Editor's note: We'll start busting out our keeper rankings this week, so here are a few keeper tips to kick things off...
Choosing keepers is an integral part of building a dominant team and if you do so well enough, your squad will have a sizable advantage for years to come. Here are some tips for making good keeper choices.
Are you rebuilding or are you on the precipice of a championship? Provided your keepers come with dollar values or draft round assignations, this could be the determining factor as to whether you load up on late round/cheap prospects or proven commodities at decent values. In a semi-dynasty league where I finished in third place, I have a choice between keeping Cliff Lee at $22 or Shelby Miller at $1. If I were rebuilding, I might be inclined to choose Miller, but I'm going with Lee, considering the circumstances.
KNOW YOUR LEAGUEMATES
Are your opponents casual baseball fans who start thinking about baseball the day they have to choose keepers, or are they avid Baseball America readers WHO SNATCH UP EVERY SINGLE TOP PROSPECT OFF OF THE FREE AGENCY PILE BEFORE YOU GET A CHANCE TO? I WANTED TO KEEP MATT MOORE SO BADLY ahem... I apologize for that outburst. Where was I? What I'm trying to say is that if you play with casual fans, you may not need to waste a keeper choice on Julio Teheran. You'll probably be able to pick him up for cheap in next year's draft.
KNOW HOW LEAGUE SETTINGS AFFECT PLAYER VALUES
Do you play in a weekly or daily league? There are a few players this really affects. For instance, i consider Mike Napoli to be a great choice in any format, but especially so in daily leagues, seeing as a number of differing factors lead him to getting 100 less AB's than many other catchers. Pairing him with someone like Yadier Molina and allowing him to play at C in addition to spot starting at 1B and Util when Molina's behind the plate will be a huge boon for your team. Injury prone players that seem to miss a few days every few weeks with nagging injuries and have a propensity for going on the DL (glares at Nelson Cruz with much anger) get a downgrade in weekly formats. Jason Heyward, Rickie Weeks, and Josh Hamilton are other players of this ilk that I would value much more in daily leagues. Skilled players that face playing time issues are also devalued in weekly formats. Eric Young Jr., while almost worthless (for 2012, anyway) in weekly leagues, could prove to be a very sneaky sleeper in daily leagues, due to the fact that he could steal 40 bases in 300 AB's. If you play in a league that uses OBP, OPS, or quality starts instead of wins, make sure you factor this into your keeper decisions.
LOOK AT PEDIGREE AND PERIPHERALS
It's always good to take a look at who the player is at his core; his pedigree. Sure, Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera both went 20-20 last year, but should you really keep them instead of someone with a higher ceiling and better pedigree that happened to have a bad year? Players like Colby Rasmus and Jason Heyward come to mind. Look at BABIP, FIP, minor league numbers and career averages to really get a handle on who a player is. Carlos Santana is not a .220 hitter. Jose Bautista may never hit above .300 again. Vance Worley is unlikely to have an ERA well below three again.
TRUST YOUR EYES, GO WITH YOUR HEART
If you've watched someone enough and you feel strongly about his skill set and situation, don't worry about where publications or websites have him ranked. Two years ago I had four keepers whom I was deciding between: Andrew McCutchen at $1, Billy Butler at $1, Carlos Gonzalez at $1, and Adam Jones at $3. My heart told me to choose McCutchen and CarGo, but every pre-season list had Butler and Jones ranked significantly higher so I chose them. This awful, horrible decision is the reason I started to drink. If you believe in someone, don't be afraid to keep them in favor of a higher ranked player that you don't particularly buy into.
Hopefully these guidelines will help you make wise keeper choices, saving you tons of money on booze and Aspirin in the process. *shakes fist, mutters "Billy Butlerrrrrr"*