Fantasy baseball is an opportunity cost sport. With every player taken off of your war room board, there is an expectation of what you as owner will get in return for your investment.
Players like Ryan Braun and Roy Halladay have remarkably consistent track records. The upside and downside of these types of players create a very narrow gap meaning that you know what you’re going to get for the most part.
Braun may hit .320. He may hit .305. He’s not going to hit .240.
What we will be focusing on here are players whose production gap isn’t so narrow.
With a little good luck, they can separate your team from the pack and lead you to a fantasy championship.
With a little bad luck, you could wind up in the cellar and disinterested by the all star break.
Here are my 10 riskiest fantasy picks for 2012.
There's no questioning the natural talent of Colby Rasmus. Scouts have long raved about his 5 tool ability, but in 2011 a strange thing happened. He completely forgot how to hit.
After an impressive sophomore campaign in 2010 (.276 23 HR 66 RBI 12 Steals), Rasmus was terrible in his third year, prompting the Cardinals to loose faith and ship him north of the border.
The good news: No real competition for the starting job in Toronto.
The bad news: He was worse there than in St. Louis last year.
Projection: .250 15 HR 60 RBI 7 Steals
Hanley Ramirez was once one of the studs of the fantasy world and was the first overall pick of choice for 4 years running. During the first 3 years of that stretch, Ramirez owners were rewarded with high performance across the board.
Last year… not so much.
Ramirez battled injury to the tune of 92 games played in 2011. If only he could have been productive for those 92 games, maybe you would feel better about him. Unfortunately, he was not and posted career lows in every fantasy category.
Fast forward to 2012, throw in a position move that he is none too happy about, and we’re facing some major skepticism.
The good news: Hanley is still a 5 category talent when he’s on his game.
The bad news: There’s some animosity between Ramirez and Miami management over his inability to play shortstop.
Projection: .290 21 HR 85 RBI 24 Steals
Matt Moore is the No. 1 prospect in baseball. He features a powerful fastball, devastating breaking stuff and superior control for a young pitcher.
That reads like the same line I would have written for David Price prior to 2009 before watching him post a 4.42 ERA and a not so great 102 strikeouts.
Learn from your mistakes from fantasy seasons past and be cautious with young Matt. Can't miss prospects now often times do.
The good news: This kid is Justin Verlander talented from the left side.
The bad news: What we saw last year was before teams had a chance to study him on film.
Projection: 12 Wins 3.70 ERA 1.25 WHIP 185 K
Yoenis Cespedes is the new corner stone of the Oakland franchise and they couldn’t be more excited about him.
Billy Beane got to spend some money!
However, prior to this fantasy season, you should listen to the cautionary tale of Kendry Morales, a fellow Cuban defector who arrived state side with lofty expectations.
Long story short, they do not have MLB quality pitching in Cuba.
Morales struggled learning the American game to the tune of 57 games and a .234 average as a rookie while playing in the same division before it developed into one of the premier pitching divisions in the majors. Don’t reach too far on this one.
The good news: He’s probably a middle of the order guy right away for the lowly A’s if he makes the club.
The bad news: He may not even make the club.
Projection: .260 18 HR 65 RBI 10 Steals
Adam Wainwright was one of the premier pitchers in baseball heading into the 2011 season and a legitimite Cy Young award candidate.
Then he heard a popping sound.
Five years ago we would have had major red flags going off on Wainwright. However, thanks to modern medicine and Dr. James Andrews near miraculous time management skills, pitchers often times come back from Tommy John surgery stronger than ever.
The more pressing concern seems to be that the Cardinals wish to put their co-ace on an innings restriction. Expect solid production from the Cardinal’s righty, but only expect 170 or so innings of it.
The good news: Wainwright appears to be more or less his old self.
The bad news: Innings limits kill teams in a head to head league come playoff time.
Projection: 13 wins 3.20 ERA 1.18 WHIP 165 K
Michael Morse had a career year to the extreme last season as he literally doubled his career production of 6 years in one season. The question with Morse is can he repeat it or can we expect free fall back to reality.
Many skeptics say no. They also said the same thing about Jose Bautista, a very similar situation if you recall. I think it's safe to say that Jose repeated his success.
The truth of the matter is that no one really knows. Personally, I don’t think he’s a one-hit wonder, but I don’t see him hitting .303 again either.
The good news: The Nationals lineup is maturing into a force with intentions to feature Morse in the middle of the order.
The bad news: One season of production isn’t much to go on.
Projection: .270 28 HR 85 RBI 2 Steals
The Rangers seem to feel a little more comfortable with Joe Nathan than I think they should. They’ve already committed to moving Neftali Felix to the starting rotation to make room for the aging closer at the back end of games.
After Nathan’s 2010 injury, he quite frankly hasn’t been the same. Statistics like HR/9, WHIP, and K/9 were at the worst levels of his career last season. Not to mention he is in his late 30’s and still very much an injury risk. He could end up with 40 saves on a very good Rangers ball club. But honestly, I just don’t see it happening.
The good news: Nathan appears to be the closer for a very good team.
The bad news: Deteriorating production and injury concern make it unlikely he will hold down the job for very long.
Projection: 3.70 ERA 1.22 WHIP 18 Saves 52 K
Jason Heyward is a big, strong specimen of an athlete. He runs well, throws well, launches baseballs tape measure distances, and looks like what we expect a top tier professional athlete to look like. But Heyward has a huge flaw in his game...
He thinks he’s a slap-hitting lead off man.
Heyward hits the ball on the ground roughly 55% of the time, which just doesn’t translate into homeruns and doubles. I've decided he spends his off days day dreaming about how cool Michael Bourn is.
The good news: Heyward has the tools to be a big time run producer.
The bad news: Without some serious changes in plate mechanics, he won’t be one any time soon.
Projection: .265 17 HR 65 RBI 12 Steals
People are talking Lawrie up to be the second coming of David Wright... when David Wright was good. What we do know is that Lawrie has the ability to post solid power numbers and exceptional amounts of steals for a corner infielder.
He seems to be the perfect jack of all trades.
The risk with Lawrie is that we just don’t know how he will pan out over a full season of MLB at bats. He performed very well in his brief stint in 2011 and signs point to him being the real deal. The problem with this particular player is the consistency you’ll have to pass over to take him based on his average draft position.
The good news: Elite talent in a somewhat thinner than normal position.
The bad news: The pain would be considerable if he busts based on draft position.
Projection: .270 21 HR 75 RBI 18 Steals
Oh, the Japanese import and the many experiences we have had.
Everyone knows Ichiro. That guy was unbelievable in his prime and still is a consistent .300 hitter into his late 30’s.
Takashi Saito...Such a reliable closer with the Dodgers and still manages to be a solid set up man at 42 years of age.
Or Daisuke and his great early run with the Red Sox...just dreamy.
But there are also horror stories often times overlooked or forgotten. Simply remember Hideki Irabu, the Nolan Ryan of Japanese baseball. After similar build up, Irabu served up gopher balls to the tune of a 7.06 ERA in his first season.
The transition from the Japanese league to the majors can not be understated. The talent levels are vastly different, rest days are different, pre-game meals are different, and he’ll be eating while wearing shoes. That's a lot for a man in his early 20's to work through.
Darvish seems to be a star in the making, but until he gets a few big league starts under his belt, we just won’t know what to expect out of him.
The good news: Darvish will lead a rotation of a contending team.
The bad news: Fear of the unknown is paralyzing in the 3rd or 4th round.
Projection: 14 wins 3.50 ERA 1.30 WHIP 185 K