Posts tagged ‘keepers’

Tuesday: 07.19.2011

Keeper Building Blocks: Outfield, Part 1

Outfield has a lot of great centerpiece players that would be worth giving up any un-keepable entities you have to in order to land them.  In fact, a number of them are “arm & a leg guys” meaning, of course, that they will cost you an arm and a leg.

You have to give something to get something and as long as you aren’t blowing up your team completely (e.g. trading a few expiring contracts/high-priced un-keepables AND some guys you were planning on keeping), then they are worth it.  Situations will vary depending on league format & keeper rules, but don’t overdo it just to get one guy or you may be worse off than you were before you got him.

Based on talent, age and the likelihood of studs on a cheap contract, outfield is the best position in this Keeper Building Block series to find your truly elite cornerstone.  The first 7 or 8 guys fall into that category and while all won’t be cheap in your league, several should be giving you options.  And it is likely that at least one of them is on a contender and hopefully you the missing puzzle pieces for them to seal a title and be willing to give their star.

There are several more OF building blocks than at any other position, so I broke it up into two pieces.

Catchers

First Base

Second Base, Addendum

Shortstop

Third Base, Addendum

Jose Bautista (TOR, 30) – See the third basemen piece for info on Bautista.  He is almost certainly on a cheap contract and it’d take just about any viable piece you to get him, but it might be worth it if you still have a few keepers around him.  His value is much, much higher at third base, but since he qualifies at outfield, I made sure to list him here.

Carlos Gonzalez (COL, 25) – When a season of .287 with 22 HR, 27 SB, 88 RBI & 100 R is your come down season from a career year, you are an elite player.  Plus he is getting better month-over-month so he just might improve those paces.  Either way, he still ranks 26th overall on ESPN’s Player Rater and 8th amongst outfielders.  His 2010 breakout came on the heels of an 89 game debut in Colorado that went well (.284/.353/.525, 13 HR & 16 SB), but still left him with a reasonable average draft position (ADP) of 120.  So he is either on a minor league contract or a regular one that is no doubt affordable.

Andrew McCutchen (PIT, 24) – I am pleased to have this burgeoning star locked up for two more years in my NL-Only league for just $15.  He is a dynamic, five-category (his .279 isn’t elite, but the league-high is .272 and my team average is .262 so he is definitely a positive contributor in that category) stud who appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential.  Next year will likely be his first full season in a run production lineup spot (third or fourth) and that should allow to knock in 100+ runs for the first time in his career.  That is if he doesn’t increase his pace of 98 this year and make 2012 his second stab at the century mark.  He is the face of the budding Pirates franchise and he can be the same for your fantasy team.

Mike Stanton (FLO, 21) – This kid is incredible.  He hit 22 home runs in 100 games (hitting one every 16.3 AB) and while the lofty strikeout rate (31%) made it clear that batting average would be a challenge, the power was undeniable.  He has made incremental gains on his power (HR every 15.8 AB and .267 ISO up from .248), his strikeout rate (down to 28%) and walk rate (up from 8.6% to 9.2%, OK so that is essentially the same) putting him on pace for 34 home runs and 96 RBIs… at 21 years old!

If there is one concern, it’s slight and it’s his age combined with the strikeout rate.  His inexperience and lack of contact could lead to prolonged slumps as he continues to grow.  It doesn’t dissuade me from targeting him, but keep it in mind.  In most keeper leagues, he will be on a minor league contract which is no doubt much cheaper than his actual value and with power on the decline league-wide; he should be a premier target.

Jay Bruce (CIN, 24) – He is essentially a look into Stanton’s future on some level, a pure power hitter with batting average liability.  Bruce doesn’t have the strikeout woes that Stanton does, but they profile similarly.  As a 21 and 22 year old Bruce hit 21 and 22 home runs in 413 and 345 at-bats, respectively.  His walk rate has steadied at 10% the last three seasons and while his BABIP-influenced.281 batting average (.334 BABIP) from 2010 hasn’t held (.265 w/.293 BABIP), the .265 he has posted doesn’t hurt too much in this low-offense environment of 2011.  I have him and Stanton pretty close, but I gave Stanton the edge because he likely cheaper and he is three years younger.

