Keeper League Post-Draft

My keeper league concluded its draft in late March. We ended up conducting it by e-mail, since we couldn’t get schedules to align and we had people scattered all over. In the end, said e-mail draft took about a week and a half. While that level of delayed gratification drove some people nuts, the delay also saw several draft-worthy players sustain season-ending injuries, thus saving some people from making picks destined for injury.

I had keepers in the 3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 14th, 17th, 20th, and 22nd rounds. Remember that we have to keep a player from each “tier” of draft rounds, with each “tier” being a set of 4 (1-4, 5-8, etc). Keepers are also assigned contracts. My keepers went like this:

3rd round – David Price, TB/SP (2012 keeper; 2nd year of a 2-year contract)
4th round – Craig Kimbrel, ATL/RP (2013 keeper; 1st year of a 1-year contract)
7th round – Buster Posey, SF/C (2012 keeper; 2nd year of a 3-year contract)
8th round – Pedro Alvarez, PIT/3B (2013 keeper; 1st year of a 1-year contract)
9th round – Chris Davis, BAL/1B (2013 keeper; 1st year of a 3-year contract)
14th round – Matt Harvey, NYM/SP (2013 keeper; 1st year of a 2-year contract)
17th round – Starling Marte, PIT/OF (2013 keeper; 1st year of a 2-year contract)
20th round – Austin Jackson, DET/OF (2012 keeper; 2nd year of a 2-year contract)
22nd round – Shelby Miller, STL/SP (2013 keeper; 1st year of a 1-year contract)

So quite a bit, there. I’m admittedly nervous about a 3-year contract on Davis – keepers are undroppable for the duration of their contract, unless they go completely out of baseball (demotions to the minors do not count). My thinking is simply that I can have 30+ HR potential in the 9th round for the next 3 years. That’s hard to replace. But all in all, a relatively solid slate of players. Harvey will be gone all year, but I had no other real options in my rounds 13-16 (D-tier) set, so I put 2 years on him and let him sit on my DL this year. But all in all, got some power and some speed and it’s a nice set. But no middle infielders.

I went into my draft with two picks in the first four rounds, as a result. I had two goals – a big bat in the first round and a solid middle infielder in the second. My big bat was Prince Fielder; I had my eye on him from the start, since I love him in Texas. In the second round, I picked up Dustin Pedroia.

After not picking for a couple rounds, I knew I’d have two picks in the “B-tier” – rounds 5-8. I knew I needed a speedster, ideally from the middle infield again, and then some pitching. I ended up taking Aroldis Chapman in the 5th round; I don’t personally overvalue saves, but I figured having two lockdown closers with good ratios would help, and I have depth all over anyway. In the sixth round, I took Everth Cabrera, as I’m entranced by his speed and I knew he wouldn’t last through the next three rounds I wasn’t picking in; plus, shortstop can often be the shallowest position on the diamond for fantasy purposes. Rounds 10-12 saw me take Zack Wheeler, Nori Aoki, and Ernesto Frieri. Again, the closer was just there; I knew coming out of three rounds of not picking, I wanted a young pitcher with buzz – Sonny Gray and Danny Salazar were my top two picks for that, but they were taken the round prior. Wheeler was my next preferred option. Aoki is just a player I’ve always picked; I think he has 30 SB potential with the free-running Royals, and could top 100 runs as their lead-off man. I see his upside as being .300/30 SB/100 R, with a downside being more along the lines of .260/20 SB/70 R.

Round 13 came then, and it was time to snag a real sleeper prospect – I wasn’t picking in Round 14, and I like having a real prospect to hope for in the “D-tier” (rounds 13-16) and “E-tier” (rounds 17-20). The “F-tier” (rounds 21-25) are less important for that, since free agent adds corresponding to DL moves count as 25th-round picks for keeper purposes; among my “25th-round picks” via injury replacement last season was Sonny Gray, who I almost (and maybe should have) kept over Shelby Miller. Anyway, wanting a young power bat, I took Khris Davis in the 13th round, then watched several of my other sleeper targets go in the next round – notably, Kole Calhoun and Yordano Ventura. Calhoun was my 18th-round target, alas. My next target, then, was going to be Avisail Garcia, who I think has legit 20 HR/20 SB potential… but he was gone, too. I settled for Alex Wood and Carl Crawford for rounds 15 and 16.

