Draft prep: Overvalued and overrated
You hear that chant in college football stadiums across the country, and it makes sense. When an opponent comes to your team's stadium and loses badly, you want it to leave thinking it never had a chance in the first place.
But you never hear that chant in the draft room on Fantasy Baseball Draft Day. No, you wouldn't want to let your opponent know he just took a middle-of-the-road player two or three rounds too early, buying into the hype of a flashy scouting report or the major-market buzz. You'd want to keep it to yourself, trying your best to suppress a smile as you congratulate him on his "smooth" acquisition of the "trendy" player.
So to help you increase those moments when you snicker at everyone else (and decrease those moments when everyone else snickers at you), I've constructed a list of my overrated and overvalued players for 2008, even giving their average rounds of selection in 12-team, mixed league, Head-to-Head and Rotisserie leagues. These selections, as can go without saying, in no way reflect the views of my colleagues, many of whom would disagree -- and quite vehemently -- over some of my picks. Like you, I'm simply a Fantasy owner trying to put myself in the best position to succeed on Draft Day.
So go ahead. Let everyone else take these guys as early as they've gone so far, and sit back and laugh when they do. Don't worry -- it'll be our little secret.
Troy Tulowitzki , SS, Colorado (Roto: Rd. 4, H2H: Rd. 4)
I expect to get a few nasty e-mails over this one, and I understand why. The kid almost won the NL Rookie of the Year in 2007 -- and deservedly so, hitting 15 home runs and posting a .531 slugging percentage in the second half. But here's the rub: He also struck out 130 times.
Now, that number might not mean much to those of you who play in leagues that don't count strikeouts, but it means something to me, particularly since we're talking about a young player who hasn't seen much major-league pitching and who doesn't have much of a track record. That high number of strikeouts -- which remained fairly consistent throughout the season, mind you -- suggests Tulowitzki has some holes in his swing that might have made his .291 average last year something of a statistical anomaly. He might have just gotten lucky by avoiding a prolonged cold streak, and if you take out his one prolonged hot streak -- the entire month of August -- he batted only .280 for the season.
Could Tulowitzki build on his rookie season by batting .300 and approaching 30 home runs in 2008? Absolutely, he could. I don't discount the possibility, and I wouldn't fall out of my chair if it came to pass. But because of his approach at the plate, I think he could just as easily take a step back, batting .270 with 20 home runs, which, when you stop and think about it, rates him at about the same level as J.J. Hardy .
I'm not saying Tulowitzki doesn't deserve to start in Fantasy, and I certainly don't mean to suggest Hardy should go before him on Draft Day. But I do believe the degree of risk on Tulowitzki doesn't justify a fourth-round draft pick. Let someone else have him.
Robinson Cano , 2B, N.Y. Yankees (Roto: Rd. 3, H2H: Rd. 4)
So you're looking for a second baseman, and you come across a guy who gives you pause. He's never hit 20 homers. He's never stolen 10 bases. He's never scored 100 runs, driven in 100 or even reached base at a .375 clip. Yet you decide to take him, even ahead of guys with seemingly better statistics, including one who stole 50 bases last year, one who hit 31 home runs and two who went 20-20 in under 500 at-bats.
Why would you do such a thing? Personally, I have no idea.
But every day in Fantasy Baseball leagues across the country, people decide to take Robinson Cano ahead of Brian Roberts , Dan Uggla , Melvin Upton and Ian Kinsler . And while I could justify that move ahead of Roberts, who usually steals no more than 35 bases, or Uggla, who strikes out with frightening frequency and might never hit .260 again, I can't do the same ahead of Upton or Kinsler, who, like Cano, have only begun to show flashes of their potential.
Look, I know Cano hit .342 in 2006, and I know he hit .343 in the second half of 2007. But he also hit .274 in the first half. I'm not calling the guy a dud, and I think he'll rank among the best at his position this season, but by investing a third-round draft pick in him, you invest an awful lot in a guy who, apart from his off-and-on batting average, offers nothing more than above-average power. Wouldn't you rather wait until the eighth round to snag Kinsler, who might end up having the better year anyway?
Carlos Zambrano , SP, Chicago Cubs (Roto: Rd. 5, H2H: Rd. 3)
Fantasy owners refuse to see the writing on the wall for Zambrano, even though it'd hit them right in the face if they even halfway glanced at his season-by-season statistics.
The guy's half a step from a breakdown of Barry Zito proportions. His WHIP has risen by nearly two-tenths over the last three seasons -- from a career-best 1.147 in 2005, to 1.294 in 2006, to 1.333 last year -- and his ERA has gradually risen from 3.27 to 3.96 along with it. Even worse, his strikeouts dipped by 33 in 2007 -- hitting their lowest point since his first full season starting in 2003 -- even though he actually pitched more innings than in 2006. His walks have also increased to the point that he now routinely hands out over 100 free passes per season. So why don't more Fantasy owners notice? Probably because his wins have risen from 14 to 16 to 18 over that same three-year period, largely as a product of luck.
Zito had a similar fall from grace. Once a 200-strikeout pitcher who twice posted a WHIP under 1.200, Zito lost command of his pitches and suddenly became more hittable, his WHIP rising to 1.394 in 2004 and 1.403 in 2006. Ultimately, he became the 11-13 pitcher with 131 strikeouts and a 4.54 ERA that touched down in San Francisco last year. And I know Zito relies on deception more than the pure power of Zambrano, but warning signs are warning signs. You don't think Zambrano could have the same fate?
