By Brad Berreman @bradberreman24 on March 20, 2014
One of the biggest keys to success in a fantasy baseball draft is being able to recognize players that bring increased risk, most often from a change in team or unsustainable success from the previous season. Being able to leave aside a player’s track record and name value is also important when trying to find players to avoid.
With all of the above factors in mind, here are 15 players that fantasy owners should pass on during drafts.
Hamilton is slated to be Cincinnati’s starting center fielder this year, and based on that he could almost single-handedly win the stolen base category for fantasy owners. But we’re looking at a two-category producer (.280 career batting average in the minors) that will not come at a discount on draft day.
Phillips has hit exactly 18 home runs in four straight seasons, but his 2013 RBI total (103) was aided by hitting .340 with runners in scoring position and he had just five stolen bases with a .261 batting average as Cincinnati’s cleanup hitter. More steals could come with a different spot in the lineup, but outside of 18 home runs Phillips is difficult to project confidently in any other category and there’s downside at age 32 (33 in June).
Hamilton is a popular rebound candidate after a dismal 2013 season (.250, 21 home runs, 79 RBI), but a calf strain that kept him out of spring training games until this week serves as a reminder of lingering durability concerns. In a best-case scenario Hamilton will put up notable home run and RBI totals with a batting average that won’t hurt fantasy owners too much, but the upside is just not here like it once was.
“The Grandy Man” played just 61 games last season, and he’ll now take his talents to another New York City borough and a pitcher-friendly home ballpark. 20-25 home runs is possible this year with better health, but Granderson’s bad batting average (.232 in 2012) and continued decline in stolen bases (eight in 2013) leaves fantasy owners chasing power upside that is not coming back at age 33.
Headley had high expectations at this time last year coming off a big 2012 season (.286, 31 home runs, 115 RBI and 17 stolen bases), but a thumb injury during the spring started him on the wrong foot and a steep decline came as he battled other injuries (.250, 13 home runs, 50 RBI and eight steals) throughout the season. A rebound is possible with better health, but 2012 looks like Headley’s career year.
30 home runs looks like Bautista’s new baseline or upside, under the assumption of full health in 2014. But with more than 100 missed games over the last two seasons, advancing age (33) and multi-position eligibility going away this year fantasy owners can bypass Bautista on draft day and not feel like they’re missing much.
Segura has a nice first full major league season in 2013 (.294, 12 home runs, 49 RBI and 44 stolen bases), but eight of his home runs came in April and May and he hit just .214 in September. Simply put, I’d rather wait a few rounds and draft a shortstop with better upside (Andrelton Simmons) or a good chance to rebound after a poor 2013 (Starlin Castro, Erick Aybar).
Crisp set a career-high with 22 home runs in 2013, which helped obscure a mediocre batting average (.261) and a continuing downward trend in stolen bases (21). A drop in home runs is virtually certain, and if Crisp runs less again this year there’s not a lot of upside for fantasy owners.
Leaving aside the headlines surrounding him this spring, Rollins is clearly a player in decline after setting career-lows in home runs (six) and RBI (39) last season despite playing 160 games. His batting average (.252 or lower in four of the last five seasons) is a drag on his value, and if his drop in stolen bases (22 in 2013) continues there just isn’t much here for fantasy owners to latch onto.
Puig’s all-around production will be solid (20-25 home runs, 20 stolen bases, a batting average around .290) and there’s room for upside, but any fantasy owner that wants him will surely have to take him a round or two too early compared to similarly ranked outfielders.
A remarkably lucky BABIP (.394) pushed Johnson’s batting average up to .321 last season, and his home run (12) and RBI (68) totals sure looked a lot better next to that average. Any potential rebound to his 2012 power numbers (15 home runs and 76 RBI) will not offset the certainty that Johnson’s batting average drops this year, and he is simply a mediocre fantasy option.
Uehera will enter the season as Boston’s closer after saving 21 games and posting a 1.09 ERA in 2013, but his age (39 on April 3), injury history and the offseason signing of Edward Mujica (37 saves with St. Louis last season) suggest a repeat should not be expected.
Saltalamacchia hit 14 home runs last season after setting a career-high with 25 in 2012, though he did drive in more runs (65; 59 in 2012) and hit for a higher average (.273; .222 in 2012). But that batting average spike was driven by an unsustainable BABIP (.372) and moving to a much more pitcher-friendly home park in Miami leaves 20 home runs and a batting average between .250-.260 as “Salty’s” ceiling for 2014.
Tanaka will go right toward the top of the Yankees’ starting rotation after coming over from Japan, and he could be very good right out of the gate. But any fantasy owner that drafts him in a mixed league has to embrace the potential for inconsistency and a fairly high level of risk.
Cano had a very productive final season with the Yankees (.314, 27 home runs and 107 RBI) with an injury-depleted supporting cast, which creates hope he can sustain that level in Seattle. But moving to a more pitcher-friendly home park brings downside that has not existed up to this point, and there are surely better value picks at second base.
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