You'd think it would be easier to be a great baseball player in fantasy than it would be in reality.
But that's not necessarily so.
In the real world, players are judged largely on their ability to help their teams win. It's the reason most old-school MVP and Cy Young voters consistently only consider guys who played on playoff teams and why past success often leads to crazy contracts.
But in fantasy, players are judged solely on their ability to put up numbers now—regardless of divisional standings, errors, bad attitudes or relationships with Cameron Diaz.
Well, he's out of the leadoff spot and hitting third—exactly where those home runs would come in handy—and he pretty much looks like the same guy who barely ever cracked double digits.
Sure, Ichiro is still a lock for at least 35 steals, and that's why he isn't higher on this list. But now that he's in the heart of the lineup and not hitting for power, with his performance looking a lot more like last year's .272 average was not an anomaly but the beginning of a decline, Ichiro isn't worth as much to you as you think.
If you remove that .315 to .350 average he used to bring, you're left with an outfielder who averages eight homers and 51 RBI—numbers not nearly as big as his name.
The truth is you probably forgot Bay even existed until seven seconds ago.
He's never been the flashiest outfielder in the room, but for a six-year stretch, he was a surefire second-round bet for 30 home runs and 100 RBI. But since moving to New York in 2009, Bay has been more hindrance than help to your fantasy team. He hasn't hit better than .259 or topped 12 homers yet, and so far this year, he's hovering around .200 with more Ks than games played.
If you drafted Bay this season, you're either in a deep NL-only league or haven't looked at your fantasy team since Avatar came out.
At one time, he was a consensus first-round fantasy pick and a bankable bet for 35-plus home runs and a baseline .325 average. That time, however, was eight years ago. Sure, the average has continued to hover around .300, but the power in his game has been disconnected thanks largely to a degenerative back condition.
Although he could likely win a congressional seat in Colorado, Helton is nothing more than a bench player in fantasy—unless your league tracks the best goatees.
On the surface, Josh Beckett seems like a sexy starter pick.
He's got a reputation as a fireballer, a winner and a stud starter on a team guaranteed to give you some wins.
True, he did win 20 games one year (2007) and at least 15 in three others (2005, 2006 and 2009). But there have also been four seasons during which he hasn't hit double digits, and he's always a threat to top a 5.00 ERA. Oh, and guess who has never actually thrown 200 Ks?
Okay, he had 199 once, but still.
Beckett was relatively solid last season (13-7 with 175 Ks), but he gave up five homers in his 2012 debut.
While there are certainly worse pitchers to own, Beckett isn't really worth the price you likely have to pay for him.
Everyone loves Jim Thome.
It was a decade ago that Thome hit 52 dingers and he hasn't been a threat for 40 in about five years. Since then, he's averaged two teams per season (going from the White Sox to the Dodgers to the Twins and then back to the Indians and Phillies) while averaging a little more than 100 games.
Now, thanks to Ryan Howard's injured ankle, Thome and his 41-year-old knees are occasionally playing first base, which won't help his chances of helping you.
He's 1-for-2012 so far, and although he's basically a national treasure, you'd be better off leaving your 1B or utility spot empty.
It's difficult, if not unthinkable to say Alex Rodriguez is awful in fantasy. It seems like yesterday that he was the no-brainer No. 1 pick.
He's hit at least 30 home runs each season (except for two) since 1996, at least 40 in eight and at least 50 in three. But the potential best player of his generation has been in a steady descent for the past four years.
Last season was a lost one due to injuries, but there's increasingly been little separating Rodriguez from second-tier third basemen like Adrian Beltre, Ryan Zimmerman and even Mark Reynolds (minus the Ks). He's also prone to hitting homers in bunches and enduring extended periods with little production.
A-Rod is off to a horrible start again in 2012, but who knows: Maybe he still finishes with 35 bombs. That's why he's down in this spot of the list. But when it comes to pure star-power versus fantasy frustration, Rodriguez is nearly in a class of his own.
Considering this year is basically a victory lap for Chipper Jones, he probably deserves a pass—but that wouldn't fair to newbie fantasy owners who might think he's the same guy he was in 2001.
This is not your older cousin's Chipper Jones.
This Chipper Jones is 39, hurts himself on the way to his own retirement press conference and can't play after long plane rides. Even when he was still relatively healthy, he hasn't hit 30 home runs since 2004, and hasn't hit 20 since 2008.
Jones did hit a pinch-hit RBI double this week, but you've gotta believe he was really hoping pinch-hitters have pinch-runners. Chipper might be an icon in Atlanta, but he'll be far too unreliable to count on while he limps into the sunset.
The problem with Alfonso Soriano is that he set the bar so high for himself.
A member of the 40-40 club, Soriano was a top-10 pick for much of the early millennium when he was manning second base in the Bronx. He was so good that his past few years of 25-homer, 75-RBI production as an outfielder seem like a staggering disappointment.
But if you've had Soriano on your fantasy team recently, you probably realize that while those numbers do seem decent, "disappointing" is an exceedingly kind way to describe him. He's one of the streakiest players in the game, and the peaks are scattered among vast valleys filled with 0-for-5 performances. Couple that with the fact that he doesn't run at all anymore (not to mention that he's the 11th highest-paid player in the majors) and you've got an outfielder who probably went undrafted in shallow leagues.
Yeah, he could still get you those 25 homers this year. But so can guys like Hunter Pence.
Barry Zito—the highest-paid member of the 2010 World Series champs–isn't one of them.
You're saying, "But isn't he 1-0 this year with a microscopic WHIP and ERA?" Yes. Yes he is. But he's never won more than 11 games with the Giants, and he's unimaginably far removed from his 205-K 2001. These days, you can't rely on him for more than 150. His ERA has also fluctuated between 4.03 and 5.87 since 2007, and neither of those numbers are what anyone would consider inspiring.
At this point, he has a better chance of winning a Grammy with Bronson Arroyo than he does being useful to your team in the long run.
Sure, he isn't the biggest star on the Angels who looks bad this year—but Albert Pujols will eventually get it together.
Wells has already been benched for poor play this season, and although a recent hot streak has upped his average from an abysmal .167 to an ugly .262, you really don't want any of that near your lineup. Because best-case scenario, he's still just a 30-homer, 100-RBI guy—and since 1999, he's only hit 30 homers and 100 RBI three times (and not necessarily in the same year). Most of the time, you're looking at about 18 and 65, and that's not what anyone wants out of a guy who's bringing home $21 million each year for the next three years.
Just be thankful that the salaries in auction leagues are made up of make-believe money. The Angels aren't so lucky.