## Ask Rotoman: How Do I Value Keepers?

I’m new to an AL-only keeper league.This is the first year we’re keeping players (was a full redraft last year). How does one calculate inflation? In general, when the delta between salary and projection is about the same, should one keep the higher-priced player since the player pool will have fewer five-star players available and their prices will be that much higher?

Delta Dawn

Dear DD:

There is a formula for calculating the inflation rate going into an auction with keepers. I’ve screwed it up enough in the past that I’m going to be careful here, but let’s try this:

Take the your total league budget (\$3120, traditionally) minus the expected cost of the frozen players, that is their par value, and divide it by the actual cost of the keepers subtracted from \$3120. The result is your inflation rate.

For instance, let’s say you had \$624 worth of talent frozen that was going to cost \$312. That gives you \$312 of talent that isn’t being paid for. Using the formula above you will have \$2808 dollars chasing \$2496 worth of players, inflating the price of the remaining available players by 11 percent. That’s in a traditional roto league, with 12 teams on a \$260 budget.

But simply increasing the bid price of all players by 10 percent isn’t going to reflect how your league spends those inflated dollars. A savvy league will spend the extra money buying the most attractive available players, generally starting pitchers and five-category hitters or the most productive sluggers.

When deciding who to keep the question for you is what each player will go for in the auction. If Bo Bichette can be kept at \$31 this year and you judge his straight value to be \$38 (he earned \$40 last year, and he cost \$37 and \$39 in LABR and Tout Wars respectively) you would have an inflated value of \$7. That’s the number that would go into your inflation rate calculation.

But on auction day how much will he really go for? A 10 percent bump gets him to \$42, but should he stop there? For the best players in a league that understands inflation I think not. Better to spend an extra dollar and get the league’s premiere shortstop than spend an extra dollar to pick up Cavan Biggio at 10 percent over his draft prices of \$10. Right?

This doesn’t mean you should always keep the more expensive player as your own keep, if both have the same discount this year. Given your team configuration, the quality of your keeps in relation to the quality of other teams, and your strategic approach to this year’s auction, it might make sense to have more money than more tied-up talent, but all other things being equal keeping the rarer talent does make the most sense.

One other point. What happens when a league doesn’t understand inflation is that teams marshall their money, don’t spend up for the best players, and end up competing for the middlin’ players when they realize all the choice talent is gone.

Or they leave money on the table, unspent and immediately worthless in the usual leagues. (Some leagues have a formula for converting unspent draft dollars into FAAB, which can be a strategic aim but also rewards auction day incompetence.)

The fact is, understanding inflation and tracking how it shows up during your auction will give you a terrific edge. It’s well worth figuring out how many inflated dollars there are in your league and then apportioning them to the players you value most in your pre-draft list. Then, during the auction, keep a rough count of how much prices are running ahead or behind your budget. If they’re running ahead you know that bargains are coming, and if they’re running behind it’s time to get shopping.

Good luck!

## Ask Rotoman: Help! Keepers and Trade Possibilities

I recently purchased your magazine and I was looking over some auction values. I have a 2-part question. This is for a 14 team 5X5 Roto league, \$260 budget. We can keep 7 players, but we don’t have to use all 7 spots.

Part 1: Which keepers would you go with:

Luis Robert-\$21
Yordan Alvarez-\$21
Robbie Ray- \$7
Zach Wheeler- \$16
Jonathan India- \$11
Hunter Renfroe- \$7
CJ Cron- \$8
Frankie Montas- \$19

Part 2: There are 2 potential trades I can make, would you do either or both if I can pull them off? Which would you prefer if you like both?

Send: \$7 Robbie Ray and \$7 Hunter Renfroe or \$8 CJ Cron for \$33 Trea Turne

Send: \$7 Hunter Renfroe or \$8 CJ Cron for \$26 Trevor Story

I feel like I am trying to compensate for my lack of steals with my keepers. But, I can trade in this league if I am behind in steals mid-way.

I am really enjoying the magazine, thank you!
A Fan

Dear Fan:

The important thing to note about the prices in The Guide is they are scaled to 24 team mixed leagues, a much different universe than a 14 team mixed league.

