I don't want Eduardo Nunez this year, and neither do you.
He's one of the more obvious regression candidates coming off a 2016 in which he ranked eighth and fifth at shortstop in Head-to-Head points and Rotisserie leagues despite having never before performed like a viable major-league starter. In fact, it may have already started in his half-season with the Giants. He hit only .244 with a .654 OPS after the All-Star break, after all.
But just because we all know to avoid him doesn't mean we all will or even can. In fact, I dare say some of us will be relieved to draft him if and when that time comes.
He's just too perfect a fit for too many situations.
Or at least his idealized version -- the one we saw last year -- is. That one hit 16 home runs and stole 40 bases ... as a shortstop.
Actually, I emphasized the wrong part. Shortstop isn't so lacking in viable bats these days. It's still the weakest infield position and so Nunez's eligibility there still adds to his value, but it's not the reason you won't be able to live without him on Draft Day. No, what I meant to say is that as a shortstop, he hit 16 home runs ... and stole 40 bases.
Yes, the steals are vital in Rotisserie and other category-based formats -- scarcer than any one position. And so while points league owners may be well advised to steer clear of Nunez, a Rotisserie owner may have no choice.
Let me lay it out for you. Last year, only 14 players stole 30 or more bases. Here's the leaderboard:
Seven of those 14 -- Villar, Marte, Segura, Turner, Goldschmidt, Altuve and Trout -- went off the board in the first four rounds of our latest Rotisserie mock draft. And that's typical. None of them were reaches or anything. But that means only six remain for the final 19 rounds, and not all are exactly mixed league-viable.
Davis, Dyson and Jankowski can all run, but they don't excel in any other way offensively. So if you're so hard up for steals that you have to resort to one of them, you're sacrificing in everything else. Those three went undrafted in our latest mock, so together, the 12 of us decided it just wasn't worth it.
As for Gordon, Hamilton and Perez, the first two went in Rounds 5 and 7, so you'd still need to be on the ball to draft one of them, not to mention willing to sacrifice a critical source of something else to secure an early advantage in steals. Perez went in Round 19 -- and his versatility and so-so pop do give him a leg up on the Dyson-Jankowski group -- but seeing as he doesn't have a job all to himself, he may be just as big of a reach.
Which leaves us with Nunez, the last great hope for stolen bases before the real tradeoff begins. And he can also help out with home runs. And you don't have to pass up a late-round outfield sleeper to fit him into your lineup. It's all just a little too inviting.
But we know better, right?
You'd think so. You'd think we'd navigate those first few rounds in a way that allows us to resist the Siren's seduction, which doesn't necessarily mean drafting one of those elite seven with 30 or more steals last year. Breaking the category down that way was mostly for illustrative purposes. Obviously, the 14 who stole 30 or more last year won't be the 14 who steal 30 or more this year, and it may not be 14 but 16 or 18 or 10. Also, a certain number of players will steal 20-29 bases, and if you load up on enough of those, you can still compete in the category.
But we could go through the same process with that next tier of base stealers, and it would yield the same result. The players who could rise to the 30-steal threshold this year (or just miss) are pretty much all early-rounders themselves. We're talking Mookie Betts, A.J. Pollock, Charlie Blackmon, etc. The steals potential is so inherent to their value that it drives up the cost. Among the players who stole just 20 bases last year -- so a much lower threshold -- only Jose Ramirez, Odubel Herrera, Jose Peraza, Elvis Andrus and Keon Broxton -- went between Round 7 (Billy Hamilton) and 19 (Dee Gordon) of our draft.
Have you talked yourself into Nunez yet?
Just wait. If you're not intentional about securing steals early, you'll find yourself in that boat, sailing toward the intoxicating melody of what was rather than what will be.
Because, hey, maybe they're one and the same. If a player does it once, it's within the range of possible outcomes. You could tell yourself he got tired late, being unaccustomed to everyday duty, or that he needed some time to adjust to the NL. You could point to his low strikeout rate as evidence of some intrinsic hitting ability or to his elevated fly-ball rated as validation of his power breakthrough. And these points are all valid.
But what you're denying yourself by waiting until the middle rounds to secure steals, where it's Nunez or bust, is the luxury of discernment. You can't avoid not to believe in Nunez, which is the definition of helplessness.