I received a tweet
the other day asking for my top five keepers for next season. Honestly, that had not been something that was on my mind just yet, but it is a relevant question for teams looking to rebuild for 2011.
How I understand the question, the goal is to basically come up with the top five players in next year's draft since we're talking about 2011 and not 2012 and so on. So, for today's drill were going to focus on the top five players for 2011 and disregard long-term values—though striving to find players in or entering their prime is part of this equation anyway—as not every keeper league allows for players to be kept long term. However, in the coming days I'll be dwelling into long-term values as well.
Top Five for 2011
Note: wOBA is not a stat I use a lot for fantasy baseball, but it is a valuable one in looking at the progression or regression of a hitter. You can read more about it from these links .
1. Miguel Cabrera
This three-year progression for Cabrera has been almost the exact model of how a player enters their supposed prime at age 27. He is currently the best overall hitter in baseball, trumping the amazing Pujols, which is an amazing statement in itself. Cabrera has improved his BB/K rate while hitting the ball harder than ever before in his career.
Cabrera is on pace to set career highs in ISO (Isolated power) and SLG (Slugging Percentage) as well as challenge for the triple crown. He's still only 27-years-old and right at the start of his prime seasons.
2. Albert Pujols
Interestingly, in some categories Pujols has shown a three-year regression (though this season is not over yet, so no numbers are final). Most notable is the drop in OPS and wOBA. Not shown in the chart above is that Pujols has been chasing more pitches outside the strike-zone this season while showing a three-year regression in contact rate.
These are intriguing trends, but Pujols is still putting up MVP type numbers despite them. While there has been whispers about Pujols' true age, the official information says that he'll be 31-years-old in 2011, which is a plateau stage of a hitter's career. With that in mind, we should expect continued top-level production from Pujols next season.
3. Joey Votto
2011 could be a huge season for Joey Votto as everything seems to be lining up perfectly. Votto is hitting at the prime age of 27 in 2011 (he'll be 27 this September) and he has a three year track record of progression in BB/K rate, ISO and OPS. He plays his home games in a great hitter's park and until this season, had shown no problems with hitting left-handed pitching. There's no reason to think Votto can't improve on an already MVP-like 2010.
4. Evan Longoria
The drop in power this season may have fantasy owners a bit concerned, but given his age and progression as a hitter overall, I'm not worried about it becoming a trend in 2011 and beyond. Longoria has made great improvements in his raw hitting skills such as BB/K rate and line drive rate.
He is hitting fly balls at a slightly higher rate than he did last season, yet his HR/FB rate has dropped 6.5 percent. There is a very good chance that his HR/FB numbers jump back up in 2011 and the 35-plus home run potential returns.
Even with a decline in home runs, Longoria is on pace to set a career high in doubles and has been able to maintain an OPS and wOBA over .880 for the past two seasons.
Longoria will enter 2011 at an age (25) where he should continue to improve as he enters his prime. While the stolen base numbers won't get much better than they are this season, his power and AVG combo combined with a valuable fantasy position (third base) should make him an easy first rounder for years to come.
5. Robinson Cano
There has been much said and written about the maturity of Robinson Cano. He has always been incredibly talented, but sometimes that didn't shine through due to a lackluster work ethic. Well, those days are long gone now as Cano has not only improved his game at the plate, but defensively as well (his UZR/150 stands at 9.1 for this season).
The biggest change in his offensive game has been patience as reflected in the big jump in walk rate. Cano is seeing slightly more pitches per at-bat this season and has swung at the first pitch 31 percent of the time as opposed to 34 percent last season and as much as 39 percent back in 2006.
Cano is still an aggressive hitter, swinging at over 30 percent of pitches outside the strike-zone, but he has incredible contact skills. When Cano sees a pitch that he likes inside the strike-zone, he makes contact on about 95 percent of his swings and that has been the case since his rookie season.
The last part of the equation is Cano's ability to adjust to his environment, specifically the short porch in Yankee Stadium. At home, Cano is a .316 hitter that puts the ball in the air 39.4 percent of the time while hitting line drives at a 16 percent clip. On the road, Cano is a .342 hitter with a lower fly ball rate and a 21.3 percent line drive rate.
Cano H/R Splits
Cano is smack in the middle of his prime years and should continue to provide a .310-plus AVG with 20-plus home runs along with the high totals of runs and RBI that come with hitting in that stacked Yankee lineup.
Just missed: Carl Crawford, David Wright, Ryan Braun, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton