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October 21, 2011

The Keeper Reaper

First, Third, and DH for 10/21/11

by Michael Street

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One of the toughest calls in keeper leagues come from players whose values have been diminished by injuries or shaky play. Does a strong September erase the memories of a weak season? Did that long cold streak come from injury or diminished skills? Will a delicate player finally put together a healthy year? As we know (and Collateral Damage analyzes) remaining healthy is a skill, while other skills neither evaporate entirely, nor do they suddenly improve. I’ll try to answer some of these question marks in response to reader requests; as always, feel free to offer suggestions of your own in the comments field.

Our latest Keeper Reaper twist provides links to BP’s PFM dollar valuation for 2011 player performance, courtesy of our own fantasy/programming guru, Rob McQuown. You’ll find those values linked to the names of each league depth next to the player’s name below, for easy reference.

David Freese | St. Louis Cardinals
Shallow: NO
Medium
: NO
Deep
: YES
NL-only
: YES
Super Deep
: YES

I considered including Freese (with whom regular Value Picks readers are all too familiar) in my first Keeper Reaper column, but I didn’t feel like Freese had shown his stuff this season after missing two months to a broken hand. Then he went out and hit .278/.278/.556 in the NLDS and .545/.600/1.091 in the NLCS, the latter performance earning him MVP honors. Perhaps he’s shown his stuff after all.

Along with other analysts, I’ve touted Freese based on the strength of his .307/.384/.531 minor-league line, which included 101 doubles and 68 homers in 1675 plate appearances, along with a 9.7 walk rate and 19.5 strikeout rate. But Freese’s development has been frozen by a series of unfortunate events—er, surgeries: left heel debridement in 2009; tendon reconstruction on his right ankle and left ankle debridement in 2010; and this season’s broken left hand. In between those stints on the operating table, Freese hit .298/.354/.429 in 604 plate appearances, maintaining a 7.1 walk rate and 21.1 strikeout rate that’s only slightly lower than his minor-league rates.

Pessimists would remind you that Freese has yet to play more than 97 games or collect more than 363 plate appearances in a single season, while optimists would point out that he’s increased his playing time each year. Freese’s postseason explosion, along with his production when healthy, shows his talent as a solid and occasionally spectacular third baseman, but staying healthy is a skill, and playing time is crucial in fantasy. His decent upside makes him a keeper in deeper leagues, but his fragility makes him iffy in shallower leagues, where you want a better bet with a higher ceiling.

Chris Davis | Baltimore Orioles
Shallow: NO
Medium
: NO
Deep
: BORDERLINE
AL-only
: YES
Super Deep
: YES

Another player who often elicits comments—and write-ups—in my Value Picks column due to his power/patience potential, Davis has seen his path to fantasy relevance blocked by both personnel and personal performance. After failing to distinguish himself in 953 plate appearances with Texas (hitting just .248/.300/.455), Davis was eventually traded to the Orioles. But shoulder problems and inconsistent playing time (he started only 30 of the team’s final 58 games) held him back in his Baltimore debut, where he mustered only a .398 SLG. This is not only weak for a corner infielder, but it’s also terrible for a player whose power is his calling card. Davis got slightly better towards the end of the season, playing more often (he started all but seven games in September) and hitting .301/.341.434 over the final four weeks. This enabled him to end the season with a .266/.305/.402 line—not great, but a nice improvement over last year’s .192/.279/.292.

His September was bolstered by a .421 BABIP during a season when he hit .366 on balls in play (.390 with the Orioles)—well above his .335 career average (.374 in the minors). That, along with his 25.0 percent line drive rate, could indicate solid contact as well as good luck, but I’d expect some batting average regression, particularly from a guy whose strikeout rates are consistently around 30 percent. He has to mash a lot of home runs to make up for that, and Davis’s shoulder problems—for which he elected against offseason surgery—may diminish his power. It’s also worth noting that, in southpaw-friendly Camden Yards, Davis has hit only .248/.307/.390 in 114 career plate appearances. That’s too many question marks to make Davis a solid keeper in all but the deepest of leagues. Power is critical at the hot corner, so you can roll the dice on him, but I prefer keepers with a stronger track record, not Davis’s history of struggles.

