There are less-than-24 hours until the official 2013 Salmon League keeper deadline.
At that point, everyone’s keepers will be revealed and we’ll all know who to scratch off our draft sheets and perhaps it will help some teams start planning how they want to utilize their draft priority this season.
As we count down the hours until the deadline and the anticipation continues to build, I’ve taken a wild stab at who I think each team will be keeping. Some of these are obvious and some are legitimate question marks where I had to choose between a few guys.
Every year someone surprises the league with a pick from out of left field, so it’s possible one of the “obvious” choices might end up a free agent on draft day. That’s all part of the fun, right?
Kill some time and read over my lazily-written (seriously, I’ve been working on these for more than week now) keeper predictions and let’s see how I did when the official announcements are made. While you’re at it, make it a point to go back and look at Steven’s predictions as well. Perhaps we can determine which one of us is more prescient .
Draft Priority – 14
Jason Heyward – OF – ATL
Ian Kinsler – 2B – TEX
Cole Hamels – SP – PHI
The Commissioner’s Take: Logic dictates that Levi would want to keep Josh Hamilton in this situation, but if we’ve learned anything about Levi in his brief tenure with the Salmon League, it’s that logic can suck it. He traded off most of his keeper-worthy assets in a playoff push his first year and worked his way into some amazing moves in his second year; all of which netted him a championship.
He’s wanted Heyward for a long time and now that he’s got him, I don’t foresee him letting go; so that one seems self-explanatory. Ian Kinsler, despite a dip in production last year, remains one of the top fantasy players at a relatively shallow position and he is entrenched at the top of the ever potent Texas Rangers’ lineup. He seems to have shaken the injury bug that haunted him earlier in his career and could be in for a big bounce-back campaign in 2013.
Cole Hamels has established himself as the ace of one of baseball’s best rotations. The left-hander is a no brainer when it comes to selecting your staff ace and Levi should ride this horse all the way to the postseason.
Draft Priority – 13
Ryan Braun – OF – MIL
Evan Longoria – 3B – TB
Zack Greinke – SP – LAD
The Commissioner’s Take: Part of me is always expecting Jay to toss out some sort of curveball, but he’s usually very conservative with his keepers, so I’m expecting a repeat of last year’s trio, despite various warning flags surrounding all three.
Ryan Braun is coming off yet another MVP-caliber season, but he’s also coming off another offseason riddled with PED allegations. There is currently no hard evidence or warning signs that Braun—or anyone else named in the BioGenesis records—will be punished, but that risk—albeit slight—is still out there. Losing Braun for a 50-game stretch could very quickly tank this offense.
On the flip-side, Jay’s second offensive keeper is no stranger to missing time himself. Longoria is entering his age 27 season and his sixth year in the bigs. Despite that, he’s only cleared 500 at-bats twice, and not since 2010. In fact, he’s 117 games in the last two years combined. He’s a legit gamer when he’s healthy, but there has been little in the way of guaranteeing his health the past couple of years.
Zack Greinke became the highest paid right hander in baseball history (for roughly a couple of weeks) this offseason when he inked a long-term deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Greinke has been good, but not great, since his Cy Young win in 2009 and could thrive with the move to the pitcher-friendly environment of Dodger Stadium and the NL West. He is, however, already suffering from some elbow issues and may start the year on the DL. It doesn’t appear to be anything serious enough to make Jay change his mind, but it could definitely have an impact if lingers more than a couple weeks into the regular season.
Draft Priority – 12
Mike Trout – OF – LAA
Robinson Cano – 2B – NYY
Felix Hernandez – SP – SEA
The Commissioner’s Take: Steven’s keepers are good. They are very, very good.
He is banking a lot of his success this year on Mike Trout being able to recapture the magic of his run last season and although it’s hard to expect anything similar to that level of production, I would have said that was impossible before last season started too. So you never know what to expect in this game. That makes it very, very hard to doubt Mr. Trout. Personally, I’d expect some regression. I think his speed is for real, but his power surge came out of nowhere. He’d tallied a combined total of 28 home runs between four year in the minors and his brief stint in the bigs in 2011. He’s still, like, 12-years-old so he can definitely get stronger, but I think Steven’s vision of 40+ HR/60+ SB might be a pipe dream.
Robinson Cano is playing for a free agent payday, but he’s also doing so in the middle of a line-up that—despite being old and brittle a year ago—has gotten very thin, very quickly. Injuries to lineup anchors Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter could make the New York lineup a one-man show until everyone gets healthy. The pressure got to Cano late last year; it may do the same again in 2013.
Felix Hernandez is better than you. Period.
