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BP Fantasy kicks back into gear today as the football season begins to wane and attentions begin to turn back toward baseball.  For the next few weeks, the BP Fantasy team will spend time examining the keeper league value of various players that may be on the fringe of keepability in certain leagues.  We know that every keeper league is different, so while we’ll talk in broad strokes, we’re happy to answer questions specific to your league or cover a particular player if you ask nicely 🙂  The analysis, of course, will be focused on each player’s 2013 prospects, so even if you’re not in a keeper league, this should still prove valuable to your draft preparations. We've got some exciting things in the works for the coming season, and I'm happy to be able to kick it off today. —Derek Carty, Fantasy Manager

Matt Wieters | Baltimore Orioles
Shallow (30 Keepers): No

Medium (60 Keepers): Fringe
Deep (90 Keepers): Yes
AL-only (60 Keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes

The final stat line Wieters finished with last season would be considered a resounding success for most catchers, but Wieters isn't most catchers. He has been saddled with hefty expectations since entering professional baseball as a first-round pick and immediate blue chip prospect. In 2011 he surpassed 20 home runs for the first time in his career, and it appeared that may be the opening act to an even grander act last year. Instead, he duplicated his home run production, lost some average, but offset that by tallying more combined runs and RBI.

Perhaps I'm a glutton for punishment—that's the real reason I gave him a “Fringe” endorsement as a Medium keeper instead of "No"—but there is reason to believe his best is yet to come. Wieters has established he can hit more than 20 home runs in a season, having done so in consecutive years. As an integral part of the Orioles lineup, Wieters found himself slotted fourth or fifth for the majority of his at-bats last year. His position in the lineup should lead to run and RBI totals that rank in or near the top five at the position annually.

Where Wieters can really step forward, however, is in batting average. Last year he posted a .249 average, 16 points below his career mark entering the year in spite of posting the best line drive rate of his career. Prior to 2011, the switch-hitting catcher had substantially more success against right-handed pitching. That changed in 2011, and he crushed southpaws while hitting just .235 against right-handed pitching. He continued to beat up on lefties last year and regained his pop against right-handed pitchers, but his batting averaged slipped further, dropping to .224. There wasn't a substantial difference in his batted ball data against each handed pitcher, and any gains he makes against right-handed pitching portend well to a big jump in batting average this year. Maybe Wieters will continue to tease, but he's only 26 years old, and it's not unfathomable that he'll kick it up a notch.        

Yadier Molina | St. Louis Cardinals
Shallow (30 Keepers): No

Medium (60 Keepers): Fringe
Deep (90 Keepers): Yes
NL-only (60 Keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes

In the world of fantasy baseball, Molina is the anti-Wieters. His prolific defense overshadowed his steady offense and developing power for years. He reached double digits in home runs for the first time in 2011, smacking 14, and his line drive stroke helped him hit over .300 for the second time in his career. Last year, he further tapped into his power, ripping 22 home runs while hitting more line drives, leading to a career-best .315 average. Just for hoots, he stole 12 bases as well. Overall, our Player Forecast Manager ranked him as the 20th most valuable player in 12-team mixed leagues.

A handful of his line drives could turn into flies or groundballs, which would likely hurt his average, but most of his gains look sustainable. According to ESPN's home run tracker, only one of his 22 home runs qualified as lucky. His average true home run distance jumped from 386.7 feet in 2011 to 397.6 feet last year. In combination, it makes his power gains look real, for the most part. The reason Molina fails to get the “Yes” nod in Medium leagues is that catcher is a demanding position that carries inherent risks not associated with other positions. 

Marco Scutaro | San Francisco Giants
Shallow (30 Keepers): No

Medium (60 Keepers): No
Deep (90 Keepers): No
NL-only (60 Keepers): No
Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes

Performing at a high level on baseball's biggest stage has a funny way of sticking in people's memories. Postseason heroics and a red-hot finish with the Giants aside, Scutaro is a 37-year-old middle infielder with middling home run power and stolen base speed. What Scutaro does very well is make contact. Setting the bar as low as 100 pitches seen, Scutaro led the majors in contact rate. When he's at his best, that contact is of the hard line drive variety. That said, expecting him to keep up his 23 percent line drive rate from last year is wishful thinking.

In the end, Scutaro should be able to hit a handful of home runs and add a handful of stolen bases. A batting average north of .280 isn't an outrageous expectation, and if he continues to slot second in the Giants order he could push 100 runs scored. Add his position versatility (he played in over 20 games at second base and shortstop and over 10 at third base), and he has value. That value isn't worth tossing back a younger, higher upside player in most league formats, though. 

Aaron Hill | Arizona Diamondbacks
Shallow (30 Keepers): No

Medium (60 Keepers): Fringe
Deep (90 Keepers): Yes
NL-only (60 Keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes

Owners that invested in Hill bouncing back last year were rewarded handsomely. Hill's production has oscillated wildly from year-to-year, but he has consistently hit for power in the last four years, topping 25 home runs in three of them. Last year, his power came with an unexpected .302 average, 14 stolen bases, and a gaudy 178 combined runs and RBI. That stellar play earned him a 25th ranking according to our PFM.

