The Flounder Awards: Guys Who Screwed Me Over
Hello everyone, and welcome to the First Annual Flounder Awards!
The distinguished gentlemen we are honoring tonight have been incredible sources of frustration in one or more of my 12-team, Head-to-Head mixed leagues.
Each of these players has screwed me over in his own aggravating way, and tonight we honor them for their unique abilities to make me want to pull my hair out.
Matt Wieters, Catcher
I had a brilliant plan for my catchers going into each draft.
The plan was to take Matt Wieters in the seventh or eighth round, then scoop up Pablo Sandoval (who qualifies at catcher in these leagues for his backstop experience last season) somewhere around Round 11 or 12.
Sandoval would be my catcher, and Wieters would be my trade bait. I figured that Wieters, who MLB.com described as "the switch-hitting version of Joe Mauer, only with more power...ready to make a big league impact right away," would be a red-hot commodity the minute he donned an Orioles uniform, and it would be worth a couple months of waiting for him to be called up to be able to trade him for maybe a third- or fourth-rounder.
Part of the plan worked well. Sandoval has been a godsend for my teams. As one of my top sleeper picks, I knew he would be good. What I could not have predicted is that he would have more points than every other catcher not named Joe Mauer or Victor Martinez.
As for Wieters, he has yielded almost zero return on investment. After a few more weeks of stashing him on my bench, I started to lose patience. At present, I have ended up dropping him from each of my teams that he was on.
My eighth-round picks would have been much better spent on guys like Raul Ibanez, Andre Ethier, or Michael Young.
Further reading on Wieters:
Chris Davis, First Base
I didn't do very well in fantasy baseball last season.
I don't remember exactly what happened or who would have won a Flounder last year. In fact, I very quickly forgot who most of my lineup regulars were. I remember only that I used a lot of stop-gap guys like Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jeff Keppinger.
The only player I remember getting excited about last year was Chris Davis.
I picked him up off the waiver wire when he got called up and started him, because what did I have to lose? He went on an absolute tear.
Even when I tried to avoid monitoring my fantasy teams for fear of seeing how poorly they were faring, I would check in multiple times a night just to see how many home runs Chris Davis had hit that game.
All the stars seemed to line up before this season; he earned a starting spot in the middle of perhaps the most stacked lineup in baseball with half his games in one of the league's smallest parks.
In 80 games last year, he posted an impressive .285 average while mashing 17 homers, 55 RBI, and 51 runs—the equivalent of 34/111/103 in a full season. That alone would be worth early-round consideration.
Sure, I'd rather he have a bit more plate discipline (which I expected he would develop over a full season), but the strikeouts weren't terribly bothersome since they are not included in the league scoring system. "Invest now in Davis," MLB.com wrote, "as he likely won't be attainable at a reasonable price for long."
Even if he made only marginal adjustments to his mechanics, given a full-time job and prime surroundings, he could realistically bump that up to .300/40/130/120. Throw in his additional eligibility at third base, and I had no qualms about seeking him out as early as the fourth round.
I was wrong. I was very wrong.
When Davis was sent down to the minors in July, he was on pace to break Mark Reynolds' single-season strikeout record. To be fair, Reynolds is also on course to surpass his own record, but unlike Davis, he also makes solid contact with the ball on a regular basis.
In just three fewer games than he played last year, Davis' statline had decreased by two home runs, 22 RBI, and 17 runs, and his average had plummeted 83 points.
Fifteen home runs in half a season is nothing to sneeze at, but with little value anywhere else, he has probably been my single most-frustrating player.
Alexei Ramirez, Second Base
This was a difficult choice for me because Alexei Ramirez has had a fairly decent year. His numbers (.271/14/57/56/12) aren't eye-popping, but they're certainly respectable for a middle infielder.
The problem is that I was expecting much more out of him. He's built like Alfonso Soriano, and after blasting 21 homers last year (including 14 in the second half) and swiping 13 bases, I thought Ramirez could approach Soriano's prime-season numbers.
Entering the season at the supposedly-magic age of 27, I figured he would at least be a strong candidate to go 25/25, if not 30/30. Did I mention I'm a sucker for multi-position eligibility?
In reality, I got a fairly average middle infielder. He has cold streaks and hot streaks, but neither are particularly good or bad compared to the other non-elite second-baseman options.
Hank Blalock, Third Base
Tempting as it was, it seemed wrong to me to give Chris Davis a Flounder at two different positions, even if I planned to use him at both, depending on the league and week.
