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?
Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
Ready for another Uggla BA?
Rotisserie managers are excited to draft the Tribe's likely fixture at the position for the foreseeable future. He got off to such a hot start and probably made a good impression since pretty much everyone in fantasy baseball leagues pays attention for the first three months.
How many owners were paying attention for the entire year? From June 18 through the end of the season, Kipnis batted only .235 with three of his 14 home runs and 14 of his 31 stolen bases. Those 87 games form a significant stretch of his 152-game 2012. The left-handed hitter's profile isn't drastically altered by either the 65 games in which he was on fire or the latter one in which he went cool.
The soon-to-be 26-year-old has blossoming power. He may approach 20 round-trippers this season. The speed output was by far unprecedented for him, however, and was likely the product of good circumstances. His BA skills are not top-notch, either. Kipnis is a quality player, but not yet a premium one, so don't pay a premium for him. -NM
Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves
It's easy to label as a buying opportunity someone who hit 27-plus homers over his first six MLB seasons and is coming off a down year.
Hope you like a bumpy road to positive statistical regression. His .280-plus batting averages from 2006 and 2010 were outliers. (Career: .253.) His power likely will recover toward his established norms; an unruly number of pop-ups suffocated his thump, and a swing adjustment he made late last year may correct things.
Incentive for calling his name increases if your league uses OBP or you've prepared the rest of your lineup to take on this black hole for contact. But how giddy would you be for settling for the Adam Dunn of this position if your team's clip already needs work? Even optimistic projections suppress Uggla's immediate ceiling to middle-infielder levels in mixed leagues. Plan accordingly. -TH
Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals
Drafters reach for the soon-to-be 26-year-old's widespread dual middle-infield eligibility; his age, a typical time for a breakout; and, chiefly, his power-speed performance's translation to fantasy utility over two-plus MLB seasons. The fact he played in late 2012 with a torn left rotator cuff convinces buyers that ongoing treatment will push him immediately back to 100 percent ability. "I'll plan my BA around him. Simple."
Really? How heavily do they weigh the drawbacks, both physical and statistical? How effectively will his strengthening exercises work out of the gate? Steve Lombardozzi and maybe Anthony Rendon, among others, give Washington fallback plans. Fantasy players must prepare similarly.
Espinosa's better batting average foundation comes against southpaws, a heavy minority of his work. His craterous contact rate doesn't look like it'll improve anytime soon. A history of mild liner rates doesn't justify the lofty .333 BABIP from '12. Even if more in-play smacks find holes, there'd be some give and take in his dispersion; it'll take fairy-tale fortune for all five fantasy categories to click at once.
An inseason discount purchase is a much better directive than calling him a top-10 mixed option at either up-the-middle slot. NL-only overvaluation remains especially perilous. -TH
Kelly Johnson, Tampa Bay Rays
Perhaps fantasy owners, as drafts near their ends, will just reach for a name they recognize to fill an MI or bench spot. In that case, some of them are going to wind up with Johnson. Which may not be bad, but it's probably not good, either. Tampa Bay may come closer to maximizing the value of Johnson to its bottom line, but even if they do, it'll come at the expense of his PT.
Johnson's walk rate, which the Rays value, remains above-average. His contact rate has plummeted to the low 70s, however, supporting the frequency with which he's struck out in each of the past two seasons (roughly 27 percent of the time). His days as a 20-bomb producer appear to be nearing their end. With his BA skills already on the decline and his results versus southpaws in the gutter in the past two years, he's a platoon candidate.
The Rays have the depth and flexibility to sit Johnson regularly in unfavorable situations. He may earn a few bucks in AL-only leagues, if the team deploys him efficiently. Don't look for real mixed-league utility here, though. -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.