We've known for a long time that having a great keeper list is one of the most important ways to assure the edge in continuing leagues. If the skill levels of players in your league are reasonably comparable, then you can expect that most teams will get good returns on the players purchased at auction. The players you choose to freeze constitute the core of your effort to draw the greatest return on your investment.
Obviously, you should begin your freeze preparation with a careful review of every player on your roster. Compare your players' salaries to their predicted values and highlight the bargains. Here at BaseballHQ.com, Ron Shandler proposed a simple methodology for evaluating keepers: subtract the player's current price from his predicted value, add the difference to the predicted value, and focus on protecting players with the highest total. This method keeps you focused on players of truly significant value.
But great players at cheap prices are obvious keepers. More thought is required when you have a good player at a marginal savings or a marginal player at a cheap price. Should you keep an $11 player at $9? What about a $5 player at $1? Generally, you are looking to freeze players if it will be hard to purchase comparable players at auction at a similar price. Low-valued players are easier to replace and therefore poorer candidates for freezing. In fact, it's often a wiser choice to freeze a $36 shortstop at $35 than a $6 outfielder at $2. But since a lot of $1 catchers return negative value, freezing a $4 catcher at $1 might be a sound idea.
Your league context is also important for determining whether comparable players will be available at the auction, so you should also evaluate the keepers for each of your rivals. You can then review your own list in light of the overall patterns in your league.
In general, though, you're looking for players whose expected values far exceed their current prices. Most of these players fall into some identifiable categories.
Players coming off breakout years - Obviously, any player who established himself as a regular during the past season fits into this category. Often these players are rookies, but this category also includes players who finally get the opportunity to display their talent and players who finally put together the season that was long predicted. Of course, it's not always easy to differentiate breakouts from flashes in the pan, but finding secondary indicators of breakouts is one of the things that BaseballHQ.com helps you to do well.
Players taking on new roles - Players often begin a season in a small role and then end up moving into a spot of greater impact. If you paid a small role price for that player, you're now looking at a bargain. Players also find new roles during the winter through trades and free agency.
Players who did not play last season - There are always one or two players whose seasons end before they begin, and usually someone will float these names late in the auction.
Players coming off injuries - This is a slight variation on the previous category. A player who spent the first several months of the previous season on the DL was probably purchased at a price below his usual value.
Generally, you should try to trade players who fit the converses to these patterns. A veteran who had an uncharacteristically productive season may look like a tremendous bargain now, but if he reverts to form he is no bargain.
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