Reaching Keeper-Level Status Isn’t Easy

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What are the bare minimum numbers a player must post in a season to still be considered a keeper? I’m glad you asked, because we have six years of data to help us understand that question.

I’ve reviewed the player data to come up with two definitions of minimum keeper-level. First, I’ve looked at the Z-scores for the players that rank 80th in the final player rankings in all six seasons. Since we keep five players every season and there are 16 teams in our league, a player has to rank in the Top 80 at season’s end to provide keeper value to an owner. I’ve also reviewed the lowest-rated players at each position to earn keeper-level status for the past six seasons.This will give you an idea of what it takes for a player to provide your team with the keeper value you invested in him.

2013 Was a Low Scoring Year for Keepers

The 17 lowest Z-scores for keepers in the past six years were all posted in 2013. That’s when we replaced Stolen Bases with Net Stolen Bases as a scoring category and added the much-despised Ground Into Double Plays for hitters. We also replaced strikeouts with K/9 for starting pitchers and replaced Saves and Holds with Net Saves/Holds for relief pitchers.

While the 2013 Z-scores plummeted, it should be noted that we used the same rules in 2014 and the scores weren’t nearly as bad. Clayton Kershaw scored two of the four highest Z-scores in league history in 2013 and 2014.

Outfielder Carlos Beltran and relief pitcher Casey Janssen hold the distinction for scoring the lowest Z-scores yet still providing keeper-value for their respective fantasy teams. They each finished with a Z-score of .230 (remember, any positive score is better than average and anything over 2.0 is very good). Here’s what Beltran’s final numbers looked like:

Carlos Beltran 2013
.339 OBP, 79 Runs, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 1 NSB, 90 Ks, 12 GIDPs

Beltran was an extremely valuable member of Home Run 101’s team in 2013. He was second on the team in runs scored, third in OBP, second in RBIs and tied for second in home runs. It’s important to remember – THIS IS THE MINIMUM IT TAKES FOR A HITTER TO PROVIDE KEEPER VALUE. Beltran set a high bar.

The same can be said for Janssen, whose final stats looked like this:

Casey Janssen 2013
52.2 IP, 33 NSVH, 8.54 K/9, 2.56 ERA, 0.99 WHIP

Janssen was one of the best relievers in the bullpen for the Marin Menehunes in 2013. He tied for the team lead with 33 net saves/holds, was second in relief WHIP, and second in ERA. We could all use a reliever with these numbers.

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Pittsburgh Pirates

A.J. Burnett has the lowest Z-Score for a keeper-level staring pitcher.

A.J. Burnett has the lowest score by a keeper-level starting pitcher. He was part of a terrific rotation that led Bomba to the league championship. Burnett posted these numbers for Los Coches Bomba in 2013:

A.J. Burnett 2013
191 IP, 18 QS, 9.85 K/9, 3.30 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

While Burnett didn’t hit the magic numbers for starting pitchers of 200+ innings pitched and 20+ quality starts, these are strong stats.

Everth Cabrera Earns Keeper Status in Short Season

Everth  Cabrera

Everth Cabrera missed nearly two months but still earned keeper-level status

Cabrera was drafted in the 15th round of the 2013 draft by Jordan Mazur and the Eephus Monkeys. He was released from the team on Aug. 6. Why would Jordan release a keeper-level player? Cabrera was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball on Aug. 5 for performance-enhancing drugs he received in the Biogenesis scandal.

Cabrera posted the following numbers without playing the last two months of the season.

Everth Cabrera 2013
.355 OBP, 54 Runs, 4 HR, 31 RBI, 25 NSB, 69 Ks, 1 GIDPs

The solid on-base percentage, high net stolen bases, low strikeout total and Cabrera’s ability to stay out of double plays with his speed helped him earn keeper-level status despite finishing with just 435 plate appearances. His .263 Z-score was the lowest for a keeper-level middle infielder in the league’s six years. We’ll always be left to wonder what level Cabrera would have reached had he not been popped for steroid use. We’ll also wonder if he reached his minimum keeper-level status because of steroids.

Understanding more about the minimum level a player must reach to obtain keeper status leads us naturally to another question: Do you need keeper-level players on your roster to be a championship team, or even playoff-caliber, or is it possible to win with a roster full of solid players that don’t reach keeper level? I’ll explore that in my next post.



  1. Pingback: The Importance of Keeper Level Players « sfrrcfantasybaseballblog
  2. Pingback: Drafting Prospects: Buyer Beware « sfrrcfantasybaseballblog

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