Biggest Fantasy Baseball Busts, Steals of MLB's First-Quarter Action
The 2014 Major League Baseball season is about 40 games in, meaning we've more or less reached the quarter mark of the year in fantasy. There's still a heck of a long way to go, but six weeks provides enough of a sample size to take a look at some of fantasy's biggest busts and biggest steals so far.
Here's hoping your make-believe squad is sporting a few of the 10 steals to follow, rather than any of the 10 busts. If that's the case, chances are you're an owner who is in a prime position in your league's standings, which certainly beats being in the opposite scenario.
Before unveiling the worst busts and best steals to date, some qualifications.
For busts, there are two caveats. First, any player who's been on the disabled list doesn't qualify. In other words, while Chris Davis, Adrian Beltre, Bryce Harper and Jason Kipnis have been equal parts disappointing and frustrating to own, they simply haven't had a full opportunity to prove themselves. That won't be held against them, especially when there's no shortage of players who have been busts based strictly on their performance—or lack thereof.
Second, only players with average draft positions (ADP) of 100 or better, per Fantasy Pros, are up for consideration. Yes, Brandon Phillips (ADP: 107.8), Brian McCann (ADP: 108.4), Curtis Granderson (ADP: 116.8) and Billy Butler (ADP: 116.8) have been bust-worthy terrible, but each fell outside the top 100 picks on average, so they haven't hurt their owners quite as much as a higher draft choice has. Hey, being a bust is all relative.
Same goes for being a steal. Again, we'll use an ADP of 100 to determine whether players count as steals, only this time, to be eligible, they have to have been drafted outside the top 100. While one might consider, say, Troy Tulowitzki (ADP: 17.8), Carlos Gomez (ADP: 25.2), Giancarlo Stanton (ADP: 28.0) or Masahiro Tanaka (ADP: 96.8) steals because they were drafted after the first round but have been among the very top players in fantasy, that's not quite a wide enough gap to qualify here.
To put it another way, you know a steal—and a bust—when you see one. Like these 20 players, ranked in order of ADP, from highest to lowest.
Average draft position (ADP) comes from Fantasy Pros.
Steal: Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies (ADP: 409.0)
Charlie Blackmon has gone from a guy you'd never even heard of before the season to the hitter with the second-best batting average in baseball (.342). Oh, and his nine homers and eight steals has him racing another no-name we'll get to in a bit to become the first with double digits in both categories.
Steal: Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Milwaukee Brewers (ADP: 386.5)
Francisco Rodriguez wasn't even supposed to be the Milwaukee Brewers closer when 2014 began. After setting the record for most saves at the end of April (13), though, it's safe to say K-Rod will be holding off Jim Henderson (currently on the disabled list) for quite some time.
Steal: Mark Buehrle, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (ADP: 360.3)
Mark Buehrle—the first seven-game winner in MLB—beats out Scott Kazmir (ADP: 254.3) and Tim Hudson (ADP: 299.3), both of whom had slightly earlier ADPs.
A couple other starting pitchers deserving of shout-outs as steals: Jesse Chavez and Jason Hammel, whose ADPs were 450.0 and nonexistent (meaning, he didn't even register), respectively.
Steal: Dee Gordon, 2B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (ADP: 296.5)
While fellow speedster Emilio Bonifacio (worth mentioning here as a steal) got more early buzz for his right-out-of-the-gate start, Dee Gordon's 24 steals currently leads everyone—by nine. The Dodgers' surprise leadoff man, who was more or less undrafted in every league, also is hitting .322.
Steal: Melky Cabrera, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (ADP: 278.6)
This spot just as easily could have gone to fellow outfield steal Michael Brantley (ADP: 237.2), but Melky Cabrera's later ADP and higher batting average (.329 vs. .278) make him the choice.
Steal: Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 205.4)
If Blackmon doesn't become MLB's first 10-10 player in 2014, that distinction likely will go to Brian Dozier. In fact, the little-known Twins second baseman has 12 steals and needs just one homer to get there. Already!
Steal: Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies (ADP: 199.8)
A 28-game hitting streak from a guy who wasn't among the top 10 draftees at his position? If that's not a steal, then what is?
