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January 14, 2013

The Keeper Reaper

Second, Short, and Catcher for 1/14/13

by Josh Shepardson

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Salvador Perez | Kansas City Royals
Shallow (30 Keepers): No
Medium (60 Keepers): No
Deep (90 Keepers): Yes
AL-Only (60 Keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes

Owners that patiently sat on an injured Perez or were lucky enough to scoop him off the waiver wire when he was activated from the disabled list were rewarded with approximately half a season's worth of very good offensive production in 2012. It was an impressive follow-up to his eye-catching debut. The 22-year-old catcher has 463 career plate appearances under his belt, and while that's not enough to definitively call him an offensive star at his position, it's a good starting point.

Perez makes his hay by making a ton of contact. Amongst batters that saw more than 950 pitches last year, Perez ranked 11th in contact rate at 90.8 percent. His ability to get wood on the ball at a high rate is accompanied by an aggressive approach that helps explain his low walk rate. Perez's aggressive approach works because he's able to make hard, line-drive contact at a high rate. He profiles as a player that can hit north of .300 annually.

The most pleasant surprise in Perez's 2012 performance was the power he showcased. In only 305 plate appearances, he was able to clear the fences 11 times. It would be unwise to take that number and simply extrapolate it over a full season's worth of at-bats, but it does appear Perez is tapping into his raw power. He has been on fire in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he has muscled up for eight home runs in fewer than 150 at-bats.

Adding to Perez's fantasy value is the fact that he's a legitimate primary catcher that isn't stuck in a time share with a solid backup. He'll get all the work he can handle, and that should help him pad his counting stats. Perez has all the characteristics of a player that will be hyped as a sleeper or breakout candidate in fantasy circles. The truth is, his breakout has already begun, but the uncertainty around just how much power he'll hit for prevents him from earning a fringe label in “Medium” keeper leagues.

Rickie Weeks | Milwaukee Brewers
Shallow (30 Keepers):
No
Medium (60 Keepers): No
Deep (90 Keepers): Yes
NL-Only (60 Keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes

Weeks had a very uneven 2012. He struggled with strikeouts in the first half before settling in for a finish that falls in line with his production from recent years. He brought his above-average power to the table, hitting 21 home runs (his third straight year of 20 or more) and added 16 stolen bases at a very efficient 84 percent success rate. The eyesore on his fantasy line was his .230 average.

After hitting .269 in 2010 and 2011, the 39 point drop was an unfortunate surprise for his fantasy owners last year. It's easy to blame his .285 BABIP for his batting average nose dive, but it's also the most likely explanation. His batted ball and plate discipline rates are nearly a carbon copy from year-to-year over the last three seasons with only minor fluctuations, and that's good news for his prospects of bouncing back in batting average this season.

Weeks finished the year just outside the top 10 second basemen, but barring an injury he'll get back in this year. Speaking of injury, the once brittle keystoner has played in over 155 games in two of the past three seasons and has finished with fewer than 500 plate appearances just one time in the last six years.

Ben Zobrist | Tampa Bay Rays
Shallow (30 Keepers):
No
Medium (60 Keepers): Yes
Deep (90 Keepers): Yes
AL-Only (60 Keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes

Zorilla went into last season with the unique distinction of being eligible to play at second base and in the outfield . By playing in more than 40 games at shortstop in 2012, he adds that to the list of positions he'll be able to man for fantasy owners this year, and that enhances his keeper worth.

Zobrist doesn't stand out in any one category, instead deriving value from his across-the-board contributions. With the exception of 2010, which is looking increasingly like an anomaly, he has hit for solid power with a respectable batting average and mid-to-high teens stolen base totals. Zobrist is an exceptionally patient hitter, ranking near the top of the league in walk rate annually.

His walk rate doesn't directly help gamers in standard leagues, but it does indirectly. His patience has been a boon for his on-base percentage, and that has helped him earn the bulk of his at-bats in one of the first five spots in the Rays order, where he's been able to pile up more runs and RBIs than most of his middle infield peers.

Zobrist turns 32 at the end of May, so he's reaching an age where most players are in the decline phase of their careers, but there aren't any alarming red flags that suggest a collapse is imminent. The total package that Zobrist offers owners, whether he's being kept as a second baseman or shortstop, makes him an excellent keeper choice.

Related Content:  Salvador Perez

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Premium Article Overthinking It: Barga... (01/12)
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Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: Out... (01/11)
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