Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep 2018: Busts

by Erik McKeen, Griffin Murphy, Max Brill, and Anthony Brown

Along with making a list of players that you think will over-perform their draft position, it is also important to make a list of players who you think will under-perform their draft position. The ultimate goal of draft day is to maximize the value of your players, which includes hitting on sleepers and avoiding busts. Every fantasy team will have busts, whether it be due to injury or performance. Any player can become a bust because of injury (which is hard to predict), but if you minimize the players you have that bust because of performance, you’ll have an advantage. A few notable busts from last season due to performance include Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, and Trevor Story.

Our 2018 Busts:

Name C 1B 2B SS 3B OF SP RP
Erik McKeen
Buster Posey
(SF)
Eric Hosmer
(SD)
Whit Merrifield (KC)
Elvis Andrus (TEX)
Anthony Rendon (WAS)
Andrew Benintendi (BOS)
Robbie
Ray
(ARI)
Kenley Jansen (LAD)
Griffin Murphy
Yadier Molina (STL)
Cody Bellinger (LAD)
Brian Dozier (MIN)
Elvis Andrus (TEX)
Rafael Devers (BOS)
Rhys Hoskins (PHI)
Robbie
Ray
(ARI)
Aroldis Chapman (NYY)
Max
Brill
Salvador Perez
(KC)
Eric Hosmer
(SD)
Javier
Baez
(CHC)
Trea Turner
(WAS)
Mike Moustakas (KC)
Marcell Ozuna (STL)
Zack Greinke (ARI)
Kenley Jansen (LAD)
Anthony Brown
Salvador Perez
(KC)
Eric Hosmer (SD)
Robinson Cano
(SEA)
Xander Bogaerts (BOS)
Jake
Lamb
(ARI)
A.J.
Pollock (ARI)
Yu
Darvish (CHC)
Ken
Giles
(HOU)

Erik’s Top 3 busts:

Robbie Ray (SP – ARI) ADP – 46:

Robbie Ray is one of the most obvious regression candidates out there. He finished last season as a top-15 starting pitcher last season, and he is being drafted as one this draft season (46th overall, 13th among starting pitchers). He is a solid strikeout pitcher, getting 218 each of the last two seasons, and his fWARs were nearly identical (3.1 and 3.2). The reason he became so valuable in fantasy was because he went from having 8 wins in 2016 to 15 wins in 2017, and he improved his ERA from 4.90 to 2.89, despite having similar FIPs of 3.76 and 3.72. He was due for a better season in 2017 because the difference of his ERA and FIP in 2016 was a massive 1.14. In 2017, however, the difference was -0.83, a considerable difference in the other direction. He is due for regression, but he is currently being drafted like he is going to be the same guy as last year.

Buster Posey (C – SF) ADP – 56:

Buster Posey has been in a league of his own in terms of fantasy catchers over the past few years, which is what made him so valuable. 2017, however, was a different story: Gary Sanchez was better. Posey is not in his own tier anymore, and you could make a strong case that he’s not even among the top two catchers this year. Steamer, one of the best baseball projection systems, projects him to have a .297 average, 66 runs, 15 home runs, 68 RBIs, and 4 stolen bases. These projections seem more than reasonable to me, and this is bad news for those who draft him highly (he is currently going 56th overall, 2nd among catchers). Posey will probably lead all catchers in batting average again, which will give him an advantage there. Stealing 4 bases is insignificant because catchers don’t steal very many bases. 66 runs is decent; not many catchers will top that number, but most won’t be far off either. His biggest problem is with his projected home runs and RBIs. 15 home runs is not a lot, and there will be many catchers who will be at or above that number. The same goes with his 68 projected RBIs; about a dozen catchers will be near or above 68 RBIs. Considering all this, the only category that Posey gives you a real advantage in for the catcher position is batting average. Couple that with him giving you a disadvantage in home runs out of the catcher position, and he is really not that valuable anymore. I’m not saying he is worthless; I have him as my number 5 catcher this year. That said, his ADP is way too high.

Whit Merrifield (2B – KC) ADP – 79:

Whit Merrifield had a breakout year in his second season in the majors with a .288 batting average, 80 runs, 19 home runs, 78 RBIs, 34 stolen bases, and a 3.1 fWAR. A positive for him is that he is going to continue to lead-off, but a negative is that he will be in a worse lineup (one of the worst in the majors, actually). This season, Steamer projects him to have a .273 batting average, 76 runs, 12 home runs, 60 RBIs, and 25 stolen bases. This seems reasonable just looking at the numbers— maybe even a little conservative. If you take a look at how these compare to other second basemen, it’s not great. A .273 batting average will be near the middle of the second baseman pool, so there is no real advantage or disadvantage there. He gives you a disadvantage in the run, home run, and RBI categories because the better fantasy second baseman will get you around 80-90 runs, 20-30 home runs, and an RBI total in the high 80s to low 90s. Stolen bases is the only category Merrifield really can help you in, but guess who else can help you with stolen bases (while being below average at everything else): late round second basemen. Merrifield is currently going 79th overall (9th among second basemen), which is definitely too high. I have him outside my top 12 at the position.

