A lot of people focus on the hidden gems of fantasy baseball drafts. It's fun to imagine what kind of upside those players can have, and if things work out, those players can go a long way towards winning your league.
However, I think figuring out which guys in the early portions of the draft can hurt you is just as important, even if it is more depressing. If your second-rounder gives you tenth-round production, that can have just as big of a negative impact as that big-time sleeper has on the positive end.
It's important to think about the potential downside of your top picks as well as their upside.
Take Joey Votto, the guy pictured on this page, as an example. If you look at his current Yahoo! ranking, he's slated as a late-second or early third-round pick.
That's awfully high for a guy that has yet to deliver top-50 value in his career. While that .320 average last season is quite gaudy, he didn't project to have 100 runs, 30 homers, or 100 RBI if he played 155 games. Considering he plays a deep position and isn't a threat on the basepaths, that is pretty worrisome from one of your top hitters.
Sure, Votto has the potential to have a big season. However, when you're already paying for that increased production, it probably isn't a smart move for your team. That is why unless he falls farther than expected in my drafts, Votto probably won't be on my fantasy team.
This is something I try to look at for all of my picks in the first half of the draft. Here are 10 other players that I probably won't be drafting this season. I'm less comfortable drafting any of these players at their current spot than I am with Votto, who I do like as a player.
I certainly wouldn't complain about having a shortstop that hit 30 homers and stole 20 bases on my roster last season.
However, while I understand his appeal as a productive player at a rather weak position, I have serious concerns about drafting him in the middle of the first round.
2009 was the first season that Troy gave you truly elite overall value, and he still finished 23rd in the Yahoo! player rater. That is a big red flag to me, especially considering he beat his previous high in stolen bases by 13 (and stole them at a very poor clip).
Tulowitzki didn't really give you elite production in any one area last year; he gave you solid to good production across the board at a premium position. If his production slips in any category, you're looking at a 5th-round caliber player. Given that his track record isn't as proven as guys like Hanley Ramirez and Chase Utley, you're taking a fairly big risk in drafting Troy that early.
Overall, I think there is far too big a chance that Tulowitzki puts up somewhere around a 90-25-90-10 line with a .280 batting average to take him over elite hitters like Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, and Prince Fielder (even if they do play a much easier position to fill). I just wouldn't be comfortable with Troy being my best hitter.
I've never been a big fan of drafting guys that are highly dependent on their stolen base total in the first three rounds of the draft. Few fit that description better than Ellsbury.
Though he's obviously one of the best base stealers in baseball and his .300-ish average is nice given his number of bat bats, he's pretty much a non-factor in homers and RBI and failed to score 100 runs in either of his two full seasons.
Drafting someone with his statistical profile early in the draft forces you to load up on power and run production in other spots, which would be easier to handle if he played short stop or second base instead of the outfield.
You're also a slow month or a nagging leg injury away from him putting up seventh round value since he won't be able to make up a drop in stolen base totals in other categories. The difference between 50 steals and 70 steals is bigger in fantasy baseball than it is on the actual field.
Personally, I'm much more comfortable taking guys with a more well-rounded statistical profile that still get steals like Justin Upton or Andrew McCutchen, or getting my steals from guys a few rounds later that play less loaded positions like Jose Reyes, Brian Roberts or Chone Figgins.
It's also a lot easier to find stolen base specialists like Julio Borbon, Nyjer Morgan or Rajai Davis later in the draft than it is to find guys with 40-homer power.
Sandoval is a pretty likeable player. That said, his fantasy line leaves a lot to be desired from an early round pick.
There's no question that he can hit, but his counting numbers of 79 runs, 25 homers, 90 RBIs, and 5 steals aren't exactly going to carry your team. Even with his .330 batting average, he finished 43rd overall in Yahoo!'s player rater and sixth among third basemen (plus A-Rod wasn't far behind with far fewer at-bats).
His value is simply too dependent on his batting average for my liking, and a few bad bounces here and there make him a .305 hitter instead of a .330 hitter. I also have a hard time seeing him drastically improve his power numbers this year given his aggressive approach at the plate.
Unless you plan on taking some players with risky batting averages, I think you can find more productive players or similarly productive players that play tougher positions at that point in the draft.
I'm already hesitant to draft a starting pitcher in the early rounds because of the volatility of the position and their one fewer potential category of contribution than hitters.
Carpenter gives me a few other reasons to avoid him in the third or fourth round of the draft.
—He only struck out 144 batters last year, dropping him to only three categories where he can really help you.
—He posted the best ERA of his career by a fairly wide margin last year, and the best WHIP and BAA as well.
