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Jason Kubel | Arizona Diamondbacks
Shallow (30 Keepers):
No
Medium (60 Keepers): No
Deep (90 Keepers): No
NL-only (60 Keepers): No
Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes

Owning Jason Kubel last year was a lot like being the aptly named (since this is a baseball article) Tom Hanson from 500 Days of Summer. If you jump between different days of his season, one day you’re running gleefully through IKEA but on the next you discover the sink is broken, all your sinks are broken. Moving from plumbing back to baseball, for Kubel this means his season was very bipolar. The week of July 15 he was the hottest hitter in the game while swatting five homers, yet in August and September he couldn’t manage to hit above .200.

Overall, Kubel paid great dividends to his owners who drafted him late, posting a career-high 30 homers, 90 RBI, and a palatable .253 average. The distribution of his numbers was less than fortunate, however, with almost none of the production coming in the latter two months. For owners looking to Kubel for help down the stretch, he was not of service, and to anyone who traded for him near the trading deadline, I apologize on his behalf.

Interestingly, at 30 years old, Kubel learned a new trick, namely hitting opposite field home runs. In 2012, he hit nine the other way—about as many as he had in his previous six seasons combined. Hitting more opposite field home runs doesn’t guarantee a player more homers overall; but being able to take an outside pitch deep can only help one’s power game so long as it doesn’t come at the expense of turning on inside pitches one would otherwise take deep. Seeing how Kubel still pulled plenty of homers as well, I’d bet he can approach 30 homers again in 2013, especially in his hitter-friendly Arizona confines.

Despite his power output, Kubel tends to lack in the runs and steals departments, keeping his value outside the top 100 players. In NL-only leagues, I’d also be wary of keeping him given the trade rumors about him heading to an AL club like the Rangers, Yankees, or Rays. Even if he doesn’t get moved before the season starts, you can bet his name will pop up again in July if the D’Backs aren’t contending.

Corey Hart | Milwaukee Brewers
Shallow (30 Keepers):
No
Medium (60 Keepers): No
Deep (90 Keepers): No
NL-only (60 Keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes

Speaking as a (primarily) 14-team mixed-league fantasy player, Hart is the type of guy everyone wants and no one wants. His end-of-season numbers look fine in retrospect—once again he managed 30 homers with a solid .270 average and good run and RBI totals—but day-to-day he puts up too many 1-for-4s to enjoy owning him.

In 2012, the 30-year-old and 6-foot-6 Hart set a new high in strikeout percentage, punching out in 24 percent of his plate appearances. Eno Sarris and Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs showed that taller players often see a dramatic spike in their strikeout rates in their early thirties. With this information in mind, it certainly seems more likely his skills will continue to erode rather than rebound next year.

No longer much of a basestealer, Hart is devolving into a power-only commodity. Hitting in the middle of the Brewers’ potent offense should keep his run and RBI totals up, but no longer would I expect Hart to be a top 90 player. Next season is also likely to be Hart’s last with outfield eligibility, reducing the chances he’ll be worthy of keeping in future years.

Coco Crisp | Oakland Athletics
Shallow (30 Keepers):
No
Medium (60 Keepers): No
Deep (90 Keepers): Fringe
AL-only (60 Keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes

For the second offseason in a row, Crisp has had his starting center field gig usurped unexpectedly by a newcomer. Last season it was import Yoenis Cespedes that knocked Crisp into a left field platoon. This season, Oakland’s surprise trade for Chris Young once again has Crisp’s role on the field uncertain.

Despite the turmoil, Crisp’s on-field production didn’t suffer; in fact, he had another productive season, batting .260 with 10 homers and 40 steals. Once again, I wouldn’t expect his numbers to suffer from the competition—between rotating into the DH spot and the chance one of his fellow A’s outfielders succumbs to injury, he will reach his 500 to 600 plate appearances.

