Friday, February 22, 2008

Keepers Part VIII

Continuing my analysis of each team’s keepers from my Yahoo league, we take a look at the Tossers, managed by my heterosexual life partner, Troost. The Tossers finished fourth in 2007, and they have a decent mix of speed and power to carry over to next year. Lots of veterans on this team, so they may want to use 2008 to get a little younger. Let’s look at the Tossers.

As always:
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. I will be going through each team's keeper in their draft order for 2008.

The Tossers

Garret Anderson (LAA - OF)
Barry Bonds (SF - OF)
Mike Cameron (Mil - OF)
Travis Hafner (Cle - 1B)
Corey Hart (Mil - OF)
Torii Hunter (LAA - OF)
Conor Jackson (Ari - 1B)
Jeff Kent (LAD - 1B,2B)
Jeff Keppinger (Cin - 3B,SS)
Julio Lugo (Bos - 2B,3B,SS)
Nate McLouth (Pit - OF)
Jorge Posada (NYY - C)
Álex Rodríguez (NYY - 3B)
Scott Rolen (Tor - 3B)
Gary Sheffield (Det - 1B,OF)
Michael Young (Tex - SS)

Jason Bergmann (Was - SP,RP)
Joe Borowski (Cle - RP)
Ubaldo Jiménez (Col - SP)
Derek Lowe (LAD - SP)
Pedro Martínez (NYM - SP)
Mariano Rivera (NYY - RP)
Wandy Rodríguez (Hou - SP,RP)
Takashi Saito (LAD - RP)
Curt Schilling (Bos - SP)
Carlos Zambrano (ChC - SP)

The Keepers

1. Alex Rodriguez
There is no reason not to want Alex Rodriguez on your fantasy team in 2008, and it’s hard to argue that he shouldn’t be taken number one. He’s a slugger in his prime on one of the best teams in baseball. Since joining the Yankees, he’s averaged 43 HR, .303 BA, 128 RBI, and 22 stolen bases. You can almost guarantee 35 HR, .300 BA, 120 RBI, and 20 SB, and there’s a great chance that his numbers will be better than that. There’re no obvious signs that his skills are declining, so we should expect another MVP-caliber season from A-rod. He’s a reliable superstar, and that’s exactly what you want in a first-round pick.

2. Travis Hafner
Travis Hafner had a down year in 2007 compared to huge numbers he put up in 129 games in 2006. He started out strong hitting .338/.471/.550 in May, but then his numbers went into a nose dive before he finished strong by hitting .316/.414/.551 in September. In the four months in between, he never hit better than .253, never had an OBP over .400, and never slugged better than .455. It would be nice to assume that he was suffering from some kind of lingering injury, but Hafner never complained of one and he appeared in a career-high 152 games. It’s possible that we can attribute his offensive struggles to bad luck; he had a contact rate of 79%, his best since coming to the majors, but his hit rate was 30%, 4% less than his three-year average previous to 2007. Hafner should rebound, especially if he can cut down on his GB/FB ratio, but a return to his 2006 numbers is no sure thing. Expect numbers closer to his 2005 season.

3. Michael Young
Michael Young is one of the more dependable hitters at the shortstop position. He’ll hit over .300 and chip in double-digit home runs and stolen bases. His greatest value is his ability to hit for contact, which is helped by his strong line-drive rate, but don’t discount the steals and home runs that he chips in. His power is declining, but his speed is still there, so a repeat of his 2007 numbers is within reach. Young might have trouble scoring runs in the Rangers offense without Mark Teixeira around to knock him in, but he could come close to 100 RBI if the team bats him in the 3rd spot the majority of the time, as they did in 2007. Young’s numbers have historically been better hitting 2nd rather than 3rd, so pay attention to where he spends his time in the lineup during spring training.

