Baseball HQ Market Pulse: 2013 All-Avoid Team

by on April 2, 2013 @ 10:15:00 PDT


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Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro certainly fits a breakout profile: he's young, talented, has over 1,000 major league AB, and is only a skill or two away from taking a huge step forward. Of course, all of that was true last year at this time. There are little seeds of a breakout -- PX improving slightly, GB% decreasing, Spd improving -- but you shouldn't be paying for it in advance.

Jurickson Profar of the Rangers is a rookie, is in Triple-A, and is blocked at every position he plays. As talented as he is, even if he gets an opportunity, nothing says he'll take advantage. For the same price, you could grab Jed Lowrie of the A's or Eduardo Nunez of the Yankees, both of whom will contribute in 2012, and both of whom have some upside potential.

This space will not attempt to further dissuade you from drafting Angels outfielder Mike Trout; most of you have probably made up your mind already. Suffice to say that we are in agreement with the prevailing opinion that his 2012 is nearly impossible to repeat, and that his track record is otherwise so skimpy that drafting him in the first round or paying full price represents an unacceptable risk.

If you studiously avoid anyone on this list, start with Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton, whose downside is significant. Start with his home park: the move from Texas to LA is expected to lower his home runs by about 30% -- would GMs be chasing after him like this if he had hit 33 HR in 2012? On top of that, his hr/f was far too high, even taking into account the ballpark effects. And he logged his highest AB total in four years. We recommend a bathroom break when he comes up for bid.

Hoping for a rebound from Toronto's Jose Bautista? So is everyone else, it seems. GMs are paying for a repeat of 2011. It could happen, but both 2011 and 2012 were driven in part by outsized hr/f. And then there's his wrist. Wrist injuries tend to linger, and even though he's looked good in the spring, it's an added risk. Which makes the price too high.

Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates is a widely respected player and an almost universally agreed-upon first-round pick. So what gives? Not much, really, though there are nagging doubts. Let's start with his 40-point BA outperformance in 2012, which is somewhat reflected in his 2013 projection. His 19% hr/f was out of line with his 140 PX, as well. GMs are bidding on 2012, while BHQ sees some regression. So some caution is deserved.

Braves outfielder Jason Heyward is probably the poster boy for the All-Avoid team. We expect him to be good. Very good. As does everyone else. But as one eminently wise columnist put it "The right strategy is to take him a round or so early based on his potential to outperform, not to take him at a place where he'd have to significantly outperform [his history] just to justify the draft slot." He may earn $26 the market is paying in 2013, but that would be a major breakout for him. Don't ever pay full price for breakout potential; it leaves you with nowhere to go but down.

Part of second baseman Ian Kinsler's outsized valuation is due to the weakness at 2B this year, surely. But his 655 AB from 2012 are not likely to be matched. That makes his power drop even less palatable. Sure, a rebound is likely in that department, but paying for 2011 is not a good idea.

We expect Tim Lincecum of the Giants to be better than he was in 2012. And while last year was due in large part to bad luck, his Ctl trend is a major concern. While we like to discount spring stats, his 7 BB in 10.2 IP gives us additional concern. Right now, he's fit only for reserve duty until he earns our trust again.

Edwin Jackson is now a Cub, and is probably more valuable in "real" baseball than in fantasy. MLB teams need pitchers they can rely on for 200 IP as long as the ERA is reasonable. Fantasy GMs need a higher standard. While his skills looked very good in the second half, it was really just a huge August that tipped the scales. With little reason to project a breakout, he's endgame fodder at best.

Jon Lester's 2012 xERA says a correction is due, but he still jumped a half run from his 2011 number. With a third straight season of Dom decline, a huge rebound is hard to project. Perhaps being reunited with John Farrell (former pitching coach, now manager) will help, but there's no need to go overboard. His 2013 projection already has all of that factored in.

Continuing a theme, we have the Mets' Matt Harvey, another player for whom GMs are ready to pay for a breakout. He has great stuff, for sure, but control issues can undo a pitcher very easily, and he bordered on a scary 4.0 Ctl in 2012. His xERA warns against sustaining his 2012 pace. He's promising, but the price has to be right.

A second young hurler, Jarrod Parker of the Athletics, has definite breakout potential. A 3.0 Cmd in the second half of 2012 shows that. Yet, like most young pitchers, he's not without risk. We won't quibble with paying a premium for him, but it seems a bit high.

We're a bit surprised he's not higher on this list, but Toronto right-hander R.A. Dickey is still going for more than he probably should. There are really no comps for his knuckle-fastball, so we're stuck with generalizations. He's definitely a candidate to regress, for one, and moving from the Citi Field to the Rogers Centre, even with depleted teams in Boston and New York, won't help.

Bruce Rondon of the Tigers is being treated like a closer by GMs, but he's never pitched in a major league game, let alone closed one out. And now he's in Triple-A (and the BHQ projection remains pretty much the same). For now, at least, you need to relegate him to reserve-only status.

GMs (and the Red Sox) seem undeterred by Joel Hanrahan's red flags in 2012, specifically his 5.4 Ctl, which only got worse as the season wore on. This puts him at 4.0+ Ctl in three of the past five seasons, so can we really trust his 2010-2011? We probably all know the answer to that.

Based on history, we can expect at least half of today's closers to lose their closer role before the season's end. Looking at Seattle's Tom Wilhelmsen's 2012 BPV, you'd say "not him." But his 2H BPV of 72 hardly inspires confidence. As the Baseball Forecaster says, "he's a risky option at a volatile position." We'll leave it at that.

Movers and Shakers

Finally, here's a list of players who have seen their ADP jump or fall by a round or more over the last month. The list does not include obvious changes like injuries, demotions, or loss of the closer role. Positive values mean the player has moved up in the rankings, while negative values mean they've dropped. 'Cause you need to know this stuff.

Player                      Change in ADP
=========================   =============
Scott Kazmir (LHP, Cle)            87
Mitchell Boggs (RHP, StL)          44
Nolan Arenado (3B, Col)            40
Domonic Brown (OF, Phi)            38
Bobby Parnell (RHP, NYM)           27
Jose Veras (RHP, Hou)              26
Leonys Martin (OF, Tex)            25
Lance Berkman (1B, Tex)            22
Alex Cobb (RHP, TB)                18
Andrew Cashner (RHP, SD)           18
Jedd Gyorko (3B, SD)               17

Corey Hart (1B, Mil)              -15
Carlos Lee (1B, Mia)              -16
Drew Storen (RHP, Was)            -21

Good drafting, and don't overpay!

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