—He turns 35 early in the 2010 season.
-He has a very checkered past when it comes to staying healthy.
A lot of things went right for him last year to be among the best starting pitchers last season. Given the lower strikeout total than most other fantasy aces, he pretty much has to win at least 17 games with an ERA below three and a WHIP under 1.10 to justify this draft slot.
If he doesn't, there are a multitude of pitcher that will be drafted several rounds later that can produce similar or superior overall lines given their edge in strikeouts.
I'd rather grab a hitter that is a bit more of a sure thing at this spot and load up on young starters with better stuff in the middle rounds.
Markakis was one of my favorites in past drafts and is a very good hitter, but he has more value to his real team than to your fantasy team.
He's quite productive in run production and carries a solid batting average, but he only had 18 homers and six stolen bases last year. Those are some pretty weak numbers in those categories for a guy that you are taking in the fifth round.
It appears that Markakis is no longer a threat to go 20/20 like he was in the past, considering that he only attempted eight steals last year. He also has a career high of 23 homers, so he looks like a relatively low upside pick right now. It also doesn't help that he plays a pretty deep position.
He will still help you in three categories, but I would personally try to stock my outfield with more intriguing talents like Andrew McCutchen, Nick's teammate Adam Jones, or someone like Carlos Gonzalez a few rounds later. It's generally easier to find runs, RBIs, and batting average than power and speed.
I really don't get this one at all. Span has very little extra base power, does not put up good run or RBI totals, and stole a decent but not spectacular 23 bases in 33 attempts last year.
The one thing he did quite well last year was hit .311 in 578 at bats. However, the sixth round is awfully early to draft a guy that is relatively average in the other four categories. It would be one thing if you league counts walks or on base percentage, but most don't.
Unless he develops more power or starts stealing bases more effectively, I don't really see what the attraction is. You've also pretty much wasted a pick if he hits .290 or is more selective with his base stealing.
Vazquez has always had very good stuff, but last year everything else came together to produce the best season of his career.
However, don't expect him to do it again.
Vazquez is one of the most inconsistent pitchers in the league, looking like a Cy Young winner in some games and a career minor-leaguer in others.
In the National League, in a fairly friendly park for pitchers, he was able to reduce his number of bad starts. The problem is that this season he moves back to the American League and will play in Yankee Stadium, which was a launching pad last season.
Things didn't go very well for Javy last time he was in New York, when he posted an ERA of 4.91 and struck out only 150 batters in 2004. He posted one solid season playing for the White Sox, but threw up ERA's of 4.84 and 4.67 in the other two on the South Side.
Vazquez will get quite a few strikeouts, but I wouldn't expect him to post anything better than a 4.00 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. Given his history, it could be quite a bit worse than that.
You generally don't see outfielders that posted a line of 84-9-47-8 in 500 at bats on the fringe of the top-100.
Yes, Coghlan did hit .321 as a rookie, but the rest of his stats were extremely pedestrian for an outfielder.
He was virtually a one-category player and who knows if he can sustain that average for an entire season again.
There are numerous other interesting players I can draft where he is currently rated.
I don't have a problem with where Jurrjens is rated. However, I do think there are far more interesting pitchers at this portion of the draft.
Like Carpenter, part of my issue is that he's not a great strikeout pitcher. He only had 152 K's even though he pitched 215 innings last year.
Another issue is that if you believe in fielding independent ERA, Jurrjens got quite lucky last year.
His strikeout, walk, and home run rates suggested an ERA of around 3.70, which was over a run higher than his actual ERA and roughly what he posted in 2008. His strand rate was around 80% and his BABIP was .273, fairly low for a non-strikeout pitcher.
While he's a great pick if he puts in a similar performance this year, if he creeps back towards a 3.70 ERA and a WHIP around 1.30, there are pitchers with a lot more fantasy upside to be had in the middle rounds (that's another article entirely).
Porcello is another arm that fell in the low strikeout/good luck category last season.
Though he only struck out 4.69 batters per nine innings last year (even Jurrjens was over six), he 3.96 ERA and won 14 games.
That said, he put a high number of runners on base with his 1.34 WHIP and often got bailed out by a strong defense. His fielding-independent ERA was around 4.80, which obviously would change his value quite a bit.
Porcello is an extreme ground-ball pitcher and may be able to produce similar results. He's also extremely young and could see his strikeout rate climb with another year of experience.
However, there are probably smarter picks to be had than a pitcher that has an upside of a high-threes ERA with a WHIP around 1.25 and a mediocre strikeout total.