Fantasy Baseball: Potential Busts (Batters)
In Fantasy Baseball, nothing is worse than spending an early pick on Matt Kemp, then watching him decay on the disabled list for half of the season. Or building your team around Josh Hamilton, then having him implode on his new team. The only way to avoid these sucker picks on draft day is to do your research. This post most definitely counts as “your research” as I try caution you about who not to pick for the 2014 season. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks – The current D-Backs backstop certainly had the skills to be a top 10 MLB and fantasy catcher, but the question is: have those tangible abilities disappeared? A victim of an unlucky foul ball off the mask, Montero missed a significant amount of time with a serious back issue in 2013. After a breakout season the year before, many expected him to continue is excellence and move his name into the conversation for one of the best catchers in baseball. However, the injury completely stunted his development and I’d be appalled to see him become a respectable fantasy starter once again.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels – Early reports are that Pujols feels great in Spring Training and the bandwagon is filling up quickly with people picking him to rebound in 2014. I’m not one of them… I prefer to take the more logical approach. Consider this, at 34 years of age Pujols’ strikeout rate, isolated power, contact rate, swinging strike percentage have all declined rapidly in the the past several years. What’s more, the plantar fasciitis injury that caused “The Machine” to miss more than two months last season will more than likely linger into this season and will cause an inevitable trip to the DL at some point. I’ll let someone else take their chances on an injury prone 1st baseman with declining skills. Not me. No thanks.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals – Is it just me, or does it seem like we’ve been billing Hosmer as the “next big thing” for what feels like decades now? Truth is, the guy was drafted way back in 2008, and we’ve been patiently (and not-so-patiently) been waiting for that elusive breakout season ever since. My friends, I have a news flash for you, we already got that career year from the Royals 1st baseman. In 2013, Hosmer slapped 17 HR’s, 79 RBI’s, and batted a robust .302. Those numbers a certainly respectable, and quite frankly, flat out good. The only problem is that we’ve reached the peak in the Eric Hosmer era. The former top 3 pick has never belted more than 20 HR’s or 80 RBI’s which are the necessary benchmarks for a fantasy 1st baseman. He also improved his average by a whopping .70 points from 2012 to 2013, so expect regression towards the mean in that area as well. Overall, I’m not taking a chance with a guy that has so much promise yet has delivered so little when there are other, more qualified names on the board.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds – The 106 RBI’s last season were a nice touch to a solid season, but also now seem impossible to repeat, especially with on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo now setting the table for Fielder and Beltre rather than Phillips and Votto. Add in the fact that his average has become a complete liability (.261 last season) and he’s not stealing bases anymore (5 steals in 2013) and there’s not a whole lot to like. Even though Brandon comes with a slick glove, handy power, and name recognition to boot, there’s too much risk involved when drafting him this year.
Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies – Similar to Brandon Philips, Chase Utley comes with a boatload of notoriety and an alarming amount of risk. Even though he played more than 130 games last season (for the first time since 2009) Utley still constantly deals with a degenerative knee condition. I don’t know about you, but I’m staying away from anyone that combines the words “degenerative” and “knee” in the same sentence, no matter how big the name.
Jean Segura, SS, Brewers – If you look at his final stats, you’ll notice an absolutely incredible season for a fantasy shortstop: 74 Runs, 12 HR’s, 49 RBI’s, 44 SB’s and a .294 BA. But remember what I told you above about the research thing? Well, if you look at Segura’s second half numbers, you’ll find a 241/.268/.315 slash line with just one home run. While he should maintain the steals and batting average to a certain degree, Jean Segura just doesn’t have as much pop as he fooled us into believing during the first half last year. Expect regression from the Milwaukee shortstop in most categories.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers – Not to completely kill the left side of the Brewers’ infield, but Aramis Ramirez heads into the 2014 season with looming question marks. He’s entering his age 36 season which is daunting enough for a ballplayer that mans the hot corner, but add in his injury history and there is major cause for concern. A knee injury held Aramis to just 304 AB’s last season and will likely linger into 2014 because of his age and the position that he plays. So while his skills are not necessarily in a total free fall, I don’t believe his body will hold up long enough for him to help you win your fantasy league.
Manny Machado, 3B, Orioles – This guy is probably the most fun player to watch with a mitt in the entire MLB. His fielding prowess at third base is unmatched by anyone in the league, and when he posted respectable hitting numbers, it made him that much more enjoyable. However, a gruesome leg injury ended Machado’s season early and puts his status for opening day in question. A late April or early May return is reasonable, but for a player that flashes more leather than he possess skill with the bat, I’m not wasting a valuable draft pick on him.
Alex Rios, OF, Rangers – What gave Rios tremendous value last season were his steals, all 42 of them. However, that number is almost double the amount of stolen bases he had the year before so I’m skeptical he can keep “42” a reality. In addition to that knock, Rios also almost never walks. In 616 plate appearances last season, the Rangers outfielder took a free base just 41 times which is dreadful, especially in fantasy. So while he is respectable in most of the other categories, I can find more value later in the draft rather than spend a top 4 pick on Rios.
Carlos Beltran, OF, Yankees – Forever etched as one of the greatest postseason hitters of all time, we must not forget that Beltran is climbing the age ladder just as fast as the rest of us: he will be 37 when the season starts. With advanced age definitely comes wisdom, but also, more importantly, declining baseball skills. His .296 average from 2013 will almost certainly regress this season and he’s no longer any sort of threat on the base-paths. While Yankee stadium might give him a boost in the power categories, his game carries far too much risk to be worth spending a draft pick on.