Last week I ran down my nominees for the 2018 All Value Team, players either drafted late or scooped up off waivers who exceeded expectations and are in line to finish in the top-10 (top-20 for OF and SP) at their respective positions. Today I’m flipping the script to shine the spotlight on ADP busts – players universally drafted, most within the top-100, who were supposed to anchor their respective position for your team – that fell well short of expectations and did not come close to living up to their average draft position. Was there a reason these players fell short, and is there any reason for concern heading into the 2019 season? Let’s find out.
Buster Posey (ADP 60 – 2nd catcher off the board)
There were a few considerations here, but Posey takes the top honors. We’ve come to expect certain things with Posey over the years. He will deliver 70+ runs, 80+ RBI, and a .300+ average. While he lost some power the past few years, as long as he delivered top-3 production in the other three categories – it didn’t really matter if he delivered 12-14 homers. Well, you know the rest. While the batting average was more than acceptable, Posey failed to reach 50 in either category, only managed 5 home runs over 398 at bats, and eventually put fantasy owners out of their misery with season ending surgery.
Is Posey the next Joe Mauer, eventually moving to first base killing whatever fantasy value he might have? The batted ball profile and plate discipline didn’t change from past years. A drop in ISO is all that stands out for the power loss. As for the counting stats: I’ll give him a mulligan since the Giants fielded one of their worst offensive team in years. Posey will still be a valuable catcher in 2019 (even if they do transition him to 1B), but unless the Giants add some thump to the surrounding cast I see his 2017 stats being the new ceiling. Unfortunately someone in your league will draft him too him based on name value, otherwise he might make a nice sleeper target in the round 8-9 range.
Joey Votto (ADP 17 – 2nd first baseman off the board)
After hitting 24+ home runs each year (not counting his debut or injury shortened 2012 & 2014 season), Votto is currently sitting at 12. That’s what Buster Posey hit last year! Those 95+ runs and RBI you were expecting – you got 66 and 67 respectively. Like Posey the batting average was acceptable (.288), but a little shy of the .300 we counted on.
Can Votto bounce back to be a top-tier asset? Miguel Cabrera took a major downturn at age 34, the same age as Votto this year (turned 35 last week). We expected Cabrera to bounce back, but an injury took away any hope of that. Like Votto he was hitting for average, but the power was well short of Cabrera power – the same goes for Votto. The plate discipline was solid, actually improved both this year and last with even fewer swings outside the zone. The batted ball profile was also similar; a slight decrease in fly balls but a small jump in hard hit rate. Like Posey there was a big drop in ISO (80 points). Cabrera saw a similar drop both this year and last.
I can see Votto getting a discount in 2019, and rightfully so. His age and few minor red flags could be a sign. However, Votto is a professional hitter so I don’t see a complete collapse. Think along the lines of Adrian Beltre, still a solid hitter but with 20 home run pop. Then again we used similar logic with Cabrera and the limited sample we saw doesn’t paint a pretty picture. And while experts will discount Votto, someone will pay for the name brand. Don’t let that be you.
Jonathan Schoop (ADP 71 – 5th second basemen off the board)
The power came up short, as did the batting average. His counting stats, like Posey, are a result of a terrible surrounding cast in Baltimore, and things completely fell apart once he was traded to Milwaukee. That is the biggest surprise as many expected him to flourish with the Brewers. You can look at his July totals and smile (.360, 9HR, 33 R+RBI), but outside of that you got served. What should we expect in 2019?
I’m torn as the underlying metrics tell a mixed story. He did have some bad BABIP luck so maybe the average could bounce back. Then again, while the contact rate didn’t change, he went back to his old habit, swinging outside the zone with poorer results. He also increased his swings inside the zone and made more contact, but if he continues to chase bad pitches we will need to lower our batting average expectations. As for the power: his hard hit rate fell, just like it did in 2016 and 2014. Each time it regressed it bounced back the following year. The odd/even production is junk science, but it is still an interesting trend.
Schoop’s 2017 season looks like a career year. His 2016 season appears to be more of what we can expect production wise. Then again, Schoop will be playing for a contract next year so don’t rule out a big season. While I do like him, I’ll wait until I dig through the entire second base class before making a final ruling on where Schoop will go.