While it’s tempting to keep an electric player like Crisp, his injury risk coupled with the generally unsupportive A’s lineup makes him a long shot to finish in the top 90 players next year. With a bit of injury luck and a slightly improved supportive cast to boost his run total, though, Crisp could be worthy of keeping in deeper keeper leagues.

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ErikBFlom
12/28
I hope you can comment on the ever-variable Jacoby Ellsbury.
psingman
12/29
Good pick.
Bellis
12/31
I'd be particularly interested in the steals with Ellsbury. Will be 30 this year. Only attemped 5 steals in Sept/Oct. Given the outlier season for power in 2011 and the sometimes lingering effect of shoulder injuries on power, I think it's very tough to project the HR production. Whether or not he's going to justify a top 50 or so ranking in 5x5 will have a lot to do with whether he can be a 40+ steal guy again.
JPinPhilly
12/28
I'm in a shallow keeper league that has a few extra categories for hitters. We have the standard R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG stats but we also penalize hitters for strikeouts while rewarding them for walks and doubles. In that league Michael Brantley had a nice year for me. He won't hit many homers or steal a lot of bases but he walked 53 times last year while striking out only 56 times. In 2011 he struck out 76 times in 496 plate appearances but in 2012 he reduced his strikeouts by 20 in 113 fewer plate appearances. He also hit 37 doubles. He doesn't kill you in BA either. I'll be curious to see what PECOTA thinks of him. He'll be 26 in 2013 and his numbers are trending in the right direction. Any thoughts on him?
psingman
12/30
Brantley is a solid player even though curiously his prodigious steal totals form the minors haven't translated to the majors to the point where he stole 12 bases last year and caught 9 times. I'd expect that rate to improve some in 2013, leading to 15-20 steals. He won't hit double-digit homers but Brantley is well-tailored to your league given his gap power and excellent plate discipline. What will be key to Brantley's 2013 value is his lineup spot. Right now he seems to be in a battle with Drew Stubbs (he of the .277 OBP) to bat leadoff. He could could also bat 2nd or somewhere in the bottom third of the lineup, it's unknown at the moment (and likely to change at some point during the season). If Brantley manages to be slotted at the top of that improved Indians lineup, the extra runs will only help his value.
JPinPhilly
1/09
I'm just seeing this reply now. Thanks for getting back to me. Yes, Brantley really does seem ideally suited to my league. I hadn't heard that he was a possible leadoff candidate but should he get the gig my decision becomes even easier. His career splits in the majors suggest that he has struggled to get on base out of the leadoff spot though not as much as Stubbs. Any idea whether or not Francona would allow him to run more from that spot? Obviously his Runs Scored would improve and his RBI would take a hit but he's not on my roster for the RBI anyway. I may be overly impressed with the dude but there's a lot to like, especially in my league. Again, thanks for the response.
psingman
1/09
I wouldn't read to much into that lineup order split, only to the extent Tito will use it to determine his lineup which I don't believe he will. I can't recall any study that looked at whether a batter steals more at the top of the order than at the bottom, controlling for the obvious fact that generally batters near the top are faster and would steal more wherever they batted. It would be interesting if there was no effect.
bubba3m
12/28
Very nice analysis- Coco was a question for me given the Young trade, but if you have faith in his 500+ ABs, then I will, too. Dexter Fowler, Cody Ross, and Jayson Werth are my open questions.
psingman
12/30
I hope to answer them.
sroney
12/28
I don't know why I even looked at this article. I think I will keep three outfielders (Trout, Braun and Stanton) and can't imagine why I would keep a fourth. (8 team league with five keepers per team)
psingman
12/30
Sounds like an easy decision to me.
Chucko
12/29
You have Coco listed as NL-only eligible. I'm sure we all know who you are referring to, but just sayin'...
Bellis
12/31
With regards to Coco and the A's line up, they finished 14th in runs scored and 7th in HRs in MLB last year and were 1st in both categories post ASB.
psingman
1/09
This is a fair point, I let my preconceived notions of A's hitting overtake what actually happened. It certainly makes any boost in runs/RBI less likely for Crisp.