So you want to know who you should keep, do you?
It's the most asked question this time of year even though the answer is as simple as can be: your best players.
I'm not trying to be cute. It's one thing if it's a dynasty league where rosters remain mostly intact from one year to the next, but if it's just four or five players you're keeping, all on equal terms, no need to overthink it. Just look at regular re-draft rankings and keep the best players you have.
Where it changes is if your four or five keepers aren't on equal terms, if they're tied to a draft pick or some salary cap amount that corresponds to what you paid for them — if "value" has to enter into your keeper assessment, in other words. The decision, then, gets considerably more complicated.
Even in that case, I can't create one-size-fits-all keeper rankings because the terms would still vary from league to league. Maybe the "markup" in your league is three rounds, meaning a player you drafted in the seventh round last year can be kept in the fourth round this year. But maybe it's only one round. Or maybe it's none. It makes a difference whether you'd be keeping Luis Castillo in the first round or the fourth.
But so as not to make perfect the enemy of good, I present to you my top 50 keepers regardless. I'm factoring in the hypothetical cost of the keeper, using 2020 ADP as a starting point and basing the round number on a 12-team league.
Worthy of note: I've generally come around to the idea that a player's potential for impact is of greater significance the extent of his discount, which is to say that keeping a first-rounder with a first-round pick is generally preferable to keeping a seventh-rounder with a 20th-round pick. You can't afford to give up your most impactful players, particularly when you don't know if others in your league are doing the same.
Also, don't sweat it if your most prized keeper doesn't appear on this list. There's a keeper case to be made for more than just 50 players.
SD San Diego • #23 • Age: 22
It's a close call between the top three here, with Tatis being the least proven of them, but he claims the top spot just for the possibility you could keep him with less than a first-round pick.
Ronald Acuna CF
ATL Atlanta • #13 • Age: 23
As consistent of a base-stealer as he's proven to be in an era when they've never been scarcer, just plan to staple the 23-year-old to your first-round pick for at least the next seven years or so.
Juan Soto LF
WAS Washington • #22 • Age: 22
In Head-to-Head points, where plate discipline matters more than base-stealing prowess, Soto would probably No. 1 on this list, and there's a case for it even in 5x5 scoring given the hitter he's already become at age 22.
Mike Trout CF
LAA L.A. Angels • #27 • Age: 29
Trout is getting older, running less and developing something of an injury history, but there still isn't a more bankable bat or more reliable use of a first-round pick.
Mookie Betts RF
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #50 • Age: 28
Trout lite doesn't have quite the same floor or ceiling as the guy ahead of him, but he's a year younger and is still running as much as ever.
Shane Bieber SP
CLE Cleveland • #57 • Age: 25
Bieber put an end to whatever doubts remained in 2020, further distancing himself in terms of workload and bat-missing ability, and established himself as the best long-term bet at starting pitcher in the process.
Trea Turner SS
WAS Washington • #7 • Age: 27
The steals make Turner a no-brainer first-rounder in 5x5 leagues, and his continued evolution as a hitter has him in the discussion in points leagues, too, where he was the sixth-best hitter on a per-game basis in 2020.
Trevor Story SS
COL Colorado • #27 • Age: 28
After three straight-seasons of five-category production, there's just no reason to question Story's first-round chops anymore, especially given the safety net that Coors Field provides.
Jacob deGrom SP
NYM N.Y. Mets • #48 • Age: 32
If you think you can do more with a first-round pick than a guy who could have easily won a third consecutive Cy Young award in 2020, well ... you're wrong.
MIL Milwaukee • #22 • Age: 29
If we're giving Yelich a pass in re-draft leagues for what looks like some bad luck and a totally out-of-character strikeout rate, we should in keeper as well, especially considering the upside.
Jose Ramirez 3B
CLE Cleveland • #11 • Age: 28
It's clear now he should have never lost first-round status, so if there's still a chance you can keep him at a discount, no matter how small, you do it and lock in those steals while you can.
Gerrit Cole SP
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #45 • Age: 30
It's a clear trio atop the starting pitcher rankings, so it's only natural that you'd want to hold onto Cole as well, especially given the impact of a high-end starting pitcher in today's landscape.
Corey Seager SS
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #5 • Age: 26
Finally, we get to the true discount picks, and of course it's an easier justification for someone like Seager, who is just beginning his prime, has been an early-rounder in the past, and has data supporting the idea that he somehow underachieved in 2020.
