As if the fantasy labyrinth wasn’t hard enough to navigate on its own, every year there are minotaurs—players who seem bent on ruining your season as you work out the puzzle.
Players like Josh Hamilton, Jose Reyes, and Brad Lidge were fairly high picks (Lidge more among closers than in an absolute sense) who ended up not only not being worth their status, but hurting your team if you stuck with them too long.
On the other side of the spectrum, players like Michael Cuddyer, Nelson Cruz, and Russell Branyan played out of their minds en route to a career year. If you picked one of these guys off the wire, chances are you were pretty pleased with your selection, more so than if you’d grabbed, say, Jonathan Van Every. But is that success sustainable, or was it a park-induced illusion.
This series will focus on both types of players, those who killed you and those who threw your team a lifeline. If there’s someone you’d like to see profiled, drop me a line on twitter (@dwade) or in the comments and I’ll do my best to oblige.
It seems wrong to leadoff with anyone but Jose Reyes, since, you know, he’s an actual leadoff hitter. So let’s open up with a show of hands: How many of you took Reyes in the first round and got burned? Wow, ok, so a fair number of you.
Don’t feel bad, it happened to me, too.
His ADP (average draft position) according to ESPN last season was 5.5, which was pretty commensurate with my own experience. The then 25-year-old got off to a slow start in April, hitting .284/.364/.386 with a home run and just two net steals (4 SB—2 CS).
May was an improvement for Reyes, as he hit .288/.367/.442 over the first two weeks with another home run and seven steals, but then it all came to a crashing halt. He missed his first game on May 14, and played just three more for the rest of the season.
Had he blown out a knee or truly torn his hamstring, I think there would be much less handwringing over whether to keep Reyes in keeper or to draft him again in roto.
The Mets left him in limbo for most of the season, saying he’d be back, setting a timetable, then saying he’d suffered a setback and that his return date was unknown. This process repeated itself no fewer than four times between May and September, leaving owners in a bind. No one wants to be the sucker who dropped a top-five player when he’s injured, only to have him return in a month.
In fact, the waffling about the severity of Reyes’ injury didn’t stop when the Mets’ season ended. He finally got surgery to repair his torn hamstring and to clean scar tissue out from behind his knee on October 15, he was on crutches for a few weeks and began lightly running in early December. The Mets believe he will be back 100 percent by the time camp opens.
That he hasn’t made an appearance in the Dominican Winter League shouldn’t raise eyebrows too much, there’s no way the Mets want to risk him before he’s anything less than 100 percent. He should see plenty of time in camp to get him back to game pace, making the DWL too risk heavy to make much sense.
So, it seems like Reyes should be healthy for the season, which makes him once again a solid commodity. According to Mock Draft Central, his ADP this season is 21, ranging from 12 to 36, fourth among shortstops (as a note, four of the top five shortstops are in the national league, so heaven help you in AL only).
That seems about right to me. Even if Reyes is 100 percent ready to rock and roll, I can’t see the Mets being overly aggressive with him on the basepaths, meaning fewer steals, and a pretty noticeable drop in value.
However, Reyes isn’t a purely speed guy, if he were, he wouldn’t have been a top-10 pick. While I’m a little concerned about his getting back to game speed, batting eye isn’t something that disappears overnight. His OBP should remain reasonably high, and as long as his footspeed is back, he’ll slug reasonably well with plenty of doubles and triples.
Of all of the guys profiled here, Reyes is probably the one I have the most confidence in. It takes time to recover from surgery, but he’ll be a full four months removed from it when the season opens.
If he falls all the way into the third round, jump on him, but the issue is going to be in the 16-18 range. Obviously it depends on who you’ve drafted ahead of him, but if he fits a need, I wouldn’t be overly concerned with taking him. He’s not likely to come back to you, unless everyone else in your league is risk averse.
If you’re really worried about it, let someone else take him and wait through the slow start I think he’ll probably have. Propose a decent deal, and cash in on Reyes’ improvement in May and beyond.
By the end of the season, I don’t think it’s at all a stretch to say that he’ll be in the top 20, but the possibility of a rough start, combined with the legitimate concern about depressed steal totals is what’s pushing him into the 20-30 range.
Roto: Unless you know you can steal him in the 25-29 range, draft late second or early third round.
Keeper: He’s still the 4th or 5th best shortstop and a second or third round pick, so I’d say keep him, unless you’ve got Jimmy Rollins or Troy Tulowitzki, in which case I’d keep either of those two instead.