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October 19, 2011

The Keeper Reaper

Second, Short, and Catcher for 10/19/11

by Michael Jong

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As Rob McQuown mentioned in yesterday's edition of The Keeper Reaper, the Player Forecast Manager has been updated with 2011 numbers and can thus be used for the purposes of elucidating price estimates for players last season. From now on, we will be using these prices in our evaluation of players. Here are those price lists again for each of the formats we will be considering. 

Shallow (10-team mixed, 3 keepers): http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6431 
Medium (12-team mixed, 5 keepers) http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6430 
Deep (15-team mixed, 6 keepers) http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6432 
NL-Only (12-team NL only, 5 keepers) http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6435 
AL-Only (12-team AL only, 5 keepers) http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6434 
Super Deep (20-team mixed, 10 keepers) http://pfm.baseballprospectus.com/index.php?cid=6433

Derek Jeter | New York Yankees
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
NO
AL-only:
YES
Super Deep:
YES 

There was absolutely nothing surprising about Derek Jeter's 2011 season as he continued along in his decline years. In fact, we have seen this season recently from The Captain. In 2008, Jeter accumulated just 668 plate appearances (the first time since 2003 that he had not reached the 700-PA plateau) and hit “just” .300/.363/.408 (.270 TAv). He had similar run and RBI totals in ‘08 and hit more home runs with fewer stolen bases. His value then probably fell right around his $12 value this past season. In other words, nothing we saw from Jeter this year was out of the ordinary, and while he did bounce back from his worst season at the plate in 2010, fantasy owners did not get anything resembling the great Jeter of old. 

Still, fantasy owners shouldn’t have expected the Jeter of old, as PECOTA projected Jeter's weighted mean at .282/.350/.387 with 10 homers and 16 stolen bases. The Yankees offense plated Jeter a little bit more often than initially expected, but the remaining numbers came out very similar to the preseason projection, meaning we should expect, at best, more of the same from him in 2012. Add on the increased age and injury risk following a season during which he missed 21 games, and it would be wise to let someone else see if there is one more comeback left in Jeter's bat. 

Stephen Drew | Arizona Diamondbacks
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
NO
NL-only:
BORDERLINE
Super Deep:
YES 

Drew is the type of player who has sprinkled a couple of great seasons with mediocre ones, making him a yearly fantasy conundrum. This past season was one of those “bad” years; he hit just .252/.317/.396 before succumbing to season-ending ankle surgery. Prior to this season, he had not had significant injury bouts, which should be a good sign for a decent recovery. It is not as if fantasy owners were relying on his speed (the major concern following an ankle injury) to carry them, as Drew has only once stolen 10 or more bases. Remnants of the injury should not significantly affect his offensive play once he returns to the field, according to Corey Dawkins and Ben Lindbergh.  However, not much news has come out regarding when Drew will return, and Drew's play is not strong enough to warrant significant keeper status with injury uncertainty looming. If healthy, fantasy owners might expect to see something like his 2008 to 2010 seasonal average of 16 home runs and a .277/.335/.465 slash line, but risking a keeper slot on a player with such a gruesome injury may be a tall order. 

Michael Cuddyer | Minnesota Twins
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
NO
AL-only:
BORDERLINE
Super Deep:
YES 

Cuddyer's value may be most heavily tied to his new team. In 2011, he was basically the same hitter that he has been his entire career; since 2009, he has hit .276/.341/.465, and he is a career .272/.343/.451 hitter. It is likely he has a season or two left at this level before beginning a decline, so if he were to stay with Minnesota, one might expect these numbers to follow him. The more intriguing idea—and the one brought up by reader Scott44 in last week's article—is the thought of him moving to a more favorable hitting environment like Colorado and boosting his numbers further. It does seem as if Cuddyer is a significantly better hitter at home than on the road; he has hit .289/.360/.489 at home versus .255/.327/.415 on the road for his career, and these trends have not changed since the Twins moved to the pitcher-friendly Target Field in 2010. Place him in a paradise like Coors Field (and the Rockies apparently are interested) and one might expect his batting average and home runs to soar. 

