People love a shiny young player because they're loaded with "upside" and no one has been burned by them before. The hype surrounding them also leaves them vulnerable to overdrafting.
The problem is, if enough people think a player is a "sleeper," then he is drafted earlier and earlier until you are paying for his best-case scenario. This is the case with the starting pitcher on this squad. He has been hyped to the level of making owners pay for his top potential, instead of his realistic expectations.
This young pitcher, and many other people on this list, have no upside left. If they perform to their highest potential, you get exactly what you paid. If they do anything less, then you end up with a bust, relative to the draft position.
Be wary of these players being taken far too early in drafts.
Don't sweat the power. It has always been there and will always be there. But Brian McCann, Carlos Santana and even Buster Posey could also hit 20 home runs at catcher. The reason Napoli is being drafted in the fourth or fifth round as the No. 1 catcher is he batted .320 last year.
Now, in six years, Napoli is a career .264 hitter. Take out last season and he's a career .251 hitter. People say he benefited from playing everyday, as opposed to the position battles he struggled with in Los Angeles.
But in 2011, Napoli had only the third-most at-bats (369) of his career.
In 2009, Napoli registered 382 at-bats and a .272 average. In 2010, Napoli had 453 at-bats and batted just .238. Granted, even at .265, Napoli is a 25-home run guy at a shallow spot on the fantasy field, but he's being projected at .280 or higher by enough people to push his draft slot over the projections.
I've said this is the first year I'm planning to take a catcher early, as the top tier is separated enough from the rest, but between Napoli, Santana, McCann, Posey and Mauer (who I have in that group), I'll be happy to get any one of them, and Nap isn't No. 1.
Before Lance Berkman hit .301, 31 HR, 94 RBI and 90 runs scored in 2011 at 35 years old, he had topped .280 once since 2006. He hadn't hit 30 HR since 2007.
Berkman is a fine line this season and one easily crossed. First base is deceptively shallow, so he will already be drafted a bit early for that, but value comes down to the stats you pay for versus the stats you get.
If Berkman is the 12th or 13th first baseman off the board and you pay for his 2009 numbers of .274, 25 HR and 80 RBI, you won't be disappointed. But if he goes right after the top tier of six first basemen (Cabrera, Pujols, Votto, Gonzalez, Fielder, Teixeira), where he's been drafted in multiple mocks, then you're paying for a repeat of 2011.
At 36 years old and without Pujols around, the odds of that grow much larger.
Dustin Ackley is 24 years old. In 90 games as a rookie in 2011, he batted .273 with six each of home runs and stolen bases. True, he displayed an advanced approach at the plate and his average should continue to climb.
But again, hype seems to have outrun his 2012 value. For redraft leagues, stop paying attention to people who say "so-and-so could do this in his prime." Ackley is several years from his prime. The absolute best-case scenario for Ackley in a full season of games is .280, 15 HR and around 15 steals.
And those projections are best case. Personally, I wouldn't draft him expecting more than .275 and around 12 HR/SB. He's starting look like Danny Espinosa would if he traded half his power and one-third of his steals for 40 points of average... or Kelly Johnson if he traded about eight home runs for 30 points of average.
Consider those better barometers for Ackley's draft position than the Howard Kendrick/Ryan Roberts/Neil Walker tier he's being drafted in.
Yet another example of the hype outrunning the present value, Brett Lawrie could be a 30/30 hitter in his prime. He is 22 and has 150 at-bats in the major leagues.
Lawrie is being drafted ahead of Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo Sandoval, Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis is most mock drafts at this point.
Aramis Ramirez has hit for a .280-plus average, 25-plus home runs and 80-plus RBI in seven of the last eight seasons. Those are all numbers Lawrie is unlikely to reach this year. Kevin Youkilis has an average over .300 and OPS over .950 in three of the last four years. Alex Rodriguez has 30 or more home runs and 100 RBI in 13 of the last 14 seasons and has batted under .275 just once since 1995.
If Lawrie is the 12th or 13th third basemen drafted and you expect .275 with 17 HR and maybe 15 SB, then it's good value. However, as the sixth or seventh 3B off the board, you better get .285, 20 and 20 or the value won't measure up.
Asdrubal Cabrera had 18 home runs 1,415 at-bats between 2007-2010. He had 25 home runs in 604 at-bats in 2011. But he had 30 more strikeouts than any prior season and his OPS was actually lower than his last full season, 2009, when it was seven points higher thanks for 29 points of on-base percentage.
Cabrera is a career .281 hitter and had never topped six home runs in a season before 2011. It looks sort of like a poor man's version of Joe Mauer's 2009. There is sustainability in Cabrera's 17 steals, which matched his career high from 2009, but this is a shortstop with health issues who is being taken ahead of Elvis Andrus, Jimmy Rollins and Starlin Castro in some drafts.
He is certainly capable of .280, 11 HR and 15 SB, perhaps even scoring 80 runs, but that puts him in the Derek Jeter range in drafts.