Adam Lind | Toronto Blue Jays
Shallow: NO
Medium
: NO
Deep
: NO
AL-only: BORDERLINE
Super Deep
: BORDERLINE

Another head-scratcher for his frustrated owners. Lind looked like he’d finally broken through in 2009, cranking 35 dingers and hitting .305/.370/.562 thanks to then-career bests in strikeout rate (16.8) and walk rate (8.9). Since then, Lind has never reached any of the offensive marks he achieved that season—not in batting average, slugging, home runs, RBI, K%, or BB%. In addition, he’s been maddeningly inconsistent. In 2010, he snapped out of a .214/.271/.370 first-half funk to hit .267/.309/.498 the rest of the way. His owners hoped that trend would continue in 2011, and Lind hit .300/.349/.515 before the All-Star break, then collapsed to post a sub-Mendoza .197/.233/.356 in the season’s second half.

It’s tempting to blame this season on the back spasms that knocked Lind out for most of May, but he returned to post a .311/.385/.644 in June. Moreover, many of his 2011 statistics have remained eerily similar to last year’s, suggesting that 2009 may be the anomaly and not the standard. Lind posted a .188 ISO in each of the past two seasons despite a fly ball rate near 40 percent and a home run per fly rate of 15 percent each year. His 21.8 percent line drive rate this season—better than 2009’s 20.2 percent—makes his .265 BABIP seem like bad luck, were it not for last season’s .277 BABIP and 18.7 percent line-drive rate. And in 2009, his .323 BABIP was also a career high (excluding 2006’s small-sample .435). Furthermore, Lind struggled with southpaws this season, hitting 10 points lower and slugging 132 points lower against them, entirely consistent with his career split of .283/.334/.508 against righties and .223/.266/.349 against lefties. Even his 2009 breakout was overshadowed by his OPS platoon splits, which were 212 point higher against righties.

These problems, plus the presence of David Cooper, means Lind’s days in Toronto—if not as a full-time hitter—could be numbered. He earned $16 for his AL-only owners (79th overall) and $13 in super-deep leagues (151st overall), making him a borderline keeper even in those leagues. If you want to bet on Lind, your best chance may be to cut him loose and see if you can grab him cheaply on draft day in 2012.

Brent Morel | Chicago White Sox
Shallow: NO
Medium
: NO
Deep
: BORDERLINE
AL-only
: YES
Super Deep
: YES

Morel was my late-season miss in Value Picks, since I dropped him just before his eight-home-run, .220/.333/.549 September outburst, which also earned him one of Derek Carty’s “Championship Creator of the Year” votes. As I pointed out in my season review, Morel walked more times in September (14) than he had all season (8). It’s also instructive to look at the first line of that triple-slash and to note that, even in the super-deep and AL-only leagues, Morel earned just above $5. A month does not a season make, particularly for an impatient hitter like Morel.

Despite that outburst, Morel finished the season at .245/.287/.366, yielding a .247 TAv near his 40th PECOTA percentile, despite slash numbers closer to his 20th. That could mean the best is yet to come for Morel, though BP2010 notes that he’s “more of a double and line-drives power guy.” Additionally, his HR/FB in September was 29.6 percent—miles above his 10.1 percent career average—and five of his longballs came at home, a place where righties love to hit. His 12.8 K% this season echoes the strong contact hitting approached he displayed in the minors (14.8 K%), and he further showed batting-eye improvement by swinging at just 30.5 percent of pitches outside the zone in 2011. Some of Morel’s patience could carry over to 2012, while his good contact and long-term upside make him a nice keeper in deeper formats. He just hasn’t shown the consistency or ceiling necessary to make him a keeper in shallower leagues.