Griffin’s Top 3 busts:

Cody Bellinger (1B – LAD) ADP – 26:

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to like about Cody Bellinger. His 50 homer upside (47 homer pace in his 132 games last season), his speed (10 SB last year) and lastly his team, which will give him ample run/RBI opportunities. That being said, he looked absolutely lost down the stretch in 2017. His 26.6% K-rate on the season is bad enough, but if we look in September (when many players thrive due to call-ups, or weaker competition) it gets worse, where his K-rate was an ugly 33% with a .252 average. Was September 2017 a matter of bad luck, or a sign of things to come? Based on a couple of factors it seems like Bellinger’s strikeout struggles will continue, and possibly worsen, moving into 2018. In September (compared to the rest of the season), pitchers threw Bellinger 3.8% less fastballs, 2.8% more sliders, and 4.4% more change ups. The result? Using Fangraphs’ “Pitch Values” standardized runs by pitch, which indicates how many more/fewer runs a hitter produces against a given pitch type compared to leave average (zero on the scale), we see some concerning trends. While Bellinger’s success against fastballs increased from .45 extra runs per one-hundred fastballs to 1.4, his success against all moving pitches fell off. Success against sliders fell from 2.49 to -1.29, cutters from .87 to -.13, curveballs from 3.78 to -1.5, and change ups from 3.91 to -1.77. It seems like the D-backs, Cubs, and Astros caught on to this trend as his postseason K-rate jumped to an astounding 45%. Look for teams in 2018 to pound Bellinger with breaking balls until he can learn how to handle them. Until then, be wary of drafting Bellinger before the 4th round, ahead of more proven stars like Rizzo, Strasburg, and JD Martinez.

Brian Dozier (2B – MIN) ADP – 34:

After seemingly proving his 2016 batting average was not a fluke in 2017 by posting a  .271/.359/.498 line, Dozier’s draft stock has, perhaps justifiably, skyrocketed to the middle of the 4th round. If ‘16-17’ production levels were guaranteed, this would be no issue whatsoever. The problem is, Dozier seems like a regression candidate entering his age 31 season. With 2017 being Dozier’s peak year in BABIP (.300) we will probably see around a twenty point batting average decrease (career average BABIP of .276, Steamer projects .283), landing him somewhere in the .250s. This is not unbearable for a major power-steals contributor, but the steals have been slipping for Dozier. Averaging just over 15 steals per season over the past three years, it is hard to guarantee 15 in 2018, especially being on the wrong side of 30. Additionally, we saw Dozier’s HR total drop from 42 to 34 over the past two years. If this power decrease is due to age, we might expect around 30, max, from the Twin in ‘18 (as Steamer does). While Dozier’s high walk rate makes him a viable option in OBP leagues, avoid Dozier any earlier than the late 5th in AVG leagues due to his slipping power-steal upside, and other options like Rougned Odor and Ian Happ who will come at a much cheaper price while providing similar upside.

Aroldis Chapman (RP-NYY) ADP – 64:

Being drafted as the third relief pitcher off the board in the 7th round, it seems like much of the fantasy world has forgotten when the wheels fell off for Aroldis last August. He posted an 8.66/6.01 FIP/xFIP combination that month. This forgetfulness is almost definitely due to his bounce back in September where he posted FIP/xFIP lines of .82/2.16. This trend continued into the postseason has he allowed one run in eight innings, striking out sixteen and walking two in the process. The question is whether we should expect August Chapman or September/October Chapman in 2018. Entering his 9th season of throwing straight gas out of the bullpen, concerns about wear-and-tear and waning velocity are valid. While an average fastball velocity of 100.2 last year is nothing to sound the alarms over, a 1 MPH decrease from the previous year is definitely notable, especially for a guy whose whole game is speed. Some minor concerns include the fact that the Yankees bullpen is stacked so any August-like stretches may cost him the closer job, on top of the fact that the Yankees explosive offense might put a lot of games out of save range. I’m not saying Chapman will be as bad as he was last August, but drafting him far above the likes of Roberto Osuna, Raisel Iglesias, Alex Colome and other solid closers is a mistake.

Max’s Top 3 busts:

Trea Turner (SS – WAS) ADP – 4:

I don’t necessarily think that Turner is going to be the biggest bust of the group I listed above. However, I think it would be unfair to do a write-up of three guys without mentioning Turner.

Turner is currently going as the #1 shortstop off the board at #4 overall. Do I think Turner is capable of finishing the season in the top five? Absolutely. Do I think that Turner is likely to finish in the top five? Not necessarily. That’s not to say Turner does not have talent; the young infielder has 25 HR, 81 SB, and a .304/.348/.491 triple-slash line through just 198 MLB games. But it’s taken him a little over two seasons to compile those 198 games played.

Again, I think Turner is more than capable of finishing in the top five this season, but I think a mid-to-high first round pick would be better used on a player with more of a track record of success like Bryce Harper, Charlie Blackmon, or Giancarlo Stanton, all of whom are going after Turner in the first round.

