Fantasy Baseball: Five Guys To Avoid Like the Plague

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Fantasy Baseball: Five Guys To Avoid Like the Plague

With so much attention being focused on who you should be thinking about, let’s take a look at who you might want to consider staying away from in 2010.

#5: OF Jason Bay, New York Mets

As a big Red Sox fan and having a year plus to watch Bay show off his skills, I cannot in good conscience recommend you picking up Bay in your draft unless you are desperate, are fairly confident you could use him as actual trade bait, or are in a deep NL-Only league.

The concerns about Bay are simple to me:

Bay taking a hack

  • He can’t hit breaking balls or off/speed stuff. You could tell him before the pitch a slider was coming and he’d still whiff. Bay set a career-high 162 strikeouts with the Sawx in 2009, and frankly, going to a lineup that’s a level or two below what they have going on in Boston, I can’t see Bay drawing 90+ walks again…though I do like his potential to whiff over 150 times.
  • Did I mention he’s moving from slugger-friendly Fenway Park (where Bay hit a sparkling .273/.406/.531, with 15 home runs and 18 of his 29 doubles) to the pitcher-friendly confines of Citi Field? A former Pirate, Bay has some experience handling a pitchers’ ballpark, and it wasn’t friendly. In 2007, Bay hit .259 with 7 of his 21 home runs at PNC, and during his time with the Pirates, the majority of his home runs came on the road (ex: in 2005, Bay hit just 9 of his 34 homers at home).
  • Bottom line: because of my personal concerns over Bay, who is very streaky, going to a weaker offensive team, and  is primarily a fastball-hitter who doesn’t hit well for power in pitcher-friendly stadiums, so I don’t see him performing at optimal levels in many hitting categories. In my opinion, it’s nothing short of delusional to expect another 100+ Run, 30+ Home Run season out of Bay. I’ll pass.

#4: 3B/1B Mark Reynolds, Arizona

There is no doubt that this kid has the raw power in his bat to be able to lead the league in home runs. However, I am highly concerned by his poor contact rate, and judging by his through-the-roof 2009 HR/FB rate (26% compared to 18.2% in 2008), plus a 2% higher flyball rate, it looks like Reynolds had some help to get that gargantuan season.

Judging off of his 70.9% contact rate when swinging at pitches inside the strike zone (for reference, your elite hitters will rest in the 80’s, maybe even around 90%), which was almost exactly the same as his career percentage for that figure, and assuming that HR/FB rate comes back down to normal (which is also assuming that his 2009 rate was not the norm), Reynolds will have to make a huge jump in his ability to make contact to have a sure shot at 40+ Home Runs again.

And how bout those strikeouts? Would you like your third round pick to be invested in a guy who will hit around .255, walk 60 or 70 times, and whiff way over 200 times when his rate of contact could lead to him realistically hitting anywhere in a range from 25 to 50 home runs?

Too big of a gamble for me, I’ll be happy to brag about picking him up in the final round of last year’s draft and instead invest that third rounder in Felix Hernandez or Justin Verlander.

#3: SP Brandon Webb, Arizona

This one seems obvious enough, but apparently it isn’t, so I’m going to hammer this one home until people start to get it. This past Sunday, it was reported that Brandon Webb was playing catch but still not feeling amazing. Understandable, because he’s coming off of a serious shoulder injury, and he

Webb, one of the more highly regarded pitchers in the NL, delivers a pitch

still doesn’t even have a scheduled date to return to pitching. Per the most recent figure I could acquire, Webb still has an average draft position of 132.9 (though I looked hard, couldn’t find a more recent figure, that was from Feb. 9), which puts him somewhere between rounds 11 and 13.

In NL Auction Drafts on ESPN.com, Webb is going for $18 even though nobody has the slightest clue when he’s going to return to action. If you play in an Auction league, you’d be better off spending $17 on Ubaldo Jimenez, $16 on Clayton Kershaw, or $15 on Jair Jurrjens.

However, don’t get me wrong about Webb. If you have the pitching depth to afford it and can get him in one of the last few rounds, or even better, off the waiver wire, by all means, go for it. In that case, it’s a low risk with a chance at a really good reward, just don’t be counting on too much from him, or you’ll likely be disappointed.

#2: SP Javier Vazquez, New York Yankees

One thing here is certain–Vazquez was stellar last year. However, two things are different now:

  1. Vazquez is pitching in the much more offensively-potent AL East.
  2. Vazquez is pitching in that shiny New York Launching Pad that is YSII.

Not only is Javy going to miss pitching in an offensively weaker league, going back to the league where he last sported an ugly 4.67 ERA, he’s going to undergo a baptism by fire pitching under the bright lights at Yankee Stadium II. He’s a career 40% flyball pitcher, and at a stadium where a hard-hit pop up and a gentle breeze make for a lucky home run, that doesn’t look very good.

As far as I can tell, he still seems like a pretty safe bet for 200+ strikeouts and 15+ wins, but the concern for me is tacking on a value for K’s and wins relative to ERA and home runs. His fly ball tendencies make it likely that he gives up a boatload of runs, so does it really make all those strikeouts worth it? I’d be more comfortable staying away from him, especially when you could get comparable production from Jorge De La Rosa quite a bit later in the draft.

#1: C Joe Mauer, Minnesota

Mauer has established himself as an elite catcher with two batting titles and an MVP, but is he worhty of being a first round selection?

It’s going to be hard for me to back this one up, but just hear me out for my explanation on why to avoid Mauer in the draft, and you’ll get it. I know the batting average and power totals are sexy numbers, especially considering the notoriously thin position of catcher, but look at his 2009 numbers in comparison to his career to that point.

Mauer is a guy who just once before in his career hit even double digit home runs (and that was 13, let alone 28), and what’s even more surprising is that his line drive% was identical to his ‘08 number and his fly ball% increased by barely over 1%. This means his HR/FB rate took a huge spike from 6.5% in his 9-home run 2008 season to 20.4% in his 28-home run season last year.

Right now I want to state that Mauer is arguably the best catcher in the game, as well as one of my favorite players in the game. However, given his historical trends in the power department, I am seriously questioning his ability to repeat his 2009 power numbers, but he’s still going off the board in the middle of the first round in drafts.

Not only can you get more well rounded players at that point of the draft (Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Kemp, anyone?) fantasy-wise, but you’ll find two guys who are likely to outperform Mauer in almost every offensive facet one, two, or maybe even three rounds later: Victor Martinez and Brian McCann.

Just remember to take my warning against Mauer with a grain of salt. I’m warning you against taking Mauer where most people are taking him. However, if you can have him anywhere in round 2 or even later (highly unlikely), then you might as well go for it.

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