There are other teams eyeing Cuddyer, including the Red Sox, Athletics, Cubs, and Cardinals. These clubs represent a mixed bag in terms of interest, so it might be best to go with the safe option of expecting Cuddyer's normal production and hoping for a favorable move. While he will not be playing second base for his new team outside of an emergency, he did play 17 games last season and could qualify in your league. If he does, consider him as you always have; PECOTA projected a $7 value last season and that is approximately what you might expect this upcoming year. 

Jemile Weeks | Oakland Athletics
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
YES
AL-only:
YES
Super Deep: YES 

In just 437 plate appearances in 2011, Weeks dramatically outperformed expectations by hitting .303/.340/.421 with 22 stolen bases. Coming into the 2011 season, he was ranked 6th on the Athletics' prospect rankings according to Kevin Goldstein, but his stellar .321/.417/.446 line in 217 Triple-A plate appearances combined with Mark Ellis's injury and ineffectiveness brought Weeks to the big leagues early. He is guaranteed a top-of-the-lineup spot next season for the A's given his performance, but can he keep up the strong play in 2012? 

One thing we can say for certain is that Weeks will run a lot in 2012. He took off in 21.2 percent of stolen base opportunities this past year, and those numbers tend to be fairly indicative of future performance. His success rate could be improved (66.7 percent in 2011), but given the uncertainty of stolen base success rates in predicting future performance, it is better to go with the knowledge that Weeks is a “60-65 runner” according to Goldstein. Given a full season and 250 opportunities at stealing bags, one could expect 37 stolen bases with a modest 70 percent success rate. 

Weeks's batting average should fall as his .350 BABIP regresses, but expect a still-high BABIP and improved plate discipline from him next season given his minor league pedigree (career .321 BABIP and 11.1 percent walk rate in the minors). If he hits .280 with 36 steals and an appropriate run total for a full-time leadoff hitter, expect a season akin to the one Ichiro Suzuki or Emilio Bonifacio had this year. 

J.P. Arencibia | Toronto Blue Jays
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
YES
AL-only:
YES
Super Deep:
YES 

Among catchers with at least 400 plate appearances (19 total), Arencibia was fourth in home runs with 23. That would usually be enough to christen a backstop as fantasy-worthy; the three other names were among the highest-ranking catchers in 2011. However, the Blue Jays backstop was held back by a significant handicap: his batting average. Arencibia hit just .219 off of a .255 BABIP—numbers that dragged his value down to $10 in 12-team mixed leagues. 

There are both reasons to support more of the same or improvement from Arencibia. On the negative side, his strikeout rate was 27.1 percent last year, and such a rate was expected given his minor league 20.4 percent rate and scouting report. On the positive side, his pedigree is simply too good to expect that kind of poor performance going forward. He was the 38thbest prospect in baseball and the second best Blue Jays prospect before 2011 according to Kevin Goldstein; for a player of his skill, managing a .255 or lower BABIP seems unlikely. Among catchers with at least 1000 PA since 2008, only two hit worse than that on balls in play, and they were Jeff Mathis and Rod Barajas, neither of whom are as skilled as Arencibia at the plate. 

As for the home runs, they might have been excessive for a guy with just 486 plate appearances, but Arencibia should get more looks as the Jays get more comfortable with him behind the plate. A modest increase in batting average and OBP should also increase his run totals and make his package more appealing to deep keeper league owners. Arencibia is a catcher on the rise, and owners should jump on the bandwagon despite the alarming strikeout numbers. 

Darwin Barney | Chicago Cubs
Shallow:
NO
Medium:
NO
Deep:
NO
NL-only:
NO
Super Deep:
NO 

Remember when Barney was a hot commodity early in the season? It turns out he was exactly who most people thought he was: a career .287/.335/.376 hitter in the minors with no speed who hit .276/.313/.353 in the majors with no speed. With only second base eligibility going into next season, just pass on him in all of our outlined formats. 
 

If any readers have any suggestions for future players to look into on The Keeper Reaper, leave them in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Jong is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Michael's other articles. You can contact Michael by clicking here

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Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Intervie... (10/19)
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Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: Out... (10/18)
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