Kendrys Morales | Los Angeles Angels
Shallow: NO
Medium: NO
Deep
: BORDERLINE
AL-only
: YES
Super Deep
: YES

Owners were teased all spring with hints that Morales would return from the embarrassing end to his 2010 season—after all, it had been nearly a year since he broke his tibia celebrating a walk-off grand slam on May 29. But the rehab proved too difficult to rush Morales back, and Mark Trumbo stepped into the first base void to have an outside shot at the AL Rookie of the Year award. Next season, however, the Angels face a lot of roster cholesterol, as they may have to find playing time for (or deal away) Trumbo, Morales, Mike Trout, Bobby Abreu, Peter Bourjos, Vernon Wells, and Torii Hunter at just five spots (outfield, first base, and designated hitter). Mike Scoscia discussed shifting Trumbo to third—in the same breath as he said they’re assuming that Morales won’t return. And even that plan could be shelved due to Trumbo’s season-ending stress fracture.

Imagining Morales in the heart of an order that includes Trumbo and Trout plus Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, and Erick Aybar is enough to make any fantasy owner salivate at the juicy counting stats that could come Morales’s way. If all this can happen, Morales should bring at least $15 in most leagues, with a batting average close to .300 and 30-40 home runs. But so many moving parts—some of them in Morales’s lower leg—make him a shaky keeper in shallower leagues, where timid or forgetful owners may downgrade him on Draft Day.

Related Content:  Kendrys Morales,  David Freese

11 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

harderj

Thanks, Michael. Always love these.

I have both Chris Davis and Adam Lind on my 50-man Strat team (11-team league), where they're both obviously still keepers (I think!), so to see these in-depth reports (even if they leave me with more diminished hopes for recovery) is really nice.

The ones I realistically have to decide on are far more obscure (and less valuable) commodities:

Clear cuts - Jeff Clement, Dan Johnson (despite his importance to the Rays on the final day of the season)

Likely cuts - Steve Pearce, Daric Barton (1b-1 in 2011 has value), Brandon Inge (3b-2 might have some value)

Probable keepers - Lind, C. Davis, Matt LaPorta, Mat Gamel, Ian Stewart, Jason Giambi (lim. at bats, but solid O).

Utility keepers - Jed Lowrie and Drew Sutton

Clear keepers - David Ortiz, Pablo Sandoval, and Carlos Santana

Any clear areas where I'm way off? Thoughts welcomed, and thanks again!

Oct 21, 2011 03:42 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Good to hear from you again, harderj!

I think you're spot-on in nearly all of these choices, though I'm not completely familiar with Strat play. Among your probable keepers, I think that most are good calls (if a bit of a gamble, as with Stewart and LaPorta), though I think Giambi's 2011 was fairly anomalous. There aren't many players 40+ years old able to produce at his level consistently, and the chances of collapse, injury, or retirement are pretty big. If there's another keeper option you haven't listed, you might reconsider.

Gamel's role will be affected by Fielder, obviously, since there's always the chance that he'll stick with Milwaukee, and Gamel's also been unimpressive thus far in the bigs. Not a bad gamble, but his value undoubtedly comes from this league's depth.

Other than that, I think you've made all the right moves here, given that many are gambles. But that's what makes fantasy (and Strat) fun, right?

Oct 21, 2011 11:56 AM
 
harderj

Yeah, Giambi ought to have a nice card for 2011, albeit with limited plate appearances and, of course, a 1b-5.

My 12 total cuts are shaping up as T. Teagarden, D. Johnson, D. Barton, J. Clement, S. Pearce, B. Inge, J. Cust, L. Milledge, J. Duchscherer, B. Tallet, D. Purcey, and E. Meek (slightly edging out M. Pelfrey, J. Devine, J.P. Howell, M. Saunders, R. Davis, Gamel, LaPorta, Stewart, et al).

Thanks for your thoughts!

Oct 21, 2011 16:47 PM
rating: 0
 
lesmash

I like that list of 7 Angels hitters for 5 positions: Trumbo, Morales, Abreu, Hunter, Wells, Trout and Bourjos.

If Trout comes out raking in the spring then I say carry him and start him from Day 1. If he struggles a lot then you can justify sending him to AAA for half a season. What I don't want to see is the Angels send Trout to the minors if he shows he is ready to be an every day player. This move would likely cost the team a win or two, and that could be the difference between making the playoffs or not by the end of the year.

