Most Untradeable Fantasy Keepers: No. 1-13
If you haven’t read Part One of the Top-30 Keepers list (No. 14-30), do so before rejoining us. In this edition I am gifting you with the top 13 names in baseball you should be sniffing out for keeper purposes.
Remember there is only one rule to follow… Unless you have a glaring need for a certain position – and I do mean GLARING – and particular position wealth in which to deal from, you should never trade a player ranked higher on this list than the one you are receiving in return, straight-up for one another. Package deals of course are different beasts altogether, but still this list should be a good guideline for you to follow.
Very Productive, but Available
13.) Mark Teixeira, 1B
12.) Felix Hernandez, SP
11.) Chase Utley, 2B
10.) A-Rod, 3B
9.) Joe Mauer, C
We have now trekked into much more charted territory. Our Top-13 consists of players whom you KNOW what you are getting with. Guessing games don’t exist with this group. Particularly the 9-13 tier.
Mark Teixeira is without a doubt among the five best first baseman in the Majors. This year, I have him settling in at No. 4. Since 2003, Tex’s 162-game averages set him at 37-HR, 102-R, 122-RBI, .923-OPS, while still hitting .290. Good? To say the least. The worst thing going for him is that owners can still find good value in much cheaper players (Votto, Fielder and Sandoval). You might still be able to squeeze an Adrian Gonzalez owner for Teixeira straight up and if you can, I say GO FOR IT. But you can most certainly win with Tex as your best power hitter.
King Felix is about as good as it gets on the mound. He’s young (turning 24 soon) and has plus-pitches to spare. He also plays for one of the better defensive teams in the league, in a weak hitting division. You are unlikely to find an owner still sleeping on Hernandez, sooo… good luck getting him cheap. Unless the voice on the other line is offering Tim Lincecum, there isn’t another arm out there you should even think about dealing the King for.
Remember when I spoke in Part One of not putting a lot of stock into good players who happen to play at positions scarce for upside? This is one of those areas where things get tricky.
Chase Utley is the only second baseman ranked in our Top-30, but how much value does that actually give the guy? Not much actually. But his overall offensive output in general gives him great value. Consider that in four of the last five years Utley: hit 28-plus homers, hit .290-plus, had over 100 RBI, over 100 runs (131 in ’06) and swiped 14 or more bases. In all five he had an OPS of over .900. Yeah Utley is going to play the 2010 season as a 31-year-old, but this seems like a guy who is going to age well. He’s just a great hitter, second base or not.
A-Rod is obviously a player you don’t need me to spit-out stats for. You know how good he is, but you also know he will be a 34-year-old in July. Without enhancers (he’s already been down that road), power hitters tend to see their numbers start to dip around this age. I still think A-Rod has one incredible season left in him; this one. Enjoy it while you can, but try to trade him in for a younger model. The sooner the better.
As with Utley, properly evaluating Joe Mauer is tough. Sure he’s a lot younger (27), but it’s difficult to guess how much longer he will stay behind the plate, even though he has elite defensive skills. Conventional wisdom with a player as good as Mauer, would be not to worry about his position eligibility until it actually becomes a problem. I may be on record as someone who isn’t into Mauer as much as most, but I still give the guy his due. He’s immensely skilled and it should take quite the bounty of riches to pry him from your keeper-loving-hands.
The Price is More than You Have
8.) Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
7.) Tim Lincecum, SP
6.) Matt Kemp, OF
5.) Miguel Cabrera, 1B
What can I tell you about Adrian Gonzalez that you don’t already know? Not much if you have actually studied the numbers. But most of you probably just know he’s the Padres best player, a heck of a hitter and is likely to be traded THIS YEAR and if not that soon, than at least by sometime next winter. Good, great, GRAND. But the guy hit 40 jacks last year; how much could a new ballpark, with actual protection in the lineup help
Consider this: of Gonzalez’s 40 big flies, 28 came AWAY FROM PETCO PARK! That’s 70-percent of his total production. WOW. I’m not saying we should just double those 28 dingers and assume that an entire year away from San Diego would net him an extra 14 each year, but hitting 50 would surprise roughly no one. The 27-year-old is already great and the forthcoming trade is only going to make him better.
And now we finally reach our golden arm. Tim Lincecum: two-time Cy Young Winner, collector of hot chicks and the next Heavyweight Champion of the World. Even though the kid weighs no more than 135 pounds TOPS, wearing anti-gravity boots and two ten-pound weights tied to his ankles. But the guy can hurl and he’s the best in the game, even at the age of 25 and less than three full seasons of big-league service time.
