By Drew Biedermann
The favorite of all my fantasy leagues is my Yahoo! keeper baseball league. It's a 14-team mixed league, with 6x6 scoring (doubles are the extra category for hitters; holds for pitchers). The only problem we've run into occurs when managers drop out. Heading into this season, there are two dead teams. Before these teams have managers, I thought we could look at these teams and see if we can improve their fates.
We're going to start with the citi fielders. Citi finished 12th out of 14 teams which means the owner gets the third pick in the draft. Before delving into the draft, we need to figure out the players to keep from this team. Only players who are potential keepers are listed,.
Vladimir Guerrero -Vlad will not steal bases like he did in Montreal in 2001 & 2002. Those years were aberrations. Take away the 77 steals swiped during those two years, and he's got 88 steals in eight full seasons. So you shouldn't be expecting him to steal more than 10 bases. You're not drafting a guy like Vladimir Guerrero for the steals, though.
Guerrero is still a five-category star (he's averaged 36 doubles per season in Anaheim), although injury concerns over his elbow raise red flags.
Brandon Phillips - One of only three players to go 30-30 last season (first rounders David Wright and Jimmy Rollins being the others), Phillips also broke 100 runs, and was third among second baseman with 94 RBI.
Considering he doesn't turn 27 until the end of June, the best should be ahead for Bran-Phil. Having recently signed a four-year contract, the only fear could be a case of him getting fat and happy. He's still a top-flight option at second alongside Chase Utley and B.J. Upton.
Victor Martinez - Coming off one of his best seasons, V-Mart is the class of catchers. You can pencil him in for .300/20/95/75, with 30+ doubles to boot!
Eric Byrnes - I'm wary of Big Byrnes, and not only because of his feathery blonde hair. Not many Rule 5 draft picks (Johan Santana aside) have really maintained success. This article makes note of some notable Rule Fivers. Scott Podsednik, Wily Taveras and Derrick Turnbow don't really blow the doors off.
While it is very likely he will not replicate his 50 steals from last year, he should be good for 20-25, to go with comparable power. A 20/20 guy is always an asset, but one has to wonder if he won't revert to his .267 career batting average.
Cole Hamels - The kid's for real. If Hamels makes 30+ starts, he'll be a Top 10 starter. 36 games versus the Marlins and Expos won't hurt, either. That should be seven starts vs. two of the worst teams in the National League, which never hurts the fantasy stats.
Jonathan Papelbon - Papelbon, J.J. Putz and Joe Nathan are the cream of the crop in terms of closers. Any keeper team would be thrilled to have someone like Paps on their roster. With the `Sawks raring for a repeat, he should get nearly 40 saves, with an ERA near 2. You can't ask for much more.
Fausto Carmona - Putting together a career year, Carmona and the Indians are primed to compete for an AL Central crown. While you will have to find strikeouts from another source, if he can match his ERA and WHIP from last year, you've got a stud. Only 24, he could have a lot of tread left on his tires.
Be wary, though. This will only be Carmona's second year as a starter. Wear and tear may show up, and hitters might have caught up to him in the off-season. Only time will tell, but there are worse options for a team than the young kid.
Chris Young - Young loved pitching in Petco last season, posting a 1.69 ERA in 85.1 IP. On the flip side, he carried an ERA of 4.52 away from his home park, which creates reason for concern. It should be noted he was night and day in 2006, with a 4.60 ERA at home and a sparkling 2.41 ERA in 93.1 IP on the road. If he can ever find his mojo consistently, Young instantly becomes a Top 10 starter.
Matt Cain - Cain won't turn 24 until October. While he has a bad cast of hitters around him, Cain showed improvement in ERA and BB/9. He has the stuff to have a Dan Haren-esque breakout season. The wonder is will the Giants secure him any wins?
Jon Lester - With Curt Schilling's status unknown, Lester and Clay Bucholz should reap the immediate rewards. Regardless, Lester is in the long-term plans of Red Sox Nation, which only helps his keeper value.
There are plenty of ways to go with citi fielders. Personally, I would keep Vlad, V-Mart and Bran-Phil as hitters. I'd keep Hamels and Papelbon as pitchers, which leaves one spot between Byrnes, Carmona, Young and Cain.
Safe money would go with Byrnes, but I'm not fully sold on him. Carmona is a question mark because he has only got one season of starting under his belt. Chris Young has been very good on the Padres but hasn't put together a consistent season without landing on the DL. Cain has the most upside, but the worst current situation.