Original Article: Baseball Reflections
In last week’s Fantasy Focus, I announced the 2009 All-Underappreciated Team. This week, we shift gears as I present to you the All-Overappreciated Team.
Catcher: Russell Martin
Martin was the No. 1 drafted catcher in most leagues this year but has failed to live up to those expectations.
The 26-year-old is currently on pace to set career lows in HR (five), RBI (48), and batting average (.260). His .304 BABIP doesn’t suggest any poor luck, and he’s only collected 19 extra-base hits all season.
Martin is having a terrible season and is showing no signs of turning things around. Kurt Suzuki, A.J. Pierzynski, Miguel Montero, Yadier Molina, and even John Baker are all out-producing Martin.
If you own Martin in a public league, it’s probably time to cut your losses. Keeper and dynasty league owners can only pray this season-long slump doesn’t carry into 2010.
Honorable Mention: Geovany Soto
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez went bonkers in April and May, bashing 20 long balls while driving in 40 runs with a .282 average. Since then, he’s managed to hit just 13 HR with 33 RBI and a .261 average.
A recent surge, which included a six-hit night, has put a halt to his downward spiral. One two-week stretch, however, cannot save the last three months.
The 27-year-old does have 33 HR but just 73 RBI to go along with it. In his previous two seasons, Gonzalez has hit 30 and 36 long balls, while knocking in 100 and 119 runs each year, respectively. His current .272 batting average is his worst since arriving in San Diego in 2006.
Unless you owned Gonzo in a roto league back in April and May, he’s likely been a huge disappointment. The big lefty is an exceptional hitter, but Petco Park and the Padres’ weak lineup are holding him back.
If you were able to cash in on Gonzalez’s hot start, pat yourself on the back. For the rest of you, try using his 33 HR as a selling point to land someone whose best performance has yet to come.
Honorable Mention: Aubrey Huff
Second Base: Dan Uggla
Dan Uggla carries a big stick but is prone to the strikeout and is a career .257 hitter.
While the 29-year-old does have 22 HR (something that should not go unnoticed at his position), his .237 average can really hurt your team.
After his 97/32/92/.260 2008 season, Uggla was probably being counted on to produce as the sixth- or seventh-best second baseman. Instead, he currently ranks No. 21 at his position, behind the likes of Clint Barmes, Mark DeRosa, and Jose Lopez.
Honorable Mention: Howie Kendrick
Third Base: Chipper Jones
This is likely to be an unpopular pick, but the numbers don’t lie. While it’s unfair to say that Chipper (or any player, for that matter) has played without injuries this season, he has not missed any significant time.
The following is a table that displays Chipper’s 2009 production (or lack thereof) compared to his 2008 totals, in just 68 fewer at-bats.
Russell Branyan and Casey Blake have produced at a higher level than Chipper this season—go figure.
Honorable Mention: Garrett Atkins
Shortstop: Rafael Furcal
Furcal is a .284 career hitter and has never finished the season with an average under .270.
That could change this year, as the soon-to-be 32-year-old is turning in a lackluster 2009 campaign, with just 67 runs, six bombs, 35 RBI, and six steals to go along with his .259 average.
The man who began his career with eight consecutive seasons of at least 22 steals may not reach double digits in 2009, limiting his fantasy value considerably. Marco Scutaro, Yunel Escobar, Erick Aybar, Cristian Guzman, and even Alberto Callaspo have outperformed Furcal, proving his worthlessness to fantasy owners.
Honorable Mention: Jhonny Peralta
Left Field: Alfonso Soriano
Soriano was likely the No. 2 left fielder in fantasy baseball before the season began, but he currently ranks 31st on the list at his position. Shin-Soo Choo and Franklin Gutierrez have stats lines that are comparable to Soriano’s, but with a much better batting average.
Soriano is currently batting .240 despite being a career .278 hitter. His batting average was as low as .226 in early July, and fantasy owners never got the prolonged hot streak they were hoping for.
Soriano’s production has progressively worsened each season since signing with the Cubs before the 2007 season, and there’s little reason to believe the 33-year-old will ever return to his 40/40, or even 30/30, form anytime soon.
Honorable Mention: Elijah Dukes
Center Field: B.J. Upton
Upton is an extremely tough player to figure out.
In 2007, he hit 24 HR, batted .300, and swiped 22 bases. Last season, he hit just nine long balls but increased his stolen base count to 44 while batting .273.
This year, Upton has yet to regain his power stroke, hitting just nine HR. His .237 batting average leaves something to be desired, though his 36 steals are nice to own.
The truth is, however, that Michael Bourn and Denard Span are outproducing Upton, and are likely much cheaper on the trade market, especially in keeper leagues. From here on out, I have no idea what to expect from the enigma that is B.J. Upton, and that’s not a good thing.
Honorable Mention: Vernon Wells
Right Field: Milton Bradley
After an amazing 2008 season in Texas, which saw him post 78/22/77/.321 in just 414 at-bats, Milton Bradley has been a colossal disappointment this year with the Cubs.
Through 316 at-bats, Bradley has totaled just nine HR and 31 RBI to go along with his .250 batting average. To put this into perspective, teammate Aramis Ramirez has knocked in seven more runs in 126 fewer at-bats.
Fantasy owners have been expecting Bradley’s bat to wake up, but it has yet to do so. Jonny Gomes is currently outproducing Bradley to the tune of six more HR, three more RBI, and a batting average that’s 31 points higher in 129 fewer at-bats.
Simply put: Milton Bradley should not be owned, even in the deepest fantasy leagues.
Honorable Mention: Nick Swisher
Starting Pitcher: Cole Hamels
I hate to admit it, but I was wrong about Cole Hamels. 2009 has been a disaster for last year’s World Series MVP, despite the Phillies’ continued success. While a few things point to bad luck, there’s no denying his 4.78 ERA and 1.35 WHIP.
On the season, Hamels owns a .285 batting average against compared to his career mark of .244. Since the All-Star Break, Hamels has turned in just three quality starts, while Joel Pineiro, Randy Wolf, and Jarrod Washburn have all outpitched the 2002 first-rounder.
On the flip side, Hamels owns a 2.00 BB/9 ratio, and his FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching on an ERA scale) of 4.16 suggests he hasn’t been quite as bad as his ERA may lead you to believe.
The good news is Hamels is only 25, and next year will be a fresh start for him. The bad news is 2009 hates Cole Hamels, and as a fantasy owner, you should too.
Honorable Mention: A.J. Burnett
Closer: Kerry Wood
The American League has not been kind to Kerry Wood, as the 32-year-old has recorded just 15 saves this season while posting a 4.70 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Walks continue to be a problem for him too, as made evident by his 4.50 BB/9.
Most fantasy managers who drafted him in March were hoping for something similar to 2008, which saw him save 34 games and post a 3.26 ERA. Instead, guys who weren’t even closing at the beginning of the season, such as LaTroy Hawkins, J.P. Howell, and C.J. Wilson, have outproduced the overappreciated Kerry Wood.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Marmol
I know you all have some opinions on this one, so let me hear them! Who did I miss, and who did I wrongfully include on the list?
Nick Kappel is a fantasy baseball writer for BaseballReflections.com. In addition to this, he covers the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Cubs for BleacherReport.com. Starting in the fall, his work will also be featured on FanHuddle.com.