The final keepers have been designated on time for the first time in years. Now the pre-draft analysis can begin in earnest. I picture JPOWW with like 7 computer screens running complex algorithms that talk him into taking a middle reliever over Andrew McCutcheon 2nd overall, Skillz in a darkened man cave wearing one of those translucent green poker visors surrounded by loose papers and broken dreams, Silverfox sitting on a throne of fantasy baseball publications trolling social media for the latest injury updates, reports from camp, and hashtag campaigns to raise “awareness” of his brand, and Trombone passed out on a bus from NYC as it pulls away from the Bethlehem stop en route to Harrisburg. That’s right boys, the draft pool is set and Jerkfest are less than a week away. Let’s take a look at the final roundup of keepers, in the order I received them, before we head into the season:
Silverfox: Prince Fielder, Ian Kinsler, Johnny Cueto, Sonny Gray, and Craig Kimbrel
Reasonable enough I suppose. While Ian Kinsler derives a ton of his value by being a top tier player at a position of weakness in the fantasy universe his stats still dictate that he’s a player who should be kept when eligible at this stage of his career regardless of position. Prince Fielder is a little tough to swallow if only because he’s been in steady decline for years. Coming off of an injury plagued season there is certainly a risk that he doesn’t bounce back to a highly productive level given the trend his statistics have taken, his age, and his less than optimal physical conditioning.
Silverfox did really well with his pitching. Johnny Cueto has improved slowly and steadily throughout his pro career and will mix top notch ratios with great compiled stats at seasons end. Sonny Gray is essentially the poor man’s Jordan Zimmerman, which is obviously interesting since Silverfox traded Zimmerman away to A1 this week. The risk with Gray is obvious, he’s got a slightly lesser track record than a more established pro like Zimmerman, but, as long as he can stay healthy he should continue to be a solid 2nd or 3rd pitcher to place behind Cueto. Finally, in Kimbrel Silverfox keeps a closer who, along with Aroldis Chapman, is the co-best in baseball. I like the move of keeping a guy like Kimbrel rather than rolling the dice on a young offensive player or projectable pitcher. He’ll be useful by supplementing his saves with elite ratios from the mound. All in all, nice work by Silverfox.
Captain: Jose Bautista, Yasiel Puig, Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, Alex Cobb
Our elder statesman certainly loves his young talent but this time around he may be on to something. While Manny Machado (22) is starting to feel like he’s the Captain’s new Eric Hosmer, his undying loyalty may be rewarded. Machado picked up right where he left off last season after an excellent 2013 performance but his season was cut short due to injury. I expect Machado the be resilient and bounce back nicely this season, returning to his 2013 form. At a premium position, Machado is a solid keeper despite some of the uncertainty that surrounds him. Nolan Arenado (23) put together an astounding 28 game hit streak at the beginning of last season but, after that, cooled off significantly. While he’ll never lose a place on the field due to his stellar glove, it’s still difficult to tell if he is the type of offensive player that needs to be rostered for fantasy purposes. There’s a good chance we find out this season. Yasiel Puig (24) has managed to be more entertaining than he has been productive to this point in his career, however, it’s crystal clear that the physical capabilities are present for him to breakout in a big way soon. Puig supplements good but not great power numbers with solid walk and run totals. The Alex Cobb (27) keep also deserves kudos. While he doesn’t have the name recognition of other young arms, Cobb has boasted steady improvement coupled with consistency throughout his 4 years in the big leagues. Similar to a Jordan Zimmerman, he’s a solid 2 or 3 in a fantasy rotation.
The only guy over 30, Jose Bautista (34) still isn’t quite as old as the Captain and he’s proven to be a solid source of power since his breakout season in 2010. There is a danger lurking that he may slow down as he ages further, we can’t forget that in both 2012 and 2013 Bautista provided little other than homeruns. Still, 25+ homeuns seems like a lock for the safest keeper of this bunch. If the Captain’s young players progress and exceed their past performance, he has a chance to have the best crop of keepers in the league.
Skillz: Jose Reyes, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Kole Calhoun, Matt Carpenter
Oof. Apparently we didn’t save the best for last. Skillz, it’s best if you don’t read this.
The disgust I feel for Jose Reyes is well documented. While he plays a premium position, he doesn’t do it particularly better than anyone else. Back in the day when he was stealing bases at an insane clip I could at least wrap my brain around the logic of targeting him in drafts, but he doesn’t even do that anymore. Last season he stole 30 bases on 32 attempts while hitting under .300 with little to no power. That’s what you’re getting when he feels like playing. Reyes has been “injured” frequently throughout his pro career and has never behaved like a guy who cared about being on the field with his teammates. Sadly for Skillz, he’s probably the best keeper of this crop. In fact, the ESPN Fantasy Rankings rate Skillz’s keepers as follows:
Reyes (44), Marte (38), Polanco (129), Calhoun (67), Carpenter (93). Positively brutal.
Marte’s appeal escapes me as well. Statistically he’s a similar player to Reyes but at a less scarce position. He does have the benefit of being young and having the ability to improve at least. His outfield mate, Gregory Polanco, is frankly a head scratcher of a keep. In just over 300 plate appearances last season Polanco batted .235 and displayed little pop, hitting only 7 homeruns. While he did steal 14 bases that doesn’t project to more than 28 for a full season. Perhaps Skillz thought that Marte and Polanco could benefit from outfield mate Andrew McCutcheon through osmosis or something like that. I’d be shocked if their cumulative stats combined match McCutcheon’s at year’s end. Their ratios certainly wont come close. I’m kind of left wondering why Kyle Seager wasn’t kept over Polanco seeing as he plays a premium position, is a better player, and had equal eligibility.
Kole Calhoun is another guy who gets hyped as a young projectable player. He blasted 17 homeruns in just under 500 plate appearances last season and may build on that in 2015. One important note on Calhoun, even in the minors, he’s never hit more than 25 homeruns in a season. At 27, he probably doesn’t have a ton of room to grow but can provide production. Make Skillz likes him because they kind of look alike. Finally, with Carpenter Skillz keeps a player who is sure to score plenty of runs towards the top of a good lineup, however, his ratios declined last year commiserate with a batting average on balls in play that plummeted closer to the league average from it’s heights during his best season in 2013.
In fairness to Skillz, am I a little butthurt that he refused to engage in trade negotiations with me despite his offensively bad (pun intended) keepers? Possibly. Regardless, I have to say that this might be the worst group of keepers I’ve ever seen in any of our keeper leagues, ever. I don’t mean to pile on, but the depths of awfulness of what Skillz has kept actually offend my sensibilities. I mean I’m not trying to be mean about it, but a monkey with 5 darts and a list of random players would have selected better keepers than Skillz did. I’m just saying.
Anyway, we’re all done, here’s the final tally of kept players by position:
Pitching will be bountiful in the draft but 3rd basemen and outfielders certainly wont be. We’re a little off balance with so much offense kept, but with plenty of managers taking fliers with a keeper or two (or 5) it isn’t quite as bad as it looks. At this point, I’ll leave the analysis to each of you. I’m looking forward to seeing most of you next weekend. For those that can’t make it, please contact me or the Captain to make arrangements regarding your draft lists and call/video in arrangements.