Genies in a Bottle
Draft Priority – 11
David Wright – 3B – NYM
Jay Bruce – OF – CIN
Gio Gonzalez – SP – WAS
The Commissioner’s Take: Admittedly, I’m still very on the fence about where I’m going with my keepers and they change roughly every half-hour or so. David Wright is pretty much one of the most consistent weapons in the game. It appears as though his days of 30+ home runs are gone, but OBPs around .390 with ample doubles, 20+ HR, and double-digit steals looks real nice coming out of a fairly thin position. He suffers a similar fate as Giancarlo Stanton, however, as the cupboards are pretty bare in New York beyond Ike Davis.
Jay Bruce is blossoming into a superstar. His home runs have been climbing every year and the Reds offense—with a healthy Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, a full-season of Todd Fraizer, and the addition of Shin-Soo Choo looks to be pretty nasty on paper. This could be the year he surpasses 100/40/40/100 with ease. His OBP leaves a little to be desired and when he’s off, he’s WAAAAY off, but damned if he can’t carry a club when he’s locked in.
Gio Gonzalez could still very easily get dumped for Jered Weaver or Kris Medlen. These guys are all driving me nuts right now. They all project out very, very well this season. Right now, I’m giving Gio the edge, because I think he’s playing for the best team of the three, but he’s also coming off a big workload and pitching in the WBC has been a proven red flag for guys in the past. This one will likely come down to the wire.
Draft Priority – 10
Miguel Cabrera – 3B – DET
Jose Reyes – SS – TOR
CC Sabathia – SP – NYY
The Commissioner’s Take: Miguel Cabrera is the new Albert Pujols. He’s a flawless ball-klling machine. He should be taken in one of the top three spots of every draft. Period. What makes him even more valuable than Pujols ever was is his 3B eligibility. Sexy stuff. The only thing missing from his game is speed.
The lack of speed from Cabrera is where Reyes comes into play. He is a dynamic top-of-the-order threat who will be plying his trade north of the border for a very potent offensive attack in Toronto. Hitting in front of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, and the rest of the Blue Jays attack figures to net Reyes some very sexy numbers. The big question is whether or not his hamstrings will hold up to playing on the turf day-in and day-out this season.
CC Sabathia isn’t the unstoppable warhorse he once was, but he’s still a very valuable fantasy asset and can pile up the counting stats and the percentages in a big way to help bolster a fantasy rotation. He’s also really the only logical choice. The next best starter on G-Doggy’s roster is Tommy Milone who figures to be available about ten rounds later than Sabathia would as a free agent.
Draft Priority – 09
Matt Kemp – OF – LAD
Ben Zobrist – 2B/SS/OF – TB
Jordan Zimmermann – SP – WAS
The Commissioner’s Take: I really like this set of keepers. Everyone has a crush on Ben Zobrist this year as he’s got the coveted 2B/SS eligibility combo (anyone using him in an OF spot is either blessed w/ an amazing middle infield or horrendously inept at fantasy baseball) and figures to hit in the heart of the Rays lineup all season long.
Matt Kemp is Matt Kemp. The dude is a phenom who, if he can stay healthy, could easily win an MVP every single season. He’s got the ability to hit for major power and steal bases like a total bad-ass. He’s struggled with the health a bit, but should be good to go this season while he hits at the heart of a revamped Dodgers lineup that’s loaded with offensive firepower.
Jordan Zimmermann is probably going to regress a bit this year, but he’s still a very solid fantasy pitcher and he’ll be anchoring down one of the front three rotation spots for what is arguably the best team in all of baseball. He’s got electric stuff and when he’s on, he’s an under-the-radar ace.
Draft Priority – 08
Adam Jones – OF – BAL
Adrian Gonzalez – 1B – LAD
Matt Harvey – SP – NYM
The Commissioner’s Take: Probably the weakest group of keepers in the league. Adam Jones is very good and prepared to continue his ascension to the top of the league, as I predicted he would a couple years too early, but when he’s your anchor the team looks like it’s going to be playing catch up. His ceiling seems to be in the 25-30 HR range w/ 15 SB speed and while he’ll hit for some extra bases, he’s not selective enough at the plate to get beyond a league average OBP. He’s very good, but he’s not great.
Adrian Gonzalez is a great ballplayer who actually had a pretty damn good year in Boston. The question is whether or not his power stroke will ever return to his pre-surgery form. If not and he’s a 20-30 homer guy instead of a 35+ homer guy, his value definitely changes in a big way; especially with the move from a ballpark tailored to his swing to the cavernous confines of Dodger Stadium. I still expect good things, but I feel like he’d be a mid-to-late first round pick if he weren’t a keeper.
