Fantasy Baseball: Potential Busts (Pitchers)

By Dylan Elder: Editor-in-Chief.

Busts are an extremely relevant reality in the fantasy baseball world, and sometimes the only way to negate the problem is to hold your breath, cross your fingers, and pray to avoid the pitfalls. But then there are some players who should be tabbed before your draft with a bright red flag and must be avoided at all costs. Let’s take a look at some of those players, specifically the ones that take the mound.

Starting Pitchers

Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies – Hamels has experienced quite the marvelous string of bad luck over the past year. His 17 non-win quality starts last season were the most by any pitcher in the history of baseball and while he tied a career high in games started (33) he recorded a career low in wins (8). Even though it would be easy to convince anyone that 2013 was an aberration for Hamels because his numbers scream “bounce back” more than anything else, I’m still worried. Consider this from ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell: “Hamels had a few bullpens under his belt but an attempt at throwing live BP left him feeling his arm was “fatigued out” and his progression has been halted. He was already likely to start the season on the DL; this delays the process indefinitely.” During my draft, I’m not going anywhere near someone attached to the words “fatigued out” or “delays the process indefinitely.” Stay away.

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Jered Weaver, SP, Angels – A broken elbow in early April last year slowed Weaver down considerably, but his final statistics look fairly strong given what happened. However, a closer look at his numbers show some disturbing trends. Weaver’s strikeout rate has now declined in three consecutive seasons, his ERA/WAR last year were his worst rates since 2009, and his 11 wins in 2013 tied a career low. This season, the reward doesn’t even come close to outweighing the risk, and I’m not going to be the one that falls into the trap.

Hisashi Iwakuma, SP, Mariners – Even though Iwakuma has posted two productive MLB seasons in his short career thus far, there are a few signs of regression that very well may come to fruition in 2014. Last season, Iwakuma had the fourth-lowest BABIP (.253) and second-highest left on base percentage (81.9) among all pitchers in the league. Those numbers indicate that the Mariners starter was indeed one of the luckiest pitchers in the MLB. So while his 2.66 ERA looks mighty impressive, it’s also almost certain to rise this season. If that’s not enough, Iwakuma is slated to begin the season on the disabeled list with a strained tendon and isn’t expected to return until mid-to-late April. I’m staying away from Iwakuma unless the value is simply too good to pass up, and even then, I’ll have my reservations.

Relief Pitchers

Grant Balfour, RP, Rays – After a tumultuous offseason that included a contract fiasco with the Baltimore Orioles, Balfour is now a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. And while the Rays may ultimately be a better fit from a fantasy perspective, the elephant in the room is why the contract with Baltimore fell through. All we know is that the Orioles weren’t happy with the condition of Balfour’s arm yet the Rays were content enough to bring him aboard. So whether or not the closer is healthy enough to pitch a full season remains to be seen, but that’s not the biggest reason to worry. Grant’s walk rate has risen for the past three seasons and he’s prone to home run blowups on occasion. So even though Balfour has provided years of classic fantasy team nicknames, I’m not taking the chance on him this season.

Glen Perkins, RP, Twins – The reason Perkins rounds out the bust list isn’t by any fault of his own. The fact is that Minnesota is such a terrible team and will not provide many save opportunities for their top-notch closer. In our MLB team preview series, Chief MLB Writer Josh Wasserman predicted just 60 wins for the lowly Twins. So while yes, Perkins will convert the majority of his chances, I’m worried that those opportunities will be few and far between.

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