Rodriguez take a major league pitch, I’m not going to rate him over someone who has.
Have a great day and come back again next week.
I guess. You do you and I’ll do me. I’m drafting guys like Witt, Tork and J-Rod before I’d even consider Brujan, Cruz or the others. That’s part of the fun of dynasty leagues. But I do appreciate your response. I just completely disagree with it.