Don’t lie to me! At some point, you’ve been a relationship where you thought of the other person as a “keeper”. What exactly did you mean by that? Could the objective definition be someone whose value is worth the cost…both emotionally and financially? For those of us who are fortunate enough to play keeper-league Fantasy Baseball, the definition is even more telling. As with Ross Atkins & Jose Bautista or Dan Duquette & Mark Trumbo, we must make those tough calls when it comes to our roster. Of course, our decisions don’t involve a $17.2 million qualifying offer, but they are nonetheless difficult and heart-wrenching.
Every keeper league has its unique characteristics, but 99% of the time, keeper decisions are being made within a few weeks of opening day, when information and advice is plentiful. For the owners in the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL), their keeper list is due in late-October for an auction draft that takes place just as the World Series is ending. The XFL is a 15-team mixed keeper league with a $260 auction draft for a roster of 23 players (14 hitters + 9 pitchers). It has a fairly standard 5×5 format with On-Base Percentage (OBP) replacing Batting Average (BA) and each team can keep up to 15 players, including minor league prospects. So, for example, if three of your 15 keepers are Farm players (less than 50 AB’s or 20 IP in the Majors), you still need to draft 11 players at the table. To give you some understanding of the challenges involved, here’s a quick review of the salary structure –
> November Draft – Player salaries are determined by the winning bid at the table and increase $5 each season. So, unless a team finds a break-out player in the end-game, there’s a reasonable chance that expensive veterans will only be on your team for one season.
> March Supplemental Draft – A 17-round snake draft gets all the squads up to a 40-man roster from which you determine 23 active players each week. All players chosen in this phase have a $1 salary. For current major-leaguers, the increase each season is $5 so the annual keeper lists have a smattering of $6 players that were great choices the previous year. Examples this time around could include Jonathan Schoop, Rajah Davis, Rick Porcello, Marcell Ozuna, Jonathan Villar & Chris Carter. Minor-leaguers taken in this phase also have a $1 starting salary, but once they get to “the show”, their salary only goes up $3 per year. This is what might be described as the “dynasty” component in this particular league. An example would be Jose Abreu, who was taken as a free agent by Donald’s Dux (my squad) in March of 2014 and now enters his 4th season on the roster at a salary of $10.
> In-Season Monthly Free Agent Selections – Teams can choose free agents once a month and drop someone on their roster in a corresponding move. The salary is $5 with a $5 increase in subsequent seasons, so you’ll see a few of these players scattered on keeper rosters at $10 each year. Current examples include Adam Duvall, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ryan Schimpf, & Aledmys Diaz.
As with all keeper leagues, draft inflation is an important factor and some of the bargain salaries put the percentage beyond the scope of my abacus. This creates an atmosphere where one of the difficult decisions regarding keepers is not just their value versus cost, but what the estimated price will be at the draft to get them back. This makes those marginal keepers even more valuable as you pare your roster down to 15. As an instructive exercise for keeper-league aficionados, we’ll look at each roster and choose a “no-brainer” keeper (the team’s MVP) and a marginal keeper in the classic “bubble” category. That way, you can drool over the former and see if you agree with the latter.
> Jeff Winick
* MVP – Nolan Arenado $13 – Lots of choices from this championship squad, but this Rockie slugger is the man.
* Bubble – Chris Davis $25 – With HR’s more plentiful, is this a reasonable salary?
> Steve Moyer
* MVP – Kris Bryant $7 – Always ahead of the curve on young players, this roster also has Carlos Correa at the same price.
* Bubble – Johnny Cueto $24 – Good pitching is always expensive in this environment, so deciding on the salary threshold is difficult.
> Ron Shandler
* MVP – Manny Machado $16 – Won’t even be 25 until next Summer.
* Bubble – Jon Lester $27 – Same comment as Cueto.
> Todd Zola
* MVP – Francisco Lindor $7 – Has the SS position ever been this strong?
* Bubble – Dexter Fowler $21 – Where will he be in ’17?
> Trace Wood
* MVP – Giancarlo Stanton $22 – Injuries aside, every AB is must-watch TV.
* Bubble – Brandon Belt $19 – Will he take the next step or does the ballpark hold down his numbers?
> Gene McCaffrey
* MVP – Corey Seager $7 – ROY and another great young SS.
* Bubble – Aroldis Chapman $22 – Has never been on another roster in this league, but reaching the top-end for Closer salaries.
> Don Drooker
* MVP – Wilson Contreras $4 – In a two-Catcher format, having a young one like this at an inexpensive price is golden.
* Bubble – Andrew McCutchen $25 – Has been on this roster for all of his career, but at age 30 he only earned about $15 in this format. Was it a fact or a fluke?
> Peter Kreutzer & Alex Patton
* MVP – Mike Trout $19 – Another of those dynasty players, he’ll be on this roster when Congress votes to give themselves term limits.
* Bubble – Salvador Perez $20 – How much less could he be at the table?
> Perry Van Hook
* MVP – Mark Trumbo $6 – The leading home run hitter in baseball wasn’t even drafted last November
* Bubble – Adrian Beltre $28 – Another productive season on a career path to Cooperstown.
> Greg Ambrosius
* MVP – Rougned Odor $10 – 33 HR’s from a 22 year-old MI.
* Bubble – J.T. Realmuto $21 – Do you throw back the only Catcher who provides SB’s?
> Jeff Erickson
* MVP – Nomar Mazara $4 – This why you take prospects every March.
* Bubble – Nick Markasis $10 – Earned more than that number in ’16.
> Brian Feldman
* MVP – George Springer $10 – A healthy season was all he needed.
* Bubble – Lance McCullers $7 – Speaking of health?
> Brian Walton
* MVP – Addison Russell $7 – Yet another great young SS
* Bubble – Matt Harvey $16 – Too much of a question mark at this price?
> Lawr Michaels
* MVP – Yoenis Cespedes $16 – Will rake in New York…or somewhere else.
* Bubble – Jacoby Ellsbury $15 – Branch Rickey always thought you’d be better off getting rid of player a year too soon rather that a year too late.
> Doug Dennis
* MVP – Eduardo Nunez $10 – Earned double that number with his 40 SB’s
* Bubble – Ryan Schimpf $10 – 20 HR’s in less than 300 AB’s but he hit .217
While you’re sorting out all the Halloween candy in early November, these 15 (or 16 if Alex makes an appearance) hearty fellows will be bidding in Arizona and enjoying the camaraderie of the XFL’s 14th annual draft. More information and the league history can be found at fantasyxperts.com