In the E-tier, I jumped on Alex Guerrero and Corey Kluber; even if Guerrero misses part of the season in Triple-A, he looks like the Dodgers’ desired 2B. At 18th-round value, if he does come up and show a potential for 20+ HR, he can be a valuable middle infielder as a keeper. I’ve got my fingers crossed; I don’t like choking a bench spot on a minor-league prospect, but I’m stuck doing it for now. Since I missed out on Salazar, I took the other Indians pitcher I’m high on as a consolation prize.

The final set of rounds I more or less just fill needs as necessary. As the draft had gone on by now, we’d had several players sustain injury – including Aroldis Chapman. Plus, I knew I had Matt Harvey destined for my DL, so I needed an SP to replace him. I also had an open utility spot. I ended up playing a hunch and picking up Dustin Ackley to serve as my MI placeholder while Guerrero gets his Triple-A seasoning, and picking up Sergio Santos to hold down saves for Chapman while he recovers. I rounded out my roster with sleeper hunch Tyson Ross and reliable James Loney.

When I draft this league, I try to target one or two keepers per tier, so that as the season starts, I already have a plan. When I brought a couple friends into the league this year, I advised them simply that it’s not about having a stud keeper in each tier; it’s about having options that won’t hurt you. One guy had to choose between Eric Young Jr. and Ryan Cook this offseason in his D-tier; he simply didn’t have other options, and he couldn’t find a trade to better his position. He settled on Cook. I try to avoid those situations. Pedro Alvarez may or may not be worth an 8th-round pick; but he’s not hurting me there. Similarly, I don’t love blowing my 4th-round pick this year on Kimbrel, but my next best option was losing my 1st-round pick to keep Robinson Cano. Kimbrel’s not hurting me, and I’d rather pick up Fielder in Texas than keep Cano in Seattle. Naturally, as the season goes on, free agent adds will change what my roster and keeper options look like, and trade possibilities will happen, but I always look at my draft as a starting slate, and try to pick up guys that I feel make good short-term keepers or have the potential to be reliable long-term keepers. So my plan this draft was such:

A-tier: As it stands, my keeper options will be Fielder or Pedroia. All in all, no complaints there; both are sturdy and reliable, and I won’t mind putting a 1-year contract on either at the end of the year.
B-tier: Chapman was essentially a value pick here, and if it comes down to it, he’s not a bad 1-year option. However, my hope here is that Everth Cabrera breaks out some more – if he hits .270+ and steals 40+ bases, he’s suddenly a 2-year keeper option.
C-tier: Frieri was another value pick for me, and isn’t someone I’d ideally keep. Given the choice, I’d probably throw one year at Aoki instead. However, Wheeler is my hope here – he seems to have the stuff to potentially justify a 2 or 3-year contract at season’s end.
D-tier: Davis, Wood, and Crawford are all hopes here. Crawford seems like a reliable 1-year option. But, of course, I’m digging hard for value at this point, and I’m hoping that Davis or Wood turn in standout years and become strong 2 or 3-year contract candidates. I don’t trust either fully, so I’m hoping one of them works out. If Davis can give me 25+ HRs and bat .270+, he becomes a great value going forward, and that’s my hope.
E-tier: I really wanted Kole Calhoun here, but I ended up settling for Guerrero and Kluber. This is my most “dangerous” tier, as both guys are unknowns and therefore gambles; in the other tiers above, I have someone “reliable” if my prospects don’t work out. This is going to be where I might end up scraping for a trade later. But the hope, of course, is that one of the two pan out – it’s the same as my D-tier, basically, but without the reliable veteran fall-back option.
F-tier: I don’t love any of these guys, but I respect breakout potential in both Ackley and Ross. If that works, great. If not, I know I’ll have several options from free agent adds corresponding with DL placements as the season goes on. I don’t worry about the F-tier.

All in all, a good draft. I have a roster with a high upside for young starting pitching coming through, and a set of hitters who could provide plenty of power and speed and hit for average. Of course, the downside is that no one really has stand-out years and I end up falling short in numerical categories each week, and that my young pitching falters and I lack enough stable veterans to fall back on. Still, starting pitching is always deep. I’m building not just to contend this season, but to build a more solid foundation next year, too.

It’s good to have baseball back.

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