2018 Fantasy Baseball Busts: Don't chase career years from Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas

There are a lot of different ways to come up with a list of busts, but most of my favorites all need to take into account where a player is being drafted. That's not something we have good data on at all in January, so for this version I'm giving you bust candidates. How do you avoid these bust candidates? Let's talk through some examples.

  1. Don't chase career years. Did you buy Bitcoin in December when it hit $19,000? Then you know what I mean. (Yes, I hope this joke ages poorly). Certainly players break out and establish new career norms, but that happens a lot more often at 24 than it does at 28. Be weary of paying full price for a guy who just did something he's never done before.
  2. Avoid the old dudes. Father Time is undefeated. Old players get hurt more often and are far more susceptible to a sudden drop off. Below I'll discuss some of the old dudes you should be avoiding.
  3. Don't buy into pitchers. TINSTAAPP* is one of my favorite acronyms, but you could even remove one of the Ps as Chris Towers has suggested. I'm especially skeptical of pitchers that fit into category 1 as well.

*There's No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect

Now that you know how to spot/avoid bust candidates, let's talk about 15 I'm concerned about right now. This list will evolve and become more definite as we gather ADP data.

Don't Bet On The Career Year
Eric Hosmer Kansas City Royals 1B
I'm no believer in Eric Hosmer's "every other year" history moving forward, but it does offer a simple explanation for a bust prediction. Just look at his wRC+ over his career: 113, 80, 120, 98, 124, 102, 135. It's pretty clear there's a down year coming right? But seriously, Hosmer just set a career high in HR/FB rate (22.5 percent) despite a hard contact rate below 30 percent. He still can't pull the ball in the air. His .318 average was mostly a product of a career-high .351 BABIP. Unless Hosmer signs with a great offense in a great hitter's park, you should expect a significant drop off in 2018. 
Mike Moustakas Kansas City Royals 3B
Hosmer's (former?) teammate Mike Moustakas has a really strange profile. He doesn't walk. He doesn't run. He doesn't really strike out. And until last year he hadn't really shown a lot of power. He just kind of was. Well, the power finally showed up in his age-28 season and Mosutakas cranked out 38 home runs with a 31.9 percent hard contact rate. He was the fifth player in the past 10 years to hit that many home runs with a hard contact rate below 33 percent. None of the other four hit more than 27 long balls in the following year. Moustakas is likely to see his home run total fall, and he doesn't do much else to soften the landing.
Marcell Ozuna St. Louis Cardinals LF
If you were going to believe in a breakout, believing in a 26 year-old who had a 39 percent hard contact rate is not a bad place to start. That's my way of saying I wouldn't fault you for buying into Marcell Ozuna's career year. That being said, he just increased his career high in home runs by 60 percent and RBI by 46 percent. His batting average was 43 points higher than it's ever been, and his BABIP was 28 points higher than his career average. I don't really believe anyone will be drafting Ozuna like the top-five OF he was in 2017, but even expecting top-12 production could be a mistake. I'd expect something more like Domingo Santana's 2017, when he was the No. 20 OF.
Jonathan Schoop Baltimore Orioles 2B
I'll give Jonathan Schoop this: He shows up. Schoop has missed just two games over the past two years combined. And last year he was actually good. Still, we're talking about a guy with a career .300 OBP, a walk rate below four percent and a wRC+ of exactly 100. He's fine. If you don't get a 2B in the first dozen rounds and he's still around, that's a fine bonus. Unfortunately he's going to be drafted like a top eight option and that's drafting him at his ceiling. Expect Schoop's average will drop back around .270 and his run production number will decrease as well. If the HR/FB rate falls, you may not have a top-12 2B. 
Robbie Ray Arizona Diamondbacks SP
As I talked about in my breakout column, Ray was the highest ranked pitcher in points leagues below 175 innings. That's both praise and a warning sign. In 2016, Ray was really unlucky. He had a 3.76 FIP and a 4.90 ERA. Well, he got some needed regression and then some. Last year his FIP was a very familiar 3.72 but his ERA was 2.89. What does this mean? Well, we should probably expect an ERA around 3.70. And that means he'll need a lot more than 162 innings to be a top 15 starting pitcher in points leagues. Don't bet on Ray getting that lucky again.
Old Dudes
Nelson Cruz Seattle Mariners DH
It's actually in my contract that I have to include Nelson Cruz in my busts each year. So far that hasn't worked out so great. Cruz has three straight seasons in Seattle with at least 39 home runs and an OPS+ over 140. He doesn't have fewer than 645 plate appearances in any of those seasons. But he's going to turn 38 years old this year. David Ortiz, Barry Bonds and Edgar Martinez are the only hitters to post a 140 OPS+ or better after their 38th birthday since 1974. Adrian Beltre would have joined that list last year, but he missed almost half the year with a calf injury. Those things happen when you're 38.
Adrian Beltre Texas Rangers 3B
