Fantasy baseball 2013 draft preview: NL busts
Bust picks have to be bold, but they also require some reasoning and explanation -- so please hear us out as we list Buster Posey among our potential NL busts.
No one remembers when a back-end starter or a late-round pick doesn't reach his potential. The fantasy owners who wind up the most frustrated are those who suffer the indignation of early-round picks not performing up to their lofty expectations.
So, let's throw Buster Posey under the bus again -- like we did in 2011. Among all of the hate mail we received that spring, there wasn't a soul who wrote to thank us for the warning when he was sidelined with a season-ending broken fibula in May. But are we just throwing darts by calling Posey a potential fantasy bust for 2013? Nope. It's a function of value, expectations and draft position.
Posey's MVP campaign at the catcher position just sets the bar too high. You are going to have to pick this 140-game star among sluggers projected to play close to 160 games and post 30-plus homers, 100-plus RBI and 100-plus runs. And catchers don't often have seasons like Posey did a year ago -- much less post those numbers in back to back seasons. It doesn't guarantee that Posey's going to be a complete bust, but his lofty price means he's being set up to underperform at that draft position, especially in perceived value.
We'e already broken down the potential busts in AL and now we take a look at the candidates likely to disappoint in the NL:
• Bust -- SP Kris Medlen (27 years old): Medlen posted dominant numbers after his return from Tommy John surgery, so he almost certainly will be picked among the elite starting pitchers on Draft Day. But Medlen didn't have enough starts to cool off -- he's good, but not as good as he was a year ago. You cannot be sure he is going to pitch like an ace in his first full season as a starter, and in the wake of his surgery, the Braves would be wise to limit him to 170 innings for the season, no matter how well he pitches. In order to get him, you're going to have to pick him among the 200-inning aces of baseball. Avoid him at that price.
• Dishonorable mention -- SP Tim Hudson (37): He's been consistently winning the past three seasons, averaging more than 16 victories, but the 37-year-old showed some wear last season -- he topped out at 179 innings, and watched his ERA and WHIP rise as his strikeout rate declined. If he falls in the late rounds, the risk is lower, but someone in your league will likely chase his wins and pick him before you should begin to consider him.
• Bust -- OF Justin Ruggiano (30): Ruggiano's breakthrough in 2012 makes us want to start a 30-year-old journeyman fantasy breakout theory (not really). His three-month tear last season made him look like an elite fantasy outfielder capable of going .300-25-25, but those three months were a statistical anomaly, not a sign of a breakthrough. The fact the Marlins made him earn the starting centerfielder's job this spring should be telling.
• Dishonorable mention -- RP Steve Cishek (26): As fantasy giveth, it can also taketh away. Cishek stepped forward as the Marlins closer of choice when Heath Bell went bust as a free-agent acquisition a year ago, but he can regress back to being a middle reliever just as abruptly this spring. We see it happen with hordes of closers every year.
New York Mets:
• Bust -- 3B David Wright (30): Not only is Wright entering the tricky 30-something age, but he's also proven to be an every-other-year player. Wright's numbers are much better in even years over the past five seasons, and this is unlucky number '13. If he follows the odd-year trend, Wright is going to come down with some kind of ailment -- he has had back issues -- and disappoint his fantasy owners this year. To top it off, long-term contracts with the Mets tend to be a fantasy death sentence.
• Dishonorable mention -- SP Johan Santana (33): It is difficult to find Mets who might be rated, much less overrated, but Santana rates as a potential bust if he is considered anything more than a late-round pick. Sure, he pitched a no-hitter a year ago, but the shoulder-surgery survivor also collapsed physically and mentally thereafter, going 0-4 with a ghastly 16.33 ERA in his four starts in the second half. He shouldn't be counted on as a full-season starter again, no matter how well he starts out of the gate. If you score him late, trade him before June.
• Bust -- C Carlos Ruiz (34): Ruiz is coming off a career year at an age when most catchers start to break down. Catchers just don't hit .325 at that age -- unless you're using amphetamines (Ruiz was busted and has to serve a 25-game suspension to start the season). If Ruiz regresses to his pre-2012 form when he starts the season, he will be bouncing on and off waivers in one-catcher formats anyway. Ignore him.
• Dishonorable mention -- SS Jimmy Rollins (34): We already saw the collapse in Philly: Chase Utley (34) and Ryan Howard (33) fell apart physically and their offense went into the tank, even with a surprisingly healthy Rollins. Remember that both Utley and Howard are less than a year younger than Rollins. This is a dangerous year for him.
• Bust -- SP Gio Gonzalez (27): Gonzalez's spring has been occupied with handling his reported link to Biogenesis, the Miami clinic known for distributing banned drugs. Regardless, eyebrows have been raised about the 2012 breakthrough pitcher. The 27-year-old ran just a bit too hot last season relative to his career numbers and could be due for a letdown season, if not a suspension or injury.
• Dishonorable mention -- RP Rafael Soriano (33): After stepping in for Mariano Rivera in 2012, Soriano secured a free-agent deal to close for arguably the best team in baseball. He's set up to be one of the top five closers in fantasy, but not many closers prove consistent year to year. Also, free agents tend to disappoint in their first year under a big contract -- just ask Heath Bell owners.
• Bust -- RP Carlos Marmol (30): Since his breakthrough at age 27 in 2010 (career high 38 saves, 2.55 ERA and 1.180 WHIP), Marmol has been a disaster at times. Perhaps for that reason, the Cubs signed a Japanese import, Kyuji Fujikawa, to compete for the closer's job with him this spring. Marmol's power arm and potential are still intriguing, but the possibility of losing his job makes him dangerous.
• Dishonorable mention -- SP Matt Garza (29): A stress reaction in his elbow that limited him to 18 starts a year ago makes him an injury risk. He was reportedly healthy heading into spring training before he strained his lat muscle. The injury questions are mounting, and Garza might never develop into the ace he once promised to become.
• Bust -- 2B Brandon Phillips (31): Sure, Phillips has been a model of consistency at a position that sorely lacks it right now, but that's what will make him overrated. He turns 32 this June, the age of breakdown at the position. Ask those Utley owners: nothing is sure for middle infielders above the age of 30. You're better off skipping on Phillips and waiting for a younger option poised to break through in the late rounds.
• Dishonorable mention -- SP Aroldis Chapman (25): This bust is a function of hype, expectations and potential breakdown, instead of age. Chapman was so good as a closer last season, the Reds just couldn't help but make him a starter; however, they're going to try to avoid a physical issue with this lightning arm by limiting his innings. That kind of flip-flopping landed Neftali Feliz, a talent timilar to Chapman, on an operating table. Danger, but the possibilities are intriguing if you can deal with an innings limit of around 160-170.
• Bust -- OF Ryan Braun (29): It pains us to tout this one, but Braun is only a potential bust because of the alleged connection to Biogenesis. If he does get hit with another suspension -- he won his last appeal -- he will prove to be a bust of top-three pick. Braun has denied wrongdoing, but baseball is still investigating the situation. That may be enough to consider Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano or Andrew McCutchen over Braun in the top half of Round 1.
• Dishonorable mention -- C Jonathan Lucroy (26): Lucroy is coming off a season that saw him hit an otherworldly .320 in 96 games; but like we said above with Ruiz, catchers just don't do that. Fantasy owners will be disappointed if he hits closer to his career average of .279. His age makes him a potential breakout, but in reality he'll probably be closer to his 2011 form.
• Bust -- SP A.J. Burnett (36): Consider this scenario: You scored Burnett off waivers last year and watched him go 10-2 by the All-Star break. Your fantasy team then fell out of the race, you stopped paying attention and you lost track of the fact Burnett's renaissance went thud in the second half at 6-8. Despite his moments, Burnett is a marginal fantasy starter who has potential to blow up your staff as easily as he could lead it. If he does lead it, it will be merely in spurts, so don't consider this career-long Jekyll and Hyde before the late rounds.
• Dishonorable mention -- RP Jason Grilli (36): At age 35 he posted career highs in saves (two) and holds (32). His previous highs were one and 11. His general manager then handed him the closer's role after Joel Hanrahan was traded to the Red Sox. This year, manager Clint Hurdle has considered Mark Melancon as a potential closer, too, which could make Grilli one of those low-end closers who winds up being a low-end middle reliever.
