Here are some thoughts on 2012 for your Monday afternoon.
Mike Axisa wrote a good piece on FanGraphs ranking the elite MLB closers. I like Axisa's analysis on Jonathan Papelbon in particular. Papelbon had good numbers in Boston last season (comparable to Craig Kimbrel's) and as Axisa points out
For one, he didn’t get that big contract not to close, so job security is a non-issue. There was always just enough of a seed of doubt in Boston because of Daniel Bard‘s continued presence as the closer-in-waiting. Secondly, he’s in the easier league, though that is subject to change depending on what the Marlins and Braves do in the coming weeks.
For some reason, Papelbon doesn't seem to get the elite closer respect that his numbers usually merit. It's hard to argue that you should ever "keep" a relief pitcher but look at Axisa's rankings if you are in a league with a few more keepers and have the opportunity. Kimbrel, Axford and Papelbon are all worthy of one of your spots.
Also at FanGraphs, Eno Sarris ranks his Fifth Tier of NL Outfield Keepers or as Eno calls them, the "best of the rest." Speaking as a Drew Stubbs owner, I can tell you that this is a tier of players that are maddening to own. If your team counts strikeouts, I would certainly avoid Stubbs and Chris Young. The other two players in this tier are Cameron Maybin and Logan Morrison. Maybin has those home park issues, he has power potential but it won't be fully realized in the cavern he plays in. Morrison's power is unpredictable. Morrison is also hilarious, not that this has anything to do with baseball but still. Honestly, these guys are all marginally keepable, hence their place in Eno's tier system. Stubbs and Young are going to hit home runs and steal bases so they might be your best bets but their slash lines may be a bit terrifying at times.
Roto Hardball's Paddy McMahon points out some aberrations in Adrian Beltre's 2011 stats and predicts an even better 2012 for the Rangers' 3B.
What I'm getting at is that Beltre was able to hit as well as he did despite a walk rate that would've been one of the lowest of the decade. I know that's an unfair comparison, and that's kind of the point -- Beltre's career walk rate of 6.8% wouldn't be much higher on the list, but it would at least place him 20 or so spots higher on the list, right alongside Michael Young and Jose Reyes. Add in the fact that his BABIP was just .273 (career average: .296) and we can expect some more balls to fall in for Beltre, and perhaps for him to be able to take more pitches and work counts like he used to.
A player who has gotten a lot of off-season buzz so far this year is the Royals' Lorenzo Cain. The Melky Cabrera trade has opened up a starting spot for Cain. Bgrosnick at Roto Hardball said that
Cain has historically managed a solid batting average and OBP, including stops at both the minor- and major-league levels. Bill James projects a .337 OBP for Cain over a full season in 2012, and while I tend to find James's offensive projections a little high, an OBP around .330 wouldn't be elite, but would certainly be good enough to help a leadoff hitter manage 70-90 runs scored. Cain also happens to be a solid baserunner, thieving between 15-35 bases in each pro season. In only 49 major-league games, his baserunning has already been worth nearly two runs, a sure sign that he can add value on the basepaths and get himself into scoring position. Even better, 2011 also brought with it a spike in power. If Cain could contribute 10-15 HR or so in 2012, then he'd be able to drive himself in enough to really hit the upper levels of his R projection.
For a little bit of fun with fantasy baseball that may teach you something, check out Nick Fleder's series on the "fantasy alphabet" at The Hardball Times. He wrote on the letters U, V and W last week but the whole series is worth a look.
And finally Razzball has a piece up on what we can expect next season from Matt Moore. I doubt Matt Moore is available in most keeper leagues but if he is available in your keeper league or you have the necessary parts, get him. Razzball's prediction is that the Rays will follow a path with Moore that is similar to the Desmond Jennings path from 2011, namely waiting until the summer to bring him to the big leagues. After that though, expect big things.
When Moore gets the call in June, I imagine he’ll put together a year that makes him a contender for Rookie of the Year. Something like we saw with Hellickson in 2011, though hopefully with a lot more Ks. Say 10-7/3.15/1.20/160 in 150 innings. But if he’s drafted in my mixed leagues (which he will be), I’m not bothering with him. I’m not sitting on a rookie pitcher for a month in April unless the league’s deep and/or a keeper. Too many variables, and I imagine his price will be too steep.