Keeper Decisions

Ah, it’s the off-season. Fantasy football is all the rage and to the dedicated fantasy baseball player, all appears dull. Now just hold on there, pardner. Not so fast , grasshopper. You still have those off-season trade offers to evaluate and those keeper decisions to make. Speaking of keeper decisions, how important is position scarcity in keeper decisions anyway?

Well, now that you asked….. The answer, of course, depends. Let’s assume a 12 team league. Matchup or roto makes no difference.

In leagues with a limited number of keepers, say five, I would completely ignore position scarcity. Your first job is to keep your home run hitters. (Remember the HR category is the most important in fantasy baseball.) Hopefully, you have a couple five tool players and another couple of three or four tool players. Your next job is to see if a starting pitcher deserves to be re-signed to your team. In unusual situations, a second starting pitcher may warrant consideration as a keeper but this would be the exception. A closer or a speed merchant would not warrant keeper status.

OK, what about an eight keeper league? Now things get a little more complicated. Your first five keepers should be those chosen per the guidelines above. The next three players should be those who would help your team the most. Well, that’s a ‘duh’! Not really. When choosing your last three keepers, I believe positional scarcity plays a role – albeit it a minor role.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you had a choice between a catcher who might be rated to go in the ninth round or an outfielder who would probably go in the eighth round. That’s when it gets interesting. After all, how strong are your other outfielders? Would the value of knowing you’d locked down your catcher position outweigh the potential upside of a third outfielder?

Often it’s easier to map out your draft strategy knowing that one of the ‘tough positions’ has already been filled. You are then free to focus elsewhere. So in the situation outlined here, I would lean toward taking the catcher and knowing that position was nailed down. Solid third or fourth outfielders will be available in the middle rounds of the draft and as free agents during the season.

Now, let’s talk about a deep keeper league – say 12 keepers per team. In this case, position scarcity is important. You would use your one through eight keeper choices to lock down home runs and wins. For your next four keepers, I would strongly suggest you keep at least one closer and, if possible, have your middle infield positions locked down. If you don’t have a catcher worth keeping, don’t worry about it. A catcher worth keeping is a ‘nice to have’ but is also the exception.

Opinions vary but I believe hitters should be given the preference over starting pitchers for your bottom keeper slots. Certainly in 2010, the effectiveness of SP3 and SP4s would wildly unpredictable. Indeed, I would probably choose a second closer before adding an SP3 to the keeper list.

In summary, your keepers should look something like this:
1-5: Three to five tool position players (extra credit for home run hitters) and maybe a starting pitcher
6-8: Position scarcity becomes a factor in your decisions. A top closer or three tool middle infielder
is of more value than a third or fourth outfielder.
9-12: Add at least one closer to your team. Focus on filling your infield positions. Hitters are of greater value than mid-range starters.

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