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?
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Fantasy owners seem to have been unmoved by The King's resume, which contains potential precursors to problems in the near future. Hernandez has pitched at least 232 frames in each of the past four years. He's also thrown 1,620 stanzas in his career, all before the age of 27 (which he hits in April). His velocity has also steadily decreased from year to year. Remember what delayed the M's signing of him to that $175 million extension?
Medlen is good, but that good?
These factors alone don't signal that doom is on the horizon, but they prompt investigation. Thankfully, to save the rest of the world some work, Bill Petti accumulated and analyzed some excellent data and then summarized it in his piece on Fangraphs. Hernandez isn't necessarily a prime candidate to be injured or see a significant drop-off in performance. The possibility has increased, at least a little, however, and to maintain his previous standards will be incredibly difficult.
Fantasy owners aren't used to thinking this way, but they have to consider the fact that The King may not be a roto ace this season. It takes some courage to exercise restraint when bidding on big names, but to let some of them go isn't the worst decision you can make. -NM
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
This right-hander seems like he could be on the verge of a Cy Young Award-winning season. Scherzer improved his control rate in 2011 and then held most of that gain in 2012. His dominance rate last season was an astronomical 11.1. The shoulder problem he experienced near the end of last season is, reportedly, long gone. He has all this potential!
How close is Scherzer, 27, to turning the corner, though? Despite his advancement in those statistical indicators, particularly his BB/9, his rate of pitches per frame has risen in each of the past two years. Last season's exorbitant rate of K's contributed to yet another rise, but his inefficiency is nothing new. He also tossed more than 17 offerings per stanza in 2011. (For comparison's sake, Justin Verlander has thrown fewer than 16 pitches per inning in each of the past two seasons.)
Scherzer still appears to be some distance from mastering the mental aspects of his craft. The long ball remains a big threat. Those P/IP marks may not seem like much, but they represent the difference between a Cy Young Award winner who can hit 230 innings with ease and a pretender who's never hurled 200. The 2012 second half was pretty, but it doesn't necessarily indicate that he's on his way to ace-dom. -NM
Kris Medlen, Atlanta Braves
Though I didn't wind up owning him anywhere last year, Medlen's success made me giddy in justifying the preseason excitement KFFL had for him. At the stab-rounds cost, it was an exciting flier.
That jubilation doesn't mean I'm buying him after his 2012 brilliance following his switch to the rotation. He's often going as a second mixed starting pitcher in mocks. That's a bit much. Sure, his grounder profile and above-average dominance look sound, especially with the way his diverse arsenal's effectiveness shone through following his second stint after Tommy John surgery.
Sample size warning: His 0.97 ERA in 83 2/3 stanzas of starter work was propped up by a lofty - Jon Rauch-like, in fact - left-on-base rate of 93.3 percent. The game's most desirable relief pitchers would kill for that stranding success.
Medlen is a highly skilled arm with a bright future, but expecting back-to-back years of 2012-type performance will leave you betrayed by season's end. He's one of the biggest negative regression targets in the game, and most won't seriously consider the potential extent. -TH
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
The southpaw's market demand as a starter doesn't leave much room to protect your club if he falters. (If he moves back to stopper, bueno, but those skills fall back to a more volatile fantasy position. That would sting a little.)
Vogelsong no longer comes cheaply
To be fair, he manned an SP rubber in Cuban ball. To be fair, part dos: The quality of those competitors, on the whole, falls short of that held by MLB bats. Sometimes, switching roles, regardless of experience in either, falters out of the gate with attempts to streamline pacing; pitch sequencing; mound mentality; fielding the position for five-plus frames; and other differences in rotation duties.
Will he transfer his control growth from the 'pen? He must cultivate his changeup and/or splitter, as well. He's thrown those before, but there'll be some adjustment, and hitters punish a lack of variety. There's also legit talk of an innings cap of something around 150.
At some point, the K's in that abridged window will stand out. Some will pay as if he's already had ace-like seasons. Acknowledging the 25-year-old's upside as, say, a fourth mixed starting pitcher or an in-season buy-low candidate would be more comfortable. -TH
Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants
Even after a correction from his absurd 2011, Vogelsong was quite useful in 2012. A bigger boost of infield flies forced and a drop in liners allowed showed he adjusted even while hitters did the same. He might even be establishing a baseline of high left-on-base percentages.
So why is he overvalued? How much of your mixed SP corps' faith are you comfortable putting into someone with a below-average frequency of swinging strikes forced? His makeup seems quite reliant on minimizing damage and inducing weak connections, not overpowering hitters. Any time you're relying on that from a 35-year-old with one of your top three starting pitcher spots leaves you with a miniscule margin for error.
Vogelsong can't be had for a ditty in many rooms, thanks to his successful follow-up album. Asking him, for a premium, to make more hits - well, in this case, prevent them - amounts to a highly possible fantasy flop where he'd turn into muzak. -TH
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
The Asian import probably gave the M's more than they expected last season, thanks to his midseason move to the rotation. After the All-Star break, he really picked up steam, posting a 2.50 ERA, a 7.40 K/9 and a 2.50 BB/9. He almost looks like a breakout candidate.
Unfortunately, for his prospective owners and Seattle, most breakouts don't occur in a player's age-32 season. This isn't some young buck. His 2012 peripheral marks aren't surprising. His 17.0 HR/FB will almost certainly come down, and he kept batted balls on the ground more than 50 percent of the time. However, his left-on-base rate of 80-plus percent, which rose while he was starting, is due for some correction. In addition, his health record in Japan was far from clean. Part of the organization's motivation for sticking him in the bullpen initially must've been related to his durability.
Iwakuma has been a trendy pick to open the final third of mixed-league drafts. There are dozens of more appealing options at that stage, when the search for upside is on, however. -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.