Let me start with this statement.
I wouldn’t mind having any of these guys (except Adam Dunn) on my roster.
All of these players are worthy of a roster spot, but some have glaring weaknesses. In my personal opinion, I always gun for guys who are well rounded, four or five tool players who won’t kill you in any certain category. I absolutely hate it when a guy contributes nothing, or hurts me in a category. When they do, I stay away from them and put them in my personal “bust” category.
Everyone has different strategies for playing this silly game, but having a solid draft plan is paramount to winning the marathon that is a fantasy baseball season. My main strategy within drafting is to shoot for value and safety. I don’t overpay for the young guns that are rocketing up everyone else’s cheat sheet. In those situations the value is low and the safety net has been packed up and put in the circus train. Overpaying for the guy you want is absolutely fine in a draft or an auction, provided your strategy takes into account what you’re going to splurge on.
So what I have below are the eight infielders that I’m not going to have on my team this year. You can call them busts, but they might not be the stereotypical bust. What I feel is that these players are going to significantly under-perform as compared to where they are being drafted right now. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
It’s true that Tulo, when healthy, is one of the best players in major league baseball. The key phrase in that sentence is “when healthy.” Tulowitzki only played in 47 games last season due to an injured left groin that required surgery, and was seemingly on the mend and close to coming back for the better part of the last two months of the year. He did not return to the field last season. He also missed significant time due to a fractured wrist in 2010.
While I don’t hate Tulo’s skill set or what he brings to your fantasy team, I do hate where you need to draft him. He’s currently the 15th hitter selected in most early drafts with an ADP of 16.6. This means you’re going to have to spend a late first or early second round pick to nab a guy who didn’t play in the month of June, July, August or September. The scarcity of the shortstop position will make most people nervous, with Tulo, Jose Reyes and Starlin Castro as the unquestioned top three. If it were me, I would feel better taking Reyes (ADP 30.5) or Castro (ADP 33.7) a round later, while bulking up on a less risky bat in the second round.
Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
In five years in the majors, Longoria has had 22 or more home runs four times. That’s an awesome achievement in your first half decade. However, Longoria has also earned an “injury prone” label. Longoria has spent significant time in each of the last two seasons on the DL, including last year when he only appeared in 74 games.
Gone are the days in which Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton surrounded him in the lineup and bumped up his counting stats. Do you feel comfortable with the protection that Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce give Longoria? I don’t. His ADP puts him in the third round, which is a great value if this guy can stay on the field. The much less sexy names like Ryan Zimmerman and Brett Lawrie play in significantly better lineups and could provide the same spark at a big discount.
Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets
Ike Davis hit 32 home runs in 156 games last season. That’s nice power. It’s obviously big enough to vault Davis to an ADP of 121 (a 10th round pick in a 12-team league). Getting 32 home runs in the 10th round is seemingly great value right? Sure, but you’ve got to be willing to take the hit in the other categories. Davis only hit .227 last year and had an OBP of .308. Those numbers get you sent to the minors if you don’t hit 32 home runs. I tend to expect a lot more out of a guy who will supposedly hold down my 1B or CI position.
What’s more concerning with Davis is his home/road splits. He’s terrible at Citi Field. This is a big problem since that’s his home park. Last year he hit only 11 of his 32 home runs at Citi (this is after they moved the fences in) and had a batting average of .188. He struck out 76 times at home while totaling a combined 75 hits and walks. So the tenth round value for a guy who can’t hit in his home park, doesn’t seem so appealing now.
Jesus Montero, C, Seattle Mariners
Last season, Jesus Montero’s role was the DH. In some leagues he didn’t even gain catcher eligibility until near the mid-season mark. This year, manager Eric Wedge plans on using Montero as the full-time starting catcher. We shall see how long that lasts, as Montero is viewed as a defensive liability, but most fantasy leagues don’t care about that half of the inning. The problem is, Seattle is loaded with DH candidates. Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay should all see playing time at as the DH. This leaves Wedge with no choice but to start Montero behind the dish.
So Montero owners are going to need to hope for two things. First, that his body holds up to the wear and tear of catching more than double the amount he did last season (56 games). And second, that we see more of the post-All Star break Montero who hit .278 and only struck out 32 times (.245 and 67 Ks in pre-All Star action). Montero is currently listed as the ninth catcher off the board, but I would feel more comfortable with guys you could get later in the game like Brian McCann, Ryan Doumit and A.J. Pierzynski. All of which seem like safer bets and potentially better players than Montero.
Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
In a five year span from 2005 to 2009, Chase Utley played in 147 or more games four times, hit over .282 every year, and had 28 or more home runs and over 100 RBI in four of those five seasons. There was not a bad year in that stretch. Utley was money in the bank as his four consecutive Silver Slugger awards would tell you. “Was” is the key phrase there. Since the dawn of the 2010 season, the oft-injured Utley has not played in more than 115 games in a season (83 last year), has not hit for more than 16 home runs, 63 RBI and has topped out at a .275 average. He hasn’t hit for better than .259 in the last two years.
At this point his perceived value is based on name recognition alone. Utley is slated to be the 12th second baseman off the board, but I would argue that he should not be viewed as a starter, or even a platoon fantasy player. He has missed over 130 games in the last two seasons while on the DL with chronic knee problems that include patellar tendinitis and cartilage damage. It’s two years too late to jump off of the Utley bandwagon, but I’d rather stay off than risk wasting a mid-round pick on a guy who in all likelihood will miss at least 50 games this season. Dustin Ackley and Omar Infante bring a lot more upside to the table and can be had in the same tier of the draft.
Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
Another player from Philadelphia with an injury asterisk next to his name should be Ryan Howard. Howard’s epic tear of his Achilles’ tendon on the final at bat of the 2011 NLDS knocked him out of more than half of 2012. Many forgot that Howard fractured a bone in his toe at the tail end of 2012 and spent time on the DL in 2010 with ankle issues. So aside from his lower leg maladies, why should you avoid Howard? Declining batting average, slugging percentage, and hits in each of the last four seasons are throwing up Phillies’-red flags for me.
Let’s also take a look at his last seven years worth of home run totals (from 2006-2012): 58, 47, 48, 45, 31, 33, 14. He played over 140 games in each of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but his power decreased by nearly a third. At 33 years old, we need to ask ourselves what is more likely to happen, will Ryan Howard’s 6-4, 240-pound frame be nicked-up by foot and ankle injuries (as it has been for three straight years)? Or will he play a full-ish season and hit for more than 30 home runs again? My guess is that we’re looking at a nice chunk of DL time for Howard, which means I’m avoiding him along with the rest of the Subway endorsers (RG3 and Jared included).
Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox
The 24-year old Middlebrooks made the most of his early season call up with the Red Sox last season, hitting .316 with 6 home runs and 21 RBI in the month of May. What worries me is what happened after Memorial Day. His OPS in May (.922) declined to .836 in June, .785 in July and .673 in August. The hits and total bases declined significantly as pitchers gained film on him and he only drew 13 walks to 70 strikeouts in 283 plate appearances.
The other concern is the lineup that the Red Sox are putting together. While you can’t doubt the value of Pedroia, Victorino, Ellsbury and Ortiz, Middlebrooks is stuck in the middle of the order with a Mike Napoli (who struck out in 35% of his at bats last season) and Stephen Drew who hit .223 last year and .252 the year before. These players surrounding him in the order lead me to believe the counting stats that we enjoyed out of Middlebrooks’ May will not be the trend. He’s getting the bump in draft cost due to the Red Sox/East Coast bias, and I would much rather have the steady veteran presence of Michael Young or the upside of Kyle Seager or David Freese in my lineup.
Adam Dunn, 1B/DH, Chicago White Sox
I have an unnatural hatred towards Adam Dunn. At least I can admit it right? While those who love Dunn can cite his 38 or more home runs in four of the last five years, I can cite his 939 strikeouts in the last half decade. If strikeouts are a category in your league, you’re punting that category with Dunn on your team, so you might as well load up with as many free swinging power hitters as you can.
At 6-6 and 285 pounds, you’re not going to get anything out of Dunn in the steals category, but the fact that his average over the last two seasons hasn’t risen above .204 is frightening. In fact, in Dunn’s two seasons with the White Sox, he has collected a combined 176 hits and 138 RBI while striking out 399 times (including 222 times last season). If you can take the hit in every other category besides home runs, by all means draft Dunn. The liability of him actually killing your other categories keeps me at a great distance.