Name recognition and surprise performances produce overvalued fantasy baseball
players. Drafting players without much room for growth can sacrifice profit
potential and keep your fantasy baseball team from maximizing value. Properly
positioning peaked and downward-moving assets will minimize your risk.
Buster Posey, C, San
If you miss out on the top backstops in an NL-only (or AL-only) league - especially those requiring two - you aren't thrilled with your choices. That explains the zealous pursuit of Posey, one of baseball's top prospects, but it's not justifiable. Most managers consider him a top-12 choice at the position.
Posey has a long way to go in many respects - mostly at the dish, but also behind it - before he's a legit fantasy contributor. How quickly folks forget the lesson of Matt Wieters, a more talented and less risky venture in 2009. San Fran is content with Bengie Molina for a sizable portion of 2010.
Besides, the Senior Circuit houses several intriguing catchers with legit upside and much greater chance of delivering. Most of them are usually available after Posey.
1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Only an other-worldly being would be a better hitter - maybe - but Pujols' back issues have gone on just a tad too long. The Cardinals don't seem overly worried, but there's nothing productive, from their perspective, that can come from public concern.
The club is extra cautious with their superstar player because, in ST, it can afford to be. Don't take back problems lightly, though. The overwhelming assumption from fantasy baseball players is that there is no reason to be worried. History, in fantasy baseball or any other realm, has told us that when faith is widespread, we are at our most vulnerable.
In 162 games apiece, Pujols is likelier to be more productive than Hanley Ramirez. Couple position scarcity with mild worry about Pujols' back, and you can place them on equal ground. You might even consider someone like Alex Rodriguez, Chase Utley or Ryan Braun now. In an OBP and SLG league, where those stats dry up more quickly in the middle infield, one can easily make the argument for Hanley.
Pujols can only burn one in 10, 12 or 15 people in a league, so it's easy to avoid thinking about this conundrum. If Pujols reacts well to his latest treatment, you don't have to give it another thought. It's not that he's no longer the No. 1 pick. However, at this stage, you can no longer say that there is no room for debate, if you were convinced otherwise beforehand.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, San Diego Padres
A-Gon has hit 30, 36 and 40 homers in the past three seasons, respectively. Imagine what if he didn't play half of his games at PETCO Park. If you draft him with such aspirations, though, you're not practicing sound logic. SD has no incentive to trade him for anything less than a goldmine. He's cheap and has a 2011 club option.
The Friars provided scarce RBI opportunities and little protection. In the second half, opposing pitchers treated baseballs like their own children and Gonzalez like the plague. He's an extremely talented hitter. This offense may improve a bit. But there, he can't get much better. As a top-30 pick, he must be more than outstanding or dealt just to have a shot to justify the choice.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
Scarcity in the middle infield reduces more and more each season when examining
margins compared to other positions. Tulowitzki is often the second shortstop
drafted in mixed leagues, in the second round. In the first few rounds, you
must draft stable production. It's unsafe to expect him to produce at
Don't draft A-Gon hoping for a trade
Tulo is a great hitter with a blossoming skill set. He bloomed up last year
(.297-32-92, with 20 steals). That's an incredible jump from the season before,
despite not so drastic differences in his indicators. The speed was unprecedented.
He's a maturing player who's not quite in his prime. Don't be too quick to draft
him as an elite player.
Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Isn't this the same joker
who took Kemp at No. 6 in K-BAD and voted
for him over Ryan "Mr. Dependable" Braun in the Debate Series? Real men
admit when there's an extremely unlikely possibility that they could be wrong.
Kemp grew tremendously last year, but he's 25. His 2009 line isn't his baseline. His contact rate continues to climb, but he still puts bat on ball noticeably less than 80 percent of the time. He's a slump risk.
Kemp also landed a pretty deal that bought out two arbitration years, and he spent the offseason gallivanting with Rihanna. Youth plus dough plus fame often equals complacency. Kemp's ceiling is sky-high, but so is that of his first-round brethren. Which are likelier to hit theirs? He's a safer mixed choice at the turn, at least.
Michael Bourn, OF, Houston
Bourn perked up tremendously in the OBP department, which obviously substantiated his viability as a stolen base source. Two reasons stand out: (1) his increase in walk frequency, and (2) his escalated line-drive percentage.
Bourn isn't out of the "BA liability" woods yet. No. 2 contributed to his lofty and likely to regress BABIP. He made contact less than 80 percent of the time.
