Of all the pieces of advice I can give, the most important is this: Determining whether to go for the win now or go into long-range-planning mode isn't as important as when you make that decision.
Fantasy owners who decide their direction early can get a head start toward success. I think back to my college dorm days, when being at the head of the cafeteria line gave you the first platefuls of fresh fare.
So it is with fantasy baseball. Deciding you are going for it all early and making the necessary changes can set you up for the stretch run. To the contrary, planning for the future and pulling the plug when it must be pulled allows you to deal for the best keepers.
The time to start making deals is shortly after July 1. With the baseball season halfway complete, owners should have a good idea about their teams' fate. That means you spend June evaluating where you're at, then proceed down your chosen path in July. If you're not sure whether you have the goods, go with your gut. Just do not procrastinate to the point where someone beats you to the punch.
Here are some keeper tips to help you select your options:
Load up on hitters, lighten up on pitchers
Francisco Liriano might have had the value of an elite fantasy performer were it not for elbow troubles in 2006. Now he's a huge question mark after Tommy John surgery. Though prognostication is part of being a good keeper leaguer, making sound investments is more important.
Hitters are safer bets than pitchers because their performance is more consistent from year to year. The injuries hitters suffer tend to be less severe -- not long term. The injuries to Hideki Matsui, Derrek Lee and Gary Sheffield in 2006 are exceptions to the norm. If you see a pitcher injure his shoulder or elbow, the probability of surgery and a long absence is high.
Target guys at scarce positions
The talent pool among middle infielders is deeper than it used to be, but elite options at those positions are still rare. That's why guys such as Chase Utley and Jose Reyes should be treated like Zeus. Both players' blend of power and speed makes them producers across the board. Most others at these positions specialize in doing only one or two things well.
Though there's not much of a sample size from which to judge Hanley Ramirez, the fact he was a highly regarded prospect and just one of five players to steal 50-plus bases in '06 means he is a definite keeper.
Why keep closers?
The turnover rate among closers is even higher than that of the busiest backyard grillmaster. The 2006 season showed there are no guarantees among elite closers. Yes, we're looking at you, Brad Lidge. Meanwhile, guys such as Takashi Saito, J.J. Putz and Akinori Otsuka emerge as decent options each season.
Joe Nathan is the one closer I would keep. His easy throwing motion, his team and his previous track record suggest he is the surest bet. I like Mariano Rivera, but he is 37. I like Francisco Rodriguez, but not his violent throwing motion. I don't think it's the right time to keep him, simply because his value seemingly can't get any higher.
Remember, timing is everything as a keeper owner.
Roger Kuznia is an associate editor and fantasy baseball expert for Sporting News Fantasy Source. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.