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Fantasy Baseball: Desmond Jennings and 10 Guys You Should Think About Keeping

Andrew McCluskeyCorrespondent IAugust 8, 2011

Fantasy Baseball: Desmond Jennings and 10 Guys You Should Think About Keeping

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    As we approach the final stretch of the fantasy baseball season, you are either looking for those final touches to make that last push towards your league's championship, or you are searching over your roster for potential gems to keep.

    The truth is regardless of what position you are in, keepers should always be a focus.

    At some point during the season, every owner grabbed that breakout stud, the surprise bounce-back player or the highly touted prospect fresh up from the farm. Now you are looking over your roster and may have limited spots for keepers.

    Who makes the cut? Should you go with the steady veteran or the promising young talent?

    Here are 11 guys that you should absolutely be giving a second look to when selecting your keepers for the 2012 fantasy baseball season.

Desmond Jennings - OF

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    They call him Carl Crawford 2.0.

    Fantasy owners have been clamoring for the opportunity to see the 24-year-old outfielder get his shot on the Ray's roster. Their dreams finally came true when Jennings made his debut with the Rays on July 23rd going 2-for-3 with a RBI, two runs and a stolen bag.

    Since then he has been on an absolute tear.

    He is hitting .344 with three HRs, 11 RBI, 10 runs and six SBs in just 61 ABs.

    It is clear why fantasy owners have valued this Jennings so highly throughout the year. It is clear that Jennings is going to be a long term starter for the Rays.

    Projecting out his numbers would suggest that he has the potential to reach statistical highs that the player he was most often compared to, Crawford, couldn't reach.

    Crawford has never hit 20 HRs in his career, but projecting out Jennings numbers over the course of a full season it is clear that he has the potential for 20 or more.

    Jennings is clearly coming out of the box hot like many call-ups have before him, and it should always be expected that these guys will come back down to earth and find their true level.

    However, Jennings is an elite talent that has the potential to break into the top 20 outfielders next year if not higher.

    Keep at all costs.

Craig Kimbrel - CL

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    It goes against my natural fantasy baseball instincts to put a closer on this list. I believe that more times than not, you can wait on a closer since the position is so inconsistent.

    However, even I can't ignore Craig Kimbrel.

    He has 87 strikeouts over just 56 innings, 34 out of 39 save opportunities converted and is 23 years old.

    Yikes.

    Kimbrel has taken control of the role as the Braves closer and doesn't appear to be letting go anytime soon. It appears that he has all of the dominant tools to be a big time closer in the major leagues, especially the most important factor for any closer: the mental factor.

    So many young players, especially pitchers, have been called up and had the spotlight shined on them only to get blinded and stumble. With many of them to never be the same again.

    Kimbrel has stepped into one of the most pressure filled roles in the game and hasn't blinked.

    It appears to be a changing of the guard at closer. While familiar faces like Rivera, Bell and Wilson still sit atop the closer rankings, they are joined by the new names of Storen, Hanrahan and of course Kimbrel.

    If you were lucky enough to snag Kimbrel early in the season, don't be afraid to commit to him long term. Barring a major mental breakdown, he has all he needs to become one of the best closers in baseball for years to come.

Dustin Ackley - 2B

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    It is hard to imagine that the Seattle Mariners have much to really look forward to, but they certainly have one bright spot in Dustin Ackley.

    Since being called up, Ackley has hit .300 and shown solid power with five HRs and potential for speed with two SBs in 42 games.

    Ackley is one of the most highly touted young middle infielders in the game. In the fantasy world, it is very easy to be discouraged by the look of your middle infielders. A lack of depth and quality at the top makes the a position like second base an incredibly valuable one when you find the right guy.

    While Ackley's fielding is still a concern for the Mariners, all we care about is what he has the potential to do at the plate.

    Ackley isn't projected to be a big time power hitter, even though that applies to most middle infielders. It is very likely that 20 HRs is the plateau for him, but he will certainly make up for whatever lack of power he has with a solid average, good speed and run scoring ability. 

    Ackley's biggest concern at this point should be who is going to drive him in.

    Regardless, Ackley has far too much promise to pass up and will stop you from having to reach for one of the big named second basemen early in your draft.

Freddie Freeman - 1B

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    First base is one of the easiest positions to find a productive bat at. However, not all of them have the potential to be elite at the position.

    Freddie Freeman has the size and developing skills to become a top ten first basemen. With this being his first season as a full time start, Freeman has shown that he has the ability to be a .300 hitter with solid home run power.

    Still only 22 years old, he certainly will continue to develop as a hitter. If the batting average is for real then you could easily be looking at a guy that will be around .300, 30 HRs, 100 RBI, 100 runs and a handful of SBs. That is an elite first basemen in my book.

    Unlike our last keeper Dustin Ackley, Freeman has a talented group around him. McCann, Heyward and Uggla is a solid core for a lineup.

    Bank on Freeman being a stud on a serious contender for years to come.

Mike Stanton - OF

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    Fantasy players were spoiled by the late '90s, early 2000s steroid era where 30 HR guys were commonplace. Today, 30 HRs is legit power.

    So when you watch a player like Mike Stanton go on these power binges at age 21, you start reminiscing of those huge HR totals again. 

    Stanton is still a very raw talent, but with that comes some very real, raw power. While he is only hitting .260 and the RBI numbers are just not there due to the lack of talent around him, it is clear that Stanton is going to be the kind of player that leads roto players to massive HR points.

    At 6'5", 235 lbs, Stanton is naturally blessed with the size to muscle the ball out of any ballpark in the league.

