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Behind the Numbers: Revisiting Keeper Rankings

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

I like to think that as an analyst, I've developed a certain level of thickness in my skin. I've certainly had my share of both praise and criticism over the years, as it's simply impossible to be correct 100 percent of the time in my predictions. As an example, I recently had a subscriber email me to blast me for saying that Chris Davis was a top-five pick and that I didn't see his power dropping off at a Brady Anderson level. At the time, Davis had just three homers in 30 games, but of course now it's seven in 35. So while perhaps I was right on Davis, I've been wrong plenty of times and will continue to be so. What seems to generate the most debate and back-and-forth are lists. Put a list out there and you're bound to have some folks disagree, and that to me is fun, the back-and-forth with our readers.

So on that note, I thought I'd tackle my revised keeper rankings. I'm going to limit this to 100 for space reasons, so if a player you feel should be on there that is not, bring him up and we can discuss in the comments section.

1. Mike Trout, LAA (OF) - Yes, he's dropped off a bit this year, but how could he not? I still expect a tear to lift his AVG well above .300 by season's end.

2. Miguel Cabrera, Det (3B/1B) - Mr. Reliable. Rather have that 3B eligibility next year, but bat is so good, that ranking should be no lower than this.

3. Troy Tulowitzki, Col (SS) - If I thought he could stay healthy, he'd be No. 1.

4. Paul Goldschmidt, Ari (1B) - BB% curiously down from 14 to appox. 7 percent, but still easily a top-5
fantasy option.

5. Giancarlo Stanton, Mia (OF) - K% down in each of last 2 years. .316 AVG through 52 games after batting .249 last year. 15 HR and locked in as an MVP candidate.



6. Andrew McCutchen, Pit (OF) - BB% up from 11.6 to 17 percent this year, though power is down so far. .374 BABIP, but last 2 years were at .359 and .379.

7. Clayton Kershaw, LAD (SP) - Small drop off this year given injury and one bad start, but 11.8 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 would both be career bests if they hold up.

8. Yasiel Puig, LAD (OF) - He's a wild card, but there's arguably no one with as much talent or upside. Even better in his sophomore year.

9. Freddie Freeman, Atl (1B) - So far at least, the walks are up, strikeouts down, and power is continuing to develop….and he's just 24.

10. Edwin Encarnacion, Tor (1B) - Should crack 40 HR again and have another couple .270-40-100 seasons before he starts to drop off.

11. Carlos Gonzalez, Col (OF) - Only 2 SB after 20-plus in each of last 4 years but does have 7 HR. .267 AVG is a lock to rise.

12. Adam Wainwright, StL (SP) - So locked in, and could post a similar season to the one Clayton Kershaw did last year.

13. Max Scherzer, Det (SP) - Would like to see him average at least 7+ innings per start, but overall, tough to complain about a guy who should easily fan 220+.

14. Ryan Braun, Mil (OF) - Oblique has set him back, but 7 HR in first 135 at-bats indicates that a healthy Braun is a top-15 player.

15. Chris Davis, Bal (1B) - Power coming on strong lately. Won't hit 53 this year, but he could top 40.

16. Hanley Ramirez, LAD (SS) - Hasn't really been the 2013 Hanley so far, but he's healthy and the hits should start flowing with more frequency soon enough.

17. Justin Upton, Atl (OF) - .978 OPS through first 200 PA. Also on pace for 40 home runs, so THIS is the Upton I've been expecting.

18. Carlos Gomez, Mil (OF) - BB% up from 6.3 to 8.7 percent and has a real shot at a 30/30 season. Mets and Twins probably could use him back.

19. Robinson Cano, Sea (2B) - Still a .310-plus hitter at a premium position, but just 2 HR thanks to new park. Does have 30 RBI however.

20. Adam Jones, Bal (OF) - BABIP a bit inflated at .350, but the real concern is his 2.3 BB%. Still early, but power has taken a dip as well.

21. Felix Hernandez, Sea (SP) - Velocity has stabilized after three consecutive years of declines. Innings may catch up to him at some point, but they also might not.

22. Adrian Beltre, Tex (3B) - Awakening from his slumber in a big way. 36 next April, so keeper appeal somewhat limited, but he won't fall off for a couple years at least.

