Dealing With Fringe Keepers

Over the weekend, I had my first normal(ish) keeper deadline. The roster was packed with useful players who could be kept right around cost. It made for quite the challenge deciding on cuts and auction strategy.

Here’s the background – 12-team 5×5 roto (OPS), standard deep rosters (2 C, 5 OF, MI, CI), $310 auction budget, unlimited keepers at previous auction price +$7. And here are my various keep/cuts.

Keeper Deadline Decisions
Kept Players Cost Cut Players Cost
Anthony Rendón (Was – 2B,3B) 20 Yasmani Grandal (LAD – C) 15
Eugenio Suárez (Cin – SS) 8 Peter O’Brien (Ari – OF) 8
Grégory Polanco (Pit – OF) 17 Víctor Martínez (Det – 1B) 16
Gerardo Parra (Col – OF) 8 DJ LeMahieu (Col – 2B) 8
Yasiel Puig (LAD – OF) 22 Justin Turner (LAD – 1B,3B) DTD 8
Giancarlo Stanton (Mia – OF) 43 Álex Rodríguez (NYY – Util) 10
Ken Giles (Hou – RP) 15 Adam Eaton (CWS – OF) DTD 12
Jeurys Familia (NYM – RP) 9 Jayson Werth (Was – OF) 19
Luis Severino (NYY – SP) 8 Darnell Sweeney (Phi – 2B,OF) 8
Carter Capps (Mia – RP) 8 Nick Castellanos (Det – 3B) 10
Steven Matz (NYM – SP) 8 Jorge Soler (ChC – OF) 8
Marcus Stroman (Tor – SP) 8 Carlos Gómez (Hou – OF) 29
Eduardo Rodríguez (Bos – SP) DTD 8 Joe Panik (SF – 2B) 8
Trevor Story (Col – SS) 1 Aroldis Chapman (NYY – RP) 31
Henry Owens (Bos – SP) 8
Darren O’Day (Bal – RP) 8
Nick Hundley (Col – C) 8
César Hernández (Phi – 2B,3B,SS) 8
Devon Travis (Tor – 2B) DTD 8

Chances are, you see some strange decisions. Chances are, you’re looking at different players than the next guy. So let’s crack open my brain space and walk through a few of these. Hopefully this will help you to reach your own tricksy keep-cut decisions. Or maybe you’ll decide I’m a loon*.

*A loon is a type of goofy bird and also sounds like lunatic which is actually derived from moon madness; not the goofy bird. /end lesson

The first detail to understand is our particular draft patterns. With the obvious exception of a few lesser-lights (i.e. Darnell Sweeney), very few of these players would reliably cost less in the draft. I certainly couldn’t count on Giancarlo Stanton going for under $43. My own valuations using different methodologies and weights range from from $37 to $69.

Aside from a $1 Trevor Story, all of my position player keepers are…questionable. Anthony Rendon runs $11 to $21 by my math. I could have received better value from DJ LeMahieu, Joe Panik, and/or Devon Travis – all of whom were $8 and all of whom I cut. Those players ranged from $2 to $15 projections. If I kept all three for $24, there’s a decent chance one of them would outperform Rendon.

I opted to overpay for the guy whose median projection matched the ceiling of the others. I usually do well populating the back end of my roster. When one of my teams flops, as this one did last year, it’s usually because the top talent fails hard.

At another position than second base, I might still have taken a different tact. I feel very confident about the second base depth around the league. Somebody I like, even if it’s just Brandon Phillips, will fall to me for less than $8. Meanwhile, freeing up more roster space and cash will aid my effort to draft talent better suited to my roster.

I’m a Eugenio Suarez believer. He’ll be boldly projected soon. He’s actually on every single one of my keeper rosters, leaving my fate inextricably linked to his. I’m confident he’ll earn his keep, even if he turns out to be a $6 instead of the full $8.

Outfielders. I kept four for five spots plus a UTIL. I could have hung onto Adam Eaton and Jorge Soler too. I was all set to keep Soler until Dexter Fowler shoved him into a part time role. Soler and Parra barely projected for $3, but I liked their breakout potential (Soler) and circumstances (Parra) enough to bump them to keeper status.

I’ve already received some flak for hanging onto Parra. I’m looking at this batting order – Charlie Blackmon, Parra, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado. Only one player, LeMahieu, could bump Parra from the two-hole. However, Parra has more dynamic skills at the plate including enough power to be an interesting Coors Field hitter. LeMahieu just slaps everything to the opposite field. If he’s batting second, Parra is an average producer in all five categories.

I’m not exactly bullish about Gregory Polanco. Projection systems think he’ll improve this year – a rare thing to see from Steamer and ZiPS. I don’t know. What I do know is my own personal weakness for ignoring stolen bases on draft day. Especially in OPS leagues, anybody who can swipe 25 bases with a .700 or better OPS will cost way too much in the auction. I still need another stolen base threat, but at least I don’t have to make multiple painful investments.

Yasiel Puig is an interesting character. If I had to pick one player who might be this season’s Bryce Harper, it’s probably Puig. That doesn’t mean I really expect that to happen, it’s just a recognition of ridiculous upside. Puig’s median projection was in line with some $32 players, but he comes with massive risk. Was I willing to take risk over a steadier player for $10 more? Yep, sure looks like it.

Two players I really wanted to keep, Justin Turner and Travis, will be starting the season on the disabled list. I decided $16 could help to secure a top player who won’t start on the shelf. Both Turner and Travis will return to position battles too. It helped that I didn’t expect either player to be worth $15 next offseason. The potential for 2017 value helped to decide me on Rendon, Polanco, Puig, and Eduardo Rodriguez.

Besides overpaying a couple dollars on a possible ERod breakout, I think my pitcher decisions were both obvious and straightforward. You might wonder about Ken Giles for $15, but that’s actually a good $4 under market rate in our league.

Parting Thoughts

  • Recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. Be more willing to stretch for players who fill your particular weaknesses.
  • Don’t be afraid to look past the projections (i.e. Parra, Suarez).
  • Consider opportunity cost. Does keeping three decent players prevent you from landing a much better guy?

You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam

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Thoughts on your particular decisions aside, I find it odd you have such huge ranges for your projected values. I don’t see how you can even draft saying “this guy is either a solid $15 player or useless”… I mean we know fluctuations are bound to occur and players have floors and ceilings, but don’t you have to kind of have one number (or small range) in mind heading into the year?