Eric Hosmer (1B – SD) ADP – 80:

I hate Eric Hosmer. I hate that he destroyed my Mets in the 2015 World Series, I hate that the announcers on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball love him so much, and I hate that he gets respect for his glove when in reality, he has been a bad defender throughout his career.

I did a write-up on Hosmer earlier in the offseason (you can find it here) and my conclusion was that Hosmer is very overrated. Hosmer’s ADP is currently right around #80 overall, the #11 first baseman, which is far too high of a price tag for a first baseman who has never eclipsed 25 HR. If that is not bad enough, Hosmer has also hit over 50% of his balls in play on the ground in each of the past 6 seasons, with that mark eclipsing 55% in 2016 and 2017.

Put shortly, Hosmer is incredibly overrated. You would be better served spending a pick in Hosmer’s range on bounceback candidates such as Miguel Cabrera or Yoenis Cespedes, or young up-and-comers such as Domingo Santana or Rafael Devers.

Marcell Ozuna (OF – STL) ADP – 43:

Ozuna had a breakout year in 2016, hitting .266/.321/.452 with 23 HR for the Marlins. He followed that up by having an absolutely monster 2017 season: .312/.376/.548, 37 HR, 93 R, and 124 RBI. All of these improvements came without a plethora of tangible changes on the part of Ozuna.

Ozuna’s ground ball rate actually went up and his fly ball rate fell in 2017. His HR/FB also ballooned; despite never having hit more than 14.1% of his fly balls for home runs, the outfielder hit 23.4% of his fly balls out of the yard. His hard contact rate did not improve noticeably, and while Ozuna struck out more (and walked more), those changes should not have resulted in 13 more HR and nearly 50 extra points of batting average. I’m picking Ozuna as a big regression candidate in 2018, and at his ADP of 43, you’re basically drafting him at his ceiling.

Anthony’s Top 3 busts:

A.J. Pollock (OF – ARI) ADP – 62:

A.J. Pollock is not a bad baseball player by any means. When healthy, he can hit around .300 with 20 home runs and 20-30 stolen bases. Unfortunately, staying healthy is one of his biggest problems. After a very good season in 2015, Pollock played only 12 games in 2016 and 112 in 2017. When he was on the field last year, he struggled to regain his former glory, ending with a slash line of .266/.330/.471 and a 2.1 fWAR. Not bad in any way, but not good enough to be the 18th ranked outfielder and 62nd overall player. Pollock is ranked higher than studs such as Yoenis Cespedes, Byron Buxton, and Andrew McCutchen. Since his big year in 2015, Pollock’s strikeout rate has increased, and his walk rate has decreased, and now he’s on the wrong side of 30. Add in the fact that the Diamondbacks recently installed a humidor in Chase Field to cut down on offense, and Pollock is doomed to underperform his expectations. Instead of taking him as your first or second outfielder, take proven commodities first and use Pollock as your third outfielder or utility.

Xander Bogaerts (SS – BOS) ADP – 74:

On the surface, Xander Bogaerts looks to be a very solid fantasy shortstop, even at such a loaded position. After a mediocre rookie season, Bogaerts exploded in 2015 and hit .320/.355/.421, and in 2016, while his average fell, he increased his home run total from 7 in 2015 to 21. However, looking deeper into his stats reveals that he is not as good as he seems. In 2015, his high average can be explained by an unusually high .372 BABIP, while his power outburst in 2016 could be because of an almost 10% increase in fly ball rate from the year before, which promptly dropped 5% in 2017. Also, over the last three seasons, his strikeout rate has steadily risen, while his batting average has dropped over twenty points each year. While he is likely to at least slow down that trend this season, there are much better options at shortstop. Bogaerts’ ADP is currently 74th, which makes him the 7th ranked shortstop, ahead of solid players such as Didi Gregorius and Paul DeJong (#10 and #14, respectively). Picking Bogaerts won’t ruin your fantasy team, but just keep in mind that there are better options out there.

Robinson Cano (2B – SEA) ADP – 73:

This may seem like a controversial choice based on the way that Cano has played over the last few years but hear me out. After a fantastic season in 2016, Cano regressed last year and ended up hitting .280 with 23 home runs, 79 runs, 97 RBI, and a 3.2 fWAR. A good season by any measure, especially for a second baseman, however, there are signs that Cano is on the decline. After hitting a career-high 39 home runs in 2016, Cano only hit 23 last year, thanks to a 5.5% decrease in fly ball rate. Also, over the past three seasons, Cano has seen a sharp increase in strikeout rate, decrease in walk rate, and a large decrease in line drive percentage over the last two seasons. All of these stats point to the fact that Cano is declining and is likely to continue that way for the rest of his career. After all, he is 35 years old and, while he has played at least 150 games for the past eleven seasons, older players tend to be more susceptible to injury, so there is an added risk to drafting Cano. His current ADP is 73rd overall and he is the 6th ranked second baseman, ahead of players like Jonathan Schoop and Rougned Odor (Odor is bound for a bounce back season). Cano isn’t a bad pick by any means, but he is very risky and likely in decline, so it may be better to look elsewhere to fulfill your second base needs.

(All ADP data is from Fantasypros.com – a site that combines rankings and ADP data from all major fantasy sites.)



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