Bourn is a classic one-category contributor whose skills don't ensure that he'll perform well enough to contribute in that category consistently. Many fantasy baseball drafters think he's a mixed top-100 player, though. They can find other strong base-stealing outfielders several rounds or more later.
Brad Hawpe, OF, Colorado Rockies
He plays at Coors Field; he'll be a stud run producer forever, right? Hawpe's batting eye is slowly eroding, and his glorified platoon ability is being exposed. His outrageous BABIP against lefties in '08 now looks like a true fluke.
More bad news: a ghastly two-year flyball decline and a horrendous second-half drop-off in '09. Don't pass up rising or more stable commodities for name value, in both player and ballpark.
Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Let's ignore the Verducci Factor (101-inning jump in workload notwithstanding), because it's a big spike. He's 28, so the risk isn't nearly as large as if he were, say, 24. Waino's K/9 advancement puts him in an elite class of starters.
Reasons for skepticism: The right-hander finished third among qualifiers with an atypical 80.4 percent strand rate. Based on indicators, his ERA should have been good, but not sub-3.00 good. Oh yeah, and overuse is, in fact, a concern. Waino has the makings of a fantasy ace, but he won't repeat 2009. To justify that pick in the first five mixed rounds, though, he must.
Jair Jurrjens, SP, Atlanta Braves
Is Jurrjens primed for correction?
For two straight seasons, Jurrjens has put up good numbers despite a mediocre strikeout-to-walk rate. Naturally, then, this is just par for the course, right? He gave up even fewer homers per nine, and his ERA plunged to 2.60!
The differences between 2008 and 2009: a low average against on balls in play, a huge flyball spike and an unusually high percentage of base runners stranded - particularly for a pitcher who doesn't fan dudes too often.
Jurrjens' 2009 ERA should have looked more like his 2008 mark. Combine that with mild corrections in these indicators, and his mid-round price looks pretty high.
Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Houston Astros
This southpaw broke through in a major way last year: His K/BB rose above 3.00; his ERA fell to nearly 3.00; he maintained outstanding K/9 for a starting pitcher; he won 15 games; and he topped 200 innings for the first time in his career.
The Magic Wandy is old enough that a big jump in innings shouldn't a big issue. However, he was fortunate in many circumstances, as evidenced by his 79.4 percent strand rate. He hasn't solved his road problems yet. If he does, slight improvement; if not, regression. He's often drafted with pitchers whose ceilings are higher. He has pretty much reached his.
Randy Wolf, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
Given Wolf's medical history, you should already be cautious since he has averaged more than 200 innings in the past two seasons. The southpaw reached a new height in K/BB, but he sacrificed a few strikeouts in the process, and his left-on-base percentage was a too rosy 77.3. We're looking for something closer to 70.
Dodger Stadium suppresses homers for right-handed hitters, unlike Miller Park does. Wolf's flyball rate hit the wrong side of 40 after it was on a two-year dive. The fall of K production combined with a modest adjustment in his ERA and an increase in dingers allowed means Wolf is in for a little slide. Many pitchers selected near him carry some risk but have much greater ceilings.
J.A. Happ, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
"Unusually high strand rate" is the theme among several of KFFL's overvalued pitchers, and no hurler says "fluke" quite like Happ does. He posted the highest left-on-base percentage of all qualifiers. His walks-per-nine rate was also surprisingly good, given his past problems in that area, and his opponents' BABIP smells like it's covered with whiteout.
The youngster gives up too many flyballs to succeed, let alone survive, at Citizens Bank Park. Mix that with a likely increase in base runners allowed, and that dish won't be succulent. We've seen Happ's best-case scenario at this stage of his career. More upside resides below him.
Aroldis Chapman, P, Cincinnati Reds
Woo hoo! The hype machine keeps on rollin'. He throws 100! He strikes a ton of batsmen! He's not missing the plate! Chapman has also never faced the caliber of hitter he'll face in the majors on a consistent basis. One Spring Training outing against the Kansas City Royals doesn't count.
He has had control problems in international competition. Culture shock is
an immeasurable, intangible factor. He'll pitch at Great American Ball Park,
for the Reds, under the watch of manager Dusty Baker,
the burnout maker. He's far from certain to make the Opening Day roster. He
may not fit as a starter. He's no longer in the race for a rotation spot, reportedly
because of back spasms. The thing is they probably don't want to rush him.
Mixed league? Who cares, take a shot at the end. NL league? As your third pitcher? Hurler is deep in the Senior Circuit. Don't waste the pick.
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.