Listen, if you want to take Zambrano ahead of Aaron Harang or Roy Oswalt like the consensus right now -- or even John Lackey and Erik Bedard in Head-to-Head formats -- be my guest. But I personally wouldn't trust him as more than my No. 3 SP.
Joba Chamberlain , RP, N.Y. Yankees (Roto: Rd. 13, H2H: Rd. 12)
People love this guy, and I can't blame them. He has a funny name, and bugs stick to his neck. Good times.
But let's get real here. Chamberlain stands to begin the season as a setup man. You know setup men, right? Those guys that go widely undrafted in Fantasy?
I don't think Chamberlain should go undrafted in Fantasy because he has obvious potential and the Yankees plan to move him to the rotation eventually. We just don't know when. Meanwhile, people draft him ahead of more established starters like Adam Wainwright , Ted Lilly , Jeremy Bonderman , Ted Lilly and even teammate Phil Hughes . I can't say I understand it.
For as much as Chamberlain dominated out of the bullpen last year, we have yet to see him as a starting pitcher. Who knows? He might struggle in the role. And considering he won't start more than, say, 15 games -- and likely not until midseason -- you probably shouldn't invest more than a late-round flier on him, well after you've established the rest of your pitching staff.
Jacoby Ellsbury , OF, Boston (Roto: Rd. 13, H2H: Rd. 15)
When people heard the Johnny Damon comparisons, I think they covered their ears for eventually. Otherwise, I can't explain the trend of Ellsbury going as early as he does.
Let me set the record straight. Damon has power. Ellsbury does not. Sure, he could develop power someday, but the kid just got to the majors. He has yet to turn 25. He hit two homers in 436 minor-league at-bats last season. The fact that he gets drafted ahead of Josh Hamilton is like a bad dream.
And it doesn't end with Hamilton. Jeremy Hermida , Shane Victorino , Ken Griffey , Raul Ibanez and J.D. Drew all are going off the board after Ellsbury, even though the kid doesn't have the experience or statistical backing to suggest he'll perform better than any of them.
Does he have upside? Sure. Might he make good on it this year? Sure. But to what extent? He could hit .300, but he'll more likely hit .280. He could steal 40 bases, but he'll more likely swipe 25. He could launch a dozen homers, but he'll more likely hit between five and 10. And, on top of it all, he might lose a handful of at-bats to Coco Crisp if the Red Sox can't trade him in time. All things considered, how could you want Ellsbury as anything more than a fifth outfielder?
Jon Garland , SP, L.A. Angels of Anaheim (Roto: Rd. 21, H2H: Rd. 14)
When you draft Garland, you know exactly what you're getting -- a 4.50 ERA, a 1.350 WHIP, 210 innings and 115 strikeouts.
And a guy you'll probably cut four weeks into the season.
Garland has absolutely zero upside, which is fine for a Brandon Webb or CC Sabathia -- someone already good enough to lead your Fantasy staff -- but for a late-round draft pick, what's the point? As soon as a few breakout candidates emerge on waivers -- as they always do -- you'll cut a pitcher like Garland, so why not skip a step and avoid drafting him in the first place?
And in Round 14, we're not even talking about the middle rounds for Garland. He goes off the board ahead of Dustin McGowan , Jon Lester , Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez -- pitchers who might collect a few, you know, strikeouts.
And while wins come and go with the seasons, a strikeout is forever.
Then there's Derek Lowe , who is going off the board after Garland even though he has more strikeouts, a lower WHIP and a lower ERA in each of the last two seasons. Did I miss something? Did the Angels upgrade their offense so much in the offseason that Garland becomes a default 18-game winner?
Of course not. He could just as easily win 10-12 games, posting an average ERA and WHIP and a below-average number of strikeouts. You know what I say? No thanks.
Here's a quick look at a few other players currently valued too high on Draft Day:
Andruw Jones , OF, L.A. Dodgers (Roto: Rd. 8, H2H: Rd. 6): A lot of people point to his .222 average last year as a fluke, but he didn't get substantially better at any point during the season. After coming to the bigs at age 19 and banging his portly body around Turner Field for 11 seasons, he's likely already begun the downslide of his career. I wouldn't expect much more than a .250 average and 30 home runs from him. Frankly, I'm not so sure I wouldn't prefer Jose Guillen .
Huston Street , RP, Oakland (Roto: Rd. 9, H2H: Rd. 11): He is consistently going before Manny Corpas , Chad Cordero , Brad Lidge , Matt Capps and Joakim Soria , and he has more injury concern than all of them. And I know a lot of the guys I just listed pitch for bad teams, but have you seen Oakland's lineup and starting rotation this season? We're talking pity city.
Phil Hughes , SP, N.Y. Yankees (Roto: Rd. 14, H2H: Rd. 11): If you've made only 13 career major-league starts, you have to do a lot more than wear Yankee pinstripes for me to take you ahead of Adam Wainwright , Chad Billingsley , Ted Lilly , Dustin McGowan and Ian Snell . But maybe that's just me. Don't get me wrong: I like Hughes, but he has no sleeper potential in Round 11.
Nate Robertson , SP, Detroit (Roto: Rd. 21, H2H: Rd. 20): He's kind of like Garland in that his mediocre ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate have no upside, but at least he has a scary-good offense backing him. Still, I'll take a high-upside guy like Ubaldo Jimenez instead.
You can e-mail Scott your Fantasy Baseball questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to put Attn: Draft Day in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.We'll answer as many as we can.