If you are reading this post in October, it’s probably because you love fantasy baseball. And, you plan on playing again next year. You also likely play in a keeper league and/or an auction league, because these leagues simply have more strategy and more to offer a serious fantasy baseball player.
Keeper Leagues Defined
Most fantasy baseball managers play in a yearly redraft league. In such a league, the slate is wiped clean every year and a manager gets to re-draft an entirely new team. Its fun, and its the most common of fantasy baseball leagues, but it doesn’t nearly have the level of strategy of a keeper league.
A keeper league, as opposed to a dynasty league, usually allows you to keep some players (as little as 3, but as many as 15) from one season to the next.
In a dynasty league, it operates much the same as real baseball where a manager keeps all of the members of his team from one year to the next. A dynasty league can be difficult to maintain from year to year unless you have extremely dedicated players, because if you manager the fantasy version of the Pittsburgh Pirates, you are probably not going to want to come back next season.
Keeper League Strategies
At some point during the off-season, or most likely immediately prior to your 2011 fantasy baseball draft, you are going to have to declare who is on your keeper list for next year. Here are some fantasy baseball tips for playing in keeper leagues.
1. Keep Young Players — If you were smart enough to draft Buster Posey, Aroldis Chapman, or Domonic Brown this year, you know what I mean. Posey almost single-handedly drove the Giants to the 2010 playoffs. Brown will be the starting right fielder (perhaps sharing those duties with Ben Francisco who will be a nice 2011 sleeper pick) next year in Philadelphia with the inevitable demise of Jayson Werth.
2. Keep Players Who Will Earn Full Time Jobs Next Year — Players retire (unless you are Bret Favre). Take Billy Wagner for example. The nicest guy in baseball is hanging up his cleets this season and the Braves will need a new closer. Adding Jonny Venters makes a lot of sense now rather than in next year’s draft when everybody will have read about him in their preseason fantasy baseball magazines.
3. Keep Players at Scarce Positions — Several catchers put up good numbers this year (Victor Martinez) and some were shocking surprises (17 HR’s by Rod Barajas!). But, at the end of the day, you can count on Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, and now Buster Posey to do it every year.
4. Keep Players that Qualify at Multiple Positions — This was always the added value in years past from Mark DeRosa. This year, Martin Prado qualified at 2B and 3B, and also play some OF and 1B.
5. Keep Speed before Power — We’ve always said that stolen bases are the most over-rated statistics in fantasy baseball. It’s why Juan Pierre (66 SB; 1 HR) is more valuable than Russell Branyan (25 HR; 1 SB).
6. Keep Strikeouts Over Control — If a control pitcher (Kyle Kendrick) gets traded to a team with a rotten defense, you simply have a rotten pitcher. Keep the guy who can get the K’s when stats are similar. Look for at least 7 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.
7. Keep Hitters Before Pitchers — Pitchers get injured a lot more often and are less consistent due to arm trouble and less games played.
8. Keep 3 Tool Players — Notice I didn’t say 5 tool players, because defense is meaningless in fantasy baseball except to keep the guy in the lineup in the National League. A player that can help you in multiple categories is always more valuable than a guy like Michael Bourne (52 SB) who will help you only in one.
9. Keep Value, not the Best Players — This only applies to auction leagues of course, but if you got Posey for $5 this year or Jose Bautista (54 HR) for $3, that’s a definite keeper. Chase Utley for $40, not so much.
10. Win this Year — Too many times, I see fantasy baseball managers rebuilding for the future and the future may be 3 years down the road. It’s too long to wait. Try to win the league every year. That means cutting loose Stephen Strasburg for the 2011 season. Commissioners lose interest. Managers leave for other leagues or job and father duties take too much of their time away to continue playing. Your league may not be around in three years so try to win this year!