Potential 2009 Fantasy Baseball Busts: Hitters

Lawrence BarrecaAnalyst IFebruary 11, 2009

Ooof! The sound of a player hitting a brick wall after having a successful season just one year before.

The “bust” has become a true character in baseball, as many players experience the pain year-in and year-out.

We’ve had our examples of players falling on their faces in the past. Can you think of any names? I know I can.

Have you ever heard of a man by the name of Travis Hafner?

In 2007, Hafner was coming off of two straight successful campaigns in ‘05 and ‘06.

That year, he would end up hitting for a .266 average, with 24 homeruns, 100 RBI, and 80 runs scored, helping to show the baseball community that he still had what it took to compete at the major league level.

So how did he fare in 2008?

Let me put a scene into your head.

He passed '05 and '06 with an “A” average, finished 2007 with a “B-”, then ended ‘08 with an “F” and having to go to summer school.

In other words, it was bad.

He hit for a .197 average, with five homeruns, 24 RBI, and 21 runs scored. His injury-riddled season was one that Hafner would surely love to forget.

He was possibly the biggest “bust” in 2008, with his career currently taking a turn for the worst.

Who are my “busts” for 2009?  Here are ten players that I believe will have a worse-than-average year during the upcoming season.


Carlos Delgado (1B) (NYM)

We begin our list of “busts” with Mets’ first baseman Carlos Delgado. Last season, Delgado began the year at a snail’s pace; however, as the year grew on and the playoff race tightened, so did Carlos.

At the end of the year, he finished with a .271 average, with 38 homeruns, 115 RBI, 96 runs scored, and one stolen base. Those are some solid numbers to say the least.

Going into 2009, Carlos has some issues that many fantasy owners may be unaware of. First off, the most obvious reason is also the most simple: He’s getting old. The now 37-year old is aging as the years fly by, and his numerous injuries do not help.

Another important reason involves a personal goal of Delgado’s. Before he retires, he plans to reach the 500-homerun milestone, and he knows that the number is coming upon him. He states, "I'm pretty close, so I will try my best to get there.”

Oooh, we all know what this means, right? Let me explain. What happened to Barry Bonds while he closed in on Hank Aaron’s homerun record?

If you said that his power production slowed, then you are correct. Another way to put it is this: Don’t look at his 38 homers from ‘08 and expect similar numbers in 2009. As he closes in on the mark, he will begin thinking about it (though he will deny it), and ultimately not hit the ball out of the yard nearly as often.

Watch and see if I’m right. If I’m wrong, I will openly take the criticism. Otherwise, I plan to avoid him on Draft Day, and instead look for a younger, healthier first baseman.


Mark DeRosa (3B) (CLE)

Some of you may be saying the following: “What is DeRosa doing on this list?” I’m glad you asked. If you have been following baseball this offseason, you would have noticed the deal that transferred Mark DeRosa from the National League Central to the American League Central.

So why do I think he will be a “bust” in 2009? His stats were fine in ‘08 (.285 average, 21 homeruns, 87 RBI, 103 runs scored, and six stolen bases), so what seems to be the problem? I begin with his league transition. In years’ past, we have seen many players move from the National League to the American League (or vice-versa) and struggle in their first season after the alteration.

I see this happening to DeRosa in ‘09. The last time that he changed leagues in 2007, we saw a decrease in batting average, doubles, slugging percentage, hits, and runs scored. Now that he is older and possibly past his prime, we may see an even bigger dip in his overall stats. This leads to my second point. As previously stated, he may have already reached his “prime” season.

He is currently 33-years old and beginning to reach the downward path of a major league career. If he has indeed reached his “peak”, then look for his numbers to slowly descend off the side of the mountain (I hope you get that horrible pun).


Aubrey Huff (1B,DH) (BAL)

Whew, what a year Aubrey Huff had! In 2008, he hit for a .304 average, with 32 homeruns, 108 RBI, 96 runs scored, and four stolen bases. With these statistics, he earned himself a Louisville Silver Slugger Award at the designated hitter position, something that no Orioles’ fan could have seen coming.

Now that 2009 is upon us, Huff may have a new role with the O’s. With the departure of former first baseman Kevin Millar, Huff will most likely be the new starting first baseman in Baltimore (unless the recent signing of Ty Wiggington affects this), giving Huff the opportunity to play the field every day.

