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My fantasy baseball team in my keeper league has been steadily climbing since a very slow start that first month. I’ve climbed from last or next to last place in the first month to first place with a ~10 point cushion.

I’m going to have some tough decisions to make for next year’s keeper squad. I built my team on established stars several years ago, and some of those stars are now in decline.

I traded for Jeff Bagwell several years ago, but it looks like his shoulder problems have hurt him to the point he isn’t the same slugger he’s been for most of his career. I’ve kept Bagwell for the last few years, but it may be time to cut him loose. I picked up young Minnesota slugger Justin Morneau and I’m tempted to pencil him into Bagwell’s keeper slot. Morneau may be a year away from being a true keeper value, but his potential may be worth it.

I drafted Frank Thomas with my first (non-keeper) pick this year and his first half numbers are certainly keeper-worthy, but the foot injury that has kept him out for the second half this year probably makes him too much of a risk. I picked up Jose Guillen and Melvin Mora from the free agent pool and both of them have had years that make the potential keepers. However, both are having career years and it’s always hard to tell what is a trend and what is an abberation.

I kept Rafael Furcal last year becuase I thought I’d be short on steals. Furcal has picked it up recently (10 steals in the last month), but he only has 18 on the year to go with a .790 OPS. His 71 runs are nice, but overall his production hasn’t warrented his spot on my keeper list. What’s kept me in the hunt for steals this year are big running years from Abreu and A-rod.

I’ve got some decisions to make with my pitching too. Tim Hudson and Johan Santana are no-brainers, but Schilling and Pedro aren’t putting up the numbers they have in the past and should decline a little more next year. I don’t know if Barry Zito is missing Rick Peterson or what, but until he can hit his spots reliably again he isn’t a top fantasy starter.

I picked up AJ Burnett at the beginning of the year when he was still on the DL and I’ve been really impressed at they way he’s pitched so far this year. Normally a pitcher doesn’t get back near 100% until the second year after Tommy John surgery, but Burnett is pitching well and really lighting up the radar gun. I might take a flier on him as my last pitching keeper.

My definite keepers look like:

  1. Alex Rodriguez
  2. Vladimir Guererro
  3. Bobby Abreu
  4. Tim Hudson
  5. Johan Santana

On the bubble:

  1. Justin Morneau
  2. Melvin Mora
  3. Jose Guillen
  4. Curt Schilling
  5. Pedro Matinez
  6. AJ Burnett

I can keep 10, who should get left out in the cold?

UPDATE: Hmm, maybe I should put Joe Nathan on the bubble list too. He does have a sub-1.00 ERA this year. :)