Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Disappointments of 2014
Like all fantasy sports, the key to success in fantasy baseball is understanding value. Failure to understand value can lead an owner to mislabel a player as a disappointment, while understanding value can give an owner a late-round steal.
To determine value, you must consider what you gave up when you selected a certain player in the draft. Did you grab an elite catcher early because of the scarcity of that position? Or did you simply draft the best players, regardless of position?
Jose Abreu, whose ESPN average draft position was 134th (only five spots ahead of Alfonso Soriano), has obviously exceeded the expectations of a 13th-round pick. Yet Yadier Molina and Dustin Pedroia, players considered to be the class of their positions, have vastly underwhelmed. The price paid to grab these players early in drafts has been far higher than their actual production.
For the sake of clarity, the following list of disappointments is composed only of position players. A player can only be considered a "disappointment" if his current ESPN Player Rater ranking is at least 100 spots worse than his average draft position. Also, all players must currently be owned in 100 percent of standard ESPN fantasy baseball leagues. Players who have missed time due to injury, such as Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce and Bryce Harper, are excluded.
Here are the top five fantasy disappointments as we approach the halfway point of the 2014 season.
Statistics are accurate through June 19 and are obtained from MLB.com, ESPN.com, Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com.
Allen Craig, 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Craig is notoriously a slow-starter, but he is once again showing signs of life. Craig has strung together five- and six-game hitting streaks in June to raise his batting average to .256. Batting cleanup in a Cardinals lineup that is bound to hit eventually, Craig's RBI totals will continue to rise. He will not be 147 spots below his average draft position come the end of the season.
Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Segura caught the league by storm in his sophomore season with the Brewers in 2013, as the shortstop hit .294 with 12 home runs and 44 stolen bases. Yet owners were wise and did not hold as lofty expectations for Segura in 2014. Segura currently ranks 179th on ESPN's Player Rater, 109 spots behind his average draft position. Segura has managed 13 stolen bases, yet he has been disappointing in the batting average and home run departments.
Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Three Cardinals appearing on this list should indicate that the team has been uncharacteristically mediocre at the plate. Indeed, the Cardinals rank 25th in the MLB in runs (271) and 28th in slugging percentage (.365). Matt Holliday has had his fair share of struggles as well, as the left fielder has only registered five home runs and ranks 110 spots worse than his average draft value. Nevertheless, he is a proven hitter and his struggles will likely subside once the entire team starts clicking.
No. 5: David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
Many fantasy experts considered third base to be weak this year, but Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria and David Wright were still deemed the cream of the crop.
Beltre suffered a quad injury to begin the year, but the 35-year-old is still on pace for another productive season. And Longoria is still the only noteworthy bat in an otherwise lackluster Rays offense.
David Wright currently leads NL third baseman in All-Star voting—something neither Beltre nor Longoria can claim in the AL—however, he leads undeservedly.
The days of Wright hitting 30 home runs are obviously over. The third baseman has hit only six this season and sits at a career-worst .377 slugging percentage. Wright also ranks 11th among third basemen on the ESPN Player Rater and has notched only one multi-hit game since June 2.
Taken in the late second round or early third round of most drafts, many owners were hoping that Wright would return to his 2007 and 2008 form, avenging his miserable 58-RBI 2013 season. Yet his current 152nd ranking on the Player Rater (133 spots behind his average draft position) makes him worthy of only a 14th-round pick.
Even with its more hitter friendly new dimensions, Citi Field is where hitters go to fly out, as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork states. Additionally, given the fact that the Mets rank 24th in team offense, Wright's struggles can be somewhat explained, and he will thus avoid the top spots on this list. He will not continue to slump (7-for-his-last-44), but it would still take a monster second half for Wright to merit his average draft position.
No. 4: Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers
Along with Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo was heralded by the Texas Rangers as a centerpiece to a rebuilt offense.
Choo was coming off a 2013 season in which he swiped 20 bases and set career highs with a .423 on-base percentage (second only to his teammate Joey Votto) and 112 walks. Combine that stellar performance with the hitter friendly ballpark in Arlington, and Choo undoubtedly had high upside.
Such circumstances led owners and experts to value Choo at approximately a fourth-round pick. But up to this point, Choo has been a disappointment for owners who went with the 11th-year outfielder.
Choo is currently 178 spots worse than his average draft position (ranked 215th on the overall ESPN Player Rater) and is 56th among outfielders.
