Fantasy Baseball: Five Potential Busts for 2013
If I was drafting a fantasy baseball team this year (and I haven’t yet ruled out the possibility), these are five players I would likely stay away from. While they may retain a certain amount of value this year, it is probable that each of them will be overpriced, or will be drafted too high, on Draft Day.
Here, then, are your potential “busts” for 2013:
1) Matt Harrison: A few years ago, Rangers’ pitcher Scott Feldman won 17 games despite a relatively low strikeout rate. He also, of course, pitched his home games in one of the best hitter’s parks in the A.L., the same park that Matt Harrison calls home. I predicted he would be a bust going into 2010. It turns out that Feldman has won just 15 games total over the past three seasons. Matt Harrison has a similar profile to Scott Feldman.
Harrison has enjoyed back-to-back successful seasons with the Rangers, and he is a better pitcher than Feldman, but Harrison averaged just 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings last year. He also doesn’t walk a lot of hitters, but what that does mean is that he puts a lot of balls in play. It’s much more likely than not that an 18-game winner with a nice 3.29 ERA pitching for a good team who is still just 27-years old will generate a lot of interest on Draft Day.
But keep in mind that most of his value has come on relatively good luck on balls in play, and that when, not if, more of those balls find gaps, that ERA will rise proportionately. It also means that win total will decrease by perhaps as much as a third. Draft the player Harrison is likely to be in 2013, not the player he was in 2012.
2) B.J. Upton: Cue Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” because Upton does like to run, but also because it’s what you should do when his name comes up in your Draft. You can point to his sexy 28 homers and 31 steals, and the fact that he might be more motivated playing in the same Braves outfield as his brother. You might also point out that he is still just 28-years old.
I would point out that his plate discipline has all but disappeared, and that he is one of baseball’s most prolific out-machines. Last year, he batted .246 with a pathetic .298 on-base percentage. In fact, he hasn’t batted above .250 in any of the past four years. Moreover, in 2008 (his career year), he drew 97 bases on balls. Last year, he was down to just 45 walks in nearly the same number of plate appearances. It also remains to be seen what effect playing on the somewhat slower infield surface in Atlanta will do to his game.
B.J. Upton might get off to a quick start, but at some point during the season, his lack of plate discipline will catch up to him, and his bat could disappear for an entire month. So don’t draft the player who slugged 28 homers and stole 31 bases. Draft, if you must, the player who reached base less than 30% of the time, and who scored fewer runs last year than the .220-hitting, slow-footed Dan Uggla. Ouch.
3) Kevin Youkilis: Though the Yankees will be leaning heavily on his bat this year, they better not lean too hard, or it, along with its owner, will make be making a trip to the D.L. Youk has never played as many as 148 games in any season in his career. He hasn’t played as many as 136 games since ’09. More to the point, his quality of play has severely diminished over the past few years. Although he still has a bit of home run pop, he managed just 15 doubles last year, about half the number he used to produce in a typical season. Youk is now 34-years old, going on 40.
Certainly, there will be some people out there who believe a return to form is quite possible. The Greek God of Walks will return to demolish the naysayers and the heretics. But those who pick up Youkilis should expect him to miss around 40-50 games, and produce no more than a mid-range batting average with medium power. In other words, when he plays, he’ll be an average third baseman, but he won’t play enough to waste a draft pick on him.
4) Kyle Lohse: This 34-year old control freak has gone 30-11 over the past two seasons with a nifty 3.11 ERA over his last 400 innings. Now the bad news: Lohse is a 34-year old pitcher with average stuff who was a career 88-98 pitcher up until two years ago. Lohse has benefited from a low .265 batting average of balls in play which is likely unsustainable. In other words, he’s been more lucky than good, though he’s not a bad pitcher.
Lohse led the N.L. in win-loss percentage last season (.842) by losing just three of 33 starts. You want to bet the farm that this veteran pitcher can do that again? His relatively low K rate, his fly-ball tendencies, his low BABIP and his career history point to a correction in the offing. Don’t be the last man standing when the music stops on this song.
5) Brandon Phillips: Because second basemen don’t tend to age very well. Now 32-years old, Phillips’ decline is already in progress. He was once a 30 homer, 30 steal player. Then he was a 20-20 guy. This year, expect a 15-15 guy. That’s not bad, but some people will be paying for the Brandon Phillips they remember from five years ago.
Philips also doesn’t draw walks, so his on-base percentage is entirely based on his batting average, which hovers around .275 most years. But declining speed and power could precipitate a sudden and serious overall decline in production. While I don’t expect this season to be the year Phillips falls entirely off the radar screen, don’t panic into paying top dollar for someone whose best seasons are clearly behind him.