With the 2011 Fantasy Baseball season fast approaching, we suggest 10 players that you should look to avoid in early rounds of your fantasy draft. These players are not necessarily going to have disastrous seasons, but because of age, injuries or statistical concerns they should be avoided in early rounds of your Fantasy Baseball Draft.
Type of League: 5 X 5, 10 teams.
OF Carlos Lee, Houston Astros
Lee, 34, will be entering into his 13th season as a major leaguer. Every season since 1999 (rookie season) Lee has slugged at least 24 home runs with at least 80 RBI.
Lee is getting older and is in a Houston lineup that only scored 611 runs and homered 108 times in 2010. Those totals combined for 44 percent less than the major league average.
With the lack of offensive production, I would expect teams to start pitching around him. Lee has never had a season where he has struck out 100 or more times but has never had a season in which he has walked more than 100 times.
The home run totals have declined each year since 2007 (32 in ‘07, 28 in ‘08, 26 in ’09 and 24 in ‘10). Look for the home run totals to decrease slightly again this season, along with his batting average (.246 in 2010).
I project a 15 to 20-home run season with an average between .235 and .240.
1B/DH Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
Konerko had a tremendous 2010 season, hitting .312 with 39 HR and 111 RBI. Previous to the 2010 campaign, the last time Konerko hit 30-plus home runs was 2007 (31). In 2008, the White Sox slugger finished with only 22 home runs.
Konerko will be turning 35 years of age before Opening Day, so can he continue with the impressive numbers posted from 2010 into 2011, or will his production fall dramatically? I would avoid him in the early rounds, especially with the number of other first basemen out there.
OF Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers
Hart had a breakout season for the Brewers, slugging 31 homers with 102 RBI while hitting .283 in 145 games. The Brewers outfielder’s stats were surprising considering the 12-HR, 48-RBI season in 115 games in 2009. I always believed Hart had the potential to crank 15 to 20 out of the ballpark, not 30.
I wouldn’t reach early for Hart because we don’t know if he can put up these numbers again. I project 15 to 20 home runs and 75 to 80 RBI with an average around .275 for Hart this season. I don’t believe he is worth a selection in early rounds.
OF Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians
Sizemore had an injury-plagued 2010 season, only playing in 33 games for the Indians. The center fielder in 2009 hit 18 HR while piling up 64 RBI in only 106 games. Sizemore has missed 185 games in the past two seasons due to injury.
We all remember one of his better seasons in 2008, where he hit 33 HR and 90 RBI. I will be shocked if he got anywhere near those totals again based on his injury history. Fool us once, shame on you; fool us twice, shame on us. Don’t be fooled a third time. Take him in the middle to late rounds and avoid him early.
DH Vladimir Guerrero, Baltimore Orioles
Guerrero finished last season with 29 HR and 115 RBI while batting at an even .300. I love Guerrero and believe that when his career is finished he will be a candidate for Cooperstown, but I don’t think he is a candidate for an early-round selection.
The Orioles have a much better lineup with the additions of 1B Derrek Lee, 3B Mark Reynolds and SS J.J. Hardy. Similar to the other players on this list, Guerrero is getting into his mid 30s.
The teams are much improved in the AL East along with the pitching. Guerrero will be facing the likes of CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and David Price more often, which isn’t an easy task.
The last time the slugger hit 25-plus HR before last season was in 2008, when he hit 27; the next year he finished with only 15 in only 100 games. I believe the chances of Guerrero having a down season are greater than having a spectacular season. This is truly a toss-up, but my gut feeling is to let him fall a bit and catch him in the middle rounds.
OF Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs
Soriano, 35, will be entering into his fifth season as a Cub. In 2010, Soriano hit 24 HR and 79 RBI. The Cubs outfielder played in 147 games last season—the most he has played since 2006 with the Washington Nationals (159). It would be hard to expect the same number of games played from the aging Soriano, as he has dealt with injuries in the past.
His stolen base numbers have declined significantly from the last two seasons, swiping 14 combined (19 in 2008 and 41 in 2006). A .258 batting average in 2010 was higher than his 2009 batting average of .241, but down from his career average of .277. While the name brand is still there for Soriano, the early-round selection numbers aren’t. Don’t reach or overpay for his services.
OF Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals
From Philadelphia to the nation’s capital, Werth will attempt to give the Nationals all they offered him. The only problem I see with Werth is he will have to put up around 40-HR, 100-RBI numbers for the duration of the seven-year, $126 million contract he signed in December. This amount of money isn’t given with the expectation of hitting less than 40 home runs.
I understand the Nationals had to overpay for his services, as they are a losing team, and the only way losing teams sign top-notch free agents is to overpay or get lucky that the player will take less money to play for them (i.e. Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies for about $50 million less than what he could have received potentially from signing with the Yankees).
Werth will have a lot of pressure on him to come through for the Nationals organization and their fans. In a lineup where he will not be batting below Chase Utley or Ryan Howard, he will not see the RBI opportunities he once saw when he was in Philadelphia.
The lineup in Washington is not terrible by any means, but it’s nowhere near the caliber of the Phillies. I can’t trust Werth to be the main RBI producer in Washington because he truly never was for the Phillies.
Werth has never hit 40 homers and 100 RBI in a season. His career highs are 36 HR and 99 RBI in 2009. In his four seasons in Philadelphia, Werth hit 30 home runs once and crossed 90 RBI once. Although he has a chance to prove me wrong, my doubts are pretty reasonable. Just because the Nationals overpaid for him doesn’t mean you have to, nor should you.
SS Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies
Rollins has been disappointing the last three seasons after winning MVP honors in 2007. The Phillies shortstop hit 30 HR and 94 RBI with a .296 average in his MVP season. In the seasons since winning the MVP award (2008-2010) Rollins has averaged 13 home runs and 59 RBI with a batting average of only .269.
Rollins played in just 88 games for the defending NL East champions in 2010 while dealing with muscle injuries.
I have seen Rollins listed as high as the sixth-ranked fantasy shortstop. I would look elsewhere for a younger shortstop with higher upside (Elvis Andrus, Ian Desmond, Starlin Castro and Alcides Escobar).
3B Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Beltre has only two career 100-RBI and .300-average seasons, and they came in 2004 and 2010. What do those two years have in common? They were contract years. Both seasons Beltre was going into the final year of his contract.
The third baseman hit a career-high .334 with 48 home runs and 121 RBI in 2004 with the Dodgers. After that season Beltre signed a contract with the Seattle Mariners. Beltre played in an average of 143 games a season during his five-year tenure with Seattle and failed to eclipse a .300 average, 30 home runs or 100 RBI.
Beltre’s best numbers as a Seattle Mariner came in 2007, when he hit .276 with 26 home runs and 99 RBI.
The Red Sox signed him to a one-year deal before the 2010 campaign. Beltre had a great season, hitting .321 with 28 home runs and 102 RBI in 154 games played. I would think twice before selecting Beltre in the early rounds based on statistical history.
OF Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Bautista had an unbelievable season for the Toronto Blue Jays last year. Unbelievable is the perfect term. Bautista won the home run title with 54 and drove in 124 runs in 2010. The outfielder’s career high in home runs before last season was only 16 in 2006 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bautista nearly doubled his career high in RBI last season (124); his previous high was 63 in 2007 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bautista’s career average is at .244, which doesn’t surprise me considering he is a dead pull hitter. He almost matched his season home run total (54) with his career total going into the 2010 season (59). My rankings have Bautista outside the top 30 in outfielders, so there is no reason he should be taken early in drafts.
We also have 10 pitchers whose ERA should increase next year, and why, making them risky draft choices.