Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fantasy Baseball Guys I'm Avoiding

C Mike Napoli
Last year was a career year for him, and his Mike Piazza-esque numbers were inflated by a torrid second half run that saw him triple slash .383/.466/.706 with 18 home runs.  Obviously the power has always been legit, and another 30 home run season is within reach, but there's no way he hits anything close to .320 anytime soon.  Remember that this is a guy who had never batted over .273 before last year and hit a lowly .238 in 2010.  I expect him to more or less replicate his counting numbers from last year, and could exceed them if he plays in 130 or 140 games, but the batting average is going to fall off a cliff.  His career average before last year was just .251, and if he hits that then you might as well wait a few more rounds and grab an Adam Jones or B.J. Upton, who will give you similar power numbers but with many more steals.

2011 Numbers:  72 runs  30 home runs  75 RBI  4 steals  .320 average
My Projections: 69 runs  28 home runs  72 RBI  3 steals  .257 average

1B Prince Fielder
I'm a little bit down on the hefty slugger this year because he's going in the second round in spite of several risk significant risk factors:
1. Fielder has proven to be an every other year player, with his better numbers coming in the odd years.  2012 is not an odd year
2. Not only is he switching teams, but he's changing leagues as well.  His power numbers against interleague pitching were fine, but his batting average against AL pitching was a pedestrian .269 and I think it will take a substantial hit next year
3. He just signed a huge free agent contract.  How many times have we seen big name players struggle in their first season after inking megadeals?  Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, and Joe Mauer all come to mind. 
4. Miller Park benefits lefthanded power hitters, and Comerica Park hurts them.  His OPS away from Miller Park is 69 points lower, and he'll be hard pressed to live up to's projection for a 40 home run season.  A key stat to keep in mind is that nine home runs he hit in Milwaukee last year wouldn't have cleared the fence in Motown.

Obviously he's going to knock in and score a ton of runs in that potent Tiger offense hitting behind Miguel Cabrera, and he's as durable as they come.  I think he basically puts up Mark Teixeira numbers, with a slightly higher batting average, and Tex is going a round later.  Use that second round pick on an ace like Roy Halladay or a five category stud like Carlos Gonzalez.

2011 Numbers:  95 runs  38 home runs  120 RBI  1 steal  .299 average
My Projections: 98 runs  33 home runs  107 RBI  1 steal  .274 average

2B Chase Utley
33 years old, his batting average and OPS have declined four straight years, and he's averaged 109 games played over the past two.  Like a Kevin Youkilis, he's perpetually banged up and I get the feeling that he's rarely playing at 100 percent.  He can still give you double digit homers and steals, but the batting average has tumbled and he's no guarantee for lots of runs and RBI now that the Phillies offense has hit the skids (I'm not trusting anybody in that lineup besides Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino). Pass on the five time All-Star and go with somebody with more upside, like a Howard Kendrick, who could score 100 runs batting in front of Pujols this year.

2011 Numbers:  54 runs  11 home runs  44 RBI  14 steals  .259 average
My Projections: 62 runs  14 home runs  57 RBI  13 steals  .268 average

3B Brett Lawrie
The 22 year-old is one of the hardest players to project for 2012. He's already earned comparisons to Ryan Braun, and his sensational debut last year have people talking about 30-100-.300 potential with 100 runs and 25 steals.  On the flip side, he could just as easily struggle in his first full season as the pitching catches up with him.  This will sound redundant to anybody that listens to Matthew Berry, but this guy has just 150 big league at-bats under his belt.  That's a tiny sample size, because anybody can get hot for a month and a half.  It's possible he comes through with an Evan Longoria/David Wright kind of season next year, but he's being drafted so high that you need him to produce like that right off the bat.  Otherwise, he's going to be a bust, and that's a slim margin of error. Just look at what happened to fantasy darling Desmond Jennings last year after his midsummer call up (I'm not including his brief cup of coffee in 2010, which lasted just 21 at-bats).

First 148 at-bats: 24 runs  8 home runs  20 RBI  14 steals  .324/.419/.581
Final 99 at-bats:  20 runs  2 home runs  5 RBI    6 steals    .162/.259/.253

Now look at Lawrie's numbers
First 150 at-bats: 26 runs  9 home runs  25 RBI  7 steals  .293/.373/.580

Eerily similar.  Most players (not all-Braun and Albert Pujols hit the ground running) go through an adjustment period, which can take a few months like Mike Moustakas or a few years like Alex Gordon.  Speaking of Royals, Lawrie's going where Eric Hosmer's going, and even though they're the same age Hosmer has more than three times as many at-bats in the Show.  Lawrie probably has a bit more upside, but scouts are saying Hosmer could be a superstar as soon as this year.

The key to fantasy is to get the most value out of your picks, and Lawrie's high ADP removes any potential value and profit, unless the absolute best case scenario comes true and he winds up with 35 home runs and 100+ RBI/runs.  Third base is unusually deep this year, so I'd rather wait for an Aramis Ramirez or Kevin Youkilis, maybe take a chance on Alex Rodriguez.

2011 numbers:   26 runs  9 home runs   25 RBI  7 steals  .293 average
My Projections: 83 runs  18 home runs  81 RBI  21 steals .279 average

SS Derek Jeter
He'll be 38 in June, is coming off a year that produced career lows in just about every category, and he still pounds everything into the ground.  He was absolutely terrible (.257/.321/.329) before getting his 3,000th hit last year, after which he produced a typical Jeter line of .338/.392/.451 and proved he still has something left in the tank.  I'm still not buying.  If he stays healthy he could potentially score 100 runs batting leadoff for that lineup and should be good for double digit steals (he's never swiped less than eleven), but the power's pretty much gone and I can't see him hitting close to .300.  There's no doubt he's in decline, and he'll probably land on the DL at some point, too.  I'm not touching him with a ten foot pole.

