Many players coming off a big season often wind up as fantasy baseball busts or overvalued players. Who should you avoid in your fantasy baseball drafts this season?
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
When it comes to 2013 expectations for Trout, no one puts it better than Ron Shandler. Baseball HQ's founder and the author of the annual Baseball Forecaster guessed that the probability of 2012 being Trout's career year was, oh, roughly 99 percent or so.
Bryce's price ain't that nice
Trout's 30 home runs last season are anomalous in comparison to his power production at any of his minor league stops - and he grew up in the California League and Pacific Coast League, two associations loaded with good hitting environments. He batted a robust .383 on balls in play. His contact rate is only a shade greater than 80 percent. Pitchers began to figure some things out and keep him in check, relatively, in the season's final two months. He's gained some weight. He's 21 freakin' years old.
Just about everything went right for Trout last year. Unquestionably, he's an immense talent. He'll go in the first round of any redrafter. There will be some regression. There is considerable risk that he'll underperform. Just let someone else take it, and draft a player you can carry to the bank. -NM
Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
This doesn't dismiss the 20-year-old's promise. Keeper owners shouldn't sweat a tiny backslide.
Redrafters, however, must apply to Harper, on a slightly smaller scale, the caution we've presented over Trout. In a full season, Harper's power and base thievery should move forward, but while his violent cuts can help expand his late-2012 explosion, they also present hacker problems early in his growth curve. He's heady, but how will he respond to more rough spots?
Harper won't see many third mixed rounds or reasonable auction prices. Similarly grouped outfielders don't boast his pedigree but carry less downside. Taking a first- or second-round chance on an exponential step toward his peak is almost as lofty as thinking Trout will have a second career year. -TH
Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Take Hamilton's propensity for injury. Throw in the tradeoff of The Ballpark in Arlington, one of the best home yards in the game, for Angel Stadium, one of the worst. Sprinkle some change-of-scenery anxiety on top of his status as a recovering addict. This concoction has a potentially nasty bite.
The forecasted fantasy production of Hamilton, 32 in May, still has a pretty high ceiling, but that combination of factors working against him has lowered it. The svelter version (he dropped about 20 pounds this past offseason) may help to fuel optimism that he's prepared to rise above the challenges he'll face. Or, perhaps it's the .285 average and 43 homers he put up in 2012. Folks, scale back those expectations a bit. -NM
Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
His extra qualifications at first base and, in some leagues, the hot corner augment owners' desire to land him, if they plan around what his .227-10-38 second half reminded us. That first half was a fun wave, but many are looking to ride it too far even after the correction set a new, clearer-headed statistical bar.
Plenty of wipeouts await those counting on him as anything more than homer filler. Even with his stout surrounding lineup, he might not be an everyday fixture if he slumps, as his profile is wont to do. There's little to indicate he won't serve as, at least for this year, anything beyond a slightly more beneficial Mark Reynolds. -TH
Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs
As a power-first complement at a reasonable mixed investment (fourth or fifth fly-catcher), Sori will do. But when you're hoping someone can reach a .262 BA again and that he's traded to a better offense, you should see the risk in aggressively buying him. Though he took fewer cuts last year, his contact rate remained below-average, and his punch-out rate was his highest in a full season - at age 37, he's had plenty of them.
This Cubs lineup could surprise many, but you'll find an unpleasant surprise if you think he has the makeup to sustain or build on an outlier year. Soriano's 2011 can still be a reasonable benchmark, but chiefly if he reaches a market price that alleviates the punishment of visiting his low floor. -TH
Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics
The A's appear to have fleeced the Boston Red Sox since Reddick batted .242 with 32 home runs and 11 stolen bases for his division-winning club last season. He's assuredly a power hitter, but a closer look reveals that 10 of his bombs came in one month - May. After the All-Star break, he batted .215 with 12 dingers and three thefts in 316 plate appearances.
It won't be easy to belt 30-plus bombs again if O.co is where he's playing half of his contests. His batting average, of course, was pretty heavily dependent on the homers. His indicators for the category imply that he otherwise has very little ground to make up in it. Reddick enjoyed a breakthrough season in many ways, but the most notable was PT. Don't overpay for the streaky 26-year-old. -NM
Ryan Ludwick, Cincinnati Reds
Ludwick can serve as a productive fourth or fifth mixed outfielder from time to time. His 2012 run was an example of his performance ceiling, which looks elite over stretches of a month or so here and there. He'll probably have the first crack at cleanup so he can split lefty sticks Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and this, on paper, seems to favor his everyday presence with his favorable split versus righty pitchers.
But besides a boost in ropes, few of his peripherals say he'll sustain that epic run. He still swings frequently, with too many of them finding air. Expect a painful regression in batting average. Also, Dusty Baker said Chris Heisey will get his reps, and he's considered their best center fielder on roster. If Shin-Soo Choo's experiment up the middle goes awry, Ludwick looks like the loser in terms of PT. -TH
Michael Saunders, Seattle Mariners
Saunders, thanks largely to an unusual routine he adopted prior to 2012 that involves taking BP with an incredibly heavy bat, finally had a breakthrough at the major league level. With his .247 average, 19 home runs and 21 stolen bases, he demonstrated the athleticism that once made him one of the organization's top prospects.
Seattle added some firepower to the order, a plus. Saunders is a superb defender in the outfield, so it'll take a lot for him to lose playing time.
The reality is, however, that his improved plate discipline is still sub-par. Saunders, 26, may get a little better in 2013, but there's definitely room for him to lose ground, too. The M's have a pretty deep bench, just in case. His is a breakout that took a lot of work, and from whence it came as well as where it ended up suggest that even bigger things aren't on the horizon. -NM
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.