First, let’s define an elite fantasy baseball player, or a keeper. Since fantasy general managers are essentially investing a Top 5 draft choice to protect players from their previous season’s roster, that player should, theoretically, finish the season ranked in the Top 80 to justify the expenditure (16 teams x five picks each = Top 80 players).
As we outlined earlier in this blog, reaching keeper status isn’t easy. In fact, over the last seven seasons, just 43.7% of the players protected by general managers in the Keeper Draft actually finished in the Top 80 that season.
But, does it make a difference? You build your roster through the Keeper Draft, the Regular Season Draft, free agency, and trades. There are four different ways to obtain players that finish the season ranked in the Top 80.
Not surprisingly, it’s difficult to find free agents that finish the season ranked in the Top 80 and the majority are relief pitchers. This makes sense because it can be several months into the season before relief pitchers have defined roles in the bullpen, especially in the seventh and eighth innings when Holds are up for grabs. In 2013, reliever David Carpenter wasn’t added as free agent in our league and finished ranked in the Top 80. He’s the only player in league history to finish ranked in the Top 80 without being added to a roster.
Over the last seven seasons, just 53 players have come from the free agent pool and finished the season ranked in the Top 80. And you better act quick, because most are scooped up in the first two months of the season.
The Regular Season Draft has produced 308 players in the Top 80 while 243 have come from the Keeper Draft.
When players that have been designated keepers by their respective fantasy teams underperform, so do the fantasy teams. The 10 worst keeper drafts in league history produced a situation where a team’s top five draft picks produced an average player value of 484.02. Those teams produced an average of 115.7 wins. The 2015 Bulls posted the worst record in league history, winning just 81 games. They had an average keeper value of 604.8. Alex Cobb, Matt Holliday, and Hunter Pence were all injured, leading to the third-worst keeper value in league history.
The ten best keeper drafts in history produced an average of 138.4 wins for their teams. That’s a guaranteed playoff berth.
How many Top 80 players do you need to be competitive? Can you win with a team full of good players but no elite players?
In the last seven seasons, only two teams have finished with nine players on their roster ranked in the Top 80 while two have finished with just one. The difference between the two groups is 17.5 games. Those are outliers with small sample sizes. It’s more interesting to look at the difference between teams that have seven Top 80 players and those with three. There’s a lot more data but there is also a 18-game difference between those groups.
Good players will help your fantasy team win more games than average players. That’s not exactly breaking news. But the fact that 89 percent of those good players come from a combination of the Keeper Draft and Regular Season Draft and 25 percent have come from the 10th round or later is interesting.
The draft is more important than I thought, especially the later rounds. Preparing for the draft certainly takes on increased importance.