Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Busts to avoid as you get ready to draft
Heath Cummings already told you who he thinks is being drafted too high. Now he has seven more names he thinks the industry has ranked too high.
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In the first version of this year's Marcell Ozuna did get healthy, so I'll take him off the list, and Shohei Ohtani has seen his ADP fall enough where he may not make it either. The same will probably happen to Mike Foltynewicz now that we know he won't be ready for Opening Day. But these seven players still belong firmly in the bust column:, I gave you 10 players I was avoiding at their ADP. Not much has happened to change my opinion on those players in the past three weeks.
Of course, looking at ADP is only one way to look for busts. The other is to look at consensus rankings. And there are seven players I feel confident the industry is too high on. Don't buy into the hype, because there's some serious bust potential:
Puig gets a big boost in value thanks to a new park and (hopefully) more plate appearances. He's only had more than 500 plate appearances twice in his career. In 2014 he hit .296 with 16 home runs in 148 games. In 2017 he hit .263 with 28 home runs in 152 games. While I certainly think he could have a career year in Cincinnati, he's now being ranked as if that's the expectation, not a possibility.
There are two main reasons Puig hasn't been able to accumulate regular playing time. One is his injury history, which isn't terribly frightening, but it's not nothing either. He's missed time due to hamstring, oblique and foot injuries in the past. Of course the second reason gets more press, which is his propensity to play in a way that violates the unwritten rules of baseball. I mostly like the way Puig plays, but there's more risk of him getting benched for not running out a grounder or airmailing the cutoff man than most players.
In 2018 Puig ranked as the No. 99 player in Roto with 23 home runs and 15 steals. His run and RBI totals were both low due to the fact he had only 444 plate appearances, so it's definitely easy to see how he justifies that No. 63 ranking, it's exactly where our formula ranked Cody Bellinger, who hit .260 with 25 home runs and 14 stolen bases. In fact the ATC projection expects an even better year.
If Puig gets 567 plate appearances as the projection model expects, Puig will likely finish among the top 70 players. But it will be because he stayed healthy and a dozen players with better prospects did not. Considering his history, that's not a bet I'm willing to make.
The 2018 season was a great illustration of how valuable Nicholas Castellanos can be if everything goes right. He accumulated 678 plate appearances, benefited from a career-high .361 BABIP and posted a line drive rate, hard-hit rate and HR/FB rate all above his career norms. All of that led him to a late-fourth-round value according to our Rotisserie valuation. It has also led to an ADP in the seventh round, which I just can't pay.
It's just too hard for me to see Castellanos being special in any one category. He plays for a terrible Tigers team, so it's hard to see him eclipsing 180 runs-plus-RBI. His batting average will likely fall 20 points from last year's BABIP-assisted number. He doesn't run at all and he's never hit more than 26 home runs.
That's not to say Castellanos is bad or useless in Fantasy. He should be a help in four categories, even if it's not a big help. Again, this is another player the ATC projections likes more than I do. It is possible for him to return value at this cost, but it feels far more likely you miss out on someone who doesn't need every single thing to go right and actually helps you win a league.
While the first two players on this list were players I either liked or could stomach at the right price, Josh Donaldson is one who just scares me to death. He's a 33-year-old who has played 165 games in the past two seasons combined and looked lost when he did play in 2018. Donaldson's once-great contact skills seem to be deteriorating (career-worst 69 percent contact rate in 2018) and his line drives have disappeared as well over the past two seasons.
Now, it's possible Donaldson bounces back and stays healthy in 2019, but I'd feel a lot better about that possibility if he was still in the American League and could be deployed regularly as a designated hitter. As it stands, we have to count on Donaldson playing 150 games as a full-time player in a park that's worse for his skills than his former home. There's certainly upside in hoping he bounces back to his 2017 self, but the bust risk is enormous at this cost.
Wil Myers should only be considered in this range in Rotisserie leagues. That's because his steals are worth more in Roto and his strikeouts don't hurt you quite as bad. But even in that format, I wouldn't want to use an eighth-round pick on him.
He's a low-average hitter with an injury history who counts on stealing 20 bases to justify this ADP. The injuries really concern me now that the Padres have Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado, and Myers will be forced to play every day in the outfield. In a best case scenario he outperforms this ADP by staying healthy, continuing to run and driving in a lot of runs hitting behind Machado. Even in that scenario he's only a small value at this ADP. The floor is far more dangerous.
Zach Wheeler bounced back to his pre-injury self in 2018 and then some. He posted a career-best 3.31 ERA largely due to increased velocity and better control. For the first time in his career he was below three walks per nine innings, which propelled him to a 1.12 WHIP. But he also did it with some good fortune, as his 3.87 SIERA indicates.
I view Wheeler as more of a high-threes ERA guy without elite upside in either innings or strikeouts. If the control numbers or batted-ball data regress at all, he could really be in trouble. This is the type of pitcher I'm excited to draft in the double-digit rounds, not in the first 100 picks.
I have a hard time separating Cole Hamels from pitchers like Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. Over the past two seasons he has a 4.54 FIP, 7.8 K/9 and has averaged just better than six innings per start. His ERA has been better than his peripherals, same as Lester and Arrieta ... and no one seems to care.
The big difference seems to be that Hamels was awesome in his final 11 starts of 2018 after he was traded to the Cubs. He posted a 2.52 ERA and struck out almost a batter per inning. I just have a hard time trusting 11 starts over the past two seasons, especially for a 35-year-old pitcher. If I have to bet on an old pitcher outperforming his peripherals again I'd rather wait another 50 picks and bet on Lester or Arrieta.
I guess we've reached the old guy portion of the column. Ryan Braun is a 35-year-old who hasn't played more than 140 games since 2012. He's only reached 130 games three times in that six-year stretch. He just posted the lowest wOBA of his career and plays on a team with plenty of options to spell him.
Braun is working on a new approach, but you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks. That's not even fair. If Braun didn't have the health concerns, I could see betting on a guy like him in a great lineup with a new approach. But that's not the case here.
There does reach a point in drafts where the floor doesn't matter because the cost is so low. Pick 150 is not that point. The ATC projection has him at .263 with 20 home runs and 11 steals in 116 games. That's well within the range I see for Braun, but with his extensive injuries it's nowhere close to the floor.
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