How does this make him a “bust”? This simple matter doesn’t; however, it does attribute to the final reasoning. With him losing his position as a full-time DH, Huff will be more prone to injury and will have to worry about fielding as well as hitting. I know, many of you are saying, “So what! This shouldn’t have any affect on him at all!”.

That’s where you are wrong. Another factor for him being a potential “bust” is the expectations of the fantasy owner. In fact, let me apply a little bit of economics into this explanation. In the economy, there is a little something called “consumer expectations”, where people will buy goods based off of when the items will, or have, gone on sale. This is the same case as Huff.

Many people look at last season’s numbers and expect him to be a stud come 2009. This is where many people will make an enormous mistake. Come Draft Day, Huff should be drafted, just not as high as many people think. Look for a drop in his batting average, homerun total, and RBI’s, largely due to the fact that he has to actually man a position for the majority of the season.


Ichiro Suzuki (OF) (SEA)

Blahhh! I’m not so sure about you, but that was my reaction while I watched the Mariners play last season. There was one bright spot in Seattle, though, and as always, it was Ichiro.

In 2008, Suzuki hit for a .310 average, with six homeruns, 42 RBI, 103 runs scored, and 43 stolen bases. Does something look odd about those stats, or is it just me? Let me see. Ahh, there it is. His .310 average last season ranks as his second-lowest batting average ever, next to his 2005 average of .303 (Though in 2005, he had career highs in the power category, hitting 15 homeruns and 12 triples).

In other words, Suzuki’s age might finally be getting to him. Ichiro was never a true fantasy threat, though, giving some fantasy owners the opportunity to finally just let him walk during the draft. At this point in his career, all he is good for is hits, and hits don’t count for what they used to. If I had the chance to grab him on Draft Day, I would keep looking down my list of outfielders. At this point in his career, he probably shouldn’t even be a number three outfielder.


Alexei Ramirez (SS) (CHW)

At the end of the day, this player will be one that is debatable. During the 2008 season, Ramirez hit for a .290 average, with 21 homeruns, 77 RBI, 65 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases. If anything, he was one of the biggest sleepers in the American League last season, and many are predicting him to be in the same category in 2009.

Now with Orlando Cabrera gone, the White Sox need Ramirez to step up and be the everyday shortstop. Will he fold under pressure? My guess is no. If anything, I can see him having an average year in 2009, but to say that he will be a sleeper again is nonsense. In fact, here is a quote from CBS Sportsline, “Ramirez is justifiably a top-five second baseman on Draft Day. Our current projections for him would already slot him as a top-five Fantasy shortstop between Derek Jeter and Stephen Drew.

Wow, really? A top-five second baseman? Honestly, that doesn’t make any sense to me. That means that you put him ahead of guys like Brandon Phillips or Brian Roberts. I don’t think so. A top five-fantasy shortstop? Are you joking?

He isn’t in the same category as Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, Steven Drew, and maybe even Troy Tulowitzki (who had a bad year in ’08 due to injuries) just yet. I feel a bit of an overrated vibe going around. He is a “bust” in my opinion almost for the same reason as Huff, people will draft him based solely upon what he did last season.

In my mind, he is a solid pickup, just not as solid as some of the real top-fives in baseball. As far as fantasy goes, he’s a great middle-round pick, but otherwise, don’t expect the same type of numbers as last year. If you draft him too high, it might just come back to bite you. I can hear it now. Bring on the criticism!!!


Dan Uggla (2B) (FLA)

If there was a hotter hitter mid-way through the 2008 regular season, then speak now or forever hold your peace.

Dan Uggla would finish the season with a .260 average, 32 homeruns, 92 RBI, 97 runs scored, and five stolen bases. Those power numbers seem great, until you take a close look.

Who remembers watching the All-Star game and seeing Uggla become a juggler at the local circus? If you don’t know what I mean, then here’s a better explanation.

He looked like a fool defensively, and from that point on, his season seemed to go downhill.

His Pre All-Star batting average was a respectable .282. His Post All-Star batting average became a disappointing .226. The same would go for his power numbers. Before the All-Star Break, he hit 23 dingers; afterward, he hit only nine.

Do you see where I’m going with this? He basically died down more quickly than anyone could have expected. For now, I see him as a “bust” going into 2009 due to the fact that his numbers at the end of last season were so bad. No one can be sure how those numbers will transition into the ‘09 campaign. I believe that he could prove me wrong, but until I see otherwise, he is a “bust” in my mind.


Raul Ibanez (OF) (PHI)

I must say, what this man was able to pull off in Seattle was quite impressive. While hitting in a horrendous lineup and being in a pitchers’ ballpark, Ibanez was able to put up a .293 batting average, with 23 homeruns, 110 RBI, 85 runs scored, and two stolen bases.

Now in a hitters’ ballpark, Ibanez’s numbers should increase, right? With protection from all sides in a powerful Phillies’ lineup, he should have no problem hitting in the middle-of-the-order, right? Not necessarily. The one problem that Ibanez has to cope with is his age. For some insane reason, he happened to reach the prime of his career while he should have been on a downward spiral.

Somehow, someway, he keeps producing. It stops here. Eventually, his age will have to catch up to him. Now with the designated hitter not available, Ibanez will also have to focus on manning the Philadelphia left field on a daily basis. If that doesn’t weaken his body, then I don’t know what will. Watch for Ibanez’s stats to slowly lessen as the season wears on.


Bengie Molina (CA) (SF)

There are so many Molina’s in Major League Baseball that it is hard to keep count, yet I always seem to remember Bengie. No, it’s not because of his funny name, but instead because of his consistent numbers year-in and year-out.

Last season, he hit for a .292 average, with 16 homeruns, 95 RBI, and 46 runs scored. Not bad for a veteran in a pathetic lineup. If anything kills him in 2009, though, it will be the lineup that he hits in. There is no protection for him in San Francisco, giving Molina little room to succeed on a high level. Let us also not forget that he, like others on this list, is aging.

This is all fine-and-dandy, except for the fact that he is a catcher. He should begin to slow down sometime mid-season, giving fantasy owners a chance to grab him for half a year. If you want him, draft him in the later rounds as a number two catcher, unless you severely need a number one for the time being.


Miguel Tejada (SS) (HOU)

Hey I remember you! Miguel Tejada found his way onto my “busts” list from last season, and to my surprise, he had a decent year. Now, not so much.

In ‘08, Tejada hit for a .283 average, with 13 homeruns, 66 RBI, 92 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. So why is Tejada a “bust” for 2009? Well, let’s see. He has recently been charged with lying to Congress about an ex-teammate’s steroid use, we don’t know how old he is (though that really has nothing to do with his production), and his power seemed to die as the year went on.

After hitting 10 homeruns before the All-Star break, he would only go on to hit three after it. This is not an encouraging sign for fantasy owners looking for a shortstop with some “pop” in his bat (I wonder what kind of “pop” Tejada really had, if you catch my drift). As far as fantasy goes, draft him in the later rounds. No matter how much Tejada or the fans deny it, we all know that these new steroid charges are going to affect him during the year.


Ryan Zimmerman (3B) (WSH)

We conclude our top fantasy baseball “busts” list for 2009 with a third baseman who has faced a slew of injuries throughout his young career. It seemed as though 2008 would be a fine season for Zimmerman, especially after he hit a walk-off homerun on Opening Night to defeat the Braves in the Nationals’ new stadium.

Ever since then, Ryan hasn’t been the same. He finished 2008 with a .283 batting average, 14 homeruns, 51 RBI, 51 runs scored, and one stolen base. Not the greatest numbers on the planet, but they will do in some leagues. For 2009, the main concern with Zimmerman is simple: his health. He can never seem to maintain an entire seasons’ worth of playing time, as his shoulder helped prove this last year.

As a fantasy owner, you have to be weary about grabbing him. He is one of those “high-risk, high-reward” type players that could come up big for you or drop dead after the first week. In my honest opinion, I wouldn’t trust him. Consider him a “bust” again for 2009, for his health seems to be a plague that just keeps on coming.


Lawrence Barreca is a fantasy baseball/football columnist for www.fantasyfootballmaniaxs.com.  For more fantasy sports information, be sure to visit the Maniaxs.


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