The 2015 season is winding down and for some teams, it's already time to look toward 2016. Hopefully many of you are still hanging on every pitch in the midst of your pennant chase, but sometimes it just doesn't work out and you have to start planning a little sooner than you wanted. Or maybe you get to start planning sooner. It totally stinks to have a losing in a fantasy keeper league, but it does allow you to get a jump on your 2016 keepers.
There are many different league types so not all keepers are created equally. Some leagues are just straight up keepers, you pick your three best players with no restrictions and go. Others cost a draft round creating different values and of course auction leagues have the dollar values and contract situations. Today I'm focusing on some deeper league keepers. Even if your 10-team mixed league uses draft round values, these guys likely wouldn't make the cut because you are likely to have several better options.
These guys are definitely great Only-league keeper options and they deserve consideration in deeper mixed leagues, especially if round or dollar values are in play because they are almost certain to be inexpensive:
Jonathan Schoop [2B, BAL] – Schoop showed some power in his 2014 rookie campaign with 16 HR in 481 PA, but that was the extent of his production as it was paired with a .209/.244/.354 line as the primary second baseman with the Orioles. Schoop hit the ground running in April showing the power from last year with a lot less swing-and-miss yielding a .259/.310/.630 with 3 HRs in 29 PA. It was a tiny sample, but it started to build some excitement around the 23-year old before a takeout slide ripped his PCL and cost him two-plus months of the season.
He has returned to show even more than we saw in that tiny April sample. Schoop has posted a very impressive .306/.331/.497 line with 7 HR, 23 RBIs, and 2 SB in 167 PA. His 22% K rate is a solid improvement on last year's 25% mark. His BB rate has essentially held firm at 3%, but if you bounce it out a decimal, it's about a half percentage point better. Not much, but something. I'm more concerned with the strikeout rate, to be honest, so I'm heartened to see the three percentage point drop.
Schoop is building something here and it might not all come together next year, but I think we could see another step forward. His full season pace is 30 HR/90 RBIs with a .299 AVG which I think is his upper ceiling down the line. Next year, we could get 23/70 with a .250 AVG in a full season. We've only seen 14 seasons of 20+ HR/70+ RBIs at second base over the last five seasons.
Robinson Cano has four, Dan Uggla has a pair, and then Kelly Johnson, Rickie Weeks, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Aaron Hill, Brian Dozier, and Neil Walker each have one with the latter two being the only ones to achieve the threshold in 2014. Dozier is four RBIs from a repeat, but any other 2B hoping to get there would need a pretty huge September. Logan Forsythe and Stephen Drew both have 15 HRs, but just 53 and 35 RBIs, respectively. To get the 70 RBIs, Schoop would likely need a jump in the batting order, but he could regularly bat as high as fifth next season.
Gregory Polanco [OF, PIT] – Expectations have been sky-high for Polanco since arriving as a former blue-chip prospect. It looked early like he might one of those insta-stars, but there's a reason that the phrase "small sample size" is thrown around so often. He opened his career with an 11-game hitting streak posting a .365/.421/.442 line, but it was 11 games!!! In his final 78 games of last year he had just a .204/.282/.320 line in 255 PA showing just how hard the majors leagues are for young players.
Sometimes guys get it right away, but most of the time they don't, especially hitters. His 2015 campaign hasn't been standout, but he's holding up against the rigors of the full season. In the first three months, he was mostly a light-hitting speedster with good defense (.634 OPS, 17 SBs), but he has looked a lot more like that guy from the first two weeks of his career over the last 49 games of the season with an .855 OPS. The speed has waned (just 4 SBs and a poor 50% success rate), but it's a worthwhile tradeoff with the improved bat.
Polanco is in the post-hype phase of his career right now. I'm reluctant to say post-hype sleeper because he's far from forgotten, but he certainly doesn't cost anywhere near what his ceiling could yield which isn't usually the case for star-potential prospects.
Polanco is just starting to tap into his power and we could actually be two or three years from seeing it come to fruition, but in the meantime we could see a couple of mid-teens HR outputs with 25+ SBs. The emerging power plus his speed will also help his batting average component. He has jumped from .235 to .266 already this year and he could jump again next year with a .275-.280 mark very much in play.
The best part about investing in ultra-talented guys is that they can arrive ahead of schedule. He's so good that he might just be ready to put it together and be next year's A.J. Pollock (.319, 13 HRs, 33 SBs), but even if he doesn't make theleap, he will still offer a strong power-speed combo atop a damn good lineup.
Carlos Rodon [SP, CWS] – The fantasy community often gets far too excited about a prospect upon arrival and then shifts back completely the other way and immediately discards them or at least severely downgrades them if they don't have immediate success. Rodon has no doubt had a bumpy rookie campaign with three starts of 7+ ER and 4+ BB in seven of his 19 starts and yet despite all that he takes a passable 4.15 ERA into September.
The walks have made the WHIP a nightmare at 1.51, but he has delivered 119 Ks in 112.7 IP and he's shown big time upside several times throughout the season. He has 12 quality starts and all saw him allow 2 ER or fewer with 80 Ks in the 77 IP covering those starts. With his control issues, it could take a little longer to be a full-on ace, but the other components if he gets the free passes in check so it could come quickly. Barring a horrific September, Rodon will set himself up to be one of the most popular sleeper picks next season so get the jump now before his cost in the market rises.