23. Yu Darvish, Tex (SP) - Sore neck is something to watch, but he seems to be improving each year, particularly in the control area.

24. David Wright, NYM (3B) - Just 3 HR and 2 SB, though average is at least topping .300. He should improve, but Wright's best days may be behind him.

25. Zack Greinke, LAD (SP) - Would like to see him go deeper into games. Otherwise, he's a Cy Young contender.

26. Albert Pujols, LAA (1B) - Not the Albert of old, but at least he's slowed the decline with the return of his power. May have been a value pick this year.

27. Jason Kipnis, Cle (2B) - Off to a slow start, but blame the oblique. Love that his K% is down from 21.7 to 14.2 percent.

28. Masahiro Tanaka, NYY (SP) - Pretty soon, it will actually be a surprise to see a top pitcher in Japan come to the U.S. and flop.

29. Jose Bautista, Tor (OF) - .307 BABIP is 34 points above career mark, so look for AVG to come down. Still on pace for 35-40 HR.

30. Ian Kinsler, Det (2B) - Fielder deal looking great for the Tigers. He's hurt, they saved money, and Kinsler is hitting .330.

31. David Price, TB (SP) - Price for Oscar Taveras. Who says no (likely STL)? Elite starter likely to be pitching for a larger market team in 2015.

32. Evan Longoria, TB (3B) - It's been a slow start for several Rays, including their franchise guy, but he has to come around.

33. Alex Rios, Tex (OF) - 29 RBI, but power down a little as are steals. Still time to pick those up, but don't expect a repeat of last year's 42 SB.

34. Josh Donaldson, Oak (3B) - Last year's breakout star is on pace for 35-plus home runs. AVG down, but last year's .301 mark was somewhat BABIP-driven.

35. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD (1B) - Returning to the 2008-09 version - less AVG, but far more power. 18.8% HR/FB rate would be his top mark since 2009.

36. Justin Verlander, Det (SP) - Not the Verlander of a couple years ago, but too early to put him outside the top-40….or is it?

37. Jose Abreu, CWS (1B) - Wondering what sort of AVG he'll hit for long term, but the 35-40 HR power is certainly real.

38. Madison Bumgarner, SF (SP) - Don't see him making a leap to elite starter status, but few are more reliable than this guy.

39. Stephen Strasburg, Wsh (SP) - Strikeouts are up and walks down, but .368 BABIP has contributed to an inflated 1.29 WHIP. He'll drive that down soon enough.

40. Johnny Cueto, Cin (SP) - Averaging 7.6 IP per start with a sub-2.00 ERA. Would rank higher if not for medical history. Talented enough to win NL Cy Young.

41. Jacoby Ellsbury, NYY (OF) - Extremely overrated in my book. Now that he's 30, steals will start to go down and he's homered just twice this year.

42. Jay Bruce, Cin (OF) - Not making much contact, but injuries have hurt and he's one guy on my shortlist to hit 50 homers in the next few seasons.

43. Hunter Pence, SF (OF) - Power is coming on lately, and surprisingly has increased BB% from 2013's 7.6 to 10.2 percent this year. Good to see.

44. Dustin Pedroia, Bos (2B) - Appears to be on the decline at age 30, but give him more time before locking in on that conclusion.

45. Buster Posey, SF (C/1B) - .271 BABIP has AVG down, but power and plate discipline remain intact. Would be 25 spots lower if not for catcher eligibility.

46. Shin-Soo Choo, Tex (OF) - To paraphrase Denny Green, he is who we thought he was. 15-20 HR power, huge OBP, but steals are declining.

47. Chris Sale, CWS (SP) - We won't worry about the mechanics until he gets hurt I guess. Just enjoy the fact he's a top-10 fantasy starter.

48. Jose Altuve, Hou (2B) - Power probably never comes, but he may steal 50 this year while hitting well above .300.

49. Victor Martinez, Det (DH) - Red hot this month and has OPS up to 1.004. The new David Ortiz it seems. He's 35, but as a full-time DH next year, more big numbers are in store.

50. James Shields, KC (SP) - Free agent-to-be is going to cash in with a big market team, hopefully leading to more run support.

