Fantasy Baseball: 10 Tips for Keeper League Success in 2013

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: 10 Tips for Keeper League Success in 2013

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    For those participating in fantasy baseball keeper leagues, the season is far from over.

    All possibility of capturing a title might have already fallen down the drain, but owners must stay in touch to secure future success.

    Months remain before most deadlines hit to select keepers for 2013, but there’s an entire offseason for trading and draft preparation. Oh yeah, there’s also two weeks left before the 2012 season ends.

    Follow these tips to propel your keeper league squad to dynasty status, or at least finish near the top of the standings next year.

Pay Attention Through the Season

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    Already reallocating your time to fantasy football? Ignoring the final weeks of the MLB season can cost you in 2013.

    Anyone who checked out on the baseball season doesn't realize that Kris Medlen is the hottest pitcher in baseball with a 1,51 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. After the Atlanta Braves moved him back to the rotation, Medlen has become the top late-season add and a keeper candidate.

    Then there’s Brett Anderson returning from Tommy John surgery in late August and looking stronger than ever.

    September stats might not mean as much for rotisserie owners in leagues with a runaway winner, but they still hold as much merit as numbers accumulated during April. 

Stash September Call-Ups

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    Okay, so we wasted a good deal of time waiting on Wil Myers, Dylan Bundy and Billy Hamilton—all of whom I recently touted as possible September call-ups to add. Oops.

    There are still some solid players debuting this month that warrant your attention.

    Although garnering a reputation as a defensive-first third baseman with a subpar bat, Matt Dominguez has earned a .522 slugging percentage with the Houston Astros.

    Jake Odorizzi will receive his first taste of the big leagues to end the season. With a strong showing, the top pitching prospect could solidify his bid for a rotation spot next April.

    Starling Marte, promoted in late July, made his return from the disabled list this month. The young outfielder has notched four homers and seven steals in 33 games, making him an enticing option in some keeper formats.

    While everyone else is sleeping on the job, stack young talent for future seasons when possible.

Learn from Your Past Mistakes

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    Failure hurts, but the true shortcoming results from not realizing and correcting your past mistakes.

    Maybe injuries ruined your chances of winning your league. Perhaps some unforeseen flukes (Cliff Lee’s win total) did you in.

    Or maybe you need to make adjustments next year that correct some unfavorable outcomes from this season.

    Did your decision to forgo a top first baseman hamper your home run total? Are you kicking yourself for taking a catcher other than Buster Posey in the early rounds? When you stuck to your plan to wait on pitching despite a lengthy run on starters in the early rounds, how did your staff turn out?

    Analyze every nook and cranny from this year to avoid making the same error twice.

Don't Grow Attached to Past Keepers

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    I gave Chase Utley one more chance. Why in the world did I keep Chase Utley?

    In a 10-team roto league that allots each team 10 keepers, I protected Utley over better options like Billy Butler out of loyalty to Utley’s outstanding production over the years.

    Utley was part of a perfect storm for my team during his peak years that netted me some first-place finishes. Lately, the team and Utley have struggled to return to its past splendor.

    Some big-name players might have served proudly for your keeper squad over the years, but that doesn’t mean that they are still your best options.

    I’m sure you shared plenty of fond memories with Ichiro, Michael Young and Josh Beckett, but it’s time to clear out the aging veterans for some flesh blood.

Don't Give Up on Slumping Young Stars

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    Some young players have greatly tested their fantasy owners’ patience with infuriating seasons. While these owners might be chomping at the bits to part ways with their disappointing young guns, that anger will only increase when you watch Justin Upton dominate for another team next year.

    Just ask anyone foolish enough to surrender Jason Heyward’s rights in 2012.

    Eric Hosmer and Brett Lawrie entered 2012 as the darlings of keeper and re-draft leagues, but both failed to touch the surface of everyone’s wild expectations. Remember why fans and experts saw so much promise in Hosmer and Lawrie. Neither is done by a long shot.

    Owners who abandon a potential superstar after one subpar season will live to regret their impatience.

