StrategyJanuary 29, 2013

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Keeper Decision Criteria, Part 3: Anticipating Other Owners’ Keepers - 2 comments

By Scott Swanay

This article is the third and final in a series on Keeper Decision Criteria. The first article dealt with determining the value of potential keepers, while the second examined the importance of position scarcity. I’ll conclude the series by considering the value of anticipating the keeper decisions of the other owners in your league.

Please note that I’m assuming that all owners’ keeper decisions are submitted blindly and announced simultaneously, but if you happen to play in a league where owners agree to publicly announce their keeper decisions as they’re made (i.e. – before all owners’ decisions are known and announced), then by all means be the last owner to declare your keepers so that you can eliminate as much of the guesswork as possible.

Since the point about anticipating other owners’ keeper decisions is most easily illustrated by example, let’s assume the following:

1) You play in a ten-team, AL-only, snake-draft league.

2) Your league is a 5×5 with the most commonly-used categories.

3) Your league uses a 23-man roster with 14 hitters (including 2 catchers) and 9 pitchers.

4) There are no SP/RP or minimum innings pitched requirements for your pitchers.

5) Each team is allowed to keep one player for the upcoming season with no penalty related to the round in which the player was originally picked or the number of consecutive seasons the player has previously been kept.

6) You are the owner of Team 9.

7) You have already drawn up lists of nine Keeper candidates for each team in the league including your own.

Here is each team’s list of nine keeper candidates, along with your assumptions (for all teams except your own Team 9) about each team’s top keeper candidates, each owner’s hypothetical keeper decision, and their rationale for their keeper selection:

Team 1
1) C/1B Carlos Santana
2) 1B Paul Konerko
3) 2B Robinson Cano
4) SS Jhonny Peralta
5) OF Jacoby Ellsbury
6) OF Matt Joyce
7) OF Josh Willingham
8) SP Jason Vargas
9) SP Neftali Feliz

Santana and Cano

Robinson Cano

Both Santana and Cano play positions that aren’t deep in talent, but Cano’s superior offensive production tilts the scales in his favor. Note that Santana’s position versatility doesn’t count for much since he’d be a mediocre, if not below-average option as an AL-only first baseman.

Team 2
1) C Salvador Perez
2) C A.J. Pierzynski
3) 1B David Ortiz
4) 1B/OF Chris Davis
5) 2B Jason Kipnis
6) SS Alexi Ramirez
7) 3B Miguel Cabrera
8) OF Curtis Granderson
9) SP David Price

Cabrera and Price

Miguel Cabrera

Price is one of a handful of top AL starting pitchers, but Cabrera is the best player in the league by far at a harder-to-fill position.

Team 3
1) 1B Eric Hosmer
2) 2B Ian Kinsler
3) SS Asdrubal Cabrera
4) SS J.J. Hardy
5) OF Dayan Viciedo
6) OF Torii Hunter
7) SP CC Sabathia
8) SP Jeremy Hellickson
9) CL Joe Nathan

Hosmer, Kinsler, Cabrera, Viciedo and Sabathia

Ian Kinsler

No clear choice here. It’s tempting to go with the high-reward potential of Hosmer or Viciedo, but I ultimately picked Kinsler over Cabrera because of the former’s higher offensive ceiling.

Team 4
1) C Matt Wieters
2) C John Jaso
3) 2B/SS Jurickson Profar
4) SS Alcides Escobar
5) 3B Lonnie Chisenhall
6) OF Alex Rios
7) OF Austin Jackson
8) SP Matt Moore
9) CL Mariano Rivera

Wieters, Profar, Escobar and Jackson

Matt Wieters

It was tempting to go with Profar (unproven) or Jackson (still improving, but one of many good AL-only outfield options). I ultimately went with Wieters because he’s one of the better offensive options at catcher in a league that doesn’t have many.

Team 5
1) 1B Adam Dunn
2) 1B Albert Pujols
3) 1B Brandon Moss
4) SS Derek Jeter
5) SS Elvis Andrus
6) 3B Mike Moustakas
7) OF Adam Jones
8) SP Justin Verlander
9) CL Francisco Rodney

Pujols, Andrus, Jones and Verlander

Albert Pujols

My personal preference would be Verlander, but again, the goal of this exercise is to anticipate the choices the other owners in your league are likely to make, not the ones you would make if you were in their shoes. Since most owners prefer to keep hitters over pitchers, I assumed this team’s owner would too.