The difference is dramatic. In a 24-team mixed league, CJ Cron is a \$14 player. That means he’s a hair above average in value for an only league fantasy league. But overall he ranks about 25th at first base and around 50th at corner infield. That means Cron would be one of the last corners taken in a league your size, giving him a price of \$2. Or \$4 if you really like him.

Hunter Renfroe is in the same situation. He’s about 80th among outfielders. A 14-team mixed league takes 5 x 14 = 70 outfielders. Given multiposition and utility Renfroe could be an endgame steal, but you should not freeze him for \$7.

The good news here is if you can trade Robbie Ray and Cron for Trea Turner, you hit the jackpot. Ray’s price is really good, but he doesn’t yet count as a solid starter. Trea Turner is a unique talent, the sort you want to roster in a shallow mixed league. You could lose this deal. Ray could be as good as last year and Turner is coming off a career year, he may not perform at such heights this year. But I think you start better putting together a winning team having Turner at \$33 than Ray and Cron at \$7 and \$8 respectively.

As for Renfroe for Trevor Story, I’m a big Story fan. Or maybe I should say I was. He’s coming off a down year, he could be leaving Colorado, and he’s getting older. He’s way better than Renfroe, but at more than three times the cost, I don’t think I’d deal unless you expect many shortstops to be kept by other teams. You’re not keeping Renfroe, but the only reason to keep Story at his price is if you think he’s going to cost more on draft day.

If he is, jump in. But I suspect he won’t.

Good luck,

## ASK ROTOMAN: A Keeper Question

I’m in a 12 team auction keeper league with 30-man roster. We are allowed to keep up to seven players. Each year a player is kept his salary goes up \$5. We can keep a player for a max three yrs. This year’s salary is in parentheses. Out of the following players who would you keep. M Chapman(11), P Dejong(13), V Robles(18), E Jimenez(11), J Luzzardo(14), T Glanow(12), S Bieber(15), j lucchesi(11), N Senzel(12), J James(11), J Villar(16).

First off, if salaries go up \$5 a year, I don’t see why you have a three year limit. The idea of an escalating salary is that eventually the player becomes too expensive. This might happen in a year or two, usually, and for some surprising players it might not happen for four or five years. But it happens.

Get rid of the time limit. Reward teams who get in early on the right guys.

As far as your keeps, I’m assuming you’re using a S260 budget. The thing is in a 12 team mixed league the stars should go for a lot of money, and middling talents should go for a lot less. So I don’t see your list as choices between prices as much as choices between players.

You have some big talents, not all of them yet fully expressed. So, you have to keep Shane Bieber, Nick Senzel, Jonathan Villar, Jesus Luzzardo, Tyler Glasnow, Eloy Jimenez and Victor Robles. And you’re done.

Really. Chapman and Dejong had great years, are very good players, but they and more like them will once again go for \$11 or \$13 because we’ve seen their best and that’s what they’re worth in a deep league. They may be better this year than Senzel or Jimenez, but they’ll go cheaper in your auction. That’s what keepers are made out of.

## Ask Rotoman: Keeping It Fair While Adding Keepers

Dear Rotoman:

As commissioner of our league we traditionally kept three players for three seasons with the three keepers counting as your first three picks just to keep it simple.

I was wondering if we gave owners the option to keep up to five players with those players going as your five first rounds. But I want to keep it fair for all owners, even ones that don’t have a too many true keepers.

My question is, would it necessarily hurt a weak team if he only kept one or two players and attempted to rebuild from the draft. My goal is not to put someone at disadvantage because these changes.

“Even Steven”

Dear Even:

Your issue isn’t expansion, I don’t think, but rather your decision to make your keepers the first three picks in your draft. This setup means that the keeper comparison, the rationale for keeping a guy rather than throwing him back and taking the best available player, is much higher than it probably should be.

Here’s why:

Assuming your league is 12 teams (but it doesn’t matter if it isn’t, the same rationale would apply to any size league), your three keeps are going to take 36 players off the draft board. Are these the top 36 players on your board? Almost certainly not.

Well, the first few years they might be close, but as freeze eligibilities expire for players they go back up on the board. If they are better than your third-best, or second-best, or even first-best freeze, you might as well not keep the keeper, or keepers.