St. Louis Cardinals:
• Bust -- OF Carlos Beltran (35): Beltran has resurrected his career, but those chronic knee issues don't suddenly go away at his age. Still, he has proven the past couple of years there is life in baseball after microfracture surgery. The age and injury risk keep him out of the top 25 outfielders to target on draft day, but it won't be long after that elite group before his well-known name flies off the board. You are risking a season-long headache, though.
• Dishonorable mention -- 1B Allen Craig, 28: Somehow, Craig has helped Cardinals forget that old first baseman who become a $200 million man in Anaheim. Craig performed like a monster in 119 games of his breakthrough at age 27, but you will run into problems if you try to stretch those numbers into a full season. He is likely to be picked among consistent fantasy stars without having played for a full year yet.
• Bust -- RP J.J. Putz (36): Putz is coming off a renaissance, but he hasn't shown been consistent year to year or trustworthy regarding his health. Also, the D'backs deal of Justin Upton signals a rebuilding year, so saves might not come as easily or regularly this go around. Putz is a risk at his draft position, particularly since David Hernandez can elevate to the closer's spot in Arizona.
• Dishonorable mention -- 2B Aaron Hill (30): If you could describe Hill in one word, it would be inconsistent -- it's impossible to know which Hill will show up year to year. He is also going to be 31 on opening day, which is the well-documented age of decline for middle infielders. Consider him to be not as good as his 2009-'12 monster years, but better than his sketchy 2010-'11 ones.
• Bust -- SS Troy Tulowitzki (28): Tulo is the annual what-if player. If he could only stay healthy for a full season, he could perform like an early first-rounder at one of the thinnest positions of fantasy. As it is, you have to assume the annual injury risk. He is unlikely to make it through Round 2 as he is to make it through a full season healthy.
• Dishonorable mention -- RP Rafael Betancourt (37): He was finally a relied-upon, full-time closer at age 37. That's the good news and the bad news. Yes, he projects to get you saves, but anything can, and will, happen at his advanced age. It won't take long for the rebuilding Rockies to take a serious look at a relief prospect like Rex Brothers to close if Betancourt gets off to a slow start. There was a reason, or many, Betancourt wasn't trusted to be a full-time closer until last season.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
• Bust -- RP Brandon League (29): The Dodgers plan to have League, who turns 30 in March, serve as their closer to start the season, so his value lies as the leading source for saves with a team likely to contend. But Kenley Jansen is the better pitcher and might take back the closer's role before we get into the thick of the season. League has been unable to hold down the closer's job in the quiet Great Northwest, and now you're expecting him to do it in one of the media capitals of the world? Fat chance.
• Dishonorable mention -- 1B Adrian Gonzalez (30): Gonzo showed us last year in Boston that shoulder woes can sap a slugger's power, and this year he's trying to slug homers in a pitcher's park out west. It makes him a risky pick among the stars he will be selected around.
San Diego Padres:
• Bust -- RP Huston Street (29): Street has had more injury-plagued seasons than healthy ones. It has come to the point you probably have to expect frustration and a DL stint or two when you pick Street as one of your secondary closers.
• Dishonorable mention -- 3B Chase Headley (28): His breakthrough at age 27 was so exaggerated relative to his career numbers you have to realize he won't be able to match his 31 homers and 115 RBI this season. The risk makes him less than a top five fantasy third baseman in drafts this March.
San Francisco Giants:
• Bust -- C Buster Posey (25): Posey is arguably one of the top five players in baseball, but he is a victim of his own position in fantasy. Catchers just cannot be expected to handle the 162-game grind like other position players, so resist the temptation to pick Posey in Round 1. He is great, no question, but catchers just don't put up the numbers that Posey had in 2012 in back-to-back years. Ask Joe Mauer and his fantasy owners after his monster season when he was 26. This writer made the mistake of drafting Mauer in Round 1 after his breakthrough and vows to never make that mistake with a catcher again.
• Dishonorable mention -- RP Sergio Romo (30): Romo's balky elbow kept him from being Brian Wilson's immediate replacement closer last year, and may cause him to be a bust this spring. Closing for the Giants, a team that will win a lot of close games, is one of the top five situations in baseball, but Santiago Casilla is still around to potentially steal those save chances and relegate Romo to a setup man again, if he doesn't need surgery (or rest) for that elbow.