Picking busts for Fantasy Baseball is largely about value, which means it's hard to know exactly who you're fading until you know where players are going to be drafted. Because every player has a price I'm willing to pay for them, even if I don't necessarily love their prospects for the upcoming season.
It's all about finding the right values, and this more than most seasons has required some patience to see where prices are going to end up settling. So, heading into the final weekend of draft season is a great time to revisit my bust picks to see who I'm going to be avoiding for the 2022 season.
To start with, I've removed Freddy Peralta and Dylan Cease from my busts column that was published in March. Peralta was the easier call, because I just wasn't wholly invested in my case against him. I'm wary of buying in too fully on players coming off such massive breakouts, but ultimately, Peralta's price is too reasonable to fade – he's sitting at 52.9 in ADP over the last week.
That makes him the 18th pitcher and 15th start in NFC drafts and I just can't argue against that. There's probably a ceiling of around 180 innings here, but in an era where very few pitchers are throwing much more than that anyway, it's hard to hold that against him, especially since Peralta really doesn't have much of an injury history – he dealt with shoulder inflammation last season, which isn't ideal, but missed two weeks before returning without issue.
And the skill set with Peralta is pretty indisputable. He's always had good results on balls in play and strikeouts, but he took a huge step forward because he didn't have to be as fastball dependent in 2021. That pitch was still elite for him, but now he had a slider and changeup he could rely on as well, which made him that much more difficult to deal with. I believe in the talent, and the workload concerns just aren't as concerning as I thought they might be.
Cease, on the other hand, I'm still much iffier on, and I haven't drafted him much as a result. But I'm not avoiding him as much as I thought I would, either. I struggle to trust players with command issues like Cease's, and he'll probably continue to be a pretty frustrating player unless he figures those command issues out. I'd prefer to wait a few rounds rather than drafting him at his 77.4 ADP, but if he's there in the seventh round, I'm not avoiding him.
I have added a couple of players to my busts list, however, and I am avoiding them. Here's why:
Aaron Nola SP
PHI Philadelphia • #27 • Age: 29
I was initially in on Nola as a bounceback candidate, and I do expect a much better season than his 4.63 ERA led to in 2021. However, a big part of the case for him was built around the strength of his defense-independent pitching metrics from last season, which mostly indicated Nola was still more or less the same guy he'd always been. However, that "independent" part is hard to get past when you look at the lineups the Phillies are likely to be rolling out there in 2022. Nola became more of a fly ball pitcher last season, and the Phillies figure to have well below-average defense in at least two of their three outfield spots, with Bryce Harper in right field and likely Nick Castellanos or Kyle Schwarber in left. Matt Vierling is a question mark in center, too, though less of a sure negative. The Phillies very well could be the worst defensive team in the majors, and that makes it harder to buy the Nola bounceback case.
Jesse Winker LF
SEA Seattle • #27 • Age: 28
Winker's price has fallen since his trade to Seattle, as it should have. But I'm still wary of buying in. He's a good hitter, no doubt, but I think there's a ceiling on how good he can ever be for Fantasy unless he makes strides against left-handed pitchers – something he really hasn't shown much sign of doing. The Mariners are quite a bit deeper than the Reds in the outfield, so they could afford to hide him against lefties, and the park shift from Great American Ballpark to T-Mobile is a pretty big negative, too. Winker will likely continue to post strong triple-slash numbers – he hit an eye-popping .305/.394/.556 last season – but he might lag well behind in the counting stats. There might not be much of a difference between him and someone like AJ Pollock in the most likely outcome, even if Winker has more theoretical upside if he improves vs. lefties.
TB Tampa Bay • #56 • Age: 27
In theory, Randy Arozarena has a very enticing profile for Fantasy, and in 2021, it was just that in practice. But when you check under the hood at the underlying numbers, things start to look pretty grim. Arozarena has a reputation as an elite athlete who makes up for whatever deficiencies exist in his approach with massive tools, but while he hits the ball relatively hard, we're not talking about a Giancarlo Stanton-esque profile here. Arozarena ranked in the 64th percentile in average exit velocity and 59th percentile in hard-hit rate – 86th in max exit velo, which does suggest very good raw power, though. Those are good numbers, but between his strikeout numbers and his poor batted ball profile – too many ground balls, too many infield fly balls, not enough line drives – they suggest a player who was lucky to hit .274/.356/.459 last season. His expected average was .222, while his expected slugging percentage was just .369. The tools are there for Arozarena to sustain or even exceed his 2021 numbers, but he'll have to improve. And there's also the potential for the bottom to fall out, and when you play for the Rays, that means playing time could be a concern.
