Fool Me Twice: Five Deceptively Inconsistent Fantasy Baseball Studs
Players' past successes and failures are irrelevant in fantasy baseball.
When a Nelson Cruz home run clinched me a playoff spot in my primary fantasy league last September, I didn't stop to think about how far he had come since being labeled a Quad-A player last year.
Similarly, when I finally decided that Alfonso Soriano was too useless to continue occupying a valuable roster spot, I took no solace in the fact that he was once one of the best hitters in the game.
While we spend the offseason looking to players' past numbers for clues about what the future might hold, most fans go through the process asking "What have you done for me lately?" rather than looking at the big picture.
Here are five surefire early-rounders who have cleverly made fantasy owners and real teams alike forget about their past struggles.
Draft positions are courtesy of MockDraftCentral.com.
With blazing speed and consistent opportunities to score runs from the Rays' leadoff spot, Crawford was a hot fantasy baseball commodity long before he became a real threat in the batter's box.
By the end of 2007, Crawford had established himself as a legitimate hitter and fans nationwide expected him to take the next step in 2008.
But, as the saying goes, "we plan and God laughs."
Crawford struggled mightily in 2008, putting up a paltry .718 OPS as a hand injury limited him to 109 games.
The consensus heading into last season was that, while he was certainly a serviceable player, he would never reach his once-humongous potential.
And yet, after bouncing back somewhat in 2009 (his numbers weren't as good as they were in, say, 2006), he has regained his status as a top-tier fantasy player, inexplicably going as high as the fourth overall pick in some mock drafts.
You wouldn't know it from the current hype surrounding him, but a year ago, V-Mart was perhaps the biggest question mark in all of fantasy baseball.
After four years of consistently rewarding owners and Indians fans with around 20 homers and 100 RBI from the game's shallowest position, Martinez's game took a nosedive in 2008.
Plagued by injuries starting Opening Day, he inexplicably lost all his power, hitting just two home runs with a miserable .087 ISO in 73 games.
V-Mart came back strong in 2009 and shipping up to Boston added a further spark to his bat, causing everyone to forget his struggles the year before.
He's a great addition to any fantasy lineup, but whoever is taking him 13th overall is a mighty brave soul indeed.
Quick question--what do you think Sizemore's batting average will be in 2010?
.280? .290? .300? Higher?
You might be surprised to learn that he hasn't hit in that range since 2006.
His average has been steadily falling since then, from .290 to .277 to .268 to .248 in 2009. Sure, that last figure was at least partially due to injuries, but it fits with the overall pattern.
That's not to say that Sizemore isn't a valuable player. His power has generally increased over that span, he's still a solid baserunner, and he has a good eye for leagues that count OBP.
But, despite monopolizing Cleveland's leadoff spot, his numbers are closer to Carlos Peña's than Ichiro's. Keep that in mind before you take him with pick No. 14.
Another speedster with limited offensive abilities, Figgins has been sort of a versatile, poor man's Carl Crawford for most of his career, providing fantasy owners with consistent steals at a number of positions.
But even for a player who wasn't expected to do much with the bat, Figgy was a major let-down in 2008. Never much of a power hitter, his ISO dropped to an insanely low .042, and he somehow drove in just 22 runs in 520 plate appearances.
He resurged to relevance in 2009, raising his OPS over 100 points as he experienced the second-best season of his career.
So far, fantasy owners haven't been completely brainwashed; Figgins has been seventh-round selection on average, though he's been taken as high as the early fourth.
But, in spite of his inconsistency, he was the most sought-after free agent in the real MLB offseason, earning himself a $36 million contract with the Mariners.
There has been no shortage of public doubts about Jason Bay this offseason.
How much is he really worth? Will his swing play well in Citi Field? Just how bad is his defense?
However, no one seems to have any doubt that J-Bay can hit. Which means that Pirates fans can't remember 2007.
After amassing an OPS of .936 in his first four seasons, Bay completely dropped off the table. Sure, 21 homers with a .746 OPS is better than what a lot of players can produce, but the decline was an unexpected--and weird--turn of events.
After rebounding and emerging as an offensive stud with the Red Sox over the last two seasons, it's certainly not likely that Bay will experience another sudden regression. But combine that with his move to a notorious pitcher's park and he might not be worth an early-second-round pick.