Some owners have given me feedback on some apparently errant keeper estimations I've made, which have forced me to 1) halt my mock draft analysis yet again and 2) rethink some of my assumptions about what makes a keeper in this league. This post will make another attempt to analyze and guess at league-wide keepers, but I want to make clear that this isn't intended to second-guess anybody's choices. I may illustrate conflicts between my assumptions and owner intentions, but I'll try to use that to understand the sense of the league and maybe reflect on my own strategic formulations and/or player opinions.
Chris J: Miguel Cabrera, Chris Carpenter, Clayton Kershaw
Miggy and Kershaw are no-brainers. Kershaw's a top-10 pitcher right now (going between Lester and Greinke in both Yahoo and ESPN drafts) and he's only 23, in a weak NL West. Barring an elbow injury he'll be putting up crazy stats for years to come.
Chris informed me that Carpenter was the choice over Ian Kinsler, which at first I disagreed with, but having done some further analysis I think there's an equal argument both ways. First, it's worth noting that there seems to be an inverse-Josh-Johnson effect here, in that Yahoo's analysts have been down on Carpenter's usage and injury concerns, thus making him the 22nd starting pitcher taken in Yahoo drafts at around pick 90. Meanwhile, ESPN's talking heads love Carpenter this year, and he's the #10 pitcher there at pick 48.8 and trending up.
If you're going to count Carpenter's recent hamstring pull against his durability, then you have to consider that Kinsler has missed an average of 40 games per season due to injury across his 5-year career, including 60 last year. The guy can't stay healthy, whereas Carpenter's been pretty damn good (and healthy) the past two seasons. And while you might be getting a potential source of power and speed at a weak position in Kinsler, you might also get a top-10 pitcher in Carpenter. Both choices are correct (and it's amusing to note that Kinsler's going at 48.9 on ESPN right now compared to Carp's 48.8). And you can't really make any long term assumptions about keeping either guy because Carpenter will be 37 and Kinsler's body might as well be, so these are both current-season picks.
Stew: Joey Votto, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp
These were my original picks, and I think they still hold. The alternative keeper is Zack Greinke, and while we know pitching is at a premium in our league, the above three guys are elite top-of-the-draft guys. Holliday's pretty much a lock for .390 OBP and .530 SLG with a mess of counting stats. Kemp's expected to have a return to 2009 form, so something like .350/.475/30/100/100. Votto needs no analysis.
Meanwhile, Greinke in the NL is still untested. Sure, he might thrive there, with more run support, in an easier league, with better pitching around him. Or he might post another 4.00+ era. I'd love the chance to make that gamble in the first round, but not with Holliday or Kemp still available.
Kyle: Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman, Carlos Gonzalez
I think I've flipped on Rickie Weeks. My original analysis was that you have a 2B in a monster lineup who can give you respectable numbers in every category (.350 OBP, .460 SLG from the middle infield, 100+ runs, 80 RBI, 10-15 SB) and you need to jump on that, but the guy's not without his own injury issues. While he played 160 games last year, his prior seasons going backwards were 37-129-118. Meanwhile, Adam Dunn's average games played per season since 2004: 158. One hundred and fifty eight games per season. And now he's out of Washington, in a better lineup, in the AL, in a ballpark designed for his power. I can't check the Fangraphs projections from work, but I wouldn't be surprised by a .380/.550/100/120 season, and you need to keep that (even though I don't think the guys ahead of him need a first baseman anyway, but I bet Rickie Weeks will still be there too...but so may Uggla...but then maybe Ryan Howard will be there, and if so do you need Dunn...).
Austin: Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Dan Haren
Original picks and confirmed by Austin through Ryan. Nothing more to say, other than as a Yankee fan I'm afraid of what A-Gon can do.
Owen: Joe Mauer, Jason Heyward, Tim Lincecum
I don't think there's anyone else on the roster in the same conversation as these three.
Fabian: Evan Longoria, CC Sabathia, Jon Lester
There's a case for V-Mart over Sabathia, but I think catcher is deep enough that I'd rather have my two aces.
Paul: Robinson Cano, Kevin Youkilis, Shin-Soo Choo
Youkilis will do his usual .400 OBP, .550 SLG in a lineup that looks like Pedroia-Crawford-Youkilis-Gonzalez. Choo can do a .400/.460 with twenty stolen bases. Each will give you at least 85 runs and RBI (Youk will probably do a 100/100). There are terribly few .400 OBP guys in the league, and when they come with power or speed in addition, you can't replicate that once the keepers are done. You can, however, still draft strong pitching. JoJo might be gone by Paul's pick, and maybe Greinke too, but there's still plenty of arms that can possibly deliver a sub-3.00 ERA, or a 9 K/IP, or win 15.
