Fantasy Articles

The word "bust" is a very subjective term in fantasy baseball. A bust is someone who doesn't come close to their draft day value or performance expectations. The majority of busts are players that are just receiving too much hype. However, it also can come from an unexpected decline of player skills.

Looking back on last season, Adam Dunn was the biggest bust by far. Should we have expected this? Well, in 2008 Adam Dunn had his peak "eye" skills. His walk rate was an incredible 19%, contact rate was 68% and his strikeout to walk was 0.74. In 2009 Dunn's K/BB fell to 0.66, and in 2010 to 0.39. His contact rate of 64% was his lowest in a long time. So then in 2011, what happened? Well, the trend continued as he plummeted to a 57% contact rate and totally lost all confidence and ability.

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Did Citi Field break David Wright?
My "Do Not Draft List" will take two forms this year, as will my "Players to Target List," which I will write shortly after this one. The first form it will take will be to talk about the players who clearly are being overhyped and overvalued. They could also be overvalued because you can find similar stats later in the draft at a much cheaper price. 

The second form will be to utilize a great resource that I have for a simple purchase of $25. The great 2012 Baseball Forecaster (Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster), written by Ron Shandler, contains special player metrics and player history that are shown in 5-year box form. It allows me to track trends in specific stats without much headache. This will come in the form of a "know the risk" "red flags" section.

Let's get started, but remember, this is MY list with my personal opinions.

OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox: Currently going in the first round ahead of Justin Upton and Carlos Gonzalez. Things that are for real with Ellsbury: runs, stolen bases, 20 home runs, .290 batting average and 75-80 RBIs.

Here is something else to consider before you decide to draft Ellsbury over CarGo and J-Up: During that home run outburst in the second half, he traded off some stolen base production -- 23 home runs in the second half and only 14 stolen bases. And finally, something else to digest, Ellsbury's stolen base percentage was only 72 last year, down 17% from last year, and by a wide margin, his worst stolen base percentage year of his career. Sorry Jacoby, I'm not banking on a repeat.

SP Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels: First of all, pitcher is deep. Second of all, here are all the red flags: His K/9 dropped from 9.3 in 2010 to 7.6 in 2011, he increased his line drive percentage and decreased ground balls, and, of course, any pitcher that has a 45 percent fly ball rate or higher (and Weaver's has been 50, 48, 49 the past three years) is an extreme risk. Stay far, far away; he's a ticking time bomb.

3B David Wright, New York Mets: Sigh.... Oh David, why do you do this to us? First of all, I have absolutely no clue why Wright is getting so much hype again. He's an extreme injury risk still, his speed is rapidly declining, his contact rates are at insane lows (although a 78% contact rate in the second half of last year is promising), but still, it's the same argument that Matthew Berry of ESPN makes against drafting Brett Lawrie in the fifth and sixth rounds: You take all the potential profit away when you assume he will get back to previous levels. Monitor from afar before you leap in.

SP Michael Pineda, New York Yankees: Reports about his spring training velocity are not greatly exaggerated; there is extreme concern here. Pineda had an incredible season last year, no question, but in the bright lights of New York, and the fact that he's reported to spring training incredibly out of shape, are all warning signs. And oh yeah, he's a flyball pitcher. Welcome to the Bronx, Mr. Pineda. Maybe next year.

1B Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals: Let me first start out by saying this is strictly for re-draft leagues. In keeper leagues, he's a gem. It's time for everybody's favorite game!

Blind Resume:

Player A- Age 33: BB% 9, CT%, 82, K/BB 0.53, xBA (expected batting average) .276, Power Index 116, G/L/F  49/18/35, Speed Index 90, Going around pick #95

Player B- Age 22, BB% 7, CT% 84, K/BB 0.46, xBA .284, PX 104, G/L/F, 50/19/32, SX 87 Going around pick #45 and sometimes higher

Spare me the argument against sabremetrics. Regardless, the point is still the same. These two players are very similar. Player A is Michael Cuddyer and Player B is Eric Hosmer. Point taken?

SP Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers: I'll keep this nice and simple. I don't mind missing out on the greatest thing sliced bread, but Daisuke Matsuzaka is too fresh in my mind. Give me the proven pitchers any day. Come on down, Wandy Rodriguez, Jaime Garcia and friends.

SP Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays: This one hurts because I am a diehard Rays fan. The numbers, however, are staggeringly alarming: 2010 BB/9 2.5, 2011: 3.4; 2010 K/9 8.1, 2011: 5.6; and his line drive percentage increased an entire seven percent from his 2010 numbers. The result? An unexplainable decrease in hit rate (BABIP) from 32% down to 23%; someone please tell me how that makes sense. And finally, 2011 ERA of 2.95 and an xERA of 4.48. PASS

Red Flags and Warning Signs: Do with these as you will.