Steal: Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox (ADP: 172.8)
With a .327 average, 24 runs, five homers, 27 RBI and seven stolen bases, Alexei Ramirez has done a little bit of everything. OK, a lot of everything.
Steal: Johnny Cueto, SP, Cincinnati Reds (ADP: 166.2)
Drafted well outside the top 150 picks because of an injury-riddled 2013, all Johnny Cueto has done is put up the lowest ERA (1.43) and WHIP (0.73) in the majors.
Steal: Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox (ADP: 101.8)
Big-money Cuban sensation Jose Abreu had some hype heading into drafts, but nobody could have predicted MLB's Player and Rookie of the Month for April would be leading baseball with 14 homers and topping the AL with 38 RBI through the first six weeks.
Bust: Carlos Santana, C/1B/3B, Cleveland Indians (ADP: 75.4)
Somehow, despite having taken every single one of his at-bats this year in the cleanup spot for the Cleveland Indians, Carlos Santana has amassed only 11 RBI. Oh, and his .152 average is the second-worst among all qualified hitters.
Bust: Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves (ADP: 74.0)
Somehow, despite having taken every single one of his at-bats this year in the leadoff spot for the Atlanta Braves, Jason Heyward has amassed only 15 runs. But, hey, at least he's notched six steals!
Bust: David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (ADP: 61.4)
David Price has been alternately fantastic—like he was in his complete-game, one-run, 12-strikeout masterpiece Tuesday night—and frustrating. Similarly, the 70-to-six strikeout-to-walk rate is the former; whereas the 4.02 ERA is the latter. For a near-top-50 pick, you'd expect a little more consistency.
Bust: Allen Craig, 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals (ADP: 57.0)
At this point, the best thing to be said about Allen Craig's fantasy value while he's hitting just .221 with only four homers and 16 RBI is: At least he's eligible at both first base and outfield. Then again, that just means he's been a bust at two positions instead of one.
Bust: Kenley Jansen, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers (ADP: 52.8)
Kenley Jansen has been the reliever equivalent of Price: His 12 saves and 31 strikeouts? Fantastic. Alas, his 4.34 ERA and 1.61 WHIP? Frustrating. When you use a fifth- or sixth-round selection on a reliever, you need better than this.
Bust: Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (ADP: 49.8)
Considering Jean Segura—a top-50 pick—is hitting just .252 with two homers and 10 RBI to go with an awful seven-for-12 stolen-base conversion rate, it might not be a stretch to say that he would have been better off being hit in the head a littler harder by Ryan Braun's bat. At least then Segura would have gone on the DL and been ineligible for bust-dom.
Bust: Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals (ADP: 35.8)
Just when fantasy owners began buying into Ian Desmond in the wake of two straight 20-20 campaigns, the hacktastic shortstop is batting .219 and has all of three stolen base attempts (two of which were successful).
Bust: Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds (ADP: 16.0)
Unless you play in a league that counts OBP, Joey Votto and his .262 average and 12—seriously, 12!—RBI are driving you nuts. Heck, even in an OBP league, his 31 walks (third-most in MLB) don't make up for the utter lack of production at a first base position where big numbers are a requirement. And that's ignoring the fact that you took him in Round 2.
Bust: Prince Fielder, 1B, Texas Rangers (ADP: 14.2)
Despite getting a change of scenery to one of the best hitter's parks in baseball, Prince Fielder has done little to dispel the notion that he's already in decline as a big-bodied slugger who just turned 30 years old. Exactly none of his fantasy numbers so far—from the .243 average to the 19 runs to three homers to the 14 RBI to the zero steals—are anywhere close to making him worth a borderline first-round selection.
Bust: Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners (ADP: 11.0)
Folks who avoided the perennial fantasy first-rounder because they were worried about Robinson Cano's home-field change from Yankee Stadium to Safeco Field—not to mention, joining the offensively inept Seattle Mariners—have been vindicated to this point, as the $240 million man has but 10 extra-base hits, only one of which has left the yard. Sure, he's hitting .307, but if owners really wanted this kind of power production, they could have just picked up Omar Infante off the waiver wire rather than burn their very first take on Cano.
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