Trevor Bauer SP
CIN Cincinnati • #27 • Age: 29
Sure, he's faked us out in the past and has that weird spin rate increase to answer for, but given that a big workload and strikeout total would likely accompany any form of Bauer, even the lesser ones are worthy of this keeper cost.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #35 • Age: 25
Like Yelich, he gets a pass for his short-season hiccup, especially given his youth and the height of his heights so far. You have to like how he kept that strikeout rate down.
NYM N.Y. Mets • #12 • Age: 27
Even with shortstop becoming increasingly deep, you'd hate to move on from a franchise player still in his prime, particularly when he wasn't so far off his typical pace in a season ruled by outliers.
ATL Atlanta • #5 • Age: 31
Though Freeman may never stand out again quite like he did in 2020, he's always on the fringe of first-round status, and in a league where every surefire first-rounder is sure to be kept, every could-be kind of needs to be as well.
Bo Bichette SS
TOR Toronto • #11 • Age: 22
I'm not quite as all-in as others on Bichette given that his career has spanned all of 75 games and his 2020 was totally two-faced, but this discount for what could be a five-category shortstop is too good to pass up.
Kyle Tucker LF
HOU Houston • #30 • Age: 23
He's a little less exciting in points leagues, where his steals contributions aren't as impactful, but the guy came up and did exactly what he was supposed to do, performing at about a 25/25 pace with respectable peripherals.
Zac Gallen SP
ARI Arizona • #23 • Age: 25
While it's fair to suggest Gallen may have already maxed out his potential, he has been rock solid since getting called up in 2019 and has a full season of data good enough to lock him in as your No. 2 starter forever.
Yu Darvish SP
SD San Diego • Age: 34
How you prioritize Darvish as a keeper will depend largely on what kind of markup your league applies, but seeing as he's a likely second-rounder in 2021, even a small discount is worth it to secure an impact arm.
Aaron Nola SP
PHI Philadelphia • #27 • Age: 27
There's certainly an argument for Nola being a better keeper than Darvish since he's several years his junior, but longevity is especially difficult to forecast at starting pitcher and, well, the discount is less.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #27 • Age: 26
Giolito as a keeper gets a little dicey because if it's a three-round markup in your league, you're maybe sinking a first-round pick in him, which is not what he'd cost in a re-draft. But judging from the rest of these rankings, he might be the first player drafted if you don't keep him.
MIL Milwaukee • #53 • Age: 27
A small sample of success made for enough skepticism heading into 2020 that we now get to enjoy a second round of Woodruff discounts, especially since he only furthered the success with improved whiff and ground-ball rates.
Tim Anderson SS
CHW Chi. White Sox • #7 • Age: 27
The shortened season more or less validated Anderson's transformation into a BABIP-breaking freak whose undisciplined approach isn't the harbinger so many feared it to be, and he deserves to be valued like a stud shortstop as a result.
Luis Robert CF
CHW Chi. White Sox • #88 • Age: 23
A September collapse showed Robert still has a lot to work out, but he also showed how the tools are there for him to become a first-round monster on the level of Acuna or Tatis. The discount is useful for 2021 and could pay off for years to come.
SD San Diego • #13 • Age: 28
Good timing if you nabbed Machado in a keeper league since 2020 was the year the Fantasy-playing world soured on him after some recent ups and downs. He should still have some prime years ahead.
Bryce Harper RF
PHI Philadelphia • #3 • Age: 28
After trending the wrong way for a couple years, Harper is back to looking like a first round-caliber bat, with Statcast's expected numbers painting an even rosier picture than the actual ones, and it helps that he's a more impactful base-stealer now.
Alex Bregman 3B
HOU Houston • #2 • Age: 26
Bregman's 2020 performance is sure to drop him out of the first round in re-draft leagues, but after camping out there for two years, it seems risky to abandon him at age 27, especially in a league where all the other first round-caliber bats are likely being kept.
TB Tampa Bay • Age: 19
It's always tricky knowing where to slot the Next Big Thing in a league where you only get so many keeper slots, but Franco's arrival seems imminent and his success all but assured given how advanced his bat has looked in the minors.
Kenta Maeda SP
MIN Minnesota • #18 • Age: 32
Part of me wants to rank him even higher since the discount might be as much as 10 rounds for a pitcher who seemed to take a stud turn in 2020, but forfeiting any of the 30 names ahead of him might be a bridge too far for a small sample from an aging player.
Ozzie Albies 2B
ATL Atlanta • #1 • Age: 24
It's not much of a discount for a player who appears to have settled into who he is, but who he is is a 24-year-old who contributes in all five categories at one of the weakest positions, making him someone you should try to keep around for the long haul.
