Friday October 12th, 2012Follow @peterwstein
Peter Stein: Now that the 2012 season is over, it is time to start thinking about the 2013. For many owners, that includes deciding on keepers, although keeper systems vary from league to league. In some leagues, keepers can be held onto for an indefinite period of time, while others build upon the previous year’s draft value. Regardless of your league’s keeper setting, this piece identifies the top keeper player at each position. I chose a time period of five years; therefore, the player at each position should produce the most total fantasy value over the course of the next five years. That is, of course, assuming another Mike Trout doesn’t jump onto the scene.
Here is the first installment of the 2013 fantasy keeper focus:
Winner: Joey Votto
Honorable Mention: Paul Goldschmidt
First base is actually the most tenuous and hardest to predict position on this list. Can we really expect Albert Pujols to be super-productive for another five years? He will be 33 next season and his struggles at the beginning of the year are certainly not encouraging. Then again, a .285/30/105/8 season is considered a major down year from him. And, we all know how much better he was after the brutal start. Edwin Encarnacion (.280/42/110/13) emerged into the mix and excluding Miguel Cabrera was the top option at first base. However, he is 29 years old and has just a career .815 OPS in eight seasons. Clearly he has made strides, but he is very tough to predict moving forward.
Joey Votto was a disappointment to owners in 2012, but that was largely due to his injuries that forced him to miss 50 games. Owners would also like to see more home runs (14), but his OPS was an astonishing 1.041. I am giving the nod to Votto due to his elite average (.316 career) and the fact that he should eclipse 30 home runs and 100 RBIs if he plays a full season. He is only 29 years of age, and also contributes a little bit with steals, which leads me to the honorable mention: Paul Goldschmidt.
“Goldy” just turned 25 years of age and his first full major league season looked like this: .286/20/82 and 18 steals in 145 games played. This is a player that will actually be entering his prime over the next few years, which cannot even be said about Votto. Expect him to eclipse the 30 and 100 marks, but not produce such a lofty average. His sneaky value, however, lies in his ability to steal bags, which will be interesting to monitor over the next few years. In five years, don’t be surprised if Goldy is out producing Votto.
Winner: Robinson Cano
Robinson Cano is the clear cream of the crop at the second base position. Form a WAR (8.2) and OPS (.929) standpoint; 2012 was the best season of Cano’s career (.313/33/94). Although he will be 30 years of age next season, there are no signs that there should be a drop off with the Bronx Bomber’s most consistent hitter, especially as his value doesn’t rely on speed. Clearly he won’t be this productive at 35, but expect him to average .300/25/90 over the next five seasons. Cano has completed the first half of a hall of fame career.
Jason Kipnis really surprised people with his first half production (.277/11/49 and 20 steals). Unfortunately, he really dropped off in the second half of the season (.233/3/27 and 11 steals). The good news is that the overall numbers (.257/14/76 and 31 steals) are tremendous for a second baseman. This was also just his first full season in the major and he will be 25 years of age at the start of the season. Therefore, this five-year span will cover the prime of his career. As long as Kipnis continues to steal bases and hit for power, owners can live with his less than stellar batting average, which we could still see develop.
If it is average that you are looking for, Jose Altuve is your man. The 5’5” little man finished the season with the following numbers: .290/7/37 and 33 steals. Did I mention that he is only 22 years old? He is the Starlin Castro of second base. The average and steals are exactly what you are looking for from a second baseman, and year window, he will just be entering his prime. He’s a super-keeper!
Winner: Starlin Castro
Honorable Mention: Ian Desmond
Starlin Castro’s final numbers in 2012 were elite for a shortstop: .283/14/78 and 25 steals. All of this at the age of 22. Although the average dipped from 2011 (.307) Castro improved his power and run production. He was moved around a lot in the lineup, perhaps trying to generate some offense for the struggling Cubs. The good news is that the Cubs offense, with Anthony Rizzo, will only get better over the next five years. Castro, like Altuve, is a super-keeper. He will actually just be entering his prime in five years. Regardless, he will continue to develop over the next years and improve upon each season. He needs to get smarter on the base paths (25-38 in steal attempts), but this is the type of stuff that he will improve as he matures. Over the next few years, expect Castro to eclipse 20 home runs and 100 RBIs, all while producing an average around .300 and a plethora of steals. He could eventually put up Cano-like numbers.
Ian Desmond really emerged as a force in 2012, despite missing 30 games, finishing with the following numbers: .292/25/73 and 21 steals. An ISO of .218 (career .153) might be hard to maintain and explains his power surge, but Desmond is only 27 years old, aka the prime of his career. Desmond is part of an exciting and potent Nationals lineup and should continue to produce similar numbers over the next five years. He gets the nod over the Jose Reyes, who although was elite in 2012, I expect to see a major decline four to five years down the road (if not sooner).
That is all you are getting for this week, folks. Check back next week for the rest of the rankings (3B, OF, and SP)!
(*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***)
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein)***
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