Matt Harvey is probably going to be a great pitcher. Hell, the dude could win some Cy Young awards down the road too. You know what he’s not going to do? Get drafted in the first handful of rounds. This is why he’s not a good keeper. Yes, his K/9 was insane and he looked great, but it was in less-than-sixty innings pitched. His minor league numbers aren’t nearly as dominant and indicate some serious regression. A quick peek at Radioactive Rush’s roster from last year, however, indicates that the only two options beyond Harvey are Jaime Garcia or Ian Kennedy. Yuck.
Draft Priority – 07
Troy Tulowitzki – SS – COL
Brett Lawrie – 3B – TOR
Justin Verlander – SP – DET
The Commissioner’s Take: Adam’s keepers seemed like a slam dunk until roughly a week ago when Curtis Granderson broke his forearm. This injury figures to cost him at least two months and could impact his power all season long. That leaves Adam looking elsewhere for a second offensive keeper. I wavered between Carlos Santana and Brett Lawrie as they both play at relatively shallow positions. Ultimately, I went with Lawrie under the expectation that he’ll take a step forward this year and get closer to a 20/20 season with a plenty of XBH to go around.
Tulowitzki, injury-prone or not, basically won Adam his Salmon League championship single-handedly a few years back. Adam is going to ride this guy into the ground before he gives up on him. Verlander is one of the top three starters in the game AND he dated Kate Upton. Total no brainer on this one.
Draft Priority – 06
Jose Bautista – OF – TOR
Starlin Castro – SS – CHI
Cliff Lee – SP – PHI
The Commissioner’s Take: Jose Bautista is healthy. That means that Jose Bautista is a very, very bad man. A keen batting eye and pitchers who are scared shitless to give him anything hittable makes for an OBP machine (I’m predicting .390+) and he’s got arguably the second best raw power in the bigs behind Giancarlo Stanton. Add in the upgraded offense surrounding his bat and he’s in for a monster year. The only knock on Bautista is that he’s lost his coveted-3B eligibility this year and is relegated to just OF status. Granted, if he puts up the numbers he is capable of, GM John Kunkel probably won’t care which position the stats are coming from as long as they keep coming.
Starlin Castro continues to improve and is working through some immaturity issues to become a top flight shortstop. If he’s not already in your top-tier, he’s undoubtedly just below it. His name needs to be alongside the likes of Tulowitzki, Ramirez, and Reyes when it comes to fantasy assets at shortstop. He should take some steps forward this year and post numbers similar to last year with a league average OBP, 15+ HR, 25+ SB, and 30+ 2B. The dude is slowly blossoming into a Derek Jeter for the new era with consistent numbers year in and year out. It’s almost time for it to all click, but I think we’re still a year or so away.
Cliff Lee is the bomb. His numbers got jobbed by a shitty Philly team last year and I have no doubt he bounces back in a big time way this season. I bet he hooks up with your mom too, because he’s that f’n baller.
Draft Priority – 05
Albert Pujols – 1B – LAA
Prince Fielder – 1B – DET
Clayton Kershaw – SP – LAD
The Commissioner’s Take: These keepers are too good. I call shenanigans.
That’s it. That’s my entire analysis. What the hell else can you say about this squad? He’s got two of the best, most consistent hitters in all of baseball who hit in the middle of good lineups and he’s got one of the best young starters in the game locked up as his fantasy ace for another decade.
Oh yeah…and Collin got to work for the Twins and now for FSN. The dude has it all. Total motherf’n shenanigans.
Draft Priority – 04
Carlos Gonzalez – OF – COL
Edwin Encarnacion – 1B – TOR
Yovani Gallardo – SP – MIL
The Commissioner’s Take: Craiggers took a gamble with the top overall draft priority last year and went with the first pick to secure the services of stud centerfielder Carlos Gonzalez. It caused him to stretch elsewhere in the draft, but he locked down a legitimate, young fantasy keeper for the first time in a very long time (perhaps ever?!) and that was worth it for Craiggers. He has a solid foundation of speed and power to build his team around going forward.
One of Craiggers late round gambles last year came courtesy of the fella drafting beside him who recommended a former top prospect turned bust who had shown a little power in 2011 and still had 3B eligibility. The fella who made that recommendation would spend the entire season kicking himself in the nuts knowing he could have just kept his mouth shut and drafted Encarnacion a few rounds later as he’d intended and it may have won him a championship. Encarnacion, must like his Toronto long-ball partner Jose Bautista, has lost his 3B eligibility this season as well. E5 as he was “lovingly” known when he played the hot corner is now just another slugger at a very deep first base position. I think Craiggers takes the gamble on his power sticking around and hopes Encarncion continues to blossom in the retooled Toronto lineup.