2011 Numbers:  84 runs  6 home runs  61 RBI  16 steals  .297 average
My Projections: 91 runs  5 home runs  57 RBI  14 steals  .268 average

OF Lance Berkman
The 2011 NL Comeback Player of the Year's age--36--is a big concern for me, and he's not the most durable guy in the world, either (has missed an average of 28 games over the past three seasons).  On the bright side, Beltran's arrival means he'll return to his natural position of first base, which will be a lot less taxing on his body than chasing down flyballs in right field everyday.  I think it's highly unlikely that he bats .300 or slugs 30 home runs again, but I could see his numbers mimicking 2009 (25-80-.270). I don't know why, but I just have this bad feeling that he's either going to miss a significant chunk of time or regress badly in 2012.  Hopefully both don't happen simultaneously.

2011 Numbers:  90 runs  31 home runs  94 RBI  2 steals  .301 average
My Projections: 74 runs  25 home runs  82 RBI  2 steals  .273 average

OF Ichiro Suzuki
38 years old and coming off the worst season of his career by far.  The silver lining is that he stole 40 bases, so it wasn't a total loss. I actually think his average bounces back into the .290-.300 range.  The club will move him out of the leadoff spot and bat him third, which should boost his RBI numbers a bit.  Unfortunately, his lack of power and the woeful Mariners lineup severely limits his runs and RBI potential, so he needs to recoup some batting average to have some value. The former three category monster has been reduced to a one category specialist, and therefore shouldn't be drafted in the top 100.

2011 Numbers:  80 runs  5 home runs  47 RBI  40 steals  .272 average
My Projections: 77 runs  4 home runs  52 RBI  37 steals  .293 average

OF Melky Cabrera
Everything about the Melk Man's 2011 screams fluke, and his counting numbers were largely a byproduct of his career high 658 at-bats hitting leadoff for Kansas City in front of Gordon, Hosmer, Jeff Francoeur, and Billy Butler.  Moving to San Francisco, with its pitcher's park and thinner lineup, will further supress his value, especially since his only other season in the Senior Circuit didn't go so well (.255/.317/.354 with subpar counting numbers).  His walk and strikeout rates went in the wrong direction last yearDon't discount the five mediocre seasons (over 2,300 at-bats) he turned in prior to 2011:

2006-2010: 60 runs  8 home runs  54 RBI  10 steals  .267 average

I'm not even sure that you can count on double digit steals, since the Giants ranked 13th out of the 16 NL clubs in thefts last year.  This is Gary Matthews Jr. circa 2006 all over again, and not even the allure of an impending age-27 season can quell my fears.  He will regress to the mean this year, so don't waste a pick on somebody who will be sitting on many waiver wires by summer.

2011 Numbers: 102 runs  18 home runs  87 RBI  20 steals  .305 average
My Projections:  74 runs   9 home runs   53 RBI  14 steals  .265 average

SP Justin Verlander
I mean, there's no way he can possibly be as good as he was last year, right? Before 2011, his career ERA was 3.81 and his WHIP was 1.26, neither of which are particularly inspiring.  And even though he's a workhorse, adding two rounds of playoffs on top of his career high 251 innings last year means he completed a grand total of 271.1 frames last year and tossed 557 more pitches than he did in 2010.  He's as safe as they come, but if you're going to take a starting pitcher that early you might rather go with Halladay, Cliff Lee or Clayton Kershaw.

2011 Numbers:  24 wins  2.40 ERA  0.92 WHIP  250 strikeouts
My Projections: 20 wins  2.89 ERA  1.08 WHIP  242 strikeouts

SP Michael Pineda
The big sophomore will get his fair share of wins, but I can't overlook some troubling splits from last year:

2nd half: 1-4  5.12 ERA  1.22 WHIP
Road:      4-6  4.40 ERA  1.17 WHIP

I'd feel more confident if he wasn't just 23 years old, but there are just too many unknowns going into this season.  What happened to him during the second half of last year?  Did hitters adjust to him? Did he wear down?  Was he just unlucky?  How will he handle the added pressure and attention of playing in New York/pitching in meaningful games?  How much will the move from Safeco to Yankee Stadium affect his numbers?  Will the AL Beast tear him apart?

I don't want to find out the hard way.

2011 Numbers:  9 wins  3.74 ERA  1.10 WHIP  173 strikeouts
My Projections:14 wins 4.40 ERA  1.23 WHIP  195 strikeouts

SP Ian Kennedy

See Verlander, Justin.  I actually think Verlander's numbers this year will look a lot like Kennedy's from last year, but with more strikeouts.

2011 Numbers:  21 wins  2.88 ERA  1.09 WHIP  198 strikeouts
My Projections: 17 wins  3.41 ERA  1.18 WHIP  188 strikeouts

RP Mariano Rivera

He's 42, and can't keep doing this forever.  What if he finally breaks down this year?  He probably won't, but I'm not taking the risk.  And I never pay for saves.

2011 Numbers:  44 saves  1.91 ERA  0.90 WHIP  60 strikeouts
My Projections: 38 saves  2.03 ERA  0.94 WHIP  55 strikeouts

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