    He is currently on pace to finish with 35 HRs. Regardless of whether or not he has the talent around him to drive in 100 RBI, those kind of power numbers should be coveted. It would be no surprise to see him hit 40.

    Store him on your roster and enjoy the long balls.

Michael Pineda - SP

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    Remember when I said Dustin Ackley was one bright spot for the Seattle Mariners? Well, here is another.

    Michael Pineda, 6'7", 260 lbs.

    Pineda should be well known around fantasy baseball circles since he was one of the most dominating pitchers for the first half of the season. He used his power fastball and a handful of secondary pitches to dazzle every hitter that stepped into the box.

    Of course like most young pitchers, the league catches up to you. They get your tendencies, they get film on you and you regress.

    However, the natural gifts Pineda has can't be taken away. If he can continue to develop his secondary stuff and work on his control he has the potential to challenge Felix Hernandez for the No. 1 spot in Seattle.

    With many considering Felix Hernandez to be a top-five pitcher coming into the 2011 season, in wouldn't be crazy to think that if Pineda can continue to develop that he will be in that same bracket someday soon. 

    Watch to see how he finishes the year and how much the Mariners plan to protect him next year. If he gets the green light from them, he should get it from you.

Starlin Castro - SS

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    One of my biggest mantras in fantasy baseball is to maximize production at each position. While it sounds simple, you can often get caught up loading up your corners or your outfield.

    Starlin Castro is the perfect example of maximizing production at a position.

    Besides the death trap known as third, shortstop is one of the weakest positions in fantasy baseball.

    Unless you spent a high pick on Tulowitzki or Reyes or happened to get lucky with Asdrubal Cabrera, you probably aren't ecstatic about your shortstop.

    Then you have Starlin Castro. He is far from glamorous. He hits for a great average (.314) and has shown flashes of speed with 12 SBs. Other than that he has been middle of the road.

    So why is he on this list you ask? Maximizing production.

    Shortstop is just so weak that compared to the rest of the shortstops, Castro is borderline elite. His biggest issues is there is no one in that Cub's lineup that can really drive him in.

    He has a ton of upside.

    A little improvement in the Cub's lineup, a slight increase in base stealing and consistency with contact leads to an elite Starlin Castro.

Ian Kennedy - SP

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    Baseball is a crazy sport isn't it?

    One of the only sports where a minor tweak can take you from being a failed prospect to potential 20-game winner.

    Ian Kennedy had that experience this year. Kennedy known for getting rattled around in the AL East as a New York Yankee went out west to join the Arizona Diamondbacks. Whatever the Diamondbacks have done to Ian Kennedy, keep doing it.

    This is Kennedy's potential final stat line if he continues on this pace: 20-4, 196 K's, 3.19 ERA, 1.10 WHIP.

    Those are top 20 SP numbers from a guy that nobody would have ever thought to have drafted.

    Could it be that Kennedy is simply a slightly above average pitcher that went from the most difficult division to pitch in to the easiest and is now thriving? Absolutely.

    Fortunately for fantasy baseball owners, that doesn't matter.

    Unlike some of the other guys I've mentioned thus far, Kennedy doesn't have to rely on progression to be considered a good keeper. If he can come anywhere close to what he has done this year, he is a great value keeper.

Ike Davis - 1B

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    I know even seeing this name must be making some fantasy owners' stomachs churn.

    Ike Davis started out so hot that his owners expectations were through the roof. It looked like Davis was on track to put up great numbers and develop into the kind of talent we had hoped for.

    Then it all came to a crashing halt in May.

    The ankle injury that went from being day to day to a 15-day DL stint, and then, once the word surgery began being thrown around, all hope was lost.

    Some blamed the Mets' medical staff, but regardless we lost Davis for the season.

    For those of you with the ability to keep and were smart enough to hang onto him, you've got yourself a steal on your injured reserve list.

    Davis has shown that he is ready to break out. The Mets offense is coming together a little bit, and with Davis in the middle surrounded by Reyes, Wright and company, he could be lined up for some big numbers in 2012.

Shin-Soo Choo - OF

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    One of the biggest busts of the 2011 fantasy baseball season may turn out to be one of the best keepers for the 2012 season.

    Shin-Soo Choo came in with the expectations of being a potential top-10 outfielder. Fantasy owners saw a .300 average along with a solid 20-20 season.

    However, a combination of off the field incidents and injuries quickly derailed that hype train.

    The most important thing to remember about Choo is he didn't forget how to play the game. The talent that we saw and believed in is there. He will find it again as long as he clears his head and gets healthy.

    An offseason is usually pretty good for that.

    With the entire Indians' roster breaking out this year it should only excite those who have stored Choo away for next year. If he can return to form and be dropped into an already talented, young lineup then it wouldn't be unreasonable to think he could surpass this year's expectations.

    Don't lose faith just yet.

Adam Wainwright/Stephen Strasburg - SP

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    Not everyone was lucky enough to pick up the breakout star or this years hot call-ups. Some of us may have drafted a series of busts like Choo, Hanley Ramirez and company.

    So where do you turn for a decent keeper?

    The long-term injury list.

    On there you will find two guys, that if healthy, would have been ranked in the top 20. Wainwright and Strasburg are both coming off Tommy John surgery.

    In the past we've seen many guys just never look quite the same post surgery. However, as medicine advances we are seeing guys making comebacks like never before.

    Both of these guys may have found their way to the waiver wire at some point. If you are one of those teams that his hanging around the bottom of the rankings then roll the dice.

    You may just catch lightning in a bottle and give yourself a leg up in the pursuit of your 2012 fantasy baseball championship.

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