4. Takashi Saito
Takashi Saito was one of the best closers in baseball last year, and while his numbers will most likely regress from last year, he should be a very good closer option in 2008. He improved his K/BB and BB/9 ratios, and his ground ball rate jumped by 10%. There are some warning signs as his HR/FB rate rose, and his strand rate was a very high 88%. History says that pitchers with high strand rates usually regress to normal levels the next year, which leads to a rise in ERA. Barring injury or an impatience on the part of Dodgers’ management to see Jonathan Broxton take over the role. Saito will have a good chance to save 30+ games in 2008.

5. Torii Hunter
Torii Hunter is a dependable outfield option; he’ll provide a mix of power and speed with a decent BA. He’ll benefit from playing with the Angels, a team that scored more runs and attempted more stolen bases in 2007 than Hunter’s old team, the Twins. Hunter is getting older, but there’s no evidence that he can’t come close to his 2007 stats this year; though his batting average will most likely a few points, he should steal around 20 bases in 2008. Click here to read my thoughts from November when Hunter’s new deal was announced.

6. Corey Hart
The Brewers gave Corey Hart a chance to earn a spot in the outfield in 2007, and he rewarded the team and fantasy owners alike with what could be the first of many 20/20 seasons. Hart has a favorable GB/FB ratio, which could lead to an increased home run output as he reaches his prime (he’ll be 26 when the season begins). One area he’ll have to work on is walking more and striking out less, which could be helped as he gets more at bats against major league pitching. Watch where he bats in the Brewer’s lineup; he split time with Rickie Weeks in the lead off spot, but he also had 119 at the 5th spot. Where he hits might play a part into how much he runs or how many RBI chances he gets. Either way, he’ll be a good source of both power and speed.

7. Gary Sheffield
Gary Sheffield is getting older, and his body isn’t holding up as well as it used to, but when healthy, Sheffield still has the skills of a very dangerous hitter. Sheffield started slow last season with a poor April, but from May-July he hit .320 with 21 home runs. He missed 23 games between August and September due to a collision with Placido Polanco that resulted in a sore shoulder. Sheffield had surgery in October that uncovered a torn labrum. As of last week, Sheffield has been swinging a bat without any pain, and he expects to be ready by Opening Day. The Tigers plan to use Sheffield mainly as a DH, which should keep him from risking further injury in the field. If Sheffield is healthy for a full season, 30 home runs is not out of reach. Sheffield still has good plate discipline, so his batting average should rebound from last year. I’m not certain if he’ll steal 22 bases again, which were his most since 1990, but double-digit steals should be attainable.

The Also-Rans
Troost could easily keep Mariano Rivera over Saito, as his 9.34 K/9 last year was his highest since 1996, and his 6.17 K/BB was his best since 2003. But his .248 BAA was his highest since his first year in the league. Rivera is still a good closer, but I like Saito just a little bit more for next year. Carlos Zambrano was a top-ten pitcher in 2006, but he was barely worthy of the top-30 last year. Both his K/9 and K/BB rates decreased and it’s possible that the 215 innings he’s averaged over the past five seasons have sapped his effectiveness. He won’t be a top-ten pitcher if he can’t limit his walks. Jorge Posada could be a good keeper option at catcher if because of the scarcity of the position, but Troost could probably draft him again in the middle rounds if he wanted. Jeff Kent is another reliable, aging player who Troost could pick up later in the draft. Conor Jackson hasn’t shown that he’s ready to hit 25+ home runs, so he should be relegated to the end of the draft with the other good contact, mediocre slugging first basemen. Mike Cameron could provide an undervalued 20/20 season, even though he’s suspended for the first 25 games. His suspension should make it easy to grab him late, which I suggest you do. He’ll hurt your average, but there aren’t too many power/speed options that late in the draft. Nate McLouth is another guy I’ll be watching in spring training, because I think he’s capable of going 20/20 as well if he wins the center field job over Nyjer Morgan. Definitely worth a late round gamble.

Troost, you don't have the strongest group of keepers, but they should be solid this year. You'll need to target some stars entering their primes if you want to contend next year and the year after that.

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