51. Joey Votto, Cin (1B) - Has any team NOT regretted a $200MM-plus contract? He's better than he's shown this year, but we've clearly seen his best seasons.

52. Jose Reyes, Tor (SS) - Dynamic when healthy, but last 5 years - average of 110 games. Probably a good guy to sell when he's hot.

53. Yadier Molina, StL (C) - .823 OPS, so no signs he's slowing down at all.

54. Michael Wacha, StL (SP) - Incremental improvements in year two for last year's post-season
hero. He should be good for a long time.

55. Starling Marte, Pit (OF) - Counting stats in line with last year and BB% is up, but K% up from 24.4% to 29.1%. Moved out of leadoff role.

56. Matt Holliday, StL (OF) - Has some good years left, but some of those doubles need to start carrying another 20 feet.

57. Yoenis Cespedes, Oak (OF) - BB% up over 2 percentage points and I still think he may have a 35-40 season in his near future.

58. Anthony Rizzo, ChC (1B) - We go back and forth on the winner of the Rizzo-Andrew Cashner deal. Right now: advantage Cubs.

59. Jean Segura, Mil (SS) - BB% has taken a dive to 3.1%, but he's just 24 and I'm not ready to call 2013 a career year.

60. Jordan Zimmermann, Wsh (SP) - Blame his .363 BABIP for the relatively slow start. 7.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 compare very favorably to career numbers.

61. Mike Minor, Atl (SP) - Shoulder was a concern, but he looks as good as ever now. Likely a solid No. 3 long term.

62. Ian Desmond, Wsh (SS) - Power certainly there with the nine HR, but K% spike of 4 points has average in the .230s. Not too worried.

63. Nelson Cruz, Bal (OF) - 16 HR already and looking like one of the better one-year contracts in recent memory.

64. Julio Teheran, Atl (SP) - Best is probably yet to come, but averages just 90 mph, so questions remain whether he can sustain this pace.

65. Michael Brantley, CLE (OF) – The power is a nice surprise, as he's already exceeded our preseason projection of eight home runs. Now we get to see whether this is sustainable.

66. Pedro Alvarez, Pit (3B) - 21.4 K% by far the best of his career and first time he's actually been under 30%. .235 BABIP is the culprit for low AVG this time.

67. Matt Kemp, LAD (OF) - As big of an enigma as there is in the game right now. Was hitting well before getting in Mattingly's doghouse. Trade may be needed.

68. Jayson Werth, Wsh (OF) - He's 35 and stats are down a bit over last year, but he has the best $126 million contract in league history.

69. Starlin Castro, ChC (SS) - The 2012 Castro is back, and that's a good thing, but hitting in the middle of the lineup has meant fewer SB chances. Just 1 SB this year.

70. David Ortiz, Bos (DH) - The rare athlete that you don't want to look foolish in predicting an age-related decline for.

71. Jeff Samardzija, ChC (SP) - 1.68 ERA, but 2.93 FIP more in line with his skills. Not sure why the Cubs don't try harder to lock him up.

72. Wil Myers, TB (OF) - He's been a massive disappointment, but that just means there's probably some value to be had here this year and beyond.

73. Desmond Jennings, TB (OF) - 15/30 pace isn't surprising, but still hitting for low AVG despite 10.7% BB% and reasonable BABIP. May never develop as we had hoped.

74. Hisashi Iwakuma, Sea (SP) - Would like to see the 5.7 K/9 rise before he creeps up this list, but 2.39 ERA and 4 BB in first 5 starts, so tough to complain.

75. Alexei Ramirez, CWS (SS) - May hit 20 HR for first time since rookie year. Up to 7 now, which is one more than last year already. BB% up to 5%.

76. Cole Hamels, Phi (SP) - 4.30 ERA, but 3.23 FIP is lower than the last 2 years. Blame the .358 BABIP. He's still a great #2 starter.

77. Sonny Gray, Oak (SP) - 1.99 ERA, but K/9 a bit more modest at 7.3. Will need to continue to keep the ball down to have success.

78. Homer Bailey, Cin (SP) - Has taken a step back this year, but still just 28, so likely no rapid decline forthcoming.

79. Brandon Moss, Oak (1B/OF) - Now that he's proving to be improved vs. LHP, he's an easy top-100 guy in my book.

80. Alex Cobb, TB (SP) - I like a healthy Cobb as much as I like James Shields, but Shields (and others) is the safer pick for now.

