In any fantasy baseball keeper league, there are always the obvious choices in regard to which baseball players you will hold onto heading into next season. Everyone knows that players such as Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp are no-brainers when it comes to deciding which players to keep and which to throw back into the draft. However, there are always examples of no-brainer keeper players which turn out to be busts. Just ask fantasy owners of Adam Dunn, Joe Mauer, Alex Rios and Carl Crawford how things worked out for their sure-fire keepers in 2011.
As the 2011 season starts to wear down, it may be worth taking a look at some players and deciding if they are worth using a keeper spot on your roster for the 2012 season. Depending upon how deep or shallow your fantasy baseball league is, you may want to consider some players that are a little further down the food chain in regard to popularity. After all, when it comes to fantasy baseball, you should be caring about production, not a player’s ownership percentage in fantasy leagues.
Here are a few players that you may want to consider as keepers for the 2012 baseball season as they may provide you with some decent production:
Melky Cabrera (KC) –
Career year? Maybe not. After bouncing between leagues from the Yankees to the Braves, Cabrera’s career appeared as though was headed down the path of ‘journeyman’. However, he has really found a home in Kansas City and has thrived out of the number 2 spot in the Royals line up. Players that provide a mix of power and speed are particularly valuable in fantasy and at just 27 years old, the ‘Melk-man’ is entering his prime years of production.
Michael Bourn (ATL) –
We’ve all heard that speed is not something you can count on from year to year but Bourn has been a model of consistency for several years now. With stolen bases seemingly difficult to come by every year for almost every fantasy owner, you may want to think about holding onto a speedster like Bourn. Stolen bases the past 4 seasons: 41, 61, 52, 47 (and counting). Stash him.
Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) –
With players such as Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes seemingly unable to stay healthy, a shallow shortstop position suddenly gets a lot shallower. Throw in a fading Derek Jeter and an above-average shortstop like Cabrera becomes very, very valuable to your fantasy team. He’s young, talented and coming into his prime. Keeper alert!
Jonny Venters (ATL) –
I know what you are thinking: a non-closer relief pitcher as a keeper? You better believe it. Last I checked, WHIP and ERA are fantasy categories and Venters is one of the best in both. Considering the massive turnover at the closer position from year to year (this is not to say Craig Kimbrel is in danger of losing the 9th inning role by any stretch), you could go a long way to solidifying your fantasy pitching roster with a guy like Venters. If holds are a stat in your league, you have to consider Venters even more strongly.
Cory Luebke (SD) –
Every fantasy team needs to anchor their pitching staff with a key hurler or two, right? As a starter in 2011: 11 GS, 2.71 ERA, .935 WHIP, 9.4 K/9. He’s been a find for the Padres this season and should be for your fantasy team as well. He’s also been surprisingly consistent which is just what you are looking for in keeper material.
Mike Stanton (FLA) –
The 2011 season may end up being known for two key things: great pitching numbers and a lack of power from the outfield position. That being said, if you have a young power hitting outfielder, you might want to think about using a keeper spot for him. After hitting 22 HR in only 100 GP in 2010, Stanton has followed up with 30 HR (and counting) in 2011. With strikeout totals of 123 and 138 (so far) over the past 2 seasons, Stanton needs to develop some plate discipline to go along with that power. If he does, look out.
John Axford (MIL) –
Let’s face it, you’re going to need a closer next year and you’re going to need saves. Who better to fill that spot on your team than the closer who has quietly become one of the best in the game at his position. Mariano Rivera gets most of the respect, Brian Wilson gets most of the press and Craig Kimbrel puts up the eye-popping numbers. However, Axford closes for one of the best teams in baseball and with a K/9 rate topping 11 over the past 2 seasons, he delivers some key stats.
Ben Zobrist (TB) –
One of Zobrist’s best features has always been his multiple position eligibility and 2011 is no different, with “Zorilla” qualifying at 2B and RF. Putting up a slash line of .282/.369/.489, Zobrist has delivered better numbers than most middle infielders. Although not prolific, he puts up decent totals in HR and SB and that is always a valuable asset to have on your team. You might not think you can afford to use a keeper spot on Zobrist, but with such a lack of talent at second base, and with the Rays’ player delivering a WAR of 6.1, can you afford not to?
Although these players may not be the first names that come to mind when thinking about fantasy baseball keepers for 2012, you may want to give it a second thought. With an eye toward 2012 production and value to your fantasy baseball squad, these players may be just the keepers you are looking for.
..* Melky Cabrera photo by Keith Allison on Flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Jonny Venters photo by Elenathaear (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Ben Zobrist photo by User Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "001H0388") [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons