Fantasy Baseball: You Got Robbed! The Most Overrated Hitters in the Early Season
Tommy Landry's work is brought to you courtesy of RotoExperts.com, the premier location on the web to find fantasy sports analysis with an attitude. Mr. Landry was a finalist for the 2008 Fantasy Sports Writers' Association Fantasy Baseball Series of the year.
We're still super early in the season, yet fantasy owners are starting to get all worked up about a handful of games: panicking about slow starts, chasing early surprises, and generally overreacting to every day's events.
It's very important for fantasy players to keep their perspective, particularly during the first month of the season. There's a guy who surprisingly explodes on the first day, week, or month of the season every year, and very few of those guys are worth your time when all is said and done.
Don't get me wrong; there are breakouts that are absolutely for real. But those guys don't come out of nowhere, because someone should have uncovered them in the 90 days leading up to the season, no? Surely during spring training, if not earlier.
But there's more to the story. There are also guys who were taken far too early in drafts. Some of them are doing all right so far, and others are not. Hang tight, dear readers, because I'm here to sort out a bunch of these guys for you.
THE DRAFT-DAY CULPRITS
Alexei Ramirez (2B/SS/OF, CWS)
Fantasy owners were all over this guy (figuratively speaking) when he broke out last season, hitting .290 with 21 HR and 13 SB at a shallow 2B position.
Sure, the kid can ball. But I've seen him drafted in the third or fourth round in a large number of drafts. Hold the phone! Alexei had 480 AB last season, so we have a pretty good idea of what we're looking at over a full slate of maybe 550 AB.
He's not a 30-30 type of guy by any standard, but perhaps a 25-15 (take note that he attempted 22 SB but only succeeded on 13). That certainly has value (and risk if he keeps hitting toward the back of the order), but third round?
Let me put it this way—Rafael Furcal will deliver similar value and was drafted three to six rounds later in the majority of drafts. It's not about how good a guy is, folks; it's about getting the maximum value out of each selection.
In Alexei's case, I don't care that he can qualify at three positions in many formats, because he is not worth such an early draft pick. Best of luck to those of us who took the plunge that early.
Robinson Cano (2B, NYY)
I've never been a huge proponent of Cano, because you have to invest way more in him than he returns.
First, the batting average myth. People seem to think that because he makes contact and has a little speed, he is a lock to hit .300. If BABIP has anything to say about it, he is a sub-.290 hitter. Let's call him .285.
There's also this thought that he is a 20 HR performer waiting to happen. Tell me this: When in his minor and major league career has he ever done anything to indicate he has that ability? NEVER! His 19 HR season was an outlier, as he has hit 14, 14, and 15 HR in his other three full major league seasons.
In reality, he's more of a 16-17 HR guy if he can muster up 600 AB, which is solid, but hardly a difference maker compared to other mid-range 2B options.
Some may argue that he has speed on the base paths, but why has he never exceeded five SB in a full season until now? I don't buy the four SB so far as a trend, so what I see here is a 16 HR, 5 SB, .285 hitter.
That's inferior value to mediocre guys like Chone Figgins, J.J. Hardy, and Mike Cameron (the last of whom is a 20-20 guy who'll kill you in BA). Tell me you aren't one of the guys who reached for him in the seventh or eighth round, please.
Bengie Molina (C, SFO)
I like Molina, actually, but I like him a lot better as an end-of-game option—the last starter taken possibly. Looking at his numbers quickly, you'll find a 15-16 HR guy who can hit .280-.285 (career .277 hitter) and log around 500 AB.
Not bad overall, but he was drafted around the 12th or 13th round in most leagues this year. I'm not saying Molina isn't worth using for fantasy, but look at a list of guys who had ADP below him: Jorge Posada, Mike Napoli, Pablo Sandoval, Ivan Rodriguez, and Brandon Inge.
Do you think that none of those guys will deliver similar or better value to Bengie? I'd have taken Posada, Napoli, Sandoval, or Inge ahead of him in the preseason, and I'd call it a wash between him and Rodriguez. For the record, Ivan was drafted in the 17th round on average, a location more suitable to both of them.
Ichiro Suzuki (OF, SEA)
Here's another guy I never end up owning because he's always gone by the end of the fourth round. There are a number of reasons I don't like him that early.
First, the league no longer has a long list of power hitters available, so you have to stack them in the early rounds, and Ichiro won't threaten even 10 HR and 60 RBI over a full season.
He is a batting average play who can also offer 30 SB and around 100 R in 600+ AB, when healthy (don't worry, my opinion was formed before his current injury). I simply can't throw away a pick in the first five rounds for that!
Think about it...if Ichiro logs 600 AB with a .320 batting average, what do you really get from it? Okay, you can use him to offset one whiff-heavy guy like Adam Dunn or Carlos Pena, both of whom will likely hit under .250 with 500 AB.
The wash? The two players combine to average 550 AB and a 0.284 BA, assuming your whiff guy actually hits .250 for a year. Yawn.
YOU LOOK SO GOOD, BUT CAN IT BE TRUE?
Emilio Bonifacio (2B/3B, FLA)
The fantasy world is all aglow about the leadoff hitter for the Marlins, but I am not buying. I have to admit, his first week (SUPER small sample size) was something to behold, and I won't waste your time by highlighting the numbers for the 600,000,000th time. But let's look at his background, and you'll see why I don't like him.
First, and succinctly, he offers absolutely no power (12 HR in 2,500+ minor league AB). But what about his 230 career SB, you might ask? Sure, that is impressive, but he ain't stealing against High-A level pitchers anymore, is he?
Look at his Triple-A numbers, and you find a guy with a SB success rate of 21-for-31, which places him below 70 percent. Where does that shake out in the bigs? This could be a guy who runs a lot and gets caught 40 percent of the time.
So much for his run-scoring abilities in that case. I like Bonifacio if you have a key guy on the DL, but don't sell the farm or drop someone good for him.
Orlando Hudson (2B, LAD)
Did you see where Hudson hit for the cycle on April 13? I'm impressed. Now, go out and try to sell him before he goes back to being a 10 HR / 7 SB guy who can only hit around .270.
His best years are behind him, he's an annual injury risk, and there is almost no upside to be had here. He has value to someone since 2B is very shallow. Hopefully you haven't painted yourself in a corner and made him your only option there. The only place I'd want to hold onto him is in an NL-only league, and even there, I'd wager you could do better.
Okay folks, that’s all I have time for today. Check out Slumps & Dumps by my RotoExperts colleague Andy Bottoms for a weekly review of guys who have disappointed, and he'll tell you who will rebound and who is just wasting your roster space.
For the record, he also touched on Alexei Ramirez this week with some nice stats you'll want to check out.
Best of luck as you tackle Week Two of the fantasy baseball season!
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