Last week I had a lot of fun writing about traits that might tell us which players might be real sleepers in drafts today. I’m telling you, the fantasy community has gotten smarter and smarter over time. To be a sleeper, the player has to have a couple of minuses against him and who ever drafted him needs to have a little luck go his way.
This week I’m going to look at some characteristics of players that are being overvalued in 2015. Now, we’ve come a long way in this respect as well. Even fantasy baseball beginners won’t be taking Bartolo Colon or Alfredo Simon as number 2 starters because they won 15 games last year. We know Henderson Alvarez is no ace because his 2.65 ERA is not supported by his low strikeouts and high WHIP.
However, there are some types of players that fantasy owners still pay an undeserved premium for. I have been guilty of overpaying for these types of players. What are they? Read on, reader, lest we fall into the trap overpaying once more.
Career Year – I know, I know, “don’t pay for a career year,” is fantasy baseball 101. But have fantasy baseball owners been sleeping off their hangovers instead of going to class? Look at Chris Davis, who moved into the first round in 2014. There were warning signs, sure, but the guy hit 53 home runs; the remote chance that he could do it again was worth the cost to the team that finished ninth in your league last year. An unfortunate rule: The more outlandish the career year, the more inclined we are to pay a high price for a repeat. And while this works out once in a while (Jose Bautista a few years back, for instance), the upheaval in the upper rounds this year is going to lead to heartache for owners who draft these guys: Michael Brantley, Todd Frazier, Alexei Ramirez, and Jose Altuve.
Safe/Reliable – This word really belongs in inverted commas, as some players acquire a reputation of reliability; but have they really earned it? Take Elvis Andrus. I expect his numbers to be very similar to those of Alcides Escobar, Danny Santana, and Jean Segura. But Andrus is going rounds higher because he is more consistent. Meanwhile, his steals have yo-yo’d over the past few years, he took a big drop in runs scored, and he’s a prime candidate to get shuffled down the lineup. He has stayed healthy and he hasn’t had a terrible batting average year but is that worth the premium you have to pay? At a certain point, shooting for a little more upside with a guy like Santana is better for your fantasy chances. This may not be true in your mono-leagues or 18-teamers, but in a standard mix I don’t like paying for consistency in this mid-range. It’s not like you are paying for a consistent 35 home runs. Other players going higher than they should because they are considered safe, reliable, or consistent: Matt Holiday, Dustin Pedroia, Matt Carpenter, Adam Laroche. In every case, there is more risk and a less reliable track record than you think.
Multiple Position Eligibility – Again, in really deep leagues I can understand why you’d want a player to qualify at more than one position because the quality of player you find on the waiver wire is so low. But using multiple position eligibility as a reason to reach is dangerous to me. I can see it as a tiebreaker for two relatively equal players, but jumping to take Ben Zobrist a few rounds ahead of Chase Utley because he qualifies for other positions will hurt you in the long run. Watch out for the overpay on Zobrist, Todd Frazier, Xander Bogaerts, and Josh Harrison.
Pitcher Moved to NL – In previous years, I might have placed James Shields in the group above, but except for one outlier he really has delivered on his draft day price. There have been small signs of decline in the past couple of years, and I expected him to drop a tier or two after the way he finished last year, but when he signed with the Padres his value got a significant boost. Considering the expected rough San Diego defense and Shields’s age, I would not expect a big improvement.
Saber-friendly Team/Guy – Brandon McCarthy’s twitter account is great and I was happy to see him put up some strong starts for my Yanks last season. He’s made great strides and he credits his understanding of sabermetrics for much of that. But betting on health from McCarthy has long been a fool’s errand. I wonder if the analytical community puts on rose-colored glasses for certain players and teams who see things the same way when number are numbers. Brandon Moss and Joey Votto are a couple of other players that may have an inflated price tag. Also, look out for inflation on Dodgers, Cubs, and Rays.
Disregarded Playing Time Concerns – Fantasy owners are crazy for young talent, but young talent tends to be susceptible to weird managerial whims and decisions. Corey Dickerson was amazing last year, but he didn’t hit 500 plate appearances because Walt Weiss was sitting him for Drew Stubbs even when he was raking. Never take for granted that a lousy manager will do what’s best for his own team, much less your fantasy team. Especially your fantasy team. In the late rounds, I can deal with taking a shot on guys like this in the hopes that talent wins out. We tend to ignore playing time questions. Think about it before you spend a high pick on Dickerson, Rusney Castillo, Yasmany Tomas, or A. J. Pollock.
Good Player Coming Off an Injury – I realize this is counterintuitive, but I haven’t seen much of a discount on guys like Prince Fielder and Joey Votto. I think in LABR Fielder went for 30 bucks! That isn’t much of a discount at all. Maybe he will come all the way back, but I’m a little wary of Fielder and would want a discount. Instead, it’s almost as if he is expected to be all the way back right away and that’s a little Pollyannish to me.
Those are the characteristics I’ve found of some of the overvalued players this Spring. What other players are overvalued? Are any of these off the mark? Let me know in the comments.