STL St. Louis • #22 • Age: 25
It's less about the discount you're getting in 2021 than the fear of losing this guy to some other team that then decides to keep him for the next decade. The high-end starting pitcher is the most irreplaceable asset in Fantasy Baseball, after all.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #21 • Age: 26
See Flaherty, Jack. I have my concerns about how the Dodgers will handle Buehler in a 2021 season made weird by an even weirder 2020 and have downgraded him in re-draft as a result, but in a keeper scenario, you're all but married to the guy at this point.
KC Kansas City • #27 • Age: 25
You should think long and hard before giving up the one player who could single-handedly win you the most difficult category to fill, especially since it's still not clear whether his bat might be of some benefit in its own right.
BOS Boston • #11 • Age: 24
Because speed isn't really a part of his game, it's easier to move on from Devers than, say, Albies or Mondesi if you're running out of slots or would like to preserve another early-round pick, but he's not even 25 yet and has already had a 200-hit, 30-homer season. You'd rather not.
BOS Boston • #2 • Age: 28
Bogaerts may not have many prime years left, but he's in the thick of it now and has a reasonable enough price tag that it might not do you much good to throw him back unless you're confident someone better will be there with the pick you're retaining.
CIN Cincinnati • #58 • Age: 28
Castillo might be a little older than you're thinking and still hasn't totally whipped the walk issue, making him rougher around the edges than, say, Giolito, but you can't afford to shortchange your pitching staff in 2021. If all those ahead of him are kept, he should be, too.
MIL Milwaukee • #39 • Age: 26
It's a massive discount if Burnes proves to be all he appears to be, which makes it tempting to rank him even higher, but we're basing it all on a stretch of eight starts and should recognize there will be innings concerns, at least in 2021.
Zach Plesac SP
CLE Cleveland • #34 • Age: 25
It's an eight-start sample for a pitcher who wasn't exactly hyped to the hills coming up through the minors, but given Cleveland's track record with pitchers and how efficiently Plesac pulled it off, going more than six innings in six of those eight starts, I wouldn't overthink it.
Luke Voit 1B
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #59 • Age: 29
By now, there's no doubting whether Luke Voit is good after a couple years of collective disregard, but the discount will be short-lived now that he's entering his age-30 season..
TOR Toronto • #27 • Age: 21
It's possible you could get Guerrero back for less than you'd be keeping him in 2021, but it's not a sure thing. And if you're convinced the big breakthrough is still coming, you're not forfeiting that much, at least judging by these ADP numbers, by holding on another year.
Eloy Jimenez LF
CHW Chi. White Sox • #74 • Age: 24
It looks like Jimenez is making good on all the potential that made him a top prospect, but you could absolutely find another slugging outfielder who doesn't run and has minimal on-base skills if the markup gets to be too much for you.
LAA L.A. Angels • #6 • Age: 30
No discount here, but if we're presuming all the hitters ranked ahead of him are being kept, then he needs to be as well. There's no benefit to keeping a higher pick if there are no studs left to take with it.
DJ LeMahieu 2B
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #26 • Age: 32
LeMahieu is getting up there in years and won't end up being much of a discount after the markup is applied, but it's a reasonable price tag for a player who figures to be the top second baseman in 2021, especially after he fully backed up his breakthrough 2019.
SD San Diego • #29 • Age: 28
Lamet was genuinely spectacular in 2020, living up to his rosiest possible outlook in his return from Tommy John surgery. But a steep markup of more than three rounds could make him a borderline case amid new health worries concerning his biceps.
SD San Diego • Age: 21
One of just two yet-to-debut players to appear on this list, Gore is uncontested as the top pitching prospect in baseball, with a case to be made that his arrival is already overdue. Lock him in now and reap the benefits for years to come.
Lance Lynn SP
CHW Chi. White Sox • Age: 33
We're obviously playing it year to year with Lynn at this stage of his career, but after back-to-back seasons of ace production over a massive workload, it's clear he's too impactful to throw back if you're giving any weight to the here and now.
SD San Diego • #2 • Age: 24
It wasn't the loudest breakthrough for Grisham, but the discount is steep for a player who shows power, speed and on-base ability. In fact, he'd rank higher if he had been able to prove it for more than just a couple months.
HOU Houston • #59 • Age: 27
The most surprising breakout pitcher of 2020 has his share of detractors, but with ground-ball skills that are second to none and the confidence of a manager who let him throw seven innings with consistency, his upside is considerable at the most impactful position in Fantasy.