“Fantasy baseball leagues are won in the late rounds of drafts and during the season, however they are lost in the first few rounds of drafts.”
If you’re looking at this and are thinking, "Doesn’t that contradict itself?" don’t worry. It’s a tough concept to decipher, but a necessary one to understand before drafting.
An easy way to look at this is to think of the saying: “The best defense is a good offense.”
Now, if we translate the original saying, we get: “The best way to win your fantasy baseball league is to be the best at not losing in the first few rounds of the draft.”
And that should make sense because logically, whoever loses the least by default wins the most.
The first few rounds are the foundation of your team; while waiver wire moves and late round sleepers are in truth the aspects that push you over the edge, you can not get to that edge if you blow your early picks.
A bad first round pick will be more costly than a bad 20th round pick. That should make some sense if you think about it.
So, being that these first rounds are so significant, you have very little room for error; if your star goes down, you will be at a major disadvantage.
So I’m going to give you three players to avoid so that you will not be that team who had all the incredible sleepers and surprise players, but lost because Matt Kemp was a dud and Jacoby Ellsbury missed nearly the entire season.
So, let’s get started. Here are the three players who will frustrate you all of 2011 if you draft them:
1. Josh Hamilton
2010 Stats: .359 Batting Average, 32 Home Runs, 100 RBIs, 8 Stolen Bases, 95 Runs
Seems like a steal for the reigning AL MVP right? Wrong. Hamilton has red flags waving all over. Let’s break it down.
Let’s start with that league leading .359 batting average. Entering 2010, Hamilton’s career batting average was .291. So a climb of .068 points, or just under 24 percent, is something to be skeptical of. Anyone familiar with Sabermetrics will know the following term: BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play). BABIP is a stat used generally to determine how much luck was involved in a player’s batting average.
For comparison, the league average roams around .300 year to year. In his first three major league seasons, Hamilton’s BABIPs were: 2007-.315, 2008-.33, 2009-.319. His 2010 BABIP? .390!
A .390 BABIP is a number reached occasionally by players like Ichiro Suzuki, and Hamilton is not the next Ichiro. A generous prediction would give Hamilton a 2011 BABIP of .333, his previous career high.
So, it’s quite clear that his .359 average is nearly impossible to sustain.
I will give credit where credit is due—Hamilton’s 32 home runs and 100 RBIs were not a fluke. Between 2007-2009, Hamilton hit one home run per 20.62 at-bats. In 2010, that number was 16.18. Yes, that is 21 percent better rate, however over the course of a 600 at-bat season, that’s a difference of only 8 home runs.
A big deal? Yes. However, it is a small enough difference that we can deem Hamilton’s 32 home runs repeatable.
So, before we introduce Hamilton’s final, most important red flag, let’s examine his best-case scenario over a full, 600 at-bat season. We’ll give him a .310 average, 32 home runs, 110 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, and 100 runs. (The increase in runs/RBIs comes from the number of games missed last season).
Would I take that from a third rounder? If those numbers were guaranteed, yes. However, Hamilton is about as consistent at producing stats as Benedict Arnold is at choosing sides.
In 2008, Hamilton has a very solid season, hitting .304 and hitting 32 home runs; however, his 2009 campaign in which he managed only 89 games, totaled 2 DL stints.
Hamilton has had a sketchy past with regards to drugs and other personal troubles, which makes his comeback story great. However, if your looking for strong, consistent production from your third rounder, I would prefer (I’m saying this as a Red Sox fan) Alex Rodriguez, who will give you third round value even in a down year.
Josh Hamilton 2011 Outlook: (132 Games) .304 average, 25 HR, 94 RBIs, 6 SB, 90 Runs
For comparison’s sake: (2010) 18 players hit .304, 44 hit 25 HRs, 26 hit 94 RBIs, 154 stole 6 bases and 34 scored 90 times.
Don’t forget, Hamilton plays OF, so he also doesn’t have positional scarcity on his side.
