Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Keepers, Keepers, Here Come the Keepers

With the offseason in full-swing, and everyone all a-twitter with thoughts of A-Rod and the rest of the free-agents, there will be lots to discuss in the upcoming weeks. I'll be commenting on the notable transactions and their impact to the fantasy world, but while I have some free time, I'll be using this space to discuss who I think each manager in my fantasy league should keep for next year. Now, unless the Dodgers grossly over pay for Miguel Cabrera by giving up Matt Kemp, Andy Laroche, Clayton Kershaw, and Chad Billingsley, without also getting Dontrelle Willis or Dan Uggla in return, I will be posting these picks every couple of days. If the aforemention scenario does occur, I'll probably be driving out to take a fat dump on Ned Colletti's lawn. Let's get on with the picks.

Our league is a 12 team, 5x5 category, Head to Head league. Each team consists of 25 players, and each manager gets to keep seven players with no restriction. There is no limit to innings pitched, so starting pitchers are devalued somewhat by constant streaming. (For those who are unfamiliar with the strategy, streaming is the practice of picking up and starting as many pitchers as you can each day in order to win in the strikeouts and wins categories. This strategy requires good closers to win the saves category, and to offset the often poor ERA and WHIP totals that result.)

I'll be going through each team by draft order for next season. The first is Dissect Yourself, managed by Micah. He holds the first pick by virtue of being the consolation bracket champion.
Here is his roster, followed by my choices and comments:

Josh Barfield (Cle - 2B)
Carlos Delgado (NYM - 1B)
Jason Giambi (NYY - 1B)
Todd Helton (Col - 1B)
Matt Holliday (Col - OF)
Raúl Ibañez (Sea - OF)
Austin Kearns (Was - OF)
Juan Pierre (LAD - OF)
Iván Rodríguez (Det - C,1B)
Alfonso Soriano (ChC - OF)
Mark Teahen (KC - 1B,3B,OF)
Troy Tulowitzki (Col - SS)
Dan Uggla (Fla - 2B)

Brian Fuentes (Col - RP)
Jon Garland (CWS - SP)
Orlando Hernández (NYM - SP)
Braden Looper (StL - SP,RP)
Mike Mussina (NYY - SP)
Andy Pettitte (NYY - SP)
J.J. Putz (Sea - RP)
C.C. Sabathia (Cle - SP)
Ben Sheets (Mil - SP)
Javier Vázquez (CWS - SP)
Tim Wakefield (Bos - SP)
Dontrelle Willis (Fla - SP)

My Choices:

1. Matt Holliday
Holliday's an easy choice; the MVP candidate set career highs this past season in almost every meaningful offensive category. He'll be 28 when the season starts, right in the middle of his prime. His numbers are helped by playing half his games at Coors, but he's no slouch on the road, slugging .485 and batting .301. He's a borderline first-rounder, and should continue to be a highly productive player for the next few years.

2. Alfonso Soriano
Despite not rivaling last year's numbers, Soriano had another quality season, matching his career high in slugging percentage and almost equaling his career mark in batting average. He hit more than thirty home runs for the fifth time in his career, and his offensive numbers would have been even better if he hadn't missed most of August with an injured right hamstring. Hampered by the injury, he attempted less than thirty stolen bases for only the second time in his career. He's been a 30/30 threat throughout his career and should still have a few highly productive seasons left.

3. Juan Pierre
Juan Pierre may be overrated as a baseball player, but for fantasy owners looking for stolen bases, he's just right. Having Pierre on his team gives Micah a strong competitive edge in the stolen bases category; add in Soriano, and Micah could possibly have one hundred stolen bases between two players. Because of his poor on-base percentage, Pierre might find it harder to steal 50 plus bases as his legs get older, but he does provide a solid batting batting average, which is made more valuable to fantasy owners because of his high number of at bats. An interesting stat: Pierre has more walks than strikeouts in his career. Pierre rounds out a solid outfield for Micah.

4. Troy Tulowitzki
Tulowitzki is another solid keeper; despite his awful stats away from Coors, he is young enough to improve greatly on those numbers. The Rookie of the Year runner-up needs to cut down on his strikeouts, but he has the talent to hit 30 homeruns a year with a solid average. How he does next year without the anonymity of being a rookie will tell a lot about his abilities as a major leaguer.

5. Dan Uggla
Uggla was a top ten second baseman last year, and he could be top five if he can bring his batting average back up to his rookie mark of .282. Even though his batting average fell thirty points from last year, he increased his walk total by twenty. He offers a lot of pop for his position, leading all second basemen in homeruns despite playing in a park not conducive to them. Uggla was a solid infielder, and if he improves on last year's numbers, Micah will have a great middle infield.

6. C.C. Sabathia
Normally I don't advocate keeping pitchers, preferring to find them through the draft and off the waiver wire, but there aren't too many other viable options on Micah's team, and Sabathia was very good last year, rating behind only Jake Peavy on ESPN's player rater. My only concern is the high number of innings he pitched last season, thirty-one more than his career high (not counting 15.1 playoff innings in which he got shelled.) Sabathia could be poised for a letdown next season, but he has improved in strikeouts, walks and ERA over the last four years, showing his maturation into an elite pitcher.

7. J.J. Putz
While I normally don't advocate keeping starting pitchers, I almost never keep closers. Saves is a very volatile category, as is the closer position; over the past three seasons, only four closers have placed in the top ten for saves more than twice, only two have placed in the top five more than once. There are suprises at the top of the saves list each year, and this year was no exception with Jose Valverde and Joe Borowski coming in first and second with more than 45 saves each. Putz had his second season of 35 or more saves, and he was ranked the number one closer on ESPN's player rater. His strikeout rate was down compared to last year, but so was his Batting Average Against, with a ridiculous .153. He is a solid choice for next year.

The Also-Rans

There were a few players who could be considered as keepers for next year, but I just couldn't justify leaving anyone of this least for these guys. Jason Giambi suffered through injuries all last year, resulting in the second-worst OPS of his career. He most likely won't have first-base eligibility next year, relegating him to the Utility spot. At thirty-six his best years appear to be behind him. Carlos Delgado is another aging All-Star that just missed this list; he couldn't crack the top fifteen first basemen on the player rater and it's not that hard to find players at his position who hit 20-25 homeruns with better batting averages. He's not done yet, so keep an eye on him in the draft. Mark Teahen was a touted third base prospect, but he failed to build on last year's power numbers. With Alex Gordon vying for playing time, Teahen will only be OF eligible in 2008, and even repeats his production from 2006, it's hard to justify keeping a .285/20HR hitting outfielder over any of the guys on this list.

So, those are my picks for who Micah should keep. He definitely has a solid and balanced offense, and a good foundation for his pitching staff. He should be very competitive in 2008.

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