Adrian Beltre is a year older than Cruz and played just 94 games in 2017. He also hit the cover off the ball once he got healthy, but it's fair to wonder if he can do that again for a full season at his age. I would bet not. Third base is one of the deepest positions in Fantasy. You don't need to accept this type of risk to get Beltre's upside.
Ryan Braun Milwaukee Brewers LF
Ryan Braun is relatively young in actual years compared to the first two names on this list. But in terms of wear and tear Braun has one of the oldest bodies in baseball. The Brewers outfielder hasn't topped 140 games since 2012 and only played 104 last year. We're at the point where we should legitimately look at 560 PA as Braun's ceiling and his floor (a season-altering injury) seems more likely than most. Braun has already seen one drop off from his true peak, barely topped an .820 OPS last season. That's not good enough when he's essentially a part-time player now.
Robinson Cano Seattle Mariners 2B
I actually think there's a decent chance that Cano bounces back in 2017. But, you can't write a bust candidates column where you rail against old dudes, and leave out the 35 year-old 2B who just posted his lowest wRC+ in nine years. So what went wrong for Cano? Well, I think based on batted ball contact he was really unlucky last year. But, one of his biggest assets has been reliability (he's plated at least 150 games in 11 straight years). It's hard to count on reliability at his age, especially for a middle infielder.
Ian Kinsler Los Angeles Angels 2B
Ian Kinsler is another 35 year-old 2B with good batted ball data coming off a terrible 2017. But he has a couple of asterisks. For one thing, it sure looks like Detroit's batted ball readings were hot last year. Secondly, he's been dealt to the Angels, where he'll hit in one of the worst parks in baseball for right handed hitters. Sure, there's a chance Kinsler stays healthy and leads off in front of Mike Trout and Justin Upton all year. If he does that and gets back to his career .342 OBP he's going to score a ton of runs. But there are plenty of reasons to doubt the Angels will be that fortunate.
There's No Such Thing As A Pitcher
Danny Duffy Kansas City Royals SP
I have to take some of the blame on this one. I had Duffy as a top 30 starting pitcher early in the rankings pitcher.  Why? He's a 29 year-old with a career 3.98 FIP and 7.8 K/9. He's thrown more than 160 innings once in his professional career and he's never approached 200. He will pitch for what looks like it will be a very bad Royals team that no longer has Lorenzo Cain chasing down fly balls in center field. The only thing Duffy has going for him is a big park. That's not enough. Duffy is more of a streamer than a lineup fixture.
Alex Wood Los Angeles Dodgers SP
When Alex Wood is good, he's phenomenal. But man, has he had trouble with consistency and health. Last year, he got up to 152 innings and was phenomenal when he wasn't on the disabled list. But his finish in Fantasy was more indicative of the fact he went 16-3 and outperformed his FIP by more than a half a run. The Dodgers aren't going to change the SP approach that has worked the past couple of year, so I would expect at least one mystery DL trip for Wood, if not a couple. And like any pitcher (and probably more than most) Wood could suffer a significant injury. If he doesn't I would expect 170 innings of a mid-3s ERA. That's a quality Fantasy starter, but not a top-24 pitcher unless he has another remarkable W-L record. 
Kyle Hendricks Chicago Cubs SP
I'm not taking credit for calling Kyle Hendricks a bust last year. While his numbers were down because of injury, he still exceeded my expectations; we'll take a 3.03 ERA and 1.19 WHIP from anyone. The thing is, Hendricks still had a 3.88 FIP last year and saw his walk numbers go up and his strikeout numbers go down. He now has a 3.49 FIP over the last two seasons with just 8 K/9. Considering his difficulty pitching deep into games, that's not the profile of a top 30 starting pitcher. And before you start to think that Hendricks will always beat his FIP, remember 2015, when he had a 3.95 ERA and a 3.36 FIP.
James Paxton Seattle Mariners SP
James Paxton has teased us with his potential for sometime, and last year it looked like he was finally delivering. You can even throw in 2016 and see that Paxton (when he's been healthy) has been an outstanding pitcher. The problem is the health, and we really have no reason to expect anything more than 160 innings at this point. Could he have the Robbie Ray or Alex Wood season from 2017? Absolutely, but unfortunately his draft position is going to demand he hit that ceiling. 
Michael Fulmer Detroit Tigers SP
Coming into last year I kind of thought Michael Fulmer was the anti-Paxton. Sure, he didn't have huge upside, but man, was he safe. Of course, that was a ridiculous thing to think after 159 major league innings, and Fulmer showed why. His strikeout rate dropped to 6.2 per nine innings and he proved not-at-all safe, missing the final month of the season with an elbow injury. It's so hard for a pitcher like Fulmer, who doesn't strike anyone out, to be a success in today's baseball. it's even harder to be a reliable Fantasy starter. On a bad team, without the illusion of safety, I can't imagine trusting him to be a top-40 starter.
Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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