Team 6
1) C J.P. Arencibia
2) 1B Mark Teixeira
3) 2B Howie Kendrick
4) 3B Adrian Beltre
5) OF Nick Markakis
6) OF Alex Gordon
7) OF Josh Reddick
8) SP Jake Peavy
9) SP Doug Fister


Adrian Beltre

Hobson’s choice (and no, I don’t mean Butch).

Team 7
1) 1B Adam Lind
2) 1B Billy Butler
3) 1B/OF Mark Trumbo
4) 1B/3B Kevin Youkilis
5) 3B Manny Machado
6) OF David Murphy
7) SP Chris Sale
8) SP Max Scherzer
9) SP Brett Anderson

Butler, Machado and Scherzer

Manny Machado

Among the three finalists, Machado plays the position with the least depth, and he’s the only one with the potential to be among the top options at his position this season.

Team 8
1) C Victor Martinez
2) C Jesus Montero
3) 2B/OF Ben Zobrist
4) 3B Brett Lawrie
5) OF Brett Gardner
6) OF Lorenzo Cain
7) OF Mike Trout
8) SP Anibal Sanchez
9) SP Yu Darvish

Martinez, Montero, Zobrist, Lawrie, Trout and Darvish

Mike Trout

The others are all solid players at their respective positions, but it’s hard to pass up a guy who was arguably the most valuable player in fantasy baseball last season despite being just 20 years old for the majority of the season and spending almost all of April in the minors.

Team 10
1) 1B Prince Fielder
2) 1B Justin Morneau
3) 3B Will Middlebrooks
4) OF Desmond Jennings
5) SP Brandon Morrow
6) SP James Shields
7) SP Jered Weaver
8) SP Derek Holland
9) SP Felix Hernandez

Fielder, Middlebrooks, Weaver and Hernandez

Prince Fielder

Assuming again that most owners prefer keeping hitters over pitchers, Fielder is ranked higher at his position than Middlebrooks is at his.

Now, it’s finally time for our (Team 9’s) decision. However, before we make our selection, let’s summarize by position both the players at that position we anticipated other owners would keep, as well as those who were finalists but were not kept:

Kept – Matt Wieters
Finalists Not Kept – Carlos Santana, Victor Martinez and Jesus Montero

First Base
Kept – Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder
Finalists Not Kept – Carlos Santana, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler

Second Base
Kept – Robinson Cano and Ian Kinsler
Finalists Not Kept – Jurickson Profar and Ben Zobrist

Kept – None
Finalists Not Kept – Asdrubal Cabrera, Alcides Escobar, Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar and Ben Zobrist

Third Base
Kept – Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre and Manny Machado
Finalists Not Kept – Brett Lawrie and Will Middlebrooks

Kept – Mike Trout
Finalists Not Kept – Dayan Viciedo, Austin Jackson, Adam Jones and Ben Zobrist

Starting Pitchers
Kept – None
Finalists Not Kept – David Price, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Yu Darvish, Jered Weaver and Felix Hernandez

Without further ado . . .

Team 9
1) C Alex Avila
2) C/1B Joe Mauer
3) 2B Dustin Pedroia
4) 3B Evan Longoria
5) 3B Kyle Seager
6) OF Jose Bautista
7) OF Jeff Francoeur
8) OF Josh Hamilton
9) SP Alexi Ogando

Mauer, Pedroia, Longoria, Hamilton and Bautista

Dustin Pedroia

All five of our finalists have missed significant time due to injury at least once in the last three seasons. The choice for me came down to Pedroia versus Longoria, and Pedroia gets the nod due to the lack of appealing alternatives at second base versus third base.

Finally, as long as you don’t kid yourself about other owners’ likely decisions (e.g., no one’s going to keep Lorenzo Cain over Mike Trout with the assumptions I described above in place), this “worst case” approach allows you to make the optimal keeper decision for your team.

Scott is a lifelong Yankees fan who saw Fritz Peterson (post wife-swap) beat Nolan Ryan in the first baseball game he went to. You can catch up with Scott in the Cafe Forums where he posts as The Sherpa. You can also follow his work at Fantasy Baseball Sherpa and follow him on Twitter (fantasy_sherpa).
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2 Responses to “Keeper Decision Criteria, Part 3: Anticipating Other Owners’ Keepers”

  1. The Sherpa says:

    Just realized an oversight from the hypothetical example above. Players entering an “only” league this season after being traded, signing as a free agent, or, in this year’s unusual case, being part of a team that switched leagues, obviously aren’t eligible to be kept. However, they should be included along with the “Finalists Not Kept” when you look at the pool of players who will be available to you during the actual draft. Mea culpa (think that’s Latin for “my bad”).

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