Jason Heyward (ATL, 21) – The ideal situation would be finding Heyward on a contender because his 2011 has been a disappointment (have I mentioned that young talents, no matter how good, don’t improve linearly?) due at least in part to injury.  There is a bit of concern around his massive groundball rates (55% and 58% in his two pro seasons) and how that affects his power potential, but the kid is 21 and even when he is underperforming it is easy to see while watching him that he is a special player.

Colby Rasmus (STL, 24) – Generally when a guy needing a “change of scenery” is thrown around, it is an excuse for his struggles when the truth is that he probably just isn’t as talented as originally believed.  However with Rasmus, I think it is one of the few cases where the change is necessary.  Rasmus has a permanent front row seat in manager Tony LaRussa’s dog house and it seems to have finally crept on the field full time and affected his play.  Instead of aiding his first place Cardinals with a season that builds on his strong 2010, Rasmus looks out of place and appears to pressing with increasingly worse numbers month-to-month:

April: .301/.392/.476

May: .253/.370/.407

June: .213/.268/.416

Generally teams don’t discuss trading mid-20s talents like Rasmus alas his name has come up in some preliminary rumors as we near the trade deadline.  I have no doubts that he can flourish out from under LaRussa’s thumb and his modest 2011 output might allow you to get a discount via trade.  Or he could be a primary reason why you’re building for 2012 already.  If it is the latter, sit tight with Rasmus.

Tuesday: 06.21.2011

Keeper Building Blocks: Second Base

Second base is a position that has some sneaky depth.  To wit, on ESPN’s player rater the 3rd and 12th ranked second basemen are split by just 0.86 points on the scale.  Conversely, it’s a 3.35 point split at first base at least 2.72 at every other position except for relief pitcher (but that’s not too surprising giving how little variance there is between RPs).

Despite this depth at the position, there aren’t a ton of building blocks at the position as the best are in their late 20s and already high-priced assets and the next cut is also filled with mid-20s guys with solid production, but nothing overwhelming that you would want as a primary keeper.  Let’s take a look at the ones I did come up with, though.

Danny Espinosa (WAS, 24) – He just barely crossed the 100-game plateau for his career so there is a lack of track record, but it’s hard to argue with the across the board production even at the cost of batting average.  He has a career .250 BABIP so far, though, so we could even see some growth there.  I have been saying it since last year, but the Nats are really building something there in Washington and Espinosa will be a key part of the success.

Howard Kendrick (LAA, 27) – See what I mean?  There’s nothing wrong with the actual depth of the position, but it’s thin on burgeoning talent.  Even though he is atop of this list, if you combined the catchers, first basemen and second basemen, he’d be near the bottom.  He is on pace for .308-16 HR-11 SB, but just 52 RBI (thanks to an inept supporting cast) and decent 81 runs scored, again because of his teammates.  His price will vary from league to league, but considering that last year was his first full season and he already blew his shot at a second in a row this year, I doubt he’s too expensive anywhere.

Kelly Johnson (ARI, 29) – I have Johnson and Kendrick neck & neck here (along w/the next guy, to be honest).  Johnson’s .215 batting average is no doubt ugly, but I am more focused on the 27 HR-18 SB-71 RBI-87 R pace and since we are focused on 2012, his batting average this year doesn’t mean much.  He can be a .260ish or better hitter just as he was last year (.284) and in his two other full seasons (.287, .276).  However, like Kendrick, even with an average at his career .264 he isn’t a prime building block.

Ben Zobrist (TB, 30) – Rinse and repeat from the first two guys.  Zobrist has been an inconsistent, yet ultimately productive player the last two years and he is on pace for a season closer to his 2009 breakout when he was one of baseball’s best overall.  While many believe 2008 to be his career year, his current pace is just 6 HR, 9 RBI and 1 SB behind.  His runs are ahead by seven.  The biggest difference is his batting average which by just over 3% (.297 to .265), but the counting stats production across four categories is more important than the average.

Neil Walker (PIT, 25) – A younger option than the last three, but I still have him as the lowest because he doesn’t produce across the board like the others and his power lags a bit, at least right now.  He is doing his best work with runners on which has led to his gaudy RBI total, but we know it is hard to bank on that year-to-year and since that is his biggest category at this point I am reticent to rate too highly.