The Rangers' injury bug has spread to Choo's ankle; however, as Gerry Fraley of DallasNews.com reports, Choo has opted to play through the pain. Nevertheless, his average has dipped to .132 in June, .207 at home and .253 for the season.
Even though Choo has never been known to drive in runs in bunches, he certainly has had opportunities as the three-hole hitter in Texas. Yet he has only driven in 26 runs. Perhaps just as worrisome, he has only three stolen bases thus far in 2014.
Better times are ahead for Choo (which is why he is not among the top three on this list), especially when he can slot back into the leadoff position when Prince Fielder is healthy again. However, those times may have to wait until next season.
No. 3: Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals
Will this finally be the year when fantasy owners realize that position scarcity does not exist?
Year after year, catchers are the least offensively talented fantasy baseball players. Most are lucky to reach 15 home runs and eclipse 70 RBI. The chances of eeking out a stolen base are even more minuscule. These are the exact makings of a seventh- or eighth- round pick. Yet Yadier Molina's ESPN average draft position in 2014 was 50th overall.
A glimpse at Molina's numbers will show he has been one of the biggest disappointments to date.
Molina's .285 average, 23 runs, 6 home runs and 26 RBI are good enough for 229 on the Player Rater and seventh among catchers. In his 11-year big league career, Molina only has one season in which he has hit over 15 home runs and tallied 80 RBI. Essentially, the only significant contribution Molina adds to a fantasy team is a bolstered batting average.
Since Molina was taken in the fifth round in many drafts, he is currently performing 180 spots worse than where owners drafted him (the third most among eligible players). Those that stocked up on more talented hitters early in drafts and waited until later to draft high-upside catchers like Jonathan Lucroy and Evan Gattis have certainly benefited. Come 2015, resist the urge to waste an early draft pick to get the biggest-named catcher, and your team will be much better off.
No. 2: Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox
Dustin Pedroia is a prime example in which real-life value is not in sync with fantasy value.
The 30-year-old continues to dazzle with his glove at second base, as he leads all second basemen in DRS (defensive runs saved) with nine. And along with David Ortiz, Pedroia is the heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox.
Unfortunately, however, Pedroia's fantasy value has taken a massive hit in 2014.
Valued as one of the top second basemen in fantasy drafts (perhaps only behind Robinson Cano and Jason Kipnis), Pedroia has scuffled to a .266 batting average, a career-low .388 slugging percentage and a measly 27 RBI.
Pedroia ranks 14th among second basemen, and his 203rd ranking on the overall ESPN Player Rater and is a whopping 181 spots below his average draft value.
Pedroia's 2013 numbers do not reveal anything close to a regressing veteran, as he hit .301 with 91 runs and 84 RBI, all while battling a torn ligament in his thumb. As a result, he has too much upside to rank No. 1 on this list.
Pedroia did only muster nine home runs last year, but a healthy thumb was assumed to correlate with a higher fly-ball rate and thus more home runs in 2014. With his 2014 numbers vastly under his career marks, owners may start to question whether or not Pedroia is fully healthy.
No. 1: Joe Mauer, C/1B, Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer takes home the biggest disappointment in fantasy baseball up to this point in the 2014 season, as his ranking on the ESPN Player Rater (323) is 263 spots worse than his average draft position—by far the largest gap among qualifying players.
Ever since his 28-home run outburst in 2009, Mauer has struggled to hit for much power. In fact, he has only hit more than ten home runs once in the last five seasons. Yet the rationale behind drafting Mauer was that his sweet swing can always be relied upon in the batting average department, as he holds a .319 career average.
The problem is that the 2014 Joe Mauer cannot seem to contribute in any offensive category. In fact, the three-time batting champion has been a detriment to the owner who reached for him in the first half of any draft.
Mauer has not hit a home run since May 3, and only has two for the entire season. Furthermore, his .182 batting average with runners in scoring position has contributed to his lowly 18 RBI.
The Twins rank near the middle of most offensive categories, so it is not a David Wright-type situation in which Mauer simply does not have adequate protection or opportunities to drive in runs. Manager Ron Gardenhire has also adamantly stated that Mauer is completely healthy from his back injury (according to Larry Hartstein of CBSSports.com), thus making his struggles even more perplexing.
Owners looking to deal Mauer should highlight the fact that he is an established hitter, so a trend in the opposite direction is by no means out of the picture. But the numbers are truly ugly, and finding an owner with any interest in the 11th-year catcher (and now first baseman) may be a lost cause.
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