81. Prince Fielder, Tex (1B) - From what I've read, his surgery should mean his back won't be a chronic issue. May be a value pick in 2015.

82. Howie Kendrick, LAA (2B) - Huge improvement in BB% from 4.5 to 9.5 percent year over year. Power may never come, but AVG and Runs will. Running more as well.

83. Craig Kimbrel, Atl (RP) - Normally I wouldn't recommend a closer as a top-100 keeper, but Kimbrel is no ordinary closer. K/9 pretty solid at 17.7.

84. Elvis Andrus, Tex (SS) - Bat hasn't developed as we'd hoped, but still young and he does provide SB value.

85. Jon Lester, Bos (SP) - A 6- or 7-year contract appears likely in free agency, but he's not an ace starter.

86. Alex Gordon, KC (OF) - Strikeouts are way down, but so is power given he's stuck on 3 HR. Power surge is possible, but may never be more than a 15-20 HR guy at best.

87. Anibal Sanchez, Det (SP) - Finger has set him back, but just 3 ER in last 12 IP over 2 GS, so back on track. 29+ starts each of last 4 years.

88. Gregory Polanco, PIT (OF) - Just had to sneak him in my top-100. Why not roll the dice on his talent instead of someone like Melky Cabrera?

89. Oscar Taveras, STL (OF) - .390 in last 10 games, so he's surging and pusing for a big league opportunity. That should come next month.

90. Josh Hamilton, LAA (OF) - Had played in 151 and 148 games the last 2 years, but hurt now. Still among the best when healthy. Emphasis on the "when healthy".

91. Michael Cuddyer, Col (OF) - Can't imagine he hits last year's .331 again, but he was at .318 as of this writing and I imagine he stays in Colorado after 2014.

92. Cliff Lee, Phi (SP) - Elbow a big concern given workload the past 6 years. No timetable for return.

93. George Springer, Hou (OF) - 31.6 K% will keep AVG well under .300, but he'll keep learning and
adjusting, and power is already here.

94. Billy Hamilton, Cin (OF) - Has yet to meet expectations, but that speed is a fantasy league game-changer. I think he figures out how to get on base better.

95. Jonathan Lucroy, Mil (C) - Has taken his to another level the last couple years and probably is still undervalued.

96. Manny Machado, Bal (3B) - Remember, he's still just 21. True breakout may not come for 3-to-5 years. Just needs to get to 100 percent and see more pitches.

97. Gerrit Cole, Pit (SP) - 8.4 K/9, but has 10+ potential in that area once secondary stuff develops.

98. Nolan Arenado, Col (3B) - Sneaks in despite the injury. 3B is thin these days and will be even more so next year with Cabrera 1B-only.

99. Matt Carpenter, StL (2B/3B) - On a hot streak and OBP skills guarantee 100-plus runs in that lineup. Power way down over last year with a paltry .074.

100. Eric Hosmer, KC (1B) - 1 HR in first 203 AB, so is he turning into James Loney without quite the glovework? Disappointing step back this year.

A few comments on those who just missed:

Byron Buxton looks to be a sure thing, but the wrist injury is a concern. Still, if you're in a dynasty league, I can see keeping him over some of the others on this list in the right circumstances. ... Aroldis Chapman was a consideration as the second closer on this list, but a better walk rate would have helped. ... Two years ago, Matt Cain was a shoe-in for this list. Now? He's taken a step back, so he falls just short. ... Two weeks ago, Dee Gordon makes this list, but he's at .164 in his last 55 at-bats. Still, those 30 steals maybe makes it a mistake for me to leave him off. ... Jered Weaver's FIP has risen in each of the last three years, so he (very) narrowly misses this list. ... I like a healthy Ryan Zimmerman for this list, but we don't see a healthy Zimmerman often enough. ... Chase Utley is playing like a top-50 player, but I'm not ready to say he's a lock for 600 at-bats given his recent medical history. ... Jason Heyward was a late cut, as I realized I had left off the more-deserving Michael Brantley. Heyward is just 24, but we've been burned here too often in recent seasons.