Kris Bryant (ADP 12 – 2nd Third baseman off the board)
Silly me. I had Goldschmidt, Hoskins and Abreu on one of my teams with Longoria at third base. I traded Goldy for Bryant and regretted it ever since. Like several of the players on this list, Bryant did miss some time this year. Still, he had one month with double-digit run and RBI numbers and one month with more than 2 home runs. That’s not production for a late first/early second round player. You could extrapolate his production over a full season and say he wasn’t that bad, and you might be right. But in fantasy it’s all about what have you done for me lately, not what you could have done for me if you played a full season.
The walks and strikeouts were solid, as was the batted ball profile and plate discipline. You can’t even point to bad BABIP luck. It was just a bad year combined with nagging injuries – that’s my take. If you want Bryant in 2019 you might get a slight discount, maybe the middle of round 2, but overall I think the fantasy community and experts alike will give him a mulligan. I can’t say the same as it’s harder for the people who owned bust players to forgive, but I’ll try.
Elvis Andrus (ADP 73- 7th shortstop off the board)
Carlos Correa and Corey Seager were major disappointments in the 2nd/3rd round, but I think Elvis was an even bigger flop. This is a player you expected 25+ steals from along with 70+ runs and a solid batting average. How many bases did he steal? FOUR, on 7 measly attempts. I know he was hurt, but so was Correa who was producing prior to his DL trip (another bust consideration). Andrus failed to deliver in the one category we counted on him for, and without those steals he is a replacement level player – at best. The average, which we hoped he would maintain, fell back to .256, giving us flashbacks to 2014 and 2015. How he will finish the season with an ownership rate just under 70% is beyond me.
Andrus will be 30 next year so he’s still young and not at an age of decline. Last year we saw a decline in contact, and this year he repeated the lower contact rate, albeit with a higher swing rate, both in and out of the zone. The ground ball rate continues to inch up each year, and this year we saw a bump in hard contact so the batted ball profile is still solid. The BABIP was lower, but in line with 2014/2015 so it’s not new territory for him. Andrus was given too much credit for the past two seasons. As long as the speed returns, and I have not heard any reasons for its disappearance this year, Andrus could make a nice sleeper in 2019. Bid on his 2014/2015 numbers and you will not be disappointed, and do the happy dance at season’s end if he bats close to .300.
Josh Donaldson (ADP 31 – 10th Corner infielder off the board)
Donaldson missed time in April, and while he played in May things didn’t look right. That’s the end of the story as Donaldson was placed on the DL, and when he returned he was being fitted for a Cleveland uniform and a place on the bench. With only a limited sample to judge I will not dig much into Donaldson. He will be 33 and at an age where players tend to decline. However, prior to being injured there were very little indicators that suggested we needed to worry about his production. Age and injury can be a deterrent for some owners so you may have fewer bidders in 2019, but I do not expect him to fall past the third round and you will need to pay up. I would do so without fear.
Carlos Correa (ADP 15 – 2nd shortstop off the board)
You could also list Corey Seager here, and if that is your choice then apply everything I said about Donaldson. His season was over in April and there is no reason to change your future outlook. Correa, though, has some explaining to do. He was hot out of the gate batting .315 in April, but that .192 average in May left a bad taste in our mouth. Things looked to be turning around in May, but then the DL bug hit. When Correa returned he looked like a shell of the man we drafted. Overall you got 6, maybe 7 weeks of solid production from him. That’s not second round worthy.
A lower than normal BABIP is all I could put my finger on. Even when you look at the monthly splits things look good except that poor BABIP in May. As for the poor production post-DL, these things happen. A player comes back too early, is maybe dealing with discomfort so they change things at the plate and it all goes down hill. Like Donaldson and Seager I would not read too much into the 2018 season. Correa may fall a few places in 2019 due to the amount of talent in the league, but I don’t see him going much past the second round.
Byron Buxton (ADP 60 – 16th outfielder off the board)
Finally, a player that completely fell on his face who also put his 2019 draft status in jeopardy. Sorry, but after a half-dozen players with a similar 2019 outlook this is a nice change of pace. Expectations were high after hitting 16 home runs and stealing 29 bases in 2017. While Buxton still had strikeout issues, the improved average and power gave hope to a 20/30 season. As we all know, Buxton couldn’t even hit his weight and showed zero power. A DL trip followed by a demotion to the minors put fantasy owners out of their misery. Buxton had several more DL trips in the minors with a left wrist problem. He did improve the average in Triple-A (.272), but the lack of power and speed all but assured he would not be brought up when rosters expanded – he wasn’t.
Most fantasy owners and experts alike will have moved on from Buxton in 2019, on to the newer and shinier toys. There is still 20/20 potential here, but if Buxton doesn’t curb the strikeout issues he may never get the chance to live up to his first round potential. Buxton may be worth a late round flyer in 2019, but that’s it. He may even start the season in Triple-A so he may be someone to avoid if you don’t have a minor league slot to stash him in. I would move on, but do not forget or dismiss him.
Yoenis Cespedes (ADP 82 – 22nd outfielder off the board)
Injuries derailed Cespedes in 2017 and it was the same story in 2018. He managed 141 at bats and hit 9 home runs, and when the average started to come around in May you probably felt pretty good about your investment. Then BAM… Cespedes is gone and you’re playing musical chairs to fill his slot on your roster. Like Donaldson the sample size is small, but there were a few things to keep an eye on. The strikeout rate jumped to 30%. After increasing for three straight years the hard hit rate fell to 33%. Finally, the contact rate which sat between 78-80% fell down to 72%. All three numbers improved in May so maybe it was the slow start. But slow starts get slower and longer as a player ages, and Cespedes is now 33 which is when players generally show signs of a decline.
We give players a pass for one injured year, but this is now two in a row for Cespedes. And as I mentioned with Votto and Donaldson, there is a bias towards older players which doesn’t help his draft value. If Cespedes fell to round 7 this year he could tumble and additional round or two in 2019. You don’t normally find potential 30 home run hitters in this area, especially ones that can also hit for average. I like him if this is his value, but I would not pay more for him. Let his spring training production make the decision for you; that’s what I’ll probably do.
Billy Hamilton (ADP 66 – 18th outfielder off the board)
Like Andrus above, Hamilton was drafted for one reason and one reason only… Speed. He came up 20+ stolen bases short, giving owners Dee Gordon production (honorary Bust mention). By June Hamilton was fighting for playing time and trade winds were blowing. His defense kept him in the game so you did get some steals, but you expected him to lead the league and not tie for 5th. Those missed at bats cost him a chance to tie or exceed last years run and RBI total, and he will end the season with a lower batting average than last year. If not for a .306 average in August things would have been much worse.
Hamilton did set a career high in strikeouts (23.6%), but he also set a new high in walks (8.2%). While 30 steals is still good in today’s game, he was caught 1o times. The line drive rate was 27.5%; this would normally be good, but Hamilton’s hard hit rate is lower than his soft contact (27.3% – career high). The final nail in the coffin was a decline in contact with an increase in swings. For me the steals are not worth the negatives Hamilton will give you everywhere else. He should fall to the round 9-10 area next year. Someone will foolishly reach earlier than that – let em. Hamilton is the definition of a better baseball player than a fantasy one.
Yu Darvish (ADP 50 – 12th starting pitcher off the board)
That’s missed time in 3 of the past 4 seasons. When healthy, though, you get a solid WHIP, better than average quality start totals, and a lot of strikeouts. This year you didn’t get any of that. Stephen Strasburg is another injury risk pitcher that can deliver a lot of the same, and he has yet to be discounted much so I don’t see Darvish’s stock taking a dive in 2019. Look to his 2017 numbers with the Dodgers if you’re wondering what his NL potential is. Some will avoid him due to injury concerns. I for one would be willing to gamble a 5th round pick on him regardless of the risk, and that is probably what you’ll have to pay. If he slips beyond the 5th round you’re playing with house money if he stays healthy – that’s the big if. Summation: his 2019 value remains the same.
Chris Archer (ADP 66 – 17th starting pitcher off the board)
Unlike Darvish, I can’t say the same about Archer’s draft value in 2019. We’ll give him a pass for the 4 wins; deGrom should win the Cy-Young and he only has 8. The strikeouts are there; that is one area there was never any contention over. As for the ERA and WHIP, those are numbers you would expect to see from streaming opti0ns plucked from the waiver wire. Both this year and last we saw the hard hit rate grow, from the low 30s to 40%. That’s not good for a pitcher whose walk rate continues to inch up and has a propensity for the long ball. For years, including 2018, we chased the upside for archer due to his strikeout potential. Something tells me owners will not be so willing to pay a premium in 2019 for what he might do.
