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.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore
Age makes his stats a bit shakier, especially with his big drop last season.
How much can he change? He traded some speed for an uptick in power, which if
kept remains valuable from his position.
However, back issues this spring show just how risky he might become.
Stealing 30 bases is nothing to scoff at, but will he avoid running even more
if he keeps his flyball jump? Don't let a steals need blindly lead you to pick
him; assess the remaining second-base class in your draft and determine if further
steals drop-off from Roberts is acceptable.
Billy Butler, 1B, Kansas
Confident B-Rob keeps doing this?
Butler's second-half growth is exciting; some predict many of his 55 doubles
will transfer into home runs in 2010. However, he'd probably sacrifice some
of his clip. What if his average tanks and the power only improves minimally?
Butler still doesn't hit that many flyballs; his second-half improvement only
brought him up to decent levels.
Hype will probably prompt reaches. Avoid relying on him as your first baseman
in mixed. A rising hitter who hasn't yet hit 25 homers in a MLB season shouldn't
be a power cornerstone. Don't ignore more solid poppers. Of course, if you can
make him a CI, go for it.
Gordon Beckham, 3B, Chicago
His impending eligibility at second base is increasing his draft price. His
hot MLB debut showed his 20-homer power potential and his increased patience,
which is enticing at either infield position. The positional scarcity game sometimes
clouds the actual return of a player, though.
His minimal farm time increases the odds of slumps; it's hard to expect a similarly
torrid pace when MLB pitchers now have more time to figure him out. You'll have
to wait until he earns second base eligibility in most leagues, too. There's
definite upside to Beckham, especially in the midrange portion of these position
classes, but don't assume he'll grow exponentially. Temper your bid or snake
pick until options are thin at either spot.
Jason Bartlett, SS, Tampa
A large gap in the shortstop tier following Derek
Jeter usually starts with Bartlett. Options with more upside are often taken
after Bartlett, who himself is no source of stability. His line-drive rate jumped
to 26.0 percent last year, which inflated his typically sound but underwhelming
His flyball rate and HR/FB percentage were far above his career norms, which
swelled his power. The vet's contact and stolen base skills are steady but not
worth reaching for. Bartlett, 30, will have to repeat high, unforeseen levels
of power to match his price of somewhere around the top 100 mixed picks. In
most cases, you can wait on a shortstop that presents more upside than Bartlett,
who boasts a bigger risk of falling below his '09 production.
Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Minnesota
A 32-homer season will inflate your worth, especially if you topped 20 just
once otherwise in your career. Sure, his other productive homer year was in
'06 and was followed by a not-so-bad correction and an injury season.
Check out last year's 17.1 percent HR/FB, though. He has shown an affinity
for the long ball, but that's probably going to come down a bit, even if that
spike in flyballs is real. Cuddyer has a stable skill set and is a steady source
of acceptable run production, but you can't logically draft him expecting an
improvement on last year.
Miguel Tejada, 3B/SS, Baltimore
Drop-offs at shortstop and third base might prompt many to stretch a bit for
this veteran. Tejada proved he's still fantasy-relevant when he took a more
contact-oriented approach last year, ditching a big portion of his power. A
return to Camden Yards should help get some of that back, right?
Worth a King's ransom?
It might, but how much do you really want to pay to find out? He often goes
ahead of more promising options at the position that you're able to wait on.
If you're looking for uninspiring stability with maybe a few extra homers, that's
OK. If you can target more upside, don't bother with sticking blah in your shortstop
Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore
Markakis' power remains a labyrinth. His flyballs climbed significantly last
year, but his homer percentage on flyballs dropped substantially. His
stolen base totals also have tumbled since his 18-swipe 2007, and he failed
to even come close to repeating what looks like a flukish '08 walk rate. Southpaws
still give him trouble.
The 27-year-old's value is buoyed by his batting average and run production;
the latter has relatively safe harbor in Baltimore's lineup heart, but his clip
indicators, including his batting eye and liner percentage, are volatile.
His top-50 mixed value is a desperate plea for phantom homers. You can acquire
similar stat lines with more power later on or for more reasonable auction prices.
Outfield production is deep, after all. Let someone else take him there.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas
Hamilton saw a flyball increase in 2009 but struggled almost everywhere else. Injuries weren't frequent for him before last year, but though he's only 28, the abuse he put on his body off the field jeopardizes his recovery of on-field medical issues.
He got a late start to spring action due to a bruised shoulder and might take
longer than his mates to get back into form. This comes on the heels of a pinched
nerve in his back in '09. His mediocre batting eye makes it harder for him to
replicate his 2008 BA success. Reaching for Hamilton to make him part of your
core prevents you from taking more stabilized offensive production. You shouldn't
put yourself in that position during the first five mixed rounds, which is where
Hamilton is often going.
Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle
Hernandez's high groundball levels, his decreasing homer allotment and his
home park will help keep him in the position's upper echelon, but his top-five
mixed starter status is blind worship.
The monarch has worked like a serf: 190-plus innings in each of his last four
seasons, including a 38-inning jump from 2008 to 2009. His dominance went up
but still isn't elite. If the location on his sinking heat is off, he has more
to lose than more dominant arms. If his skills stumble, will he still be able
to carry a mediocre-at-best offense to 19 wins?
Not a closer. Not healthy, either.
The wear and tear on his talented but MLB-old 24-year-old arm removes some
luster from his single-year value. He's a low-end fantasy ace who'll come at
an inflated price with ample crash potential; it's often best to avoid throwing
the crown's treasure at someone who hasn't shown more than one year of elite
Cliff Lee, SP, Seattle Mariners
A mature arm moves to a much better park with an elite defense - a value ace, right? Hang on. Counting the '09 postseason, Lee has hurled 272 frames in the last two years, with a 126-inning jump coming from '07 to '08. He'll probably start the year on the DL because of an abdominal strain.
The mildly dominant Lee relies heavily on control, a prime target for failure with a tired arm. Will his surgically repaired foot bother him? If you're forced into drafting him as your mixed No. 1, be sure to bolster the rest of your staff quickly.
Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit Tigers
Potential for 200 strikeouts in a full season as a starter fuels Scherzer's value. The Arizona Diamondbacks shut him down after 30 starts to protect his arm last season. His jump of 114 1/3 MLB innings from his '08 workload to '09 brings up concern of him holding up.
Other reasons to temper the love for his K's: He moves to the American League, where you more often than not need a consistent third pitch to survive. Scherzer doesn't have one yet. Comerica Park is turning into a hitter-friendly environment.
There's a ton of upside here to make him a No. 3 or No. 4 pitcher - in fact, this writer has taken him as his No. 3 on occasion. However, you must mitigate the risk that comes with that boom potential and recognize his fall-off possibility. Grabbing Scherzer before or without backing yourself up with safer options leaves you exposed if he can't handle another full season as a starter.
Joba Chamberlain, SP, New York Yankees
Most of his success has come in the bullpen. He'll probably start the 2010 season there. This is a plus for his stuff; his fastball velocity dropped as a starter.
In the 'pen, Chamberlain has already proven he can offer what many hope Neftali Feliz will: a difference-making fantasy tweener. It's risky drafting pitching talent without a direct path to wins or saves, even with Joba's strikeout talent. You must assess your fantasy rotation's depth - and your need in wins and saves - before considering him.
He often goes within the first 200 mixed picks, which is too soon in most cases. Decide: Will his relief numbers benefit you more than a risky or boring starter? Are there more promising starters that offer similar skills that will you help you for more innings? You're probably better off taking him before dipping into the pool of relievers in waiting for saves or unsettled closer pictures - at least you're getting valuable bullpen skills from Chamberlain.
His value is more pronounced in AL leagues, where middle and setup relievers often are more pivotal; he's worth a selection in the middle rounds there if all closers are off the board and the starting pitching pool has little upside remaining.
Fernando Rodney, RP, Los
Angeles Angels of Anaheim
We're not arguing that there's instability in Angels
closer Brian Fuentes. Why would you draft a non-closer
before a few options that already have the job? ADP figures say that's happening.
Save totals often inflate a pitcher's value; Rodney is Exhibit A, or in his case, Exhibit BB. Rodney's peripherals suggest he doesn't provide comfort outside of the closer role. After all set stoppers leave the board, go ahead and speculate on him. Don't jump the gun and pass up relievers who already are lined up to close.
J.P. Howell, RP, Tampa
See: Fernando Rodney. Rafael Soriano is the entrenched closer, but many continue to pass up other established closers either. They probably think Howell has a hand in the job or are banking on a Soriano injury. Manager Joe Maddon is returning his former cavalcade of relievers to specialized roles. Plus, shoulder issues could keep Howell sidelined for as long as the first month of the season.
An increase in flyball percentage forewarns more homer problems, and Howell's bloated '09 strand rate is primed for a correction. His control isn't LIMA-friendly, either, despite his increasing dominance. Without save chances, he's no better at base level than pitchers you'd find on the waiver wire - and that refers to his deceivingly good '09. Howell remains the best speculative option from Tampa's 'pen, but that doesn't warrant him to be taken above the bottom tier of known closers.
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
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