Although inspired by a real event, the following story is fantasy and does not depict any actual person or event.

We’re completely entrenched in the slog that is six months without real baseball, but that doesn’t mean fantasy owners are bereft of all decision-making. It’s the time of year when keeper-league owners must make a call on which players they’ll have back next year.

Kole Calhoun vs. Kevin Gausman
: 10-team AL-Only, four keepers
Contracts: Calhoun $10 (two years remaining) and Gausman $1 (one year left)

Both players saw a new level of playing time in the majors this year as Calhoun appeared in more than 100 games for the first time and Gausman made 20 starts for the first time. Calhoun missed a month of the season with an ankle sprain and still managed to hit 17 homers and score 90 runs. Gausman, who started the season in the minor leagues, was called up and sent down seven times during the season and still managed to earn $7 in AL-only leagues. In his 20 starts, Gausman allowed four or more earned runs just four times ,and with more run support could’ve easily won more than seven games. The risks and caveats that come with young starting pitchers are still there for Gausman, who posted strikeout (18 percent) and walk rates (eight percent) that leave room for improvement.

Initially, my reaction was to go for Gausman because of the lack of commitment. Even fantasy owners can afford a one-year contract for $1, and it’s the preferable contract if both players tank. A closer look at Gausman, though, reveals that he’s going to need to improve his rate stats—he seems to have nixed all the homers he allowed in 2013—and in this case I won’t be betting on him to do that in his first full season in the majors. If the owner could keep both players, that’d be my recommendation, as even without improvement, Gausman at $1 would return a profit in this league. Meanwhile, despite a month on the shelf, Calhoun was worth $20 in AL-only leagues this year, and I view him as the safer investment not only because he’s a hitter but because he’s a hitter with a good approach at the plate.

J.D. Martinez
: 18-team mixed, up to 15 keepers
Contract: $18 (year two of three)

If you read my Tigers preview or follow me on Twitter, then you already know I have an affinity for Martinez. I’ve been driving the J.D. Martinez bandwagon since June. My stance on him going forward boils down to belief in his power carrying over. We all know he’s not going to hit .315 again, but with additional playing time in 2015, he should still have value even if he hits .270. Martinez is a fairly easy keep in AL-only leagues, but in mixed leagues, it might be a closer call than you think. Martinez earned $18 in 12-team mixed circuits this year, and because I overspent to acquire him through free agency, keeping him at that price wouldn’t leave room for much profit. In a league with 18 teams and the possibility of a lot of hitters being kept, though, I’m inclined to bring Martinez back.

Angel Pagan
: 12-team mixed, six keepers
Contract: None

After playing only 71 and 96 games the last two seasons, Pagan carries major injury risk, and lower-back injuries can be especially debilitating. Still, he’s been productive when on the field, as he hit .300 with 16 steals in 2014. Pagan is the type of player I would target in “-only” leagues and deeper mixed formats because of his good batting average and speed, but his skill set isn’t going to win you any titles. Now that he’s missed so much time over the last two seasons, he’s likely to be an afterthought on draft day. Pagan is worth targeting at the end of an auction, but I’m not keeping him here.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
I'm in a dynasty league where I have a glut of OF, and so JD might be best served as a trade chip. What sort of return do you think I should be looking for? Thanks for the advice.
Difficult to say exactly, but as long as you're dealing with someone who values JD you should be able to trade him for an infielder or starting pitcher of equal value.
I just finished my first auction league season. We keep 9 players. Can I keep Miggy for over $60? Or Darvish for $35?
I won by kind of a lot some how and I am just not sure what will be left in next year's auction after people keep 9.
I wouldn't keep Miggy at that price, just try and buy him back for less. Darvish can be kept at that price.