Gallardo vs Shields is a tough call. I know Craiggers is partial to “Big Game” James and many ranking systems have Shields higher than Gallardo, but I can’t in good conscience imagine a world where Gallardo, whom I’ve had a crush on since I drafted him years ago—only to lose him to injury almost immediately—isn’t a keeper-level pitcher. Crushes die-hard, y’all.
38 MPH Heaters
Draft Priority – 03
Gincarlo Stanton – OF – MIA
Dustin Pedroia – 2B – BOS
David Price – SP – TB
The Commissioner’s Take: Although it was rumored earlier in the offseason that General Manager Morgan Lux was looking to take two pitchers, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he lets an offensive sparkplug like Pedroia out of his grasp. Pedroia figures to be slotted in the catbird seat in Boston between Ellsbury and some combination of Ortiz, Napoli, Gomes, and Middlebrooks. If he’s healthy, Dusty is going to be worth every penny and there will be plenty of starting pitching lurking late in the draft.
Stanton is a lock with his out of this world power, but it’s entirely possible that he sets the new single-season record for intentional walks this season given the dearth of talent around him in the Miami lineup. A year ago, the opening day roster boasted a number of former all-stars and run producers. As of today the next three highest profile players on the active roster are Juan Pierre, Logan Morrison, and Placido Polanco. So, uh, yeah…the counting stats could take a dip this year, but that OBP should be sky-high.
David Price is the go-to guy here as he’s undoubtedly pitching to ensure himself a big payday in the near future, likely after his inevitable exodus from Tampa Bay. I’d like to say more about him, but he’s a bona fide ace pitching on a very good ball club. What more needs to be said?
Captain Jack Sparrow
Draft Priority – 02
Buster Posey – C/1B – SF
Bryce Harper – OF – WAS
Stephen Strasburg – SP – WAS
The Commissioner’s Take: GM Travis Morfitt had a ton of success in his first stint with the Salmon League thanks to a very strong core of relatively young keepers. When he left the league (like a jerk) after winning his championship, Grant dismantled that core and salted the earth where a hearty bounty had once grown. Since returning Travis has been working to rebuild the core, but struggled mightily. Last year he went all in to ensure his youth movement was underway by drafting the Nationals two young prospects alongside Buster Posey.
Travis is currently set-up with a future star in the outfield, on the mound, and a current star (and reigning MVP) behind the plate. He’s obviously in this for the long haul knowing that he could probably get better present day production out of alternative keepers, but in two or three years—assuming all three avoid major injuries and continue to progress as they have—Travis will have the most dominant set of keepers in the league, perhaps in the history of the league.
As of right now, I’d say they’re very, very good…but not top of the heap. Posey figures to regress a bit due to the workload last season. Harper is probably a lock for a 15/15 season, maybe even 20/20…but that feels like a push for a guy who looked completely lost for long stretches last season. Strasburg still scares the shit out of me. The dude is another Tommy John surgery waiting to happen, but in between visits to the surgeon, he’ll probably snare himself a Cy Young award and 250+K.
Draft Priority – 01
Joey Votto – 1B – CIN
Andrew McCutchen – OF – PIT
Madison Bumgarner – SP – SF
The Commissioner’s Take: Another very easy to peg set of keepers.
Joey Votto is probably the best pure hitter in baseball. He gets on base at an AMAZING clip. He hits for power. He hits for average. He can even run a little bit. The issue has been keeping him on the field and in the lineup. If he can play a full season and get 600+ plate appearances there is zero reason that he’s not hitting 40+ HR with a .400+ OBP and winning an MVP award. The dude is just scary good.
Andrew McCutchen has received oodles of praise from me in the past, I believe I basically committed an illegal sexual on him via draft recap a couple years ago, so it should come as no shock that I think he’s in for another big year and ready to take another big step forward. He’s one of the most under-the-radar studs in the game today, likely a result of playing in Pittsburgh, but I think he is ready to make himself a nationally-known star this year. Expect big, big things from “Cutch.”
Madison Bumgarner has been one of Mike’s big crush guys for a couple years now and he’s now officially the guy who ends Roy Halladay’s run as a keeper in the Salmon League. At just 23-years-old Bumgarner looks like an ace in the making. He’s got nasty stuff and if he’s able to curb his recent trend of declining velocity late in the year, he’ll be in for a monster year. Mike may regret giving upon Evan Longoria for one year of Roy Halladay, but with this assortment of offensive talent and Bumgarner ready to step in and replace Doc, I don’t think he regrets it all that much in the long run.