Trade One-Year Wonders

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    You’re not playing with this year’s stats in 2013, so jump off the bandwagon of breakout stars before the wheels fall off.

    Edwin Encarnacion, Chase Headley and R.A. Dickey are all completing phenomenal seasons, but don’t bank on any of them to repeat this high level of productivity in 2013.

    Letting them back in the draft pool might be extreme depending on how many athletes are keeper-eligible, but an offseason trade can net you a major haul for one of 2012’s stars.

    In some leagues, you might be pressed with a tough decision that requires you to cut bait with a breakthrough performer. Dickey’s knuckeball has baffled hitters all season long, but don’t protect the 37-year-old over Madison Bumgarner. 

Acquire 2012's Damaged Goods

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    Evan Longoria, Jose Bautista, Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum spurned fantasy owners this season, but that’s no reason to abandon proven stars.

    Their struggles—which were injury related for most stars besides Lincecum—presents managers with an opportunity to acquire these stars at a discount.

    While stealing Longoria or another young star is a long shot, owners might mistakenly jump off a veteran’s ship thinking it’s about to sink. Halladay’s days as the league’s premier pitcher are caput, but I’d gamble on him returning to top 20 production next season.

    With apologies to everyone tired of buy low and sell high advice, those concepts don’t disappear during the offseason in keeper leagues. If anything, the stakes are much higher since you’re buying low on a potential multi-year investment.

When in Doubt, Keep the Hitter

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    Okay, so if you’re deciding between Max Scherzer and Jason Kubel, Scherzer is the guy you want to keep.

    In instances where you’re choosing between a pitcher and hitter of equal value, however, the batter is typically the better option.

    Some league formats might dictate otherwise, but the multitude of talented pitchers makes them more expendable. Also, top sluggers are less likely to break down than their pitching counterparts.

    Look at the top pitchers from last season. Lincecum fell apart, the Phillies ruined Lee’s fantasy value for no fault of his own and Halladay proved that there’s no such thing as a surefire bet.

    Then there are all the high-upside hurlers—Matt Garza, Daniel Hudson, Anibal Sanchez and Tommy Hanson— that fell apart.

    As a general rule, try to stack your keepers with offense since stud sluggers don’t frequently emerge from nowhere.

Don't Unecessarily Sacrifice Short Term for Long Term

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    Every keeper and dynasty league seems to have that one guy who always plays for the future.

    In their head, they think they’re the next Billy Beane when they trade away Carlos Gonzalez for a bunch of prospects. They forgot the part about the Oakland A’s having a minuscule payroll that prevents them from signing any stars to long-term deals.

    There’s no reason any fantasy team needs to undergo a five-year rebuilding project. Some owners just glamorize the idea of rebuilding, forgetting the fact that losing kind of stinks.

    Keep long-term goals in mind, but don’t go overboard to the point where Justin Smoak is your squad’s polished veteran presence.

    In most keeper leagues, you can find a balance between playing for now and securing future success. Maybe you have one or two projects that you stash on your bench, but that doesn't mean you ignore Josh Willingham and Corey Hart because they’re older than 30.

    Don’t make me bring Herm Edwards in here to explain why we play fantasy baseball.

Secure Value Players

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    Some leagues dictate a set numbers of players for owners to keep, but others spice up the rules with some kinks.

    Not only league requires everyone to keep a certain amount, instead letting owners decide if they’d rather toss their guys in lieu of draft picks. In auction leagues, managers must pay a price to maintain their players.

    Anyone playing in these formats doesn’t have the luxury of simply assembling the best hitters and pitchers. It’s all about finding value.

    In a vacuum, James Shields will rank higher than Jeff Samardzija next year, but I’d keep the Cubs’ hurler for $2 instead of the Rays’ ace for $22. You can obtain Shields for the same price, or perhaps a lower one, but Samardzija’s value skyrocketed after earning a 9.7 K/9 ratio in 2012.

    Dropping a top player is not the end of the world in these types of leagues. This is the time to play the small-market GM role and identify bargains.

    Only you won’t be pressured into trading these cheap commodities, who pave the way for you to purchase more stars on draft day.