There is reason to be optimistic. Up until this season Archer was a two-pitch guy, fastball and slider with the occasional changeup mixed in. Up until 2014 Archer also threw a slider, and while the pitch wasn’t a standout, it did generate positive results. He abandoned it, whether it was his choice or collaboration with the pitching coach. Well, that pitch resurfaced in Pittsburgh, and he threw it 8.2% of the time. We’ve seen a number of pitchers rejuvenated in Pittsburgh over the years. Can Archer be next?
I am as curious as the rest of you to see where Archer will rank next year among the experts. I see more people going after guys like Castillo again before giving Archer another chance. He may still get ranked inside the top-30, but something tells me he will not be one of the top-30 pitchers drafted. Like Cespedes, I may let his spring training numbers influence my final placement. If Archer is expanding beyond his two-pitch mix and looks good this spring I may foolishly reach for the potential – this will be the last time though.
Robbie Ray (ADP 66 – 11th starting pitcher off the board)
I owned Archer, Ray and Gerrit Cole last year in a keeper league. Of the three I kept Cole and found a buyer for Ray. That is one of the few success stories i have for that team. Back to Ray… man I’m glad I traded him – for Xander Bogaerts no less. As a Carlos Correa owner that trade couldn’t have worked out any better, but I digress. Ray was drafted as a top-12 pitcher, and his ranking was anywhere between 11-20 depending on where you looked. Do you know where Ray is ranked on the ESPN player rater? He ranks 115, and on Yahoo he sits right next to steve Matz – Matz has 5 more quality starts. Part of that ranking is due to injury, but the rest is Ray’s fault.
We talked about his high walk rate this preseason. Well, it got worse (4.89 BB/9), like Fernando Rodney worse. That 40% hard hit rate we were troubled by – well that went up as well (43.3%). Ray did keep the contact rate low, but that doesn’t matter much if the guys are teeing off on the ones they do hit like it was batting practice. I’m no pitching coach and I never played one on TV. I don’t know if it’s movement or lack thereof, command, or maybe the arsenal itself. First he got rid of his changeup, then phased out his sinker while working in a curveball. That recipe clicked last year, but is it the right one?
What I do know is like Archer, Ray has big strikeout potential. His numbers were much better on the road so maybe the humidor needs some adjusting? I can see Ray falling outside the top-30 like Archer, but I can also see an owner or two giving him a mulligan and reaching early for the K’s and potential upside. I am on the fence for 2019, but just like my decision to trade him in my keeper league, I’ll probably let someone else chase him.
Honorable Mentions: Zack Godley (ADP 116) Luis Castillo (ADP 117) and Luke Weaver (ADP 122). These three were basically taken consecutively in drafts, and while their ADP puts them outside the top-100, they were reached for in about half the league out there. Some took them as a complement to their aces, and in those cases you should have been able to recover. However, there were some (I’m guilty in one league) who bypassed the aces, loading up on bats early, thinking they could be slick by loading up with high upside arms who had the potential to be aces. Ouch!
Of the three Castillo shows the most promise. Over the 30 days (6 starts, 34.2 innings) Castillo has posted a 2.60 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with 4 wins and 4 quality starts. Oh, and 40 K’s. His season totals will mask the improvements made to the average owners, but savvy owners will be all over this next year. His draft value and ADP may not change much, but just like 2018 you may need to reach a round or two early.
Weaver has been a train wreck, and the move to the bullpen did not help curb things. Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas were the arms to own behind Carlos Martinez, and those three should have a rotation spot come April. That leaves Weaver fighting it out with the likes of John Gant, Austin Gomber, a healthy Alex Reyes, Michael Wacha (contract year), and whoever else the Cardinals may bring in. It is likely Weaver will be nothing more than a bullpen arm in 2019 which will negate any value he might have. Bud Norris will be leaving so the closer role is open; St Louis had some luck when they moved starter Trevor Rosenthal to the pen so this could be an option as well.
As for Godley: there were strand rate and BABIP issues; both the FIP and xFIP were below 4.00. And his road ERA was even with the FIP and xFIP so maybe, like Ray, there is an adjustment period for the humidor. However, like Ray, the BB/9 went up a full point, the hard hit rate increased 5 percentage points (37.5), he lost almost 2 MPH on his fastball, and the contact increase with fewer swings outside. It’s looking like 2017 was a best case scenario and the real Godley is somewhere in between with an ERA closer to 4.00. Look for his ADP and draft value to fall, probably at or outside the top-150. There is strikeout potential here, but the lack of pedigree and track record makes him a hard arm to chase or trust.
So who were your biggest busts this season? List them in the comment section below and share your pain with the masses.
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