2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Javier Baez and Ozzie Albies top busts to avoid
It's not hard to make the playoffs if you just avoid these busts
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Everything is relative. Especially Fantasy Baseball busts. Too often people read the word 'bust' and assume the writer doesn't like the player or doesn't think he's good. With most of the players below that's not true at all. If anything, it's more your fault they're busts. At least if you're playing in the NFBC. That's because these busts are based on current NFBC ADP, and are players I expect will have a very difficult time living up to that ADP. They may be good, but they'll cost you too much for you to feel good about their production.
Javier Baez was awesome last year. A little too awesome, in fact. His 24 percent HR/FB rate was by far the highest of his career. His .347 BABIP was 10 points higher than his career norm. He stole almost twice as many bases as he ever has and demolished his career-highs in runs and RBI. Some of those counting stats are because he played 160 games for the first time ever, but it's still unwise to expect a repeat.
A reasonable expectation is that Baez loses about 20 points off his average from 2018 with five fewer home runs and 30-35 fewer runs plus RBI. He'll likely steal five fewer bases as well. He'll still be a very good player, but now you're looking at a 160-game projection that makes him a third-round pick, not the borderline first round pick he currently is. And that's just the reasonable expectation if his skill gain in 2018 was real. It could be worse.
I'm not particularly fond of taking the saves leader from the year before. Reliever sample sizes are too small and they have too little control over the most important number. But it's especially true with the ADP of Edwin Diaz this year.
He's going a full round before the No. 2 closer (Blake Treinen), two rounds before Craig Kimbrel, and 40 picks before Brad Hand. While I don't really have much concern that Diaz will be very good again in 2019, I have no faith he'll be significantly better than any of those guys. Use your fourth-round pick on a starter or a hitter and take another top-five closer a few rounds later.
Eugenio Suarez looks like a star moving into his into his prime after 2018. He hit 34 home runs, drove in 104 runs and maintained a .283 batting average. All were career-highs. Even the peripherals (48 percent hard contact, eight percent soft) looked elite. So what's the problem? We had 1,900 plate appearances saying Suarez was not this good as a hitter.
I'm not saying his step forward can't be real, but none of the projections seem to buy it and his ADP demands it. I would not expect Suarez to be a plus in batting average or runs, and he's not going to steal enough bases to matter. If you're drafting him the fifth round, you're really just hoping he maintains the 23 percent HR/FB rate from 2018. That's not a bet I'm willing to make.
A year ago Ozzie Albies was in everyone's breakout column, and he made us look really smart for about three months. He went into the All-Star Break with an .834 OPS, 20 home runs and nine stolen bases. Then it all fell apart. In the months of August and September he had an OPS below .650.
As a whole, it was still a successful age 21 season. He hit 24 home runs and scored 104 runs at one of the weakest positions in Fantasy. But most of his running happened at the top of the lineup and now he's slated to hit in the bottom half of the order. That will hurt his run production and likely his steal attempts. Albies needs both to justify a fifth-round pick.
Miguel Andujar is another bottom-half-of-the-order hitter with an ADP that doesn't make much sense to me. His .297 average in 2018 was 15-20 points higher than what we should expect in 2019, and it's likely he hits fewer home runs as well. If that's not enough to deter you, it will be difficult to match last year's 175 runs-plus-RBI in his slot in the order. Finally, with his terrible defense it's not hard to imagine his playing time shrinking, especially if the team signs Manny Machado.
It's way too early to say Madison Bumgarner isn't ever going to regain his form from pre-2017. But he sure hasn't the past two seasons. He's struck out just 210 batters in 240.2 innings since the start of 2017. His swinging strike rate fell to 9.2 percent last year as his SIERA ballooned to 4.42.
Due to a great home park and his ability to pitch his way out of jams, Bumgarner has still posted a good ERA the past two years. It's just difficult to believe he'll be able to keep that up. Besides, a low ERA isn't worth as much when you aren't pitching as deep into games. There's significant risk that Bumgarner implodes in 2019, and it's very hard to see the upside.
Unlike Bumgarner, this has very little to do with Marcell Ozuna's recent performance. While 2018 was a down year, the peripherals cast him as one of the most unlucky hitters in baseball. Under normal circumstances I'd be calling him a bounceback candidate.
But the circumstances aren't exactly normal. Ozuna chose to rehab from his offseason shoulder surgery in the Dominican Republic instead of at the team's facility in Florida. While they've expressed optimism about him being ready for spring training (and he did show up in Florida early), they've also been short on details. He's still not full strength as of the middle of February.
When and if we hear something indicating full clearance for Ozuna, I'll feel more at ease. Until then, I'm fearing a slow start for a hitter who need his power to justify his ADP.
It's been a wild ride for Jonathan Villar the past three seasons. In 2016 he broke out in a big way, hitting .285 with 62 steals and 19 home runs. In 2017 his batted ball luck disappeared and with it, his steady playing time. Last year looked much the same until he was dealt to the Orioles. In Baltimore he played every day and stole 21 bases in 54 games while adding eight home runs.
So what will it be in 2019?
Assuming Villar plays every day, I'd assume he'll be a good-to-great source of steals. I'm not confident in much more than that. He owns a career 27 percent strikeout rate, 31 percent hard-contact rate, and 56 percent ground ball rate. He was very close to those same numbers last year. That's a profile of a definitively unproductive hitter.
If you need a steals source and don't care about his other numbers I'd just as soon draft Billy Hamilton long after Villar is taken.
Mike Foltynewicz took a big step forward in 2018. He set career-bests in ERA (2.85), WHIP (1.08) strikeouts (202) and wins (13). I believe almost none of it. He was helped greatly be a .251 BABIP-against (career .303) a 77 percent strand rate (career 73) and a 9.6 percent HR/FB rate (career 11.7). I'm not even sure his 3.77 SIERA is a fair expectation in 2019 because his jump in strikeout rate did not come with a big jump in swinging strike rate.
Even with all of those things in his favor, Foltynewicz barely averaged six innings per start and posted the highest walk rate (9.1 percent) of his career. Simply put, I don't want him on my roster this year as anything more than an end-of-the-rotation arm. There's no way I'd spend a single-digit round pick on him.
Shohei Ohtani was much better as a hitter and a pitcher than I expected last year. It's terrible he was injured in the process and we won't get to see him pitch in 2019. But there's a reason he qualifies as a bust despite having an ADP at the end of the 12th round.
In Ohtani, you're getting a part-time DH who won't be ready until some time in May. How much can that really be worth? Especially in leagues where you have to set your lineup once per week.
I'd expect him to sit against left-handed pitchers and he may miss a few games against righties as he works his arm back from Tommy John surgery. That means four-to-five games per week. And all of this is assuming he has the same power he did once he's officially cleared to play.
I have selected Ohtani once this year already, but it was in the 25th round of a 12-team Roto league. I certainly wouldn't want to take him in the first 150 picks.
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