  • In 2011 Alex Avila outperformed his expected batting average by a whopping 26 points.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera's strikeout to walk ratio is in a 5-year decline.
  • Minor quibble here, because it will offset in the other area, but Robinson Cano has seen steady contact percentage decreases starting in 2010, down to 83% in the second half, but ditched ground ball heavy approach and saw his PX skyrocket to a career high 158 in second half. Just know that you may get more power than you expected from Cano in 2012, but there is .299 batting average risk, but again, a minor quibble.
  • Carl Crawford is starting to fall in love with his power, as is shown by a three-year decline in contact rate (which is the same as a three-year increase in strikeouts), and a three-year increase in power index and three-year decrease in groundball percentage. Unlikely to eclipse 40 stolen bases if that power emerges, as a steal of third base after a double is less likely to be called than after a walk or single.
  • David Freese hit eight home runs in the second half with a 21 percent HR/FB despite an insane 57% GB; not calling him a bust, just heed the warning.
  • J.J. Hardy went into extreme hack mode in the second half: 4% walk rate and a 0.21 K/BB ratio; PX also dropped.
  • Ryan Howard's OBP, SLG and OPS are in three-year steady declines. Not shocking right? Just reminding everyone.
  • Derek Jeter isn't done yet, but a 39% Batting average on balls in play did mask a career low 82% contact rate in the second half.
  • Dustin Pedroia actually had a down year last year. .288 xBA lowest since 2007, career high massive spike in ground balls to 48% indicates to me that his 21 home runs last year is up in the air (no pun intended) for 2012. Steals however, should increase. Take the note that I'm a Rays fan though, and might be cherry picking these stats somewhat.
  • Just in case you thought about it, Carlos Quentin is taking his 54% FB rate from home run haven US Cellular to home run hater PETCO.
  • Josh Willingham's power outburst last year is for real, but so is his concurrent strikeout problems that came with it. He sold out for power which resulted in massive career high Power Index of 190, but a career low contact rate of 69%.
  • While Josh Beckett's 2010 looks more like an outlier now than anything else, last year was the first year he has had FB% of 40 or higher, and for a pitcher with a career HR/9 of 1.0, that could spell trouble. Don't pay ace price, but for where he is currently going in drafts, he's worth the gamble.
  • Heath Bell's multi-year erosion of his ground ball percentage from 59 in 2007 all the way down to 43 last year, plus a K/9 plummet to 7.3 is very noteworthy. In the big Marlins ballpark, his new fly-ball approach shouldn't hurt him too much, but he's going too high in drafts and is an accident waiting to happen.
  • Clay Buchholz has not had a K/BB ratio of 2.0 or higher in either of his past three seasons. The first thing that goes when a pitcher has an arm or shoulder type injury is his strike zone command and K/9.
  • Matt Capps' elite 1.8 BB/9 last season and a 23 percent hit rate in the first half hid his 43 percent fly-ball rate, which is a problem because 2010 was the first and only year that Capps has been a ground-ball pitcher. Also saw a drop in command in the second half to 2.6 BB/9 along with a K/9 drop to 3.7. Hidden injury? Nonetheless, he is the shakiest closer going into 2012.
  • Just don't draft Josh Collmenter, seriously, don't do it
  • The first thing that will change with Yu Darvish's transition to MLB will be his 5-year 80% strand rates.
  • Johnny Cueto's massive ground ball spike last year was impressive; his drop to 6.0 K/9 is equally alarming. Just know that he also outpitched his xERA by 1.27 points.
  • Kyle Drabek, a top hyped prospect that I drafted last year in Fantasy (DOH), had a 1.0 K/BB last year. Oops.
  • Most fantasy baseball players know this already, but in case you even thought about it, Kevin Gregg's BB/9 is on a three-year climb, and his K/9 is on a 3 year drop. And 3.9 BB/9 in '09, 6.0 in 2011; K/9 of 9.3 in 2009, 8.0 in 2011. Don't even think about it. No, not for a second.
  • It's the most common statistic to change in the prime of your career, but Gio Gonzalez still walks a ton of batters. Buy for the ERA and wins; pray for the WHIP correction.
  • Shaun Marcum's K/9 dropped to 5.9 in the second half. That's extremely nerve-racking especially for a fly-ball pitcher; it could be mostly health related. Monitor.
  • Ryan Madson is having elbow issues this spring.
  • Along with constantly teasing us with upside that we chase every year, Ricky Nolasco's K/9 dropped to 6.5 last year.

My column on 50 positive trends will be coming out later this week. Good luck in your drafts!