Our 2012 keeper rankings focus on leagues that must gage the value of players for at least the next 3-5 years.
Note: All players on keeper rankings lists have appeared in the major leagues. For prospect rankings, check out our 2012 5x5 rankings list. Some players are not listed here due to their value at other positions or likelihood that they will not retain 2B eligibility past 2012.
1. Robinson Cano, 29 – Cano has turned himself into a great all-around player and he should hit in the middle of that Yankee lineup for years to come, giving him ample chances for runs and RBI.
2. Dustin Pedroia, 28 – Pedroia bounced back tremendously after a broken foot shortened his 2010 season. One of the hardest workers in the game, Pedey has several excellent seasons left in him, but some wonder whether his size will cause an early decline.
3. Ian Kinsler, 29 – Terrific contact, plate discipline and power/speed skills make him a dream in OBP leagues. His high fly ball and pop-up rates make his AVG risky from year-to-year and injuries have been an issue throughout his career.
4. Dustin Ackley, 24 – Showed good contact and on-base skills in limited MLB action last season. Expect those skills to translate into a lower strikeout rate and better AG/OBP in 2012 and beyond. A solid bet to be a consistent fantasy contributor at the plate, Ackley has made enough progress defensively that he can stick at 2B for a while. His power development is still the big question. For now, use .290-.300/.370-.380, 15/15 as his baseline upside with 15/20 and maybe 20/20 if everything comes together.
5. Ben Zobrist, 30 – The Zobeast may have been a bit of a late-bloomer, but he has proven to be an extremely valuable asset for the Rays and his keeper league owners. After this season, however, he’ll be on the wrong side of 30, which knocks his keeper value down just a little.
6. Rickie Weeks, 29 – Injuries are the only thing that hold back his tremendous talent.
7. Jason Kipnis, 25 – Kipnis had an incredible power showing in his 150 plate appearance big league debut, but don’t buy into those numbers. Those seven long-balls came along with a 20 percent HR/FB rate, which is highly unlikely to repeat for Kipnis in the future given more than 150 PA. Still, he has a decent power/speed combo, which should bottom out at 15/15 for a while with the chance for some 20/20 type seasons. Though he’s not the fastest runner, he knows when to swipe a bag (only caught once in 18 combined tries last season between Triple-A and the majors).
8. Howie Kendrick, 28 – According to HitTrackerOnline.com, 14 of Kendrick’s 18 home runs were classified as “just enough”, but don’t take that as an example of why he’ll regress in the power department in 2011. Nine of his 10 home runs on 2010 were classified the same way and he ended up with a career high in home runs the next year. His power is more of the line-drive variety and he’s shown some impressive opposite field strength in the past, so I buy the surge to an extent. Kendrick still doesn’t walk much and tends to chase too many bad pitches, so he’s probably never going to turn into the batting champ many claimed he would. Injuries have also been an issue over his career, but if healthy you can pretty much lock in 15/15 with a .285-.295 AVG.
9. Dan Uggla, 32 – Uggla’s strong second half of 2011 is a good indication that he’ll have a stronger overall performance in 2012. Maybe it just took him a while to adjust to there being more than 2000 fans in the stands during home games. His low line-drive and heavy whiff rates indicate that outside of a fluke season, he’s not likely to hit for much AVG. Still, he’s been one of the most consistent power hitters in the game since his arrival on the big league scene in 2007. His age hurts his overall keeper value a little, but those investing for the next 2-3 years shouldn't worry.
10. Danny Espinosa, 25 – He needs to make big strides as a left-handed hitter in order to maximize his power/speed abilities. At age 25, he’s young enough to make some adjustments.
11. Brandon Phillips, 30 – A three-year upward trend in contract rate helped Phillips hit .300 last season, but his .322 BABIP was a career high as well. His speed is already in decline, so the 20/20 days may very well be behind him.
12. Jemile Weeks, 25 – Upside for .290-.300 with 30 SB, but HR, R and RBI totals may be limited for the time being in Oakland. His overall upside is somewhat limited, but he’s young enough to have a significant boost in thee keeper rankings.
13. Chase Utley, 33 – Injuries, unfortunately, have cut into Utley’s production over the last couple of seasons and at age 33 there is more than a little worry that he’ll face these same issues going forward. Still, if he can get back to 100 percent, he’s not too old to have a few more very good seasons. That being said, the severity of his knee injury could be something that lingers from here on out.
14. Kelly Johnson, 30 – Consistency is not the name of K.J.’s game, which makes him a risky keeper. However, he has hit over 20 home runs and stolen around 15 bases for the past two seasons. Strikeouts became his downfall in 2011, but his history of better contact suggests that he could bounce back.
15. Aaron Hill, 30 – 2009 seems like an awful long time ago. Hill did make strides in the right direction in 2011 with regard to his line-drive and fly-ball rates, so there is still hope that he can maintain some type of status as a solid MI option in mixed leagues.
16. Neil Walker, 26 – While Walker has limited power and speed, his line-drive approach could result in some .290-.300 seasons. Overall, however, his upside is limited.
17. Ryan Raburn, 31 – Raburn certainly has 20 home run power, but he is prone to extreme hot and cold streaks due to high strikeout and whiff rates.
18. Omar Infante, 30 – Infante’s line-drive approach might bring his AVG up to the .290-.300 range, but he offers little else.
19. Brian Roberts, 34 – Injuries have hit Roberts hard over the past two seasons and, unfortunately, a concussion was one of them, which makes any return questionable.
20. Johnny Giavotella, 24 – With little upside in power or speed, Giavotella will continue to me more valuable as a spokesperson for Garozzo’s Ristorante in downtown Kansas City.
21. Freddy Sanchez, 34 – Sanchez can provide a good AVG when healthy, but offers little else in terms of fantasy value.
22. Darwin Barney, 26 – Barney made some fantasy friends with a high AVG to start the season. However, his inevitable regression caught up and he finished the season hitting .276 with a poor .313 OBP. He has no power or speed to dream on, so stop dreaming…as if you were to begin with.More valuable at other positions or unlikely to retain 2B eligibility: Sean Rodriguez, Jamey Carroll, Maicer Izturis, Robert Andino.