Uuuugh. As a Dodgers fan, putting Kemp in the Top-6 makes me more than a little nervous. He still has much to work on. Namely, patience at the dish. But you can’t deny him the upside he brings, whatever that means. The 26 homers he hit last year were legit, Kemp has plenty of pop. As were the 30-plus stolen bases each of the past two. Still, the thought of having to put all of my worldly possessions on the line, for Matt Kemp, makes me want to soil my shorts a little.
The fact that even though I ranked Miguel Cabrera as the fifth most valuable keeper, I somehow managed to overlook his summary skipping ahead to Evan Longoria, should say it all. Cabrera very well may be the second best hitter in the Majors and the best in the entire AL, but yet unless he’s booked for drunk driving, it’s like people forget the guys exists. Comparatively anyway. It must have been all those years spent rotting in Florida. He might as well have been playing in Italy. But don’t be fooled, he’s absolutely someone to go all-in with.
You Seriously Must Be Out of Your Mind to Even Ask
4.) Evan Longoria, 3B
3.) Ryan Braun, OF
2.) Hanley Ramirez, SS
1.) Albert Pujols, 1B
IT ALL, COMES DOWN, TO THIS…
Want a fun stat about Evan Longoria that you probably don’t already know? In his two-year Major League career, the 24-year-old third baseman has yet to be caught stealing. Sixteen attempts, the same number of successful advances. Want another fun stat? He has the same birthday as my granddad, which is only a day after mine. What, you don’t care? Whatever. But you should care about the stolen base stat, as it shows he knows WHEN to run. Guys who know when to run, even without top-gear speed, will continue running, even if only in moderation. Which in the case of a hitter as skilled as Egore, holds plenty of fantasy value.
Ryan Braun hasn’t just been good, he has been historically good. Braun’s baseballreference.com closest age comparisons for his two full years with the Brewers, are Ralph Kiner (age 24) and Manny Ramirez (age 25). One a Hall of Famer and the other a likely one (unless that pesky PED suspension last year comes back to bite him). Pretty good company. And unlike those two, Braun runs. Whether or not you believe he will continue to do so for many years to come is moot, because even if Braun does slow down (in both speed and SB attempts) his bat is easily good enough to put him at the level of the players surrounding him on this list.
The most desirable shortstops are almost always valued higher than they should be. I mentioned why in the paragraph about Troy Tulowitzki. However, when talking about Hanley Ramirez, the term overrated most definitely does not apply. Since his rookie year in 2006 as a 22-year-old (making him only 25 now), the studly-studerson’s 162-game-averages are as followed: .316-AVG, .917-OPS, 27-HR, 43-SB, 123-R, 82-RBI. If that doesn’t wow you I’m not sure what will. That is, unless your socks are knocked off by one man and one man alone…
“The best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be!”
Ok, maybe quoting Brett “The Hit Man” Hart is a little rash yet. But Pujols is a lot closer to the claim Ted Williams lived for… “There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived,” than simply calling him an All-Star. The guy has only been playing MLB since 2001. In those nine years, pretty much every conceivable metric confirms that if the terrific hitter were to retire today, we’d be chiseling his Hall of Fame plaque in five years.
Do you understand that? This ridiculous run Pujols has been on since taking the league by storm in ’01, isn’t just fantastic, it has been legendary. His numbers through age 29 stacks up with famous last names like Gerhig, Mantle, Aaron, Foxx, Griffey Jr., Ott, Greenburg, Cepeda and Robinson (Frank). GEEZ guy. You have famous friends.
Pujols already has three MVPs to his name, with three more second place finishes to his name as well. He’s the Jack Nicholas of baseball. TWO-THIRDS of his career has seen his season end by hoisting the hardware, or falling just shy. And that’s not even mentioning his third place finish in ’04 or his fourth in his rookie campaign.
I won’t even bother spewing through his uncanny numbers, I will just link you to them so you can have the entire organic, other-worldly experience all for yourself.
Pujols is the best we’ve seen since Teddy Ballgame himself and it’s very possible that-in-the not so distant future, we may be reverving the title, “the best there ever was” for Albert himself.
Do not trade this guy for anyone. And if you choose not to heed this advice (more like a demand), you better make damn sure you are getting three or four All-Stars from this list of 30 in return.
But don’t do it. Seriously.