This is sure to happen, and when it does your keeper system should break down quickly. The only way for it to not break down is if each owner is required to keep three players.

And, of course, expanding to five keepers, and giving owners the option to not keep five, will only make matters worse.

The right way to value keepers in a draft league is to keep them in the round they were taken originally. That way they have real value and don’t have to compete with the best available players on the draft board for value.

It isn’t as easy to track, but it isn’t that hard either, and should make your game much more fun.

Sincerely,

## Ask Rotoman: Dynasty Keeper Cut One

Hi,

I am in a daily head-to-head dynasty league. This year we cut the number of minor leaguers we can keep from 5 to 3. I have Jo Adell, Joey Bart, Dylan Cease, Keibert Ruiz, and Nick Senzel.

I prefer Bart over Ruiz, and since both are catchers, I think Ruiz is out.

The question is do I cut Adell, Senzel, or Cease? My concern is based on what position Senzel might wind up at. Thoughts?

“Senzelbility or Surcease?”

Dear S-squared:

Given his age, his tools, his proven skills, and did I mention his age(?), Jo Adell is a Dynasty player to own. He’s not likely to see the majors this year, might not see them in 2020, but he could if he keeps mashing. I wouldn’t drop him.

Which brings us to Senzel and Cease and your concern about Senzel’s position.

First off, Senzel is the better prospect. Just is. A good hitter is always a better prospect than a good pitcher because not as many hitting prospects fall apart in the majors, plus the injury risk.

And Senzel is expected to start the year in the majors, or, you know, sometime a little later so the Reds gain an extra year of control, while Cease may get a call up but he may not.

As to position, Senzel is likely a second baseman as the season starts. The Reds are talking about having him play in center field. That dings his value a bit, especially if you’re in a 10-team league, but that’s in the future. For now you have some second base goodness coming (or here), and Senzel is such a polished hitter he’s likely to start strong and get stronger.

That’s Senzelble.

Sincerely,

## Ask Rotoman: My Fifth Keeper?

Hi,

10 team mixed league with 5 offensive (OBP, HR, Rbis, R, SB and 4 pitching categories (Wins, Saves, ERA and WHIP) NO STRIKEOUTS.

5 keepers

Committed to 4: Freddie Freeman, Jose Ramirez, Charlie Blackmon and Francisco Lindor. Fifth from Gerrit Cole, Aaron Nola or maybe Jean Segura.

Any preference from these three?

“A Fifth of Gerrit or Man of Aaron?”

Dear Fifth Man:

I don’t know. The biggest difference between Cole and Nola is that Gerrit has six letters and Aaron only five. And Cole was a better strikeout pitcher last year.

For one thing, go with a pitcher, because you need an ace and Cole and Nola are two of the top tier of starting pitchers.

Since strikeouts don’t count in your league there isn’t a whole lot of difference between them. Will Houston score more runs and win more games? That’s a point for Cole. Who has been better the last two years combined? That would be Nola, but Cole was better last year.

In 5×5, I have Cole at \$28 and Nola at \$26, but that difference is due to strikeouts. Nola has the edge in ERA and WHIP, but it’s a small one. So, like I said, I don’t know.

I guess I would go with Cole if forced to pick, which I’m making myself do, because I think the improvement he showed last year is sustainable and that makes him the better power pitcher. Thus more likely to repeat.

But if you’re hunch goes the other way, go with your hunch.

Sincerely,

## ASK ROTOMAN: Keeper Question

Ask Rotoman:

I can hold 8 in a \$260 NL only auction league. Which 8 do u think?

Jose Peraza \$8 Starlin Castro 8 Yasmani Grandal 6 Jeff McNeil 1 Lorenzo Cain 29 Eric Lauer 1 Stephen Matz 6 Trevor Williams 3 Alen Hanson 1 Hector Neris 1 Yoshi Hirano 5 Pablo Lopez 1 Franchy Cordero 10 Koda Glover 2.

Thanks
Eight is Enough

Dear Eight:

I don’t usually answer such open-ended questions on the site because, well, it seems to me you should do most of the work. That’s why you play. And then hit me with the hard question I might contribute something to. For you, that’s determining your No. 7 and 8 picks.

But today is launch day of the Fantasy Baseball Guide 2017 and your question does let me highlight how to decide who to keep.

Make a list of your players and their prices. Then add their big prices from the Guide (or whatever reputable source you have for prices, including your own), and do the math:

Jose Peraza \$8 \$25 = +\$17
Starlin Castro 8 \$18 = +\$10
Yasmani Grandal 6 \$10 = +\$3
Jeff McNeil 1 \$12 = +\$11
Lorenzo Cain 29 \$24 = -\$5
Eric Lauer 1 \$2 = +\$1
Stephen Matz 6 \$8 = +\$2
Trevor Williams 3 \$12 = +\$9
Alen Hanson 1 \$5 = +\$4
Hector Neris 1 \$1 = E
Yoshi Hirano 5 \$3 = -\$2
Pablo Lopez 1 \$1 = E
Franchy Cordero 10 \$5 = -\$5
Koda Glover 2 \$0 = -\$2

First thing first, there are the big winners: Peraza, Castro, McNeil, and Trevor Williams are obvious keeps. That’s four.

Picking off the other four gets more complicated. First off, Yasmani Grandal is at a good price and is looking at a change of scene that might give him a boost. That’s five.

Of the remainders, Alen Hanson is cheap. He’s not a great hitter, doesn’t have much power or speed, but he could get a fair number of at bats, and he has some power and maybe a little speed. That’s six.

To get to the final two you have to evaluate my prices and your expectations.

For instance, if you think Glover or Hirano might close, you have to consider them. At present I do not.

If you’re in a pinch you can keep Lopez and Lauer, because they are arms with some talent who might get a chance to play this year. The problem is they’re not going for more than a buck or two on auction day, so these are plays of last resort.

Lorenzo Cain is costly, and should go for less than \$29 in startup leagues, but what is the inflation rate in your league? If it’s more than 20-percent he becomes something like a  bargain. Heck, you might think he’s going to go for \$29 in your league, which definitely makes him a bargain. You have to decide if you want to park that money in him, or go after a different outfielder to anchor your offense. He could be your seventh keeper. Or not. I’m personally wary of \$33 year old outfielders whose games rely on speed. With each year, the risk of a big failure goes up.

Which brings us to Steven Matz or Franchy Cordero. I think \$10 is too much for Cordero, but others love him and if you love him you might want to take a chance. FWIW Baseball HQ has him earning \$15 this year. I think his contact skills are so bad that, while he could earn \$15, he could also be back in the minors in a hurry. Especially because he’s coming off a wrist injury.

Which leave us with Matz, who has been injury prone and not that good since his dazzling debut in 2015. I think he’s no riskier than Cordero and cheaper, with the same sort of upside, which is why I would make him my eighth.

When you have to make these decisions matters a lot. Health issues and playing time issues will become clearer than mud as the preseason approaches. The longer you can wait the more clarity you’ll bring to your final decisions. But it doesn’t hurt to start exploring the possibilities early.

Best,

Rotoman

## ASK ROTOMAN: Can the DJ Save My Life This Year?

Hey Rotoman!

I am new to a 14 team 6×6 roto. With the standard 5×5 categories plus OBP and K/9. I get to take 8 keepers into the next year. I am one of 3 new owners in this league who got to draft from the abandoned teams. I have DJ LeMahieu for \$1, I can put him on contract before this year for a new salary of \$6 as contracts add \$5 every year. I want to know if I should keep him this year only and no contract for \$1 or put him on a 2 or 3 year contract. A two year contract would put his last year of his contract at \$11. I am worried that he could get moved out of Coors if Brenden Rodgers comes up next year.

Thanks for your help!
Stagesetting

Here’s the piece of information you need. Last year, LeMahieu went for \$10 in Tout Wars mixed auction. That was coming off his breakout season. Now that he’s done it again, his price will go up some, but how much? And does it make it worth the risk of extending him?

First we look at his home road splits. He was great at home last year, and pretty good on the road. In 2015, he was fine at home and not quite so good, but not bad on the road either. That makes the trade talk less worrisome for me.

Still, he’s a guy whose main value is his outsized batting average. While he hit for more power last year, it wasn’t that much more. He could grow in that area, but he might not.

So, I wouldn’t extend him for two years, because that raises his cost too close to his draft day price.

I think you could justify not extending him at all, take the one-year benefit of his cheap price, and move on.

But I think extending him one year gets you the best of both worlds. He’s inexpensive at \$6, likely to earn a profit, and maybe a nice profit if he can pull off a third straight career year. And if things go sour, as they sometimes do, you’re not on the line for that much.

Sincerely,

## Ask Rotoman: Take Two and Get Ready for the Season

Dear Rotoman:

Question for you regarding a couple guys in a Rotisserie Keeper league.

H=OBP, SLG, R, HR, RBI, SB   P=WHIP, ERA, QS, W, K, SV

10 team league, have two more spots to keep guys. Who would you go with?

Wade Davis-19th round

Billy Hamilton-21st round

Byron Buxton-10th

Joc Pederson-14th

Kevin Gausman-21st

Danny Duffy-19th

Javy Baez-18th

Already keeping

Stras, Thor, Bogaerts, C Seager, Sano. All good value.

Thanks, Rich

Dear Rich,

You are Midas, you are Croesus, you are Gates. You are Tut, you are Mansa Musa, you are Mugabe. You are Buffett, you are Goldman, you are Sachs.

Of course, because you can only keep two of the seven you will be taking a hair cut. Let’s see how these guys are going. I look at Tout Wars, because it was recent and I know where it is. It’s a 15 team league, but that doesn’t really make a big difference in the draft order of major league regulars (though it does in the endgame).

Wade Davis (117), Billy Hamilton (86), Byron Buxton (147), Joc Pederson (161), Kevin Gausman (179), Danny Duffy (109), Javier Baez (113).

How many rounds up do you get?

Wade Davis (+8), Billy Hamilton (+13), Byron Buxton (-4), Joc Pederson (+2), Kevin Gausman (+3), Danny Duffy (+9), Javier Baez (+7).

This is pretty clear cut. Billy Hamilton is a great price. And you have to choose between a starter, Duffy, and a reliever, Davis. I think I’d take Duffy, because he’s going earlier and good starters are harder to find than relievers. But if you decide you need a reliever more than a starter at this point, that’s a fair way to go.

Sincerely,

## Ask Rotoman: Keepers Extreme Vetting

Dear Rotoman:

As for now my fantasy baseball keepers are

Josh Donaldson, Tor 3B K

Francisco Lindor, Cle SS K

Carlos Gonzalez, Col OF K

Jonathan Villar, Mil SS, 3B K

Joey Votto, Cin 1B K

But I also have A.J. Pollock, Eduardo Nunez, Jose Peraza, Jason Hammel, J.A. Happ and Jacob deGrom.

Just wondering if I’ve chosen the best 5 out of my keepers.

“Top Five”

Dear TF:

A quick glance tells me you have the right guys.

Donaldson is a first round pick. Votto a second rounder. Lindor a third round pick. Cargo and Villar are also third round values.

Which doesn’t mean you don’t have options. AJ Pollock is a third rounder probably, so if you decided to go for him over Cargo no one could blame you. I have Cargo ranked a little higher, mostly because Pollock is just coming back from a lost year, his second in the last three, which adds a bit of risk.

More interestingly, while Jonathan Villar is going in the third round, Jose Peraza is going in the ninth. Villar has his spectacular 2016 season under his belt, but Peraza looks to be similar type of player. Until the Brandon Phillips trade it was hard to see where he would get full time at bats, but all of sudden his way is cleared.

Steamer has Jonathan Villar projected to hit .255 with 15 homers and 54 steals. My projection is for .250 with 15 homers and 48 steals. So we’re in the same ballpark certainly.

Steamer has Peraza projected to hit .282 with six homers and 42 steals. My projection is for him to hit .300 with seven homers and 38 steals. So, again, similar, as I suppose we should be. We’re working off similar inputs.

Clearly, unless you value batting average a lot, and you shouldn’t, Villar is the better keep for you, but it is possible to see how in a BA league that Peraza could conceivably outperform Villar this year. That’s not a reason not to keep Villar, but in a league where both are available it is a reason not to reach too much for Villar. If someone else grabs him you can get a somewhat similar player about 50 picks later.

Sincerely,