When you’re picking for a dynasty or keeper fantasy baseball league you need to look at the present as well as the future.
The most valuable players are the ones that will be lineup fixtures for the next 5-10 years. I hardly ever trade in baseball or football, so players like this have significant value for me. It is how I rebuild, how I make my teams younger.
The following list is a response to that need.
All players on this list will be age 25 or younger on April 1, 2011. Players must have at least tasted the Major Leagues to make the list. For that reason, you will not find players like Dustin Ackley, Brandon Belt and Jesus Montero. At least one player from each position is included, more on that after the list.
25 fantasy baseball keepers age 25 and under
Players’ ages as of April 1, 2011 are listed in parentheses.
1. Carlos Gonzalez (25), OF: He is overrated in 2011 redrafts, because we can’t expect him to repeat his stellar 2010 in only his second full season. However, Gonzalez already has a 111-34-117-26-.336 season under his belt, making him a top 5 pick in dynasty/keeper formats.
2. Evan Longoria (25), 3B: He’s trending toward 30-15 numbers which are fantastic. At third base, a player that only approaches those numbers is elite.
3. Andrew McCutchen (24), OF: 95-15-60-35-.300. … Hey, look it’s Carl Crawford!
4. Jay Bruce (23), OF: He’s hitting 30 home runs this year. At least.
5. Buster Posey (24), C: Not a big fan of drafting for position scarcity, but Posey projects to be the kind of hitter (not just because he’s a catcher) who will deserve a pick in the first three-to-four rounds of your draft.
6. Pedro Alvarez (24), 3B: When this list gets updated, don’t be surprised if Alvarez moves up. I’m going to own him in far too many leagues this season. I just hope he doesn’t have an outrageous spring and his price gets jacked up.
7. Jason Heyward (21), OF: A 100-30-100-20-.290 is in Heyward’s future. I’m nervous about a sophomore slump this season, but in keepers draft aggressively.
8. Justin Upton (23), OF: Last year, a year after Upton flashed his 30-30ness at us, he disappointed. That’s why I’m not all in on guys like Heyward and Gonzalez in 2011. Upton has passed what I fear they will encounter and is ready to get back on that 30-30.
9. Mike Stanton (21), OF: Pure power. If anybody on this list other than Bruce gets to 40 homers in a season, it’ll be Stanton. The Marlins star could hit 30 this year.
10a. Felix Hernandez (24), SP: Hitters play every day. Pitchers pitch every five days and are still more likely to end up on the shelf. If not for that, both Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw would be ranked much higher. Thanks to Jake for pointing out the King’s omission. More on F-Her in the comments.
10b. Clayton Kershaw (23), SP: Nothing points to a decline for Kershaw in 2011. He could be better than he was last season. For reference, in 2010 he had 212 Ks, a 2.91 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP.
11. Mat Latos (23), SP: In 2011, Latos is due for a regression, if not an injury. He threw 130 more innings in 2010 than he did in 2009. Still the future is bright.
12. Jeremy Hellickson (23), SP: My favorite pitching prospect in all the land. He allowed a .232 batting average against and struck out 33 in 36 innings last year.
13. Colby Rasmus (24), OF: “Top prospect in the Cardinals organization” has been drilled into our heads long enough that most everybody knows who Colby Rasmus is. Keep your expectations in check — he’s not going to hit .290, 30 homers and steal 20 bags, but he’ll still be pretty good.
14. Carlos Santana (24), C: It’s smarter to pick Carlos Santana in 2011 than it is to pick a more pricey Posey. When you think Santana think 70-20-70-.280.
15. Elvis Andrus (22), SS: He’ll never develop power, but Andrus already has elite speed and is only 22.
16. Jhoulys Chacin (23), SP: His walks and WHIP could prove problematic, but I see K rate at better than one per inning, look at his age and just draft him.
17. Tommy Hanson (24), SP: Hanson didn’t quite match the ratios he posted in his 2009 debut, but he was still one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2010. Among pitchers 25 and younger, Hanson was in the top 10 in wins, WHIP and strikeouts in 2010.
18. Jaime Garcia (24), SP: A player that helped a number of my fantasy teams last season, Garcia is likely to develop a little more in the K department.
19. Ike Davis (24), 1B: Post-steroids, power is a hot commodity, as most of you ninjas know. Davis hit 19 homers in his debut last season. Take out the rookie wall, stir in a little development and you’ve got a 25-homer hitter who could pop 30 eventually.
20. Austin Jackson (24), OF: We ripped on Austin Jackson’s insane BABIP in the first half of 2010. It was unsustainable, but Jackson should still be considered one of the best young prospects in baseball. He could get to 25 steals and hit .300 this season.
21. Starlin Castro (21), SS: He was never going to live up to the hype created by his debut, but Castro still made more than 400 at-bats and hit .300 with some speed. He hit just .232 as 2010 closed up shop. It’ll be interesting to see how he starts 2011.
22. Daniel Hudson (24), SP: He only started 14 games last year, but he was downright dirty when he did take the mound. Hudson led the 25-and-unders in ERA, WHIP and was among the leaders in K/9.
23. Neftali Feliz (22), RP: Relievers can have a short shelf life, but Feliz is already penciled in as the closer in Texas and is of the rare variety that could approach 100 Ks.
24. Craig Kimbrel (22), RP: He had a 17.4 K/9 last season. Hey, wipe the drool off your keyboard and snap out of it. Kimbrel is probably going to close for the Braves in 2011. If he’s not closer from Day 1, it will be shortly after Johnny Venters gets ventilated by a few too many hitters.
25. Danny Espinosa (23), 2B: In Washington, the second base job is Espinosa’s to lose in the preseason. He didn’t impress in very limited action last season, but his minor league stuff shows 100-20-70-20-.260. Hey, look, it’s Brandon Phillips!
I had to cut down the initial list, here are some of the names I hacked off:
Mike Minor (23), SP: Among the 25-and-unders, Miner was behind only Stephen Strasburg in K/9 in 2010.
Jose Tabata (22), OF: Between AAA and the majors last season, Tabata stole 44 bags.
Travis Snider (23), OF: If he ever cuts down on those strikeouts he’ll get enough at-bats to hit 30 homers.
Be sure to check out all of our early 2011 fantasy baseball rankings.