Shawn: Justin Morneau, Adrian Beltre, Ubaldo Jimenez
This gets harder and harder to justify with each passing day of Morneau not cleared for game duty. I guess you can gamble on picking him back up later in the draft, but does it really make sense to gamble away your (theoretically) best hitter? I'd probably roll the dice with him, and then swap out Reyes for Beltre as a power hedge. They're both injury/performance risks, but I think Beltre has a better chance of returning to something like .350/.520/80/100 in Arlington than Reyes does of .350/.450/100/60/60 for the Mets. I keep Beltre and I make a note to draft young, because I may have to replace two of my keepers next year.
Ryan: Dustin Pedroia, Felix Hernandez, A-Rod
Direct confirmation from Ryan, after a discussion about the depth at first base and the strategy of locking in an ace pitcher. I would have to think about Jose Bautista instead of A-Rod, as a younger player on the rise versus a star clearly in decline, but there's an understandable argument for going with the sure thing (.350/.500 floor with a mess of RBI) if you believe Bautista was a one-year wonder.
Chris T: Mark Teixeira, Ryan Braun, Carl Crawford
Because Posey's not at Teixeira's power numbers, and because the rest of my roster was total fucking trash.
James: Albert Pujols, Tommy Hanson, Chase Utley
I've vacillated on this more than any other team. Utley is generally regarded as the #2 2B in the league, and while his knees seem to be breaking down, he's not that old, and he's one of those guys that can do a .380/.520/100/100 when healthy for a full season. He's actually been remarkably healthy over the past six seasons, averaging about 145 games per year (with full seasons in 08 and 09...he missed a significant chunk of time last year), so this isn't like a Kinsler/Weeks situation. There may be questions about how long you can continue investing in a 32 year old middle infielder, but I've come around to accepting Utley over the pitchers. Plus, Hanson/Hamels may be available in the first round when James picks. Utley certainly won't.
The Hanson/Hamels decision was hard. I have to acknowledge that Hamels might be the better fantasy pitcher right now, provided he doesn't have another 09 implosion. He'll certainly post more strikeouts and plays behind what I feel is a better offense. Though I have concerns about his bullpen versus Atlanta's. That said, I think Cole's 2010 numbers represent his ceiling. 3.00 ERA and a WHIP somewhere in the 1.1-1.15 range, as many strikeouts as innings pitched. Don't get me wrong, that's very good, but it's also I think (based on superficial analysis and Yahoo stats, no Fangraphs here) it's a ceiling. I think Hanson still has some room to develop. He's a few years younger, and he plays for a team whose future in the next, say, 3-4 years seems a little brighter than Philly's. He may not develop Hamels's strikeout talent, but his 7.87 K/9 in the majors is still good (and I think may grow into the 8 range), and I think he has the potential for a sub-3 ERA. It's something of a gamble, but I think the costs in the short term could be worth the potential gains in the long term, especially since you no longer have Wainwright as your stud keeper.
Joe: Prince Fielder, Roy Halladay, Mat Latos
Experts seem to be down on Mat Latos. "How will he get any wins in Petco?" seems to be the leading criticism. Well, with A-Gon gone, they might have a point. And I guess you can argue that he's the product of his ballpark, and that his true talent isn't a 2.92 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.2 K/9 line. Okay.
But he is still pitching in San Diego.
"You can't always trust one year's worth of numbers." Okay. But that one year was pretty damn good. Put it this way, in a stretch from May 1 to Sep 7, 22 starts, Latos gave up more than 2 earned runs only once. He stumbled a bit towards the end of the season, as most young arms do (seems to take a few years to build up the needed stamina to pitch late into September), but how can you not take a gamble on that kind of performance? If you adhere to the ADP bible, you can theoretically get Latos back in the draft pretty safely, even in the second round, and keep Cruz instead. But Cruz is, like everyone else in Texas, a constant injury risk who may only give you two thirds of a season. Latos was, according to Yahoo scoring, the tenth best starting pitcher in the league behind Cliff Lee. He's 23. He'll probably get better. You have to at least ride out his time in SD, then trade him during his free agency year before he gets traded to an AL East team.
Mike: David Wright, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton
Tom: Josh Hamilton, Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander