A few weeks ago I presented you with my All Sleeper team, but today we examine the other side of the coin. People like sleepers; it gives them a warm and fuzzy feeling when they see their player featured and gives them a sense of reassurance. Some may ask why so and so isn’t listed, but overall nobody really complains.
Busts on the other hand tend to strike a nerve with people. Nobody wants to see one of their favorite players listed here and a few potential owners can be quite vocal about this (and not in a polite way). Before you get into the list of players keep one thing in mind. Some of the players I’ve listed are busts that you want to stay away from. Others are busts that can still be a useful fantasy commodity, but they won’t live up to their current hype and or ADP that they are currently going at. Not all busts are bad to own, but the potential useful ones are if you pay too much for them. With that said, here are my busts for the 2014 season. Feel free to disagree and post your own busts in the comments section below.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Marlins) – Last year Salty finished 6th in yahoo and 12th in CBS points leagues, but anyone expecting a repeat performance are in for a rude awakening. He’s going from the hitting friendly environment of the AL East and a powerhouse team like the Red Sox to the spacious NL East and the lowly Miami Marlins. He did show some improvements last year in his batting average and OBP, but a 40/50 point jump in each over his previous two seasons concerns some skeptics. Salty also set career highs in the RBI (65) and run (68) department, but that was mostly due to being a product of his environment and the energy of being on a championship caliber team. He has power evident by his 297.5′ average fly ball distance, but his FB% has dropped for 2 straight years while his GB & LD% have gone up. In a two catcher league beggars can’t be choosers, but if you’re in a 12/14 team 1 catcher league, look elsewhere for your backstop. You may get some home runs, but the overall product won’t be far off of what you can expect from Russell Martin.
Anthony Rizzo (Cubs) – A lot of people are high on Rizzo for his home run prowess and I’m not going to disagree on this point…much. The number one issue I have with Rizzo is his batting average. He hit .278 in A+ and .263 in AA. That average shot up to .336 in AAA but most ignore or are ignorant to the fact that a .300 in the PCL is not uncommon. Rizzo batted .285 in 2012 for the Cubs, but his overall ML average is just .238. That’s a few points higher than Mark Trumbo and you see how some owners are starting to turn on him. If that doesn’t frighten you then maybe this will; Rizzo is a .194 hitter against left-handed pitchers. The Cubs will show patience with the 24-year-old, but that wide of a lefty/righty split makes him a platoon player in the making. Now I said I wouldn’t disagree much about his power, but he doesn’t have as much as owners would like to think. He hit 49 home runs in 613 at bats in AAA, but like I said with the BA it was in the PCL where home run hitters thrive. That power doesn’t always translate well to the majors.
Rizzo is young enough to turn things around, but it’s not going to happen overnight and he won’t make enough improvements this year to come close to finishing in the top 15. The lower than average run and RBI totals make him a poor option for your starting first baseman, but his power still makes him a decent play for leagues that use a CI slot (but you could take a big hit in BA). He’s the NL version of Chris Carter, how much do you like him now.
Ian Kinsler (Tigers) – People just assume that since Kinsler will have Miguel Cabrera protecting him in the lineup that his numbers will be better. But you see, Kinsler’s problem isn’t protections; it’s the inability to hit on the road. He owns a career .304 BA and a .898 OPS in Arlington, but on the road those numbers fall to .242 and .710. Things have gotten a little worse lately because if you average out his road average and OPS for past three years it comes out to .231 and .690. The numbers continue their downhill spiral when you look at his numbers at Comerica Park where Kinsler has batted .200 with a .627 OPS over 140 at bats (granted small sample size but still has to be mentioned). And that’s just his BA, I haven’t even discussed his power and speed. Last year his average fly ball distance was 265.22 (same as Shane Victorino) and his ISO is on a 2 year decline (.136) along with his FB and FB/HR percentages. You could normally count on 20 homers but this year you’ll be lucky to see 15. As for the speed, he stole 21 bases in 2012 but was caught 9 times and last year he only stole 15 but was caught 11 times. He may still have the wheels to reach double digits, but that green run light turned yellow a few years ago and is going to change to red any time now.
He’s not worthy of being taken with the 63 pick mock draft central has him at and certainly doesn’t deserve an ADP of 47 on couch managers. With the potential for a disastrous BA, the decline in power and regression in the speed department, his value could end up being no more than someone like Chase Utley (who is being taken 100 picks later on average). I wish I would have looked closer into Kinsler when I did my second base rankings and could take back that #5 I handed him. He won’t be a complete bust, but he will be for where people are taking him and for what their expecting him to produce. You’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.
Chase Headley (Padres) – Judging by his ADP on mock draft central (84 – 10th 3rd baseman off the board), Headley is still a popular pick. I picked him as a bust last year (unofficially), I’m picking him as a bust this year and will continue to do so until everyone gets the message. Headley had a great 2012, but it’s time to face reality that one good year doesn’t make a good player. The 13 home runs last year was his second highest total of his career as were the 64 RBIs he had in 2009 and the 77 runs scored in 2010. Headley has only hit above .270 twice and if you take out the .289/.286 he hit in 2011/2012 he’s a .261 hitter that strikes out over 22% of the time. I mentioned in an earlier piece that last year he was as valuable in 2013 as Kelly Johnson, and I don’t see any of you rushing out to draft Johnson.
Yes, Headley is in a walk year so Maybe you’ll catch lightning in a bottle. The reality is, Headley is a 30-year-old guy who had one good year out of a mediocre career. And for those of you who want to blame last years numbers on the fact that he wasn’t healthy, explain why he was so bad the 4 years prior to his career year. Headley should NOT be a starting third baseman for your team and you can do much better for your CI slot. Let someone else have him, and if that someone is the waiver wire then so be it.
Jurickson Profar (Rangers) – I know he’ll play second this year, but he still qualifies for his original position in many leagues (18 games at SS). He has a bright future and those in keeper leagues would be smart to grab him, but for 2014 I think there are going to be some disappointed owners. First of all he’s only 21 so his power is still in the developmental stage. He showed he could hit home runs in AA ball in 2012, but hitting 14 in AA is a far cry from reaching double digits in the majors. Profar’s batting average in the minors was around .280, but considering the struggles he went though last year I don’t see him reaching this yet. The higher strike out totals and lower walks also contributed to his low BA last year along with the .308 OBP. The average should come up some but not to a point of being a useful fantasy shortstop (or second baseman). And if he’s having trouble getting on base, his stolen bases totals have very little chance of reaching 20 let along double digits. Finally if he struggles like he did last year he’ll be back in the #8 or 9 hole where he spent half the season, and that means low run totals. Profar isn’t the guy you draft as a starter for your fake team for this year, and it’s a stretch to recommend picking him for your MI slot. He has upside and the possibility that he breaks out is a reason to give him a bench spot, but nothing more. Long term potential doesn’t win you a championship this year.
Jed Lowrie (A’s) – I like to stick to the facts when it comes to evaluating players, but on occasion something about a player just rubs me the wrong way despite what his numbers show; this is one of those instances. Lowrie finished in the top 10 last year for qualifying shortstops (and second basemen) for runs, RBI’s and batting average. Lowrie batted .290 last year despite having a career batting average of .264 and while his BABIP supports the average, I’m not buying it. He had 15 home runs last year (7 home, 8 road) with an average fly ball distance of 271 feet, and according to ESPN’s home run tracker only 4 of them were just enough; and still I’m not buying it. Lowrie’s had 75 RBI’s last year, and over half of them came when he hit third. I know Billy Beane baseball has different criterias for where players hit, but Lowrie hitting third? Lowrie ranking 4th in RBI’s for shortstops and 37th among all infielders? Again…I’m not buying it.
Prior to last year Lowrie was nothing more than a platoon player. Maybe at the age of 29, after years of being shuffled around, the DL trips, the sporadic playing time, maybe things finally clicked. Then again, maybe he just had a very good year; these things do happen. Addison Russell is the future at shortstop and while Lowrie could move to second, all talk from sports to fantasy experts have him being shipped out-of-town. You don’t just ship off a player of the caliber we saw last year unless….unless he really isn’t that good. You can buy into Lowrie if you want and when he repeats you can come back here and tell me how wrong I was, but when he turns out to be nothing more than an injury risk guy who didn’t live up to the hype, don’t say I didn’t warn you. This one could go either way, but in my world Lowrie isn’t a safe buy. Take that for what it’s worth.
Brett Lawrie (Blue Jays) – Maybe Lawrie just needs a few years to adjust, maybe all the injuries have held him back, and maybe…just maybe, Brett Lawrie isn’t as good as we hoped he’d be. His fly ball distance this year was 272.5 feet (ranked 214) with an ISO of .142; this is up from last years numbers of 265.4 feet and .132 ISO. There was some improvement there, but the problem is his GB% has hovered around 50 for the past two years. Initially we expected 20+ home runs here, but I would not expect more than 16 in 2014. Speed was another factor that drew us to Lawrie, but the past two years he’s 22 for 35 in stolen base attempts. That’s not bad for a third baseman but most were expecting 22 a year and not every two. As for the batting average, his BABIP suggests he’s only been slightly unlucky so the .254 is only a few points off the mark. With the power on hiatus and the low average he’s not going to hit near the top of the order so you can expect low run and RBI totals as he bounces around the order.
Some of the regression and problems might be contributed to injuries. In the past two years Lawrie has dealt with injuries to his ribs, oblique, ankle, calf, back, knee and groin (at least his arms still work). Younger players heal faster, but those are a lot of issues for someone his age. He just turned 24 so there is still a chance he can correct things, he does makes very good contact and has good plate discipline. Lawrie has the same chance to turn in a very good fantasy season as he does of repeating last years numbers. I’m gonna side with the latter here, and as a Lawrie owner that kills me to say that. He may still be fantasy worthy if he qualifies for second base in your league, but as a third baseman he is someone to own for your bench and not as a starter. He’s a bust, but not broken.
Leonys Martin (Rangers) – I couldn’t feature Martin in centerfield with Dexter Folwer there, but he played enough games in right field last year and his place on this team is warranted. Martin could have a bright future along with Jurickson Profar at the top of the order in Texas, but it won’t be this year. He has some problems and some holes to fix before he can take that next step. The first is his inability to hit lefties. Last year he batted .226 against them and while 133 at bats is a small sample size, he had similar struggles in the minors. Second is that he struggles on the road. Granted many Texas players struggle away from Arlington, but you expect more than a .230 average from a guy who’s auditioning to be your leadoff man. Sticking with the batting average and leadoff struggles we get to number three which is walks and strikeouts. 32 walks in 511 at bats isn’t good, especially when combined with a strikeout percentage over 20.
With a low batting average, below average walk totals, higher strikeout totals and a low OBP, Martin will likely see more time at the bottom of the lineup than the top, so you’re not going to get a lot in the run and RBI categories. And the power, with a 262 average fly ball distance and .125 ISO don’t expect more than the 8 you saw last year (3 of those were just enough). He did bat a respectable .275 against right-handed pitchers and he does have some speed, but that just makes him a left-handed version of Rajai Davis who can usually be plucked off waivers when you need cheap steals. Martin is currently the 93rd player off the board at mock draft central (34th ranked OF), but that is way too high for someone who is only going to contribute in one category (and maybe two if his run totals are good). He’s a year or two away from being a platoon player (and that could very well happen this year). Don’t buy into the hype and do not draft Leony’s Martin.
Honorable Mentions to Marlon Byrd, you deserve to be here as well my friend.
Dexter Fowler (Astros) – Sometimes a change of scenery will do a player good, but not when it’s a player leaving Colorado for…well, anywhere else. Dexter was a typical Rockies player, he loved playing at home and phoned in his road games.
If you’re a Fowler fan, his home/away splits should give you pause. Last year was one of his worst years for splits in his batting average, he hit .311 at home and .214 on the road *ouch*. If you’re expecting his home run totals to increase that’s probably not going to happen. Fowler had an average fly ball distance of 289.35 feet last year and managed just 12 home runs (5 on the road). He only hit 5 home runs in 2011 with a fly ball distance of 287.23 feet so unless he’s bulked up some, don’t expect more than a dozen. RBIs were hard to come by on the road with the Rockies and that was with a decent team behind him so don’t expect a spike now that he’s with the lowly Astros. The one thing not listed above is his stolen bases and while there is a problem there, it is not with his splits. Fowler has stolen 83 bases in his major league career; unfortunately he’s be caught stealing 41 times. If he were a kid I’d say maybe he can make some adjustments and improve, but the odds are against him at age 28. There’s not a lot to like here so don’t waste a draft pick. The one good month he may have is not worth the five months of mediocrity and headaches.
Adam Eaton (White Sox) – I couldn’t feature Eaton in centerfield with Dexter Folwer there, but he played enough games in left field last year and just like Martin; his place on this team is warranted. I’m fully aware that in 2012 he batted .381 with 46 doubles, 38 stolen bases and a .995 OPS in only 488 at bats. I know he’s hit .300+ at every stop in his young career. The problem is he put up that great average in a hitters division and those lofty totals in 2012 are par for the course when you play half your games in Aces Field. More often than not, hitters that spend time with the AAA Reno Aces develop some bad habits and gain a false sense of confidence due to the nature of this extreme hitters park.
The .252 batting average and .674 OPS last year wasn’t due to lack of consistent playing time, it was a slap of reality in the face of Mr. Eaton. He’s become accustomed to his minor league surroundings and will have to adjust his game to be successful in the majors. Eaton may have talent but he’s not going to get back to being that .300 hitter overnight, and that’s what potential owners fail to realize. If you’re in a keeper league he’s worthy of an investment, but for the 2014 season I would stay far away from this rising star and wouldn’t even waste a bench spot on him.
Jered Weaver (Angels) – Mike Podhorzer over at Fangraphs talked about Weaver last June, I warned you again when I did my early pitchers rankings in November and Mike Petriello of Fangraphs cautioned us again in January. And despite all the red flags he’s still the 24th pitcher going off the board over at mock draft central. Between the two pieces above and my brief write-up in my rankings I think you have more than enough information on Weaver, so let me bottom line it for you. His fastball is toast, his strikeouts are declining, his first pitch strike percentage is decreasing, the line drive percentage is going up while his ground ball percentage is going down and his shoulder is on shaky ground. Weaver may end up being a useful fantasy pitcher this year but he is NOT a top 25 pitcher anymore. See what he did in 2009 (3.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP), that’s the best you can hope for and with the diminished strikeout totals; along with the shoulder concerns, he’s not worth it. You can do better picking up someone off the waiver wire. His spacious home park may prolong his career, but it won’t save it.
Francisco Liriano (Pirates) – For years Liriano was locked behind a little glass door that said, “In case of Emergency, break glass”. Liriano has big strikeout potential, but he’s also made of glass and his ERA & WHIP from year to year resemble Ervin Santana’s. With a career 1.33 WHIP and 4.18 ERA, the odds of him repeating or coming close to the numbers he showed us last year are….lets just say I shook my magic 8 ball and it told me to stop asking it stupid questions. Now some will point to the change he made last year, cutting down on his fastball in favor of his slider as a primary pitch. You can make an argument here and throw out some stats in support of that, but I’m a proponent of the Occam’s Razor theory “The simplest explanation for some phenomenon is more likely to be accurate than more complicated explanations”. Liriano was healthy and everything clicked for him for one year, plain and simple. He walks way to many batters and can be very hittable at times. Nobody will fault you for throwing a dart at the board after round 18 if he’s still on the board, just don’t get your hopes up and be prepared to abandon ship if he hits an iceberg.
Ricky Nolasco (Twins) – Over the past 8 years Ricky has had two good seasons. Nolasco holds a career ERA and WHIP of 4.38 and 1.29. If you take out those 2 good years you get an ERA and WHIP of 4.72 and 1.34. Both numbers are horrid and should frighten you enough that you won’ t need to read any further and I don’t have to write much more. Just like Liriano, everything clicked for Nolasco last year but don’t read anything into it, Nolasco just had a good year and nothing more. Earlier I thought moving to the pitcher friendly Target Field would help his ratios, but after considering the fact he played for several year in the spacious Marlins Park in the pitcher friendly NL East I’ve changed my stance. I’m still sticking with my initial comments on Nolasco, let somebody else have him in 2014.
Bartolo Colon (Mets) – The past two years Colon has done his best impression of a finely aged Merlot, but the bottle has been opened for a while now and that smooth, light and fruity taste will soon be replaced by a rancid vinegar concoction unsuitable for human consumption. Sounds harsh, but the truth isn’t always pleasant. Colon struck out 117 batters last year; that’s only a few more than what Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen each totaled in relief. He hasn’t seen 200 innings since 2005 and while he reached 190 last season, don’t expect more than 155 innings this year. His ERA has been below 3.5 the past two years, but does anyone remember what he did prior to 2012?
6 straight years of injuries and inconsistencies with an ERA worthy of a waiver wire spot starter. Unless he went down to the crossroads and made himself a deal, you should realistically expect numbers and innings similar to what he did prior to 2012. Colon will be 41 in May and given his health concerns, low strikeouts, undependable ERA and now moving out of the Coliseum, don’t expect much and don’t expect numbers like he’s given us the past two years. He may still have some good games in him, but his overall value will be that of a waiver wire fill in. Thank you for what you gave us last year Bartolo, but we wish you well in your future endeavors. Pass!
Jim Johnson (A’s) – The odds of Johnson getting 50 saves this season are slim and none. The past two years he received more save opportunities (54 & 59) than any other closer. The 41 save opportunities Balfour received in Oakland last year were the most by a member of the A’s since Huston Street in 2006 (48 with 11 blown). Right there you can put his saves below 40, and if you throw in his blown saves you’re looking at 35 for the season. The saves alone would rank him in the 11-20 range, but then we have his ERA. His career ERA is 3.11 and his FIP and xFIP have been above that mark every year except 2010. The ERA will come down to hits and with a 2 year increase in line drives along with a decrease in ground balls, odds are you’re looking at a 3.3 ERA or higher for 2014. Next is his WHIP which is 1.23 for his career. That’s not horrible but it’s something we expect from our #4/5 starter and not a closer. As the hits go up so does the WHIP and with a 2.59 BB/9, there is very little room for error. So with saves, ERA & WHIP you’re looking at someone who ranks around 15th…but what about strikeouts? That’s what Johnson says as he really doesn’t strike people out. His K/9 was 7.17 last year but for his career you’re looking at 5.96.
Johnson was on the verge of losing his closers gig last year, and in Oakland they don’t hesitate to change things up when it comes to who closes out games. His new home park and division will help pad his numbers some, but not enough to hide the fact that he’s a mediocre option with low strikeout totals who is not going to improve the peripheral stats of your fantasy team. Despite his low ranking almost everywhere he’s still one of the top 10 closers being taken over at mock draft central, but he’s barely a top 15 option. Odds are if Oakland is not in the playoff hunt in August, you’ll be looking for a new closer if you draft Johnson. If you’re smart, he won’t be on your team.
Ernesto Frieri (Angels) – I’m not going to talk about Frieri’s strikeout potential, we all know he’s a flame thrower capable of hanging with the big dogs at the top of the rankings. Strikeouts are nice, but there are two categories that don’t count in fantasy (for most of us) that owners should be worried about; walks and home runs allowed. Take a look at his BB/9 from the minors all the way through the majors.
His BB/9 did drop from 4.31 in 2012 to 3.93 in 2013, but that is still way too high for a closer and given his track record, I don’t see improvements coming any time soon (or at least this year). The walks are especially troubling because of the amount of home runs he gives up. Last year he gave up 11 home runs in 68.2 innings; if he were a starter that would be about 33 home runs over a season. He gave up only 55 hits last year but 20% of those hits went over the wall; that’s not a recipe for success. His fly ball percentage last year was 59.2%; combine that with the home runs and walk totals and you’re looking at a pitcher that is begging to be removed from the closer role. His FIP and xFIP up until last year were usually a full point above his ERA. Both were slightly lower than his 3.80 ERA last year, but not enough to give owners hope.
Frieri is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and the only reason he is still the closer is because there is no real option to replace him. Frieri is currently being taken in mock drafts at pick 131 and is the 15th closer being selected. He shouldn’t go off the board anytime before round 15 and if he does, that’s one less headache for you to worry about down the road.