5 Star Players You Should Avoid in Your 2013 Fantasy Baseball Drafts
My inbox is already awaiting the hate mail.
This is the column in which I make the case against drafting some of fantasy baseball's best players. Yes, I look forward to your letters, as Craig Ferguson of The Late, Late Show likes to say when he inadvertently (or not) offends some or all of his viewing audience with a particular joke.
Let's be clear, though, I'm not saying you absolutely, positively must avoid these five superstars at your draft, only that you might want to at least consider doing so. After you've reviewed the facts, that is.
To make this more fun—and challenging—the players in question are all being selected before the end of Round 5 in 12-team leagues on average, per MockDraftCentral.com. A few are even (gasp) borderline first-rounders.
Wanna get at me? Click through first, then we can talk.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies
The case against Carlos Gonzalez, who's being drafted at the tail end of Round 1 on average, is actually pretty easy.
Career stats at home: .338 average, 65 homers, 229 RBI, 238 runs and 37 steals in 295 games
Career stats on the road: .258 average, 34 homers, 120 RBI, 138 runs and 49 steals in 286 games
That. Is. Crazy.
Basically, CarGo is arguably the best fantasy outfielder around when he's hitting at cozy Coors Field, but when he's not? The 27-year-old is actually borderline bench-worthy.
Want more? Here are the lefty hitter's career slash stats against southpaws: .276 average, .322 on-base percentage, .457 slugging percentage.
Look, Gonzalez remains a perennial 20-20 candidate who's capable of hitting .300 with 90-plus runs and RBI over a full season, but even that last part is questionable: Gonzalez's career-high in games played is 145 in 2010. The past two seasons, he's notched only 127 and 135 games due to various ailments.
So if you have to use a first or second-round pick on a Gonzalez, and you can't count on him on the road...and you can't count on him against lefties...and you can't count on him to play a full slate of games, here's the real question: Can you count on him period?
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins
There's nothing wrong with Giancarlo Stanton, per se. (Well, not nothing, but we'll get to that.) Rather, the problem in drafting the Marlins slugger is that his team won't do him any fantasy favors.
Consider these names: Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Justin Ruggiano, Logan Morrison, Rob Brantly, Donovan Solano and Adeiny Hechavarria. Based on the current roster, those are the "best" possible hitters the Marlins could put in the lineup around Stanton.
If you haven't heard of half of them before, it won't be held against you.
Beyond that, though, Morrison, arguably the club's second-best power hitter, is still recovering from another offseason knee surgery, so he's unlikely to be ready until late April or even May, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro.
And that's not all. As Frisaro points out in the story linked above, the two likely candidates to hit ahead of Stanton, who will bat in the three-hole, are Pierre and Polanco—who pretty much signed with the Marlins this winter because no other team showed all that much interest in a pair of aging, declining veterans.
In short, Stanton is going to have trouble both driving in runs and being driven in by others in what is easily one of MLB's worst lineups. You'll recall, of course, that runs and RBI are two fantasy categories.
Now back to Stanton himself for a quick sec.
The 23-year-old masher would be the odds-on favorite to hit the most homers this year, so it's not all bad. But he also strikes out, like, a lot—his 28.8 percent K rate is the fifth-worst in baseball over the past three seasons—so he could be a batting average risk. And he's also somewhat of an injury concern after missing a quarter of 2012 with knee surgery.
You can choose to believe that lineup protection won't be a factor, or that Stanton's potential 40-plus homers is enough to overcome just about anything else. But before you pick him in Round 2, don't say you weren't warned.
Jered Weaver, SP, Los Angeles Angels
What's not to like about Angels ace Jered Weaver, who led the AL with 20 wins and a 1.02 WHIP just last season? Similar to getting to the center of a Tootsie Pop, let's hit on three licks and call it a day, shall we?
One: The right-hander is often thought of as a hard thrower because he's known for getting lots of strikeouts. In fact, neither part of that statement is actually true. Weaver's average fastball velocity for his career is under 90 mph, and it dipped to a career-low 87.8 in 2012; and aside from an outlier 2010 season in which he struck out 9.3 per nine, he's never even topped 7.7 K/9 in any other year.
Two: Weaver is almost the Carlos Gonzalez of pitchers, in that his career ERA and WHIP at home are a dandy 2.66 and 1.06, respectively; on the road, though, they're an ordinary 3.80 and 1.23. This has a lot to do with Angel Stadium playing as one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball across the board, according to ESPN.com's MLB Park Factors.
Three: Even though he made at least 28 starts for the sixth season in a row last year, Weaver went on the disabled list in late May after suffering a painful back injury while pitching. A few months after returning, Weaver again missed some time (although he avoided another DL stint) with biceps tendinitis. As he's now crossed over to the wrong side of 30, it's worth wondering whether all those innings are starting to catch up to the lanky righty.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
When it comes to Paul Goldschmidt, the still-blossoming first base slugger for the Diamondbacks, the issue with drafting him in fantasy is tied primarily to opportunity cost.
After a strong first full season in which he hit .286 with 20 homers, 18 steals and 82 RBI, Goldschmidt has become one of the victims of the hype machine. Consider that Goldschmidt, who has just 193 career games in the majors, is being picked in the second or third round in many leagues.
At that price, the righty-hitter needs to vastly improve on his stats from a year ago just to return proper value, let alone any profit.
Yes, Chase Field, his home park, is one of the most hitter-friendly sites in baseball. Yes, he offers stolen base upside, something that most other first baseman don't. And yes, the 25-year-old Goldschmidt is at an age at which many young players often continue to ascend to new heights.
But to that last point, if you're really going to select Goldschmidt several picks ahead of Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Gonzalez, Allen Craig and Billy Butler—just a few other top first basemen he's going before, according to MockDraftCentral.com—you need to be 100 percent sure he'll do so.
Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta Braves
Drafting Craig Kimbrel, who is far and away the No. 1 fantasy closer—this is not being disputed here—comes down to a combination of strategy and, like with Paul Goldschmidt, opportunity cost.
You see, to ensure you get Kimbrel, you'll have to take him as early as Round 3, per MockDraftCentral.com. That means you're banking on him not only being as good as he has the past couple seasons, but also being a better pick than, say, Evan Longoria, Stephen Strasburg, David Price, Starlin Castro and a host of others who are going after him on average.
The former is possible. The latter? Seems like a stretch, especially when Kimbrel's biggest impact will still come in just one category: saves. Since he's only going to pitch about 60-70 innings, that won't be enough to touch up your ERA, WHIP and strikeout categories.
If you must go for broke on a closer, which is never advisable, the better value could come in either Jason Motte or Jonathan Papelbon, who are being drafted about, oh, 40-50 picks later.
Still wanna get at me? I'm waiting.
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