Don't reach for shortstop this year. Once the top four come off the board (Tulowitzki, Ramirez, Reyes, Castro, in my rankings), there's better value late, like 30-homer man JJ Hardy (who had shown power throughout his career) or Dee Gordon, one my favorite deep shortstop picks who will help you in average, steals and runs.
Desmond Jennings is being drafted before Carl Crawford in many drafts this season. Prior to a disastrous, injury-shortened 2011, Crawford batted .296 or better, had 11 or more home runs and 45 or more steals in six of seven seasons.
In 80 career games, Jennings has a .254 average, 10 HR and 22 SB. Stretching that out to a full season, that's about .250, 20 and 44, so essentially his numbers would line up with the man who will stand to his left all season, BJ Upton. And that's fine.
The problem comes when he's being drafted ahead of, for example, Alex Gordon, who is coming off a season of .303, 23 HR, 17 SB and 101 runs, or Michael Morse, coming from a 2011 of .303, 31 HR, 95 RBI and 73 R.
This guy might be the best parts of Crawford and both Upton brothers in his prime, but at 25 years old, invest wisely.
Josh Hamilton has played in over 135 games once in his career. And he's had an alcohol relapse. There is nothing reliable about Hamilton this season.
If Hamilton was guaranteed to play a full slate, he'd be a top-five overall pick as one of the most talented pure hitters in the game. However, at this point, there's no guarantees.
Hamilton is going ahead of Curtis Granderson, who managed 41 home runs, 119 RBI and 136 runs scored in 2011, not to mention 583 at-bats. He's going ahead of Andrew McCutchen, who totaled 23 HR, 23 SB, 89 RBI and 87 runs in 572 at-bats; and Michael Bourn, who batted .294 with 61 steals and 94 runs scored in 656 at-bats.
Granderson has six straight seasons of 136 or more games and has played in 156 or more in four of those seasons. McCutchen is just 25 years old and has two straight seasons of 150-plus games. Bourn is 29 and has three straight seasons over 530 at-bats.
If Hamilton slips outside the top-10 center fielders, buy the talent, but don't reach over better options who will help you all year.
Jayson Werth didn't play in over 105 games until he was 29. In his contract year of 2010, he had his best season as a pro, batting .296 with 27 home runs and a league-leading 46 doubles. He turned that into a laughable seven-year contract, then turned around and batted .232 with 20 home runs in his first year with Washington.
It is a shame Werth is going so early, because .265, 20 HR and 20 SB has value in fantasy, but he's being drafted among the top-10 right fielders—ahead of the likes of Shin-Soo Choo, Corey Hart and Jason Heyward.
Choo, at 26 years old in 2009, hit .300 with 20 HR and 21 SB, then turned around at 27 and hit .300 with 22 and 22. Hart's last two seasons have seen slash lines of .283/.340./.525 and .295/.356/.510 with 57 home runs combined.
Granted, both Choo and Heyward had injury-altered 2011s, but both are young enough to improve by leaps and bounds in 2012, whereas Werth's age makes the decline logical.
Werth has value as a power/speed combination with a career .264 average, but he will likely be drafted for .280, 25 and 85 and the stats don't support that.
Do not read this wrong; Matt Moore is an electric talent and will be another great pitcher in a rotation full of them. But he is 22 years old and threw 164.1 innings combined at several levels, including the majors last year.
There's two workload concerns with Moore. The first: Young strikeout pitchers (12.7 K/9 over 99 minor league games) struggle to go deep into games. Even if Tampa Bay is willing to give Moore 30 starts, that may only amount to 160-170 innings.
The second: If he does control his pitch counts to work deeper, will the Rays be willing to add 30 innings to his 2011 total on their phenom?
Moore is currently being drafted ahead of the likes of Madison Bumgarner, who notched 191 Ks in 204.2 innings last season with a 3.21 ERA (also 22 years old now). He's also going ahead of CJ Wilson, who is coming off of a 201-strikeout, 211-inning season.
The absolute best-case scenario is Bumgarner's 2011. If someone wants to take him as a top-20 starting pitcher in his 22-year-old season, let them.
Honorable Mention: James Shields
Look at these numbers...
2011 saves leaders (in order): Valverde, Axford, Kimbrel, Putz, Rivera, Bell, Storen, Hanrahan, Cordero, League.
2010 saves leaders: Wilson, Bell, Soriano, Soria, Capps, Cordero, Feliz, Marmol, Gregg, Papelbon.
Notice something? The only guys in the top 10 both years were Heath Bell, now in Miami, and Francisco Cordero, who is slated to set up for Sergio Santos in Toronto and will NOT close.
All that said, Craig Kimbrel will be the top selected closer on draft day and his strikeout ability is pushing him so high that the other top relievers are then being selected early as well.
Wait another 10 rounds and take Carlos Marmol, Kyle Farnsworth, Jason Motte, Bell, Jordan Walden and Joakim Soria later. They should all touch 35-40 saves with respectable strikeout totals.