2. Ryan Howard
2010 Stats: .276 Batting Average, 31 Home Runs, 108 RBIs, 1 Stolen Base, 87 Runs
Ryan Howard has always been a revered baseball player; he is a Phillies hero and a consistently strong fantasy baseball player. However, Howard’s reputation is carrying him into the second round of drafts in 2011.
If you take a look at Howard’s 2010 numbers, it is perplexing to believe Howard is being taken as early as 15th overall. Howard was 58th in 2010 in batting average, tied for 14th in home runs, 11th in RBIs, 42nd in runs and tied for 292nd in stolen bases.
To add to that, Howard also plays the deepest position in baseball: first base.
ESPN’s player rater ranked Howard 66th overall in 2010. Now, obviously this was a down year for Howard, whose home run total has surpassed 45 the four years preceding 2010.
Howard has been able to get away with hitting .250-280 each year because he has been near the top of the home run and RBI leader boards every year. However, if Howard’s power does not revert back to his career norm, a second round pick would be too steep a price to pay for Howard.
Let’s take a look at the numbers for Howard. To be frank, Howard has been losing his dominance in terms of power hitting over the last three years.
In 2008, Howard posted a 31.8 percent home run to fly ball rate. This rate declined to 25.4 percent in 2009, and 21.1 percent in 2010. On top of that, Howard’s fly ball rate has decrease from 40.6 percent in 2009 to 37.1 percent in 2010.
A final caution flag for Howard’s power is his ISO. ISO is a statistic used to measure a player’s power, incorporating doubles, triples, and home runs. In 2006, his ISO was .346, followed by a .316 2007, a .292 2008, a .292 2009, and finally a .229 2010.
In conclusion, missing 19 games in 2010 was not the reason for Howard’s disappointing production; he simply is losing his dominance.
Without the ability to hit for 40-45 home runs and 130+ RBIs, Howard is no longer a top 20 player and is better suited as a mid-third round pick as opposed to a first or second round selection.
Ryan Howard 2011 Outlook: (158 games) .274 average, 37 HRs, 128 RBIs, 1 SB, 94 Runs
For comparison’s sake: That puts Howard still only seventh in HRs based on 2010 ranks, although first overall in RBIs.
Those numbers are very strong, but not dominant.
Throw in a very pedestrian batting average and virtually no speed, Howard is no longer worth your second rounder.
3. Joe Mauer
2010 Stats: .327 Batting Average, 9 Home Runs, 75 RBIs, 1 Stolen Base, 88 Runs
Joe Mauer is no longer the best catcher in the fantasy baseball. He’s a phenomenal baseball player, but for fantasy purposes, he is definitely not a superstar.
I cringe when I see people taking Mauer in the third or fourth round this year, using the positional scarcity reasoning. I don’t care if Mauer is qualified in every single position if he doesn’t reach double digit home runs or stolen bases.
Let’s face it: Mauer’s 2009 power was an absolute fluke. His career HR/FB ratio is 10.6 percent, yet in 2009 it skyrocketed to 20.4 percent. Mauer proved in 2010 that his 28 home run season was a fluke by posting a 6.7 percent HR/FB ratio.
If that does not convince you yet, let’s examine Mauer’s ISO. In his career, Mauer has averaged a .154 ISO. In 2009, he managed a .222 ISO.
Need I say more?
As if a weakness in power is not enough, Mauer also rarely steals bases. In seven years, he has swiped a measly 35 bags.
Yes, it is true that Mauer is a great hitter and will hit .320 in 2011 for a fourth straight season. And it is also true that he is a strong run scorer, a quality few catchers have.
However, his glaring weaknesses are catching up to him to the point that players such as Victor Martinez are more attractive 2011 catchers.
Joe Mauer 2011 Outlook: (144 games) .327 average, 13 HRs, 76 RBIs, 3 SBs, 94 Runs
Yes, he’ll be good, although if you are expected second or third, even fourth round statistics, you will be disappointed.
Among catchers, these numbers would put Mauer first in average, tied for 11th in home runs, third in RBIs, tied for 11th in stolen bases and first in runs.
It’s an impressive stat line among catchers, however overall he is truly only a fifth round pick.
Hope you all enjoyed this article and I hope I have helped you make more intelligent draft choices this season.