Jared Walsh 1B
LAA L.A. Angels • #20 • Age: 28
Walsh is another one of those players whose surface numbers hide some pretty ugly underlying numbers. But the bigger issue here is pretty straightforward: It's not entirely clear he can hit lefties. He hit .170/.208/.357 against them in 2021, with the only saving grace being that he hit 10 home runs in 192 plate appearances. However, he had a 54-to-9 strikeout to walk ratio and his .141 expected isolated slugging percentage compared to his actual .187 mark (SLG% minus BA) suggests that there was some luck involved, too. Walsh does hit righties quite well, so I don't think there's much potential for the bottom to fall out for him the way there might be with some of the other names on this list, but if you're going to spend one of your first 10 picks on a first baseman, that player probably needs to be a different maker. Walsh (and Ryan Mountcastle, who you could certainly make a case for belonging here) just doesn't profile as one.
MIA Miami • #2 • Age: 24
Chisholm might have even more impressive raw tools than Arozarena. He also may have an even more volatile profile. If Chisholm clicks, we could be looking at a potential top-15 hitter in Fantasy thanks to his power-speed combination. He's incredibly athletic and when he gets into one, he lets it rip – remember when he took a letter-high, 100-mph fastball from Jacob deGrom and put it into the second deck in right field last season? He's being drafted where he is for the upside. The problem is, he has pretty massive holes in his swing at present, with a below average swing rate and contact rate on pitches in the zone. He's not doing damage on the pitches he's supposed to, and he also struggled with non-fastballs to boot. He's still young enough to figure those things out, but if he doesn't, his approach is going to continue to hold him back. Chisholm might go for 20 homers and 25 steals anyway, but there's also considerable risk that the bottom falls out here as well.
STL St. Louis • #28 • Age: 31
Arenado hit 38 homers last season while having the 16th-lowest average home run distance among 132 qualifiers, per StatCast. That's not necessarily a terrible thing – Jose Ramirez ranked one spot ahead of him – but it highlights why I'm worried about Arenado. His quality-of-contact metrics were below average in both 2020 and 2021, but he's still a pretty decent bet for power because he's such a fly-ball and pull-heavy hitter. The problem is, home runs and RBI might be all he gives you at this point because of that approach, and if there's any dip in those quality-of-contact metrics, some of those short homers out to left field might die on the warning track. That would probably knock his batting average further into harmful territory, and his low OBP makes him a bad bet for runs, as well. Arenado feels like a guy teetering on a knife's edge right now, and it wouldn't take much for him to fall off.
Shane Bieber SP
CLE Cleveland • #57 • Age: 27
The excellent Eno Sarris at The Athletic includes a "projected IL days" metric from the equally excellent Jeff Zimmerman in his pitcher rankings, and Shane Bieber was one that immediately jumped out to me: He's projected for 51 IL days, one of the highest numbers for any top-200 pitcher. Coming off a shoulder injury that cost him most of the season and left his fastball velocity down 2 mph in the brief appearances we saw in September, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Bieber carries significant risk based on that, but his performance profile also carries some risk. Bieber gets hit really hard; even in his incredible 2020, he sported a .391 expected wOBA on contact, compared to a league average of .369. He really needs to be an elite strikeout pitcher to avoid that issue, and if the velocity is down, that becomes harder to pull off. Bieber could be one of the best pitchers in baseball, but these are pretty glaring warning signs from someone who is still being drafted as a top-10 pitcher.
Logan Webb SP
SF San Francisco • #62 • Age: 25
Webb is a tough nut to crack. He missed six weeks with a shoulder injury in the middle of the season and then posted a 2.63 ERA with a 26.7% strikeout rate over his final 17 starts upon his return. And then he was dominant in the postseason across two starts. Can the shoulder really be much of a concern after that? Of course it can! Shoulder injuries should always be a pretty significant red flag, especially when we're talking about a guy being drafted as a top-20 pitcher based on 19 starts. Webb is talented, but he had a 4.85 ERA over 143 innings prior to his most recent 19 starts. I can see the appeal of Webb, but there's way too much certainty built into his price that just isn't earned.
TB Tampa Bay • #18 • Age: 25
When McClanahan was coming up as a prospect, the word on him was always that it seemed like the bullpen was his most likely eventual home. And then he came up the majors armed with a legitimate four-pitch mix, all of which he can use as a putaway pitch, and it was pretty hard to understand where that idea came from. However, there were some pretty concerning stats underneath his very impressive rookie season, notably with what happened when opposing hitters put the ball in play. He allowed a 91.7 mph average exit velocity and 45.7% hard-hit rate, helping lead to a .424 expected wOBA on contact. His xERA was 4.60 as a result, a much uglier number than that he actually posted. The thing about quality of contact metrics for pitchers is that it takes a long time to figure out how much control any individual pitcher has over them, so there could be some small-sample size noise there. However, the results were so extreme that we can probably assume he'll give up more hard contact than your typical pitcher. If it's as bad as it was in 2021, things could go very poorly for McClanahan.