I absolutely play Morales, Bourjos and Trumbo all the time. If we add Trout to the mix, then we have one more regular spot left for Hunter/Wells/Abreu; without Trout that means we have two spots left. Of this group, Hunter would seem to be the best remaining player so I'd give him the lion's share of the remaining at bats. That means at least one and possibly both of Wells and Abreu are not starting regularly. That's a lot of $$ to be pinch hitting and spot starting, but I don't think it is the manager's job to worry about contracts.

History would indicate that Mike Scoscia will not go this route, but I suspect that this is what might yield the most wins for the Angels in 2012.

Oct 21, 2011 05:45 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Scoscia's in an enviable position, since he's got tons of insurance for Morales (or even Trumbo) if they don't heal. I agree that Trout's status may also depend on his Spring Training performance, but I think his time is now.

While it's nice to have a deep bench with Wells and Abreu there, the Angels might be better off making a few trades to rid themselves of so many aging/marginal veterans.

Thanks for the excellent analysis!

Oct 21, 2011 11:58 AM
 
R.A.Wagman

Michael - thanks for the write-up on Morel. How would you compare him to Danny Valencia. I have an AL-only Scoresheet team and am debating between the two of them.

Oct 21, 2011 08:18 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Another BPF regular checking in--good to hear from you, too, R.A.!

I like Valencia a bit better because he's got patience as well as a similarly moderate power profile; he's also shown that he can produce consistently at the big league level. I don't know how SS ranks their defense, though I suspect Morel gets the edge here. It may come down to whether you want offense or defense.

FWIW, PECOTA's long-term projections (not yet updated to include 2011 stats) give Valencia the OBP edge and Morel the SLG edge. A few years down the road (2016-ish) Morel has a slightly higher peak overall, but those projections get iffier so many years out for such a young player.

The best choice might be to trade one or the other for a position where you're weak, but I doubt I have to offer you that simple kind of advice :)

Oct 21, 2011 12:05 PM
 
adrock

At what maximum price in an AL-only 23-man active roster keeper league would it make sense to hold on to Morel?

The $5 value he returned this year suggests a max of $7-8 given league inflation for 2012, but is this actually a case where spring training might be meaningful in terms of his ability to deliver $10-12 in value?

Ordinarily I wouldn't consider him at those prices but 3B is relatively dire in the AL, but just about every serviceable player will be owned. $28 on A-Rod or $11 on Morel (shudders).

Oct 21, 2011 09:10 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

There's something to be said for inflation due to position scarcity, as well as long-term value. You didn't mention how deep your league is, though--there are actually lots of talented 3B in the AL, but the talent level drops off sharply after the top 5 or so.

Throwing a few extra bucks at Morel, whose job is fairly secure, might not be the worst option. If $11 is your current price, that's pretty close to top-dollar for him (I'd bet he earns more than $8). AL-only 3B who earned $11 this season include Eduardo Nunez and Alberto Callaspo, and expecting Morel to slot in around there isn't unreasonable. If you feel you *must* keep a 3B, it's definitely better than ARod at $28--only Bautista outearned that among AL 3B this season.

Oct 21, 2011 12:17 PM
 
niffoc4

Speaking of Eduardo Nunez. In a 20-team keeper with 10 kept + 3 rookies that counts the traditional 5 plus total bases and OPS, how much value does he have? I'm trying to decide between him, Duda and Cozart for my last spot. All of these guys would be backups, which gives Nunez an advantage because of his many positions, however I'm worried that he won't get any at bats next year.

Oct 21, 2011 13:35 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Nunez is likely to pick up some ABs when A-Rod or Jeter sits now and again--which may be more again than now, if current trends continue--so there's an argument for keeping him.

But I'd pick Duda over either of the other two. While a FT role is far from assured, he's got a shot at a starting gig, while the other two don't; Duda's *downside* is a bench job. Plus, Duda's great walk rates (9.5% last season, 12.5% in the minors) mean he's bound to have a higher OBP, too, and his ISO (190 this season, 187 in the minors) should give him more TB, too.

As you point out, he lacks the positional flexibility of Nunez and Cozart, but he should still qualify at 1B and OF. Needing a MIF backup would be the only reason to pick anyone other than Duda.

Oct 21, 2011 15:06 PM
 
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