But I've had some pretty good luck with most of my third basemen this year, and the best (or worst?) I could come up with was Hank Blalock, whose problems to me are similar to Davis's but less extreme, since he has played a bit better and I did not expect as much from him.
I suppose circumstances are a little bit different with Blalock. A former top prospect, he's fizzled in recent years and has yet to live up to his potential.
He he finished the season strong last year, blasting eight homers in September after an injury wiped out most of his season. Expected to be the Rangers' regular DH, he would have fewer opportunities to get hurt again and a better ability to focus on hitting. Supposedly entering his prime at age 28 and surrounded by the offensive monster that is the Rangers lineup, I thought he would at least put up numbers similar to his last good season, when he went .263/25/92 in 2005.
He's put up Davis-like numbers, with an impressive, but not extraordinary 23 homers and little else of value (.238 average, 57 RBI in 104 games).
Ironically, Davis has just been recalled from the minors because of Blalock's recent struggles. But since both players are long gone from any of my rosters where they may have once resided, however that situation plays out, it will have no effect on my fantasy teams.
Jimmy Rollins, Shortstop
"He always has a bad first few weeks, but he's about to break out of it."
"He's hitting the ball hard, just right at people."
"His hit rate is disgustingly low, that should correct itself any day now."
All of the above are things I said to myself over and over again, from the time that his normal slow start seemed to last a bit too long until he finally started to turn it around in July.
I spent several months trying to find a good replacement for Rollins, but I missed out on Ben Zobrist and I was unable to work out a good trade. So I played him every week, thinking each time that this would be the week he finally remembers how to swing a bat.
Of course, he waited until I finally found his replacement to start hitting. His breakout week was the one wherein I benched him for Gordon Beckham.
I have been absolutely giddy about Rollins since the All-Star Break and I have mostly forgiven him for the angst he caused me in the spring. But that doesn't mean that I might have won a couple more games had his slump been a little shorter or a little less extreme.
Elijah Dukes, Outfield
Pablo Sandoval, Nelson Cruz, and Elijah Dukes were my top sleeper picks for this season. Sandoval and Cruz woke up and hit the ground running. They have been invaluable to my team.
Dukes, on the other hand, sat up in bad, yawned, and went back to sleep.
I was really excited about Dukes. I was excited about his untapped power. I was excited about his raw speed. I was excited about the .972 OPS he posted last year. I was excited about his opportunity to become a centerpiece of a young Nationals team that had a chance to make something of itself in the near future.
Okay, that last part was a bit over-the-top. But I had enough confidence in Dukes to call him "a legitimate 30/30 threat" in Spring Training.
Then he got injured. Then he got sent to the minors. Slowly, I began to realize that I was wrong.
I know I wasn't the only one who was excited about Dukes, but I don't know of anyone else who was as enthusiastic.
Since I usually didn't even go for him until the last couple rounds, it wasn't a huge impact on my team. Still, it was demoralizing to see him flounder.
Grady Sizemore, Outfield
I am a Clevelander, and I am not a big fan of Grady Sizemore.
It's not that I don't think he's a good player. It's that I don't think he's as good as everyone else seems to believe. That, and he's incredibly miscast as a leadoff hitter.
Since his first full season in 2005, Grady has gone from a consistent hitter with decent pop to a slugger with a mediocre average. While he's become a better power hitter and base-stealer over time, his average has dropped from .290 in '06, to .268 last year, to .246 this year.
He's been a bit banged up this year, which partially explains the drop in homers and steals, but the drop in average is part of a trend.
Despite my reservations, when he was still available by the time it was my turn to pick (I was 11th in the draft order), I grabbed him. I wanted to get some variety among my teams (as you may have inferred, I tend to go for the same players each draft) and figured that, worst-case scenario, I could trade him to someone less pessimistic.
He hasn't been abysmal, just disappointing. Especially since he was my first-round pick.
Alfonso Soriano, Outfield
In my first trade of the season, negotiated right after the draft ended, I gave up Ryan Braun and Pat Burrell for Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Howard. At the time, I determined that the quality of the trade hinged on Soriano's ability to stay healthy.
If he could replicate what he did before his injury last season, I thought, it be a steal. But because he gets hurt a lot, I wasn't sure that he had another full season left in him.
As it happens, injuries have been the least of his problems. After his hot start faded, he's been riding my bench all season save for a brief power surge after the All-Star Break.
I've been waiting and waiting for him to regain his swing—or something close to it—but to no avail. My unwillingness to part with him because of his tremendous potential has cost me the chance to pick up more useful players like Nyjer Morgan, Josh Willingham, and Juan Rivera.