Hill struggled through most of 2011 but finished strong after a trade sent him from north of the border to the desert. The shocking part of his 2012 campaign was his ability to put everything together in one season. It's hard to imagine him carrying over his full robust stat line to this year, but the beauty of his play last year is that the bar has been set high to regress from. He can give back some of his batting average or a few home runs and stolen bases and remain one of the best fantasy players at the keystone. Hill falls a bit short of being a slam dunk keeper in medium settings given his inconsistent track record, but he does remain a possibility in those formats depending on the other options his owner has on the roster.

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ErikBFlom
12/11
Let's hear about Napoli in a future segment. He is up-down year to year, and just changed cities.
JoshShep50
12/11
Funny you should mention Napoli. I nearly led the column off with him instead of Wieters. I'll definitely include him in a few article.
msloftus
12/11
Feelings on ARod & Denard Span?
JoshShep50
12/11
I'll pass along your requests for A-Rod and Span, and I'm sure the authors in charge of the Keeper Reaper articles for the corner infield positions and the outfield will take them into consideration for an in depth look. In short, I would only keep A-Rod in extremely deep formats, and Span would be a fringe option in NL-only and a yes in very deep leagues.
fredlummis
12/11
Your thoughts on a couple OF in a medium keeper league (60): Austin Jackson and Yoenis Cespedes? Could hold one or neither (in favor of an SP).
JoshShep50
12/11
I tend to lean heavily in favor of keeping hitters over pitchers, so unless the pitchers are amongst the cream of the crop, I'd probably Jackson or Cespedes with a preference for Cespedes. I'll pass along your requests to the author of the OF Keeper Reaper.
psingman
12/12
Noted. Shorthand version: I agree with Josh, slight preference of Yoenis over Jackson.
gdragon1977
12/11
Neil Walker I'd like to see, thanks!
JoshShep50
12/11
I'll add Walker to my list of players to cover, thanks for the suggestion.
Guancous
12/11
Please cover Mike Moustakas in a future edition. The medium to fringe selections are more helpful.
JoshShep50
12/11
I'll pass along your Moustakas request to the CI Keeper Reaper. In regards to the medium fringe player request, the article is meant to cater to owners in all size leagues and keeper formats. I'll definitely avoid over doing it with slam dunk keepers though.
michaelstreet
12/11
I'll add the Moose to my list--thanks for the suggestion!
eliyahu
12/11
Is there any way to incorporate the price range at which you think a player is keepable? For example Wieters may be a clear keep at $5 but a "no way" at $25. If you could, perhaps, add the range at which you think a player is worth keeping in deeper leagues, would be very useful.

Another example: In my deep league (~150 players kept), I can keep Ian Desmond at $15. I suspect that at $5 he's a slam dunk "yes" and at $30, he'd be a slam dunk "no." This added dimension would undoubtedly add work on your end, but I think it would be very useful.
JoshShep50
12/11
While I appreciate the suggestion, and wouldn't mind the extra work, I think there are too many variables at play to make including a dollar value range valuable to owners in all leagues. I'd liken it to adding a round value range to players in leagues in which players are kept at the cost of the round they were selected in. That said, I'd be more than happy to answer specific keeper questions in regards to auction leagues either by e-mail or in the comments section.
Worthing
12/11
Hill, $4 keeper?
JoshShep50
12/11
Unless you have some other mega values on your roster, he's a no doubt keeper at that price.
BarryR
12/12
eliyahu: In a general sense, he can't answer that question. He doesn't have enough information. Is it a mixed league or NL? Are the other top SS likely to be kept? What are your alternatives? How do people bid in your league?
I have played over 40 seasons of auction keeper leagues and without specific information, I couldn't answer it.

There is a systemic way to look at this problem.
1) If you were at the auction and got Desmond for 15, would you be happy? If the answer is no, you probably shouldn't keep him.
2) How likely is it that he'll go for more than 15 in the auction? You need to know the market you'll be bidding in. Nobody outside your league can accurately predict the inflation rate in a keeper league. They don't know who else is being kept or how others bid. When I have tricky keeper decisions, I check around the league to see if there is going to be positional or statistical scarcity. In this case, if the other top SS are obvious keepers, the price of Desmond just went up, because he'll be at the top of everyone's list. Are all the top base stealers gone? Do you have enough SB? If base stealers will be hard to come by, Desmond just became more valuable to you and anyone else who needs SB.
3) Are you making a choice between him and someone else? Then you have to compare the relative value using everything in #2.

At the end of the day, a player's value is his value to you in the context of your league and your roster. If you have Jose Reyes and Mike Trout, a player who steals 20 bases has less marginal value than he would have if you didn't have them.

For the record. I have Desmond in both my NL league and my mixed league - both of which I won last year - and I will be keeping him at 16 in the NL and 11 in the mixed. Those of us in auction leagues are often neglected in columns because generic values are tricky. I hope this helped you.
bubba3m
12/12
I've got a handful of disappointments to consider: Brian McCann, Alexei Ramirez, and Kelly Johnson. I'm in a deep league, so I'm thinking yes, no, and no.
JoshShep50
12/12
I'll add them to the list of potential candidates for future articles. I may not cover all of them, but it's likely I'll cover some of them. Thanks for the suggestions.
grandslam28
12/12
What about Starlin Castro?
lipitorkid
12/13
Wilin Rosario, Victor Martinez, and Profar. Please.